Over quarantine, biking became a popular hobby for many seeking a safe form of adventure and exercise. People utilized their neighborhoods, local parks and trails in order to escape their houses. For Mississippi bikers looking to ride off the beaten path while simultaneously exploring more of their state, look no further than the Tanglefoot Trail.
Located just under an hour from Starkville, the Tanglefoot Trail is a 43.5-mile trail that snakes through Mississippi, running from Houston to New Albany. Along the way, bicyclists can stop at campsites and rest stops. One can also stop in any of the many Mississippi towns they will pass through for a meal and some small-town historical tourism.
At the southern head of the trail lies the Trailhead Bike and Bed, a quaint bed and breakfast. Millete Nabors, who owns the Trailhead Bike and Bed with her husband, has had a variety of visitors at her B&B despite it being less than a year old. Nabors welcomes new visitors with open arms, inviting them to come and experience the wonders of the Tanglefoot Trail.
"It is a neat little place to have a getaway, enjoy nature and the trail. The trail is beautiful — you'll pass farms, cattle and other places," Nabors said. "Biking has become even more popular with the pandemic because people are wanting to get outside."
The Trailhead Bike and Bed has four rooms and a large outdoor area complete with an outdoor kitchen and large televisions. They also have RV hookups for those who want to bring their own RV. The Bike and Bed have had visitors from all over the country.
"They come to get away from the big city hustle and bustle," Nabors said.
In addition to providing a resting spot for bikers, the Trailhead Bike and Bed has also hosted business travelers, birthday parties, gender reveals, football parties and even a Thanksgiving. Nabors' hope is the Bike and Bed will one day be used as a wedding venue as well.
The entrance to the Tanglefoot Trail is right on the Trailhead Bike and Bed's property, providing easy access to those who stay there.
One unique feature of the Tanglefoot Trail is it was once a working railroad. Thanks to the construction by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy program, it is now noted as a hall of fame trail. Furthermore, the trail is a huge economic asset to every town it passes through.
The construction of the trail was no picnic, and there were many hurdles to be jumped before the Tanglefoot Trail could become what it is today.
Before it was a trail, the railroad was owned by a private company who eventually abandoned it. When a private company makes it known they are about to abandon an existing rail quarter, there is a window of time where the community can step in and hold onto it for future use, such as converting it into a road or trail.
Ronnie Bell, division director for governmental functions at Three Rivers Planning and Developing Division, described the process that went into creating the trail.
"The three major milestones were, No. 1, getting the actual title to the quarter, No. 2, the construction of the actual trail, and third is, once you get constructed, the work is just beginning," Bell said. "It is a daily process that has to take place so that the trail can continue to be usable and visible like it was back in 2013 when we opened it."
The trail continues to be a favorite to many, including Wynn Howell, a sophomore at Mississippi State University majoring in fashion merchandising and business management.
"I started going to the Tanglefoot with my dad," Howell said. "Growing up, my dad and I would go once a week before church on Sundays. We would ride our bikes. We would wake up early in the morning — 6 o'clock — bike the Tanglefoot, go home, take a shower and go to church."
Howell said she enjoyed the environment the Tanglefoot offered, both socially and pertaining to the natural world that surrounds bikers on the trail.
"The wildlife is fun to see. I remember one time an owl swooped down while we were biking early in the morning," Howell said. "It's a good place to go and get in the outdoors, and it's really cool how it connects people."
Those who want to purchase or repair a bike can visit Boardtown Bikes right here in Starkville. Boardtown Bikes has been serving the Starkville area for 13 years now. Matthew Nunes, owner of Boardtown Bikes, encourages those interested in biking the Tanglefoot to come to his store.
"If people have questions, they can call Boardtown Bikes or direct message us on Facebook or Instagram," Nunes said. "We can help them either find a bike or take what they have and get it out there."
Nunes continued to encourage people to come out, elaborating on the benefits biking has both mentally and physically.
"Biking is a great recreational tool. It provides mental unwinding; it provides physical fitness," Nunes said.
Nunes also wants residents of Starkville to observe the railroad running through their city, as he explained he sees it as a possibility for a future trail.
"You can walk it from the university to Kroger if you want," Nunes said. "That's what the Tanglefoot looked like before anyone came into the picture. If we work really hard, there is the possibility for us to have our own Tanglefoot Trail."
For stressed college students or anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the Tanglefoot Trail provides a safe getaway adventure. To learn more about the Tanglefoot Trail, visit their website for more information.