Tandem bike rally coming to Covington

COVINGTON -- Approximately 200 cyclists will arrive in Covington beginning Thursday to take part in the 2010 Georgia Tandem Bike Rally.

"We're going to eat a lot and we're going to have some parties, too -- it will be three days of riding and socializing," said Ride Director Roger Strauss.

About 92 tandem bicycles, which are designed to be ridden by more than one person, will be on local streets, with about 190 riders representing 16 states, Strauss said.

The group will arrive Thursday evening and remain through Sunday. Strauss said riders will be eating at local restaurants the majority of the time and will stay at local hotels. The host hotel is Hampton Inn, with overflow rooms booked at Holiday Inn Express.

"The Georgia Tandem Rally was held in Albany in 2008 and Albany figured their city realized an economic impact of over $60,000 for the three days," said Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Clara Deemer.

"The 2010 rally participants will be staying three days in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, having an ice cream social using Scoops and several other activities in our community. All of these events will generate income for our local businesses. We encourage you to welcome the many visitors to our area this weekend and be patient when the traffic is slow or if you have to watch for cyclists on our streets. This is a great opportunity for Covington/Newton County residents to show visitors why we are such a special community."

Cyclists will spend Thursday evening socializing and then take off from the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle Friday morning for a ride through Walton and Morgan counties. They will finish up back at the Blue Willow for lunch.

On Saturday and Sunday, they will mainly be in Newton County, leaving from Hampton Inn both days and heading north on Saturday toward Good Hope in Walton County and then back through Oxford. That day they are planning to have lunch at Turner Lake Complex and a banquet at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. On Sunday, they will head south into Mansfield and Newborn.

Cyclists can select different routes, averaging between 30 and 70 miles per day.

"Please share the road. Wave at us, but no honking," Strauss said.

The rally is one of the largest annual gatherings of tandem cyclists in the Southeast. Originally, organizers planned for this year's event to be held in Savannah, but when that fell through, they settled on Covington after learning about the new Hampton Inn, which had adequate rooms to accommodate participants, Strauss said.

"It was not our first choice, but it's turning out to be a swell choice. Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly," he said.

For more information on the Georgia Tandem Bike Rally, visit www.georgiatandemrally.com.