By Merrell McGinness
I’ve been on pub crawls. I’ve taken spin classes. I’ve even been in a few parades. But I’ve never done all of those things at the same time until I took a tour with Pints and Pedals in Downtown Chattanooga.
I knew a party on wheels would appeal to my group of friends, so I assembled a crew for my maiden voyage on the Pints and Pedals party barge. Armed with a cooler of beer (cans allowed for sipping between stops), we meet Chris Brown, his business partner Dax and a few of their friends on the 15-passenger bar/bike. It was a cool night in August – perfect for pedaling.
We climb into the adjustable, cushioned back seats and stow our belongings in the shelf above our heads, complete with LED lighting. With my red solo cup in its holder, I’m officially ready. After a brief safety speech from our driver, we plug our iPhone into the bike’s sound system and start pedaling.
The Pints and Pedals crew has negotiated drink specials at several bars around town, but they’ll steer wherever you say. We opted for a downtown route (Southside also an option) with Community Pie as our first stop. Immediately I realize two things – (1) pedaling is really easy and (2) everyone loves a bar on wheels.
“It’s like a parade,” says Brown. “The reactions are the craziest things.”
We’re greeted on every street corner with smiles and waves. As we round Market Street, we have to move the large orange barrels blocking the street for Nightfall. We park our bike next to Harley Davidson motorcycles in the middle of the street, with curious bikers coming over to say hello. We’re off to a good start for a memorable evening.
Community Pie’s beer list is written on slate tiles hanging on the wall behind the bar. We settle on a local brew, which we quickly sip in our allotted 30 minutes. This tour isn’t for lingering, but we enjoy the ambiance of the laid back pizza joint, which is packed to the brim on the beautiful summer night.
Back in the saddle, we pedal down Market toward Taco Mac, which has just undergone an extensive renovation. Sitting in a hot-tub shaped booth (the seat is a full circle, which you literally climb into) we learn more about the tour’s origins.
The idea came last year, when Brown took a similar tour in Savannah with friends, Tammi and Eston Mayberry, Russell Autry and his girlfriend Suzanne Bidek. The group decided they had to bring something like that to Chattanooga. Although the Pints and Pedals team is all about fun, their purpose is serious business.
Profits go to Brown’s brother, who is suffering from a rare and devastating disease, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) that isn’t covered by insurance.“My parents have racked up half a million dollars in medical bills,” says the 35-year-old.
The very first Pints and Pedals tour was a bachelor party, but they’ve hosted everything from book clubs to family reunions. While you can rent the entire bike, it’s almost more fun to take your chances with a mixed crowd.
“I’ve seen people do the tour first thing, exchange numbers and hang out the rest of the weekend,” says Brown.
For our final stop, we decide to tackle the 6th Street hill – a task only attempted by one other tour, which ended in them getting out and pushing the bike. Our party barge quickly became the most intense spin class I’ve ever taken, and while I’m proud to say we made it, I wouldn’t recommend it. But our efforts were rewarded with the patio of Universal Joint, the delicious smell of burgers wafting through the corn hole games and live band.
As we pedaled back to our car, my husband asked Brown a very important question – were we his favorite group? Sadly, the answer was “almost.”
“There was one group that was having so much fun they paid for another tour,” he says.
If we hadn’t had a babysitter to get home to, we might have gone down in Pints and Pedals history and booked another tour ourselves. We kept it to the two-hour tour, but as we sat around the dinner table that night we started planning our next ride.http://www.pintsandpedalstn.com