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Jose Quintero, Desert Dispatch
Jerry Smith, left, and Mike Sode passed through Barstow as part of a 8,500 mile bicycle ride across the country to raise awareness about childhood obesity. Smith left Michigan back in September 2012 weighing 420 pounds and has lost over 150 pounds as the two wrap up their 14 month-long journey.

Raising obesity awareness one pedal at a time


BARSTOW • Two men are peddling bicycles across the country, making stops in the 25 “fattest” cities in America to raise awareness for at-risk youth and youth obesity.

When Jerry Smith auditioned for a spot on the television show The Biggest Loser, he was told by producers he “didn’t have it.”

Tipping the scales at 420 pounds in October 2011, Smith said he wanted to promote hope and inspire people by cycling across the country — some 8,500 mile to be exact.

Smith, a pastor at About Face Youth Ministries in Michigan, and fellow pastor Mike Sode embarked on their journey that brought them to Barstow 14 months later, days shy of their final destination, Los Angeles. Smith didn’t want to just visit the “fattest” cities in America, but he hopes to crash the “Biggest Loser Ranch” located in Los Angeles.

“I weighed over 400 pounds and I knew I had to do something about that, so that’s why I plan on showing up and letting them know I have ‘it,’ ” Smith said. “I’ve lost over 150 pounds as we’ve cycled across the country. It hasn’t been easy, there have been times when I just wanted to quit, but proving to my kids at my ministry back home (that I could do this) is the most important thing to me.”

Smith said the trip’s purpose is primarily to bring attention to the many risks and dangers of childhood obesity in the nation.

Sode said this trip has been for the children but also for himself and all the “haters.”

Sode had a kidney stone removed in November 2008 and was left with nerve and disk damage. Sode was told he would never be able to walk without the assistance of a cane or walker.

While in New Mexico, the pastors made an unexpected extended stay in Las Cruces as Sode was hospitalized for kidney stones and he said he’s not yet at 100 percent.

“I’m still healing,” Sode joked. “I haven’t fully recovered, but I had a trip for my kids back home and ‘haters’ to silence. We’re almost done with our trip and the support we have received has been amazing. During our stay in Barstow, the folks have been more than generous.”

To accommodate their needs, Best Western Desert Villa Inn, 1984 East Main St., provided them with complimentary rooms to stay in before hitting the road en route to Los Angeles. Tom’s Burgers, at 1701 East Main St., also provided Sode and Smith with free meals also.

Smith and Sode left Michigan with $100 in their pocket and have continued their journey through donations.

Donations to help the pastors on their journey can be made to through PayPal or Wal-Mart Ecard. Donations can also be mailed to Citizens Bank, c/o About Face Youth Ministries, 2285 N. Cedar, Holt, MI 48842. Smith said all donations are tax deductible.

To follow their journey visit their Facebook page at

Jose Quintero can be reached at 760-256-4122 or

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