This post originally appeared on the ChicagoNow blog, Chicagosphere.
Know this first: this is the most emotionally compelling blog I’ve ever read, and perhaps the best. A Chicago writer and pet lover loses his job, gets fed up with the economy, and decides to bike to the Pacific Ocean to promote pet adoption, with his favorite Basset Hound, Antigone, blogging the trip from her doggie trailer. But it’s the candid bravery of the human author that shines best as Antigone Goes West.
Chicago fiction author Marshall Lee, 41, was working an unstressful office job to give him the time and mental energy to write. The job evaporated with the economy last year, and Lee had a heck of a depressing time finding a replacement gig.
A stalwart Basset Hound-lover, and not a great fan of a Chicago winter (who is?), as Antigone tells it, one day Lee’s demeanor changed. Last fall, he came home with a bike and a little animal trailer, started taking her on practice rides around the northwest side, then around Chicagoland. And the next thing she knew, she was being towed across the country.
Laptop in paw, apparently.
Lee decided to give up the Windy City for the warmer winters (though no less onerous job market) of the Pacific Northwest. Figuring such a monumental move ought to be put to good purpose, he decided to make the trip by bicycle and dedicate his effort to Basset Hound adoption. And the best way to make that happen was to “let” Antigone blog the journey from her canine perspective as the scribe of Antigone Goes West.
It’s a touching, heartwarming, and at times melancholy blog, as Antigone chronicles the towns and states through which they pass, and the mood of her human companion as his well-known past recedes in the distance and an unknown future looms larger into view.
They’re in southern California now, trekking the last few hundred miles to the Pacific coast in San Francisco. Once there, the official journey will end and the pair will head up to Portland, Oregon, and potentially on to Seattle.
Today, in the midst of the Californian desert, Antigone remembered her origins in a sad puppy mill. Earlier this month, she was worried about the mood of her human companion as evidence of the stress of the 2,000-mile journey became apparent, as it had a few weeks before, in Colorado Springs, Texas.
Of course, there have been many happy moments, too. The inexpensive repairs at the bike shop in Tempe, Arizona. The fun of the foothills of the Continental Divide. The U.F.O. museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Meeting friends in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lee hopes to raise consciousness for Basset Hound adoption, and the blog offers numerous resources for you to become involved. His effort has earned him praised and media coverage along the way.
But this blog is something deeper. It’s an unexpectedly candid look into the heart and soul of an average Chicagoan forced by the hard times we’ve all been facing lately into making an extraordinary decision. This is as much Lee’s story as Antigone’s, and it’s an astounding one.
It is not lightly that I say, of every blog I’ve ever written about, this is easily the most personal, honest, and affecting story I’ve ever encountered. I’ve cried reading Lee and Antigone’s story. I’ve laughed, been riveted with attention, and rooted for this pair.
Why Lee isn’t a published author I don’t know. What I do know is Chicago’s loss will be the West Coast’s gain. If you want to read one the most compelling personal blogs you may ever come across, read this one.
From beginning to what I hope will be a well-earned, warmer-wintered end.