Man goes across country on three-wheeled bike

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A trip estimated to take three years on a three-wheeled bicycle will take one man and his two dogs across the country.

Johnny Bjelajac said he is making the trip not only to get out and get some exercise but to bring attention to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

While he is not taking donations for the organization, he did say his goal it to raise awareness of it, especially since there are already ways for people to donate to the hospital.

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For the past year he has been traveling on the pedal-powered bike from Florida on his way to Los Angeles. Once there, he plans to make the trip back. Some motorists in Picayune may have seen him and his two dogs pedaling through town Monday afternoon, attempting to avoid the interstate.

Bjelajac said he bought the bike a few years ago just to take trips to the beach and back to his home in Florida. The exercise involved helped to alleviate some of the discomfort he deals with in his back due to spinal problems.

“If I sit at home on the couch, I might as well sit in a wheel chair,” Bjelajac said.

After some news reporters in his local area saw him and wrote some stories, the idea of promoting a charity was suggested, so he picked St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“If you ever watch one of their one hour shows, it’ll break your heart,” Bjelajac said. “If you want to change the world put a smile on a child’s face. That’s it, the whole religion to live by.”

For the most part, his trip has been uneventful, other than suffering through three hurricanes during the past storm season and some minor trouble with the law that ate up most of his military pension for the month. The three hurricanes, Ike, Faye and Gustav caused him to make a more sturdy and expandable trailer. That new trailer now allows him to have a camper, complete with television and VCR.

Bjelajac is retired from the military and gets a pension check for his service in the Air Force. That pension check allows him to fund the trip he is taking, but a recent run-in with Gulfport police left him with little money until the first of December. He said he was arrested earlier in November for public drunk after stopping at a place to get something to eat and have a couple beers.

He also lost about $350 purchasing a broken electric motor that would have made the trip that much easier. He will now have to budget wisely until his next pension check is deposited into his account.

Bjelajac was in town all last weekend, camping out at the American Legion, a group he thanks for their hospitality. Monday he headed out for Louisiana, attempting to make it into Slidell without getting on the interstate by using only back roads. He estimates the entire trip will take about three years.