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Hand cyclist sets challenge for himself

Rich Dixon is all smiles as he cycles into Bemidji on Monday afternoon in his first leg of a long-distance ride from Itasca State Park to New Orleans, following the Scenic Highway. Dixon, who is from Fort Collins, Colo., is paralyzed from the waist down because of a spinal cord injury. He is riding an impressive hand cycle, traveling about 40 miles a day, and hopes to make it to New Orleans by the first week of November. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Rich Dixon doesn't have a big bucket list, but he just turned 60, and cycling down the Scenic Highway down to New Orleans is the first on the list: A long-distance trip north to south.

Dixon of Fort Collins, Colo., has a custom-made hand cycle. The challenge - Dixon had a spinal cord injury that caused permanent paralysis from his waist down.

A 12-year veteran on his hand cycle, he calls it his therapy and "my primary source of exercise." With his wife on the support vehicle and Monte, a yellow Labrador as his companion, he hopes to travel the 1,500 miles by the first week in November.

He did a fine balancing act to pick his departure date, leaving Itasca State Park Monday and hoping to travel 30-40 miles a day.

"I may have limitations, but I'm not giving up but focusing on hope," said Dixon. "I didn't want to fight the heat and humidity, thus I picked this date."

Dixon, a writer and motivational speaker, enjoys exploring issues related to adversity, hope, dreams and faith. On his journey, he hopes to speak to service groups and churches spreading the message to continue seeking and confronting challenges. This ride is considered a new chapter, the next obstacle.

Through his website,, he will raise money for Convoy of Hope that helps the poor and suffering. A GPS system will help followers keep tract of his progress.