In the De Soto Swelter

Southern Crescent Departure, a Prologue

With support from North St. Bags

This is a story of hardship. I'd like to cut this some other way- really I would. But, stories of hardship with no uplifting ending are cool these days, right? Right? Your netflix cue has my back on this one, booboo. That said, here’s the idea: we were hanging in our respective cities, Chicago and New York, and Johnny was all pumped having just finished riding the Oregon Outback. I had this insatiable itch to go ride around southern Mississippi. I was crushing on the Gulf Coast, then I found out about De Soto National Forest, and I became infatuated in a way that I couldn’t shake. And so, here it was July, and I'm like refusing to look anywhere else on the map to go ride bikes, I couldn’t deny its beauty, and I somehow convinced Johnny to join me. Our loved ones, upon receiving the news of where we were going, and when, were worried. We told ‘em it’s fine. We’re experienced, we’re tough, we got this, and so train tickets were booked.


The south is under serviced in many ways, including passenger rail, but there’s a train that goes from New York to New orleans, and it hits Charlotte, Atlanta, and Birmingham in their respective states. Bonus: it’s got bike roll on. So we concoct this idea that I’d hop a train east, catch the train out of D.C. that Johnny would have boarded from its northern departus, and ride through the eastern edge of Appalachia to Meridian, MS- lying just north of the De Soto.

Well, I junked up my east-bound train, so instead of meeting in D.C. we’d now be meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia and my bike would be in a box instead of a slick train car bike rack. The day of my departure, Johnny texts me and says he’s on his way south, meaning he’s caught the train a day early. It’s cool, it’s cool, we’d now be meeting in Meridian. These are just minor hiccups, and not indicators of what luck is to come. Now I have downtime in Charlottesville alone, but Charlottesville is a cool college town I’ve passed through a handful of times as a teen. I decide to spend the few hours here walking around and getting buzzed at Charlottesville’s plethora of bars.

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Solo, and sobered in slumber, it’s my first time on The South’s only train. The landscape is unlike anywhere else in the US. The train is unlike any other train in the US. The staff got that southern hospitality thing kickin’, having familiar conversations with passengers whom I assume are regulars. Even lil ol me they get to know, and I get enjoy hearing my name filtered through their Atlanta accents. Brent becomes “Brey-ant,” and none of them understand why I'm going to Meridian of all places.


I can’t sell them on the idea that a bike tour through Mississippi’s backwoods in July is a cool, fun thing to do. I imagine they appreciate crazies who relegate their craziness to activities off the train.

Mississippi Arrival
“Bah Brey-ant!”

I remind them I'm gonna see them all again in a few days when we roll triumphant into Nola, for a return trip back to the worlds of our northern sensibilities. They assume, I assume, that I'm totally going to die out there and they are actually the last people to see me alive. In hindsight, I get that. In hindsight, I would have thought the very same. Stepping off the train, I'm immediately sweating in the afternoon sun. Johnny is walking out to the platform, sweat on his brow and his clothes cool from the AC of the train station. We hug, acknowledge the heat, and head inside to find my bike.

Route Map

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