WATERVILLE — Retirement for Robert Bryant meant more than just kicking back and watching the sun set.

Bryant decided to bicycle from Key West, Florida, to Fort Kent, Maine, and raise money for cancer research along the way.

By the time the Pittsfield native and now Parkland, Florida, resident pedaled into his mother’s driveway Friday afternoon off Lincoln Street in Waterville, he had bicycled 2,367 miles on a journey that began March 31. He was smiling big and looked none the worse for wear.

Robert Bryant enjoys a cold Heinekin Friday after arriving at his mother Gini Landry’s home in Waterville. Bryant left Key West, Fla., on March 31 and is riding along the East Coast to Fort Kent. Friday was day 47 on the road. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“It was incredible,” he said of the ride. “It’s been amazing.”

Bryant, 59, who retired in January from Mednax, a company that provides physicians services, didn’t advertise his trip or goal of collecting $100,000, but has maintained a blog along the way, bryantsbrewing.com, where people may donate. He has garnered $2,300, with all donations going directly to the Cancer Research Institute.

With retiring comes the obligation of giving back, at least for Bryant, who said his ex-wife and mother of his son and daughter has had breast cancer twice and two of his friends suffered throat cancer.

“I created a web page with Cancer Research Institute, which is a research institute but also a charity,” he said. “I did research on good charities. A large part of the money goes toward research and I liked that they also focus on immunotherapy. My thoughts are, today, cancer treatments are medieval at best and 50 years from now, we’ll look at it as letting blood from people, which was done in the 18th Century.”

Bryant’s mother, Gini Landry, and stepfather, Rudy Landry, welcomed Bryant by gathering friends and neighbors on their back terrace for refreshments. They watched Bryant sail down a hill off Lincoln Street at 1:09 p.m. Friday and coast into their driveway. He had just come from Hallowell, where he had stayed Thursday night.

“You know, I don’t have a beer yet,” Bryant said, expelling a hearty laugh. “Where’s my beer? I have to have a recovery drink.”

A woman handed him a Heinekin and he took a long quaff.

“I’ve been staying at bed and breakfasts,” he said. “I was going to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, and I decided I was too old and soft for that. Critical words: Too soft.”

Bryant, who brews beer at home and said he is interested in opening a brewery as a possible retirement activity, stopped at breweries along the way.

“I’ve had a hell of a good time,” he said.

Robert Bryant pedals down Country Club Road in Oakland on Friday en route to his mother’s home in Waterville. Bryant left Key West, Fla., on March 31 and is riding along the East Coast to Fort Kent. Friday was day 47 on the road. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

A lifelong biker, Bryant prepared for the ride by pedaling 800 miles, he said. Riding a Trek 520 touring bike which he bought specifically for the trip, Bryant has been averaging 50 miles a day, he said. The bike weights 36 pounds and its tires are 38 millimeters wide. With two bags on the back containing mostly clothes and food and weighing 40 to 50 pounds each, it is a heavy load.

He said he met good people along the way and didn’t have any trouble until he reached the tiny town of Cummington, Massachusetts, where he checked in at a bed and breakfast run by a nice man who made him a great dinner of chicken parmesan and asparagus, though he could eat very little.

“I didn’t feel good all day and I thought I was severely dehydrated, so I was drinking lots of water,” he said.

He retired early, around 7 p.m., and woke up at 10 with severe chills and a fever of 104. He called 911 and an ambulance took him to the hospital a half hour away where he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. By that time, 4:30 a.m. the next day, he was feeling better. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic, he called a cab, which cost him $70 to return to the bed and breakfast, and he soon was back on the road.

He used Google as a route guide on the trip and wore headphones that allowed him to hear things around him, he said.

Bob Bryant makes a left hand turn on to Washington Street from Kennedy Memorial Drive en route to his mother’s home in Waterville on Friday. Bryant left Key West, Florida on March 31 and is riding along the East Coast to Fort Kent. Friday was day 47 on the road. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“I have been down roads that I have cursed,” he said. “It has tried to take me on rail trails that aren’t maintained.”

The Kennebec River Trail in Gardiner, Augusta and Hallowell, however, is awesome, according to Bryant, who said it is paved and well-maintained. Rail trails all along his trip were not so user-friendly, he said.

“Unfortunately, the rail trail thing is a great initiative, poorly executed,” he said. “There are portions well-maintained and well done, but that is the minority, not the majority.”

When all is said and done, the trip will have cost him about $10,000, including the cost of the bike, equipment, food and lodging, he said.

“I would absolutely recommend doing something of this nature,” Bryant said. “It’s just a spectacular experience. It’s just a lot of fun.”

He will leave Waterville Saturday to start day 48 of his expedition, bicycle to a house he owns on Great Moose Lake in Hartland and then head north to Fort Kent. He expects to arrive around June 19.

A 1978 graduate of Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Bryant attended Saint Michael’s College, spent 6.5 years in the U.S. Navy and worked in computers all his life. He was employed by Mednax, formerly Pediatrix Medical Group, for the last 22 years before retiring.

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