Southern Comfort

Usually, I stay in one place for at least a few weeks. However, this trip has been a long, strange ride through the south. I would normally take the road bike, but this time the ease associated with the folding bike made sense, as I would have to pack it up about every 4 days.

The first stop, Homewood, Alabama, borders Birmingham. An upscale bedroom community. Homewood is extremely hilly. My dawn patrol ride became the McMansion tour of the south. Atop every hill, it seemed that almost every home was incorporated into the landscape. The trees dwarfed the homes, creating a gorgeous setting.

Next, I was lucky enough to stay in Horn Lake, Mississippi. Horn Lake is another bedroom community, just north of Memphis, Tennessee. With very little time in the schedule to ride, I decided that I was going to split one ride between both states. My hotel, on the Mississippi side, was 2 miles from Memphis. I jumped out of the hotel and pedaled into traffic, crossing the state line for a 10 mile ride in Tennessee. On the way back, I passed the hotel, cruised around Horn Lake and avoided the oncoming hurricane by a few minutes.

It poured the entire next day as I drove to Little Rock, Arkansas, creating some down time to plan routes throughout the Rose City. My hotel was in North Little Rock, about 8 miles from downtown. With little time, my lunch ride from the hotel, was rather flat. A windy spin around North Little Rock that was pretty uneventful. A few days later, I hit the jackpot. A tip, sent me over to the Big Dam Bridge.

Originally intended to be called Murray Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge spans the Arkansas River and Murray Lock and Dam between Little Rock and North Little Rock and is open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At 4,226 feet in length it is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in North America that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles. It rises to 90 feet over the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam. The span over the river is 3,463 feet, with the ramps on either side of the river accounting for the rest of the length. The southern end of the bridge is near Little Rock’s Murray Park, while the northern end is at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock.

You exit the bridge on the Arkansas River Trail. A smoothly paved cycleway that runs through beautiful landscape to and through downtown Little Rock. You glide across the Arkansas River and over several bridges before arriving in the downtown section of the city. I can’t wait for my next visit to the area. I’ll bring the Ritchey to explore even more of the Arkansas Trail.

All and all, I was pleasantly surprised at how hilly the south is. Not mountainous, but compared to the Mid West, it was a nice change to be able to climb a little.