Mike Minnick's life changed somewhere along the East Coast in 2013 as he pedaled south with only his dog and a rubber chicken for company.
He had planned to end their bike ride from Lubec, Maine, after a couple of thousand miles in Key West, Fla.
But "by the time I got down there, my whole reality, my whole everything, had changed," the 39-year-old said.
Almost two years later, Minnick is still pedaling his trusty cargo bike with the chicken named Charlie and a seat in the back for Bixby, the dog he rescued who has become the focus of his open-ended trip.
Bixby and her human — as Minnick likes to describe himself — have crisscrossed the United States from Florida to the Canadian border and now to the West Coast, where he's passing through Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach this weekend on his way to San Diego.
Along the way, Minnick stops at animal rescue shelters in every town he can. His trek has turned into a promotional campaign for dogs without homes.
"They all have the potential to be Bixbys," he said of the mixed breed whom Minnick adopted as a puppy five years ago.
Minnick — a self-described bartending, chain-smoking college dropout — walked away from his life in Austin, Texas, in 2011.
"I was turning 35 years old and thinking to myself, "What am I doing?'" Minnick said. "I just felt complacent, like my life was flashing before my eyes."
He headed to the Burning Man festival in Nevada and afterward set off on a road trip.
When his truck broke down, he decided to keep going, swapping it for a bicycle, though he hadn't ridden one since high school.
Before starting his journey, Minnick thought about leaving Bixby behind.
"I really contemplated finding a new family for her," he said. But he couldn't.
"This amazing little creature loves me, and I could not give her up," Minnick said.
When journalists in Florida started writing about the man riding across the country with his dog, Minnick decided to use the trip and the attention it garnered for more than self-discovery. He started promoting dog rescues in interviews and on his website, wheresbixby.com.
He hopes to soon raise money for the cause too.
Minnick doesn't know where he's headed after he rides to San Diego but said he wants to gather sponsors for another cross-country ride.
A children's book about Bixby also might be in the cards.
But on Friday in Huntington Beach, Bixby and her human were just enjoying the moment.
"My dog right now is asleep on the back of my bike and she couldn't be happier," Minnick said.