Cyclist goes the distance: Homeless man shares story along route to South Carolina

It needs to be about the cause, 51-year-old Hunter said yesterday during a Lafayette stop. Hunter's cause is raising awareness for the homeless and displaced families who lost everything in "that overlooked storm," Hurricane Rita.

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Published January 16, 2007 by TheAdvertiser.com 
By Bob Moser :: Photo: Bob Moser 

Photo: Terry Hunter and his dog, Rita, take a break from the rain Monday underneath an awning at Walgreen's on the corner of Congress Street and Ambassador Caffery Parkway. Hunter started his cross-country trip in Eugene, Ore., and is heading to Florence, S.C., raising awareness for the homeless and people displaced by Hurricane Rita. 

[[image:homeless_trekker.jpg::inline:1]]Lafayette, LA — Somewhere east of Lafayette, a man named "Rainbow Scooter" is riding his bike toward South Carolina.

He's homeless, and has ridden 2,532 miles so far – all the way from Eugene, Ore. His real name is Terry Hunter, but this story isn't supposed to be about him.

It needs to be about the cause, 51-year-old Hunter said yesterday during a Lafayette stop. Hunter's cause is raising awareness for the homeless and displaced families who lost everything in "that overlooked storm," Hurricane Rita.

So far dozens of newspapers across the country have retold his story. His bike ride is the meaning of inspiration.

Hunter calls the mission his "Homeless Ride for Southern Grace." The idea struck last fall, while he sat on a dock overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

He says he'd been given a bike for his 50th birthday by homeless friends, and he rode it from Eugene to the coast. As news of Hurricane Rita's devastation reached Hunter, "My heart went out to those people," he said.

At the ocean he noticed a highway sign declaring Florence, S.C., "2,900-some miles away." He had the bike and an adventurous streak, so he hit the road to change minds about homelessness.

"The way I look at it, if I help one family per newspaper, it's worth all the pain of this riding," he said.

Trailing behind today on that unnamed Louisiana highway is a mutt-dog, Rita. She's curled up tighter than a fighter's fist in the seat of a baby-cart Hunter tows.

Rita's probably content under a thin, green blanket, fighting shivers off her black-and-white splattered fur, as cold rain pounds the blacktop. Her hind legs are tucked under a well-fed torso, with hind paws hidden under a speckled chin.

Hunter picked up Rita in Jennings last week while passing through. He had just lost his first dog of the trip, Chipper, to pneumonia. Rita was homeless herself, Hunter said, and lost her family in Hurricane Rita.

She's tame and "seems to enjoy the ride," Hunter said.

The two are building a friendship out of mutual respect.

Rita has eaten better than Hunter, most likely. She has a bag of kibble in the cart.

Along the trip he's found a sponsor now and then who'll donate money for a few days.

It's mostly one dollar at a time, he said.

He's also done odd jobs, including cashing in recyclables or cleaning a restaurant parking lot in exchange for food. Hunter said he's mostly eaten a lot of beans and sardines.

Some meals – and strangers – are memorable, though.

In Iowa, La., a couple treated Hunter to his first Cajun meal – a crawfish and potato plate.

"Oooh boy, was that stuff good," he said.

Hunter has roughly 934 more miles to his destination: Myrtle Beach, S.C.

If his story has to be told, he said he hopes everyone who reads it will realize they're better off than most Hurricane Rita victims and share money with the Red Cross or another relief fund.