We have had three totally gorgeous days here riding The Longleaf Trace, a Rail-to-Trail Hall of Fame trail. It certainly lives up to that designation. It runs 44 miles between Hattiesburg and Prentiss, Mississippi and per our usual Modus Operandi, Jim found a totally deserted campground almost in the center of the trail right outside Bassfield, comfortably ensconced at Davis RV Park and Campground. We proceeded to spend three days riding and exploring the area. This time of year is beautiful here, blue skies with wispy clouds, no humidity and temperatures in the seventies. Perfect bike riding weather.
Our spot in the campground. We are the only ones here, 50 AMP, full hookup. Pasture and cows and large trees were part of the deal. And four nights for $42.00 total. Right next to the trail.
This part of Mississippi is beautiful with big rolling pastures punctuated with more very large trees, including the Longleaf Pine, for which the area is named. Like on the Tanglefoot Trail, the quiet is hypnotic. We rode along on its smooth asphalt surface for a total of about 100 miles. Most of the way there is an accompanying equestrian path and on the last day I actually saw some folks riding. On other trails we have ridden, they allow horseback riding on the bike path for short distances, but since this one was separate there were fewer obstacles on the trail. If you know what I mean.
The first day we rode to Sumrall, y’all. Sorry I couldn’t resist. We passed what must have been a small exotic animal farm, set in a beautiful meadow with large trees and a lake. The mules were friendly and so was the ostrich. The llamas kept their distance.
Sumrall didn’t have quite as many boarded up storefronts as Prentiss, on the other end, which is the County Seat! I didn’t know there was a Mexican restaurant in Sumrall or I wouldn’t have packed our lunch. We got some tea, ate our sandwiches and rode a little further before turning around and heading back. We had smelled and scoped out Big Boy’s BBQ in Bassfield and spent our lunch perusing the menu since we decided to get carryout for dinner. It did not disappoint. Big Boy’s also had a side we had never encountered before, loaded potatoes. When we asked what was in it, he said, bacon, cheese, onion… He gave us a taste and it was heavenly. Of course I ordered those, along with half a chicken and beans. Jim got brisket. We ate that for two nights.
When I went back the second day to tell him just how good it all tasted, they were closed with a black bow on the door. Oh no! Probably somebody ate too many of those potatoes… It’s good they were closed or I would have ordered more.
Do you remember the Mississippi state flag?And we were parked (and riding) in Jefferson Davis County. The Confederacy still wields a heavy hand 150 years later. When I saw the flag, I seriously couldn’t believe it. What a Yankee I am.
Back in Bassfield.
The next day’s ride was to Prentiss and back, about 30 miles. Prentiss is the County Seat with an imposing courthouse but a sadly emptied-out downtown. It is not hard to imagine the shops all full and bustling, supporting families. Before Walmart…
Now there is the grocery store, a Pizza Hut and a Subway along with a few local businesses. Very few. And one of the biggest trees we’ve seen yet.
We took a short side trip to Jeff Davis Lake which was fun because it had some swooping curves and hills with 12-15% grades. Good momentum. The ice company went out of business when ice was 50 cents a bag. Like all the towns around here, they experienced a heady heyday when the virgin timber was ripe for the picking. Bassfield had five sawmills at one point and the railroad was booming. After they had cut all the timber, they were fortunate enough to take advantage of the rich soil to grow cotton. The towns were all named when the Post Office set up shop, Sumrall after a Union Army Officer who opened a cotton gin, Prentiss for a sawmill operator and Bassfield because when they delivered the mail, they dumped it in a field near a store owned by the Bass family.
People in Mississippi are very friendly and nice. I just hope they don’t think we are rude; there were many times we had to ask them to repeat what they said. It wasn’t that we couldn’t hear them; we just couldn’t understand what they were saying! They understand us better but they always ask where we are from. Bag of ice? Bgic… The BBQ guy had to ask me three times if Jim wanted a bun or white bread. Huh?
We bought some fresh eggs in Carson on the way back from Prentiss and it took us a few tries to understand that he was asking us to bring the egg carton back if we could. First he said he would have to put them in a bag since he had no cartons, um, bikes. But he found one and asked us to return it if we had the chance. We finally got the point. The accent is alive and well.
And the price of a dozen fresh eggs? $1.50. I gave him $2.00 and refused change. Rode back with the egg carton the next day; it was the least I could do. Plus they were delicious with bacon and toast for breakfast, a bike riding treat for sure.
From here we are heading toward the Tammany Trail in Louisiana, right outside New Orleans. Timing will be interesting since, of course, we must watch Kansas City win the World Series. We don’t have our onboard TV setup yet, so we rely on antenna or parks that have a plug-inski cable outlet. We will see if the reception is good over the air at Fontainebleau State Park and continue on if we need to. I am hoping to ride the nine mile bridge over Lake Pontchatrain. And back.
We love the great state of Mississippi.
More photos here.