This Valentine's Day, read about a love story that takes place right here in the North Georgia mountains.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Six Gap, let me quickly fill you in: It's a bicycle ride with options of 104, 58, and 35-mile routes - all of which go through what we call the "gaps", essentially mountain climbs. It's a fantastic event that brings around 2000 visitors to Dahlonega each September - as a matter of fact, I would argue that it's one of Dahlonega's flagship events - and plenty more who wish to train year-round. I highly recommend it to cyclists and other endurance athletes looking for a challenge. Shameless plug time: If you want to learn more about Six Gap or register for a ride, visit 6Gap.com.
For today's post, I've spoken to cyclist and small business owner Jason Volingavage. The name may sound familiar to some of you, and here's why: Jason is the owner of Stand & Hammer Cycling Co., which “provide[s] premium off the bike apparel for cyclist[s]” and also create custom apparel for events, clubs, and bicycle shops. Jason recently started a parent company called One With Outfitters, which expands apparel to all outdoor activities. To see Jason's work, visit Stand & Hammer's website.
Jason also walks the walk. He is a veteran Six Gap rider and has been a vendor at the Six Gap Expo for three years thus far. He enjoys the ride and encourages newbies to do practice rides and pace themselves on ride day. When asked about his favorite thing about Six Gap, Jason’s first response was “Not Hogpen!” (Those of you who have rode through the North Georgia mountains will understand.) He then me told it was “awesome to see how organized the event is for 2000 riders bombing through the mountains.” His favorite Six Gap memory is his very first finish, despite feeling like the slowest one to the finish line.
"I would say a few words but would be too nervous to say more."
During June of the year of Jason’s first Six Gap, he and a group of friends were looking for a place to park so they could ride some of the gaps for practice. In order to ask about parking in the area, they eventually stopped at Sunrise Grocery, where an employee named Jessica told them that they could park just down the road. Jason and his friends went back up every weekend to ride the gaps and stop in the store, where as Jason puts it, “I would say a few words but would be too nervous to say more.” On the week before the ride in 2005, Jason mustered up the courage to ask her out on a date – but unfortunately, she was seeing someone else at the time. Jason saw her and said hello once more on the day of the ride, and that was the last he saw of her until April of the next year at Tour de Georgia. Though he didn’t stop in the store, she noticed him, acted as if she had something to put in the outside trash, and said hey. They began talking regularly in May via email, and then Myspace.
Myspace? My 23-year-old brain was briefly befuddled. “Yes, Myspace.”
Jason and Jessica had their first date in July of 2006, and the connection was quickly apparent. The next year on a drive to visit her family, the two stopped in Sunrise Grocery – where they first met, thanks to a few friends who needed a parking space – where Jason asked Jessica to marry him. A year after that, the two got married in Blairsville, overlooking the gaps and Brasstown Bald – the same view that they had on their first date. Since then, Jason and Jessica have been happily married for eleven years and have two beautiful daughters - June and Everly - as well as a baby boy due in July.
So the next time you’re looking for parking, stop in a nearby grocery store – you never know what could happen.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.