Marietta treats cyclists to holiday lights tour

MARIETTA – Strings of multi-colored star lights, cool blue bulbs, ornaments playing Christmas carols and a brightly lit snowman were some of the many Christmas displays enjoyed by the cyclists on the Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour Thursday night – and that was before the tour even started.

Decking out the bicycles with holiday lights and decorations has become part of the tradition of the annual tour, which took more than 60 riders on an approximately 10-mile ride through Marietta.

Payton Wilson, 6, of Marietta had done up his bike with a set of battery-operated stars lights right before dinner Thursday.

“His mams went out and bought the lights today,” said his father, Austin Wilson, 31.

Bundled in borrowed gear, including gloves, a scarf and a ski helmet, Houston resident Alice Snider, 66, was ready to roll Thursday night.

“My brother told us about this. I borrowed everything,” said Snider.

It was 87 degrees when she left Houston earlier this week, she added.

Her brother Brad Craig, 56, of Parkersburg said the family had wanted to start the tradition last year, but the weather – with temperatures in the teens – was not ideal.

“This year, we’re in,” said Craig.

Added Craig’s niece Tana Glenn, 46, of Dallas, “This will be our new family tradition.”

Last year, 16 cyclists turned out for the wet, icy ride.

“Last year was a driving, icy rain, so only the die-hards were out,” said Robert Hune-Kalter, 25, who has been participating in the tour since its inception 18 years ago.

This year, quadruple the number of riders had registered by the time the tour took off from the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Marietta at 7 p.m. It was around 37 degrees, which was perfect for some but terrible for others.

“How do you brag about going on a 40-degree bike ride?” asked Marietta resident Gil Moore, 46.

The cold and therein the bragging rights for going on a freezing 10-mile bike are the best part about the holiday tour, which Moore has been doing for four years.

Though Moore would have liked it a little colder, he still enjoyed his other Holiday Lights Bike Tour traditions, which include fixing a big pot of ham and beans for participants to enjoy at the church and wearing his motorcycle helmet for the ride.

Parkersburg resident Steve Simonton, 67, said he always enjoys the chance to gather with fellow riders after the tour.

“It’s nice – the hot chocolate after it’s over and the friends,” he said.

This year a slide show presentation of a September bike trip along the Natchez Parkway in Tennessee was to be shown as the riders relaxed and socialized after the tour, said Roger Kalter, ride coordinator and founder of the event.

Also a first this year, riders were going to be traveling along the newest one-mile stretch of the River Trail. The River Trail was underwater Tuesday and was a mess Thursday morning, said Kalter.

“The city came out and cleared the River Trail between Fourth and Fifth (streets) and the Juvenile Center cleared the beginning of the trail. We really appreciate that,” he said.