The Jefferson Highway Association in conjunction with Bike Natchitoches and the local brewery will host a guided Jefferson Highway Bicycle Ride on Thursday, April 25 as part of their national conference, which is being held in Natchitoches April 24–27. The casual paced ride will start at 118 Mill Street at 6 p.m. The event is free to the public and bicycle riders of all skill levels are encouraged to ride along the historic highway route through Natchitoches.
In addition to the bike ride, there will be two contests before the start of the ride for the “Best Vintage Bicycle” and the “Best Vintage Dressed Rider.” A trophy and prizes will be awarded. A limited supply of colorful Jefferson Highway Bike Ride T-Shirts will also be available for purchase for $16 before the ride begins starting at 5:30 p.m. Portions of the ride are scheduled to have a Police Escort for safety, but helmets are highly encouraged for the ride and riders going with the group should know that they are riding at their own risk during the ride.
The historic Jefferson Highway was first formed in New Orleans in 1915 and once traversed from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans as part of the “Good Roads Movement” of this time period. Communities along the route worked together to improve roads, bridges and promote the route which was once a principal travel route through Louisiana.
In addition to automobile enthusiasts of this period, a large portion of the promotion of highways and new roads came from cyclists and cycling groups such as the “American Wheelmen” as improved roads for cyclists. The Jefferson Highway along with other historic highways later lost most of their identity when these “named roads” were nationally changed to numerical designations. Much of the old Jefferson Highway roadbed though remains up and down the historic route today and enthusiasts are now working to make it a viable north-south historic byway across the country for modern day tourists.
In 2011, the Jefferson Highway Association was reformed as a historical, heritage organization to preserve the history of the historic route and promote tourism and travel on the historic roadbed which goes through seven states (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana) and one Province (Manitoba) in Canada. This will be the 8th annual conference for this group and the first to be held in Louisiana.
“We couldn’t be more pleased by the welcoming and outpouring of support that we have received in Natchitoches as we have made plans for this conference,” said Jefferson Highway President Glenn Smith. “We will be bringing people from all over the United States to this conference and we know they will love being here in Natchitoches. We certainly hope that this community bike ride will be well received.”
During conference planning for this year’s annual conference, the group decided to establish a bike ride along the historic route during their conference activities. A bike ride was formerly part of the annual conference in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 2015 and the group wanted to bring it back and make it an annual event at each conference going forward.
Roger Bell, the Incoming Vice-President of the Jefferson Highway is an avid cyclist in addition to his interest in history and the Jefferson Highway. “The goal here is to have a casual and fun bike ride along the historic route in portions of Natchitoches. We will stop at points during the ride to tell stories of the past and point out facts of history of the Jefferson Highway. We hope some will want to come out riding vintage bicycles from all eras and also ride in vintage attire and enter our contests. We have some great prizes planned.”
Local Natchitoches cyclist Carey Blanchard of the Bike Natchitoches group has also been helping plan the event. “This will be a fun ride that should interest our community and area,” he said. “This will be only a couple of days before our major spring riding event, but this will be a relaxing, fun ride to come out and enjoy riding together and learn more about Natchitoches and the Jefferson Highway. We hope folks will want to dust off their bicycles, get them ready to ride and come join us as we take a ride into history along the historic roadway.”
5:30 P.M. – Bike Ride Signup – Orientation – Vintage Bicycle and Vintage Clothing Contests
6-7:30 P.M. – Ride
For specific information on the ride contact Roger Bell at 918.869.8107.