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Ride Through Time Guided Bicycle Tour shares rich history of Athens

On Nov. 6, Rural Action and Appalachian Understories will host a Ride Through Time event, which will capture the history of Athens County through a guided bicycle tour. 

The tour will outline Athens’ backroads and numerous historical and scenic stops along the way. The guided tour will begin at the Nelsonville Public Library parking lot, 95 W. Washington St. at 9:30 a.m. and will go until 1:30 p.m.

Madison Donohue, the tourism specialist at Appalachian Understories, first pursued this idea of bike tours in the Athens area two years ago. The Ride Through Time event has occurred a couple of times prior, with different locations and information provided.

Donohue described the trail for this particular version of the event, which will be 17.5 miles. 

“It's a really fun route,” Donohue said. “We start at Nelsonville, and then we bike to Haydenville, where we meet a historian. Then we will cycle to the Ora E. Anderson Trail, where we will meet another historian. Then we will bike to Carbon Hill … Tyler will also tell us about the history of Carbon Hills, the industrial history of that time, and then we'll cycle back to Nelsonville.”

Tyler McDaniel, one of the historians for the event, said in his time working on these events, the participants are often amazed at the various historical changes that have occurred in the landscapes on the trail.

“It startles people how much has changed and how these small little towns, that you can just drive through or even ride your bike through in a couple minutes once, had hundreds or even a couple thousand more people than they do now,” McDaniel said. “And they were these full functioning coal mining communities or industrial communities and were important to the cultural and social landscape of the region. They may not seem that way anymore, but they are there still.”

Donohue said one of her fondest enjoyments of these events is getting to discover new locations for the tours to cover, which allow her to witness the adventure that the participants will also experience. 

“I really like scouting them out,” Donohue said. “I go to (a) location and ride my bike all around and try to find other cool things in the area and fun ways to get there via bike. That exploration is really fun, and then also sharing that with the participants the day of the event is very exciting and enjoyable for me as well.”

The outdoor and physical activity element of the guided tour, McDaniel said, enables the participants to think more freely and feel more connected to the natural world. 

“Being on the bike, it allows people to … slow down their mind and slow down their thought process,” McDaniel said. “They’re absorbing more and they're listening. I think because they're exercising, their minds are more active too. We get some really great conversations happening, so that makes it really fun.”

Boone Troyer, the executive director of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the exposure to the rich nature of Athens inspires participants to view the area more fondly and raises awareness of environmental issues. 

“A sense of wonder and pride in the natural world often motivates people to be advocates for the health of their environment,” Troyer said in an email. “Our tours will draw upon the knowledge and passion of local people to provide participants with experiences rooted in community and place, all while supporting those who call this region home.”

Donohue stressed the enjoyment of the event is often from the connections built both between the participants and the historians and also in the newfound understanding the participants have for the Athens area. 

“I think what I've heard most is that people enjoy the camaraderie that is built throughout the tour,” Donohue said. “Doing something that you wouldn't normally do with other people who have similar interests is a great way to make friends. I think people also really like the stories that are told throughout the event. Some of them are lesser told stories that maybe you wouldn’t find in a textbook or something like that, but more of the colloquial stories that are shared by the local historians.”


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