Thursday, March 12, 2015

Everyone has a 'risk muscle.' You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies. (Roger von Oech)

Al and I are going to Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) in June. It's a week long SAG supported ride. This year's route wanders between Newnan, LaGrange, and Carrollton, three small cities in the rolling hills of Georgia's Piedmont region southwest of Atlanta. And this year the route is a "loop ride," meaning it starts and ends in the same place.

BRAG is a non-profit organization whose purpose is providing affordable bicycle tours through rural Georgia. You can choose to do part or the whole week. The fee works out to a bit more than $50 a day. That fee buys you a route with SAG vehicles on the route, SAG stops with sports drinks, water, and snacks at regular intervals, a t-shirt, and a place to camp at night. BRAG is a "school camping" ride. The ride stays at schools, using classrooms, gyms, and hallways for indoor camping and the school grounds for outdoor camping, and the school's athletic facilities for bathrooms and showers. If you camp outdoors, you sleep in a tent or RV. If you camp indoors, you bring an air mattress as your "camping gear". The organizers move riders' bags from school to school. They usually have an optional ($) food plan, or you can choose to forage for meals on your own. There's also a service ($) which moves luggage to a limited list of motels for riders who want a motel room rather than camping. (That's what we do these days. Obviously camping is inexpensive, but the cost of a motel room can be a pleasant luxury after riding all day. Besides, motels have Wi-Fi and coffee and breakfast in the morning.)

We're fond of BRAG. We've done many BRAGs, and we've done many similar trips in other states. (Just about every state has at least one. like Florida's Bike Florida.) Some state's rides feature high mileage touring and very challenging routes. Other states don't do much in the way of long mileage days but focus instead on great food, scenery, or a party atmosphere. BRAG is somewhere in the middle.

Why did we first start doing these tours? Because they are a cheap and easy way to do bicycle touring without special bike gear. Not to mention it's fun to spend a week around a horde of people who don't think you are a total weenie for wearing lycra, pedaling for hours, getting excited when you make it to the top of a steep climb, or yelling "Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!" on a long fast downhill. It's fun to talk about bike trips over dinner. It's interesting to check out all the bikes. And then there are the surprise finds at vendors. Like the neon yellow smiley print bike shorts I once scored on a trip in the Midwest. Most of all, we enjoy hearing fellow riders talk about their funny and memorable cycling adventures.

What's not to love? Who knows? You may try it and get hooked on touring like we did. It's a great way to see the country.