Man and his best friend hit the road to raise awareness for service dogs

Ron Storms – with his black Lab Onyx in the trailer – are on their way to Pennsylvania in a cross-country bike trip to raise awareness about service dogs. (Submitted photo).

VALE – At 48, Ron Storms is in pretty good physical shape.

That’s important since Storms is riding across the United States on a mountain bike, towing a trailer for his black Lab dog, Onyx.

Storms and Onyx, along with companion Meghan Shreiner at the wheel of a pickup truck, set out from Lincoln City last month, heading for Cochranville, Pennsylvania. They are trying to raise $30,000 for Canine Partners for Life, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains service dogs for people with physical or developmental disabilities.

“We want to help as many people as we can,” said Storms.

The trio – with Onyx in the custom 85-pound carrier – reached Vale last week after crossing the Cascade Mountains from the Willamette Valley.

“I can zip if I don’t have to worry about traffic,” said Storms.

Onyx doesn’t always ride in the carrier, said Storms. When Onyx takes a break from the riding, Storms puts a wood likeness of the dog in the carrier.

On this trip Onyx is joined by Phoenix, a six-month-old black Lab puppy. Phoenix doesn’t often ride in the dog trailer but spends most of his time in the pickup with Shreiner.

While Storms pedals, Shreiner tags along in the pickup.

The truck has a specialty camper with a queen-sized bed, shower, wood stove and a generator, a project that took Storms eight months to build.

They also keep about 40 pounds of dog food on board.

Storms starts out on the road each morning and Shreiner follows an hour or two later. They keep in touch via cell phone, he said.

The trip – dubbed Onyx’s Great Adventure – also reflects the duo’s roots.

Lincoln City residents, Storms and Shreiner grew up near each other in southern Pennsylvania. Shreiner left her job with the city of Lincoln City and Storms dropped out of his contracting business to make the nationwide journey.

Storms said he began planning – and saving money – for the trek to Pennsylvania four years ago.

The decision to start the journey “is hard to explain” but a childhood living with a disabled aunt played a big role, he said. So did a divorce, he added.

“I went through a rough period, and I got Onyx and he got me through some rough patches,” said Storms.

The trip, he said, “is about making a statement to help people.”

Shreiner, 36, said as soon as she heard about the plan, she was sold.

“I wanted to be involved,” she said.

While Storms is on the road, Shreiner updates their blog daily and often scouts ahead with the pickup to find a good place to stop for the night.

The trip has already had challenges.

The trip from the coast to Vale took three weeks because Storms was sidelined with an illness.

There have been flat tires and roof repairs, all chronicled on their Facebook page at teamronyx.

In places, traffic and adverse weather conditions hamper progress.

“I did 42 miles in the rain,” said Storms.

He said he keeps a sharp lookout for vehicles, especially after a near miss by a U-Haul trailer recently.

“I am always watching, I look back all the time,” said Storms.

Both said they’ve had to “make adjustments” being out on the road.

“Our biggest saving grace is we are outdoorsy people,” said Shreiner.

Storms and Shreiner said the best part about the trip so far is enjoying the small towns along the route.

They say it’s not like traveling by auto, where the vehicle can separate the traveler from the place.

“There are these towns you drive through, and you blink and its gone,” Shreiner said. “But we’ve met the coolest people.”

They crossed into Idaho late last week, and Storms said they hope to reach Cochranville by the end of August.

“But it will depend on the road conditions,” he said.

Readers can follow the duo – and Onyx – by visiting their Facebook page, teamronyx, their website onyxsgreatadventure, or find them on Instagram. Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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