They pedaled into our town, they camped out and stayed at our hotels, they rested from their weary travel in the hot Georgia sun and they spent their money.
Nearly 1,800 riders made Thomson-McDuffie County their home Monday night as Bicycle Ride Across Georgia breezed into town.
Participants in the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia filed into Thomson Monday morning. The more than 1,800 riders spent the night at Thomson High School before leaving early Tuesday morning for Waynesboro through Dearing and Wrens. Click here for more photos from the bike ride
Photo by Jim Wallace
The nearly 400 mile event, in its 25th year, wheeled into the city on Cedar Rock Road from Elberton beginning around 8 a.m. Monday morning. Throughout the day, local motorists had to share the road with the cyclists as they maneuvered to local hotels, eateries and the high school where an overnight camp was located.
The trek began in Toccoa and will end at Tybee Island. Thomson was the cyclists' second stop during the weeklong bike ride.
Mark Lui of Ft. Myers, Fla., said the excursion was the family's vacation.
"We've done it for years," he said, as his wife and daughter ate an orange at a rest stop five miles out Cedar Rock Road.
While most children brag about the beach or a mountain trip during summer vacation, Mr. Lui's 14-year-old daughter, Sara, said her friends had gotten used to her participating in the trip.
"They don't say much anymore, cause they know I do it. It's fun and it's time for me and my family to be together," she said.
At the high school, it was wall-to-wall riders in the gym as fans circulated air. Some cyclists slept Monday afternoon, while others took the time to make cell phone calls, read newspapers or just share experiences with other riders. Laundry waved in the breeze of makeshift lines strung from tent to tent and bicycle to bicycle. Music emanated from tents. Choices included Rod Stewart, Toby Keith and The Drifters.
The riders got the full slate of weather looks from the area with sunshine, wind and rain during their stay. A 4:30 p.m. shower saw most riders at the high school seek shelter inside the school and tents while some just stood soaking up the drops to contrast the sweaty ride earlier in the day.
During the day, units from the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department and Thomson Police Department patrolled the route.
"We're just trying to help the bikers and the vehicles share the road," said Thomson Assistant Police Chief John Holiman. "I had to remind several to confine their riding to the right hand side of the road facing traffic, but other than that, things went smoothly."
According to BRAG figures, the group of peddlers spends close to $100,000 per day along the ride.