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The Great Mississippi River Ride, page 1
New Orleans, LA to Memphis, TN
(The Great Southern River Ride '08)

current date and time 2008-07-03 | 19:26:42
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Number of Journal Entries online: 9
Day 0 - May 12 - New Orleans, LA - Opening Day! Welcome Cyclists!
Welcome to America by Bicycle�s Great Mississippi River Ride Journal.
After all the talk and preparation of riding a bicycle across the country, the time has come to make this a reality! Be sure to add this site to your favorites and follow us as we work our way north beside the mighty Mississippi.

We will be doing a feature article each day on one of the riders. Until we get have our first interviewee, here are some intros on the staff:

Rider Leader:
Jeff Lazer, age 55, from St. Paul, MN. This is Jeff�s fifth tour with ABB. Last year he was the co-leader on the Mississippi Ride and staff on the across America North. Jeff has 12 years of long distance biking experience, including many multi-day rides.

Mike Roon, age 55, from Grandville, MI. Mike rode the Fast South with AbB in 2002. He once rowed (in a true row boat) the length of Lake Michigan (320 miles) from Gary IN to the Mackinaw bridge.

Support Staff:
Deb Tarvin, age 60, New Tripoli, PA. First a rider with AbB, and then joined as staff in 2006 on the Cross Country Challenge. Last year was staff on Across America North, and the Maine Foliage Ride.

Support Staff:
Sondra Lazer, age 43, also from St. Paul and married to Jeff. Two tours with ABB working as an intern.

Day 0 � registration and orientation.
The weather: PERFECT the past 2 days - amazingly low humidity and sunshine with temps in the low 80s. Looks like this nice weather will hold through tomorrow.
Many of the riders arrived early and took time to see the sites of New Orleans. A few rode 15 miles (via a smooth bike path on the levee) to Audubon Park, which was a plantation in colonial days. Now it is a beautiful park that includes the Audubon Zoo, a golf course, beautiful old homes and lovely flower gardens. It is amazing only a few of the park�s old live oak trees were blown down when Hurricane Katrina hit the city. Others spent time touring the famous French quarter

We got everyone registered and bikes assembled. We had our first dinner together. Everyone has at least a little bit of the butterflies, but those will dissipate as soon as the legs start turning those wheels tomorrow.

Now off to try to get good nights sleep. See you tomorrow!

posted 2008-05-12 | 21:12:09 | article number: 1

Day 1 - May 13 - New Orleans to Gonzales, LA � 61 miles, 473 ft of climbing
Ease on down the road, ease on down the road�! It�s a beautiful day for a bike ride! We simply couldn�t order up a better day for our first ride of this journey!
70 at the start, low 80s at destination, fairly low humidity. Best of all � tailwinds for most of the day.

After breakfast we departed and rode 8.6 miles as a group on the bike path that runs on the levee and stopped for a group photo in front of an old plantation house. At 11 miles, the bike path turns to gravel and we were on road the rest of the day.

We had a variety of scenery to look at. From the levee, we had views of the Mississippi river; the banks lined with Egrets, birds and ducks of various species. There is a particularly pretty type of duck that have bright red bills. I�m told they are called Whistling-Ducks. We also saw several large sugar refineries, and also many oil processing plants. The later part of the day took us through the wet lands of Louisiana, past sugar cane fields.

Our first SAG stop was at mile 29 at the San Francisco Plantation (picture), originally built in 1856 and beautifully restored. Several riders stopped and took the guided tour.

Everyone arrived at the hotel by early afternoon, so there was some time to relax before dinner.

Today�s Featured Rider:
Joe Hoffman from West Warwick, RI
Occupation: Engineering Manager at the VA Hospital
Status: Single
Bike: Bike Friday
Favorite Food: Steak
Little Known Fact: he has a PhD in Engineering
Riding from New Orleans to Memphis

Joe started riding in 1979, when he bought a house and a Schwinn Suburban 10 speed bike. He still owns both and even continues to put miles on the bike!
Joe started participating in bike tours in 1982 and has since done many multi-day tours. He has ridden with AbB on 2 other occasions; parts of the Mississippi and East rides. Joe is on this tour to add another leg of the Mississippi to his list of completed goals.
When asked what he likes about these rides, he said he really likes the �high caliber� type of people on these rides.

posted 2008-05-13 | 21:44:57 | article number: 2

Day 2 - May 14 � Gonzales to St. Francisville, LA � 55 miles, 789 ft of climbing
Another great day!
Weather: Threatened to rain all morning, but held off until after everyone arrived at our destination. 70s at the start 80s at destination, mostly tailwinds. Humidity pretty high.

We started early as everyone needed to be in St. Francisville by 3:30. The place we have lunch/dinner at, closes at 4:00.

We were on highways most of the day. The route took us through Baton Rouge and right past LSU. The highlight of the day was getting to St. Francisville early and after a wonderful lunch at the Magnolia Caf�, many of our group explored the town. St. Francisville is small, quaint town located along the Mississippi River. It is known for its B&Bs;, many of them historic homes, some dating back to the 1800s. There is also a beautiful, old cemetery, complete with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and a variety of wrought iron fences surrounding family plots. The waterfront was interesting; we saw several homes on cinder block stilts. It�s a good thing too, as it was completely flooded under the homes. Tied to one of them was a boat � I suppose for getting to/from the front door!

Tomorrow we enter a new state � Mississippi!

Today�s Featured Rider:
Richard Goldman, age 65, from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Occupation: Retired Professor and Educator. Previous owner of an education company, childcare center and an online high school. Still actively involved in the family owned K-12 school as a board member.
Marital Status: Married, 3 children, 5 grandchildren
Bike: Bike Friday
Favorite Food: Anything Ethnic
Little Known Fact: Three years ago, he announced to his wife he was going to see their son in Jacksonville (360 miles away). Little did she know, he meant he was going to bike there!
Riding from New Orleans to Minneapolis

Richard took up biking after the many years of running started taking its toll. He is doing this ride because he has already crossed the country from West to East on his bike and wants to add the South to North. What�s next? Around the world?

posted 2008-05-14 | 21:48:48 | article number: 3

Day 3 - May 15 � St. Francisville to Natchez, MS � 65 miles, 2131 ft of climbing
We had a very fun and interesting day. Our departure was delayed three hours due to thunderstorms and heavy rain. Most spent the morning hours glued to our favorite T.V. channel (The Weather Channel) or reading, doing laundry and checking email. We also held our trivia contest. Larry was the big winner, and received the grand prize � two flashing/blinking valve covers.

Weather: light drizzle at departure, then cloudy until the first SAG at 27 miles. After that, mostly sunny, hot and humid. Again, tailwinds most of the day.

Today we were on quiet back roads in the morning. The terrain is changing; we are now out of the flat, low, wetlands and traveling more on quiet, forested roads and encountering a few more gentle rolling hills. The second part of our day was mostly on highway 61 into Natchez. After dinner at a BBQ place, several of the riders explored the very beautiful historic district. Natchez has more antebellum houses than anywhere else in the United States, partly due to the fact that during the American Civil War Natchez was spared the destruction of many other Southern cities.

Oh the friendships we form on these rides. Two years ago, Stu and Abe rode with AbB on the Across America North and became part of the �Final Four�. This group was apparently famous for being the final four in every day � hence the name. They even have t-shirts to prove it! Unbeknownst to Stu and Abe, the other half of the Final Four, Lois and Annie showed up (all the way from Denver) and put up over 15 signs along the route. See photo for an example. Everyone enjoyed the signs and also the tasty rice krispie bars they brought to our SAG stop. It sure made for a fun day!

Tomorrow, we are looking forward to riding on the famous �Natchez Trace�.

Today�s Featured Rider:
Dave Robbins, age 61, from West Hartford, CT
Occupation: Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College
Marital Status: Married, 2 children
Bike: Cannondale T2000
Favorite Food: All the �bad� stuff, at least he will have plenty of chances to burn it off!
Little Known Fact: Dave replied �I really don�t have any secrets and live an uninteresting life on purpose�.
Riding from New Orleans to Memphis
Dave is doing this ride to complete the last leg. In 2005, his trip was cut short due to hurricane Katrina.
Dave is perhaps the quietest person on our ride, however, he has a great wry sense of humor, which we love!

posted 2008-05-16 | 05:26:20 | article number: 4

Day 4 - May 16 � Natchez to Vicksburg, MS � 90 miles, 2879 ft of climbing
Weather: Cool (and loving it!), low 60s at the start, 70s at destination. We expirenced headwinds most of the day for the first time on the ride.

After riding through Natchez, we were quickly out on country roads, following the MRT (Mississippi River Trail), though called a trail; it is actually a bike route.
In one of the country areas, Jean and Jeff were biking along, when they came upon three horses in the road and were �escorted� for a short distance down the road. Where is their camera when they need it?!

At mile 15 we entered the Natchez Trace Parkway. The �Trace� is now a beautifully paved parkway 444 miles long with limited access to autos and low speed limits. It once was a trail started by large animals (bison, deer, and other game), and later used by Native Americans. Between 1785 and 1825 it was heavily used and the most reliable and expedient link between the goods of the north and the trading ports of Louisiana. The riders enjoyed the quiet, smooth roads and the many historical spots to explore along the way.
At mile 64 we exited the Trace and were again on country roads until we reached the town of Vicksburg. Our motel is right across the road from the Vicksburg Military Park and a few of the riders went over to check that out. During the Civil War, Vicksburg was the site of the Siege of Vicksburg, an event in which the Union gained control of the entire Mississippi River. The Vicksburg battlefield park is quite extensive and includes 1,330 monuments and markers, a 16 mile tour road, a restored Union gunboat, and a National Cemetery.
Tomorrow, we have our first 100 mile day!
I need to get a few more details from our featured rider of the day and will have that posted here tomorrow.

posted 2008-05-16 | 23:33:16 | article number: 5

Day 5 - May 17 � Vicksburg to Greenville, MS � 100 miles, 1040 ft of climbing
Weather: Perfect. 50s at the start, upper 70s at destination, light tailwinds most of the day and sunny!

It was a big day for the �Georges�. Congratulations to George S., who completed his first century! Then, we had Sir George (the one in the orange helmet), who joined our ride for a bit.

Due to the length of our route today, we got on the road early. After a few rolling hills out of Vicksburg, we were mostly on quiet, flat, country roads. The route took us past fields of corn, soy bean, wheat and cotton. One rider remarked, only 2 cars passed them in 20 miles. Everywhere we went today, the locals had many stories to tell, which helped break up the long day.

A favorite spot was our first SAG stop at the Onward Store. It is an old, rickety place with lots of personality, complete with the locals hanging out on the front porch shooting the breeze. Their claim to fame is in 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a captive bear while hunting there and the event is thought to have led to the creation of his nick name �Teddy Bear�.

Tomorrow we head for Clarksdale, 82 miles away!

Things heard on the road today:
�1 mile down, only 99 more to go�
�I have a suggestion for the SAG stop location next year; the Road Kill Caf�.
�Where you�all biking to? Minnesota. Today�?

Today�s featured Rider:
Sarah Shields, age 62, grew up in New England, now lives in Berkeley, CA
Occupation: Retired High School Teacher (English and Social studies)
Bike: Lemond
Favorite Food: Bananas
Little Known Fact: Sarah used to race thorough bred horses
Riding from New Orleans to Minneapolis

Sarah�s family has lived in Natchez since 1774, when her ancestors acquired 500 acres of land. Our route took us near her family home (built in 1824), where her father was born and raised; a cousin still resides in the home. She has an extensive knowledge of the area; we enjoyed learning more about the history of Natchez.
Fun note: Sarah had �tea� with her Stepmother, who is 101 years old!

Sarah has participated in four AbB rides.

posted 2008-05-18 | 06:10:35 | article number: 6

Day 6 - May 18 � Greenville to Clarksdale, MS � 82 miles, 970 ft of climbing
Weather: 60s and a little bit of light rain at the start, upper 70s at destination. Mostly cloudy. Very windy, fortunately, in our favor for most of the day.

Today, we were again on quiet country roads. This part of Mississippi is pretty flat; the biggest climb of the day was when the road went up and over the highway. The view was mostly of cotton fields, that were just beginning to sprout and also corn and soy beans. When we looked to our left, sometimes we had views of a levee.

The wind really helped speed us along, everyone was in by 2:00pm and had some time to relax, do laundry, or for a walk.

Clarksdale is the Birthplace and World Capital of the Blues and the Delta Blues Museum. Since it is Sunday, the museum was closed; however, a few riders explored the area. Richard spent about an hour talking to the owner of the Riverside Hotel and shared some history with us. Originally it was hospital for blacks, it was bought in 1944 and turned into a hotel where guests such as, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, and John F. Kennedy, Jr. have stayed. A memorial for blues artist Bess Smith, who died in 1937, is located in Room #2 for this was the emergency room where she died when the hospital was open.

We said goodbye to Stu and Abe�s friends, Lois, Annie and Sir George, who have been following us since day 3.

Heard today:
�I didn�t know armadillos had fur on their bellies until now�
�Hey, there�s a pack of wild dogs up there! �oh, I guess it�s a litter of puppies�
�Take the last train to Clarksdale�or is it Clarksville? Oh well, take the last train to Clarksdale, I�ll be meeting you at the station�.
�Rumor has it there are gators up on the levee�
�We rescued a turtle. What kind? Here�s a picture. Hey, that�s a huge snapper!�

When walking out of the restaurant after dinner, Paul noticed a plastic bag with a little bit of water in it, hanging from the top of the door frame. When asked what they were for, the reply was �to keep the flies away, you�re not from around here, are you�? Does this really work?

Note on photo � Looks like Paul really likes the food we supply at our SAG stops!

Today�s Featured Rider:
Paul Kramer, age 51, from Woodland, CA
Occupation: Hearing Officer, with the California Energy Commission
Marital Status: Married
Bike: 2003 Seven Alaris
Favorite Food: Pizza
Little Known Fact: �I�m not sure, but there�s probably a repressed memory somewhere�
Paul rode with AbB in 2004 on the Across America North. He is a strong rider, who likes to make frequent stops to take some photos (excellent quality) and explore various sites.
When not biking, Paul enjoys skiing and golfing. He mentioned he has also tried his hand at woodworking and his wife has a very expensive cutting board, not from the material, but all the tools!
Riding from New Orleans to Minneapolis

posted 2008-05-18 | 21:40:42 | article number: 7

Day 7 - May 19 � Clarksdale to Senatobia, MS � 62 miles, 1098 ft of climbing
Weather: Warm and sunny, another gorgeous day in rural Mississippi, plus the wind at our backs again!

The first part of our day was on quiet country roads with very little traffic. The vehicles we saw were mostly huge farm machines (see picture). All of them gave us plenty of room and a friendly wave.

There is lots of Kudzu in this area. Kudzu is a very fast growing (up to a foot a day) vine, that has become quite invasive. Originally, it was introduced in the US for ornamental purposes in 1876, later used for erosion control and as a feed for livestock. You can see it climbing up and over everything it comes in contact with, telephone poles, trees, sheds, barns and we even saw most of a house covered in it!

When we cycle through these small towns, there is always a lot of curiosity. Today, I was stopped three different times by the local folks wanting to know more about our adventures and of course they are always amazed at what we are doing. At dinner, I learned many of our group had the same experience.

Our SAG stop was at another small, ancient store with lots of character. It has a (only one) gas pump which looks like it has been there since 1965 or so. We were shocked when someone actually pulled up and filled up their tank from it. If only the prices were from then too!

Tomorrow, we bike into Memphis and have a day off the bike. We also say goodbye to Dave and Joe (pictured). We have enjoyed getting to know them over the past week and are very sad to see them go. So long Dave and Joe, take care, we look forward to meeting up with you on another AbB ride!

In Memphis, three new riders join our family; Dale, Mark and Darrell.

posted 2008-05-19 | 21:38:44 | article number: 8

Day 8 - May 20 � Senatobia to Memphis � 65 miles, 2470 ft of climbing
Weather: warm and sunny, low humidity; winds light and variable.

In the morning we rode on some beautiful country roads, which took us by the Arkabutla Dam and recreation area.

Dale, an AbB alumni rider who will be joining us in Memphis, rode out to our SAG stop and surprised us. He was able to advise us of a minor detour (it added only 1 mile to our route) and helped us chalk/mark the detour. Thank you for your help Dale!

By late morning, we were approaching the outskirts of Memphis. When we turned on Elvis Presley Blvd, Graceland and the Heartbreak Hotel was just 100 yards or so away. Once we reached the downtown area, several riders stopped at Sun Studios, where Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash began their careers.

Downtown Memphis is beautiful and clean. A trolley runs through the city center and you will also see horse drawn carriages. Our hotel is in a great location, just across the street from the waterfront and Mud Island. At Mud Island there a nice museum and a 5-block long replica of the lower Mississippi river, from Cairo, IL, to New Orleans. After dinner at Big Foot, several of us checked out the famous Beale Street and the views of the river.

Tomorrow we have a day off the bike and some time to explore the sights of Memphis.

Featured Rider of the Day:
Jeanne Powers (J.P.), age 62, from Lansing, MI
Occupation: Retired Grant Coordinator. When I asked her for more information, the reply was something like this �pretty bureaucratic. I evaluated acquisitions for land to be used for outdoor recreation use�.
Marital Status: Single
Bike: Lightening Stealth Recumbent
Favorite Food: Lasagna
Hobbies: Genealogy and playing a game called Mah Jongg, which I understand is a bit like gin rummy, but with tiles with Chinese symbols on them.
Little Known Fact: She ran her first (and last) marathon when she was over the age of 40, a �late bloomer�.
JP has some sort of herbal concoction, she got from her trainer. She calls them �my greens�. Whatever (no one seems to be sure exactly what they consist of), they are, we all want some of them. After J.P. drinks them, she bikes like Elvis on steroids. :)

posted 2008-05-22 | 20:32:01 | article number: 9

On to Page 2 Memphis, TN to St. Charles, MO (The Great Central River Ride)
On to Page 3 St. Charles, MO to Minneapolis, MN (The Great Northern River Ride)

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