If you’re going to ride across the country, the company you choose to keep can make or break the trip. For Paul Stankiewicz, the companion of choice was easy: his 8-year-old dog, Mona.
On June 13, Stankiewicz rented a car and drove from his home in Rye, New Hampshire all the way to Eureka, California to begin the adventure of a lifetime. Stankiewicz rode his bicycle while hauling Mona in a trailer attachment for a four-month journey through the United States.
The duo completed their trek on October 17 while being cheered on by friends at Wallis Sands Beach. After his odometer read exactly 5,000 miles, Stankiewicz finally took a deep breath and let Mona swim in the Atlantic ocean, effectively ending an adventure with shared memories that will surely last a lifetime.
“It’s kind of like finishing a big meal, finishing a big Thanksgiving meal,” Stankiewicz told Bicycling.“It’s very satisfying. You’re not going to eat another meal the next day that’s that big, but someday you’ll probably eat another big meal. That’s the analogy I thought of. It was a big trip, but we’ll probably do another trip someday.”
For several years, the cross-country ride has been a goal for the 57-year-old computer programmer, and the timing finally worked out this summer.
“My dog and I weren’t getting any younger, and I wanted to bring her with me,” he said.
Prior to the 5,000-mile trek, Mona and Stankiewicz had already done several adventures together. Canoe trips, backpacking excursions, and one bike trip up to Maine helped prepare the duo for the rigors of the road. Stankiewicz rescued Mona, a mix of English foxhound and Egyptian pharaoh hound, from an animal shelter about six years ago and says that she “hit the jackpot.”
From the redwood forests of northern California to Yellowstone National Park, down into the rolling hills of Missouri, and back into the northeast, Stankiewicz and Mona enjoyed every mile together. Throughout the ride, Stankiewicz kept a blog and filled it with updates along the well-planned route, including many adorable photos of Mona wearing goggles while sitting in the trailer.
“Nobody took many pictures of me, but there were 50 or 100 people who took pictures of Mona,” he said.
They mixed up lodging and dining, sometimes camping and cooking food outdoors, and other times staying in hotels and stopping to eat at diners and gas stations along the way. Mona would often run alongside Stankiewicz if they were riding on dirt roads and bark in excitement if she was riding the trailer down a steep hill.
Mona even escaped what could have been a terrible accident in Kansas. While running out of the trailer, she was hit by a car and flew through the air into a ditch. Just as Stankiewicz was preparing for the worst, Mona walked over to his side miraculously unharmed with the exception of a few scratches. “She’s truly one lucky dog,” he said.
While crossing 14 states, Stankiewicz and Mona encountered dozens of fellow riders and people from different communities who inspired him along the way. They even met a couple who were also riding across the country with their dog. Looking back on the 5,000-mile ride, Stankiewicz says that he has grown to appreciate the experiences and community of people they encountered around the U.S.
“It’s a big country out there, and people are really friendly,” Stankiewicz said. “It brings tears to my eyes, because it’s a beautiful country, and a great country, you know.”
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Article Written by: BY TAYLOR DUTCH NOV 3, 2018