We started the day with a beautiful 35-mile ride around the Ross Bartnett Reservoir in Ridgeland, a suburb of Jackson (the state capital). Blue skies, lots of sun and water on one side all the time means it’s a ride that’s pretty hard to mess up.
We began on a bike trail along the Natchez Trace, a route I’ve always wanted to ride. The whole thing is 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville, so this ride was just a tiny bit of it. (Add the full route to the bucket list — starting from Natchez since you’re more likely to have a tail wind.. and you build up to the foothills of the Appalachians.) One pleasant surprise is that there’s a separate multi-use path for the first bit, starting at the Craftsman Guild of Mississippi building and keeping us away from Jackson commuting traffic. On the Trace itself, there’s just one lane in each direction — and no shoulder. When we were on, traffic was light, so it was just fine.
The “round the rez” loop is one the locals do. You get off the Trace, of course. The route we followed looks pretty much like this — a mix of trails, shoulders/bike lanes and road. Hills? Nothing like the Sourlands back in New Jersey! (And I’m on a borrowed hybrid, not my road bike.)
Here’s something that surprised and impressed me about Mississippi: A local said that when she started riding in 2000, there were all of 4 miles of bike trails in the Jackson metro area. Now you can ride from the northern side to the southern side of the metro area on trails and bike lanes, and other communities are connecting to the bike network. Ridgeland, where we stayed, has a mayor who bikes and who has realized that multi-use paths/trails, not bike lanes, are the way to go, even if they cost more, because they serve more people.
While biking the loop, we saw lots of fishermen out on the water, many of them close to the rocky shore where the white perch seem to hang out. I’m told you can sometimes you can spot an alligator. Not this time.