Bill Weidenfeller

Home: Naples, FL

Hobbies: Biking, Tennis




Rails to Trails Conservancy

America by Bike

The Great Southern River Ride 2007

On May 14, 2007 our America by Bicycle group will depart New Orleans for an 8 day, 583 mile bicycle ride north to Memphis, TN. This ride will complete The Great Mississippi River Ride halted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Join us on this Great Southern River Ride through Louisiana and Mississippi on our journey through the Old South.
The Great Southern River Ride

    Mon., May 14 to Tue., May 22, 2007    
Mon., May 12 to Tue., May 20, 2008

The Great Southern River Ride will take cyclists on a terrific 8 day tour through the Grand Old South following the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Louisiana to Memphis, Tennessee.

This tour travels through flat sections of the Mississippi River delta. We’ll cycle out of the big easy, past LSU and Baton Rouge and ultimately into the Louisiana countryside. Fertile farm land abound as we’ll pass many plantations growing cotton, rice, sugarcane, and a few fish hatcheries. Soon we’ll cross into Mississippi.

Mississippi is home to the Delta Blues. You are sure to hear everything from Cajun to Zydeco as we travel across the southern states into Tennessee. Make sure you take a little time as the tour stops in Vicksburg and Natchez to explore the wealth of Civil War history.

Chalk up another state as we cross into Tennessee and work our way right into downtown Memphis. Here, we finish our ride and and you can see all the sights Memphis has to offer. Take a walk along Beal Street and visit Sun Records, tour Mud Island and Graceland. Then dine on real southern BBQ. There is something for everyone in Memphis.

America By Bicycle - Fully Supported Bicycle Tours. --bicycle bike touring cross-country adventure dream cycling--

America By Bicycle - Fully Supported Bicycle Tours. --bicycle bike touring cross-country adventure dream cycling--
Tour Itinerary
Days Location Day's
Day 0 New Orleans, LA 0
Day 1 Gonzales, LA 65
Day 2 St. Francisville, LA 57
Day 3 Natchez, MS 65
Day 4 Vicksburg, MS 88
Day 5 Greenville, MS 100
Day 6 Clarksdale, MS 82
Day 7 Senatobia, MS 62
Day 8 Memphis, TN 64


  • Posted: Tue, 22 May 2007

    Day 8 Senatobia,MS to Memphis, TN

                                                     THE FINAL DAY
        For nine of us, this was our final day—the 64 mile ride into Memphis, TN.  There is more excitement and comradeship on the day of completion of a long distance cycling event.  We have had such an enjoyable experience on this ride.  It is a wonderful group that has really jelled.  We had a lot of laughs, and we had a lot of fun.  That’s what it’s all about! 


       The weather has been terrific, we have re-connected with old friends and made many new ones.  We have ridden safely, and we have experienced a part of America that was unfamiliar to many of us.  Most of the group departing in Memphis will have “completed the job” started in 2005; to  ride the entire length of the Mississippi River…1770 miles in 25 days…the length of the United States.  For the 4 of us going on to the Russia-Turkey Ride in just a few weeks it has been good preparation, good training.  To get back in the routine of getting up everyday at 5:00 am and biking 70-80 or more miles is what you need…and it is what we got.  We got stronger each day. What a great feeling that is!


       For the other 21 riders continuing on to St Paul, MN it was a ride into an eagerly anticipated REST DAY in “The City of the Blues”


       It was a happy group heading out of a surprisingly upscale Senatobia, MS---all outfitted in our ABB uniform jerseys.


       On today’s ride we stopped in beautiful Arkatabula State Park.  The picturesque lake formed by the dam is a boater’s paradise.  Here we had a photo taken of “the boys”, who rode together the whole way (from left to right: Dale (AZ), Alan (FL), Dan (CA), Bill, and Rick (PA).  Rick’s wife Kathie—on her first major trip— also biked with us from start to finish each day.  She proved to be a strong cyclist—and of course is a great gal.


       The rolling hills through the prettiest countryside we had seen so far made for a scenic and interesting ride.  We were loving this day!


       The SAG stop at Pounder’s Grocery marked the halfway point in the route.  Traffic picked up for the balance of the ride as we approached Memphis.  We rode through Hernando,MS, the point at which we were stopped by Hurricane Katrina.  It was then on through some of the best and worst neighborhoods of Memphis, and past hugh distribution centers (including FedEx).  On Elvis Presley Blvd, near Graceland, Alan’s flat tire halted us amid the glass and trash in the bike lane.  We then sailed the final 5 miles into town to the waterfront Comfort Inn—our final destination.


       In the afternoon we explored Mud Island, as we looked across the river into Arkansas.  A detailed, complete replica of the Mississippi river is built here—you can walk from Minnesota to New Orleans following the river’s flow.  It is an interesting exhibit


       Our final dinner was at Big Foot grill (where they offer a 4 pound hamburger for $20).  Our party room was loud and raucous and fun! It was then off to Beale St for street music, blue’s joints, and 30 oz beers.  Later we followed the street car trolleys back to the motel.



       This morning I said my goodbyes—in some ways wishing I could go on with this group, but knowing the St Petersburg to Istanbul trip is only days away… and that I have a great summer adventure in Eastern Europe ahead.


                   Thanks for coming along.  Please rejoin on June 10 from St Petersburg, Russia.





  • Posted: Mon, 21 May 2007

    Day 7 Clarksdale to Senatobia, MS

       Another “no complaint” weather day began for us at 7:00 am when we pedaled out of  Clarksdale with the destination of Senatobia, MS-- 62 miles up the road.  We have been very fortunate with sunny days of low humidity and cool morning temperatures.  Great riding weather despite some occasional wind mixed in.


       This may not be the most scenic part of the country, or the South, but we are following a course along the Mississippi river and the agricultural lands and small towns make up the Delta region.  The views from a bike are mainly fields of crops and small homes—some past their prime.  The people are friendly and cordial, and we find the experience of being in the Delta very interesting.


       After riding on flat terrain, beginning at mile marker 35 we had some fun and a challenge with at least 10 miles of continual rolling hills where we were able to “kick it up a notch” and get some hill work in.  I had stopped twice to take a photo of some kudzu blanketing the fields and trees on either side of the road. My group of riders continued on.  Finding myself well behind, I tried to catch up through the hills.  It proved to be a tough, but excellent training ride.


       Several more “ugly dog” chases occurred today.  Some of these Mississippi dogs are mean looking (and acting) canines! Sometimes they spring out of hiding places into the chase for our ankles.


       Dale (AZ), a good friend from several previous bike rides, is an EXCEPTIONAL cyclist.  He continues to train diligently for his participation in the National Senior Olympic Games to be held in Louisville, KY from June 22 to July 8, 2007.  Representing his State of Arizona, in the 50-55 age group, he will compete in the 5K and 10k Time Trial events (against the clock, or “contre le montre”, as they say at the Tour de France).  Dale is able to maintain an average speed of 28 mph in the 5K event.  This is an incredible achievement for a cyclist!  We wish him well in attaining his goal of winning a medal at the Games.  He will leave this tour in Memphis and return to Tucson where he is Division Counsel for IBM.



              We’ll be in Memphis tomorrow.


  • Posted: Sun, 20 May 2007

    Day 6 Greenville to Clarksdale, MS

    We had our own private church services the Sunday morning on our bikes watching the sun rise over the peaceful Mississippi corn fields at 7:00 am.  Everything was in place for a great ride day: good weather, the usual low level of traffic found on Sundays, and a good 82 mile rural route to Clarksdale, MS.


       We were 20 miles into the ride approaching the attractive little town of  Benoit, MS when we saw a crop dusting plane making sweeping low passes at the fields beneath him.  The acrobatics the pilot performed in his turns may not have been for entertainment, but I for one was impressed. 


       The ride fields of Mississippi are uniquely irrigated with gravitational flow.  It is a major commercial crop for the State.


       We had a playful yellow Lab with no malicious intent run with us for well over a mile—at speeds up to 19 plus mph—just for the fun of chasing the boys on the bikes.  It is nice to have that kind of a dog come out to meet us on the road for a change.


       We went through Rosedale at mile 38.  The welcome sign calls it “The Delta City of Brotherly Love”.  Then on to Gunnison for a SAG stop.


       The pace line speeds picked up today and some of the boys were able to continue for miles at 20 plus mph speeds.  I rode with Dan during this period at 17-18 mph and we enjoyed the i-pod music from small speakers he has installed on his bike.  We finally rode into Clarksdale at 1:30 and headed for FOOD.  The crowd at Wendy’s had obviously just come from church.  An elderly group stopped us to welcome us to town and to hear all about our trip.  Most of the people in the restaurant were young African-American families with their children all dressed in their Sunday best.  Clarksdale gives the impression of a pleasant place for all to live, work and raise a family.


     I continue to be amazed at the background and achievements of the cyclists I meet on these bike trips.  This trip is no exception, as we have an impressive group of individuals biking together up the Mississippi.


       Last night after dinner, several of us had a very interesting conversation with Karina (TX), the youngest rider and the one with the most interesting career. She is employed by NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Her current assignment is to work with a team in the training of  astronaut crews  scheduled for a mission to the International Space Station.  Specifically, she works with the crew in preparing them for a space walk in the weightlessness experienced in space.  Much of this training, she told us, is done underwater in space suits, although high speed parabolic maneuvers in jet aircraft can also achieve the same results for a short period of time.


       Karina was accepted in the NASA program while studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin.  She worked summers in NASA co-op programs at one of their facilities and spent 7 school terms in NASA assignments.  She studied the Russian language and did a summer program in St Petersburg, Russia.  The current crews have consisted of both US and Russian astronauts and therefore she is required to do some training with them in both countries.  The University of Wisconsin is rightly proud of her career achievements and has asked her on occasion to return to campus to talk with engineering students.


       She is taking this bike trip with her parents, Nancy and George, the Wisconsin tandem bike team.  They are a wonderful family.  We are all fond of Karina and proud of her work for our country.




    “Route Rap” at the hotel:


  • Posted: Sat, 19 May 2007

    Day 5 Vicksburg to Greenville, MS

       Our Saturday ride to Greenville (pop 8000) was exactly 100 miles in the Mississippi delta.  The weather was favorable for a century ride; cool in the morning with low humidity and sunny skies.  It was mainly a flat ride on country roads of varying road surfaces-some good, some rough-.


       We experienced the expected dog chases, had some confusion from time to time on which road to take, we tried to identify the crops we saw growing (the consensus was corn, soybeans, wheat, and ride), and made an extra effort to keep hydrated.  Century rides, I find, are always difficult, and a test of your condition and stamina.  Our group of Alan, Billy, Rick and Kathie, Dan, Dale and I stayed together most of the day.  We finished after 7 ½ hours on the road, and then celebrated Kathie’s first century ride. 


       Early on at the 12 mile mark, we crossed the bridge over the Yazoo River on highway 61.  The Yazoo River played a part in the battle of Vickburg.


       The SAG stop at 32 miles was at the Onward, MS country store, where in nearby Smedes, MS Teddy Roosevelt once came to hunt bear.  There, Teddy refused to shoot a captive bear.  Cartoons of the event are thought to have led to tdshe creation of the “Teddy Bear”.


       We followed Rte 1 North to Mayersville on the Great River Road, which travels the River’s full length from New Orleans to St Paul, MN.The growing of Mississippi rice was common on the large farm tracts near Mayersville.  We could see the young green shoots of rice in the irrigated fields.


       The town of Glen Allan is located on the large and scenic Lake Washington.  We rode along the lakeshore where weekenders were launching their boats.  The shoreline and shallow waters are populated with giant cypress trees.  We also saw several pecan trees in yards as well as pink flowering mimosa trees.


       The last 30 miles into Greenville we stayed together and ground it out.  Shoney’s restaurant took good care of us as we enjoyed a hearty late lunch…“More water, please”.


       Billy’s tattoo has been a favorite of the group.  Shall I get one when we reach Memphis?




    PS    I invite your comments and questions in the GUESTBOOK  on the Home Page.

  • Posted: Fri, 18 May 2007

    Day 4 Natchez to Vicksburg, MS

       It was a glorious day on the bike. The weather was perfect; cooler than expected, clear and sunny all day.  We were excited because today we would ride 45 miles on the famous--at least to all cyclists—Natchez Trace.


       At 7:45 am we departed through the streets of Natchez, a river city that displays a great deal of southern charm.  We passed by a public school with probably a hundred kids in uniform standing out in front, having just gotten off their buses.  They gave us a resounding cheer as we rode by on our bikes.


       We then rode on a shady country road near the airport with a line of 14 cyclists in our group, before stopping at Emerald Mound.  It is the second largest temple mound in the US.  The Natchez Indians buried their dead and prize possessions in these mounds .It is an interesting sight.


       We entered the Natchez Trace Parkway at mile 15 of today’s 90 mile route to Vicksburg, MS.  The 444 mile parkway (Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN) commemorates an ancient trail that connected southern portions of the Mississippi River to salt licks in central Tennessee.


       This section of the Trace is a 2 lane rather narrow roadway through State Park land that is open to both automobile and bike traffic, though we saw very few cars. The sights were of beautiful tall pine forests, open meadows, historic markers, river beds and bluffs.  These great nature scenes filled our morning ride. We did encounter some steady headwinds at times and many hill climbs, but it was a ride we had all looked forward to…and all loved.  We had nearly 3 hours on the Trace and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


       We had 2 SAG stops today due to the length of the ride.  The 90 mile route took us over 7 hours to complete. 


       At the 80 mile mark we entered the city of Vicksburg, “where the fate of our nation was decided in 1863”.  The Civil War battle at Vicksburg was for control of the Mississippi River and with it control of the economy.  The Union victory was decisive in ending the war.


       We rode into the Quality Inn at mid-afternoon, hungry, tired, and sweaty from a long day on the bike, but a day we will recall fondly due to our time on the Natchez trace.


              A Yankee in Vicksburg,



       Did you know?      In a Vicksburg drug store in 1894 a Mr. Biedenhorn invented




  • Posted: Thu, 17 May 2007

    Day 3 St Francisville to Natchez, MS

       We had clear, sunny skies and cooler weather today for our 65 mile bike ride to Natchez on the Mississippi, one of the oldest and most historic cities in the Deep South.  We were on route 61, a divided 4 lane highway with a wide shoulder for cyclists for the first 20 miles in Louisiana.  When we entered the State of Mississippi the shoulder became narrow with deep rumble strips forcing us onto the highway.  We rode in groups, and the truckers and motorists gave us wide berth.  We were on route 61 all day… rolling through the countryside. “ Rolling” is the appropriate word since we encountered many hilly sections.  The constant, irritating 10-15 mph headwind made our ride more difficult today.  This group is filled with experienced cyclists, so again we maintained a steady and measured pace.  During the course of the day I rode with many of the old gang:

    Alan, Rick and Kathie, Dan Tom, Billy, Dale and several others.


       From our hotel in Natchez the Mississippi River is in view.  Two blocks away is also Fat Mama’s Tamales restaurant—the choice of Rick, Kathie, Jeff and Bill  for lunch on the outdoor terrace.



       Yesterday I spent some time riding with Melanie (WA), a friend from the 2005 trip into Hurricane Katrina. She is a most courageous woman whose story she has permitted me to tell. 


       At some time following the 2005 ride she developed a problem with her eye; a severe fungal infection as a result of contact lens wear.  It led to months and months of hospital visits and painful treatment from some of the best eye doctors in America.  They were unable to save her left eye.  She can only see from her right eye.  One can only imagine her anger and depression and the adjustments in her life that resulted. 


       She has overcome these obstacles with an attitude of living her life to the fullest—and hopefully demonstrating to others that a handicap does not mean that you cannot do many of the things you used to do.  With determination and understanding from others she is moving forward in her life undeterred by a handicap.  Melanie is riding her bicycle from New Orleans to Memphis, cautiously, safely and with her friends.


       Her character and bravery are inspirational.  She is a hero to many of us who know what she has overcome.






  • Posted: Wed, 16 May 2007

    Day 2 Gonzales to St Francisville, LA

       It was an early wake up today.  We were in our biking gear and loading the luggage van at 5:45 am.  ABB’s plan was to have us complete the 55 mile ride to St Francisville, LA by early afternoon to allow us to visit the plantation homes in town and have lunch at the popular Magnolia Café.


       We had a lot of highway biking today (and many flat tires as a result—Timon (VA)scenic highway designation. The State Capitol building and the Governor’s mansion were visible as we biked alongside the Mississippi River levee.  The city has a museum and beautiful parks in the downtown area and along the river bank.  Baton Rouge appears to be an attractive Southern city, although perhaps overcrowded with former New Orleans residents.


       We kept a quick and steady pace the last 25 miles and actually had some rolling hills to increase our heart rates as we approached St Francisville with threatening clouds overhead.  We had finished the ride by 11:00 am.


       I was particularly anxious to complete the ride early today as I was meeting Mason’s grandmother, “Miss Dell”, who resides in St Francisville.  Mason is my good friend from the 2004 cross country ride. What a wonderful time we had!  Miss Dell (Adele is her first name) grew up in St Francisville and was married to the long term Sheriff of the parish (county) and is known affectionately by everyone in town. Before she picked me up at the motel, she had talked to many of our cyclists in town and along the route; “Do you know Bill”? she asked everone.


       Our afternoon tour of southern plantations visited 4 majestic old homes…one with 150 giant live oak trees draped in Spanish moss on the grounds.  Ann Butler the 8th generation owner of the Butler-Greenwood, built in 1797, personally gave us a tour.  Many period pieces from generations past were displayed.  We did a “drive-by, photo op pass” of 3 other area plantations before stopping in town for a cappuccino.  Miss Dell held court at the coffee shop; introducing me to town folks and meeting a number of our biking crew.  Saundra and Rick, Mason’s parents, arrived and we were joined by Tom Burds (IA) for cocktails, dinner and several hours of enjoyable conversation and relaxation.


               It was a great day in St Francisville!



    Ps  Did you know?    The Huey Long Bridge in Baton Rouge was built with Federal funds (through the efforts of Huey’s clout on Capitol Hill).  It’s height over the  Mississippi River  was designed to preclude large ocean going vessels from passing.  This ensured that Baton Rouge—rather than Memphis or and other city up-river—would become a major port city.  Clever Huey!



  • Posted: Tue, 15 May 2007

    Day 1 New Orleans to Gonzales, LA

       During introductions at Monday’s pre-ride orientation we had the opportunity to hear from each of the 31 cyclists.  As always, it is an interesting, athletic and diverse collection of individuals.  The common thread that brings us together is our passion for cycling.


       Almost everyone in the group has participated in numerous long distance bike trips.  In fact 10 members of the group are friends of mine from previous America by Bicycle adventures. I feel very comfortable with this group which includes: 6 women, 2 recumbent riders, 2 on a tandem, 1 cyclist headed for the Senior Olympics, and 1 psychiatric nurse who offered to listen to jour complaints.  Also there are many retirees, a mother/father/daughter team, and one couple who took the St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey ride last summer (and who shared GREAT memories of the experience with us at dinner tonight).

    Nineteen States are represented on this Great Southern River Ride.

       Today’s “assignment” was to ride 62 miles from the New Orleans airport to Gonzales, LA.  I thought the most enjoyable part of the ride began just a mile from the start.   We walked our bikes to the top of the earthen levee on the Mississippi river and rode 9 miles on its 8 feet wide paved path.  We could see numerous barges and freighters on the river and moored on its banks.  We gathered for the compulsory group photo with a lovely riverfront home and our ABB van as a backdrop.  


       Once off the levee we rode in some heavy traffic on LA 48 and route 61, passing through the factory town of Norco.  So far the Louisiana roads have been excellent with wide bike lanes for the most part.


       Riding on roads paralleling the river we passed many grain silos operations of Cargill and ADM with high covered pipelines leading down to barge loading on the river.  A Marathon oil refinery was on the route as well.


       Prior to our SAG stop at mile 30, I stopped with Timon (VA) to photograph the San Francisco Plantation, beautifully refurbished and brightly painted in yellow and blue.   Several bikers took the tour offered by guides in attire of the era.  


       The last 30 miles again had some traffic.  I did see sugar cane fields for the first time and cleared fields ready for the planting of cotton as we cycled the last half of the ride at a pretty quick pace.        


       Our Holiday Inn in Gonzales is a beautifully landscaped southern property now getting thoroughly soaked in a heavy thunderstorm.


                Enjoying the Cajun food,


  • Posted: Mon, 14 May 2007

    The "Big Easy"

       Early Friday morning May 11 Alan Ryker, a Naples cycling buddy, and I loaded our rental SUV with our bikes and all our gear and headed for New Orleans.  Eleven hours and 555 miles later we arrived in Pensacola to spend the night.  We actually enjoyed the ride.  We did encounter heavy smoke near Lake City, FL from the large fires
    burning in southern Georgia.


      Saturday’s drive into New Orleans was only about 200 miles, so we decided to have a look at the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to experience the damage and recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  We excited I-10 in D’Iberville and drove south to Biloxi where we picked up route 90 that goes right along the Gulf of Mexico beach through Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian to Bay St Louis where the bridge is still out.

       We immediately saw the tremendous damage to the tall, and I’m sure formerly majestic, old live oak trees in Biloxi.  Very few of the homes or churches showed any signs of repair, many were just  rubble with only the remains of the foundation showing.  The beach was nearly deserted on a beautiful sunny morning nearly two years after the storm.  We stopped in Gulfport where I took a few pictures of buildings being demolished and cleared. They are now no trespassing construction zones.  Just block after block of foundations of what used to be commercial buildings and homes. The view was the same for our 30 mile drive. The only positive sight was the amount of new construction underway in Mississippi.  We saw much less of this redevelopment effort in and around New Orleans, unfortunately.

        We returned to I-10 and drove past Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans.  From the elevated highway we could look down into abandoned, severely damaged poor neighborhoods with roofs gone, windows out, cars left behind.  It reinforced the scenes we had all seen on CNN in early September, 2005. It is hard to imagine this area returning to anything resembling it’s past for a long, long time.  Very sad indeed.


    Once settled in at the Ritz Carlton in the French Quarter (on a very favorable rate plan), we walked to Bourbon St and Rue Royale, past Brennans, Café Beignet, and Pat O’Brians and watched a street band play for a small crowd.  We stopped for lunch for some gumbo and shrimp at the Red Fish Grille, then met up with Billy (NH) and Timon (VA), fellow bikers checking out “The Big Easy”.  More of our group joined us for dinner.

       Sunday, Alan and I drove 20 miles into Mississippi where we found nice country roads for a 38 mile “tune up” bike ride.  It was an enjoyable ride, even considering the 4 encounters with large chasing dogs, and the last 10 miles in the rain.  We again rode along the beach in Pass Christian amid the rubble.

       We report in to America by Bicycle this afternoon in Kenner for orientation, bike checks, and a meeting of the group of riders we will join for the ride to Memphis.


              Can’t wait to get going,




  • Posted: Mon, 14 May 2007

    The Return To The GMR

       On September 1, 2005 in Memphis, Tennessee on Day 19 of the Great Mississippi River Ride we were halted by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.   Our bike trip was over!

       The destination had been New Orleans, Louisiana where we were to have completed a 28 day bicycle ride that  followed the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its delta at New Orleans.

       With great disappointment, I wrote on that day; “There is far too much destruction, uncertainty and chaos south of here to attempt a safe continuation of the GMR.  We could NOT continue.”   I also said in my journal entry, “I think we all want to finish the challenge we had begun….the challenge of cycling the length of the Mississippi River.  I plan to do just that…one day!”

       On May 14, 2007 our America by Bicycle group will depart New Orleans for an 8 day, 585 mile bicycle ride north to Memphis, TN.  This ride will complete the Great Mississippi River Ride interrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


       Join us on this Great Southern River Ride through Louisiana and Mississippi on our journey through the Old South.