Day 1: Ridgeland
We’ll gather as a group after we check in before 4 PM at the Towne Place Suites Marriott in Ridgeland, MS. We’ll greet each other at our 4 PM orientation meeting at the hotel then stroll to dinner at the Sombra Mexican Grill serving local cuisine. The evening will end with our bikes and gear ready for our adventure through Mississippi.
Day 2: Natchez Trace/Barnett Reservoir Loop Ride
Terrain: Flat with a few small hills
We’ll begin our adventure with an early start and nice loop ride around the Barnett Reservoir including a 14-mile section of the Natchez Trace north of Ridgeland. We will finish by mid-afternoon so that you can enjoy a late lunch on your own. We will meet again in the early evening for dinner at one of Ridgelands fine establishments.
Day 3: Ridgeland to Vicksburg
Terrain: Rolling hills
We’ll head west out of Ridgeland toward the historic town of Vicksburg. We’ll ride rural Mississippi country roads as we make our way toward the mighty Mississippi River, passing through the sometimes forgotten towns of Bolton, Edwards, and Bovina. All the towns along the route were on the old Alabama and Vicksburg Railroad and suffered damage during the Civil War as a result. We will finish the day at the Hampton Inn and Suites as we enter our first ‘rest’ day.
Day 4: Vicksburg Layover Day
Terrain: Rolling Hills
After breakfast, we will begin the day with a visit and film at the Vicksburg National Military Park that commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in 1863. A beautiful and historic 16-mile guided cycling tour that includes stops at the Illinois Monument, USS Cairo Museum, and Vicksburg National Cemetery will be offered. Beautiful vistas are in abundance throughout this park. After the tour, you will be on your own for lunch in downtown Vicksburg which showcases beautiful shows, historic buildings, and restaurants. In the afternoon, the Maggio Historic Walking Tour of Vicksburg is offered which will take you through one of the most historic districts in the city of Vicksburg. The evening concludes with dinner at the Walnut Hills Restaurant, a Vicksburg icon. Fabulous authentic Southern plantation cuisine served in the atmosphere of an 1880’s home. The world-famous fried chicken is a specialty as are the varied garden vegetables, each prepared from unique recipes.
Day 5: Vicksburg to Port Gibson
Terrain: Large rolling hills, major road
We’ll head directly south out of Vicksburg, paralleling the Mississippi toward the city that General US Grant declared, “too beautiful to burn”. A morning stop at the Tomato Place south of the city is a must for every cyclist. The atmosphere and southern hospitality are just fun! The smoothies and sandwiches are awesome; the outdoor fruit and vegetable stand adds to the decor. We will depart from the main road as much as possible along our journey to take in more of the rural nature of this area. In the afternoon, we will arrive in Port Gibson with its magnificent dome topped courthouse. This once thriving community was actually much closer to the Mississippi River before the river shifted course decades ago. The city saw a lot of activity during the US Civil War. Port Gibson played a big role in the development of blues music in Mississippi and is a part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. We will end our day at the Isabelle Bed and Breakfast.
Day 6: Port Gibson to Natchez
Terrain: A few steep climbs followed by flat-ish cycling into Natchez
We’ll be off Trace the first part of the day as we ride to, and explore the Windsor Ruins (the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in Mississippi), visit the Rodney Ghost town and take a tour of Alcorn State University. Founded in 1871, Alcorn is the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the United States. The steps of Windsor Ruins can be found at Alcorn State University. We finish the day as we cruise ‘downhill’ along flat terrain into the historic city of Natchez and a layover day with many activities. We’ll stay at the Holiday Inn Express.
Day 7: Natchez Layover Day
Terrain: Flat/no riding day
We’ll begin with an early morning jaunt to the Natchez Visitor Center for “The Natchez Story” film and to browse the exhibits and artifacts. We will move on to a guided tour of 3 antebellum homes in Natchez: Linden(1800), Auburn (1812) and Airlie (1790). You’ll be free for lunch on your own and explore Natchez which could include kayaking the Mississippi River, Natchez City Sightseeing Tour, museums, shopping, or a self-guided walking/cycling tour. Or just hang out and unwind. We will gather for dinner at the Magnolia Grill followed by the Southern Road to Freedom choral concert.
Day 8: Natchez to Port Gibson
Miles: 42 Miles
Terrain: Mostly flat-ish
We start at the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace today and head back toward Port Gibson and our B&B overnight along the spring wildflowers that dominate this section of the Trace. We will have more time to explore the sights we just past by a few days earlier. You can visit the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians State Historic Site before starting the Trace if you get an early start to the day. As you ride the Trace you will encounter the Emerald Mound (a ceremonial burial mound built by the ancestors of the Natchez around 1400), the Loess Bluff (deposits of the topsoil left by the last Ice Age) and Mount Locust (a historic first stand or ‘inn’). We’ll finish at the Isabella B&B.
Day 9: Port Gibson to Ridgeland
Terrain: Flat to small rolling hills
After another early hearty breakfast, we will return to the Trace for our last day on the road as we ride back to Ridgeland. Although today is our longest day, it will not be the hardest. We will continue along the tree and wildflower-lined Trace and the rolling loess that comprises this section of the state. We will pass the Sunken Trace and Mangum Mound taking a rest break at Rocky Springs, once a thriving town in the 18th century and now a ghost town that we can tour by foot. The Battle of Raymond site is located along this section of the Trace as well; a battle that convinced General US Grant that Jackson, MS had to be captured before the siege of Vicksburg could begin. We will end our day back at our start point hotel where we will celebrate our time together and share our stories over a celebration dinner. We will bid each other farewell as we depart for home or rides unknown the next morning.