Traveling great distances in a short amount of time has been a way of life for Steve Adams.
When he worked in Manhattan, he thought nothing of a weekend trip to his native London to see Southend United, his favorite soccer team, play in the English Football League System's lowly League Two.
"They're one of the worst, always have been," the Parrish resident said, chuckling.
Regardless, Adams just got back from another London soccer weekend -- he saw Southend's winless streak reach 11 straight -- in time to embark on another long trip, albeit one that will take awhile: Hike the Appalachian Trail.
Adams starts his epic journey Saturday at Springer Mountain, Ga., the first of 14 states along the famous 2,180-mile trail.
"I've always wanted to do
it," the 62-year-old former insurance company owner said. "I've read 20 to 25 books about the trail and it continues to fascinate me. I like the idea of taking a pack on your back, everything you've got, and the sense of accomplishment."
Adams has been training, taking practice hikes with a 35-pound backpack around rural Myakka City and bike riding 50 miles a week to build up his legs and endurance.
"I've had a lot of friends recently die or are ill, so this is the time to do it before the window of opportunity closes," he said.
Another motivation is using the six-month hike to raise awareness and funds for the Family Partnership Center, which serves 1,200 needy families in DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Adams and has been with the nonprofit for sometime and is its incoming board president.
Followers may follow his progress online -- myappalachiantrial.com -- and he's asking them to pledge a nickel per mile hiked beyond 180.
Hence, the fundraiser is called, "The Last 2,000-mile Challenge."
"If I can do the first 180, I'm very confident I can do the rest," Adams said.
Katrina Bellemare is envious.
"I wish I had the freedom and ability to go do something you've always wanted to do," the FPC executive director said. "He's taking something that's been a personal goal and a difficult physical challenge and making it work to support us."
Diane Adams will mail her hiking husband dehydrated food and eye drops every few days, which he will pick up at designated sites along the Appalachian Trail.
Logistical issues and wintry conditions the first few weeks notwithstanding, Steve Adams is enthused about what lies ahead.
"I like the idea America has this gift to the world -- to walk through the woods along its East Coast," he said. "It's extraordinary when you think about it."
His goal is to reach Maine's Mount Katahdin, the trail's climax, by September.
"I've been told 90 percent of it is between your ears. You've got to get your mindset right," Adams said. "I'm prepared as much as I can."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.