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Wilmette resident’s 9/11 stops make for trip of a lifetime

Rob Paddor owner EvanstSubaru Skokie is ready for bicycle trip lifetime. He'll ride more than 500 miles an eight-day trip

Rob Paddor, owner of Evanston Subaru in Skokie, is ready for the bicycle trip of a lifetime. He'll ride more than 500 miles in an eight-day trip starting near Ground Zero and ending at the Pentagon. | Photo courtesy of Rob Paddor

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Anyone about to travel more than 500 miles by bicycle is in for an unforgettable adventure, but not as unforgettable as the one Rob Paddor is about to take.

The owner of Evanston Subaru in Skokie, who has never traveled such long distances by bicycle before, will begin near Ground Zero in New York City before pedaling to near Shanksville, Pa. and then the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the 58-year-old Wilmette resident will touch down at all three targets of the deadliest terrorist attacks that ever took place on America soil.

“It will be an emotional and amazing eight-day trip,” said Paddor who continues to raise money that will go toward rehabilitating American veterans.

It isn’t only the places Paddor will see that makes the trip extraordinary, but with whom he’ll see them.

Paddor will be pedaling with “wounded warriors,” veterans injured in war who will be recognized for their sacrifices.

The organization sponsoring the ride, Ride 2 Recovery, raises funds by staging various bicycle travels with proceeds benefitting mental and physical rehabilitation programs for the country’s wounded veterans.

Paddor has donated money to the United Service Organizations for years and had talked about contributing in larger ways after he moved his car dealership from Evanston to Skokie in 2009.

Attending a gala fund-raising event at Navy Pier, he bid $12,000 that allowed him to join the Ride 2 Recovery riders. As one of the two highest bidders, he was invited to participate in the 9/11 trip of a lifetime.

“The fact that this is the 10th anniversary of 9/11 adds a world of significance to the ride,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

Once Paddor learned he was going on the ride, he began to get in shape. He went to the gym a few times a week and did most — but not all — of his cycling training with indoor spinning because of the hot weather this summer. He lost 20 pounds, lowered his blood pressure and gained a confidence about the ride.

In other words, he said, he is ready to go.

Paddor will fly to New York Sept. 10 on the eve of 9/11 ceremonies and the beginning of this special bicycle trip.

The adventure offers the opportunity for riders to arrive early on 9/11-eve for a wreath-laying ceremony and tribute at the World Trade Center Visitor Center. A special dinner for riders on the eve of their trip will include a speech by a 9/11 firefighter who helped with rescue operations 10 years ago.

Paddor and his teammates will leave from Liberty Park in New York after a short ceremony at about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 11. The next eight days will include traveling different distances over various terrains. Hotels and guest speakers are scheduled for nighttime stops throughout the journey.

The first day of the trip, Paddor will pedal for just about 50 miles, the shortest distance of any given day. Four days later, traveling from Gettysburg to Bedford, Pa. will account for the longest day’s distance at more than 95 miles. The last leg of the journey, from Winchester, Pa. to the Pentagon, totals more than 71 miles.

The riders will cycle in groups, which means Paddor is likely to be pedaling with people of the same ability. If for whatever reason he has any difficulties, he knows service vans will be close by.

“I know I’m not 25 anymore so I’m prepared to simply do the best I can,” he said.

Paddor has promoted his trip at the dealership and on its website. He is hoping to raise $5,000 to help with the rehabilitation of war veterans although his current donation total sits at about $1,500. (See end of story for donation details).

Giving back to the community is nothing new for Paddor. His commitment both financially and with his time to the USO, for example, has only grown stronger in recent years and he has played an expanding role in the Skokie Valley Rotary Club. Evanston Subaru has also been a sponsor of several Skokie events.

Ride 2 Recovery has already sent him the bicycle on which he’ll be riding 530 miles in short time. He is thinking of auctioning off the bike following his ride so he can donate more proceeds to Ride 2 Recovery.

“This is the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “I’m going to be riding with American heroes on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. What an honor. And I know I’m going to make it to the finish line.”

To make a donation to Paddor’s ride, access Donors can input Paddor’s name there to make their donation.

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