The Country Cents route was created by Christopher Matyjasik as a way of riding from Atlanta to the loop called Bumpy Betty by Andy Lovell. The route consists primarily of suburban and country roads and around 15 miles of gravel. It can be comfortably ridden on a road bike and has more than enough store stops to get you by. I’ve done this route twice, each time finding that there are endless opportunities for exploration. Keep your eyes out and choose your own adventure, or settle in and let your GPS do the thinking for you.
The official route begins at the College Park Marta station. Heading southwest on E Main street, you turn left onto a quiet pedestrian path, offering a peaceful warm-up before dropping you off on Riverdale road. While there are bike lanes, the area can still be a little intense as it’s frequented by folks dealing with the stress of the airport. It’s likely that many of them also live in the apartments nearby, so they may be stressed because they live right next to the busiest damn airport in the country. It’s not so much that drivers were outright aggressive, just be aware especially when you turn onto Lee’s Mill Road. All those dump trucks you’ve likely been seeing are headed here- and the road gets quite narrow.
After crossing over 75 (twice), things start to chill. Quiet suburban roads lead you to the Jester’s Creek Trail. As of this writing (04/22/20), the trail ends in a mess of mulch. It seems they’re still expanding and the proper exit is gated off. No worries, just keep churning those pedals until you reach a right of way and turn left. You’ll find hints of single and double track here from the neighbors riding their off road vehicles through here. You’ll finally climb out onto the road and back on route again. If your legs weren’t opened up before they should be firing on all cylinders now.
Next is one of the route’s true gems- passing through downtown Jonesboro next to the railroad tracks on an open road with little traffic. Be sure to wave at the engineer and try to keep up with the train if you’re lucky enough to see one come through!
As you ride south on Dixon Industrial Boulevard, there’s another hidden (and forbidden) gem to your left. You should not turn onto this access road because you won’t find hella fun rolling gravel hills here, especially not beyond the gate plastered with signs threatening you with prosecution should you go beyond it. The Water Treatment company may even leave that gate unlocked if they’re in there somewhere. If you choose this side-adventure (and you totally shouldn’t), be ready to play dumb and let it rip. Watch for turtles and white work trucks. I’ll leave it up to you to find your way out and get back on route (which you should have been on anyway).
A few miles on there’s a gas station with a ton of goodies. Refill here and head to the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Built in 1960, this place has seen some of the closest finishes in all of stockcar racing. Riding counter-clockwise around the outside of the track there’s a raised sidewalk that gives you a view of the high banks from outside of turn 2. Hit the vape pen and pay your respects to the all-time greats like Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson who have triumphed on these sacred grounds.
The journey continues to Lake Horton Park. Ride straight in or hop onto any of the paved paths that squiggle their way around the peninsula. At the tip you’ll find bathrooms and a pavilion that’s great for some lunch and a break from the sun.
Once you’ve recovered from stuffing your face you’ll set out for the gravel loop called Bumpy Betty. Here you’ll find the longer stretches of gravel and the world’s fastest Dachshund, if he’s not in his cave where he presumably protects his gold (or maybe it was just a house). Should you survive, you’ll have the opportunity to recover from this harrowing encounter when you meet the world’s most handsome and friendly donkey near where the Tri-County Road forks with Pine Lake road. His field is to the right and if he’s at his post you are required to give him pets and offer some of your snacks (feed with your palm, not your fingers unless you want to lose them). Don’t be stingy because there’s a store just up the road where you can refill your supplies.
For the rest of the loop and for miles after there are long stretches of paved country road where you can settle in and spin those legs. Evidently this is roadie country, as drivers are extremely courteous and give lots of room when passing. You may see other riders in these parts so be sure to wave (and fuck ‘em if they don’t wave back).
Heading north again, we’re on our way home. If you thought the hidden gems were over, don’t worry your adventurous head. Turn right on Hood road where you’ll pass by bizarre looking McMansions, seemingly designed to recall some bygone era of home design but really they’re just oddly bloated and squished together. Just beyond these you’ll find a tiny home community and a rocky walking path that takes you into the woods before turning into fast-descending and tightly wound gravel that gets chunky and challenging. If your legs were tired before, this is the place where they’ll either wake up again or want to tap out so know that you can easily skip this entire section if you’re just ready to spin on home.
At this point you’ll have about 10 more miles of country road and gravel, so be sure to enjoy yourself and take it all in. As you approach mile 100 you should be pretty stoked at the day you’ve had! This also happens to be the point in the ride where you transition from easy country life to hard and fast city life. Depending on the time of day traffic should begin ramping up a bit until you hit Old National Highway. At this point there’s about a mile of a truly shitty highway road. While I very rarely do so, I chose the sidewalk here. Once you make it over the bridge and over to West Point Avenue you can start to relax again and make your way back to the train station.
Overall I think this may be one of my favorite routes that I’ve done. It’s challenging in all the right ways and though there are a couple of roads near the beginning and end where things can feel a little hectic, the vast majority of the route offers nothing but stoke. If you give it a shot make sure to begin early so you’ll have plenty of time to jump off route and explore something, because that’s what all this gravel and adventure stuff is really about- boldly going where you weren’t supposed to.