The 21 riders of the third JOMO Adventures annual bike trek were tired and sore and slathering on chamois butter in the usual-suspect places to ease their aches, but on Friday they rode the last of the 575 miles from Joplin into Nashville.
Their ride, which began Oct. 17, has raised about $91,000 of their $100,000 goal so far. The money will benefit Lafayette House, a Joplin nonprofit that supports people struggling with domestic violence and addiction, and Sophia’s Heart, a Nashville nonprofit that helps children.
Seven of the riders — John Hunter, Christopher Spencer, Lewis Niewald, Jerrod Hogan, Andy Perigo, Tyler Swift and Bradley Barton — have participated in the organization's annual bike rides since they began in 2013 with a ride to New Orleans to raise money to build homes for people affected by the Joplin tornado, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
Emily Dunavent, the president of the organization, said perhaps the most difficult day of the ride was the second day when the riders biked 89 miles from Ozark to Willow Springs on roads that gradually climbed 5,300 feet.
"That was a really tough day," Dunavent said.
"It's awesome to be done," Perigo said.
Niewald said the riders have to confront the mental challenges that come with hills, wind in their faces, rain and thoughts of quitting.
"Everybody's done a great job of overcoming those fears, and knocking it out and getting it done," Niewald said.
Dunavent and Mike Sullivan, one of the trip's bike mechanics, have also been on all three rides. Last year, the bicyclists rode from Joplin to Moore, Oklahoma, to raise money for tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Moore and Baxter Springs, Kansas.
Other riders were on their first long-distance bike rides. Suzanne Sinek, the child care director at Lafayette House, was one of them. She did 60- to 70-mile rides to prepare.
"It was definitely an adventure," Sinek said. "I would have given up without all the support."
Perigo said the donations will help build transitional housing for people at Lafayette House. The nonprofit, which has a residential shelter in Joplin and an outreach office in Neosho, provides services including domestic violence intervention, substance abuse treatment, sexual assault counseling and child care.
Perigo, a former treasurer at the United Way, said some of the housing for Lafayette House was destroyed in the tornado.
"We heard they had some needs," Perigo said. "We didn't think about any other organization."