David MacNall's big ride

A Dayton man who lost use of his legs aims to cross the nation on a hand-cranked tricycle.

Pumping on the pedals with both arms, MacNall can reach high speeds on his training rides around Dayton.

Pumping on the pedals with both arms, MacNall can reach high speeds on his training rides around Dayton. Photo by Greg Lehman.

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David MacNall, the man behind the wheels, is barely able to walk due to a childhood case of polio, so he peddles up and down the Valley’s rolling hills using his hands.

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David MacNall

His ambitious journeys might lead one to think he grew up riding, but MacNall had never owned a cycle until he bought his hand-powered machine in November 2012. Living in a wheelchair, he said he felt out of shape and wanted to do something about it.

“The first 10 minutes almost killed me,” he said of the first time he got on his bike.

But nearly a year in, with steady practice, he rides twice a day, cycling for up to 65 minutes in the morning and 65 at night.

MacNall hopes to give back to Dayton through his cycling. He’s planning a cross-country bike trip to raise money for the town’s food bank and other charities through Project Timothy, a Christian service organization that works in Columbia County.

“They got me out of a pickle quite a few times,” he said.

His plan is to share the work they’re doing with people as he travels, earning money which can be sent back to Dayton. The idea came after he learned about Eric Shadle, a pastor in Richland who biked across the country to raise awareness and funds to provide diapers to low-income families.

If all goes according to plan, MacNall will leave Dayton in May 2015 and ride to Albany, N.Y., crossing over the Rockies during a brief period when the mountains aren’t covered in snow.

It’s an ambitious goal, certainly, but MacNall says he’s up to the challenge.

At that point, he’ll have been training for 2½ years, and in addition to his training, he’s counting on divine help to get him over the mountains.

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Outside his apartment, MacNall demostrates how he uses his arms to scoot from wheelchair to bike.

“With me, anything is impossible. With God, anything is possible. I’m going to go over the Rockies with the power of God on my side,” he said.

To make the trip, MacNall will need human support: a team to come with him and help coordinate food, shelter and other logistics.

For now, he said he’s just looking for people to go on rides with him.

“I’m tired of talking to the cows, the chickens and the roosters. I’m out there all by myself,” he said.

While he’s been able to ride as far as Dixie under his own power, he dreams of longer journeys to Lyons Ferry, the TriCities and even Spokane — distances which require more water than he can carry solo.

Though some in town have said his goals are too ambitious, MacNall remains determined.

“I don’t know when to quit,” he said. “I just turned 63 last March, and I’m going to go to New York on a bike.”

Anyone interested in helping can contact MacNall at (509) 629-1156, or through his Facebook page.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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