When 47-year-old Delbert Richardson was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years ago, the thought of living the rest of his life with the debilitating disease sent him into a deep depression.
On Thursday, however, a very different Richardson was all smiles as his cross-country journey on a custom three-wheel cycle to raise awareness of MS took him through Brookings-Harbor on Highway 101.
I want to motivate others with MS and their families not to give up. Thats why Im doing this, he said. Its been great fun so far.
Richardson, who lives in Kansas, stopped his fiberglass enclosed recumbent cycle along the highway south of the Dot Martin Bridge long enough to catch his breath and explain what hes doing.
Its about awareness. Im not trying to raise money for MS, he said. If people want to give money to their local MS group, I encourage that.
Richardsons trip is funded primarily by a grant from Betaseron Multiple Sclerosis Champions of Courage, a non-profit program that recognizes the accomplishments of people with MS and provides grants to help them achieve their goals and inspire others.
Richardson said his story is no different than anyone else who survives day to day with MS, a chronic, often disabling disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
The progress, severity and specific symptoms of the disease cannot be predicted nor can it affect its victims in the same way. Symptoms may range from tingling and numbness to paralysis and blindness.
Richardson said MS is a devastating disease because people live with its unpredictable physical and emotional effects for the rest of their lives.The disease, he said, afflicts up to 350,000 people in the US and each week 200 more are diagnosed with it.
Richardson said the idea to ride the cycle came to him in a dream. I had the strangest of dreams not long ago in which I found myself peddling a two-wheel bike across the country visiting different landmarks. I couldnt shake the dream and decided to make it a reality, he said.
After two months on the road, he said, I'm just determined now and confident that I can do something for others as a way of giving back.
He began his journey on April 9 in Seattle, Wash., and is following Highway 101 to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
From there he will ride inland to Fresno, where he hopes to meet an aunt also suffering from M.S. He plans to continued his journey to places such as New Mexico and Colorado.
Richardson is calling his journey Cross Country 2001 Wheels of Hope. He posts semi-regular updates and photos of his journey on a Web site at http://www.cc2001.bizland.com.
I know because of my illness that losing interest is one of the many side effects, Richardson says on the Web site. I feel that I've committed myself to see how far I can make this dream happen both mentally, emotionally and the most challenging for me will be the physical commitment.
He is riding solo with no support vehicle. He tows a small trailer loaded with supplies, including a tent and a sleeping bag. He also has a laptop computer and digital camera to document his journey.
Richardsons pedal-powered vehicle is a recumbent 3-wheeled cycle he said was best suited to how MS will likely affect him. The bike was designed and delivered by B & M Enterprises and then enclosed in a aerodynamic fiberglass shell.
Speed and distance is not an issue, he said. Some days I pedal for several hours, other days I may go a mile then turn around and go back. Its a day-by-day thing.
He added, The only thing that will keep me from completing the journey will be my health and that will just make the challenge more challenging.
Dontions to help Richardsons journey can be made by going to the forementioned Web site or by making donation to the local MS chapter on behalf of Wheels of Hope.