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 www.bikingwithbill.org on June 10 from St Petersburg, Russia.
Posted: Mon, 21 May 2007
Day 7 Clarksdale to Senatobia, MS
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
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,
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
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
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
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
The last 30 miles
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
the Cajun food,
Posted: Mon, 14 May 2007
The "Big Easy"
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
burning in southern Georgia.
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,
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.
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.
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
on our journey through the Old South.