By William Young
When the throng of bicycles rolled through Jasper last week, I had the privilege and the pleasure of being with them.
I huffed, puffed and pedaled from Fort Oglethorpe to Dalton to Jasper to Roswell to Winder to Mount Airy to Tiger. In skin tight pants and on a hard, skinny plastic seat I and several hundred others had well over 300 miles of fun.
Most people can't see any pleasure whatsoever in sweating all day and pushing pedals. In fact, when you rattle off daily mileages to friends or co-workers, you just get a blank stare.
Those numbers are as incomprehensible to the non rider as the trillion dollar deficit. But quietly rolling along the countryside at bicycling's slower pace gives a great opportunity to see your surroundings and smell the magnolias.
Pedaling through North Georgia's hills and valleys, one is awed by their beauty. Likewise, man's adornments such as paved roads and fine houses with well manicured lawns leads us to wonder, is this the product of mere evolution or did it come about through some master plan with a master planner?
We know for certain, however, that the next uphill climb will bring heavy breathing, sweat and straining legs. We also know that when we reach our destination for the day we will be tired. Do we call that fun? Churning down the road in a heavy downpouring rain, can we call that fun?
The Bicycle Ride Across Georgia is an organized ride, not a race. Each year (this was the 33rd), the organizers pick a different route through different towns. People from all walks of life and all over the country come for this event.
I see riders in all shapes and sizes from under eight to over eighty. Dan Pool, Mike McGhee and I were there to represent Jasper. On BRAG, each morning at the crack of dawn fellow riders are in a good mood. Every afternoon, even though they are hot, sweaty and tired, they are in a good mood.
Out on the road, everyone is cheerful. For me, that took a while for me to understand. I finally realized that the BRAG riders are there because they want to be. And they are there to have a good time.
The riding is hard work. It is also a challenge. The rider has a goal each day. Reaching the top of each hill is also a goal. Reaching those goals is a struggle with hard work and pain. But accomplishing those goals bring pride and pleasure, fun and enjoyment. There is pride in accomplishment. If you are not proud of yourself after a hilly, hard and hot seventy mile day, don't expect anybody else to be proud of you for anything.
Bicycling being the good exercise that it is, you're tired at the end of the week, but there is a feeling of strength and a feeling of well being that will stay with you for months to come. At the end of the ride I'm tired but I'm happy.
Completing a ride like this is a privilege and a blessing.
[Young is a regular contributor to the Progress, chronicling a lifetime of adventures in this area and is also active in the Sassafras Literary group.]
Above, bikes lean in front of the Chief Vann House during the 2012 BRAG ride.