March 2, 2009
An event bicycle enthusiasts have known about for years is finally being recognized in Columbus and along the whole of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway.
The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route follows the path black Americans who were enslaved in the South followed to freedom in the North.
The bike trail begins in Mobile, Ala., and stretches to Ontario, Canada. It goes directly up the Tenn-Tom Waterway and riders travel through Columbus and Lowndes County on their way north.
"The idea was to give African-Americans a healthy and inexpensive activity which would also connect them with their cultural history," said Linda Vice of Alabama Tombigbee Tourism when she addressed the various tourism boards along the Tenn-Tom Tuesday in Columbus.
The route has been in existence since 2004 as a joint effort between the American Trails Association and the Minority Health Council, but the various tourism boards along the Tenn-Tom have -- for the most part -- been in the dark about it.
"One day a friend of mine was minding his own business in West Bend, Ala. -- with a population of eight people -- when he saw this man on a bicycle looking lost. My friend asked him what he was doing and he said, ''I''m doing the Underground Bicycle Trail.'' Well, it was such a big event in West Bend that we all began to take notice, and we realized they were coming through our area to your area all the time," said Vice.
"It is now better known by people who are cyclists than those whom it can impact culturally and economically," said Vice. "If we could work with these groups we could begin to provide them with some of our great hospitality and we could get some great free advertising by word of mouth to these cyclists."
Details about the exact path of the route can be found at http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/undergroundrailroad.cfm