Words and images: Jered Gruber
Athens, Georgia doesn't make many top ten lists for dream destinations to ride a bike, but without promising heaven it delivers on so much more. Innumerable roads head toward each corner of the compass, while dirt roads add red arteries to the map. In the endless countryside just outside of Athens, there are treats aplenty: covered bridges, tiny barbecue joints, even Georgia's own version of Stonehenge.
I can't ever say that I saw a scene that rivaled the Dolomites or some other famous view, but I can say from the bottom of my heart that Athens is about a special feeling. It's quiet and unique without spectacular geological furnishings. Towns like Alto, Lula, Philomath, Swords, Homer, Royston, Toccoa, and Bowman provide points for each day's adventure; and that's what it always feels like, an adventure.
In a place where I've spent years on my bike, I constantly find myself surprised at the feels, smells, tastes, and views waiting around a new, or even old, turn. Even better are the people I've met along the way. While Athens is blessed with great weather and an amazing web of roads, its real gift is in its community of bike riders. I count them as my training partners, my friends.
I left Athens today, and I know I won't return until next year, but I'm already looking forward to the next time I roll up to a group ride and I'm greeted as if I never left.
Thank you, Athens. Thank you, everyone, for making it so perfectly clear that Athens is my home.