1,040 miles out, 1,260 to go


With the Rocky Mountains behind him, Suheil Aghabi rolled his wheelchair into Deming, New Mexico in the last days of April. In this rock-hunting paradise, 33 miles north of the Mexican boarder, it was sunny and 73 degrees, a far cry from the weather in his native West Hempstead.

Maps show that Aghabi had come approximately 1,040 miles of his 3,300 mile journey since he began his trip in Burbank, California on April 2.

The Santa Monica resident, who is often seen in movies and television shows by his screen name, Gabriel Cordell, was on his way home rolling along in his wheelchair while being filmed for a documentary of his long and arduous trip.

Aghabi, 42, plans to wheel his chair from California to his hometown of West Hempstead in about 70 days.

“I think that I can average about 50 miles a day,” he said as he left California, “which might sound crazy, because your arms and shoulders are not made to take that much strain.”

So far, he is only slightly short of his goal, averaging approximately 45 miles a day.

Aghabi rides a wheelchair because of a 1992 car accident at the intersection of Eagle Avenue and Woodfield Road in West Hempstead. He had just left his home on his way to his first professional audition in Manhattan, seeking a part in a commercial, when another driver ran a red light and slammed into his Jeep.

He recalls waking up lying in the street with his steering wheel clutched in his hand. He knew right away that he was paralyzed, he said, because he could not feel his legs.

Only months later he was back to work, pursing acting jobs in a wheelchair. He said that before long, casting executives thought of him when a part called for a man in a wheelchair.

He trained for his trip by logging miles on the roads and at a track near a high school in suburban Los Angeles.

“There’s nothing you can really do that will prepare you,” he says. “You just have to do it.”

Why is he attempting the arduous trip? He said that he wants to do something that has never been done before, and he also wants to be a “positive role model and inspiration” to others.

The West Hempstead High School reunion is slated for June 10. Aghabi plans to be there.

Judging by his progress so far, it looks as if he will make his goal