MERCED, Calif. — On a rainy Tuesday, Marshall Lee and his traveling companion were taking a rest from their cross-country trek by holing up in a local motel.
Lee's companion was happy as a guy with a dry pair of shoes. She's a bit road weary, after spending almost every day since the beginning of October seeing the scenery from behind Lee's bicycle.
Lee, 41, is biking from Chicago to San Francisco with his companion and best friend, Antigone the basset hound. Antigone rides in a little cart pulled behind Lee's bike. She's seen it all -- from the tourist attractions along historic Route 66 to angry farm dogs chasing the bike and the basset down farm roads.
Lee and Antigone are making the ride to bring attention to two goals close to Lee's heart: suicide prevention and basset hound rescue. Basset hound rescue because that's where Antigone came from, after being rescued from a puppy mill.
And suicide prevention because that's where Lee was just a couple of years ago: ready to kill himself -- just trying to figure exactly how to do it.
(In the ancient Greek play by Sophocles, Antigone -- pronounced An-TIG-o-nee -- hangs herself in the bloody tragedy.)
Lee has been a professor at a college and said he served in the Army during the Persian Gulf War. He has a master's degree in English and would like to work for a small-town newspaper one day.
But the loss of his college job, and then the loss of another job, sent Lee into a downward spiral. He was in Chicago, with nowhere to go and no job prospects.
"Three years ago, when I lost my job, I sent out 200 resumes and didn't get one call," Lee remembered. "Depression eats at you, it gets you nibble by nibble."
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