FARMVILLE — Two area businesses will serve as rest stops for hundreds of bicyclists participating in a mountains to the coast ride that will traverse the area in the fall.
Cycle NC reached out to Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville and Simply Natural Creamery in Ayden to see if each would be interested in serving as stops for the 19th annual ride.
This year’s event starts in Jefferson Sept. 30 and ends in Swansboro Oct. 7. Cyclists will ride 60 to 100 miles each day with overnight stops in Elkin, Oak Ridge, Chapel Hill, Knightdale, Wilson and Kinston.
When cyclists depart Wilson Oct. 6, Cycle NC hoped they could rest at Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery and enjoy lunch. Brewery owner Paul Philippon agreed.
“I’m excited. It is neat, and will bring a lot of people here, so they can see where we are located,” he said, adding Duck-Rabbit will offer the cyclists beer samples and tours of the brewery.
Cycle NC will provide snacks and lunch for the cyclists at Duck-Rabbit, but Philippon is in talks with local businesses throughout Pitt County to also set up booths on the property that day to offer additional food options, he said.
Cyclist Steven Hardy-Braz of Farmville has completed the mountains to coast ride six times. When he learned Cycle NC was coming to Farmville, he was beyond thrilled.
“This is a great thing for Farmville, and as a town, we need to be ready,” he said.
Hardy-Braz is a Pitt County tourism ambassador. He is working with the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote Pitt County as an overnight stay on the ride in the future.
“The visitors bureau is really aiming to make Greenville an overnight stop,” he said, adding that making Farmville the “best” stop in Cycle NC’s history will help in that feat.
Hardy-Braz is working with the town, its police department and the Farmville Chamber of Commerce to ensure the infrastructure is in tip-top shape and business owners are ready to accommodate more than 1,200 cyclists Oct. 6.
Cycle NC has proposed its cyclists arrive in town via N.C. 121 from Walstonburg, where they will pick up Pine Street and ride directly to Duck-Rabbit.
Hardy-Braz and two fellow cyclists, Dave Manning of Greenville and Janelle Sun, a physical therapy intern at Vidant Medical Center, cycled roadways June 22 to scope out alternate routes that would better showcase Farmville.
Hardy-Braz hopes Cycle NC will reroute cyclists through downtown Farmville. The chamber hopes this happens, too.
Judy Gidley, the director of the Farmville Chamber of Commerce, is encouraging business owners to create bicycle-themed window displays. Local business owners are no strangers to creating window displays for special events. Most typically do so during the Farmville Dogwood Festival.
Michael Cable, the owner of Woodside Antiques and Auctions, plans to participate. He owns numerous vintage bicycles that he plans to place in his large window displays.
Michael Tracy at The GlasStation plans to create a bicycle made of glass for cyclists to view.
Gidley also plans to place signs along N.C. 121 welcoming cyclists to town. She is also hoping to secure volunteers to ring bells as they ride by.
From Duck-Rabbit, cyclists will ride approximately 13 miles to Simply Natural Creamery. Cycle NC has cyclists traveling past Farmville’s four-school campus to Moye-Turnage Road to Willow Green to N.C. 903 to Carson-Edwards Road.
“We have been told 1,000 to 1,200 cyclists will be coming through in waves,” said Natalie Aynes, the event coordinator for Simply Natural Creamery. “We will serve as a ‘festival pit stop,’ where cyclists can enjoy our ice cream and take a tour around the farm.
“This is a big deal, and we knew we wanted to be a part of it for cyclists to get to know about us. Hopefully, in future years, we can serve as a rest stop again. We are excited about it and look forward to welcoming them.”
On the final day of the ride, once the cyclists reach Swansboro, they will each receive a pint of chocolate milk courtesy of Simply Natural Creamery, Aynes said.
“I want cyclists to have the opportunity to explore this beautiful area,” Hardy-Braz said. “The mountains to coast ride typically will have cyclists from all 50 states and at least 20 countries represented. Most of the cyclists will be age 50 and older. They are healthy and retired and want to see and experience beautiful North Carolina. They will want to window shop and experience the state’s music, culture and food.
“I remember experiencing our state’s different barbecue and music. There is such great diversity in North Carolina.”
Sun, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., has never ridden in a Cycle NC event.
“My bucket list is growing, and it’s something I want to do,” she said with a smile.
Sun began cycling in 2008. The longest route she has completed in a day was 75 miles.
“Biking for me was a necessity. I didn’t have a car until I was 24, but even after I got a car, I soon realized how much I love the feel of a bike and enjoy being outside. It feels like freedom. It’s a form of mediation, too,” she said.
Sun also enjoys the social aspect of cycling. She moved to Pitt County over Memorial Day weekend, and quickly sought cycle groups. She is now teamed up with ECVelo, a local cycling group. It was on the group’s Facebook page that she learned of Hardy-Braz’s Thursday social ride from Duck-Rabbit to Simply Natural Creamery and back.
Manning has been cycling for the past three years.
“I’m not speeding spandex. I enjoy life. Cycling puts what life really is all about in perspective. You’ve got to slow down and enjoy it,” he said. “For me, cycling is all about finishing. It is not a trip, but a journey.”
For Hardy-Braz, who began cycling in 2006, the sport is best summed up by Third Eye Blind’s song, “Motorcycle Drive By.”
“‘I never felt so alone, yet so alive,’” he said, as he recited a line from the song. “Cycling you are aware of your environment. You are so focused on it that you’re so free to hear the sounds, feel the wind, smell the smells, like the richness of the soil after a rain. On a bike, I’m not cut off like I am in a car. I’m connected with the world.
“Riding with others, there is a social aspect that you can’t get in a car where someone may be on their phone or snoozing or the music may be up.”
Hardy-Braz is also working with the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau to organize a Brewery to Brewery bike ride throughout Pitt County with stops in Greenville and Farmville. He is hoping the ride will tie into the bureau’s efforts to start a Brew & Cue trail, which will highlight North Carolina’s breweries and barbecue.
Hardy-Braz, Manning and Sun also cycled possible routes for a Brewery to Brewery bike ride earlier this month.
Cycle NC is a nonprofit organization “designed to promote physical fitness and good health, provide economic impact for North Carolina’s rural communities and promote the paralleled cultural and geographical diversity of the state,” according to its mission statement.
The Farmville Enterprise serves western Pitt County including the towns of Falkland, Farmville and Fountain.