Nine of us started at 7:00 AM. It was about half an hour before sunrise, and so we had to use front and rear lights and reflective gear for the first bit of the ride. We began at the Albany Civic Center, adjacent to a trail along the Flint River. A portion of the trail was flooded; therefore, we took a short detour to enter the trail past the flooded area. From there it was smooth sailing...er...riding.
We lucked out on the weather. It was in the upper 40s at the start but quickly warmed up. We rode in the 50s for most of the day and even hit the low 60s by mid-afternoon. Additionally, we didn't get a drop of rain. It doesn't get much better in January in Georgia.
A few of us grouped together toward the front: Chip, Wayne, and me. Chip lives in Albany and found out about our ride through a Facebook post I made to the Pecan City Pedalers. We were very glad to have him join us.
Chip was a good source of information about Albany and the surrounding area. I asked him about all the cotton that hadn't been harvested; normally it's harvested in the fall. He explained that between Hurricane Michael and more recent heavy rains, many of the cotton fields were too wet to be harvested. In fact, there was still standing water in several of the unharvested cotton fields.
Chip also described what it was like during the historic flooding of 1994. Being an Albany native and familiar with the streets, he volunteered to help the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR took boats out to assess the flooded areas, sometimes at night. Chip rode along in one of them. He said it was difficult to orient himself in all the black water.
The vast majority of roads on the Albany 200K route had little to no traffic. In the grey January light, the farms and forests were quiet, meditative, and...
|The giant peanut statue in Plains was a highlight of the day.|
Then things got tougher. After Shellman we rode mostly eastward back toward Albany. Therefore, we had a significant headwind for the last 50 miles. This portion also included our longest distance between controls: 40 miles between Shellman and the final store stop about 10 miles from the end. Normally, 40 miles between controls wouldn't be a big deal to me, but that headwind kept beating on me. I was so glad to get some refreshment at that last store, which gave me the energy boost I needed to finish strong.
Before I headed home, I stopped at the Ray Charles statue at the riverside park near the civic center.
I first saw this statue when Robert and I did the 2007 Georgia Tandem Rally, which was held in Albany. I had forgotten how the concrete surrounding the raised platform is made to look like piano keys. On the other hand, I remembered that the platform rotates ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly. I discovered this in 2007; earlier in the day, Ray was facing one direction, but later he was facing another direction. Whoa!
The display also plays Ray Charles music continuously. When I visited yesterday, I was thrilled to catch the tail end of him singing "Georgia on My Mind." It was the perfect finale to a wonderful ride in my home state.