Friday, September 21, 2012

Catching the Comet

Silver Comet Ride
Day 1
September 20, 2021
We don’t actually ride our bikes today--we just pack up the car, put the bikes on the rack and head north to meet our fellow riders in Rockport, Georgia, where we will catch the Silver Comet Trail tomorrow.

But, we rarely manage to drive straight to our destination without finding an interesting diversion along the way, and this trip is no exception.
While trying to figure out where we might stop for lunch around Macon, I notice the Ocmulgee National Monument is right off the highway.  With a little I-Pad research we learn that it is the site of ceremonial earth mounds dating back to 1,000 years ago.  We stop at Subway for the makings of a picnic, and head for the mounds.

After lunch, serenaded by mocking birds holding a sing-off in the picnic area, we visit the Visitor Center and Museum, where we learn a lot about the remarkable history of this site, where archaeological excavations have unearthed evidence of “17,000 years of continuous human habitation.”  The Native Americans who lived here and venerated the mounds as sacred ground were removed to Oklahoma in 1826. Later, the Georgia Central Railroad ran its tracks right through one of the mounds, and pot hunters looted others.   Northern and Southern troops met here during the Civil War, and added their earthworks and trenches to the ancient contours of the land. 
Still, many treasures and extraordinary discoveries awaited the WPA and CCC crews that worked here during the 1930s.  Under the supervision of a team of distinguished archeologists, 600 to 800 workers at a time participated in the biggest dig in the country. 

After learning getting all this background at the Museum, it is time to see the mounds.

The Earth Lodge is “America’s Oldest Ceremonial Lodge,” constructed around 1015 CE.  From the outside, it looks like a very large conical mound, but as we walk around it, we see an entrance tunnel.  We have to crouch low and awkwardly waddle to get through the dark 26 foot long entry passageway.  At the end of the tunnel, we find this expansive ceremonial space, which we are told is within six inches of being a perfect circle. Its clay walls and wooden ceiling beams have been reconstructed, but we are looking at the original 1,000 year old floor, with a molded image of a bird in front of the leader’s throne, and chairs for others of descending rank positioned around the periphery of the circle so that they decrease in height and width as they get further from the leader’s power position.  (On the way out, Dick forgets how low the tunnel is, we can’t see in the dark, and he hits his head.)
We climb to the top of the 55-foot high Great Temple Mound, where we have panoramic views of the surrounding country side and a particularly dramatic view of a railroad track running next to the raw clay side of a mound cut in half so the track could run straight through.

We cut our visit short in the interest of getting through Atlanta before rush hour.  Luck is with us, and we fly right through the traffic on the city’s periphery. 
We are in Rockport just in time to join our biking buddies for Happy Hour (we take over the Econolodge breakfast area with our drinks and snacks), then dinner at a Mexican restaurant just a five minute walk from our hotel. 

Tomorrow will be our first ride with the club in almost a year.  It will be 50 miles, nearly twice the longest distance we have ridden since getting back in the saddle again.  Will we make it?  As we go to sleep tonight, we are wondering what tomorrow may bring.

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