June 21, 2018
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Getting ready to BRAG

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — I think Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, said it best with the title of his 1990 book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

In it, the prolific writer of children’s books and adult satire, looks at the ups and downs of life while encouraging the reader to head out on an adventure as they enter into every new phase of life and chase their dreams:

“You’ll be on your way up! / You’ll be seeing great sights! / You’ll join the high fliers / who soar to high heights.”

Well, I’m not so sure about the soaring and high flying part, but this weekend my friend Penny McHatten and I begin an adventure in which we are sure to see some pretty great sights.

June 3-8 is the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, also known as BRAG. It’s 360-miles from Cordele in the southwest corner of the state east to St. Mary’s on the coast.

And, like so many other things for which I have signed on in the past, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

I mean, back in February when I pitched this great plan to Penny, June sounded so far away, giving us plenty of time to train.

Time yes; conditions? Not so much.

We both got on our bikes as soon as the snow melted enough this spring to permit safe riding, and there have been some terrific riding days.

However, there have been far more less-than-optimal days when, any other year, we’d have found some pretty good excuses to stay inside.

But with the spectre of that 360-mile ride looming, we put on base layers and cold weather gear and got those training miles in.

In fact, other than during a few unseasonably warm days in early May, I’ve not taken those base layers off for riding.

Which means my body is in for something of a shock when we head out from the start line in Cordele, Georgia. According to online weather sites, it’s supposed to be 90-degrees there during ride week.

It’s not like we weren’t warned.

The BRAG Facebook page has been lighting up with chatter from ride veterans warning us newbies about the heat and humidity.

Tales are being spun involving everything from medics having to give riders IV fluids on really hot days to wax-based bicycle chain lubricants melting clean off.

Hydration has become my new favorite word.

Then there are the uniquely southern critters we are bound to see along the way.

Did you know an alligator can sprint up to 45 miles-per-hour? Neither did I, and I’m not really sure I wanted to know that.

But I suppose all I really need to know is that I can pedal at least a half-mile-per-hour faster than the person behind me.

Speaking of gators and pedaling, apparently we are in for more than a few miles of riding on something southern riders refer to as “shake and bake.”

This is supposedly a chipseal type road surface known for eating road bike tires. To avoid a blowout, I purchased two heavy duty tires ironically called “gator skins.”

But more than gators and heat, the comments from everyone I’ve dealt with connected to BRAG have been the epitome of southern hospitality.

This is the kind of event in which every community through which we pass reportedly will try to outdo the previous one in feeding and entertaining us.

Along the way we will take in sites including the Okefenokee Swamp, rolling farmland and clear running rivers.

Not to mention the worlds largest peanut monument, a photo-op if ever there was one.

Penny and I are fully intending this event to be an amazing fun — and challenging — adventure, but we also will take advantage of the opportunity to deliver serious messages.

With her bright pink custom paint Trek bicycle, pink spokes and wheels, and her matching pink cycling shoes and newly pink-frosted hair, Penny is riding to raise support and awareness for breast cancer.

Thanks to photos circulating on the BRAG website, both she and her bike are already famous down there.

While I may not be as bright with my red and black road bike, I, too, am riding for a cause.

Lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body including the skin, joints and organs.

My friend and colleague Jen Lynds was diagnosed with Lupus when she was 21. She remains the strongest, most determined and inspirational person I know.

There is no cure for Lupus, though the research is ongoing. I am hoping to use my ride as a fundraiser and anyone who’d like to donate and show their support may do so by going to http://lupus.donorpages.com/Raise4Lupus/JuliaBayly/.

I can — and will — joke about the gators, the heat and the bugs, but neither Lupus nor breast cancer are laughing matters.

But if by simply pedaling from one side of Georgia to the other can do even a little good for both those causes, that is sure to put a smile on a lot of faces.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the BRAG recap in two weeks.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

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