2017-06-08 / Front Page

Cyclists give W-W a boost, rave over friendliness

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor


Local businesses and restaurants enjoyed full houses of enthusiastic cyclists over the weekend, giving them a taste of southern hospitality. Local businesses and restaurants enjoyed full houses of enthusiastic cyclists over the weekend, giving them a taste of southern hospitality. Over 1,000 participants in the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) converged on Washington last weekend, cruising city streets before making their camp at the Pope Center and exploring the rest of town for the evening.

With Washington being the first stop on the seven-day excursion, BRAG riders were enthralled by the city’s antiquated structures, bellowing praises of “It’s fantastic here,” and “It was so beautiful riding through Washington.”

Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Singleton positively weighed-in on the weekend’s event, saying that “It was, hands down, fabulous. It was all about Downtown Washington the way we arranged it – BRAG riders came through in the morning, and got acclimated to the city, they had fun at the Reese Booker Swimming Pool, and took time settling in.


“Here’s looking at you!” BRAG participants greeted Wilkes County with excitement, as Washington was the first stop on the seven-day trek. “Here’s looking at you!” BRAG participants greeted Wilkes County with excitement, as Washington was the first stop on the seven-day trek. “I checked with every business, and I checked with every restaurant, and the owners told me that they did very well,” Singleton added. “Comments from the BRAG participants were fantastic. They raved at how everyone that they saw and spoke to were so friendly and welcoming.”

Local business owners concurred that the weekend was a success. “We had a phenomenal crowd of people, and they were very in-tune with their situation – they knew that they were descending on our town, so they were very patient, but great to work with and we had so much fun with them,” Hotbox Owner Tommy Davis said.

BRAG took its pilot flight in 1980, and has been going strong over the past 37 years, as participants of every age and skill level – first-timers and veterans alike – anticipate embarking on the annual pilgrimage across the state. At this stage, BRAG is considered the second oldest across-state bicycle tour in the world, and prides itself on having enthusiastic participants from every corner of the United States.


Pedaling past IGA, teams flocked into formation as they rode into town. Pedaling past IGA, teams flocked into formation as they rode into town. Considered a “not-for-profit” excursion, BRAG is dedicated to providing affordable, quality bicycle tours in and across the state of Georgia, taking pride in thousands of miles covered over the weeklong pedal, with hundreds of towns explored. BRAG “is a bicycle ride, not a race. It’s about the journey.”

“Every year the ride changes its route. Last year it went from Atlanta to Savannah, and this year it runs from Athens to Brunswick,” BRAG staff member Ryan Silver explained. “It changes for the riders’ sakes so they can test their skills, and so they can see and experience different towns throughout the state.”


Parking definitely wasn’t a problem this weekend, as riders creatively found unique locales to tether their bikes. Parking definitely wasn’t a problem this weekend, as riders creatively found unique locales to tether their bikes. “It’s this group of cycling enthusiasts who are meeting up with other like-minded people in order to slow down, and check out the countryside,” Chris Wilson, First Class BRAG Coordinator, said. “It’s a really good time, we’re all like family here.”

Many BRAG participants attested that the ride is all about the biking community, and the relationships that are formed over the lengthy trek spent together. Often times, those involved in BRAG will commit to other rides around the country together.


Around every corner, riders could be found biking through town. Around every corner, riders could be found biking through town. Fifth-year veteran John Garcia, from Miami, Florida, explained that “the thing with this ride is that you get to see everyone once a year, so it’s like you’re reuniting with your family. The goal is to finish. It’s not about coming in first or last, but it’s about our community. My favorite part is just hanging around with everyone.”

“There are no strangers here. If you’re not talking to people, and getting to know them, then you’re not having a good time,” Margaret McDaniel added.

McDaniel herself met her husband at BRAG in 2000, when the pair started riding next to each other. Good conversation was sparked and the couple married just two years later.

Countless stories like that of Mc- Daniel’s came pouring forth from participants of every diversity, as they have all endeared BRAG unto themselves thanks to the biking community that’s been formed within it.


Tents, RVs, hammocks, and more gave riders temporary homes for their night in Washington. Tents, RVs, hammocks, and more gave riders temporary homes for their night in Washington. Since BRAG actually returned to Washington this year – having cycled through in 2014 – perhaps the group will return in the future, least of all, several individual riders promised that they would be back for a proper visit to Washington down the road.

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