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AMERICAN SIGHTSEERS: Columbia woman -- and her dog -- bicycle across U.S. for eye research

Letting the open road decide their fate


COLUMBIA, Mo 6/24/13 (Beat Byte) -- A Columbia, Missouri woman and her canine companion are bicycling 4,200 miles across the USA to raise money for eye research this summer.

From New Jersey to Los Angeles, Jasmine Reese and Fiji -- her 45-pound pit bull -- started the 4-month journey May 8 as a way to collect $5,000 in donations for the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation, where Reese is a family services coordinator.  Columbia's Rock Bridge Animal Hospital and Tryathletics are among her sponsors.

About two years ago, Reese rescued Fiji (below) from certain death at a dog pound. "Now, the two of us are an inseparable pair," she writes on her regularly-updated blog. The duo -- Reese on her bicycle and Fiji in a 2-wheel cart -- have been making headlines as they make their way from town to town, often relying on the generosity of strangers.

Super 8 Motel manager Brian Le Platt gave Reese and Fiji three free nights when they passed through Cumberland, Md.

"There are three types of people who set out on a cross country trip by bicycle," Reese wrote on her blog June 4. "The sane, sensible person who works hard for a number of years, saves up and embarks...the moderately insane person who takes a credit card...and the super crazy person...who decides to take off with less than $100.00 in her pockets and rely on the mercy and generosity of people. She lives like a vagabond, letting the road decide her fate."

So far, the road has been kind -- to both woman and dog. Last night, the two got separate beds in a motel "thanks to a church in town," Reese explains on her blog. Though she had hoped not to share her bed, Fiji started to bark and whine ("not allowed in motel rooms"), so Reese relented.
 
"After a few no‘s and stop it's, I gave up because it was 3 am, and said, 'Fiji get over here, you dumb dog.' She leaped over to my bed, licked me a 100 times and curled up next to me. I slept on the edge of the bed for the remainder of the morning."

Of course, the long summer journey is not all comfy snuggling. A few days ago, "rolling hills in 90 degree humid heat" found Reese pulling Fiji the whole way. "She did not run today," Reese wrote on her Facebook page. "We had to stop constantly for water and shade, but for the most part, she was able to regulate her heat. so I pulled her the whole time. My right knee is killing me. Not good! But Fiji did amazingly well!"
 
All of which illustrates the challenges of canine companionship under such unusual circumstances. "She needs constant checking," Reese says about Fiji. "I don’t just throw her in the trailer and ride for hours without looking back. We stop constantly...I also can’t go into stores and I have to get past the 'pitbull stigma' with almost everyone I meet."
 
The duo has raised a few hundred dollars about six weeks into their trip, for which Reese regularly thanks her donors. But more importantly, she is learning about the power of friendship in ways she never imagined.

"I didn’t think I could love my dog any more than I did before," Reese tells her readers. "Everyday, I grow closer to Fiji. Dogs are so beautiful, and Fiji has shown me that. I respect her and she respects me. She’s such a sweet and loyal companion for the road."


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