Oxford, MS to West Helena, AR

A antique, but working, tractor near the Mississippi River

While breakfast this morning wasn't nearly as good as breakfast the day before, I slept much better last night because I had sense enough not to drink coffee in the evening. I left Oxford around 9 AM, heading west on MS 6. A couple of drivers in Oxford this morning seemed determined to prove that folks here could be just as rude as folks in California. Fortunately, once I got a few miles down the road, there were no more problems. Because I wanted to get to US 49 which has a bridge across the Mississippi, I need to go north as well as west. The car route to do that uses an interstate and does it as a right angle, e.g over and then up. I couldn't use the interstate and I wanted a more direct route, so I let my GPS route me on small roads. This worked very well.

One of the small roads my GPS routed me on today
I was on this road for about ten miles

About nine miles west of Oxford, I left the big road on a road that I first thought was a driveway! That was a short little road which I quickly left for a middle sized road. Then I went back on another tiny road, and was on small roads for many miles. The riding was bumpy and there was a lot of climbing, but there was also lots of shade and no traffic. I rode in this mode - getting instructions from my GPS - for 16 miles to Sardis. In Sardis, I had lunch at Lodgies, the only local eatery left - the interstate junction with chain restaurants is 1.5 miles from Lodgies. It was very pleasant to eat at Lodgies and the food was good.

MS 315, one of the biggest roads my GPS routed me on today

After Sardis, I rode about 25 miles west on MS 315. This was pleasant, if hot, riding through rolling hills on a highway with some truck traffic - one would come along every five or ten minutes - and not much other traffic. The temperature was in the mid 90s and there was little or no shade on the road. I realized that I didn't have enough water to keep me properly hydrated, and wished I had had the sense to put a couple of liters in one of my two water bladders before I left. I had stopped at a service station to pick up a pastry before I started on the small roads and I refilled a water bottle at Sardis, but that service station and the only restaurant open in Sardis were the only services on my route till I reached Arkansas. I stopped in a grove trees (shade!) to rest and eat the pastry some 20 miles after Sardis. I stopped again in a field near the Mississippi River to rest and drink the last of my water before riding over the bridge.

A crop Duster flying over Six Mile Lake Road where I saw that tractor

I got off 315 and on to Six Mile Lake Road for about ten miles of even more peaceful, and rural, riding. The only other vehicles I saw on that road were very specialized agricultural vehicles including a spray rig that I could have ridden under. Along this road there were wheat, corn, some leafy vegetable, and rice, fields.

The bridge across the Mississippi at Helena
The lady who helped me at the Arkansas Welcome Center
said bicyclists had called for an escort across this bridge.
Wimps ;-}!

When Six Mile Lake Road ended at MS 69, my GPS told me to continue across 69. There was no road there, so I turned down 69 and was then told to ride for a mile and a half and turn right. That worked. I rode through Lula, a small black town, and got on US 49 about half a dozen miles before the bridge. US 49 was not fun. It was concrete slabs with bad joints between the slabs - thump,thump - no shade and nothing to block the wind. Mississippi, like Pennsylvania, seems to have its worst roads near its borders. Riding this one, I just wanted to get out of Mississippi! So I did. The bridge, when I finally reached it, wasn't bad, and, a short distance into Arkansas, I stopped at the first service station to get a pastry and a very large drink.

The lovely shoulder From the Welcome Center to West Helena

The welcome center offered free maps, a water fountain to refill my water bottle, and free coffee, so I stopped. The woman working there, a retired first grade teacher, was very helpful in dealing with my routing questions. Then I rode another five miles to get to the area north of West Helena where the motels and restaurants are. US 49 had a great shoulder and smooth pavement till it reached the area where the services are. Then it degenerated badly.

I had decided to go for an inexpensive motel tonight, so I stopped at the Sands. This place looked to be at the bottom end of my acceptable range, and cost $30 including taxes, for the night. The room is quite nice, everything works, the king bed is comfortable, and I'm really pleased with my choice. Oh, and someone is providing me with good wireless internet service. Such a deal.

I didn't get second lunch - I was lucky to get first lunch today - so I headed back into West Helena on foot looking for supper. The first restaurant I came to served excellent Mexican food, and I indulged myself. That may have been a mistake since my digestive system isn't fully recovered from its earlier trauma (burp!), but I sure enjoyed that meal!

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