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By Charlie Pearl
Last fall I said I wouldn't be doing this again.
I changed my mind.
Along with 50 others, I'm participating this week in the ninth annual Governor's Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky.
Starting Thursday, GABRAKY is a four-day, 250-mile journey going from Carrollton by the Ohio River to Dale Hollow Lake State Resort on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
It's not a race, although a few pedal hard and set a good pace, such as the lean "Fat Boys" from Louisville. They're so energetic they do a yo-yo, riding from Dale Hollow to the northern starting point before the official ride begins.
For me at 64, GABRAKY is a contemplative ride, a time to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of our state with old friends and new ones.
Joining 17 Kentuckians will be cyclists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio and Indiana.
The route has changed several times through the years, but the knobs of Marion County have always been a scenic part of the trip.
We'll stay at My Old Kentucky Home campgrounds Friday evening. Saturday's ride (Day 3) is the one I'm looking most forward to - with a morning rest stop at the Abbey of Gethsemani and lunch at Loretto Motherhouse, two of my favorite quiet places.
After stopping at Gethsemani, we'll ride to St. Francis, Loretto, and then Nerinx for lunch. Then we'll back track a little before heading to Raywick and Scott's Ridge.
Several months ago on a training ride with Frankfort's Ed Stodola, the founder of GABRAKY, he thought the stretch from Raywick to Saloma in Taylor County was magnificent.
Day 3 ends at Green River Lake State Park, 61 miles from Bardstown.
GABRAKY is an annual fundraiser for the Grand Theatre, a 428-seat performing arts center in downtown Frankfort. We've managed to raise more than $83,000 in eight years.
Part of the proceeds goes to Walk/Bike Frankfort, a nonprofit group working to build safe cycling and pedestrian paths.
GABRAKY starts Thursday morning at General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton and ends Sunday afternoon at Dale Hollow Lake.
Thursday, when riders reach Point Park in Carrollton - where the Ohio and Kentucky rivers merge across from Indiana - they'll dip their back tires in the water. The day's ride ends in downtown Frankfort at the Old Governor's Mansion with a reception.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, cyclists are invited to a concert at the Grand Theatre featuring "perhaps the world's greatest Beatles tribute band," says Grand president Bill Cull.
Bicyclists start Day 2 with a police escort to the Capitol for a brief ceremony, before hitting tough hills in Franklin County on the way to lunch at Taylorsville Lake State Park. Friday's ride finishes in Bardstown.
Sunday, the final day, starts at Green River Lake campgrounds, and after a 17-mile ride, cyclists will be treated to a brunch at Columbia's Lindsey Wilson College, a major supporter of GABRAKY every year.
The 40-mile afternoon ride includes a winding, dangerous downhill, and a monstrous uphill seven miles from the finish. The journey ends when we dip our front tires in Dale Hollow Lake.
One friend I've met while doing seven consecutive GABRAKY rides is Chris Schmidt, dean of students at Lindsey Wilson, whose wife is the former Rebecca Peers from Marion County.
A strong cyclist who completed the Louisville Ironman this year, friendly Chris is traditionally one of the front riders. But every day he drops back occasionally to talk with and encourage slower riders.
He coached LWC's cycling team in its early years.
"I helped establish the credibility, integrity and foundation of the program, along with the student athletes that competed," Chris says. "During those years (1997-2000) we won every regional race we entered (and) dominated at nationals."
Editor's note: Charlie Pearl is a retired Frankfort journalist and co-chair of GABRAKY. He grew up in Lebanon and worked 18 years for Landmark Newspapers including five at The Lebanon Enterprise in the 1990s.