When Mike Minnick and his “muttigree” Bixby set out on an epic adventure, they had no idea they’d end up setting a world record for longest trip on an electric bike.
Traveling all over the country, the pair biked 25,000 during a four-year period, in which they saw all the beauty our country has to offer, while meeting amazing people and raising awareness for homeless animals.
The duo began their adventure in 2013 after both found themselves in not the best positions.
Bixby came from the Town Lake Animal Shelter, basically the city pound, in Austin. “Bixby walked up to me and leaned her chin on my knee and looked at me,” says Minnick of the young pup at that time. “Bixby is a mixed breed, a mutt from the local shelter, so we say, you can’t breed a dog as cool as Bixby.”
His new four-legged friend is exactly what Minnick needed at the time.
Living in Austin as a “35-year-old chain-smoking bartender,” Minnick wasn’t content with his lifestyle. “I wasn’t very proud of what I was doing, and I was bored,” he says. “I felt that my life was flashing before my eyes, and I was way overdue for a big epic adventure.”
In the fall of 2011 everything changed. A friend offered Minnick a ticket to Burning Man, the famous annual festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. He quit his job, sold everything he had, bought a pickup truck and installed a camper on the back so he could bring Bixby.
After the festival, Minnick wasn’t ready to go back to his old life. So, he and Bixby embarked on a road trip, traveling to national parks all over the country. In December of 2011, they landed in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
The pair met two brothers who were in the middle of a two-year cross country bicycle trip. While Minnick was enthralled with all the adventures they had on their bicycles, he didn’t think that sort of lifestyle was possible for him.
“I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since high school, and I was a chain-smoker,” he says. “But I remembered one of those two brothers told me that the hardest part of their journey was the first pedal.”
Afterwards, Minnick and Bixby ended up in the tourist town of Terlingua, right outside of the park. Minnick once again found a job as a bartender but didn’t forget the what the brothers shared with him.
One day, Minnick decided to take the first step in changing his ways. “I got a friend to drop me off in the desert, and it took me four days to hike back to town with no cigarettes,” he says. That was my hike to stop smoking”
As he soon as he got back into town, he told his friends it was time to leave Terlingua. “I was going to do the bicycle trip, or I was going to start smoking again.”
On May 15th, 2013, he hit the road with Bixby on a Yuba Cargo bike on an adventure that would later turn into a four-year trip that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
They’ve covered 25,000 miles in two tours. On his first bike, a Yuba Mundo, he went to the eastern-most town in the United States, Lubec, Maine. From there, he traveled all over the country, including Key West, New Orleans, Colorado and Washington, before ending up in San Diego.
In San Diego, he heard about someone who had just broken the Guinness Book World Record on an electric bicycle.
“I contacted Yuba, the bike company, and said if you want to give me one of your electric-assist cargo bicycles, me and Bixby are going to crush that world record.” And that’s what they did. Last April, Yuba gave him a cargo bicycle with a pedal assist. They completed almost 16,000 miles on that bike, tripling the current world record for distance on an electric bicycle, which at the time was 4,400 miles.
“Bixby is definitely the brains of the operation. I have a rubber safety chicken on the back of my bike, which keeps cars from hitting us. I’m basically the human who would be lost without them,” he says. “I treat our adventures as if we’re a real-time rolling cartoon.”
On the duo’s Facebook page and website, Where’s Bixby, all the posts are written from Bixby’s perspective. “It allows me to be self-deprecating,” he says. And many of the pictures portray that cartoonish feel, with humorous sayings in comic bubbles.
While the adventure definitely helped Minnick get more out his life, it also served another purpose: to help as many dogs find their humans to rescue them and make their dreams come true as well. “That’s our whole narrative,” he says.
Everywhere they traveled, the local news came out to the communities, and Minnick and Bixby would ask them to meet at the local shelter. “You’ll hear our story, but please help us promote the shelter that’s in your town,” he says.
While they plan to go on another adventure, he is currently working on a children’s book called Dreams are like Sticks, which is inspired by Bixby’s mantra: Dreams are like sticks; you just have to chase them.
They are also starting a non-profit. “I want to do more than just promote the shelters,” Minnick says. “I want to be able to support them, as well as being able to help sick and injured animals along the way.”
He would never have envisioned any of this “when I was a chain smoking couch potato.” Minnick and Bixby and Chicken Charlie plan to hit the road again soon. “We’re a traveling cartoon. I see no reason why everyone won’t know about Bixby.”
If you are interested in hearing more about Minnick and Bixby’s adventure, head over to their website. Or if you would like to support the next leg of their trip, consider purchasing a “Hug Your Dog” t-shirt from the site.