By: Michael Lander
|As of March 2013, Tunica has established 35 miles of bike trails, which |
cyclists participating in the 2015 Rivergate Ride will get to see and
experience for themselves.
Located just south of Memphis, situated in the Mississippi Delta, and surrounded by cotton fields and farmland, is the small, charming and picturesque town of Tunica, Mississippi.
Even though the town is often only associated with its nearby casinos, those who live there, or who have been there, know that it really has a lot more to offer visitors, especially those who love to ride a bike.
Once a year, cyclists have an opportunity to ride one of the area's bike trails when the town hosts its annual Tunica Rivergate Festival. This year’s festival will take place on April 17 - 18, 2015.
“The Tunica Rivergate Festival is an annual event held in downtown Tunica each year since 1993,” the president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, Webster Franklin said.
The idea to include a 13 or a 42 mile bike ride as part of the festival is something that is relatively new and it will take place on the second day, Saturday, April 18.
“Last April’s ride was the inaugural Rivergate Ride…. And this will be the second year for it,” Franklin said.
The Tunica Main Street organization and the Tunica Bike & Fitness Club are co-sponsors of this year’s Rivergate Ride.
Click on this link for a brochure with a map of the bike trails for the Rivergate Ride.
Of the two routes that cyclists can chose, the shorter 13 mile “Tour de River” is ideal for all ages and skill levels. This route loops around from the historic downtown area to a place known as Mhoon Landing on the Mississippi River and back. Those who do this ride will find their SAG stop at the landing.
The longer, 42 mile “Tour de Blues” route is a little more challenging ride that travels along Mississippi Delta roads and part of what is known as the Great River Road Scenic Byway. Throughout the ride you will cycle past some of the area’s cultural landmarks that gave this trail its nickname of Blues Alley.
Last year, the “Tour de Blues” ride also included what has become known among Mississippi Delta cyclists and others as “Heartbreak Hill.”
“We are currently evaluating the route, that’ll include “Heartbreak Hill,” and hope to have it included on this year’s ride,” Franklin said.
The main goal for ride organizers is to look at all of the factors, like the wind, in the Mississippi Delta that might impact the overall riding experience.
“We are trying to develop a route that will be enjoyable for all skill levels,” Franklin said.
Registration for this year’s ride begins at 7:00 a.m. at the Town Hall and the ride begins at 8:00 a.m. Registration is $20 and can be paid on the day of the ride or online at www.racesonline.com/events/tunica-main-street-bike-ride
|Tunica is known for its casinos and for its miles of cotton fields and|
farmland, but in the years ahead, it hopes to be known for several
other things like its bike trails.
Law enforcement will be stationed at all of the major intersections along the way.
After the ride, cyclists will have the chance to have some food, fun, and beverages at the Rivergate Festival in Downtown Tunica. For Franklin, one of the best parts of the ride is that it is a part of the overall Rivergate Festival experience.
The festival offers the chance to enjoy live entertainment all day, family and children’s activities, and all the beer and crawfish you want.
Last year’s ride had approximately 50 cyclists, but Franklin hopes to double that number this April.
“We hope to expose the ride to more people and increase participation to over 100 riders this year,” Franklin said. “The success of the inaugural ride for the opening of the Tunica County Bike Trail caused Main Street to add a ride to the number of activities held each year during the festival,” he said.
Franklin credits Lynn Ryals, who is the Executive Director of Tunica Main Street, for organizing the ride.
“Under her leadership, Tunica Main Street developed the Tunica County Bike trail that links DeSoto County to Tunica County. The trail is marked with road signs and a brochure has been developed by Main Street in an effort to promote the trail,” Franklin said.
The official opening of the bike trail took place in March 2013. This was a 13 mile ride from downtown Tunica to the Mississippi River at Mhoon Landing and back, and this will be this year’s “Tour de River” ride.
“Cycling in Tunica is relatively new,” Franklin said. “We have grown from just a few true road cyclists to the formation of the Tunica Bike Club which now has 10 active road riders,” he said.
Ryals sees the trails for these and other cyclists as a way to bring even more people and tourists to the Tunica area. In a press release in 2014, she indicated that it was one of the reasons why the trails start and end in downtown Tunica.
Beyond that, however, Ryals said that she hopes that riders will take advantage of the trails because they will learn more about Tunica and what all that the town has to offer.
"It's amazing, as we were planning this, the things we heard in terms of people not knowing what was here," Ryals said.
This ride, and the Tunica Rivergate Festival, should be a great way to change all that and it should help to further introduce what Tunica is and what it has to offer to both visitors and cyclists alike.