As cyclists arrived in Cave Spring and began setting up tents around Rolater Park, City Councilmember Joyce Mink said it was the first time it felt normal again in Cave Spring.
However, Bike Ride Across Georgia is far from a normal event.
Each summer, groups of bicyclists from all over Georgia and the Southeast come together to bike across the state, staying in small towns and tourist stops along the way. And while it’s served as a rest stop in the past, Monday was the first time Cave Spring got to host the BRAG riders for an overnight.
“It’s pretty exciting, but we’re most excited for the merchants,” Mink said. “And now all these people can see what Cave Spring has to offer and hopefully come back.”
Councilmember Tom Lindsey and former Downtown Development Authority director Sandra Lindsey have been working with BRAG for the past few years. They estimated that 1,200 people signed up for this year’s event, but not everyone does the full week.
“I’m not sure how many we’ve got riding in right now today, but it looks like it’s going to be quite a number,” Tom Lindsey said. “About 36 acres of Rolater Park and, everywhere you look, there are tents, there are bicycles. We’ve got some people staying in two hotels in Rome. ... It just feels good to be hosting a big event like this again.”
Both Mink and Lindsey were excited to finally use the city’s alcohol ordinance provision that allowed them to host a “sip and stroll” for the cyclists coming through. Wearing special wristbands, participants had beer and other drinks in hand as they enjoyed downtown Cave Spring and live music in Rolater Park.
BRAG Director Franklin Johnson said the ride was going well for the first couple days, despite the weather.
“Cave Spring is awesome, it has some of the freshest water in the state, a large pool and great shade in Rolater Park,” he said. “We’re really excited to be here for an overnight.”
Cyclists Cindy Miller, of LaGrange, and Juan Soto, of Marietta, have done BRAG about four times and didn’t know much about Cave Spring before they started.
“I had heard of it, but I didn’t really know where it was,” Soto said. “And now I’m here.”
“They’re just really nice people around here,” Miller said. “I’m really interested in the cave and jumping in the pool.”
Rachel Whilden, of McDonough, will be on the road the whole week for her first time doing BRAG.
“It’s been really fun, but wet and rainy,” she said. “The roads were a bit wet while going down Lookout Mountain but that’s OK.”
Whilden heard about BRAG while in college, where she started cycling, and decided that once she graduated, her gift to herself would be doing the weeklong ride.
“I’m about ready to get in that pool though,” she laughed.
Many of the cyclists camped out around Rolater Park and set up air mattresses in the former Hearn Academy building and Cave Spring City Hall.
Early Tuesday morning, they’ll set out for Carrollton and the clean up crew will come in and make it seem like the riders never came through.