‘James was a shining star’: N.H. cyclist riding cross-country for cancer research killed in Mississippi

Maine native James Dobson was on a ride across the country to raise money for childhood cancer research.
Maine native James Dobson was on a ride across the country to raise money for childhood cancer research.(James Richesin)

James Dobson had a saying that he tried to live by everyday.

“ ‘Stay humble, stay happy, and make somebody smile,’ ” said Ben Mullins, who met Dobson more than a decade ago, when the pair played semipro football together. “That was his motto.”

Now, friends and family are trying to carry that message to others, to further Dobson’s legacy of optimism.

On Tuesday, Dobson, 32, was hit and killed by a driver in Mississippi as he rode a specialized tricycle across the country to raise money for children’s cancer research, a mission he dubbed the “Positive Vibes Tour.”

The Maine native, who had moved to New Hampshire, set off on his trek to San Diego from Dover, N.H., on Oct. 1, on his recumbent tricycle — a low-to-the-ground vehicle on which the operator sits in a reclined seat.


The goal was to raise $10,000 for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H., while sharing his enthusiasm for life.

“That was his whole thing,” said Mullins. “Stay positive and happy, and be humble and love everyone.”

According to the Associated Press, which profiled Dobson a month before he began his ride, the cyclist had planned to travel 50 to 60 miles a day, arriving on the West Coast three months after his departure.

Dobson was just more than a month into the trip when he was killed on US Route 98 in Lamar County, Miss., the Hattiesburg American reported.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Sergeant Travis Luck said in an e-mail that a preliminary investigation showed Dobson was struck from behind by a Dodge Challenger while traveling west on the highway.

The driver told officers he “could not avoid” the cyclist, according to a police report. Dobson was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed.


Dobson had been documenting his roughly 3,480-mile journey on YouTube and social media.

His last “vlog” — or video blog — was shared Tuesday. It was a collection of footage from the day prior that showed Dobson riding through the rain toward Mississippi with a friend.

Near the end of the 15-minute video, before Dobson stopped for the night at a hotel, he told viewers why he decided to embark on his epic journey.

“When people ask me why I ride in the rain or if I ride in the cold — and I tell them, yeah, I ride in the rain and cold — and the reason is — and I’d ride through the snow, too — and the reason is because those kids don’t have an opportunity to make a choice to get out of the hospital, and not do the treatment,” he says to the camera, while pedaling. “I feel like I have an obligation to ride.”

Before he left, Dobson launched a campaign to post updates about his trip and collect money for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

In the “About” section, he described himself as “a guy pedaling a bicycle to help give children an opportunity just like you and I have.”

Dr. Keith Loud, physician-in-chief at the hospital, said in a statement Wednesday that staffers were “shocked and saddened” by the news of Dobson’s death, but moved by his dedication to ride across the country “in an effort to give back.”


“A self-proclaimed ‘small town regular guy,’ James was a shining star, and we are honored to have had him shine his light in our direction,” Loud said. “We express our deepest condolences to his friends and family.”

James Richesin, a friend since high school, remembered Dobson Thursday as the “kind of guy who was always trying to make other people smile.”

“He was a huge, huge goofball,” Richesin said in a telephone interview. “He was always positive; he hated negativity. And he just had this quirk about him that, you know, he just put a positive smile on his face.”

A note shared to the “Positive Vibes Tour” Facebook group — where many friends are sharing memories about Dobson — said funeral services will be held for him later this month, in Portland, Maine.

Steve Annear can be reached at