Somewhere Near the Chief Ladiga Trailhead

We set off to pick up Mark. He is on the last leg of the Trans North GA bike packing race and will cross the finish later tonight. We don’t know it yet but this night will change our lives forever and steer RTR on a new course of awareness. It’s about a
two hour drive to the finish at the Chief Ladiga trail head and this is the finish line of the TNGA. I am just
starting to look for the turn off when we encounter The Roadblock. We count 20 law enforcement
officers in swat gear preparing for a sting op of contraband crossing state lines. As we stop we get lots of
likes for the dog in the back. If you haven’t met him yet Chance is 120 lbs of canine magnetism. We
head through The Roadblock and on up the road, our turn off should be on the left just up ahead. 10
miles on we have passed a lake and nothing else but the state line. I have no cell service (thank you
AT&T) and oh yeah, I think we might be lost! We head to The Roadblock again. Lots more cheers for
the dog in the back from them and ‘Maybe you can tell me where this road is?’ from us. So these cops
are all from surrounding counties and no one has heard of the Silver Comet trail much less the Chief
Ladiga trailhead. These guys are gearing up for fun, but not the biking kind! ‘I think we are lost” I say.
‘But I am sure the road to the trail has to be like right here.’ Three cops pull out their cell phones
simultaneously (you can picture it, right?) to look up the name of the road. These guys have cell service
(apparently not with AT&T). ‘She’s right’, the cop closest to me says, ‘its right here’. We all look in the
direction he is pointing. Directly to the right is a line of cop cars. Picture the road blocked off with vans
and other vehicles and in the dark it is completely hidden! After kindly moving the vehicle blockade,
they send us on our way with directions to turn left at the dirt road and a ‘Have Fun!’

‘You too!’ we yell, which brings on a bout of laughter as we head up the now passable road to the
trailhead. We have finally made it to the arch at the trailhead at the GA/Alabama border and the pick
up point for riders who have made the 350 grueling miles to the finish. No awards or fan fare here, just
a quiet finish in the blackness of a starless night. There are 2 other cars parked in the blackness on the
trail as we turn off the unnamed SR dirt rd onto the paved trail. The only light is coming from the headlights of those of us waiting to pick up the finishers. We watch as 3 riders finish and are helped into a waiting SUV. As they pass by I see the weary faces of 2 of them who have given it their all in order to
finish. We find ourselves alone in the dark and wonder how the cops are doing as we watch Mark creep closer on the GPS.

It will be another 2 hours before we see a small pinpoint of light approaching us in the dark night that’s
now alive with the sound of the cicadas as they fill the black void with their summer homage. It’s so far
away that at first I wonder if it’s just a firefly, but as it moves closer I know it must be a bike light. Mark
has made it, he crosses under the arch of the trailhead and we let Chance out to meet him As he slides
into the passenger seat next to me, Mark says, ‘We have to go back and get the skeleton dog.’