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Yuppiepuppie
Post subject: BRAG Ride Report  PostPosted: Jun 24, 2019 - 02:26 PM
Distance Rider
Distance Rider


Joined: Sep 16, 2006
Posts: 261
Location: Grayson GA
Mountains to the Sea

This year’s Bicycle Ride Across Georgia was appropriately named “Mountains to the Sea”. The ride was a 431-mile tour that began in Ellijay Georgia, and wove its way through small towns, ending below Savannah in Darien Georgia. For those not familiar with the annual BRAG ride, the event is spread out over seven days, with riders camping out during the evenings at various High School or College campuses along the way.

This year though was more of a challenge than in the past, both in mileage and terrain. On the first day, our route began with a climb over Burnt Mountain, a 7-mile ascent that exercised both our legs and our “granny gears” (-and sometimes even our walking shoes). The reward was an amazing long, winding, and rapid descent that allowed our bikes to reach speeds approaching 50 mph. By the time we reached the bottom, the wind had dried any residual sweat, and we continued on with big smiles plastered to our faces.

What many didn’t know was that the route also carried us past a local nudist camp. -Of course, we were too busy paying close attention to our “line”, as we streaked down the back-side of the mountain (There are times when self-preservation is more important than gawking at scenery). Still, it was nice to be riding with a “local” who could fill us in with information not listed in the ride guide.

We overnighted in Gainesville, then left out early the next morning for Covington Georgia. With another 70+ mile ride to complete, we started promptly at 6 AM to avoid baking in the afternoon heat. The early morning ride was wonderful with the city still half asleep and virtually no traffic. As we rode along, we could smell morning breakfasts cooking on uncountable stoves. -An almost continuous smell of bacon and eggs permeated the air, and our bellies resonated to the siren aroma of a hot breakfast. We resisted though and continued on our journey.

As we left Gainesville, the smell of bacon and eggs was replaced by diesel fumes, and the continuous growl of angry dump trucks. The two-lane road that we were on was ill-suited for bicycles and heavy equipment, with vehicles passing uncomfortably close, and bicycles hugging the very edge of the pavement. One religious cyclist recited the bicycling 23rd Psalm; “Yea though I travel through the valley of dump trucks, I shall fear no evil” … We endured the trauma of that experience until we finally turned off onto a more peaceful section. Life then returned to normal, as the adrenaline subsided.

Indian Creek Middle School was our end destination for that day, and we arrived totally drained and ready for a refreshing shower… and cotton clothes! That evening, we were entertained by a local band on the town square that everyone seemed to enjoy. Many of the locals turned out too, and I found it interesting to just sit there and watch. -Small-town living is totally different from a big-city, helter-skelter type existence. The families found pleasure in not only the music, but the simpler things; just enjoying each other’s company. Everyone knew everyone else, and used the concert as an excuse to catch up on the local news.

After the first two days, the mountains were finally behind us, and the roads became tamer. We still departed promptly at 6 AM, with the road illuminated by our headlights to avoid afternoon heat. Ahead of us, I watched a long string of red bicycle lights blinking out our path towards the first rest stop. Early morning starts are ideal for bicycling because the roads are quiet, and the morning temperatures are perfect, and we ride along accompanied by the sounds of chirping birds greeting the new day. For me, this is as close to bicycling heaven as you can get!

Our mid-week layover day was in Milledgeville, and we used the idle time to gather our smelly clothing (-that had fermented in our laundry bags) and head to a friend’s lake home on Lake Oconee. The roads had definitely become more docile, with long, rolling hills, and the ride to the lake was infinitely more enjoyable as a result. We slept that night in an actual bed, and ate at a local seafood joint. - “Private” washer/dryer accommodations were also an unexpected luxury!

The rest of the ride became progressively flatter as we approached the coast. With the flatter roads, we were able to form pace lines that allowed us to ride each other’s slipstream, and draft off of each other. As a result, we were able to reach sustained speeds that would’ve been impossible by ourselves. Long days, followed by enjoyable evenings in a local town, became our daily routine. We listened to jazz bands, and ate at local restaurants in preparation for the next day.

BRAG is a unique experience, where riders with disparate ages and backgrounds come together for a week of fellowship and enjoyment. Words of encouragement are passed back and forth along the route, and we all share the same experiences, and enjoy talking about them during evening meals. Everyone gets along, and I can’t remember ever hearing one word of politics, or anything else negative. Our bicycling group becomes absolutely united. -Rare in today’s culture.

On our last day, the ride was only 48 miles and totally flat. Instead of pace lining though, we road at a slower pace side-by-side, enjoying each other’s company. The ride was almost over, yet we wanted to stretch it out for as long as possible. As we entered Darien, the houses became closer together and traffic lights began to appear. Then there were people lining the roads, with some ringing cow bells. That spurred us on, and we rounded the corner to main street, and a sprint to the finish line arch.

We parked our bikes and fished out our cell phones to locate our spouses. The end-of-the-ride meal was fantastic, as was the band that was playing. All was well with the world. I would like to say that the ride this year, aside from the routes being a tad too long, was amazingly organized. Things that I noticed that were improved were:

1. The baggage trucks were vastly improved, with a young man loading our baggage…with the BEST attitude!
2. Pimento cheese and tomato sandwiches! -Need I say more?
3. Every gym was air-conditioned.
4. The route was very well marked.
5. Music at rest stops?! How nice.
6. PB&J sandwiches in plastic bags to keep off the flies.
7. Ice in the water and Poweraid!
8. Police presence at critical crossroads.
9. T-shirts AND riding jerseys?!

_________________
Audentes fortuna juvat - Virgil
(Fortune favors the bold)
or
Veni Vidi Vomui
(I came, I saw, I vomited
 
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therider
Post subject: RE: BRAG Ride Report  PostPosted: Jun 24, 2019 - 04:05 PM
CenturyRider Level
CenturyRider Level


Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 131

Thanks for the report. I had several friends go on BRAG and also read lots of complaints on FB about the hills and mileage. I hope to ride next year, after about a 14 year BRAG layoff. I rode almost every year from 1992 - 2005. Now that the kids are in college, I should be able to participate again. After this year's hills, I would expect next year to be a "flat BRAG"! (a la 1994)
 
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TomA
Post subject: RE: BRAG Ride Report  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2019 - 12:30 AM
Ultra Distance
Ultra Distance


Joined: Feb 08, 2005
Posts: 2212

Quote:
As we left Gainesville, the smell of bacon and eggs was replaced by diesel fumes, and the continuous growl of angry dump trucks. The two-lane road that we were on was ill-suited for bicycles and heavy equipment, with vehicles passing uncomfortably close, and bicycles hugging the very edge of the pavement. One religious cyclist recited the bicycling 23rd Psalm; “Yea though I travel through the valley of dump trucks, I shall fear no evil” … We endured the trauma of that experience until we finally turned off onto a more peaceful section. Life then returned to normal, as the adrenaline subsided.


I for one am tired of organized paid rides dumping cyclist out onto dangerous roads. Cyclist need to put these ride together not someone that wants to make money. One of my favorite paid rides from the past now returns riders on a dangerous road(IMO). It was my first organized ride in many years and I was disappointed in the route. Last time I will ride it.
 
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Yuppiepuppie
Post subject: RE: BRAG Ride Report  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2019 - 07:03 AM
Distance Rider
Distance Rider


Joined: Sep 16, 2006
Posts: 261
Location: Grayson GA
I've had experience trying to organize a bicycle ride, and whether it's paid or unpaid, logistics can sometimes be daunting. I can't imagine an organizer purposely dumping riders onto a busy road, unless they didn't have any alternative, and I suspect that's what happened on that particular stretch. What would be their reason for doing otherwise? They would have everything to lose, and nothing to gain.

It's my understanding that the guy running BRAG IS a cyclist, and he even consults with local bicycle clubs as to which roads are best in their particular area. -Don't know that for sure, but that's what I was told. I just like the magic that takes place on rides like BRAG, where everyone has a great time, and the focus is on fun. -A week on a bike, with rest stops every 15 miles, luggage transported from stop to stop, and pretty girls to gawk at, all for around $300... -Compare that to a self-contained Silver Comet ride to Anniston by yourself. I would choose the BRAG ride every time.

_________________
Audentes fortuna juvat - Virgil
(Fortune favors the bold)
or
Veni Vidi Vomui
(I came, I saw, I vomited
 
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biker1881
Post subject: Re: RE: BRAG Ride Report  PostPosted: Jun 27, 2019 - 03:00 PM
HuffyCruiser Level
HuffyCruiser Level


Joined: Jun 26, 2007
Posts: 63

Yuppiepuppie wrote:
I've had experience trying to organize a bicycle ride, and whether it's paid or unpaid, logistics can sometimes be daunting. I can't imagine an organizer purposely dumping riders onto a busy road, unless they didn't have any alternative, and I suspect that's what happened on that particular stretch. What would be their reason for doing otherwise? They would have everything to lose, and nothing to gain.

It's my understanding that the guy running BRAG IS a cyclist, and he even consults with local bicycle clubs as to which roads are best in their particular area. -Don't know that for sure, but that's what I was told. I just like the magic that takes place on rides like BRAG, where everyone has a great time, and the focus is on fun. -A week on a bike, with rest stops every 15 miles, luggage transported from stop to stop, and pretty girls to gawk at, all for around $300... -Compare that to a self-contained Silver Comet ride to Anniston by yourself. I would choose the BRAG ride every time.


This. Franklin has done the cross state Oregon ride, RAGBRAI, and did the century at MACC One Love last year. He is also big on the bicycle advocacy side as he attends bike summits. He also did the layover day in Milledgeville this year. I would not "accuse" Franklin of jeapordizing the safety of the riders or, as I have heard, weeding out riders with the tougher routes. He is an all around good guy and BRAG is in good hands.

The routes have started around or north of Atlanta 3 of the 4 years since he took over. Unless you are going through a "suburb" like Gainesville on a Sunday, it's unavoidable to run into traffic in those areas. BRAG wanted to make a splash with the "Mountains to Coast" 40th anniversary ride. Would say Gainesville was probably the path of least resistance to get from the mountains to the rural parts of the route in the least amount of miles.
 
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