Hats off to the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia riders who inaugurated this year’s fall cycling with a 160-mile, three-day journey from Chattanooga to Atlanta. As always, it’s a treat for us to help caffeinate BRAG riders, and this year’s change of routes- from Columbus, Ga., northward – offered a crisp, stunning backdrop to our coffee booth.
Mornings always start early on BRAG- heating water, weighing out large batches of coffee… getting insulated Cambro thermoses filled with BRAG Brew just-in-time for the first 5:30 a.m. early-riser… or risers. This is an adventurous, ambitious group- eager to get on the road, take in nature’s bounty, challenge their own pace, keep up with friends, get to the first rest stop, make good mileage before it gets too hot. The chill of the morning air and the tempo of the Tennessee River set the pace for Friday morning.
As cyclists started the first of Friday’s 59.4 miles, Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden awaited them in Summerville, Ga. Located just off U.S. Bike Route 21, Paradise Garden is the eclectic home of folk-artist Baptist Minister Howard Finster who incorporated Bible verses and his own prophetic visions into his artwork. Once called the “Andy Warhol of the South,” Finster produced more than 46,000 pieces of art and developed Paradise Garden as a collection of inspirational curiosities, a ‘memorial to inventors,’ he once described it.
Riders arriving late to Summerville, or opting not to visit Paradise Garden, had entertainment waiting for them with a concert in the park featuring Nashville-based musician Adam Searan.
Saturday morning riders got started around 6:30 a.m. on a route that skirted the James H. Floyd State Park, crossed the Coosa River, snaked through the hilly towns of Cave Spring and Cedartown and eventually joined the Silver Comet Trail.
Camp on Saturday night was set up at Skydive Spaceland, and, yes, BRAG riders took part. Coffee brewers did not. (Not this year, at least).
Fire-side s’mores, campsite music, a BRAG Bar and a stunningly beautiful location were some of our highlights in Rockmart, as was meeting Skydive Operations Manager Kevin Purdy, whose hospitality can only be matched by his enthusiasm for skydiving (he’s jumped more than 16,000 times…from a plane…).
Then, Sunday morning came quickly – the last of a three-day cycling adventure for riders and a three-morning brewing enterprise for us. As we packed up to head back to Americus Sunday morning, BRAG riders hopped back on the Silver Comet Trail heading southward past Dallas, Ga., on a 43.1 mile-ride toward Silver Comet Cycles. Along the trail, they crossed a few times with cyclists we know from Americus taking part in separate ride led by the Fuller Center for Housing.
For those who have not participated in BRAG rides for many years or haven’t explored U.S. Bike Route 21, we highly recommend it.
Cafe Campesino has fueled BRAG rides for nearly 18 years – either under our own banner or in partnership with the traveling coffee cart, Fair Shot Coffee. Every time, we are in awe of the logistical acrobatics that BRAG organizers pull off for hundreds (in this case, but often, thousands) of riders. The rest-stops, trip tickets, police escorts, lodging arrangements and coordination with local governments is beautifully executed by Franklin Johnson and a team of volunteers who are exceptional.
Franklin’s additions of live music, food trucks and a BRAG Bar at nightly rest stops have added a level of festivity to the rides that help illuminate the convivial nature of BRAG. We see it in the mornings: “I’ll get his coffee,” one rider often says when a fellow cyclist shows up without cash. Cyclists see it along the routes- stopping to help each other change flat tires or slowing their pace to keep the group intact. It’s nice to see it at the campsites in the evenings, too.
Part tourism, part athletic tourney, part roving community, BRAG rides never fail to impress. And after the flurry of coffee brewing activity is done for the day, we have the ever-needed opportunity to slow down and enjoy life. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?
Learn more about BRAG’s upcoming rides, or buy a pound of BRAG Brew. A portion of our BRAG Brew sales is donated to support the BRAG Dream Team cycling group that brings cycling education to Georgia youth.