Growing up in the small Delta community of Shelby, one of our great pastimes was riding motorcycles all over town. It didn’t matter if you were eight or 18, the police could have cared less. Those experiences helped launch my high school sport, motocross racing, and I raced from the sixth grade until my first year at Ole Miss. Thankfully, I never got hurt.
When my sons were small, they often asked, “Daddy, you owned motorcycles, why don’t you let us have some?”
“Because I don’t want you all to get killed,” I would sternly reply.
However, that “pushing” became more constant as the years passed, and when first son Thomas was ten and second son, Jordan was eight, my wife, Cindy and I decided to get them two small motorcycles they could ride over in our hunting club located on the Mississippi River. In order to teach them to ride and not let them just wander all over the club on their own, I bought a trail bike as well. Until then, I had not ridden a motorcycle in 22 years. We three Coopwood boys cooked hotdogs at lunch and rode motorcycles on Saturday afternoons for many years when my sons were small. They are now 18 and 16.
As my boys got older, riding motorcycles on the weekends just wasn’t as exciting as it once was. However, I still wanted to ride, but I wasn’t thrilled about riding on dirt roads by myself in our hunting club. Two years ago, lifelong friend, Keith Tarver at Greenville Motor Sports overheard me talking about this and urged me to get a “street” bike, noting that I could keep it at my home and ride every day –– unlike riding the dirt bikes only on the weekends because my home is 30 miles away from our cabin where our dirt bikes are kept.
Not long after his comment, I purchased my first street bike and was hooked. I now have three. There is something therapeutic about jumping on a motorcycle at the end of a long day and riding around the county. While that has been a ton of fun and I still enjoy it, I find now I want to ride beyond the Delta’s borders where I live.
Toward that end, my first long distance motorcycle journey took place last June when I rode the Natchez Trace, beginning in Nashville and stopping in Tupelo that afternoon because the temp was 103 degrees. I took a detour to Oxford and cooled off at the Wendy’s on Jackson Avenue. After coming to my senses from the heat, I decided to call it day. A temperature of 103 is just not an ideal ridding situation.
A few weeks ago, I drove over to Tupelo, got on the exact spot where I had ended my ride a few months earlier, and completed that Natchez Trace ride, leaving Tupelo at 12:40 p.m., and arriving in Natchez at 6:20 p.m., about 275 miles. Regardless as to whether or not you ride a motorcycle, traveling down the Natchez Trace (on or in anything) is an incredible experience.
The Trace is one of American’s greatest rides. Recorded accounts of settlers using the Trace begin in 1742. Its historical path was created and used by the American Indians long before this date. The secretary of Spanish explorer, Hernando DeSoto, even mentions the Trace in the notes he kept from DeSoto’s travels across the Mid-South.
There is much history to see on the Trace, ranging from Indian mounds, to museums, to 1700 and 1800 era Inns, to Civil War sites, to the wildlife, the rivers and creeks, the many lookout points, to the variety of the species of trees. It is endless. And, I’m ashamed to admit that growing up in the Delta, I had never seen the Natchez Trace until last June 3. After making this statement to several Delta friends, I was surprised to discover they also had not set foot on the Trace. Sometimes we just don’t realize what we have in our own backyard here in Mississippi.
Riding a motorcycle is a terrific sport. Of course, you have to respect it and be careful. However, the thrill is indescribable.
Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications (deltamagazine.com); the Delta Business Journal, (deltabusinessjournal.com) the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current (theclevelandcurrent.com). Scott’s company also publishes two weekly e-newsletters. Coopwood publishing concerns now reach 250,000 people. Scott is also a 1984 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.