On Wednesday afternoon, Richmond County welcomed 1,200 bicyclists to a makeshift campsite at Browder Park — just one stop on the 550 mile fall ride for Cycle NC. Riders from more than 35 states and two countries spent the night in Rockingham and left for Lumberton on Thursday.
In celebration of the fall ride, the county arranged special entertainment for cyclists during their time in town.
During the day on Wednesday, a welcome tent offered community information to the visiting cyclists. Concessions and vendors were available at the Browder Park campsite, and a shuttle service took visitors to a Beer Garden held at Dieffenbach GM Superstore and a live performance from the band “Almost Perfect.”
Throughout the campsite, brightly colored clothing hung from clotheslines as bikers worked to set up tents and eat a quick lunch. Mobile showering trailers were offered along with the facilities at Browder Park, and bike test rides, repair shops and gear were available at vendors throughout the park.
Brothers Joe and Tom Goldston from High Point worked to pitch a tent on the reformed ball field early Wednesday afternoon.
The ride had proved to be challenging, they said, especially in areas like Kings Mountain, where they said they had to seek shelter after a dangerous tornado missed them by less than a mile.
Tom Vickers of Wilmington and Rick Barry of Greenville, S.C., said they had been making the trip with a group, and had stopped to eat hamburgers next to their own tent.
“This is the best part — when we can stop and take a break,” Vickers said as he sat in a folding chair with Barry, his former neighbor in Wilmington.
“It’s a good way to stay in shape,” Barry said, and added that he has been riding for 30 to 40 years. “(My bike) was my transportation from the time I was around 13.”
Vickers agreed, recalling that he used to find bikes on the side of the road and put them together when he was younger.
This year’s Cycle NC fall ride began in Brevard on Sunday morning, Barry said, where they biked about 42 miles. The ride will take cyclists through Brevard, Lake Lure, Shelby, Matthews, Rockingham, Lumberton, White Lake and Carolina Beach.
“It seems like we’ve gone that many (miles) already,” Vickers said with a laugh.
The riding atmosphere has been enjoyable, the two said, and they have enjoyed meeting so many new people.
“You’d be surprised at how polite everyone is,” Barry said. “At the campsites, you have a different neighbor every night.”
“There are also a lot of support vehicles,” Vickers added. “People whose husbands or wives are driving along with them — things like that.”
Area residents also worked to make sure the cyclists were welcomed. The Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Development were present to assist visitors with any questions they may have.
Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin said he was pleased with the county participation with Cycle NC.
“It’s great to have all these cyclists in our community, and I wanted to thank everybody for welcoming them,” McLaurin said. “I know some good activities were planned and it’s great to be able to have a chance to show folks what we’ve got going on in Rockingham and Richmond County, even if it’s just for a brief stop … I think it shows a lot when our community embraces visitors like this and gives people a good feeling about being in Richmond County. I commend the chamber, local businesses and everybody else that rolled out the red carpet.”
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.