David Freeze Day 13: A headwind and other challenges net a good finish!

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 15, 2022

Editor’s note: David Freeze is cycling along the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa, to New Orleans. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Just after the sun topped the horizon this morning, I was on the bike and pedaling south. I had sort of a plan, ready to revise if needed. My initial goal was to make West Memphis, Arkansas, and set myself up for a run through Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday morning.

I rode four miles on I-55 and then pedaled the rest of the day on other roads. U.S. 61 South was back and initially had a great shoulder and beautiful farm scenery. The weather lady on a Memphis station said winds would be significant out of the south, making the first real headwind of my whole adventure. All the farmland was flat and that probably aided the wind gain some intensity.

The first segment was on a portion of 61 named the Americana Music Highway, largely because the highway was notable in the careers of BB King and others from the Memphis area. Traffic was light as I passed through a series of very small towns named Bardette, Luxura, Osceola, Driver, Wilson, Bassett, Joiner, Frenchman’s Bayou, Terrell, Clarkedale, Jericho and Sunset. That run ended on State Road 77 at Marion, a productive and busy town.

I could see the river levees at times and stopped in Osceola to ask if there was anywhere to see the river. I was told there was not and the roads would lead away from the river ahead.

My focus was on making West Memphis, but all along if everything went right, I wanted more. I started analyzing last night how to cross the Mississippi on a bike legally. Jeff from the New Madrid Museum said that he heard something has been done to make it possible. In 2016, the Harahan Bridge, formerly used for railroad traffic, was repurposed to get pedestrians including cyclists across the river safely. I used a mixture of city streets and a very nice bike path to access the bridge while interstate traffic from I-55 and I-40 buzzed all around. Just as I reached the bridge, a train started over the upper level of the Harahan Bridge, proving it is still very much in use.

By riding over the bridge, I am now in Memphis, Tennessee, not too far from Graceland and the Peabody Hotel ducks which I visited while here to run the Memphis Marathon years ago.

Coming off the Harahan Bridge, I had to ask two locals for help understanding how I could get around the trains and back headed south, unbelievably once again on U.S. 61 South. I found it with a little luck and started looking for a motel, not interested in the upscale ones downtown, I checked Siri for options. One called the Relax Inn was close by but wouldn’t give a rate over the phone. Another was at least $25 too much. I stopped and got a room at another one, then got a refund after I saw the inside. And getting that refund wasn’t easy, but I did get it.

Finally I am settled in the Regency Inn, the first motel run by a woman and also the first I could understand. I got my dinner from the nearest convenience store that included pizza, ice cream and watermelon chunks way cheaper than the grocery store prices.

Today’s ride was 80 miles, but I am positioned to head south in the morning and will be quickly entering Mississippi. I’m happy with the progress so far but will have to pull out several maps to plan tomorrow. After Mississippi, only Louisiana remains but there are still lots of miles to cover and plenty to see. Hope you will plan on joining me right back here again tomorrow!