Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 | 11:45 a.m.
Leo Dever could play Willie Nelson in one of the Strip’s tribute acts. He has the look — hair braids stream out of a faded black skullcap; a long, combed beard falls down like a mane; a wiry frame and a world-tested look make him a natural.
But Dever, 58, is far from the Strip. On Monday, he was pushing his blue-and-white Cannondale mountain bike up the steep Queens City Summit outside of Rachel. It wasn’t going well — a stiff wind cut across Highway 375, pushing him off the fogline and onto the soft, gravel shoulder.
He says he is riding around America. Why?
“Why do people go to work?” he asked.
Uh, something to do? Money?
So, it’s a business?
“It’s a business, and it’s about animal awareness,” he said. “Not just dogs and cats but all animals.”
In a discussion, Leo didn’t make it clear how this was a business, other than he has a Facebook page — search “Sassy Max and Leo” — and it accepts donations. Nor was it clear how he raised support for himself, much less spreads awareness for animals. But Sassy Max, a bright-eyed, 4-year-old Shih Tzu-terrier mix, would make a lovely spokesdog. She sat, lied down and walked around the back of the mountain bike while Leo pushed.
Leo said he had spent eight years riding around the United States and over that time put together his bike setup. It’s efficient. Nearly every part of the bike had gear strapped on, but it wasn’t overloaded. Sassy Max had something of a platform and a water bowl strapped to the seat. They had everything they needed.
But the wind was troubling Leo. On a good day, he says he averages about 70 miles. Not today. He warned of places across the Southwest where wind had punished him. But he kept making progress.
“You’ve got to,” he said, stopping on the phrase as if to offer advice. It came across like a truism, something to live by.
He was headed to Northern California to see the redwoods. He didn’t have a specific stopping point, just the redwoods. He wasn’t sure if he would keep going through the winter. It depended on the weather and other issues.
“You gotta look for places; you might have to hole up,” he said, imparting another truth.
But then what? It wasn’t clear.
Would he work? He didn’t say. What had he done in the past? He paused and listed off a string of jobs and work experience, including handling cattle, doing construction and janitorial work, and working in a restaurant.
“Odd jobs,” he said thoughtfully, and then a point to ponder:
“Everything you do in life won’t make sense right now, but someday it will; you’ll use it,” he said.
I asked if he had any family.
“The whole wide world,” he said emphatically, adding that he has support from around the globe. “If people’s into it, they’ll do anything.”
Another truism, and off went Leo and Sassy Max, ready to do anything, including head back into the wind and up to the summit.