AT A GLANCE
• WHAT: Coast-to-coast bike ride by New York native Kevin Holzmacher and his dog, Daisy. He hopes to raise support and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and TeamFox.
• NEXT STOP: Livermore and then the Golden Gate in San Francisco.
• WEB: For more on Holzmacher’s adventure, or to make a donation to his charities, visit www.adventureathletes.org.
• CONTACT: Reach out to Holzmacher on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kevin.holzmacher
The English Coonhound settles in the Central Valley sun, sprawling out across a lane in the Best Western parking lot.
Daisy’s eyes flutter and droop and then finally close, while her owner – sun-scorched and weary from months of traveling — takes inventory of their stock.
Kevin Holzmacher steps quickly around his matte black bicycle and trailer with the sudden energy of a teenager pumped full of soda.
“This is the kitchen,” the 28-year-old with the ZZ Top beard says, pointing out the various compartments, bags and accessories, “and this is the bathroom.”
He keeps his clothes in the saddle bags hanging from the forks on the front tire, and there’s a knife strapped to the stem for protection.
All of Daisy’s belongings collect in the trailer – her makeshift home on this cross-country journey.
The two arrived in Manteca on Thursday afternoon, seven months after pedaling away from the comfort and security of their Long Island, N.Y., home.
Holzmacher is on a mission to generate awareness and support for two charities he holds close to his heart: the Wounded Warriors Project and Team Fox, actor Michael J. Fox’s foundation for Parkinson’s research.
And he tested his ability and commitment to the campaign with a “warm-up” ride. He once rode his bike from Florida to New York, generating $1,500, or about a dollar for every mile.
Now he’s in the final stages of a coast-to-coast ride.
“I like to give back,” he said. “I just want to do something for those who are hurt or injured. My grandfather died from Parkinson’s when I was 12, so that’s always been a cause I’ve wanted to support. It’s why I did the first ride and it’s why I’m doing this now.”
To date, the former Navy boatswain and Florida sailboat instructor has raised approximately $4,000 for his charities. He doesn’t see a penny of it. All donations are made online via his website — www.adventureathletes.org — and by rule, he tries not to accept any money.
(He survives on donations of food and supplies and the money he made selling his Jeep. What money he does receive he plans to donate.)
His compensation has been the places and people he’s encountered along the way.
“I’ve been enjoying the country. Northern California is beautiful. I’ve never seen grass glitter and flitter so much from the sun and the wind,” Holzmacher said from behind a pair of California cool Ray-Ban sunglasses. “You’ve got so many neat things we’ve never seen.”
Holzmacher, who will point his bike toward the Bay Area today, has had several of these revelations in the last seven months.
He was blown away by the beauty – of both the flesh and Mother Nature – in Virginia, where he and Daisy posed for pictures on the Natural Bridge.
He posed and postured from another one of God’s creations there too — a “hot ass” girl, he says with a chuckle — who later visited him in Tennessee.
He never felt so alive than when he was in Arkansas, which “had some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen because you could see forever,” and never felt so close to death than during his ride through Texarkana, Texas. Small shoulders and curbed sidewalks often forced him into traffic.
“I thought I was going to die in Texas,” he said. “I took a northern route and prayed I’d get out.”
He did, of course, and began his tour of California in sunny San Diego, where he visited with his Naval officer brother and his family.
Holzmacher later spent an evening under the stars in Huntington Beach, where the fifth hole at a disc golf course provided a plush mattress for he and Daisy.
It snowed on him in Yosemite, where he traded tales of whoa with a pair of thrill-seeking base jumpers who had their eyes set on sailing off El Capitan.
Along the ways, kindness and charity and compassion have followed his every pedal and push. He’s received warm meals, supplies, space to camp, complimentary hotel rooms, and of course, those catchy polarized glasses.
On Thursday, he paused during our interview to take pictures with a guest at the Best Western. They had been following his travels through the Central Valley.
“I’m getting so much love from people,” Holzmacher said. “It’s really amazing how far you can ride a bike. People have called me the modern-day Forrest Gump. He did it because he could, and so am I.”
To keep pace with Gump, Holzmacher has subscribed to many mottos, but the phrase that best encapsulates his journey is the one that came to him in the shadows of the Best Western on Thursday afternoon.
He spoke about the troubles he’s encountered along the way — a busted trailer, coyotes and other dogs.
“I feel like for every bad thing that happens to us,” he said, “something good happens right after it.”
Today, he and his sidekick will test that theory yet again. Holzmacher and Daisy will tackle the Altamont Hills, pushing and pulling their sled through those golden hills.
The Golden Gate.
Something good, indeed.