“Ok, google. Where is the highest point in Mississippi?” I asked my phone as I pedaled into a nasty headwind on the Natchez Trace Parkway. I knew the answer was somewhere in Northeast Mississippi, but I wasn’t sure how close it was to the parkway. When the answer came back “Woodall Mountain” with a link to the map, I saw it was about twenty miles west of the parkway from the spot where I was. This was a bit more than I wanted to add to my ride, but I also knew how rarely I get to ride in this part of Alabama with a round-trip ride from my house being well over 300 miles. So the opportunity to add Mississippi to the list of state high points I have reached by bike (in order by date – Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, and now Mississippi) on a tri-state one way commute from Florence to Birmingham was too good to miss.
Alabama Academy of Science
One of the professional organizations I am proud to be a member of is the Alabama Academy of Science. Major contributions of this organization are its annual meeting and research conference held in the spring, the Alabama Academy of Science journal publishing high quality research being conducted here in Alabama, along with mentoring of up and coming scientists through the Alabama Junior Academy of Science and the Gorgas Scholarship Competition. This year’s meeting was being held at the University of North Alabama in Florence. Having completed my tenure as President, I turned the position over to 1st Vice-President Dr. Akshaya Kumar from Tuskegee University at the awards banquet.
I had originally planned to bike up to the meeting leaving after my classes on Wednesday and biking home when the meeting finished up on Friday. But when my wife decided she wanted to come visit Northwest Alabama with me, this turned my bike ride into a one way trip home on Friday with Kristine leaving on Thursday to get back to Birmingham. Before leaving, I had a fun time showing Kristine the natural bridge picnic area in Bankhead along with a nice dinner at the 360 degree grille next to the Tennessee River.
I headed out on Friday morning after a late night at the banquet with my Camelbak Alpine Explorer backpack stuffed so full with laptop, shoes, clothes, and gear that I didn’t have room for water in the reservoir (which led to a few problems later, running out of water twice in very rural MS and AL). I was giddy with anticipation of a three-state 200+ mile bike commute home as I biked past the on-campus lions and north of town with a massive tailwind. It wasn’t until I was battling a headwind across the Tennessee River that I thought about altering my route to add in the high point of Mississippi to the ride. That wasn’t my only route change as I eventually got so tired of the headwind coming from the southwest, that I decided to change directions and head east for a couple hours while the wind was strong hoping to find a route that was more southerly after the wind died down in the evening. This worked out perfectly as I eventually had calm conditions under a full moon for the last 111 miles of the ride. The complete ride ended up being 241 miles taking 16.5 hours with just under 15 hours of moving time. The rest of the time was spent by buying food and water at gas stations, stopping for pics, and hike-a-biking up the ATV trail at the Mississippi high point. I’ve created a gallery of photos below that tells the story in a bit more detail. But before that, I’ve created an annotated topocreator map of the tri-state portion of the ride with the Mississippi high point. I’ve also annotated the iBike data … check it out below, too!