Michelle is trying out a beautiful borrowed road bike she hopes to ride on the mid-April Bike Ride Across Georgia Spring Tune-Up, a three-day tour through the green countryside near Rutledge.

We wanted to have a good day of riding and exploring that didn’t involve using our car at all, so we picked out the West End area,since it has a few sites we’ve wanted to visit. We walked the bikes across our street to the Chamblee MARTA Station and headed towards the West End Station. I ride MARTA often, and usually it’s a utilitarian activity, but on this day, we had fun encountering a few musical merrymakers returning home from their St. Patrick’s Day Parade performance with the Seed & Feed Marching Abominables Band. This put us in a good mood for some serious exploring.

We used the Ride with GPS phone app (Google Maps in the bike mode is fine also) for some good short routes to places we wanted to go. Much of the riding in this area can be done on the Atlanta Beltline and other connecting paved paths. We headed west from MARTA first on neighborhood streets, then on the off-road paths to the west and north, then back on Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. to the Atlanta University area.

On the way, we stopped to read a historical marker at Warren Memorial United Methodist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders met with the community in 1961 on the journey to desegregation. If I were driving, I’d typically promise to stop instead on the next trip, but I hardly ever do. It’s easier to pull a bike over for a minute.

We found an easy backstreet way to Hammonds House Museum, which happens to also host our sister congregation Abundant LUUv! We didn’t stay long, but it felt good enough in the space that we wanted to return.

Michelle has ancestors resting at Westview Cemetery, so we headed on neighborhood streets toward Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. On the way, we encountered a friendly dog walker, saw some eye-popping mural art, and stopped and pondered the history and future of an amazing – but now distressed – stone church building at RDA & Inman.

Westview Cemetery is an enormous, awe-inspiring, historically significant site which I had known nothing at all about! We were greeted there by a sign that warned “no bicycles allowed,” which we surmised meant no riding on the grass. We rode on the road to the Baird section, where Michelle was reminded of family stories. On the way out, a friendly groundskeeper confirmed that some irresponsible club riding had in fact led to a ban on bike riding. He didn’t seem too concerned about us though and shared an abundance of local history, which was a joy to hear.

Shortly after, we stopped at the Slutty Vegan restaurant, which looked like our kind of place – except for the long line as the sun was getting low. Just before we got back on the off-road trail, I realized I was at a familiar spot I hadn’t thought about much lately. It was the Cascade House, a YWCA shelter where both Michelle and I had served, at different times, with others from UUCA in the 1990s. There’s a bike shop there now.

We made our way back down to the Beltline and the trendy warehouse district. In front, the lots were packed with cars, but we found plenty of bike parking in back along the path where freight rail once served heavy industry here. What we initially thought of, I guess, as the main destination for the day, was found at Wild Heaven Brewery. There we washed down cleverly crafted, tasty tacos with artisan beer. It was a pleasant scene. Sunset was at hand, and one of the bikes had no lights, so we took the quickest way back to MARTA, which meant a stint on the sidewalk to avoid a big road (always yield to pedestrians and be extra cautious of cars that might cross your path). There was a beautiful sunset for us to enjoy while waiting on the platform for the train.

The moral of this story for me is that – with an inexpensive bike and some free online mapping and local bus or train lines when applicable, which usually accept bikes – short day trips are workable and fun. They can follow bike paths. Most of the really interesting things are on the streets. You might take the most efficient route in your car but miss the best parts. Go with a friend or several of them. If you don’t like the busier roads, take a little time to plan around them. And enjoy!

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us on Zoom for our monthly meetings. Do you have an outdoor adventure to share with our readers? Email Jon Reese with details!