GA State Parks Self-Contained Cycle Tour
February 14-18, 2003
Royce Smith

I began considering making a self-contained cycle tour when I first read a copy of Adventure Cycling Magazine.  My interest increased upon meeting cross-country touring cyclists coming through Claxton.  While on a Saturday ride last year, I proposed the idea to Mac Jordan, and he was immediately interested.  Oftentimes, we day dream about trips but never take them.  I had the time, opportunity, equipment, and a willing riding partner.  Pegi Boatwright offered to meet us and bring us back home, so there were no excuses not to make a trip.

In preparation, I ordered county maps from the Georgia Dept of Transportation.  Mac prefers to ride on the shoulders of state roads, but I prefer quiet county roads.  My goal was to finish each day at a state park to take advantage of the hot showers and clothes washers.  When the DOT county maps arrived, I placed them edge to edge on my living room floor to chart a route from George L. Smith State Park near Twin City to Watson's Mill Bridge State Park east of Athens.  A zigzag route of county roads road would add additional miles to each day's ride, but I felt it was worth the advantage of cycling in low traffic.  Many county roads have shake and bake surfaces, but our hybrid's large tires would soften the road roughness.

Cycling touring differs from the type of cycling we do around home.  It is also different from organized touring like BRAG or Bike Florida.  Self-contained cycle tours offer more adventure, more thrills, more freedom, more self-dependence, more serendipity, more challenge, and more sense of accomplishment.  Motorists were more tolerant, and the people we met were inquisitive, helpful, and friendly.
Mac Jordan's Trek 7500 loaded for touring

Rocye Smtih's H300 Cannondale with trailer

Cycle tourists have differing philosophies as to their method of carrying gear; some prefer to tow it, and some prefer to haul it.  I towed a child trailer (Kiddie Kaboose) with my Cannondale H300, and Mac used racks and panniers on his Trek 7500 hybrid.  The use of a trailer places less stress on spokes, but trailers are heavier than a set of racks and panniers.  The use of panniers allows a lighter load, but they can affect steering. 

 Mac is small in stature, but he has the strength of a giant.  His bike was fully loaded, but he climbed hills as if he had no additional bike weight.  Throughout our trip, I played the role of the tortoise, and Mac played the role of the hare.  Mac stopped atop every hill and waited for me as I granny-geared at 10 mph.  Even though Mac donned me with the moniker of "Kemo Sabe", I did not call him, "Tonto".  Nevertheless, he was our scout.

Friday 14th 
 Local cycling buddies, Matt Rogers and Jon Dillard, escorted me from Claxton halfway to George L. Smith State Park (GLS).  Matt, Jon, and I parted company at I-16.  I arrived at GLS at 3:30, and Mac rolled into the park at 6:30 with the use of a headlight and a rear blinkie.  I had already set up camp and was having sausages cooked on the grill when Mac arrived.  Fortunately, Mac arrived before I had eaten all of the sausages.  Friday night's meal was the only one we cooked in camp.  We visited restaurants for the remainder of our trip. 

Mac has been cycling for three years and has become a mileage junkie.  He logged 10,000 miles in 2002.  He 

was concerned about logging enough miles to meet his normal quota, so he took the long way from Vidalia to GLS.  I had 45 miles, and Mac had 50+ miles for the day.
Saturday 15th
Saturday's planned route was a short one.  We rode into Twin City for a long breakfast at a local restaurant.  The other patrons in the restaurant were curious about our origination and destination.  Mac began a habit to initiate conversation with the locals we encountered along the way.  In response to their inquisitive stares, he would point to me and say, "He is the crazy one! He made me come with him."  Mac's explanation always generated a chuckle and relieved their tension of having two strangely dressed characters in their presence.

After breakfast, we took Hwy 23 towards Millen.  On Hwy 23, a fellow in a pick-up passed us, pulled onto the shoulder, and motioned for us to stop.  He was curious about our trip, our bikes, and us.  When we answered all of his questions, he wished us a safe trip, and we resumed our ride to Millen.

Royce and Mac in Twin City

Royce and Jack Kent
Jack Kent and Royce in Millen
South of Millen, we turned north off Hwy 23 onto Hwy 25, we encountered three narrow bridges and much traffic.  Fortunately, we did not have to cross the bridges with passing traffic.  This section of our trip was only 3.5 miles.  We rode into downtown Millen and stopped to visit Artworks Embroidery and Jack Kent.   Jack's business embroidered the Cruisin' caps and wind shirts.  My objective in visiting Jack was to thank him for his support of the Cruisin'.  After our visit with Jack, we visited the Jenkins Co library to send a message of our progress to the Claxton area e-mail lists.  Outside the library, we met an older woman who had ridden her beach cruiser Huffy to the library.  We discussed the health benefits of daily exercise and cycling, but she was satisfied with her level of involvement in cycling.

When we left the library, we rode north to Hook's BBQ located on the Millen by-pass for a late lunch.  After lunch, we rode to Magnolia St Pk and set up camp.  We used dirt roads to avoid Hwy 25 traffic on a trip back into Millen for supper.  Mac bought 10 pieces of chicken at the Bi-Low and took the food back to camp.  We ate greasy chicken in the glow of a warm campfire and a full moon.  We logged 45 miles for the day.  Before retiring, we used Mac's cell phone to call Pegi and Sky (Mac's wife) to check the weather.  The forecast did not sound promising.

Sunday 16th
 Early Sunday morning, we broke camp, packed our gear, and had a Powerbar breakfast.  The rain began falling before we rolled out of the park.  After a short ride on Hwy 25, we turned west off Hwy 25 onto county roads and took the Old Louisville Road to Louisville. 

Royce pauses for Photo Op at Millen

The ride to Louisville was 32 miles in the rain; the temperature was 33 degrees.  We were soaked from head to toe when we stopped for lunch at McDonald's in Louisville.  After lunch, I discovered that my trailer had collected a gallon of rainwater.  I also discovered that my sleeping bag and clothes were wet.  As I was removing bags from the trailer in order to dump out the water, a fellow drove up and began a conversation with Mac.  The fellow looked at me and said, "You look like Royce Smith."  The fellow (Ricky Paul) was a second cousin of mine who I had not seen since the last family funeral.

 After our visit with Ricky, we went to the Dollar Store to buy dry t-shirts and gloves.  I felt better after getting a dry garment next to my chest, but the remainder of my body was still soaked.  Our shoes were as still as heavy as bricks, but the trailer was easier to pull without the rainwater.  The rain and cold temperatures were an inconvenience, but the Lord blessed us with a tailwind, which was enough to keep our spirits high.
From Louisville, we rode north on US 1 and turned northwest onto Clark's Mill Rd.  We took Clark's Mill Rd to Avera and turned west to Edgehill.  Edgehill was the last community we passed before reaching Hamburg St Park.  Sunday's route used county roads all the way from Magnolia St Park to Hamburg St Park except for a few miles on state highways 25 and 24.  We stopped briefly to make friends with a dog, a bull, and an old codger in a pick-up.  The codger looked hard at our bikes and asked if they had electric motors.  I tapped the left side of my chest to indicate the location of my bike's motor; he signified understanding with a nod. 
Royce and bull south of Powelton
Royce and dog at Edgehill
There is no town or city near Hamburg State Park, so we bought more sandwiches at the Louisville McDonald's to have for dinner. We arrived at Hamburg after the park office had closed.  Because our gear was wet, we decided to sleep in the heated laundry room.  We met a camping couple (Randy and Ivy Wilkins) from Dublin who brought us PB&J's, chips, cookies, and hot coffee.  We placed our wet clothes in the dryer and consumed wet McDonald's sandwiches and the food from the Wilkins.  The Wilkins also loaned us a small space heater that we used to dry our shoes.  Even though the laundry room's cement floor was a hard sleeping surface, we felt very fortunate to be dry when we crawled into our sleeping bags.  We logged over 70 tough, wet miles for the day.

Mac at Hamburg State Park
Monday 17th
 After morning coffee with the Wilkins, we headed north on CR 248 to the community of Mayfield in Hancock Co where we stopped for a snack.  The county roads of Hancock Co are totally shake and bake, but they were quiet.  Hancock County also had the most litter of any county we passed through.  Mayfield is economically depressed; the store was the only business in the little community.  The store's patrons were locals and loggers working in the area.  We suspected that the store had been the scene of numerous gambling sessions and knife fights.  We agreed not to return to the store without a weapon.  We left Mayfield and took more county roads to Powelton on Hwy 22.  At Hwy 22, we turned north, crossed I-20, and rode into Crawfordville. 
Hwy 22 was mostly quiet except for an occasional passing logging truck, but the loggers were respectful of our presence.  We stopped briefly on the south side of Crawfordville at Heavy's BBQ to take a picture of a shark.

Due to President's Day holiday, Crawfordville was "closed".  Crawfordville had only one eating establishment that was open for business.  We found a local under-supplied convenience store that offered short orders from a grill but no tables or chairs.  We stood while eating chicken fingers, fried onion rings, and hamburgers.  While we ate, the cook told us his story about how he earned a fortune at Daytona Beach and lost it through a divorce.

Mac at Heavy's BBQ south of Crawfordville

After our late lunch, we rode a short distance to Stephens St Park and set up our tents.  Our tents were still wet from the rain of Sunday, but we mopped them out with towels.  We used the laundry room facilities to wash and dry our clothes.  We rode back to the convenience store for another stand-up meal of chicken fingers and hamburgers.  As we rode back into the park, a herd of deer flashed their tails and scattered like mice into the forest.  Even though firewood was available, we hung out in the laundry room due to its heat and light.

 While discussing Tuesday's ride, we decided not to ride to Watson's Mill Bridge St Park.  We called Pegi and asked her to meet us at Hamburg St Park.  Monday night was cold (30+ degrees), so we put on all our clothes before we retired to our tents.  We covered almost 40 miles for the day.

Tuesday 18th
 It was cold when I heard Mac call my name at 7 am.  I did not want to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag.  Mac encouraged me by calling out, "Royce, I hear the road calling our names."  We packed up and backtracked towards Hamburg St Park to meet Pegi.  We stopped at I-20 for breakfast at the truck stop located there.  We had a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and a quart of hot coffee.  To our surprise, our waitress was the same person who worked at the convenience store in Crawfordville.  She gave us great service.  As we were preparing to leave, a trucker walked up to inquire about our trip.  We left the truck stop and rode a tailwind back to Mayfield and into Hancock Co.  As previously agreed, we did not visit the Mayfield store on our return trip.  From Mayfield, we took Union Church Rd towards Hamburg St Pk.  Pegi found us on Union Church Rd about 10 miles north of Hamburg St Park.  Mac's rear brakes were no longer effective, and he had a bald spot on his rear tire, so we decided to end our tour at that point.

 Pegi took us to Hamburg State Park where we changed in to street clothes.  We drove to Sandersville for a post-ride celebration pizza meal.

See more GA State Parks Tour pictures.