For 33 years adventurous cycling spirits have literally rolled across the state of Georgia. I wasn’t there when it started and, in fact, have only participated in the June Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) ride four times, but, once you’ve done it you will either always want to do it again or never want to do it again. There really is no in between. The years that I did it, the majority of the of the riders were veterans of prior rides, so for my money, the do it again crowd far outweighs the others. Every year in June, I wish I was on the road again. To get you “ready” for the 7 day ride across the state, BRAG sponsors a spring tune-up around Madison, Georgia. I’ve done these a few times. The pictures on this blog are primarily from the Spring 2012 tune up with some older pictures thrown in.
First some facts. 2012 Bike Ride Across Georgia starts June 3, near Chattanooga, Tennessee with stops at Dalton, Jasper and Roswell, which is just north of Atlanta for a day of rest before turning north again to Winder, Mt. Airy, and ending in Tiger on June 10. For real details, go to the official BRAG website . Essentially, this years seven day ride covers about 320 miles with a rest day on the 4th day. Some of the cyclists will use this “rest” day to complete a century ride (100 miles). The official ride days range from 40 to 72 miles in distance with rest stops every 10 to 15 miles on average. If you ever want to learn how to run a ride, then you should ride BRAG and watch how the rest stops and SAG wagons work. The volunteers manning the rest stops can’t be beat and the people in the support vehicles never fail to help you out. Sometimes, in June, Georgia is a little hot and these folks make sure any cyclist who isn’t on their A game gets to the next stop. Further, you need to watch the care BRAG gives to the Special Olympians who ride with them every year. You will see some very special people.
The Spring Tune Up started on Friday with rides from Madison’s Heritage Park with the Brer Rabbit Ride. Saturday brought the Oreo Cow ride which gave the cyclists another opportunity for a century ride or the optional 57 mile Blue Willow ride which generally meanders westerly over to Social Circle, home of the Blue Willow Inn. Sunday brought the Rock Eagle Ramble which would take a rider past the Georgia 4-H camp and back to Madison past the Stefan Thomas Museum. Here’s how I saw it from the Bike.
Madison is one of those old southern towns with many old homes that have been taken care of and now provide a glimpse into an earlier time. The house above, stands beside the Saturday and Sunday routes and is striking, but you might have liked another just as well. Sometime during the year, there will be a tour of homes and this one may be on it.
Leaving town you’ll cross the railroad tracks that once upon a time tied the small towns of the south together and carried merchandise and people across the states. Today, they speed past the whistle stops loaded with freight and cars and things bound for distant places while the old depots have been torn down or turned into different uses. Out of town, you’ll find what many of us ride for: Vista’s like these
where you have time to look and linger on the bike while watching the cyclist ahead of you and the car behind. The bicycle riders who do these rides are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. The people who organize these rides are extraordinary people who create an extraordinary event.
On Sunday, near the end of the last day’s ride, you will come across something else quite extraordinary.
The Steffen Thomas Musem of Art sits aside Bethany road adjacent farm fields and cow pastures and has served as a rest stop for the Spring Tune up for a number of years. We had stopped outside several times, but this year, the door opened and we went in. It is an exceptional museum and serves as a cultural anchor not just for Madison but for a much wider area and audience. More importantly the Museum is dedicated to educational programs to reach many of the places our bicycles, cars and trains roll past. We’ll feature the museum in another article, but if you are near Madison for whatever reason, don’t wait for us to write about it. Go see for yourself. Meanwhile, bike, camp, live and learn.