Towering magnolias, oaks, pines and maples created shadows and shade along miles of paved roadway during the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) June 7-13. Ride planners found plenty of scenic landscape for the 550 cyclists that averaged 60 miles a day for a week exploring southwestern Georgia. One day, a loop into Alabama and along the West Point Dam enhanced a perspective of the quiet byways in this part of our country.
Now in its 33rd year, the BRAG is a finely-tuned moving camp of cyclists who arrive with racing bikes, tandems, recumbents, mountain bikes and cruisers. Most put in serious mileage on their bikes in a year, but some plan to “ride their way into fitness” as their free time did not allow as much training as they had hoped. Regardless, the camaraderie and rest stops will see the riders through, and worse case, there is a sag wagon for those who due to injury or other cause simply cannot finish a ride.
This year’s host towns were Newnan, Carrollton and Lagrange, and the hands-down favorite was Carrollton. Riders were greeted at the start of the town’s scenic bike trail by enthusiastic residents holding signs and applauding the riders, shouting, “Welcome” and “Keep it going.” Along the GreenBelt path, handmade signs told us what amenities lay ahead. And, at the end of the 62.4 mile ride with 3,319 feet of elevation, plenty of cold watermelon and water were well-received. The BRAG rest stops had no ice, so simply cold refreshments were divine and heartily enjoyed.
County Commissioner Michelle Morgan was among those who served cyclists wine and beer on the evening BRAG rolled into town. The city hosted a free happy hour before the start of a three-hour concert at their downtown amphitheater at Adamson Square that featured talented local musicians and about five different styles of music. One of the final groups was the trio, Snowcone for President, which due to its unique name alone demanded attention.
Carrollton High School was the sleeping spot for the night, and its athletic field was unbelievable. It turns out the local college, University of West Georgia, helped build the facility, shared it and then turned it over to the high school when it built a new stadium. It is obvious Georgia takes its high school sports seriously.
BRAG ride organizers and the city of Carrollton encouraged cyclists to visit the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center (www.cprcad.org) which remained open until 10 p.m. especially for them. In the Roush Gallery was the three-dimensional “Farm to Paper Project” by Robert Thompson. Other art displays along the walkways and halls ranged from paintings to sculptures. Meanwhile, children’s dancing, drama and art classes were taking place throughout the building. As a special welcoming arts project for the BRAG riders, an instructor had art campers create decorated, rotating sculptures out of old bike wheels, which were displayed in front of the center.
The Southern Quilt and Textile Museum was open until 5 p.m. for cyclists as well. For more information about Carrollton, founded in 1827, visit www.visitcarrollton.com or call 800-292-0871.
Newnan and LaGrange, Ga. figured prominently in BRAG 2015 as well. So, look for my future stories about these BRAG host towns as well. BRAG 2016, which is set for June 5-11, goes from Atlanta to Savannah. To learn more, visit www.brag.org.