Brian Zygmontowicz is an unusual person.
This is not because he skateboards every day; numerous young people get on their boards daily.
His not being typical certainly is in part due to the numerous and varied tattoos that extend south from just below where his chin meets his ears, down his torso and to the furthest reaches of all four limbs.
It is not every day you see someone with a chubby, scantily clad woman with a bag on her head gracing his right calf, and the Gothic letter “D” for Detroit on the left shin.
Also, that he is unusual is not entirely because he depends on the benevolence of strangers for his daily bread and nightly bed. That same can be said of lots of others who, unlike Zygmontowicz’s voluntary circumstances, life has emptied their pockets and kicked them to the curb.
His distinction does not alone stem from the charity that he bestows, in turn, on others. A large number of people with a large number of websites enable visitors to click on a link and donate to a cause, as does www.ziggysbreastquest.org, the website used by Zygmontowicz (pronounced zig-mon-toe-vich) to document his scoot from town to town.
What makes him most unusual is that Zygmontowicz is circumnavigating the Atlantic coastline, and eventually the entire country, on a skateboard. Plus those other things enumerated above are also true.
“May 15 was when I pushed off,” said the tall, thickly bearded young man. “I was going to go to the top of Maine but the weather was still a little chilly.
Instead, he left from the Maine town of Brunswick, formerly home to sawmills and shipbuilding and where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom's Cabin” while her husband was a professor at Bowdoin College, a historical detail which is not related in any way to Zygmontowicz’s current adventure, which passed through Franklin County Friday and Saturday.
The 28-year-old freewheeling diarist is on the ninth volume recording his quest’ s journals, the earlier eight mailed back home to East Lansing, Michigan once each was completed.
“I write everything down,” he said.
Friday night he stayed at the Old Carrabelle Hotel, having persuaded Kathy and Skip Frink to give him accommodations gratis.
“Five strawberries, a mandarin orange and two pieces of bacon,” he ate that morning, a couple hours before he hit the high hump of the bridge and rolled into Apalachicola downtown.
There is no hard luck to this man’s story, even though he must pull out the ultralight sleeping bag from his backpack and rest his head on a mossy rock from time to time.
“I’m doing this all on my own,” he said. “I have to find my food, everything.”
Zygmontowicz encourages people to visit his website and donate to cancer.org. Brigitte Schroeder, who treated him to a stay at the Bryant House on Saturday, asked to consider diabetes, or heart disease, as bad a killer as cancer, as his charity.
While one can only speculate what unusual forces drive someone to skateboard through life in such a way, the perpetrator of this distinction said he was not driven by a cause.
“Maine to Key West was the original trip. Now it’s blossomed into more than I ever expected. I’m meeting all walks of life. They have less than I do. I look at them all the same,” he said. “I haven’t met one a**h*l* yet on this trip.”
Probably fearing for his life, Zygmontowicz does not travel on interstate highways, but anywhere else, a road is a road is a road.
And should a cop stop to discuss the rules of the road, “I give him a business card and ask him for lunch money,” he said brightly.
“More people stop to ask me if I need a ride or if I need help,” has been Zygmontowicz’s experience.
He’s got all the necessities with him in the backpack, a Sawyer water treatment system, and a smartphone with enough charged batteries not to be an issue until maybe the long stretches of west Texas where it will be just him and the “Bustin Brooklyn” long board he leaned carefully, openly against a newly painted wall at Café Con Leche.
He’ll Google his route in advance, examining for railroad tracks, stop lights or other impediments, and fancy bed-and-breakfasts he can kick in if the innkeepers are kind. “I scout it out on my phone. I’ll know if I’m about to skateboard through a giant litter box.
“When I first started I got a little carried away,” he said, now paring down his daily grind by half to about 40-miles.“I’m trying to stop as many times as possible.”
He’s on a long board now, the earlier ones, the shorter, standard models, all victims of rough and wet terrain
“I’ve gone through quite a few boards. This is only the second long board I ever road,” he said. “There’s more give in the knee. The standard skate board is a lot shorter.”
Zygmontowicz’s placement of his skateboard in plain view led to interest in the young man by other Café Con Leche patrons. To experience their give-and-take is to understand the soul behind the quest.
For June Dosik, it was the young man’s Polish ancestry, reminiscent of her own background, and for a young couple, also from Michigan, it was talk of the scenic peaks of Colorado and Idaho that caught their attention. A husband and wife one table over overheard, and shared their ties to Kalamazoo, while a pair of graying ladies, drinking coffee at a nearby table, insisted on a photo with Zygmontowicz they could text to their grandchildren.
“I try to be kindhearted, open-minded, nonjudgmental and very genuine,” he said. “I’m honest and grateful for what I have. That’s better than any job anyone can ever give me in the entire world.
“This is my job,” he said. “It’s tough. We are only going around this ride once in life and while you’re sitting there, I’m going to lay the hammer down.”
Zygmontowicz plans to hit California by summer, and then “Vancouver by the fall, that’s the game plan.” His fiancée has plans to meet him out West this summer.
After some coffee and a homemade muffin, he readies himself for the next leg, on to Port St. Joe and a pre-arranged stay at the Turtle Inn.
His hands, tattooed with the words Travel and Family, make sure all his belongings are carefully packed away.
As he works, he takes a minute to hand out cards and remind everyone they can follow him on his website, or Instagram or Facebook.
He also demonstrates the versatility of the two tiers of letters tattooed across his fingers, and with a little sleight of hand, shows how they can make up the words “F-A-I-L” and “T-R-A-I-L” AND “R-A-V-E” and several others.
And then he’s off