Riders finish iron butt trek

By Alexander Chettiath

The Smokin’ Guns, a police motorcycle organization based in Denver, made a 965 mile trip to DeKalb in a day to meet 10-year-old Tyler Neppl, who was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (NF) at 9 months old.

The trip to visit Tyler was the second taken by the group and there are plans to ride every year in hopes of finding a cure and bringing awareness to the disorder, said Marc Brooks, coordinator of the event and member of the Smokin’ Guns.

NF is a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue, according to Mayo Clinic’s website. These tumors can develop anywhere in the nervous system, including in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

There is no cure for NF, according to Mayo Clinic.

“It’s hard to ride a thousand miles a day,” said Greg Davis, member of the Smokin’ Guns and childhood friend of Tyler’s father, Shaun Neppl. “It’s very tiring, but it’s much harder for a 10-year-old child to go through what he goes through.”

Six members made the trip, including Davis who drove from Atlanta to Denver, then to Chicago. Their plans this past weekend included going to the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Brooks said.

The riders, adorned in NF patches and I Know a Fighter t-shirts, were greeted by Tyler, his brother, Carter, his mother, Heather and Shaun.

“The most important thing to us is awareness,” Shaun said. “There are diseases like Tay-Sachs, Huntington’s, neurofibromyalgia and muscular dystrophy, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, but not NF. NF is more common than all of them.”