Introduction & Itinerary

Introduction & Itinerary   Amtrak - Champaign to Brookhaven   Azalea Trail   Trail of Destruction   Summary      Return to Main Page

One of my dreams had been to bike to my 50th high school reunion in Mobile, AL. But it soon became obvious that even at 60-65 miles per day it would take 2 weeks to do the 800+ miles from Quincy, IL, and only one way at that. And when my wife, Jeanine, with her daily ration of 30-40 miles opted in, I knew a fall back position was required. So I settled on driving from Quincy to Champaign, IL, take the City of New Orleans to somewhere in Mississippi or Louisiana, bike to Mobile, and bike back to where we could catch the train north.
The logistics problem was to find lodging 30 to 40 miles apart connected by as bike friendly roads as possible. I first decided to detrain in McComb, MS, spend the night there and then and bike to Mobile with overnight stops in Columbia, Lumberton, Wiggins, and Lucedale. The return would require a ride to the Mississippi state line, then overnights in Biloxi, Bay Saint Louis, Slidell, Covington, and Hammond. Fortunately. as it turned out, the the Slidell - Covington segment put us on the Tammany Trace, an outstanding rails-to-trails conversion.
But then I discovered the 41 mile Longleaf Trace bike trail between Prentiss and Hattiesburg that looked too good to pass up. I then considered Prentiss, Hattiesburg, Wiggins, Lucedale, and Mobile. But this required roughly a 45 mile day; and I wanted to be able to take my time and enjoy what appeared to an outstanding rail-to-trail conversion. When I discovered the "bunk house" at the Four-K stables in Bassfield (the Trace's website listed no lodging between the endpoints of Prentiss and Hattiesburg), the pieces fell into place. So the final plan called for detraining and biking from Brookhaven to Monticello, Bassfield, Hattiesburg, Wiggins, Lucedale, and Mobile. The City of New Orleans is scheduled to arrive in Brookhaven at 12:16PM leaving ample time to bike the 20 miles to Monticello, even in our early Spring out of shape condition, unless it were extremely late. Consulting an Amtrak Train Status History website I found that 15 minutes late (no problem) was typical; and the worst over a month's time was 2 hours (still not a real problem).
It should be noted that Hattiesburg to Lucedale via US 98 would be more direct and save about 18 miles; but that would leave 51 miles with no motels in between; and I didn't like the idea of riding the main 4-lane highway. In a similar vein, it would have been nice to arrive at or depart from New Orleans. But I could find no motels between there and Bay St. Louis, a distance of almost 50 miles. Going via Slidell would solve the motel problem; but I didn't like the looks of the two lane, shoulderless US 11 southwest of Slidell, much less the long, narrow bridge across the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain. In the mid 80's I had biked from Mobile to the NO Amtrak station in a day and a half; but sadly that was no longer an option.
Since one of the reunion's activities was scheduled for a time and place that made bicycling to it impossible, even for the most die-hard cyclist, I decided to rent a car. Since we would be returning on a Sunday morning, the only choice was to rent one at the Mobile Regional Airport. This was advantageous because the airport is located in the western outskirts of the city and very near the best bike route into town from Mississippi; and there didn't seem to be the surcharge usually associated with airport rentals.
Amtrak does not offer baggage service at Brookhaven and McComb; and I was unsure about Hammond (the Amtrak website shows baggage hours at Hammond; but the time table does not). Thus folding bikes were the only option; and this would be a test of my Dahon Speed P8 as a touring bike (I had already successfully biked the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany on a Dahon MuP8, which Jeanine would be riding). Hammond turned out to have baggage service, so we could have used our full-size road bikes had we started and finished in Hammond; but I preferred the variety of separate east and westbound routes.
My thinking was to reserve lodging for the 3 days in Mobile plus any stop where there was only one option.  My final itinerary looked like this:
The Azalea Trail - from Brookhaven, MS, Amtrak station to Mobile Regional Airport - 196 miles
The trail of destruction - from the Mississippi state line to Hammond, LA, Amtrak station - 155 miles
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