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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Everyone should see Ireland and one of the better ways to do that is on a bicycle

Everyone should see Ireland and one of the better ways to do that is on a bicycle
By:  Michael Lander

Cyclists are a common sight throughout many parts of Ireland.  This
cyclist is riding on English Street, which leads to Down Cathedral in
Downpatrick and to the grave of St. Patrick.

Ireland…… It has been called the Emerald Isle and this green jewel in the North Atlantic is an enchanting and captivating land with an incomparable charm and an unparalleled beauty that is unlike any other place in the world.

There is so much to see and do and to experience in Ireland, whether it is in one of the cities or towns that dot the landscape, the scenic shorelines and cliffs, the rugged mountains, or the picturesque countryside. 

And, one of the better ways to see and to explore one or more of these places is to do so on a bicycle.

Cyclists are a common sight throughout both the north (
Northern Ireland) and in the south (the Republic of Ireland) and the popularity of cycling is clearly evident, especially in the bigger cities.
Cycling in Ireland can be made all the more fun
with friends and family and getting to see sites
like the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary County are
an added bonus.

Part of the popularity of cycling is due, at least in part, to some
tax credits and other incentives that are given to those who are willing to ride their bikes, and there are laws to ensure that cyclists have equal access, but also certain restrictions as motorists do, on the roadways. 

For those who would rather ride a bike than drive a car, there are plenty of
bicycle rental businesses to be found, and there are also bike share programs in some of the larger cities like Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Cork. 

The only challenge for most, especially those coming from places like the U.S., is that all vehicles and cyclists ride on the opposite (left-hand) side of the road.

Cyclists are often treated to some beautiful views like this one on the
Northeastern coast, but they get a challenging workout on some of
the steep climbs in this region.
Those who are not accustomed to this, or who are apprehensive about it, should consider riding with a larger group, led by those who are more acclimated and experienced in doing this and
guided bicycle tours offer a nice alternative as well.

For those looking to venture out on their own, other than doing some preparation and pre-planning, for either a multiple day bike tour or just a few one-day trips, there may no better way to see all that Ireland has to offer at a slower, more leisurely pace.

For those who wish to combine bike riding with mass transit options, you can always take the
Irish Rail to get around even better or you can get on one of the ferries to ride or hike on a nearby island.

Ireland offers up some scenic views that aren't seen in many other
places and there may not be a better way to take it all in.  This
photo was taken in the Glens of Antrim.

Click here for the
Top 6 and the Top 10 cycling routes and the Seven (7) places best seen from a bicycle in Ireland.

Those who want to ride a bike on the Emerald Isle, should come prepared for riding a bike on some rather steep hills, some small, narrow roads with little or no signage, and some occasional strong winds and
rain, too. 

While Ireland’s climate is mild and often lacks temperature extremes, thanks to its location and the moderating presence of the
Gulf Stream, it does see a fair share of rain, but when it does rain, precipitation levels are generally light.

The average number of wet days, with more than 1 mm, (.03 inches) is about 150 days a year along the eastern and southeastern coasts to about 225 days a year in the western parts of the island.

This Belfast cyclist is one of thousands who regularly commute on
a daily basis in and around the city.  The school of Computer
Science for Trinity College is the colorful building in the

In the eastern half, there is a yearly average of 750 to 1000 mm, (29.52 to 39.37 inches).  In the west it is 1000 to 1400 mm, (39.37 to 55.11 inches), and there is at least 2000 mm, (78.74 inches), in the more mountainous regions. 

Should you overcome the issue of riding on the opposite side of the road, and the rain does not deter you, you will be rewarded with one of the better ways to sightsee and to experience Ireland.

Aside from the magnificent and breathtakingly beautiful scenery, Ireland has so much to draw you in and to help you fall in love with it.

The Irish are seen as being some of the
friendliest people in the world and they, their heritage, their history, their  traditional music, dance, and so much more will leave you wanting even more.

These cyclists in County Clare are among several hundred riding
in a cycling event on a rainy mid-October day.  Even though it
frequently rains in many parts of Ireland, rainfall amounts are
not as great as many people might think.

Ireland may be best known for its
Celtic and Gaelic origins, its love of its stouts, ales, and lagers and the potato, which has been a big part of the diet for the island’s inhabitants from the 17th century through today.

For most people around the world, Ireland, more often than not, is most commonly associated with one of the most widely known
Christian missionaries that the world has ever known – St. Patrick. 

It was St. Patrick who contributed the most in bringing
Christianity to the island and infusing Celtic Spirituality into Christian traditions.

What may be lesser known about Ireland is its rich, ancient history and how it played a pivotal role in shaping our world and making it what it is today.  If it had not been for the Irish, author
Thomas Cahill contends in his book, entitled “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” the world and western civilization would not exist as we know it today.

Bike Share is very popular and it is a viable
and a much more economic alternative in
transportation in cities like Dublin that
tourists can also enjoy as well.

For those who are fortunate enough to visit Ireland, they are more than likely to find that it is a very special place that few leave without the hope of one day returning.

To learn more about bicycling in Ireland, 
click here.
Click here to see more photos of cyclists in Ireland and here to see scenic photos of Ireland.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

North Mississippi welcomes everyone to explore and enjoy one of its not-so-hidden treasures

North Mississippi welcomes everyone to explore and enjoy one of its not-so-hidden treasures
By:  Michael Lander

North Mississippi is known for its rural scenery with many
farms and charming small towns.

There may not be a lot of things that are as exciting and as exhilarating as finding a hidden treasure, but not all treasures are hidden, and some are just sitting right out in the open.

One such treasure in the
Mid-South, that some people might not even know about, is located in North Mississippi, roughly 80 miles southeast of Memphis.

This treasure, that an estimated 20,000 or more people, from the local area, and from around the U.S. and beyond enjoy each year, is known as
Tanglefoot Trail.

Pastural scenes like this are a common sight toward the
southern half of Tanglefoot Trail.

The 44.5 mile paved trail runs from New Albany to Houston, Mississippi and there may be few, if any, trails that offer its visitors a completely non-urbanized landscape that is almost entirely made up of wooded, pastural, and rural scenery.

Those who walk, run, or ride their bike on Tanglefoot, are treated to a trail that gives them an unique escape to nature at its very best and everything that comes along with that. 

There are a few lakes, streams, and some wetlands,
like this, on various parts of Tanglefoot.

The trail, itself, is also perfect for cyclists of varying degrees and abilities because it is relatively flat, straight, and it has very little, if any, vehicular traffic on the roadways that intersect it. 

“There are also many amenities on Tanglefoot that include six rest stops, six rain stops with roofs, four whistle stops that provide parking, rest rooms, water fountains, and covered area with picnic tables,” Don Locke said.

Locke is Tanglefoot’s Trail Manager who has been an integral part of the trail since its inception in 2003 and its opening on September 21, 2013.

A 2013 Mississippi State University survey
indicated that 79 percent of the visitors to
Tanglefoot were cyclists.  On the right of
this photo is one of the six rest stops on
this trail.

“We also have county deputies who patrol the trail in golf carts as an added safety and security measure.  Even though we have not ever had any criminal activity ever reported on the trail, the deputies serve as a deterrent and are helpful to trail users who may have a flat tire or some other non-emergency problem,” Locke said.

While most of the trail has rural scenery surrounding it, there is subtle changes throughout the length of it that give various stretches their own distinctive look and feel.

Tanglefoot Trail opened in September 2013.  This
rails-to-trails trail is the longest one in the State
of Mississippi and it has been extremely popular
with cyclists, of abilities, because it is
relatively flat and straight with many scenic
vistas along the way.

Leaving New Albany and heading south, Locke said, there is a mix of open pasture, hayfields, and forests. 

After that, for about 5 miles from the town of Ecru toward Pontotoc, there are croplands and then there is a tunnel of trees for about 3 miles before coming into Pontotoc. 

When approaching the town of Algoma from the south, there is about a mile of open pasture and hayfields bordering the trail with few trees.

From Pontotoc to Houston, Locke said, trail users go through hardwood forest, some wetlands, with pastures and hayfields in view through the trees.

In addition to the beautiful rural scenery, many
walkers, runners, and cyclists also enjoy the
peace and quiet and the cyclists often
appreciate the little to no vehicular traffic on
the roadways that intersect the trail.

Along the way, Locke said, that there is a chance that visitors to the trail could see a wide variety of wildlife that could include squirrels, rabbits, deer, armadillos, groundhogs, turtles, various other reptiles, and even possibly foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and beavers.

Some of the birds that are commonly seen flying around the trail include hawks, crows, indigo bunting, cardinals, bluebirds, mockingbirds, and herons and other water fowl in the swampy areas of the trail.

There are seven towns, that include the trailheads in New Albany and Houston.  In between these two, (from north to south), is Ingomar, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, and New Houlka.

The 44.5 mile Tanglefoot Trail has a diversity consisting of
pastures, hayfields, wetlands, and forests that allows
visitors to get away from the urban environment and to
retreat and to escape into the natural beauty of Northern

There are historical attractions in some of these towns and in the surrounding area that may be worth a visit and there are restaurants, motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and a nearby campground for those who would like to spend one or more days on the trail.

Click here for lodging, food, and bicycle shops.

The Tanglefoot Trail is the longest rail-to-trail in the State of Mississippi, beating out the first rail-to-trail, the
Longleaf Trace Trail, from Hattiesburg to Prentiss, by about a mile.

Each season has its own special beauty and
it can and should be enjoyed throughout
the year.

Tanglefoot, located in the
Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, preserves the abandoned railroad corridor that served a number of railroads with the first rail link coming to New Albany in 1887, which was 16 years after the Ripley Railroad was chartered and approved.

The great-grandfather of the Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner,
Col. William Clark Faulkner, began his quest to construct a narrow gauge railroad in order to connect his plantation interests in Ripley, Miss. with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad in Middleton, Tenn.

Click here for additional railroad history on Tanglefoot.

While the majority of visitors to Tanglefoot come from Mississippi, a
significant number, like this couple from Minneapolis, Minn. come
from all across the country and from around the world.

Tanglefoot is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and individual donors and business or corporate sponsors.

A portion of the taxes from Union, Pontotoc, and Chickasaw Counties, and the seven towns that the trail passes through, provide the funding for the maintenance and development of the trail. 

“Some of the future plans for Tanglefoot include a larger pavilion, with restrooms and water fountains for the Houston Gateway, which should be completed between March and September 2018,” Locke said.

Tanglefoot's Trail Manager, Don Locke, often likes to take his
recumbent bike out and hit the trail.  Cycling is a passion
that he shares with his wife.

Additionally, Locke said, the City of New Albany, has received a donation of land that will enable them to extend the trail through their city park and out to Mississippi Highway 30.  When this is completed, it will add approximately three miles to the trail.  A grant, he added, has been filed to partially fund this project as well.

Locke hopes that these and other efforts will further enhance the overall experience for those who visit Tanglefoot and that it will attract others to enjoy the beauty of the area and the hospitality of the people of North Mississippi.