By Lisa Rimmert, Director of Development
This summer, friend of Vegan Outreach, Mack ARA Freeman, rode his bicycle 880 miles to raise money for animals. Leaving Friday, June 16, he started on the Lewis & Clark Mississippi Bridge in St. Louis, MO, and biked all the way to Ontario, Canada, ending on Sunday, July 2!
I asked Mack about his trip, and you won’t want to miss what he had to say! And if you feel inspired, we’d love to accept a donation in his honor.
Lisa Rimmert: What made you decide to take this bike trip, and what inspired you to use it to raise money for animals?
Mack ARA Freeman: This 2017 Great Lakes/Canada ride was actually my fourth bicycle trip in the past five years. I’d been trying to find a way to help raise funds for valuable animal groups. And then it hit me, I could do it by riding my bike long distances—even though at the age of 58 I’d never done any kind of biking.
In 2013, for my first effort at raising donations for animal rights and welfare organizations, I rode the famous Missouri Katy Bike Trail from St. Louis to Kansas and back. The next year on my way from St. Louis to Mississippi, my ride was cut short due to a bike crash, so I tried again in 2015. That time I made it to Mississippi, reaching the Hope Animal Sanctuary on my 60th birthday!
Last year, I turned my bicycle north from St. Louis and didn’t stop riding until I reached the shore of Lake Superior between Wisconsin and Minnesota—an 820-mile ride. Last summer, I was invited to a Vegan Outreach fundraiser at the home of a friend, and it was then that I thought of riding for Vegan Outreach in 2017.
This year I wanted to “top” my 2016 ride, so I thought I would try to bike to the other end of Lake Superior and pedal all the way to Canada. And that is what I did! I rode through central Illinois and eastern Wisconsin, taking my bicycle on the S.S. Badger—a coal burning steamship—across Lake Michigan. I continued up the northwest side of lower Michigan, into the state’s Upper Peninsula. Finally, I rode across the International Bridge into Canada. I arrived on July 2—my 17th consecutive day of bicycling!
Lisa: What was the hardest part of your journey?
Mack: It would be impossible to recount a cross-state, multiple highway bicycle ride without acknowledging all the animals who had met their demise on the roads, shoulders, and brush along the way. Encountering animal misery while biking through endless rural counties takes a toll on even the most hardened traveler. I’ve made a point to always whisper sad “sorries” to every animal that had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
I was honored to visit with many peaceful, loving, gentle animals, and to say quiet affirmations as we looked each other in the eyes. I knew one of us would carry on with life and thrive—and the other would be heartlessly removed from the life they deserved to live.
Lisa: What was your favorite part of the trip?
Mack: Switching gears—pun intended—some of my favorite times included:
- I bicycled 13 miles at breakneck speed—for me—from Sheboygan to Cleveland, WI. I took no water breaks and beat a major evening thunderstorm. I biked into the driveway of my bed and breakfast just as the first heavy raindrops began pelting the ground.
- The next day, June 25, I took the 60-mile ferry ride across Lake Michigan. How great it was to relax and enjoy the great ride across that Great Lake!
- I treasured meeting all the farmed animals that made it to the fences and gates to say “hello.” I stopped for every individual and herded animal. Many of them walked—and some even ran—to meet me! Talk about an unforgettable experience. I met mostly cows, but there were also horses, mules, goats, ducks, and even feral cats.
- And, of course, it felt amazing to bike over the bridge into Canada and reach my goal after 17 perfect days on the road. My air pump never left my bike rack! Tears began streaming down my face in contemplation of my accomplishment.
Lisa: What did you eat on the road?
Mack: You guessed right if you think it’s hard to find vegan food on the road while biking through Corn Cob, America, but I prevailed! For breakfast or lunch in motels or diners, I’d have my standard fare of unbuttered toast with jam, baked potato, or hash browns cooked in veggie oil, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and lots of fruit cups and vegetable slices.
For dinners, I ordered spaghetti with marinara whenever I could—often double orders for carbohydrate building. If no spaghetti was available, then I’d eat meatless chili or milk free soups. Sometimes I would hit Subway for a foot-long Italian bread sandwich, stuffed with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and covered in mustard. If a store was near my lodging, I would see what vegan food was available. Once I bought a package of Gardein burgers and ate all four patties! Another time I found a half gallon of Blue Diamond chocolate almond milk. I filled my two bottles with it for the road and drank the rest right there!
Lisa: Do you have plans for any future rides?
Mack: Yes. In 2018, I hope to raise money for animals by riding from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In 2019, at age 65, I plan to ride to the Florida Gulf Coast. I’ll bike along the entire stretch of the panhandle—all the way to the Atlantic Ocean! And if I have any breath left in 2020, maybe Mexico!
Lisa: Thank you, Mack, for your longtime activism and dedication to making the world better for animals!
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Vegan Outreach in honor of Mack’s activism for animals. Thank you!