Harold Palmquist may describe himself as a homeless veteran, but after pedaling across most of the Lower 48 states accompanied by his dog, Daisy, he’s got a lot of friends he can count on.
“It is really a blessing to travel,” he said by telephone Saturday after staying with a friend of a friend in a Laurel home. “I just pedal my bike and share my story, raising money for the people who helped me.”
That would be Veterans and their Pets, also known as Vets and their Pets, a Phoenix-area organization that works with homeless veterans to help them keep their pets.
Palmquist began his cross-country bike trip, which he calls the Tour de PACLANTIC, in Georgia in April 2017. A vehicle struck him and Daisy near Natchez, Mississippi, “but we recovered and got back on the road,” he said.
He plans to complete the journey this fall in Seattle, then take a promised job near Portland, Oregon, hauling freight.
“Rather than take up another bed (in a homeless shelter), I think this (adventure and fundraiser) has been more productive,” he said.
Palmquist, 49, served five years in the Air Force, where he armed fighter aircraft in bases in South Korea and Arizona during the Gulf War. He began his epic tour the day after his father died. Veterans and their Pets had given him help for about a week and secured use of a cellphone for his journey.
To date he’s logged 5,600 miles, pedaling around 26 miles each day he’s on his bike. His load, including his faithful canine companion, weighs in at 480 pounds.
“I’ve never had to ask for a dime,” he said. “I thought I’d have to stop along the way to work and make some money to buy some goods and get back on the road,” but that’s rarely been the case, he said.
Plenty of people donate dry food for him — oatmeal and the like — and even drier food for Daisy. Sometimes the donations are overflowing — even, in one case, temporarily debilitating.
Someone once gave him about 10 pounds of dog treats, “and I didn’t know how to turn it down.” The added weight ended up sidelining his trailer for a while, he said.
On Saturday, Palmquist was preparing to head west out of Laurel. He hopes to clear the Continental Divide later this week, and to wrap up his journey by Thanksgiving. He said he’s counting on the Portland trucking job to work out after a previously promised job didn't.
“At this point, we just need to get over the mountains before the snow comes,” he said. “I’ve never seen Seattle, so I want to get that off my to-do list.”