For the past several decades, Joe Royer has been a staunch advocate for Memphis’ natural resources and parks, as well as a proponent for human-powered recreation.
Though Royer is an avid kayaker, canooer, climber and all- around outdoorsman, his most practiced sport is cycling.
The 71-year-old has cycled across the globe, riding in five different countries in the last year alone.
“The trails we have available to us aren’t just good options for Memphis—they can stand against any trails in the world,” explains Royer.
One of his favorite rides is through the Arkansas Delta.
“It is very beautiful and has low traffic. It’s perfect,” he says. “It’s a very flat land. Beautiful, but flat. So it’s a very wind sensitive ride.”
The trail he’s highlighted for this issue of Memphis Current begins in South Main’s urban epicenter.
“It’s always good to start somewhere where you can have a cup of coffee,” he laughs.
From there you cross over the Mississippi River via the Big River Crossing on the Harahan Bridge before journeying into West Memphis. Once in Arkansas you head towards Marion, eventually making your way into the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge and Jericho. The 58-mile loop then takes you back to where you started. The full ride takes roughly five hours.
Royer adds that the ride can be modified at any point, whether that’s taking away a few miles or adding some extra twists and turns.
“It’s not about how far you go, but how much you’re enjoying the ride,” he says.
Though the ride is scenic and often times quiet, it’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings, be careful and take all necessary safety precautions when traveling on or across streets.
Due to the at nature of the delta, Royer also adds it’s important to be aware of the weather and wind because high winds can make for a much more difficult trip.
“One thing about human-powered recreation is that we really have to work with nature. The environment and the weather affect the experience. You notice the sun and the wind when you’re riding outside, and that’s a good thing,” says Royer. “A lot of people ride bikes indoors now through Pelotons and other virtual experiences. People are thinking, ‘Wow I need to get outdoors.’ They might be hesitant because it’s windy, muggy or chilly, but that’s really part of the experience. When we’re driving in our cars or walking through downtown, we don’t really get to experience truly being in nature.”