Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT 2013)
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Brake for the 2013 Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT)

Do you remember when you got your first bicycle?

I still remember the shiny white bike my grandpa presented to me on my fifth birthday. It came equipped with training wheels so I rode up and down his gravel driveway endlessly until the big day came when I got the nod from my dad to take the trainers off.

Dad ran alongside holding me upright for a bit but finally turned me loose to wobble a bit and then – fly! Or so it seemed to me at the time. That little bike took me places that I remember fondly to this day.

I wasn’t riding for physical fitness. I was riding for fun but it’s nice to get both when you can.

One of my wife’s gal pals Sarah Lovett regularly rides with her husband and biking buddies in and around Murfreesboro. A fun-loving biker who takes on long distance rides in various parts of the country, Sarah mentioned she’d be riding in the fall BRAT again this year. With a name like BRAT, I was naturally curious.

Turns out BRAT is shorthand for Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee and it’s an event that’s been going strong for more than two decades here in the Volunteer State. This year’s fall ride is a seven-day excursion scheduled for Sept.14-21. It tours West Tennessee beginning at Meeman-Shelby State Park north of Memphis and visits several other Tennessee State Parks in the flat to rolling terrain between the Mississippi River and Kentucky Lake.

Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT 2013)

These days about 200 riders are expected for the fall BRAT with about half being from Tennessee. (Photo: Sarah Lovett)

The idea is to have a relaxing, enjoyable week while riding about 70 miles per day for seven days in a row which leaves me out even if I hire one of the cycling support companies to pitch my tent and bring me hot coffee every morning.

So I called up David Drye, who’s been riding at BRATs since the first one back in 1987 to find out more about this year’s BRAT and what keeps riders like him and Sarah coming back.

He says BRAT is fun and very well organized. Registration takes care of just about everything except the pedaling; it includes baggage trucks, SAG wagon and a bike mechanic in case you or your bike needs help, camping spots, hot showers and most meals plus concerts and interpretive programs at night. At some sites, rooms in State Parks or neighboring towns are available for additional fees.

BRAT 2013 Cyclist

BRAT cyclists will ride 380-450 miles in seven days depending on options they choose.
(Photo: Tennessee State Parks)

But it’s probably as much about the life-long friends you meet as the roads you ride. And David should know. He met his wife years ago at her first BRAT.

But it’s not always a couples kind of thing as he explained while telling the story of a fellow cyclist who was passionate about biking. His wife was passionate about horses. So he bought her a bike and she bought him a horse. David was laughing because they’re still married but wound up selling his horse and her bike. I guess it just goes to show, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t necessarily make a biker ride it there.

BRAT 2013 Cyclist and Park Ranger

Tennessee State Park Rangers escort BRAT bikers along back roads routes to see Tennessee from a bicycle seat perspective. (Photo: Sarah Lovett)

The first BRAT in 1987 had riders from 39 states. Some years the limit of riders was reached with waiting lists in case someone dropped out. Sometimes rides offer one and two-day options but the fall BRAT is all in for the full seven days.

Are you up for this year’s BRAT? For details visit http://thebrat.org.

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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