Sweet Onion Cyclists News
Vidalia, Georgia
May 2003
Updated 4/22/03
Sweet Onion Century 2003 the best ever!
by Lamar Martin

This photo & others from the Sweet Onion Century Ride 2003 are availalbe on-line from Studio 508, Alan Bryan

New and improved routes were the key changes these year, along with an improved set-up at Southeastern Tech so that the restrooms and showers were easier to access.
A very challenging Double-Metric Century (127 miles) was added to the pot of choices.  Of 186 riders,  46 signed up for this very challenging option. The reward, aside from the personal satisfaction, was our Sweet Onion Century mug (awarded to everyone who completed the 100-kilometer, 100-mile or 125-mile route) plus a cap to brag about and wear with pride that was handsomely embroidered with our club logo and the words, "I Rode the Double Metric Century" on the front and, "125 Miles in One Day" on the back. 

I do mean challenging. Several who signed up for the Double-Metric changed their minds when they reached the decision making point at mile 80, go another 47 miles or another 21? Even with the overcast sky and cooler than usual temperature for the Sweet Onion Century, I cannot blame the ones who decided on the Century. Frankly, anything over 70 ceases to be fun for me.

Mike Chumley and Mike Erickson cooling it after 
riding the new Double-Metric Century.
Still, I am very happy for those who were up to the task. Our collective "hat" is literally off to them. Congratulations! I will settle for the wienie cap (same as the award but without the procalamation of having rode the Double Metric, available for $10 from our Merchandise Page.

These were certainly not the only heroes on this ride. Our youngest rider was 4 year old Tommy, who rode a trail-a-bike with his dad, Scott. Scott and Tommy rode the 31, and since they hadn't seen many people and no one passed them, Tommy told his dad, "We are going to win!"

Scott and Tommy Holowell before the ride

And enjoying the post-ride cookout

Our oldest rider this year was 77 year old Andy Miles, one of the original dozen members of Sweet Onion Cyclists.
Kathy Boardman near Uvalda, 40 miles down, 61 to go, 
but already displaying the Victory sign.
As for me, I rode the 50 mile route but took a shortcut to get 42 miles, and back to STC in time to go out and offer SAG help on the 100 mile route. It is not uncommon for people to bonk on a 100 mile ride in south Georgia, and truly need help. At about 77 miles into the 100 mile route I met the tenacious Kathy Boardman riding her EZ-1 recumbent. I talked to her briefly and she thought she was the last one, but I drove on over to Soperton to be certain. Doubling back and reaching Kathy again, I found that she was maintaining a slow but respectable speed for an unfaired recumbent. Being a recumbent rider myself, I know how difficult it is to ride 100 miles, and frankly the difference between her her bike and mine with a fairing meant that she had to work 15-20 percent harder than I would have. I was impressed that she had made it to mile 77 and offered to give her a lift. Her answer came without hesitation, "NO, I AM GOING TO RIDE THE 100 MILES.  I prayed for these clouds and God has provided them. I am going to ride the 100 miles!"

"O.K.," I said, " but I will be checking back to see if you change your mind." She never did. 

The thing about our 100 & 125 mile-routes is that some of the toughest hills come near the end, along with the prevailing winds that are

always against you. Rick and B.J. Godby drove SAG along with her the last 6 miles and in awe of her perseverance, cheered her on. They stopped frequently, but after some 10 hours, Kathy came triumphantly riding into STC for the applause of the 3 people who hadn't gone home.  Talk about a hero!

Well, I hope that inspires you; it sure as heck does me! Check out Kathy's story, also in this Newsletter.
Onion Burgers

The post-ride cookout was as good as ever. Some say this is reason enough to come to the Sweet Onion Century. While we will continue to offer a lot more than the food, it is certainly a delicious part of the Sweet Onion Century and we owe a great big THANK YOU to Jane and Nelson Hodges, who have been cooking for us ever since we began the Sweet Onion Century 8 years ago now.  Those delicious bubba burgers, veggie burgers, baked beans and grilled Vidalia Onions make the tiredest riders smile. 

Thanks also to the Salavation Army for the use of the Food Wagon, so Nelson and Jane can cook in reasonable comfort.

Jerry Colley and Abe Glaser


Now for some fun FACTS:

Of 186 registered  riders, there were 131 male, 55 female. That's 42% female, which is quite uncommon.  Most rides around the country have 35 % female. Total # of miles registered to ride 2002: 8,341  2003: 14,750 (that double-metric option got a lot of takers!)
l-r: Rebekah Arnold, Susan White, Libby Kimball, 
Lamar Martin
# of riders 
Route    chosen 
# of riders

News Release
by Abe Glaser

Patricia Dixon Executive Director of the United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler Counties,
receives a check for $2,400.00 from Abe Glaser, President of the Sweet Onion Cyclists.

The 8th Annual Sweet Onion Century Ride for 2003 is the best ever.

On May 3, 169  participants showed up (186 had registered) at Southeastern Technical College to ride their bicycles on one of five different routes.  The cyclists were from 10 different states and some came from as far as Louisiana, Kansas and Missouri.  Jerry Colley, Ride Director of BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) was impressed with this event and named it as an official BRAG-training ride.

Ride options included 31, 50, 62, 100 and the premiere 125-mile route.  Libby Kimball, Ann Erickson and Rebekah Arnold handled registration.  The United Way, headed by Patricia Dixon staffed the rest stops.  Local grocery chains donated much of the food and drink.

The reverend and veteran cyclist Andy Miles offered the pre-ride prayer for safety, guidance and fellowship.

The cyclists traveled roads to Alston, Uvalda, Mt Vernon, Soperton, Oak Park, Metter, Cobbtown and Lyons before retuning to Vidalia.  Support on the road included Jim Stafford, Faith Willoford, Greg Johnson, Rick Godby and Lamar Martin.

Seasoned rest stop volunteers included Tat Fennel of Mt. Vernon and Elaine Mincey in Uvalda.

Club members, BJ Godby, Mac Jordan, Dan Brown, Lamar Martin, Mike Erickson, Jeff and Abe Glaser pitched in to make the big event more comfortable for the cyclists ranging from young children to the age of 80.  This is a family ride and many took their time and enjoyed the cool spring weather.

The Vidalia Club, the first in Georgia to offer a Double Metric Century ride, 125 miles in one day, got lots of takers with 46 putting their skill on the line to earn the coveted trophy ball cap proclaiming their feat.  There is always an element that pushes their skill to the edge and some cyclists completed the 125-mile course in 6 ½ hours.  Kathy Boardman who traveled from North Carolina for the Sweet Onion Century, completed her first 100-mile ride just before 6:00 PM.  Cathy was tired but elated having joined the elite group of cyclists to complete a century or 100 miles in one day.

Nelson and Jane Hodges cooked up hamburgers, topped with sweet Vidalia onions in the cook wagon provided by the Salvation Army.

Abe Glaser, President of the Sweet Onion Cyclists was gratified by all the praise heaped on the club, the rest stop staff, support and gear drivers and the good will of the Vidalia Community.  It was wonderful to see the sparkle in Patricia Dixon’s eyes when she received the check that exceeded all previous donations.

Tour de Georgia
by Lamar Martin

Being a traveling race marshall for the Inaugural Tour de Georgia is now one of my all time favorite adventures. Dave Sanderson, BJ Godby and I signed on to do the whole week, along with 47 others who volunteered as traveling marshalls.. We enjoyed the whole experience so much that we have already volunteered to do it again next year. Since the State of Georgia paid our expenses, the only cost to us was time off from our regular lives. It was such a fantastic week, I wouldn't trade it for any vacation I have had in recent years, and I have had some GREAT ones!

Dave and I have written up our takes on the whole thing and you can read all about it here. BJ, I am still waiting for your report.

My First Century
by Kathy Boardman

I bought my Easy Racer Lite recumbent last May, and spent the summer riding in the greenway near my home in Charlotte, NC, and doing some 15 mile road rides in the next county.  I hadn’t ridden a bike consistently since doing summer stock on Jekyll Island 15 years before.  Many of the things I have come to love have been at my brother, David’s, inspiration.  After hearing him tell about riding the Silver Comet trail, a Rails-to-Trails route west of Atlanta, I decided that was how I wanted to celebrate my birthday.  Remembering that my birthday is in late October, David remarked, “Well let’s go for your Century at Claxton, then.”  I was game, and my odyssey began.

Weather and other issues meant I didn’t get in as many training miles as I would have liked before Claxton, but I did the metric and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was my first organized, supported ride, and I had a blast meeting bike people and seeing all their amazing machines.

The holidays were a quiet time so far as biking went, but in there somewhere, David made the acquaintance of Clark Hill, who also rides a recumbent.  They became riding partners and I took up their invitation to “do The Onion.”  (Putting it that way sounds like a dance from 60’s Bandstand, and makes me smile.)  Over the winter I did three organized rides of increasing lengths and got in as much mileage as I could.  Familiarity with the terrain from the Claxton ride gave me confidence.  I was ready.

The riding around David’s home in Madison, GA, is very good, and where he gave me my early lessons on road riding.  The Monday before The Onion, we were keeping loose on the road to Rutledge.  I asked him for a brotherly pep talk because I was getting worried about whether or not I could do this crazy thing, especially since I’d be coming to GA two weekends in a row and starting a new job that week as well.  True to his nature, he said all the right things.  My favorite was, “If I’ve learned nothing else from the guys in the randonneuring group, it’s that if it ain’t fun, you stop doing it.”

On Wednesday, I was pleased to get a surprise call from David at work, but it wasn’t the kind of “congratulations on the new job” contact he’s known for.  He wouldn’t be going to Vidalia because he couldn’t shake a very bad respiratory infection.  As soon as I hung up, I felt a sense of relief, and took a couple of minutes to examine the feeling.  David had planned to ride the double-metric and treat it like a brevet, which meant he had to do it in a certain amount of time.  I realized that a large part of my worry was having to keep up with him in the first dark hours.  A quick call to Clark confirmed that he would stick with me while it was dark.  I could ride at my own pace.  Suddenly it was my ride again.

 A big storm rocked its way through the Southeast Friday night, leaving a perfect, cool, overcast day for the ride.  After the first rest stop at about 15 miles, the sun was well up.  Clark pushed on, and I set about finding my pace and enjoying the scenery.

 There was a lot to experience on the ride.  I was surprised to see the onions growing with the bulbs above the soil.  Yellow and purple wildflowers were everywhere, interrupted by blood-red thistle, layered over with the unmistakable scent of sweet honeysuckle.  At one point there were two handsome, powerful Great Pyrenees dogs standing watch over their fields, and checking me out with as much interest as I was appreciating them.

 As I pulled into Mt. Vernon, the sun broke through the clouds and I prepared myself for dealing with heat for the rest of the ride.  After a quick stop, however, as I turned the corner around the little town square, clouds moved in again and deep within me I heard a familiar voice: “I made this day for you. You will do it.”  With an inward smile I rode on toward what I knew would be the most challenging section of the ride.

 The result of training all year was that I knew how my body would react to what I asked of it.  It was the mental aspect that was less certain.  The middle third of the map would present the biggest challenge: the road to Soperton.  In the same way that I turn off my odometer so I don’t watch every mile, I turned my mind away from pedaling.  I decided to name something I was thankful for on each finger.  The first five came readily: Clouds, Purple flowers, Breezes, extra Daylight hours, and Little traffic.  (My pneumonic device was a family name.)  Great route, Gorgeous views, Guardian angels (I had no idea how on target that was!) GU paks, and Good friends rounded out the fingers of the second hand.   This little exercise proved helpful when my brain wanted only to groan.  It was the most desolate part of the ride, and I knew I was the last rider.  When four cars in a tight pack sped past me without moving over, my heart leapt into my throat.  I stopped to let out a roar of frustration, then remembered the assurance spoken in Mt. Vernon and pushed on.

It was along Highway 46 that I met Lamar, riding SAG in a spiffy red sports car.  I was taking a little breather and assured him that I was fine, going to finish, just slow.  He stopped by later to confirm that the rest stop folks were waiting for me. When I reached John Hardie Farm, I was pleased to see I was only 50 minutes behind Clark.

Abe had told us that the last 20 miles was easy.  I noted that nothing was hurting and that I felt great.  I rejoiced in just being on my bike and that I was able to “do this crazy thing” at all.   I was pleased to roll into the last rest stop and have a nice conversation with the volunteers there, thanking them for waiting for me.  That is a great comfort when one is riding alone.  They were very curious about my “funny bike” and I found their warm expressions of hospitality soothing to my tired mind.  Enjoying fresh water they provided, I looked up the road to see what was, at mile 90, a very big hill.

 That was when, as they say, I hit the wall.  And it started to rain.  And the traffic picked up markedly,  . . . and my guardian angels appeared.  There’s nothing particularly glorious in my last six miles, but those angels are the heart of this story, because BJ and Rick Godby were the reason why I could finish the ride.  They pulled alongside to call encouragement, promising to stick with me ‘til the end, which my automatic stoicism assured them they needn’t do, when BJ said, “Yes, we do.  Just follow us the rest of the way.”  She recognized how spent I really was.  I followed along behind, but turned off the navigational part of my brain too soon and managed to make a stupid wrong turn for an extra quarter mile or so.  I thought I saw lightening at that point, but it didn’t repeat and soon after the rain stopped.

My resources were so depleted by then, that while taking a last breather at a gas station, I told BJ maybe it was time to SAG me in.  “Oh no, you don’t,” she countered.  You’re only a mile out.  You’re going to do this.”  There was a familiar ring to the way she said it.  Heartened, I called, “Wagons ho,” and what was now a parade of three vehicles pulled out.

On that final incline my legs and hips were screaming.  I confessed to some nausea and BJ told me that was a sign of real exhaustion, so beside me, she pushed my bike up that last hill, while she shared some of her life.  Once again, my focus shifted.  I was so honored that she would share with me.  You see, that’s what I do.  I companion people in whatever circumstances they find themselves, and BJ was companioning me.   A rare and precious few moments that began what I hope will be a lasting friendship.

It was humbling to receive this care and walk that last bit, though mentally I was sure that with some warm-up laps and that wrong turn I’d ridden 100 miles that day.  With a refreshing sense of ceremony, BJ held traffic for me at highway 280 and I happily coasted in, to find Clark, Lamar, John Hammonds and the Godbys cheering for me.  What touched me so was that Clark had waited.  That they all had.  As David reminds me, I am now part of a select group of people.  I couldn’t be prouder to be connected to those good folk who made it possible for me to do “that crazy thing.”  You can be sure, when I make Baked Swiss and Vidalia Dip with my trophy onions—I will relish every bite.