Mike Minnick rebooted his life by kicking the habit and quitting his job, taking his four-legged best friend along for the ride.
The former chain-smoking bartender and his rescue dog, Bixby, recently finished a record-setting electric bike trip that covered 25,000 miles and ended when he crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Now I feel like anything is possible,” said the 41-year-old, who four years ago was slinging drinks in Austin, Texas, and doing a whole lot of nothing.
A friend gave him a ticket to the Burning Man festival, and on a whim, Minnick chucked it all, bought a truck, took his dog and headed off on a grand adventure.
Six months later, he met two brothers who were pedaling their way through a two-year bicycle ride. They told him about the solicitude of strangers who invited them into their homes and restored their faith in the goodness of people.
In a Texas ghost town, Minnick’s truck gave up the ghost, stranding him and Bixby for about a year. He tended bar and saved his money. In 2013, he bought a motorized bike, packed up Bixby, a sleeping bag, a tent and assorted other necessities and headed down the highway.
He’s been from Maine to Florida, from Canada to San Diego, and many points between. He sells T-shirts emblazoned with "Hug Your Dog" and takes donations from well-wishers.
But mostly he lives off the kindness of strangers who stop to pet Bixby, strike up a conversation, and offer the pair a place to stay.
“People have let us into our lives not because of me, but because of this adorable little creature right here,” he told InsideEdition.com Tuesday. “If you want to take an adventure like ours, you should go to your local animal shelter and adopt a shelter dog because you can’t breed a dog like Bixby.”
That’s another reason why he pedals. Minnick says every dog in every shelter should be adopted by at least one loving human.
Asked about Bixby’s breed, Minnick says he is not at all sure.
“Honestly,” he said, “she’s a mutt. She’s at least three-quarters adorable and one-quarter I have no idea.”
Rolling down the road, Bixby has as much fun as Minnick does. And when she meets someone new, she likes to show off.
“This is basically the ultimate car window for her to hang her head out of... It’s important for her when we stop to teach everyone how to play this game she invented called 'fetch.'"
The 7-year-old Bixby and Minnick are taking a break from their sojourns to attend a family reunion in Texas. His mother says he better be there.
Then, the pair will contemplate their next move. It may be time to take the Bixby and Minnick show overseas.
“The whole world has kind of opened up for us,” he said.