Metro-East News

Vet bikes through Belleville on cross-country journey

Homeless veteran rides bicycle across United States to help pets

The trip started in Ventura Harbor, Calif. April 6. The former Air Force sergeant hopes to make it to the Atlantic coast of Georgia in about three more months.
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The trip started in Ventura Harbor, Calif. April 6. The former Air Force sergeant hopes to make it to the Atlantic coast of Georgia in about three more months.

Phoenix native Harold Palmquist and his dog, Daisy, have been inseparable for more than eight years.

The 47-year-old homeless vet almost passed on an opportunity to stay in a shelter because his dog couldn’t come, too.

So, he was so relieved when volunteers at vetsandtheirpets.org stepped up to make sure he and Daisy could stay together. So much so that he pledged to ride his bike cross country to draw attention to the group while attempting to raise $12,500 for it.

And he didn’t forget Daisy when he hit the road. The nine-year-old chow and shepherd mix rides in a small pet carrier strapped to a trailer he hauls behind his bike.

The trip started in Ventura Harbor, Calif., on April 6. The former Air Force sergeant hopes to make it to the Atlantic coast of Georgia in about three more months.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to bike across the country,” Palmquist said. “This is my chance to do it and help out a good cause at the same time.”

When your dog is all you’ve got in the world, people don’t want to give them up. So a lot of them are falling into a loophole.

Harold Palmquist, Phoenix native who is biking across country to raise money for Vets and Their Pets

While there are a lot of worthy programs out there to benefit vets, Palmquist said not many allow people who need help to bring their animals into a shelter.

“When your dog is all you’ve got in the world, people don’t want to give them up,” Palmquist said. “So a lot of them are falling into a loophole.”

He’s relied on the kindness of fellow vets and strangers to make his journey a reality.

His bike broke down while he was still in California, so he had to load it on his trailer and pull it rickshaw style for about six miles to a bicycle shop. When he got there, the shop owners fixed up the bike and sent him on his way.

Palmquist slept in a Belleville corn field Tuesday night in a tent. Before he departed town on Illinois 13, a business operator in the area was attempting to help find him a welder to repair the weakened hitch for his trailer.

Usually, Palmquist cooks meals of beans and rice in a pressure cooker. He charges his cell phone, which he uses to post updates and photos from his journey, with a small solar panel. Occasionally, he is offered a warm bed and a meal from a supporter along his route.

The hardest part of the journey has been the hills, he said, with the weather coming in a close second.

“I thought I was done with hills when I got over the Rockies,” Palmquist said. “But they just keep on coming.”

Over the summer, temperatures were scorching hot out west. Now the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter. So he rides four to six hours at a time.

The most embarrassing moment came when he decided to bathe in the San Jose River on the day the local bishop came out to bless the water.

“There I was, skinny dipping when a crowd started to show up,” Palmquist said. “I had to put down the Head & Shoulders and run for my clothes.”

To follow Palmquist’s journey, visit his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/TourDePACLANTIC.

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