Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cheaha Cometh

This Sunday, May 21st, Jacksonville, AL will host an estimated 800 cyclists from 9 countries and 26 states for the 25th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & Ultra, as well as the 3rd annual Chief Ladiga Cruise. To get insight on what this ride is like from the cyclist's point of view, we spoke with Steve Vinyard, a seasoned cyclist who has participated in the Cheaha Challenge several times.

When did you first hear about/start riding the Cheaha Challenge?

I first heard about the ride in 1993, when the Cheaha Challenge first started. I was not able to ride that year due to a neck injury, but started that next year in 1994.
Since starting in 1994, I have participated in the Cheaha Challenge about 14 or 15 times.

Tell me about the Ultra. What made you want to go to that next level?

The Ultra began in 2005 when Brooke Nelson became director. She wanted to add a level of difficulty to the Cheaha Challenge. I had ridden the 100 + mile course before and wanted to challenge myself. I wasn’t able to ride the Ultra last year, but I will be returning in 2017.

What do you do to prepare for the ride every year?

I make sure I have the right equipment. I make sure to check the weather forecast, just in case I need specific gear or need to adjust your tire pressure. I train and ride the hills beforehand. I like to pay attention to my diet and health, maybe dropping a little bit of weight, if needed.

When riding, what is going through your head?

It is a long time to be on your bike so you have some time to reflect. It is very important to remind yourself to eat and drink during the ride, as your body will need the calories. Keep your cadence while riding and save your muscle strength for the end. Be sure to ride the course properly and to stay as cautious as possible. This is especially crucial when riding in a pack. One wrong move can send you into a collision with another cyclist.

How do you stay motivated during the ride, especially during the extra challenging parts?

It’s a big event. You spend a lot of time and energy preparing. Sometimes things happen that prevent you from finishing the ride, but there is a natural motivation that keeps you going. Also, knowing that Brooke Nelson will burn your finisher shift if you don’t complete the ride will keep you motivated!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in riding the Cheaha Challenge for the first time?

Know your course ahead of time and ride the hardest parts so that you know what to expect.

What is the best part of the Cheaha Challenge, in your opinion?

It is the most organized ride. The support from the community is felt throughout the entire ride. You feel safe on the road knowing how well everything is put together. I have participated in several rides, and this is one of the best.

To kick off this exciting weekend, on May 20th, Jacksonville State University is welcoming the cyclists and their families to the area by holding the first Jacksonville Arts & Music (JAM) Fest on campus. This family friendly event will showcase what Calhoun County has to offer with music and drama performances, several food vendors, and local artists.

Blog Interview by: Mackenzie Harris Corbin

Thursday, May 11, 2017

History comes alive this weekend in Calhoun County!

Two exciting events will take place on Saturday May 13th, celebrating part of the history and heritage of Calhoun County.
Legend of Lick Skillet Music & Heritage Festival
From 10 AM to 4PM, residents and visitors will come together in Downtown Oxford to celebrate the history and growth of the city once named “Lick Skillet”.
This annual celebration includes many food vendors (BBQ Boss, Southern Girl Coffee, and Hubbard’s Off Main- Just to name a few), arts and craft booths, live music from several local artists, and more! Gomey the Storyteller will join in on the festivities, telling his tales every hour, on the hour. There is even pie eating contest scheduled for those who are up for the challenge!
This festival is fun for all ages. Admission is free.
Freedom Riders National Monument Community Celebration
On January 12, 2017 President Obama declared two sites in Anniston, the former Greyhound station and the site of the Freedom Riders bus burning in 1961, National Monuments. The community will celebrate this proclamation on May 13 from 3PM-7PM outside the historic Greyhound bus depot on 10th and Gurnee Ave., Anniston, AL.
Included in the celebration is special announcements from the National Parks Service, a meet & greet with Freedom Riders, food and craft vendors, live music, and performances from local youth.

Presented by the City of Anniston, Calhoun County Commission, and the Freedom Riders Park Board, admission is free to the public. 

Blog by: Mackenzie Harris Corbin

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Family Fun in the Sun

"A family that plays together stays together."

Looking for summer fun ideas? Have we got a list for you?

1. Climb Every Mountain
Calhoun County is in the heart of Mountain Bike Country. From Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail to Cheaha State Park, and other trail systems in between, there is everything for beginner to the most advanced.
Calhoun County is also home to the Cheaha Challenge, this year's only UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Gran Fondo World Championship Qualifier for the United States. Don't be deceived, there is something for everyone, 24 miles, 44, 62, 84, 100 (Century) or 124 (Ultra).
If cycling isn't your thing, we have great hiking trails, from Mountain Longleaf to the Museum of Natural History, Pinhoti and more.

2. Ford Every Stream
Terrapin Creek is perfect for everyone, all ages and all levels of experience. Outfitters like No Worries Kayaks provide shuttle service and rentals to make your float easy, ideal, and for the whole family. They've got kayaks, double seaters, and canoes, or free parking and shuttles if you bring your own boat.
We also have the beautiful Neely Henry Lake in Ohatchee, perfect for skiing, boating and fishing with public boat launches, picnic areas and piers.

3. Follow Every Rainbow
With a little bit of luck, you'll get a hole in one if you play all of our golf courses. From the world renowned Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail to beautiful hillside courses like Cider Ridge, we have something for everyone, including local favorites like Cane Creek & Pine Hill.

4. Till you find Your Dream
If you didn't read something that caught your eye, keep searching on VisitCalhounCounty.com!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Accessible Arts

The Oxford Performing Arts Center, or OPAC for short, is unique facility in that it combines history with art. As you enter the lobby and box office, you enter what was once a school, dating back to 1921. The school evolved into City Hall and a Police Station, and the original 1950's jail is still in the basement. Now, the building is transformed into a state-of-the-art theatre, hosting bluegrass to Broadway, bringing local, national and international talent to the stage at affordable prices.
In fact, they just announced their 2017-2018 season!

RMC Concert Series

  • An Evening with Aaron Neville - October 5, 2017
  • Styx - October 22, 2017
  • Christmas with the Annie Moses Band - December 21, 2017
  • Three Phantoms In Concert - February 2, 2018
  • America- March 24, 2018
  • Elf - November 12, 2017
  • Dirty Dancing - December 3, 2017
  • The Sound of Music - January 23, 2018
  • Amazing Grace - February 24, 2018
  • A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder - April 27, 2018
  • Lee Greenwood & Crystal Gayle - August 31, 2017
  • The Charlie Daniels Band - November 9, 2017
  • The Heart Behind the Music - February 9, 2018
  • Jerrod Niemann - March 23, 2018
  • Rumors - November 2, 2017
  • Shadows of the Sixties - November 17, 2017
  • Brass Transit - January 27, 2018
  • Seven Bridges - February 16, 2018
  • The Hit Men - March 16, 2018 
  • Hansel & Gretel - October 29, 2017
  • Dinosaur Zoo Live! - November 20, 2017
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins - December 11, 2017
  • Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey - January 26, 2018
  • My Father's Dragon - March 29, 2018 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” —John Muir

Every April 22, we celebrate Earth Day, so here's a few ways you can celebrate and enjoy Mother Earth.

Climb Cheaha
Nearby is home to Alabama's highest point, surrounded by the Talladega National Forest and numerous trails, including the Pinhoti. The State Park is also hosting hikes that day, so sign up and learn about nature around you. 

Stroll Choccolocco Park or Oxford Lake
Just get outside and enjoy the beauty around you at the lake's edge. Be sure to check out the playgrounds and picnic areas or enjoy a short bike loop on Earth Day. 

Learn more at the Museum
Celebrate Earth Day at the Anniston Museums and Gardens with Saturday Alive and other festivities. The Anniston Museum of Natural History will also host programs about recycling and composting. 

Fair on the Square
The Jacksonville Arts Council is celebrating outside with the annual Fair on the Square, featuring free family friendly activities and entertainment. 

Paddle Terrapin
Rent a kayak and float Terrapin Creek. Pack and lunch and enjoy the day outside. 
Take the Boat
Neely Henry Lake is always beautiful, so take the boat out and enjoy nature! 

Cycle Through
"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.." Hemingway 
Camp out at Mike Tucker or the Ladiga Campground and hit the trails and enjoy nature's peace around you.

Enjoy the outdoors, but remember "leave no trace" to keep nature as you found it! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dusk to Dawn

From sunrise to sunset, Calhoun County's photogenic side shows, and here's 10 photos to prove spring is awesome!

Sunrise over JSU

Cherry Trees at JSU

Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail

Golfing at Silver Lakes
Kayaking Terrapin

Cycling Ladiga at Elwell Park

Enjoying the Anniston Museums & Gardens

Sailing at Neely Henry

Cycling in Piedmont

Sunset in Jacksonville 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Best Ways to Enjoy Spring

Spring is here, so opt outside. Explore outdoors and soak up the rays.

From Rail to Trails Opening Day on April 8th, and even though our trails are open year round, cycling season has begun. So, hit the Ladiga Trail, for 95 miles, if you include Silver Comet, for peaceful pedaling and the occasional gradual incline. If you're up for climb, check out the adrenaline bringing trails at Coldwater, 35 miles perfect for any mountain biking enthusiast, hiker or trail runner. Cheaha Challenge Cometh, so participants best be considering the training rides and the Iron Mountain Challenge to prepare for May 21.
If you're not a cyclist but enjoy action packed sports, check out this weekend's Alabama Cycling Classic, featuring the Noble Street Festival, the Sunny King Crit, and the McClellan Road Race.

Terrapin Creek is open, so float with No Worries, Terrapin Outdoor or Redneck Yacht Club.

Spring is an extremely popular time for festivals.
Enjoy the cycling entertainment and delectable food at the Noble Street Festival (April 8).
Oxford celebrates the annual Legend of Lickskillet this year on May 13th in Historic Down Oxford.
The National Park Service celebrates the new Freedom Riders National Monument May 13th too.
JSU launches the brand new arts and music JamFest in conjunction with Cheaha Challenge weekend on May 20th.
Knox Concert Series is bringing St. Paul & the Broken Bones to Anniston for the Knox Outdoors Music Festival, also on May 20th.

When it rains it pours!
Don't worry! We have a backup plan! Check out our great museums, one of a kind shops and mouthwatering restaurants until the storms pass.