In early October, Renaissance And Masher completed another organized cycling event together, GABRAKY! This was the 10th anniversary of the ride, and over the years the G’s and A’s have stood for multiple meanings, including: Grand, Autumn, Governor’s, Annual, Across, Around … while the BRKY remains the constant: Bicycle Ride Kentucky! The event was started as a fundraiser ride for the Grand Theater in Frankfort, KY that took cyclist across the bluegrass state from the Ohio River in Carrollton to Dale Hollow Lake in Burkesville, a trek that started on the border with Ohio and ventured southwest to the Tennessee line covering around 225 miles over three days. It has evolved to a four day trip nearly 240 miles, and now passes through multiple state parks.
This was my first time riding the new four day route, and I was unable to ride day 1 because of work/vacation time, but it was mainly the same route it has been. The biggest changes happen as day 2 begins and heads a different direction than my previous GABRAKY trips. Though the route may have changed, one thing remains the same. This is a great event for cyclist bonding time. The majority of the participants camp at the various state parks along the way, but being somewhat soft, I prefer to rough it in a hotel. I served my time in the field in the Marines, now I’m content to sleep in the air conditioning)
The average daily mileage on the ride is 60 +/-. But don’t be fooled by the distance, there are plenty of hills along the way to give even the seasoned cyclists a feeling of accomplishment at the finish. Some of the hills along the route find steep gradients in the 15-20% range for short spurts, while some of the longer pulls range 5-10% over a mile or two. Add in the nearly constant head wind, it is a recipe for a true cycling challenge for four consecutive days. As some of the cyclists not familiar with riding in Kentucky found out first hand, not everyone can just get on a bike and complete this ride. I even heard a couple comments that this ride was tougher than a multi-day ride some had completed in Colorado in the Rockies, and tougher than a trek some had completed that was a border to border ride in North Carolina with the exception of one day.
The weather this time of the year in Kentucky is generally beautiful with the changing of colors on mother nature’s landscape and typically dry but cool air. This weekend actually turned out to be much warmer than average, but we did manage to find some moisture as the fourth and final day began. As we departed Green River Lake State Park, it was already raining and picked up over the first 15 miles before breaking up as we pulled into our brunch stop at Lindsey Wilson College (the primary partner/sponsor for the event all ten years). As usual, we were treated with wonderful hospitality by the LWC family, and had our choice of way too much to eat. Knowing the rain was only gone temporarily, most cyclists ate lightly and hit the road pedaling. The next 20 miles is my favorite stretch over the whole ride as we found the tough rollers leaving LWC, then a very steep, technical descent into the Cumberland valley where the road and scenery is just beautiful winding along the river bed. I managed to get an extra 2 miles on a side road where I was told I could find one of the toughest climbs in the county (and I just couldn’t resist).
The final rest stop is located in the town of Burkesville, and is always the best place to take a break and fuel up for the final climbing challenge which is probably the longest, toughest climb on the entire GABRAKY route, especially since it’s strategically placed in the last 10 miles of the ride. Reach the top of it without any stopping or walking, and you have achieved a true accomplishment. I finished with my good friend, Chris Schmidt, whom I had ridden all the days with and shortly after we completed the rain was back. I felt sorry for the ones who got caught up in it again, because it was driving. The wind was fierce all day on the final day, and that rain was tough to see in, let alone pedal a bike in. But I know everyone was proud of their finish, regardless of the weather that brought them home.
I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy this ride, and what an awesome job all the volunteers do. If this is any indication of how well this ride impressions people, multiple years I’ve seen the volunteers from previous years back as cyclists the following year! Lindsey Wilson College and their entire crew has done an exceptional job helping to keep this grand ride moving and the support they always provide is top notch. Hats off to the committee that puts the event together each year and especially the ones that volunteer to be chair persons and take charge! Since I’ve now ridden this event five times, and spent some time in the front, middle, and rear of the pack, I’ve seen it from all angles. I think that qualifies me to also critique the ride some, and I recognize my opinions may be in the minority. I enjoy the the changing of the route from time to time, but I wish it could stay in the three day format. I like the challenge of a long day in the ride and I truly enjoyed the stop at Camp Acton retreat in past years (it was like camping, but in a bed with heat or air, and gave everyone an great evening/morning of bonding). As one who finished near the front of the pack this year, I’d like to see a ride representative at the end of each day to greet riders and direct them where to go as they finish. It may sound crazy, but if the ride is to be called the “Governor’s,” I think it would be nice representation for the Governor to greet us at the Capitol. It would also be helpful for the luggage vehicle to be at each day’s finish waiting on the cyclists, so that everyone can shower up as they come in without waiting for direction.
All in all, this ride is still one of my favorites, and I look forward to doing it again next year. My recommendations are only my opinion on a few things I think could be improved, but the majority of this event is golden already. It was so nice to spend some genuine cycling time with some of my family and friends! So glad I got to ride with Charles II (Pops) Pearl, Jamie Garrett, Angela Mitchell, Nathan Rome, Linn Laborda, Ed Stodola, Chris Schmidt, and Tim Stout! Also glad my sis Charlsie was able to be there with great SAG service. She’ll probably join those in the past that decided to ride after volunteering. (I hope.) I also enjoyed meeting and riding with many new faces, some from here locally, and some from as far away as Colorado and New Mexico. Thank you GABRAKY for another memorable cycling event. I don’t attend events at the Grand Theater as often as I should, but it has come a long way since my first visit there to watch a movie. Kudos to the “Save The Grand” folks for staying committed to restoring a facility that my generation and my children’s generation could use a lot more of. Hope to see all of you and more on the road soon. Cheers and Safe Cycling …