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Paraplegic isn't bound by his wheelchair: first to roll across U.S.

Buoyed by crowds and a drive to do something 'extraordinary,' man rolls across the U.S.

July 27, 2013|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

"I thought he was out of his mind," she said.

That didn't stop him.

On April 1, all cameras were on Cordell as he rolled out of the Burbank YMCA. Over the course of 99 days, Cordell averaged 32 miles a day, at roughly 5 miles per hour.

There were scares along the way, including a pair of pit bulls in Arizona that nearly attacked him, and the deadly tornado that ripped through Oklahoma.

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"I was in pain the whole time," Cordell recalled, adding that he had just three restful nights of sleep.

Day to day, the journey could even get boring, said Derek Gibbs, a 28-year-old cyclist who joined the crew in New Mexico.

"We would wake up, take a deep breath and say, 'OK, just go,'" Gibbs said, adding that Cordell's determination kept him going. "He doesn't have gears to make it easier. I thought, 'If this guy's doing it, I should never have a problem.'"

The hundreds, if not thousands, of people the team encountered along the way provided motivation — like the wheelchair basketball team that rolled Cordell through his 1,000th mile, and the hundreds of people cheering at his alma mater, West Hempstead High School, on July 8 as he crossed his finish line.

"It became bigger than me," Cordell said. "It quickly turned into inspiring people across this nation."

The documentary is slated to be completed in 2015.

FYI

For more information on Cordell's journey, visit www.rollwithme.org.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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