By Valerie Baldowski
Charles Arvey and his 15-year-old son, Chas, let down the tailgate of their truck to unload two bicycles, in preparation for wheeling them across the parking lot of First Baptist Church of McDonough, to join a group of cyclists.
The Stockbridge father and son were among the participants preparing to ride Tuesday in the kickoff of the "City Cycle Tour," the June program for the City of McDonough's Wellness Program.
For Charles Arvey, this was his second time riding in the bicycle tour. The best part about the ride, he said, is "listening to the mayor talk about the history of McDonough. He [McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland] grew up right down the street, and he knows more about it than most people who moved in, so it's really cool listening to him," said Charles Arvey.
The pace of the ride is "relaxed," said Chas Arvey, who also took part in last year's tour. The best part, he said, is the mix of cyclists it draws.
"There's hard-core biking people, and people who've never ridden before, older and younger people, so there's a nice variety," he said.
In addition to the social aspects, "It helps me stay in shape," said the teenager.
George Horner and Irene Harper were perched on their bikes, chatting and waiting for the ride to begin. Horner said he chose to ride in the event for different reasons. "I ride seven days a week, and the mayor's a personal friend of mine, and I just ride with him," he said. "Every morning at 4:30 a.m., I get up and go running and walking. I walk four miles, come back and do four miles on the bike, every day."
A Knoxville, Tenn., native, Horner said he has lived in McDonough for 22 years, and met Copeland shortly after he moved to the area.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the regular rides is the friendships made, continued Horner. "Just to meet somebody like her," he said, referring to Harper. "This is my first time meeting her, and I get to meet these other people. It's just a lot of fun, and communicating with folks around town, just to do something different."
Organized by Mayor Copeland, the brisk, 4.2-mile ride began and ended at the church. Escorted -- in front by a McDonough Police Department cruiser, and another in the rear of the pack -- Copeland led the cyclists through several residential and historic streets.
The riders pulled out of the parking lot at approximately 6:30 p.m., and arrived back at the same spot, slightly breathless, 45 minutes later. "It was really quick," said Harper as she rolled in with the others and stopped her bike after the ride.
She said the tour was fairly smooth, and she had little trouble along the way. "[It was] just a little bitty hill, I was taking up the rear," said Harper. "After I got up the hill -- smooth sailing."
An Ellenwood resident, she said this was the first such ride for her. "I'm going to tell my friends about this," added Harper.
Tim Kohl, owner of Epic Bikes in McDonough and coordinator of a community cycling program, was in attendance, to help with minor bike repairs. The annual cycle tours actively promote physical activity, said Kohl.
"It encourages something healthy," he said. "It obviously encourages people to come out, no matter what they're riding, and actually for the most part, enjoy something they've probably never done before in a group setting. That's why we're out here, for fun."
The next City Cycle tour ride is scheduled for June 8, at 6:30 p.m.