Labor of love: Five years in, Sosebee Cycling Park provides key amenities to area cyclists

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As a member of the Brew Crew, Steve Dougherty is continuing to embrace retirement, with frequent travels down Bartow’s back roads.

Aided by the complimentary amenities provided at Sosebee Cycling Park, the Cartersville resident and his fellow cyclists are being treated to an overall “more enjoyable” riding experience. Situated at 465 Simpson Road N.E. in White, the 8-acre property provides cyclists with an area to park, portable restroom facilities, changing stalls, picnic tables, automatic tire inflator and water.

“I have been cycling since 1991,” said Dougherty, who is the former president of North Georgia Technical College and North Metro Technical College. “We have an informal club made up of about 150 people on an email list. I am one of three people who email ride plans each week. We have been using Sosebee since Chris [Sosebee] created it.

“... I average about three visits [to Sosebee Cycling Park] a week this time of year. The park is great because Chris has built nice changing rooms for getting out of sweat-soaked cycling clothes; there is nice shade and a water spigot. The benches Chris built in the shade make for great conversations after a ride.”

‘The Brew Crew’

With the group bearing the name Brew Crew, Dougherty jokingly said some of the members are “beer drinkers with a cycling problem.” The moniker alludes to the cyclists’ former gathering spot near Cass White Road — the Anheuser-Busch Cartersville brewery’s parking lot.

“We usually split up into three [to] four subgroups based on how far and how fast people want to ride,” Dougherty said Wednesday. “Today most of us rode 49 [to] 53 miles on a route that went through Kingston and stopped at Barnsley Gardens before going over CCC Road, etc.

“Sosebee Cycling Park makes the whole cycling experience in Bartow County more enjoyable. Bartow County is a fantastic place to ride — many friends and I have ridden all over the U.S. and in some foreign countries — but before the park, we often found ourselves changing out of dripping-wet cycling shorts in a parking lot using [the] towel-wrapped-around-the-waist method. Not a pretty sight for passersby when it involves a 69-year-old man.”

Created out of love

Created about five years ago, Sosebee Cycling Park is a labor of love for Christopher Sosebee and his wife, Chandra. For Sosebee, the site grew out of necessity, needing to provide the area’s cycling community with staples and a safe gathering spot.

“The inspiration [for the cycling park] basically is we’re cyclists — me and my wife,” said Sosebee, who also is the president of the Red Top Cycling Club. “Everybody’s been parking at Budweiser plant for the past 20 years. This has been an area where people ride for over 20 years. [However], with the new school out there — Cass High School — and with the new industry, [it] made Cass White Road very busy. We just really didn’t plan anything. ... [Initially] it was just a few friends that would park here, instead of parking there, so they wouldn’t have to be on a busy road.

“... Cycle etiquette is when you ride with a group, you wait [for] that last [cyclist] to make sure everybody’s OK before you cut loose and go. ... They might be 30 minutes behind you because you have different levels of riders. So you’re sitting out in the hot sun with no water, no restrooms, no relief. So this just made sense. It [first] was just a local group. Red Top Cycling Club was parking out here, and then as time progressed, people just started migrating over here. ... It was just out of a necessity [that] we kept adding things, and it is what it is today.”

With the park situated on the corner of the annual Beautiful Backroads Century’s route, Sosebee said the site draws many cyclists who enjoy riding that popular marked path. The event, which draws more than 1,000 cyclists each year, starts and ends at Anheuser-Busch and raises money for Hickory Log Vocational School in White.

“Most of our people that are here [are] retired,” Sosebee said. “So they’ll come up during the week on Wednesday and on a Saturday. They’ll do their birthdays for the month. They’ll [have] a little lunch and birthday celebration [at the picnic tables. Then] they’ll actually ride as many miles [as] their birthday years were. Like some of them are in their 70s, and they’ll ride 70-some miles.

“There’s probably 30 different clubs that come up here, the biggest one being the North Atlanta Riding Club. ... It ranges anywhere from all the way from south Atlanta to Chattanooga, over to Canton and Rome.”

More planned

Looking ahead, Sosebee plans to install permanent restroom and shower facilities, implement yoga-related offerings and establish a community garden.

“Our plans are huge,” Sosebee said. “We have some property right behind it that ... we’re not using. ... I was in Europe for a while, for almost seven years, and the big thing there was cooperative farming, where you just have a field plowed up, mark out little sections, and people come and plant their garden. So we’re going to be doing that next year.

“We’re going to be working with the local establishments here. They’re volunteering to help us teach how to grow organic vegetables and stuff. So we’re going to do that. So what you’ll do is you’ll come ride your bike, cool down, eat your sandwich. There will be a little tool shed there, [so you will] get your tools, go out, [then] plant your garden or hoe your garden. ... So basically, all in all, we just try to take this community that’s just developed on its own ... and try to add to that and make it ... about healthy living — the exercise, the eating, the stretching, the yoga — the whole nine yards.”

Another goal of Sosebee’s is to inspire others to create park-and-ride sites along Bartow’s rural routes. With this in mind, he also helps oversee another cycling park on Bozeman Road, which features similar amenities to his first offering.

“The whole mission was not just to have this park,” Sosebee said. “We were trying to encourage other people to do the same as we have. ... The problem is when you’re riding, you don’t want to be out where the cars are at. But when you’re riding for four hours, you’ve got to have a bathroom somewhere; you’ve got to have water somewhere. So in order to keep the riders from being in a congested area, we’re trying to open up some areas where they can get water and use the bathroom out in the rural area.

“... My concern is there’s a lot of people who do not like cyclists, and there’s good reason. A lot of them will not get over and let the traffic pass. We’re not causing more people to come into the area,” he said, referring to opening his cycling park. “They’re here anyway. So what we’re doing is actually helping the motorists as much as the cyclists. If you look at our park, you’ve got signage — ‘ride single file,’ ‘allow traffic to pass.’ Everything that you see there is for the safety of the cyclists and the community not to be overrun or overwhelmed with having to get by a cyclist.”

For more information about Sosebee Cycling Park or to contribute financially to this effort, call 770-354-4777 or visit its Facebook page.