Jamie Bianchini was greeted by cheers from a small crowd, standing in the rain, as he rode his bike into Ocean Beach on Saturday.
You wouldn't know it by the small celebration but Bianchini, who calls himself a Peace Pedaler, ended an amazing feat - spending nearly a decade riding his tandem bike around the world.( Wed Nov 24 08:00:50 PST 2010 $__output )
"About 8 1/2 years, and 81 countries," Bianchini said. "I'm ready to be done."
The catalyst for the trip came in 1999 when the young entrepreneur filed for bankruptcy. "It really made me look at what was really important," he said.
"You have to do it," Bianchini's mother Carol Fabian advised him, "You have to follow your dream."
So, Bianchini took the next two years to save money and get corporate sponsorship and start Peace Pedalers. He brought his tandem bike to Japan and started the first leg of the journey he originally thought would take about two to three years.
All along the way, Bianchini would invite strangers to sit on the second seat and ride for as long as they wanted.
"It was really about having a good time and sharing the fun with other people," he said. "There were days I'd go to orphanages and pick up, give 100 rides to kids."
But eventually, the trip took a different direction.
"I never was a philanthropist," he said. "This bike was stolen two times, and both times it was stolen, the community came and found it for me."
By the way people treated him, he started wondering what he could do for them.
"We have 200 students and these kids are now going to school," he said.
In Bianchini's eyes, despite the different appearances, languages and religions, people all over the world have a lot in common.
"When you get down to ask people what they're all about, everyone loves their family," he said. "It ends up revolving around community and family."
His experience offered lessons he wants to bring back home to one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
"The biggest thing I probably take away is that you don't need a lot to be very happy," he said. "It seemed like the less people had, the more genuine happiness and smiles they had."
While he would never trade the experience, Bianchini says he's glad it's over.
"I'm ready to be done," he said. "It's been obviously the experience of a lifetime."