On Friday, 1,200 bicyclists invaded Hinesville during the 32nd annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia tour that allows bikers to see several cities in a week’s span during a trip across the state.
Despite the blistering 93-degree heat and smoggy air from recent fires, bikers rode in pairs, singles and groups, some entering Hinesville as early as 8 a.m., others in the late afternoon. The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and city of Flemington officials greeted bikers with goody bags and soda, water and cookies as a little bonus for reaching the finish line on the second-to-last day of the trip.
The event started June 4 in Atlanta.
“Everybody’s your friend. Nobody is ever discourteous,” biker Van Richardson said. “It’s very well organized. It’s fun. They go out of their way to pick routes that don’t have much traffic.”
Richardson chose to stay the night inside Snelson-Golden Middle School, the welcome site and makeshift camp for visiting riders.
Bikers could choose to stay outside, inside the school, or at local hotels for their time in Hinesville.
Leah Poole, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said that bikers on BRAG routes are known to spend $75,000 per day in each city they visit.
The idea for the ride came from local Dot Moss, who had participated in the largest organized bicycle event with her son, Randy, in Iowa in 1979. After participating, the lifelong biker decided she wanted to start a similar event with a large participation from the biking community.
“It was 498 miles of difficult terrain ... steep hills, cracks in the cement highways, gravel roads, etc. But we made it,” Moss said of the Iowa challenge.
She loved the ride so much that she talked with local officials to set up a similar ride in Georgia in June 1980 and charged only $15 for biking enthusiasts who wanted to ride across the state.
Even after ending her own rides across Georgia in 1996, 71-year-old Moss still stops in to greet riders coming through Hinesville.
“It’s kind of nice when people remember me from the early days,” said the biking enthusiast, who has been featured in Georgia magazine for starting the ride. “It’s a rush to see the bikers.”
Moss brought her tricycle to the event and greeted visitors beneath the ocean blue city of Hinesville tent. She wore a BRAG hat and t-shirt and chatted with various people about her tricycle, the event and her founding the event.
“Unless you come to see it at a slow pace, (you’re missing out). The whole plan was to drive slow,” Moss said. “It was a big hit and obviously it still is after 31 years.”
Some others, like Mike Warren, decided to join in for the exercise and a worthy cause. In December 2009, Mike and Lisa Warren lost their son, a University of Georgia senior, in a car accident.
Michael Jr. was dedicated to mission-type activities and had purchased a bike during the fall semester of his senior year to start riding. In his memory, his parents decided to raise funds through Michael’s Ultimate Mission for other college-aged students who want to go on mission trips but don’t have the network abilities to raise funds.
“I’ve always wanted to do BRAG and coordinate that as the focal point for the foundation,” Mike Warren said. “There was a great response immediately (for fundraising efforts). … It’s been fun and challenging.”
For every mile their team of a dozen bikers ride, pledges of money will be collected and the Warrens anticipate the funds will send 25-40 students on mission trips.
“I’m just grateful to a lot of people who have supported it,” said Lisa Warren, who followed behind bikers in the car. “It’s just been a very humbling experience.”