Mike Minnick and Bixby rode into San Luis Obispo County via Highway 1 this week on an orange Yuba Mundo cargo bike, the rescue dog resting on a padded dog crate just in front of a rubber “safety chicken” named Charlie.
The duo — or trio, if you count Charlie, which Minnick definitely does — have pedaled more than 8,300 miles around the U.S., traveling through 31 states and counting to promote support for animal shelters and pet adoptions.
Along the way, they’ve gained a significant amount of media attention, social media followers and friends.
Born in Tulsa, Okla., but a longtime Texas resident, Minnick, 39, adopted Bixby from a shelter in Austin about five years ago. A bar manager and bartender, Minnick was out of shape and living vicariously through some of the people for whom he was pouring drinks.
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A friend’s offer to attend the Burning Man festival in 2011 prompted Minnick to sell his belongings, buy an old pickup truck and travel around the country, Bixby in tow.
“Finally, I’m like screw it, I’m going to have an adventure,” Minnick said.
After driving around the western U.S., the pair ended up in a little town near Big Bend National Park, where Minnick met two brothers who were cycling across the country. Their story prompted Minnick to plan his own ride, which officially started May 15, 2013.
Since then, he’s ticked off the miles from the northernmost point of Maine to southern Florida, pedaling a bike that weighs about 300 pounds, he said, with his gear, food, water and 50-pound Bixby, a black-and-white border collie mix.
It was in Florida when Minnick realized that his ride could be a whole lot bigger than a personal goal, and he shifted his focus to supporting shelters.
Since then, he’s visited more than 100 shelters across the country — including Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo — “highlighting those furry little friends that are looking for homes,” according to his website, www.wheresbixby.com.
Last week, Bixby rode across the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur (“I had no idea there was a bridge named after my dog,” Minnick said); sat in a baby swing on the beach in Cayucos; and paddled in a kayak in Morro Bay (with Charlie, of course).
Minnick feels as though they’re on the verge of something big. He hopes to continue traveling — he’d like to visit all 50 states — but also wants to start a nonprofit foundation to support shelters.
“By all means, support your local shelter,” Minnick said while parked this week in San Luis Obispo, a “Hug Your Dog” hat on his head, Bixby napping in his crate. “If you can’t get a pet, consider fostering a pet or walk a dog, or give the shelter a bag of dog food.”