Early this morning, long before most Newton County residents awoke from a long night's sleep, Scott Sewell made a few final preparations, kissed his wife Muffin and his two children Josh and Blakeney, hopped on his $4,500 bicycle and embarked on a seven-day journey.
Three miles down the road, throngs of people emerged from tents scattered on the lawn in front of Allen Memorial Methodist Church on Oxford College's campus. Like Sewell, they all had one thing on their mind. "It's time to ride."
Riders from across the country converged upon Oxford this weekend to partake in the annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (B.R.A.G.).
They all departed today on a 461-mile trek through the Peach State, ultimately cruising into St. Simons on Saturday. Sewell, who goes by "Scooter" with his riding buddies, has completed the ride before.
Cycling runs in his family. As a youngster, Sewell enjoyed cycling at an early age and says his father played a large role in fostering a desire for riding.
"I've always enjoyed cycling," Sewell said. "My dad was a racer up in New York years ago and I grew up on BMX. I actually did a little BMX racing on dirt before it was all stunts. I've always enjoyed riding a bike."
An engineer by trade, Sewell now stays at home to care after his two young children. But that doesn't mean he doesn't get out and ride. As a member of the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club (C4), he rides 60 to 100 miles in a typical week.
"I've been riding with C4 for about two years and we get out every weekend to ride," he said. "It seems like whenever we go out we try and take it easy. But someone starts pushing it then everything goes out the window and we ride pretty hard."
Sewell has ridden competitively in the past, competing in road races, time trials and criterium racing events, and he says he likes the various disciplines because they present different challenges.
"Crit racing is fun because you get that sense of pure speed," he said referring to racing the short city courses that typically make up a Criterium circuit. "Going 30 (m.p.h.) feels like you're just screaming around city blocks. But road racing is cool because you cover long distances and you get hills and different terrain."
Sewell is considered a climber as his slight build gives him an advantage when riding in hills. Larger riders usually outpace him on the flat surfaces and he says drafting comes in to play during a ride.
"Someone like (C4 president) Maurice (Carter) punches a big hole in the air and you can really catch a draft when you get over 15 or 20 m.p.h.," he said. "It helps guys like me because those guys can really pound it on the flat roads."
The price tag on Sewell's bike rivals that of a used car. He rides a Cannondale made from composite materials, but says a good rider can do well on all types of bikes.
"It really comes down to the motor," he said referring to the rider. "The newer bikes make a difference, but a good rider can be fast on an aluminum frame bike just as easily."
This year marks the 13th consecutive B.R.A.G. event for Sewell and 14th overall. Sewell said a college friend turned him onto the event in 1992 and he's been riding in it ever since.
B.R.A.G. also gives Sewell a chance to catch up with old friends. Every year friends from North Carolina come down for to ride and he says the week-long event is more about hanging out with friends than competitive riding.
"It has always been a fun event and very social," he said. "It's great because I get to see people I haven't seen for a while. People get together for this event and we look forward to it every year."
Born in Athens and raised in Madison County, Sewell graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology 12 years ago and previously worked as an engineer at Fibervision before deciding to become a stay-at-home dad.
Among his hobbies, Sewell enjoys wrenching on cars and has been an active member in the Southeastern MGT Club, where he just completed a two-year term as president.
However, bicycle riding is his passion and he hopes to get back into competitive riding in the near future.
"It's been a while since I've raced but my plan is to hopefully get in a few races after July or August", he said. "Going fast is in my blood. It's the adrenaline. I really enjoy the competition and pushing myself."
Sewell plans to ride in two other similar events including the R.A.G.B.R.A.I. (Register's Great Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), the ride that organizers modeled the B.R.A.G. event after. He enjoys the camaraderie and says cycling is a tight-knit group of passionate people.
Until then Sewell will enjoy cycling through Georgia this week. He plans to take it easy and cherish his time with friends he sees but once a year.
"Pretty much every year we have this event on the calendar," he said. "I may not see my friends from my riding days very much, but we always get together for B.R.A.G. It's kind of our thing. We all look forward to this and it's great to see our buddies and just enjoy the ride."