Sunday, July 17, 2011

Long Leaf Trace & Tabella

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I enjoy riding a bike, and I enjoy eating, I also really enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife, so yesterday was a great day for me!

The wife informed me she was teaching a coupon class in my favorite city (Hattiesburg, MS) and we decided it would be a great time to have our anniversary dinner and have a little bit of adult time.

So, the plan was while she taught her class I would ride my bike along the Long Leaf Trace and afterward we would meet up and have dinner at our favorite restaurant; Crescent City Grill.  The little ones went to spend the day with their grandmother and we were all set; well except for one little detail, the weather forecast for Hattiesburg was for 60% chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

Now I had a dillema, do I bring my bike that I absolutely love to ride and run the risk that it will just set on the bike rack on the back of the car and get rained on, or do I rent a bike at the trace and take my chances? Normally it is always better to bring your own bike it is so much more comfortable, because it is what you are used to. but I decided with the weather threatening it would be smarter to take my chances with the rental bike.

The rental bike
The rental bike turned out to be, ok, it was a Raleigh hybrid bike that was probably 10-15 years old, but it was well maintained and had no real problems. It was not however, designed to go fast or be very efficient.

If you are not familiar with the Long Leaf Trace it is a beautiful scenic 40+ mile bike trail that stretches from Hattiesburg, MS to Prentiss MS. The trail was once a rail line that was long abandoned and has been converted as part of the Rails to Trails program. The terrain is smooth and fairly flat, there are not a lot of hills or curves. This is a great trail for training as fast as you would like to ride or for a scenic nature ride. There are rest stops along the way as well as places to stop every few miles so a rider out for a joy ride can have just as much fun as an ardent rider.

I began my ride at the Southern Miss gateway which is directly across the street from the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, a place I am very familiar with.  The last time I rode the trail (almost 10 years ago, this section wasn't even open yet.   As I began to travel I began to notice how much the city and the surrounding businesses seem to be embracing the trail, there are many apartments who have replaced their old privacy fences with rear facing bike entrances that lead out to the trail and there is a tunnel that rides directly under a busy street. There is also an elevated and covered bridge that crosses over the Interstate.

The trail is very clearly marked for safe passage. The mile markers are very visible and there are ample places to stop and rest. If you like nature there is a lot to behold. There are signs posted along the way pointing out various types of trees and plants and about ten miles into the ride you cross over black creek. The scenery at some points is very refreshing and you do not realize you are most times not far from a main road.

I decided before I left that I was going to go as far as the Sumrall Station which was 15.2 miles from the beginning and then turn around.  as I was roughly half way there I did have a deer walk out in front of me. He quickly retreated back to the woods, which was probably best for both of us.  The ride was gorgeous and peaceful, However My legs did get a little tired on the way back.

The only real negatives about the ride were that I dropped my phone along the way and I am not sure it will ever work right again.  There is also the old building close to the Jackson station that kids have felt the need to vandalize, this was an eyesore in an otherwise pristine setting.

About 20 minutes after I turned the bike in the bottom fell out of the sky and there was about a 30 minute downpour in Hattiesburg, I am grateful it waited!

Once The wife and I hooked back up we rode to the parking area for Crescent City Grill one of our all time favorite restaurants owned by one of our all time favorite chef; Robert St. John. I have probably eaten there 500 times (no exaggeration and never have had a bad meal. As we pulled in to the parking lot we begin to have a bit of a debate as Mr. St. John has opened a new Italian restaurant in the same area and we had not been there.  We decided to give it a shot.

Wow! I am glad we did, the atmosphere was classic, but still casual. We were immediately greeted by a friendly well dressed professional hostess who took our information and asked if we wanted to wait in the waiting area or in the bar. We chose the bar, and it was a good choice.  We sampled a couple of house specialty mixed drinks including an "Italian Cream Soda" and a "Dark Roast Martini" These were both great and they were both served with a smile but friendly bartender name  C. C. We were seated in a very timely fashion and our server was again very friendly and professional. We ordered an appetizer of roasted 5 cheese ravioli that was delicious and then for our main course I ordered something called Pasta Mia which was shrimp and mushrooms covered in a garlic butter cream sauce and served over pasta and the wife ordered Chicken Pancetta which was served with capers, roasted potatoes and green beans, everything was so incredibly good. We finished it off by splitting a slice of the best cheesecake I have ever eaten. I regret the phone wasn't working, I wish I had pictures of how beautiful all the food was before we ate it. Not to mention the prices were very reasonable.

Not sure how many calories I burned riding 30 miles and not sure how many I took in eating at tabella, but WOW were both acts well worth it! If you find yourself in Hattiesburg Mississippi both the Long Leaf Trace and Tabella are well worth a visit.

For more info on tabella you an go to

for more info on the long leaf trace you can go to

What an amazing day!

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