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Jenna Duncan - DRC

Man freewheels across country for the sake of creature comforts

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By Jenna Duncan

The last time Mike Minnick was in Denton, he had just bought a new bike for his grand adventure about a year and a half ago.

Since then, he has traveled thousands of miles from Maine to the Florida Keys, over to New Orleans and Austin. This weekend, he made it back to Denton on his bike with his best friend, Bixby.

The two are on an unusual adventure on an odd-sized bicycle, slowly making their way across the country and stopping in small towns and big cities along the way to help raise money for local animal shelters.

Minnick, 38, normally goes to an animal shelter with Bixby, takes some photos and tries to help a dog get adopted, and gets media coverage along the way. The only thing he asks is for people to rescue animals or donate to their local shelter — never to him or 4-year-old Bixby.

“He’s a celebrity,” friend Leslye Rosin said. “We’re cheering him on, watching newscasts from all over the country ... so we’ve cheered him on like he’s in the Tour de France.”

Rosin and Minnick have been friends since college in the late 1990s when they were bartenders at Riprock’s, before Minnick made his way up to Colorado. He’s always been a traveler, living in places like Terlingua, Texas, and Fort Collins, Colorado. The longest he’s stayed in one place was Austin in the 2000s, where he lived for seven years.

“He’s always been kind of a rolling stone and going on these awesome adventures,” Rosin said. “I admire him for making it happen and taking the time. He’s not a rich man or a privileged one, but he makes it happen.”

In Terlingua, he worked at a campground and stayed there for free, and met two men on a cross-country trip that inspired him to start his own journey, Minnick said.

“I realized pretty much through meeting them I had to do this cross-country bicycle ride,” he said.

He did a test run from Galveston to Arkansas for a family reunion to make sure the trip was realistic, and wound up having the time of his life, Minnick said. Without being bogged down by materialistic things, he’s been able to hang out with his dog, get in shape and see the country in a way most people don’t, he said.

“This trip has made me younger — I am so much younger than when I started out,” he said. “This has changed the entire trajectory of my life, and I’m living my life more as an adventure [as] opposed to a chore, and I love seeing the country this way and meeting all these people.”

Bixby also loved the bicycle. In her seat made from a durable plastic storage container, she lies down with her tongue out and waits to stop to make friends. She’s been able to win over most, Minnick said. On her fourth birthday in North Carolina, a bar owner with a strict no-dogs policy let her sit at a barstool and eat 40 peel-and-eat shrimp.

When it’s time to get on the bike, her ears perk up and she jumps up right into her seat.

“It makes me feel good to know that my dog is having a really happy experience with this, too,” Minnick said. “I know she definitely enjoys it. When I go out and get the bike, she perks right up and is ready to ride.”

He’s more than a year into the trip and doesn’t intend to stop for at least another year, he said. Then, he might settle back down in Austin or Denton, and maybe finish the children’s book he wants to write about the trip — from Bixby’s perspective — before going on another adventure.

“If everything works out right, this isn’t going to be our only adventure,” he said. “Our next one might be something like canoeing the Mississippi River or something like that. I just feel like as long as I keep her at the forefront of what I’m doing, really good things will keep happening.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.