Jim Mann is famous for his well-planned overnight bicycle tours! So when I had a 3 day weekend it was great to learn Jim had a ride planned the same weekend. Carl Vinson, Martha, and I were the youngsters in our early 60s. Others were as old as "almost 79", 80, and 81! We met the rest of the group at Lowe’s Thomasville. Twelve riders would bicycle 46 miles to Moultrie. Nine of us would spend the night at the Econo Lodge before continuing 45 miles to Albany. The third day was 67 miles back to Thomasville.
The ride quickly entered the real Georgia. We saw two herds of cows behind old barbed wire fences. Ed claimed he was a cowboy and began racing the cows as they ran along beside us. Cabbage leaves were littered along the road. They led us to an L&M Produce Collection center, found throughout USA farm country.
We saw logging trucks, old cotton fields, a hog farm, corn fields, peaches, pines and pecans. , There were a lot of freshly planted BIG dirt fields with BIG irrigation systems. Many blame irrigation and power plants for Florida springs’s low flows. Our first rest stop looked like an old white one room school building which had great shade trees!
As we bicycled in a “peloton”, I noticed Denis Wirth had legs like a muscular 18 year old. He is 80! He celebrated his 80th birthday bicycling from Chicago to Los Angeles along the old route 66! As we pedaled along I heard many birds, like the jungle sounding pileated woodpecker, laughing crows, and the northern Parula’s long trill.
Carl Vinson stopped whenever he saw horses, to photograph for his granddaughters! I stopped often to photograph old buildings, cabins, and really old cyclists. We saw lots of farm dogs. One did catch and bite Carl when he was alone. For a while I got to “draft” behind Steve and his “Domino”, a stuffed Dalmatian dog he always kept strapped to his bike.
A fun part of the day was rolling into Moultrie past the “senior center” in a restored 1940’s Colquitt Theater. Our group of 70-80 year olds attracted a lot of attention! We ate lunch at downtown’s Three Crazy Bakers restaurant, which had great healthy food. The walls were lined with photos from all around the world by customers wearing Crazy Bakers shirts. A young lady, after seeing the fit “elders,” said she would go home, put air in her flattened bicycle tires, and start riding!
I was pleasantly surprised that the motel welcomed us AND our bikes right into the lobby! After cleaning up, and with the historic downtown shut down for the evening, we biked to Applebee’s on the strip for dinner. The manager came to our table, telling us our group motivated him to “get healthy”…NOW. During the meal we also learned a lot about the defense industry from Ed who worked 30 years combined Lockheed and aerospace industries! Dr. Bob answered all our medical questions!
The next morning our Econo Lodge breakfast was at 6AM. I was impressed that Jim brought his own cereal bowl! If everyone did that we’d prevent gazillions of Styrofoam waste! I loved using my personal mug everywhere! Cyclists like their reusable water bottles! We started riding at 7AM to beat the 90 degree heat. The roads were smooth, the sun was behind us, and the day felt easy.
Jim planned it perfectly. We even had a stop in Sale City which looked like a city straight out of the Wild West. It even had a horse carriage on the wooden “boardwalk”. We took photos of 80 year old Dennis and almost 79 Jack sitting in the carriage. A 100 year old gymnasium was just a couple blocks away!
Just before Albany we rested at Shiloh Missionary Baptist church where over 1,500 citizens came to hear Martin Luther King in 1961. It had an 1845 grave and a water spigot! Soon after, we turned onto Honeysuckle Road, which reminded Jim of British actress, Honeysuckle Weeks. She was in the television series “Foyles War”. The nearby owner used to let TOSRV use their beautiful farm for a rest stop!
We then checked in at our second Econo lodge. Again the front desk staff was very nice and efficient. Vishal even offered us juice and waters which were perfect after the long ride! After cleaning up, I went back to the lobby and had a great talk with Vishal. He loved this area but missed India too. He had a degree in computers but it is hard to get a job in that field here. He showed me a photo of his 98 year old granddad, still walking!
That night we had a great but VERY filling authentic Mexican meal at La Fuente. The service and food were great. I had my favorite, fajitas. Dennis, Ron and Jack braved the Grande Margarito. Luckily they were allowed to carry out their drinks, since only Dennis could finish his. Age over youth, again.
The next morning we passed historic Radium Springs Park along the Flint River. We stopped under the unique archway boundary to Dougherty County. We rode old Georgia 3 highway running parallel to highway 19/300. It was Sunday morning so there was almost no traffic. We even had some shaded canopy roads, especially near Baconton. I liked the local business that had hand painted signs like “watermelons $5 or 2 for $8. By the third day, Jack “almost 79” was near the front of the group, seemingly getting faster every day!
We rode through Camilla, another beautiful downtown lined by old brick buildings. It claims to be the “center of the most efficient irrigated agricultural production systems in the world”. But Camilla does have a dark history. In 1868 Georgia kicked out any representatives who were 1/8 or more black. When Camilla activists marched for better laws the “citizens committee” began a two week massacre. They killed 9-15 marchers and wounded 40 more. They followed the activists into the surrounding swamps warning Negroes they would be killed if they tried to vote. Another violent incident in 1962 led to the song “Camilla” by Caroline Herring.
We continued past working farm country to Pelham. In Pelham I stopped to photograph a big brick building. A nearby policeman told me it was the “Hand building”. It was the largest in the south when built in 1913! As I paused again to photograph a building mural, an African-American lady in her Sunday best clothes stopped her car, just to say hi and welcome me to her nice town!
As we ate at the local Subway I thought about how nice people really are in America. A bicycle ride is a great way to see this kindness from all parts of society! We were all pleasantly surprised how many drivers very patiently waited until it was safe to pass us! At one rest stop a preacher drove up and told how his son is doing an iron man competition in Chattanooga this same weekend. In our group bicycle ride, I learned that many in our group were “experts” at something.
I liked being with people who are trying stay healthy. As a healthcare provider it is very rare to see patients over 50 with good health. Jim told how his physician was amazed that he could get up off the floor without help….at his age. Another said his physician was amazed that he could stand on one leg so long….at his age! A documentary this year called bicycling, the “fountain of youth”.
These cyclists had better health than some MUCH younger people. They cycle about 3 times a week for about 35 miles. They have fun. A good beginning ride is Dick Roger’s Friday Night 6PM Social Ride starting at the St. Marks Trailhead! It can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FridayNSR/