PETERSBURG - Bolstered by clear weather and the beauty of fall foliage, Mike Bangert isn't slowing down on his 550-mile bicycle ride to honor those lost in the 1983 Beirut bombing.
After leaving Huntingdon County Oct. 10, Bangert rode to McConnellstown and then spent the next day riding mostly downhill from northern Maryland to Washington, D.C.
Calling on his cell phone earlier last week, Bangert said his trek on the 190-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal biking trail was easy, save for a sore behind.
Mike Bangert of Petersburg is on a 550-mile bicycle trek to Washington, D.C., to honor those killed in the 1983 Beirut bombing.
''Wow, this is incredible,'' he said. ''I'm looking at the Potomac River, and the trail is just awesome.''
Bangert, a 45-year-old Petersburg resident and hobby cyclist, hopes to make it to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, N.C., by Tuesday to attend the 25th anniversary ceremony of the Beirut bombing.
Jacksonville is home to the Beirut Memorial, a wall with the names of the 268 American service people killed by a car bomb in 1983 during the multinational peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The blast mostly killed members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Bangert, a former Marine, served in Beirut in the post-bombing relief effort.
''People who were 18 and older then seem to remember [the bombing] now,'' he said. ''The older generations know it as the first act of terrorism on the U.S.''
During his ride, Bangert has stopped in towns along the way to attract media attention and ask local government officials for their help.
The Gold Star Mothers, a group of moms who have lost children in combat, have been pushing for the Beirut Peacekeeping Stamp since 1986, but the postal service has repeatedly turned down the request.
Meanwhile, the Beirut Veterans of American asked Congress for help. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., recently proposed House Resolution 887 that calls for the stamp.
Bangert said 21 representatives have co-sponsored the bill; 50 are needed to get it to the House floor. U.S. Reps. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, and John Murtha, D-12th District, support the concept.
''It's important for us to remember, and Mike is doing a great job by taking this bike ride,'' Shuster said.
Bangert, who trained for several months on roads throughout Huntingdon and Centre counties, rides a mountain bike or a road bike, depending on road conditions. He averages about 15 mph.
He is followed by a support vehicle driven by Angela Carlson, who works with Bangert at his State College-based construction company, My Builders Inc.
Carlson drops Bangert off in the morning and then meets him at a specific pick-up location before he goes to a hotel to rest for the next day's ride.
He paid a visit to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia and spent a few days recuperating from sore legs. He's also fighting traffic on major roadways and evading aggressive dogs.
In times of soreness or exhaustion, Bangert thinks of the servicemen who died in Beirut.
''When I get a leg burner, I remember the guys that would love to have that feeling today,'' he said.
To learn more about Bangert or the Beirut Peacekeepers Stamp, visit his Web site at www.mybuildersinc.com and click on the ''Beirut Memorial Stamp Ride'' link at the top of the page.