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A group of bicyclists from 11 states — Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri, Florida and Minnesota, and the United Kingdom — rode from California to Florida to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and treatment. They spent the night in a church in Jackson.

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Cyclists on a cross-country trip to raise money for a good cause spent an October night at a church in Jackson and shared stories of discovering America — its places, people and spirit.

This group totaled 16 and included four route leaders in a support vehicle with a trailer. They were participating in a journey that was part of BIKE THE US FOR MS — an organization that supports research, treatment facilities, care services and various projects that help people affected by multiple sclerosis. Information about the group is available at biketheusforms.org.

Their journey, which one described as “the ultimate road trip” and another as “the challenge of a lifetime” took a little less than two months. It began in San Diego and ended in St. Augustine, Florida. The “southern tier” route excursion was one of four options. Each cyclists has to raise at least $1 per mile, the riders said, which is a minimum of $3,070.

Nightly accommodations were quite varied: a state park, a campground, an RV park, an “old hippie commune” or cabins for rent. Places to sleep were part of the extensive planning and sometimes Google was used to see what was available in a town. They stayed at a church that was like “a resort” in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, and at more modest churches along the way where riders slept on the floor, in the pews or camped outside.

In Jackson, they said, they enjoyed talking to Beth and Scotty Dawson, who shared some of the town's history.

Beth Dawson said the group stayed at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson. The Dawsons allowed some of the group to shower at the Johnny Jones Store her family recently finished renovating. She said Wade and Berlene Morgan welcomed the rest of the group to shower at their home.

Beth Dawson said group members mentioned visiting Centenary and the Jackson Historic District.

The group included four women and 12 men, ranging in age from 23 to 69. Ten of them are in their 60s or late 50s. Only two of the group knew each other beforehand, friends since college. The riders came from 11 states: Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri, Florida and Minnesota. There were also joined by “two Jameses” from the United Kingdom.

Most of the riders acknowledged a personal connection to multiple sclerosis through family members, friends, and even patients — one of the group was a physician.

The distance traveled each day varied, but was about 70 miles with a break every 20-25 miles. Days began about 5:30 a.m., sometimes earlier. The day was finished when each rider got there to where the group was to spend the night. Rest days were not necessarily spent resting. Instead, riders performed service projects at the home ofana MS patient they had arranged to help along the way, group members said.

There were mishaps along the way. Minor injuries, a fever and other medical situations made them glad to have a doctor among them.

The group's trailer was involved in an auto accident in Texas, they said. Without the trailer, the riders lacked a change of clothes. The riders said some “interesting purchases” were made at the nearby dollar store. One cyclist pointed to his baggy, brightly colored shorts as proof.

One bike was stolen while they were staying overnight in a church in Baton Rouge. He had to buy another one to continue the trip but said a bike shop gave him a discount.

One cyclist said the journey has been an education and raised awareness and she thought more people needed to get out of their own neighborhoods.

The groups reported people had been very generous along the way, including someone who donated $50 and bought them all breakfast in a café in New Roads.

They were wished well and treated to drinks in Marathon, Texas. They were given beer at an Arizona campground and real cold medicine procured for one of the group. At a modest store in the desert, the owners refused to let them pay for their bottled water, they said. And in Texas, a sheriff pulled alongside just to say thanks, because his sister has MS.

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