As cyclists arrived at Cave Spring and began setting up tents around Rolater Park, City Council member Joyce Mink said it was the first time it felt normal in Cave Spring again.
However, Bike Ride Across Georgia is far from a normal event.
Every summer, groups of cyclists from across Georgia and the Southeast come together to cycle across the state, staying in small towns and tourist stops along the way. And although it had served as a stopover in the past, Monday was the first time Cave Spring had hosted BRAG runners for a night.
“It’s pretty exciting, but we’re more excited for the merchants,” Mink said. “And now all of these people can see what Cave Spring has to offer and hopefully come back.”
Board member Tom Lindsey and former Director of the Downtown Development Authority Sandra Lindsey have worked with BRAG for a few years. They estimated that 1,200 people signed up for this year’s event, but not everyone makes it all week.
“I don’t know how many we have right now today, but it looks like it will be quite a few,” said Tom Lindsey. “About 36 acres of Rolater Park and everywhere you look there are tents, there are bikes. We have people staying at two hotels in Rome. … It’s just nice to welcome to again a great event like this. “
Mink and Lindsey were both excited to finally use the provision in the town’s liquor ordinance that allowed them to organize a “sip and ride” for passing cyclists. Wearing special bracelets, attendees had beer and other drinks on hand while enjoying downtown Cave Spring and live music in Rolater Park.
BRAG director Franklin Johnson said the ride was going well for the first two days despite the weather.
“Cave Spring is awesome, it has one of the coolest waters in the state, a great pool, and great shade in Rolater Park,” he said. “We are really delighted to be here for one night.”
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 about it, but I didn’t really know where it was,” Soto said. “And now I’m here.”
“They are really nice people here,” Miller said. “I am really interested in the cave and jumping in the pool.”
Rachel Whilden of McDonough will be on the road all week for her first time doing BRAG.
“It was really fun, but wet and rainy,” she said. “The roads were a little wet going down Lookout Mountain but it’s okay.”
Whilden heard about BRAG while in college, where she started cycling, and decided that upon graduation her gift for herself would be to do the weeklong hike.
“I’m about to enter this pool though,” she laughed.
Many cyclists have camped around Rolater Park and installed air mattresses in the old Hearn Academy building and Cave Spring Town Hall.
Early Tuesday morning they will leave for Carrollton and the cleaning crew will come in and make it look like the runners never passed.