The 2014 Pedaling for Kids Across-the-State (ATS) trip was another story for the ages – full of great adventure, tests of persistence and endurance, and again lots of fun times and laughter from start to finish. The group committed early to training in the months leading up to the trip and when the weekend arrived, the PFK peloton was in shape and ready.
This was the third successful trip across Georgia for Jay Parker, Rhonda Eysel, high school junior and triathlete Reames Clark, and Jack Sherrer. Veteran cyclist Mike Moore served as Road Captain and pulled the peloton from the front the majority of the 250-plus miles. Chester Fort was our other veteran whose strong riding and enthusiasm continued to motivate and encourage the group.
The trip was again started off right with Dr. Jimmy Elder of First Baptist Church praying for us in our classic meeting place in the parking lot of the Macon Road K-Mart. What a great way to start off our ride every year; Dr. Elder’s presence has become one of the traditions we look forward to and depend on with each ATS. And the prayers again helped us; we had only two small mishaps and all three riders were back up and continued cycling.
The new riders this year were fantastic. They had all ridden with the peloton for months and had learned how to work and cycle safely together. Mike Campos, CJ Baker, Jackie Aasand, Erin Golden, Tripp Blankenship, Joie Musselman, Lori Hughes, Tonya Mitchum, and Craig Boaz – in addition to Mike Moore and Chester Fort – were all successful in their first attempt at the ATS.
The across-the-state riders stuck with the same route planned out by veteran rider and PFK-loyalist Kenny Hall three years ago. We again launched from Robinson Farms in Marion County and finished the first – and the most difficult – of the three days in Hawkinsville. Jay “Hawkeye” Parker and wife Katie were in charge of our parking lot cookout our first night and it was a blast. They served great chips, dips, burgers, dogs and drinks. Entertainment that night included a skit by actresses Lori Hughes and Katie Parker about the washing of bike garments and a missing pair of underwear. It was absolutely hilarious. We were sure that the cookout in the parking lot was the first cookout of its kind ever held in the Hawkinsville Best Western’s parking lot. We just hope they let us make future reservations with them…
Saturday carried us out of Hawkinsville and two-thirds across the state to Vidalia. We were fortunate to have had good weather and favorable winds for the most part. We again stayed in our dependable Hampton Inn in Vidalia. We had dinner at J&B’s Rare2Welldone Steakhouse and we could not have been treated better. Owner Belinda Lacklin made sure we had great service and our own “corral” and even made a sizeable donation to the Pedaling for Kids charity before we left. Thanks Belinda for everything! The highlight of the night was the winning of crystal awards by both Rhonda Eysel and Jay Parker as the highest money-raisers for the ride – both for the second year in a row.
The third day is usually our most fun day and this year was no exception. The day is not only fun because we are closing in on our goal of making it across the state, but the cycling is easier: the terrain is more flat and we generally have a tailwind. The peloton this year often hit and maintained speeds in the low-20 mph range during parts of the day. This year the ATS Ride Honoree was Lori Hughes. Husband Scott had given her her first road bike the previous Christmas and she had committed to getting in shape and had prepared all season for the trip. There was no question we all wanted her as our honored ride leader.
We were again met at the city limits of Savannah by Savannah police officers and received an escort all the way to our hotel. As has become our tradition our Ride Honoree leads the peloton behind the police car into the city to the cheers of millions of Savannah residents. Although Lori was absolutely up to the task she initially didn’t realize the escort was 16 miles, so had to eventually slow the pace so she and the peloton could survive the escort! It was again a tremendously great feeling to pull in to Riverstreet and hear the thunderous roar of the crowd, the snapping of photographs, and the popping of champagne corks.
This year we stayed at The Mansion at Forsythe Park and the accommodations were fantastic. We had drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the Mansion’s bar before being chauffeured to Fiddlers for dinner.
A special thanks to our massage therapist Alicia Blackwell of Waverly Hall. She helped keep our aching bodies on our bikes the entire trip.
And thanks to our wonderful and patient SAGs: Loretta Fort and Carrie Blankenship and to SAG Leader and Photographer Extraordinaire Katie Parker – all of whom kept us from getting run over for three days. We love you!
Thanks to everyone for the super-successful 2014 ATS. There are just too many funny things and great memories to list here … but thanks. Thanks to each of you for making it so great.
We had not arrived in Savannah for more than an hour before we had already begun to plan and to look forward to next year’s 2015 ATS ride!