Kentucky to Memphis Bike Route features Dyer County
Local bicycle enthusiasts do not have to wait for additional bike trails to be constructed in West Tennessee to find adventure.
Just weeks after the Pioneering Healthy Communities Dyer County Steering Committee hosted a public meeting inviting local residents to discuss incorporating bike trails into the community, a cycling team from Memphis traveled through Dyer County on a two-day journey along the Mississippi River. The Memphis team traveled from the Kentucky border back to the Bluff City on a route including Dyer County roads labeled by the cyclists as "some of the most beautiful biking routes anywhere."
These roads are already in place and ready to welcome cyclists. And thanks to the work of this team, planning a local biking adventure is only a click away.
The Kentucky to Memphis - K2M - Bicycle Team spent a weekend in March mapping a 155.5-mile route following the Mighty Mississippi along the Tennessee border.
The group of 11 cyclists first discussed traveling to Florida for a biking vacation while watching the Super Bowl together. The group later chose to explore inviting bicycle trails closer to home.
The K2M Route begins on Highway 157 just north of the Tennessee/Kentucky border and ends at the Mississippi River Greenbelt Park at Harbor Town in downtown Memphis. Although the route follows the existing Mississippi River Trail in some areas, it is mapped specifically for bicyclists - navigating closer to the river, deeper into the forests, and descending along the scenic eastern shore of Reelfoot Lake.
The trip took approximately two months to plan. K2M Route organizer Ward Archer and his wife, Linda Archer, drove the course before the trip began. It was on that trip that the Archers discovered the beauty of Dyer County's Great River Road and an optional detour offering seven miles of gravel road through the Chickasaw Wildlife Refuge below the Hatchie River.
The team recently shared a film of the trip at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee. The presentation, which debuted at the meeting in the Tipton County Museum and Nature Center, is now available online at www.K2MTour.org. Free maps and GPS files are also available on the site for interested cyclists.
Together, the team set out to map the bike route with a little preparation and a lot of enthusiasm. With sponsorship and support from the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee and The Harahan Bridge Project, the K2M team rented a van and a trailer to haul their bicycles and headed for their halfway point, a hotel in Ripley.
From there, the team drove north to the Kentucky border, mounted their bikes and began their journey. They took turns driving the van, which they used as a support vehicle.
"This route is for those bicyclists who have a bit of adventure in them and want to get out in the open country for a few days," said Ward Archer, who also served as narrator on the film. "I won't say it's easy, but it's very doable - especially if you can get enough friends together to arrange for a support vehicle to tag along behind."
Cyclists enjoyed the route leading them alongside Reelfoot Lake at the beginning of their journey in spite of heavy headwinds. They stopped in Ridgely for lunch and headed toward Dyer County and Great River Road.
"I knew some of this stretch was on the levy," said Archer. "But I was surprised to discover a 35-mile stretch of what has to be one of the most beautiful biking routes anywhere. After about 10 miles, you sort of drift into another world. It's like being on the ocean."
At the end of Great River Road, the cyclists had a choice to take the detour on the gravel road through Chickasaw or take a paved route into Ripley. With the van following them, the cyclists felt confident to try the more difficult terrain.
"We chose to take the road through the refuge," said Archer. "It was worth it to ride through such a remote wilderness."
Not long after successfully navigating the gravel loop, the K2M Team found themselves at their halfway point in Ripley. They met for dinner and spent the night.
Travel the next day featured the newly paved Highway 51 Bypass, the historic town of Randolph with its panoramic view of the Mississippi River, and - finally - familiar territory for the Memphis cyclists.
"By now, we were only 40 miles north of downtown Memphis, riding on roads we knew well from our regular weekend trips out of Shelby Forrest," said Archer. "From Randolph to Memphis, the bicycling terrain looks like a picture from a bike-trip catalog. The route winds through gently rolling terrain on roads lined with thousands and thousands of towering oak trees."
The team navigated "heart-attack hill" - a steep climb along Black Springs Road - before traveling through Shelby Forrest and ending their journey at the Mississippi River Greenbelt Park in Harbor Town in downtown Memphis.
"The purpose of developing this route is to inform the growing numbers of bicyclists about how beautiful the biking country is in West Tennessee and to show them how to make the trip themselves," said MRC-TN President Diana Threadgill in a press release concerning the K2M Route. "The film clearly demonstrates you don't have to be Lance Armstrong to do it".
"The K2M route fits into the big picture of being able to ride along the Mississippi River and cross it at Memphis when the Harahan Bridge Project is complete," said Harahan Bridge Project Director Greg Maxted. "The more riders the better and it's great to have a route that is ready to go now, with no capital improvements. You can ride it this weekend."
The K2M Mapping Team includes Linda Archer, Ward Archer, Gino Bauwens, Jimmy Lewis, Sarla Nichols, Epsi Ralston, Mike Ralston, Laura Taylor, Tim Taylor, Arthur Yeates and Jenny Yeates.
Ward said members of the K2M Team are experienced cyclists, but not used to such an extensive two-day ride. He recommends the support van as a way for riders of all fitness levels to enjoy the trip together.
"(As a riding group, we usually complete) one ride, about 35 miles, on Sundays," said Archer. "None of us regularly ride 75 miles per day, so it was a stretch for us. Riding (the K2M Route) with a support vehicle like we did allows for those who aren't able to ride 75 miles to take a break, maybe ride 30 or 40 miles instead."
Archer also suggested extending the length of the journey to complete fewer miles per day.
"The ride could be done in three days instead of two," said Archer, "which would make it closer to 50 miles per day."
For more information concerning the K2M Route, visit www.K2MTour.org.