Day6 -Jackson TN to West Memphis AR

It was a long ride today, about 110 miles in 8:45 minutes of riding, made longer by the screwed up bike route across the Missisippi. It was very hot (the weather channel said 'extreme heat - don't do anything strenuous outside!' -right...) and there was a pretty good (10 mph) wind from the south most of the day. Since I was riding south and then south west during the morning, the wind slowed me down a bit.

I left the north end of Jackson about 8:30 AM heading south around and then west through Jackson. It was Sunday morning so the traffic was moderate. I left Jackson heading south on 45. This is essentially a long 'strip' with fast food and other businesses. After a bit over 10 miles from north Jackson, I headed south west on TN 18. This is a nice two lane road with, for the first ten miles or so, no shoulder and then a narrow, but usable one. Traffic was light and riding conditions were pretty good although it was already hot at 9:30 AM. 18 has moderate rolling hills, some of which required my granny gears. There were a general store on 18, but it was closed on Sunday morning. At about 30 miles into the ride 18 intersects TN 100.

TN 100 has a very different character than 18, much more open and less hilly. It has no shoulder in this section, but traffic was very light. I got a bit bored with 100, but it was really pretty nice riding. It did have good forests along much of its length and the trees really helped as windbreaks. I was getting quite hungry by this point, having only a powerbar as a snack in the four hours I had been riding. This probably contributed to my 'boredom.' When 100 reached Whiteville, I stopped at the 100 Cafe and Truckstop for a good lunch.

I have a good friend who reads these post and complains that I am too preoccupied with food when I ride. What can I say? Food, or the lack of it, really makes or breaks a days riding. I need that fuel to enjoy riding! The 100 Cafe provided it and I left, about 12:45 PM, in much better spirits. Then I got a further lift to my spirits.

From just before the 100 Cafe, TN 100 becomes US 64 and that section of 64 is being upgraded to near interstate specs to match 64 the rest of the way into Memphis. A mile or so after the Cafe I was riding on an eight foot wide shoulder which continued into Memphis. on the other side of the still two lane road was a 2.5 foot shoulder and another loaded tourist was riding east on that shoulder.

I crossed over to visit - he had gone by me without seeing me - and we visited a bit. This fellow had left the Seattle area in mid April and was riding across the country and back again. He was heavily loaded (even more so that I) and, I'd guess, in his late 60s. He is doing a 10000 mile route this year, last rear he only did a 9500 mile tour... We discussed getting across the river and he said he had noticed the walkway, but by that time he was already on the bridge, so he just kept riding. He also rode some on I-40 after visiting Graceland. No big deal.

I enjoyed the visit and rode on towards Mephis inspired by his example. I decide to try to stick to US 64 till it came to the 'old' bridge and then to decide how to get across the river. 64 was fine all the way into Memphis. I saw motels at Whiteville and Somerville and I was hoping for a restaurant at Oakland, but Oakland seems to be mostly a bedroom community for Memphis. I stopped for a milkshake at a cafe/service station a bit after Oakland.

Riding into Memphis wasn't bad, but riding in Memphis went on for a long time. It is important to stress that I was riding in Memphis at 5 PM or so on a Sunday. It would be much harder riding on a weekday! I stopped at a Waffle House where 64 intersects I-40 for the first time. I ordered a pecan waffle and coffee, but ended up getting a plain waffle first because the cook forgot to put the pecans in. With two waffles and two cups of coffee in me, I was ready to tackle Memphis. Despite this fact, I somehow lost 64.

I was on Summer Ave. which is 64-70-79 at that point and then I was on North Parkway. I was still headed due west and the surroundings were now very classy, so I stayed on North Parkway till it intersected Thomas Ave. - that's Danny Thomas Ave, St Judes and all that - and then stayed on Thomas till I got to Crump Blvd which is 64-70-79 a it approaches the bridge.

Coming up to where Crump becomes I-55 I saw no choice but to ride on into the moderately heavy stream of traffic. Then I saw the Day's Inn that I had been told was at the end of the foot/bicycle route across the bridge and I took the first exit to get to it. There was the path, which was a relief since I really didn't want to ride the bridge with no shoulder in that traffic which was mostly big trucks. I rolled my bike up a grassy bank and then over to the sidewalk rather than carry it (80 lbs) up the stairs. I walked the first part of the the bridge, then rode almost all of the rest. No problems other than a bit of broken glass here and there. When the path ended, I walked my bike down to Bridgeport Rd where I found a clearly marked bike path.

That bike path turned out to be a dead end and I wasted a fair amount of time finding that out! Since I was hot and tired, I was not happy to waste half an hour following a dead end path. I partially retraced my route and pushed my bike up the bank between the two bridge segments. Then I rode the shoulder (there was no shoulder on the first bridge) till the first exit in West Memphis. No big deal, but I should have just used Bridgeport Rd to get back on I-55 heading west on the Arkansas side. If you are riding the other way, you'll need to ride the shoulder of I-55 from where 70 joins it to the Bridgeport Rd exit, then ride Bridgeport Road along the south side of I-55 till you see the start of the sidewalk. Then push your bike up the bank and onto the sidewalk. I'm still picking burrs out of my socks because I climbed the bank(s) in my sandals...

Tennessee was mostly excellent riding and very nice people, but it is good to be in new state, especially since it is one in which I haven't ridden before!

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