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Pedaling back to Petunia City

Cancer-fighting cross-country cyclist will return to Dixon this week; pair of public events scheduled

DIXON – The Dixon native who started a cross country bike ride last month to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research will be coming through town this week.

Jacob Nelson, 31, started his trek across the U.S. on June 16 in Newport, Oregon, and plans to cycle to the other end of the nation to Atlantic City, New Jersey, by the end of the month.

As of Monday, Nelson traveled a total of 1,840 miles, averaging about 80 miles a day, with the latest stretch taking him around 100 miles from Fort Dodge to Waterloo, Iowa.

He’s slated to arrive in Dixon on Wednesday and will leave for the next leg of the trip to Chicago on Friday.

Two businesses are hosting public events for Nelson’s trip while he’s in town, one from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at Tipsy’s, 79 S. Hennepin Ave., and the other from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Porky’s, 1315 E. River Road.

He partnered with the Lustgarten Foundation, which directs 100 percent of donations to pancreatic cancer research, and has raised about $5,394 so far toward his goal of $10,000.

Nelson, who’s a school psychologist with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said he has seen remarkable views during the trip – the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming and the Grand Tetons – but it’s the people he met along the way that stick with him the most.

“The places are neat and fascinating, but meeting great people every day has been the most rewarding part of the trip,” he said.

One of those instances was in Mills, Wyoming, when Nelson was hosted by couple Sean and Michelle McClenahan.

“Within 5 minutes of conversation, it seemed like we were old friends catching up,” he said.

Another acquaintance let Nelson borrow his truck to find a bike repair shop for a replacement part, and he also ran into an unexpected piece of Dixon in Dubois, Wyoming.

He was staying the night in a church that takes in long-distance bikers when his path converged with another cyclist named David, who’s the nephew of former longtime Dixon High School coach and athletic director Chuck Vail.

“It’s an extremely small world.”

Nelson is a 2006 DHS graduate and attended Western Illinois University. His parents are optometrist Kurt Nelson and substitute teacher Sarah Nelson. His two brothers are Luke, a transportation engineer at Willett, Hofmann & Associates, and Benjamin, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard who works at Crest Foods.


Go to to follow Jacob Nelson on his bike trip across the country or to donate to pancreatic cancer research.

Those wanting to donate by check can email Nelson at

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