One day in July, Rex Hazard, a 25-year-old (now 26) 6’3″ blond haired ex-Marine woke up in his New York home with an idea. Within 7 days, he’d have gotten rid of most of his possessions and would be pedaling a bright orange two-wheeled behemoth — an over 100-pound custom-made tall bike — across the country.
A month and some 2,000 miles later, he found himself in Sterling, Colorado. No small task, since he lost half a lung to bronchiectasis, a rare condition normally confined to infants and the elderly, in the Marines. That’s an average of over 60 miles a day — “like riding a tandem with the other person not pedaling across the country,” Hazard said — through the Mid West in 115 degree temperatures and over high-elevation roads in the Rockies.
“I decided to do it because I wanted to; I like challenges and adventures and the unknown. Real adventure starts when you run into trouble. I wanted to do it because … why not,” Hazard said.
In Colorado he was picked up by a guy with a small armory in the front seat of his truck, met random people headed to Burning Man, and picked up enough work to buy himself a portable MIG welder — now strapped to his bike with the rest of his possessions, bringing the weight up closer to a thigh-burning 150.
“Burning Man was sold out of tickets, but some friends got me tickets at the last minute and I got a job making $13 an hour on the same day,” Hazard said, recounting just one story of the luck he’d had on the road.
That kind of help from people has been a constant for Hazard across the country, he said. He’s only camped a handful of times, otherwise taken in by strangers he meets at gas stations and restaurants along the way.
“One couple gave me the code to get into their home while they were camping,” Hazard said. “I did not expect at all the amount of people willing to bring me into their homes.”
He eventually made it to Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, meeting fellow freak bike riders, welding creations, and enjoying the experience.
A broken bike axle landed him here at Tahoe Mountain Sports — a connection he made at Burning Man. He’s building a freak bike with a skateboard platform 10 feet off the ground for a new Kings Beach friend, which will allow the rider to “surf” 10 feet off the ground down the road.
“When I went to Colorado I thought, ‘I want to come back here,’ but I’ll take this (Lake Tahoe) over Colorado because of the lake. I understand why people love it here,” he said.
But the desire to keep on trucking has Hazard hitting the road once again, sights (or handlebars) set on Yosemite National Park. After that he hopes to get to San Francisco, ride the coast highway to Los Angeles to meet up with friends, turn inland to the Grand Canyon and to family in Texas by Christmas.
“I’m kind of addicted to it now,” Hazard said. “I feel like I don’t know what I’m missing if I don’t get to the next place.”
As for his chosen method of transportation, Hazard said the custom tall bike he built back in Boston gives him both a unique perspective on the road and positive reactions from everyone he meets along the way.
He feels safer being bigger and more noticable on the road, and doesn’t get treated like any other cyclist.
“I get a thumbs up instead of a middle finger, I think because I’m entertaining to people,” Hazard said.
But the real million dollar question is how does he do it? How does he head out into uncertainty, without financial security, facing extreme physical challenges? And how can I?
On the financial end, he said anyone planning a long trip shouldn’t plan on saving money; they should plan on ways to make money along the way.
“I tell people ‘go day by day. Don’t go grand-scheming.’ I got that from the Marine Corps,” Hazard said. “I’ve met a lot of unhappy people who feel like they’re stuck somewhere — people here in Tahoe are here because they want to be — but in other places like factory towns in the Mid West. People don’t have to be stuck though, if they have the courage to break out. People will say ‘I wish I could do that,’ and all I can say is ‘you can.'”
To follow Rex Hazard on his cross-country adventure, go to his Facebook Page.