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The Great Mississippi River Ride, page 3
St. Charles, MO to New Orleans, LA
(The Great Southern River Ride)

current date and time 2006-03-23 | 19:54:53
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Number of Journal Entries online: 3
Day 17--Tue. Aug., 30--Rest Day in Memphis
Susan here, reporting our rest day in Memphis . . . It was a ducky day in Memphis this morning: Light drizzle, high humidity, and the Peabody ducks just across the street from our motel. I walked across to the Peabody to see these famous ducks escorted from their rooftop penthouse to the lobby fountain where they frolic during the day. At precisely 11 am, the elevator door opened to a crowd of at least 100 onlookers (many of them evacuees from Hurricane Katrina). Out waddled the mallard ducks (all females) onto the red carpet. They were escorted by the duckmaster, who was dressed in formal attire and carried a cane with a gold duck head on it. The ducks made tracks for the fountain, undeterred by the pop of camera flashes, mine included. I took more photos of ducks in Lansky, the lobby�s duck store, and then went back to my room to see what I had. I was using Karen�s camera and it seems to be dying. The shutter speed was so slow that all of the pix were blurry. Back I went with my own trusty camera, and tho I did not get of pic of the ducks exiting the elevator onto their red carpet, I did get some of them in the fountain and also some more in Lansky. (See above).

How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Here�s what their literature has to say about it: �Back in the 1930s Frank Shutt, general manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had imbibed a little too much Tennessee sippin� whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English Call ducks were selected as �guinea pigs,� and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous. After more than 70 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The mallard ducks live in the fountain until they are full grown and, on retirement from their Peabody duties, are returned to the wild. The Peabody ducks march to the fountain at 11:00 am and return to their penthouse at 5:00 pm daily.�

And here�s Gene . . . Memphis is a great city in which to have a rest day. This morning, the rain from Hurricane Katrina had stopped by 10 am. Although a water saturated and wind buffeted wall had fallen and just missed hitting the vans, all the equipment weathered the storm � Katrina�s eye was about 100 miles away. Most riders slept through the wind and rain last night.

Today, Memphis activities included a 4-hour city tour, exploring Beale Street in the daytime, visiting Sun City Studios, the Danny Thomas Hospital, visiting Mud Island and the 400-yard long cement scale model of the Mississippi River, riding the city trolley car through downtown, Memphis Red Birds baseball game (including hot dogs for dinner), and eating Memphis pulled pork BBQ and coleslaw on a bun. Where is Elvis?

Oh yes, a few cleaned their bikes for the ride to Graceland tomorrow and then the wee 25 miles further to Hernando. It will be a short day, but with all the BBQ consumed in the last 24 hours we need a short ride.

posted 2005-08-31 | 19:30:12 | article number: 1

Day 18 --Wed., Aug 31--Memphis, TN to Hernando, MS--37 miles; 650 feet of climb
Susan here this evening. After a great rest day, riders were raring to go again and looked forward to a leisurely day in the saddle -- a mere 37 miles and those broken up with a stop at Graceland, Elvis Presley's mansion.

But riders were also anxious about what was going to transpire in the face of Hurricane Katrina, so they opted to skip the Graceland tourand ride straight to Hernando where they could call airlines and confer with friends and relatives. Dave and Anne, who live in Florida but who had left their car parked in New Orleans, rented a car and made plans to leave from Memphis. Three others dcecided to leave the tour and had arranged for rental cars or for spouses to come for them in Hernando. The rest rode to Hernando.

This left Josh and me as the only riders to take the tour. I was impressed with Elvis' humanity and generosity in his early career as well as stunned by his prolific musical accomplishments and far reaching fame, but I must say that I was a little appalled at the tackiness of his 1960s and '70s decorating style. Did we really think avocado shag carpeting was "cool"? Elvis must have because it not only covered his floor but his walls and ceiling also. And his jungle room? Far out, man!

Anyway, it was a fun tour and a very pleasant ride, even the interesting and varied urban Memphis streets before wegot out on country roads.

When we reached Hernando, the straff conferred and then spoke with the home office, and it was decided to end the tour. Getting to New Orleans was out of the question and many felt uncomfortable with the idea of taking up hotel rooms needed by the evacuees.

Our plans are to cycle back to Memphis tomorrow, and then help riders sort out their travel plans and box and ship their bikes. We'll wind down in the evening with good-byes and a last meal and evening together.

Click in tomorrow to read one rider's account of our decision to end the ride and to see how the day went.

posted 2005-09-01 | 22:09:15 | article number: 2

Day 19--Thur. Sept.1--Hernando to Memphis
Well, here we are in Memphis again, having returned from Hernando this morning -- same route but in reverse, the first 20 miles of which ABB arrowed, thanks to Karen who craved a little bike time yesterday.

I (Susan) set up a SS about midway on this short ride, mainly to give riders a chance to sample the oatmeal raisin cookies and brownies contributed by Joyce (we all thank you, Joyce!)and to refill their water bottles on this warm, humid day. I also wanted to present riders with a good-bye flower arrangement -- white crepe myrtle, compliments of a bush behind Walgreens where I set up the sag.

When all riders got to Memphis, we transported bikes to a nearby bike shop, sorted out things in the two vehicles, went to lunch, and then met with all the riders for a final good-bye followed by dinner at BIGFOOT, an eclectic restaurant around the corner from our motel. It was a fun and memorable gathering and gave riders and staff a chance to say their final good-byes and bring closure to the tour.

Here�s Bill Weidenfiller�s Ride End Message, as promised. He speaks eloquently for all of us:

�The Great Mississippi River Ride 2005......IS OVER! Tomorrow we will return to Memphis, pack up our bikes, and fly home on Friday, September, 2.

�The decision to discontinue the ride short of our goal was made by ABB�with complete agreement from the bikers. In reality, it was the ONLY call. There is far too much destruction, uncertainty, and chaos South of here to attempt a safe continuation of the GMR. Availability of gasoline for the vans was becoming impossible, power outages are prevalent in the cities we were to visit, and motels are overflowing with refugees from New Orleans. We discussed the moral issues of 20 bikers perhaps displacing hurricane evacuees in the motels ahead. We could NOT continue.

�We are currently in Hernando, MS, a gentile Southern town of 10,000 people , following our 37 mile ride here this morning from Memphis. We will retrace the route tomorrow back to the same hotel in Memphis. There the ride culminates . . . 6 days short of New Orleans. I hope to complete the Memphis/New Orleans segment next year. I feel strongly about finishing the route!!!

�It is truly a sad experience to talk with the New Orleans evacuees we meet continually. They have nothing � their homes and businesses are under water, yet they remain relatively optimistic. Many have children in tow. Where will they live? What will they do?

�Our group is composed of vacationing cyclists, all of whom have a home to return to. It is time we got out of the way � for our own safety � and to allow others to do what has to be done in the wake of this disastrous storm. I think we all want to finish a challenge we have begun...the challenge of cycling the length of the Mississippi River. I plan to do just that . . . one day!!!�

posted 2005-09-02 | 07:45:38 | article number: 3

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