Mike and Bixby:
On the Road for Rescues
By Carie Broecker
When I met Bixby, she immediately struck me as an exceptional dog. She is a five-year-old Border Collie mix. Anyone who meets her will be mesmerized by her calm demeanor, natural intelligence, ability to adapt to any new situation, and her human-like presence. Visit her Facebook page and you’ll see her in countless human-like poses, including dining in some fine establishments such as Carmel’s Cypress Inn, sitting in a chair with her own plate of food in front of her.
Add in her sidekick, Mike Minnick, and you have an unstoppable duo. Bixby is the center of Mike’s world, and his best friend, inspiration, and faithful companion. While Bixby is part Border Collie, Mike is part media hound. He uses their adventure story for the good of all doggy-kind.
Mike and Bixby have traveled over 8,000 miles together around the United States by bike! The bike is a cargo bike specially outfitted so Bixby can sit in the back in the bottom half of a padded dog crate. She loves sitting up and watching the sights, but she is also happy to curl up and take a nap while Mike keeps peddling. They are quite a sight and have become celebrities in every community they visit. Mike had the idea to turn the media attention they gain toward the animal shelters and rescue organizations that they visit.
Mike and Bixby’s story starts out at an animal shelter in Austin, Texas. Bixby was just four months old. She walked right up to Mike and put her chin on his knee. His heart melted. From that moment they have had many adventures together. Mike took Bixby everywhere with him. They did a lot of hiking in the backcountry. They encountered birds, skunks, porcupines, horses, and deer. Bixby has a natural curiosity yet respect for all creatures. She never chases them. When Bixby was just six months old, Mike started kayaking with her. Nothing seemed to faze her. She has been exposed to many different environments and she takes things in calmly, enjoying every new experience.
In August of 2011, Mike was restless. He had been in the bar business for eight years, he was a chain smoker, and he was feeling unproductive. A friend gave him a Burning Man tape, which was a catalyst for change for him. The Burning Man festival is a week-long annual event that is an “experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.” The event inspired Mike to sell everything he owned, buy a pickup truck, and begin a road trip with Bixby. He met two brothers who were making a documentary about their cross-country bicycle trip. Mike, again, was inspired. His truck broke down so he planted himself in the little ghost town of Terlingua, Texas for several months, contemplating their next step. He decided to buy a bicycle and outfit it so Bixby could safely and comfortably ride with him, and he made a plan for his departure date. His maiden journey was 600 miles from Galveston, Texas to Texarkana.
Mike is not a man in top physical condition like you would expect of a cross-country bicyclist. In fact, he did no physical training for the trip. He hadn’t ridden a bike more than a few miles at a time when he started out. His bicyclist friends told him that the hardest part was the first pedal and that once you get started, your reality shifts. And that is how it was.
The first day, they rode 20 miles, then a little more than 20, and then they made it up to 35 miles. If it was hilly, they might go 11 miles in a day. On one flat day they traveled 101 miles in 17 hours. All said and done, they completed the first 600 miles and were hooked on the nomadic life of cross-country biking.
They continued traveling around the country. While in Key Largo, Mike decided to visit the local shelter. He found that the shelter was barely getting by and that their electricity wasn’t working. The people running the shelter also waited tables to get by but were dedicated to doing what they could for the animals. That was what inspired Mike to turn his epic journey with Bixby into a mission calling attention to the homeless dogs and cats in shelters looking for loving homes, as well as to the work of rescue groups and shelters giving their all to provide as many animals as possible the chance at a better life.
The plan was to use people’s fascination with Bixby and their journey to bring awareness to shelter animals. Mike started reaching out to the media in each community they traveled through, with the primary focus of bringing attention to local shelters in each area. The “Where’s Bixby” website and Facebook page is written from Bixby’s point of view. She encourages people to go to their local shelter to adopt one of her friends to begin their own adventure.
Mike and Bixby continued traveling around the United States, making their way across the country and eventually down the west coast. Their epic adventure brought them here to the Central Coast. After spending time in Santa Cruz County in late January, Mike and Bixby made their way to the Monterey Peninsula and visited every news media outlet in our area, as well as local rescues including Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, Animal Friends Rescue Project, and Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.
Their story caught the attention of the management of Cypress Inn in Carmel where they were treated to a luxurious room and meal, which is documented with enthusiasm and gratitude on the “Where’s Bixby” Facebook page. They were even lucky enough to receive a personal letter of appreciation from Doris Day herself, along with a generous donation to help them continue their journey. They were also hosted by the Carmel Country Inn and the Carmel Forest Lodge.
After a week on the Monterey Peninsula, they made their way down through Big Sur and into San Luis Obispo. When they reach Los Angeles they hope to be invited to be on The Ellen Show to share their story and their message of adoption. They will reach the California/Mexico border later this year, but that isn’t where the adventure ends. Mike and Bixby have their sights on traveling parts of the historic route 66 on their way back east.
Check out the “Where’s Bixby” Facebook page and follow their journey, which includes amazing footage of their highly anticipated ride over the Bixby Bridge recorded by drone, along with a short video of them recreating a scene from Lady and the Tramp at the Little Napoli Restaurant in Carmel. Their posts are some of the most fun, clever posts of any Facebook page I’ve seen. Every day is an adventure to share and a way to bring awareness to local shelters and rescues.