The desire to meet and help others has brought two Wisconsin men to Colorado — on their bicycles.
Dennis Knight, 62, and Dan Haas, 56, are passionate about seeing the country, riding from town to town and meeting people. They are on a 70-day ride that will end in Pueblo.
They’re also passionate about making people more aware of human trafficking, both forced laborers and the human sex trade in Colorado and worldwide.
The two men, who have been friends since childhood, have been on the road since May 27, and they figure they’ve ridden about 1,200 miles, though they really haven’t kept track. The pair rode through Wisconsin and Minnesota, and then zigzagged through Nebraska.
On June 27, they crossed into Colorado, and they’ve made stops in Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland, Boulder and Golden.
On Sunday night, they stayed in Kittredge. Knight said they met a man at the Kittredge General Store and told him their story, and he invited them to camp in his backyard.
After a few days in the Evergreen-Conifer area, they will be heading to Denver. Haas will return to Wisconsin, and Knight will continue south to Pueblo, where he lived for three years.
Human trafficking issue
Knight and Haas latched onto the human trafficking issue after watching movies and reading books on the topic. Knight says he’s been a radical Christian for 40 years, which moved him to take action.
“I think the Lord opened my mind and heart to this issue,” Knight said. “If you read the Bible, you find that God cares about the helpless and the innocent. You can’t turn a blind eye to people in need.”
Conifer has its own nonprofit called JOY International, which specializes in rescuing trafficked children from the sex trade both in Colorado and worldwide.
Since JOY, which is run by Conifer resident Jeff Brodsky, started rescuing children about seven years ago, several hundred girls have been rescued from brothels in Cambodia, Thailand, India and all over the United States, even in Colorado.
Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, affecting 161 countries, according to the Polaris Project. An estimated 12.3 million men, women and children are being trafficked as prostitutes or forced labor.
“Human trafficking sounds so nebulous,” Knight said, “but it’s really a problem. These people are invisible, and they are forced to work or into prostitution against their will. We need to make the American public more aware.”
Knight believes the public is in denial about the issue, choosing to ignore it because it’s in the shadows.
Knight says the trip won’t end his involvement with the human trafficking issue. Ultimately, he’d like to open safe houses in the Milwaukee area for people who have been rescued. He says people who are rescued sometimes go back to their former lives because they have nowhere else to turn.
The two men — with about 50 pounds of gear each — ride about five hours a day, or between 20 and 60 miles, depending upon the weather, the road conditions and other factors.
“One of the worst days,” Knight said, “we were in Nebraska with 15 to 18 mph headwinds. But you just keep going. At the end of the day, you put up your tent and recuperate. And you do it again the next day.”
They both have lost weight and are in better physical shape, thanks to the trip.
“We’ve gotten used to riding,” Knight said, “so that’s what we do.”
They say that three-fourths of the trip is about the ride, while the remainder is about raising awareness. They have tried to get stories in newspapers in North Platte, Neb., Greeley, Fort Morgan and Loveland before stopping at the High Timber Times.
They have been anything but lonely on the trip, chatting with each other about a variety of topics along the way, and then meeting people in the towns where they stop each evening.
“Every day, it’s just the next town,” Knight said.