Addison Zawada is an experienced Red Bull BMX and mountain bike rider. He travels all over the world for work, but Jacksonville has been his home base since 2004.
This fall, he set out on his first cross-country biking trip to tour America’s Historic Mother Road U.S. Highway 66.
Route 66 is one of the first original highways and the route many Americans used to migrate west.
The trip started in Chicago, Illinois on October 23 and ended 36 days later in Santa Monica, California on December 6. The trip spanned 2,451 miles, and 700 of those were spent riding on interstate highways.
“It’s a famous route, so I thought it would be a good storyline, “Addison explained.
It’s also a trip he and his father, who passed away in 2010, never got to take. “We always talked about doing something cross-country like that. So, I think in a lot of ways, I did it for him,” he reflected.
Addison rode on a Thunderbird by States Bicycles out of Arizona. “I call it the Swiss Army Knife of bikes,” Addison described. “It’s a street bike with large, rider tire so you can bike long distances and go off-roading.”
Many companies helped Addison along the trip providing the materials and tools needed to take on such a daunting task. Companies such as Red Bull, Oakley, State Bicycle Co, Swift Wick socks, Polar Pro GoPro accessories, DZR shoes, and Knog bicycle lights all provided equipment used along the way.
Addison didn’t embark on his ride alone. Before he set off, he created a Facebook event page inviting other experienced cyclists to sign up. Cody and Cory, two familiar faces who Addison had done shorter trips with, volunteered to join him. Although they all rode at their own paces during the daytime, they met up in unfamiliar towns each night to share the journey together.
They averaged 67 miles a day, with the longest day biking 95 miles and the shortest trekking just 18. “The ride was a million times more physically challenging than I thought it would be,” Addison confessed. With his bike and trailer in tow, he was lugging approximately 115 pounds each day.
Not everyone would finish the ride, however. On what would become the scariest and most humbling day of the journey, Addison received a call from Corey informing him that Corey had been hit by a car on the interstate. Luckily he was okay, but the crash was bad enough to break 3 vertebrae and end his trip early. “It was a reality check for us of how dangerous this kind of ride can be.”
Out in the elements, some days were harder than others. The first half of the trip was 50/50 rain. After that, it got cold. Three weeks of the ride were spent in below freezing temperatures.
“There were times when I thought, ‘God this is terrible. Why did I do this to myself?’ Everything hurt,” Addison admitted. “But of course, right after I finished, my first thought was ‘where to next?’”
Some of those hard times included sleeping behind a dumpster, spending a night in a gas station family bathroom and even getting caught in a small blizzard outside Amarillo.
But for every difficult moment, there was a great one to carry Addison through. Whether it be watching the sunrise from the bottom of a mountain valley in Arizona, to bonding with a fellow cross-country biker who opened up his home to the three riders, every place had its own perks. In the rural forgotten towns of Route 66, Addison was often met with free meals, places to sleep and rest, hot showers and more. Fire departments and police stations were quick to help out.
“I met so many amazing people on the trip,” Addison explained. “Especially with everything going on in the world right now, the ride was an important reminder to me that there are still people who have little to nothing that are willing to lend a helping hand.”
Next, Addison wants to prepare for a world biking tour. He wants to ride from north to south cresting over both north and south poles, which, to his knowledge, has never been done before.