The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 30, 2013

JOMONOLA riders reach New Orleans

JOPLIN, Mo. — Aaron Brown had two flat tires in the first 20 miles of the 10-day JOMONOLA bike ride from Joplin to New Orleans, La.

“He did everything he was supposed to do,” Jerrod Hogan said of Brown, the lead pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin and one of 30 people on the ride. “He trained, he bought a new bike, he had good air in his tires, but still, right off the bat he experienced a couple of flats. Luckily there was a community of cyclists around him to help him change them — to support him, offer him help, get him back on the road again.”

Hogan, the executive director of Rebuild Joplin, and the other riders concluded their journey late Saturday despite 65 additional flat tires, along with broken pedals, wheels, spokes and chains, and triple-digit temperatures.

“We’ve been talking a lot about parallels — what people go through after a storm and in doing an 800-mile bike ride,” Hogan said Sunday. “You know, people do things right. They have jobs, houses, insurance, then the tornado takes them away. But I remember seeing the beauty and humanity immediately afterward. How many people there were — people not even from Joplin — who were there to help pick up the pieces.”

The goal of the ride was to raise $150,000 to support the construction of a home in each of three storm-ravaged areas: Joplin (May 2011 tornado), New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina in 2005) and the East Coast (Superstorm Sandy last October).

Of the 30 riders, half were from the Joplin area and half came from places including Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Hogan said he will drive the 15 Joplin area riders home today in the JOMONOLA bus after a tour of storm-affected areas in New Orleans.

“Besides each having to raise $5,000 and train, they had to take 12 days off, ride 10 days in the heat, invest in a bike and equipment, and they were doing it for people they’d never met,” Hogan said.

Joplin rider Dai Flake, who grew up in New Orleans, described the ride as one of the most challenging things she has ever done.

“It was somewhat scattered at first, but people quickly learned that when you’re by yourself, it’s tougher,” Flake said. “So we got closer, and the next thing we knew, we were doing a double pace line going 20 miles per hour.”

Towns, businesses and organizations provided water stops about every 10 to 15 miles. And churches in towns along the route lent assistance by opening their doors each evening so riders could bunk down on the floors of Sunday school classrooms, community rooms and offices.

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