Marshall Lee and the one who may have saved his life are inseparable these days.
Lee, a laid-off office worker, and "Antigone," an adopted female basset hound, have trekked more than 3,100 miles from Chicago to the Victor Valley on Lee's inexpensive Schwinn hybrid bicycle. Logging about 50 miles day, his goal is to reach San Francisco in a few weeks.
Without a job, Lee came up with the cross-country ride idea as a matter of necessity. Nearly out of money, Lee, 41, couldn't afford to hire a moving van and relocate. But he had to move somewhere.
"My life wasn't really moving forward in Chicago. The only way I could move was with a bicycle," he said.
Lee chatted with a Hesperia Star reporter via his cellphone while he and his dog were approaching Yucca Valley last Saturday morning. Lee expected to be in the Victorville area by Monday. He expected to travel through the Victor Valley via Highway 18.
In 2006, the former English professor applied for as many as five jobs a day but without luck.
"The HR [Human Resources] departments never returned my calls."
Lee began having suicidal thoughts, but when he analyzed a potential suicide scenario he couldn't get past losing his beloved dog, which he had adopted from a Chicago-area basset hound rescue organization. He couldn't bear to give his dog away, except perhaps to his parents. But then, Lee realized, Antigone would always be a reminder of their loss.
"No solution seemed to be the right one," he said. "I give her credit for saving my life. There's no way I want to be without her."
Lee, who has a master's degree in English, admits the he was naive about the physical demands of the marathon bide ride. The main obstacle is the terrain, namely hills of any size.
"Even a small hill becomes a challenge."
Fortunately, nice strangers offered rides when the two were trekking through the Rockies.
He's seen his share of unusual sights. During his interview with the Hesperia Star, he blurted, "What are those dinosaurs doing here?" about the Cabazon Dinosaurs. While in Oklahoma, Lee saw a Volkswagen Beetle car that looked like a spider and colorful shops on Route 66.
"I saw these bizarre roadside attractions that I really adore."
He called the desert landscape in Arizona "breathtaking."
Lee is riding to bring aware to the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk-a-thon supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which will be held later this year in Chicago, and to the Southern California Basset Rescue and Basset Rescue Network of Daphneyland.
Wherever Lee ends up, the U.S. Army veteran knows he will be in good company.
"She [Antigone] keeps an eye on me. When I get home she gets crazy and barks. She makes me feel good about myself."
To follow Marshall Lee and his basset hound Antigone, log onto their blog at www.antigonebasset.blogspot.com.