Ride Report: Just Getting Some Fresh Air

Since 1929, Fresh Air BBQ has been serving up chopped pork sandwiches and Brunswick stew in a simple building on Highway 42 in Jackson, GA. You can get any kind of BBQ you want there – as long as it’s a pork sandwich or Brunswick stew. If you’re feeling fancy, you can get the deluxe plate – it includes Saltines!

Here’s what Atlanta food God Jim Stacy has to say about Fresh Air:

Loyal readers will know that my navigational skills are simply awful and come with a stubborn desire to take the absolute worst roads possible. So I left the route planning to Toecutter Donald @mandivided and with only one trial run he had a beautiful ride planned for us – a dozen miles of gravel, country roads with rolling fields and disinterested cows, and enough farm dogs to keep our speed up.

We met up at Atlanta’s finest bike shop, Loose Nuts Cycles (@loosenutscycles) in Grant Park for coffee and Atlanta’s best bagels, Emerald City Bagels. We set off heading south with a cool breeze at our backs and a car loaded with ALL the snacks and enough water and cucumber Gatorade to keep us from getting too crusty.

Before we knew it we were ticking off counties and looking for that gravel. It didn’t take us long. Then townhouses turned to mobile homes turned to farmhouses, and we rolled along without seeing more than a couple cars an hour. Like I said, Donald picks a good route.

We stopped for smoothies and oatmeal cream pies from the sag wagon, and headed for more gravel and a quick photo shoot on a rad bridge in Locust Grove.

We rolled on to BBQ (it sounded pretty good at 8am; by this time I was fully ready to crush about 12 sandwiches) and turned onto Highway 42 just under a mile before Fresh Air.

There’s a lot of talk lately about how “real” BBQ has to be rural. I’m not sure I agree, but Fresh Air could make me a believer. The meat is tender, but with a good gradient of doneness and some nice charred bits, not overly sauced (tomato base with a healthy vinegar bite), and craveable – you finish a sandwich and want another right away.

The way back on long rides can often be such a letdown. People are kind of ready to head for home and the route tends to be way more direct than scenic. Not the case when Donald sets the route. We were back to gravel in no time.

And… we caught our first flat. Nick’s rear was bubbling Stan’s pretty good, and when Eric rubbed some dirt on it “as an aggregate,” it went totally flat. So we pumped it up and rode about 50 yards before we were sure we needed to throw a tube in there. We sought shade in a farmer’s yard and he came out (in shorts and knee high realtree rain boots) to chat us up with his dog. That old pup was WAY into Eric’s scene – in thirty seconds of chit chat he had a red rocket about ready for a Mars launch.

Back on the road again and we started to move a little bit in spite of the rapidly rising temps. We pushed for about 25 km and pulled into a drugstore parking lot to grab some more refreshments from the car.

We were about 80 miles in and FRIED. We all agreed to lower the pace a bit and took turns towing each other around. We stopped after a gnarly climb just south of town, and in an instant we snapped back to air that was noticeably less Fresh. Missed calls and texts, ignored for the better part of eight hours, got checked, and everyone started making reluctant plans to go home.

I didn’t want the day to end, and remembered the cooler full of beers waiting for us in the back of the car just up the road. Bastardized WC Williams ran through my head on repeat for the last 10km

I have drank the beers that were in the cooler and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold

We sat on the curb and enjoyed a few cold ones before we went our separate ways – salty and tired, but full of BBQ and the knowledge we had tricked autumn into thinking she was summer for one more day.

Photos: Ashley Chupp @achupp