Combining his love of the Delta, biking and the need to improve his health, a 60-year-old grandfather has embarked on a bicycle tour of Southeast Arkansas, particularly the Chicot County area, and is documenting his travels on his Web site and yet-to-be published book, The Delta Revisited: Reflections from a Son of the South.
A feature reporter and sales representative for WABG Channel 6 in Greenville, Larry Burchfield pedals about 80 miles a week, stopping at historic or interesting places in his beloved Delta.
Everywhere he goes, Burchfield takes his Specialized Hardrock Mountain Bike with him, unloading it and riding through the territory, snapping photos along the way.
“At a peak, I’ll ride 80 to 100 miles a week,” he said. “I have ridden 50 miles in a day, but 25 miles is about my limit.”
Burchfield, the grandson of a former Chicot County judge, grew up on a row crop and cattle farm north of Lake Village in the 1950s and 1960s and works in Greenville, so he has a unique perspective of the Delta that he shares in his stories and photos of places in and around Chicot County.
He writes about the restoration of Lake Chicot, the construction of the Lake Chicot Pumping Station, the history of the Rowher Relocation Center, how the Cow Pen Restaurant got its name, the Delta music scene, the Greenville towboat industry, and the old and new Greenville bridges.
“Anytime I see a marker or anything interesting I’ll stop and research it,” Burchfield said.
While his book will be a personal reflection of growing up in Southeast Arkansas in the 1950s and 1960s, no tour of the Delta would be complete without a trek along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
“A year ago on Memorial Day I went over to Helena-West Helena and hit Highway 61 and covered the northern leg of the Mississippi Blues Trail,” he said. “I got a picture of one of Robert Johnson’s supposed burial places.”
Continuing his Mississippi Blues Trail bike tour, Burchfield biked to Tallahatchi Flats, preserved shantys with tin roofs on a cotton plantation, and the Dockery Plantation, the home of early bluesman Charlie Patton. He rode around Indianola and toured the B.B. King Blues Museum before heading to Leland where he toured the Highway 61 Blues Museum.
“When I got to the Highway 61 Blues Museum, Pat Thomas (the son of Son Thomas) was there and he gave me a tour,” Burchfield said. “He took me downtown and showed me all the murals and when we got back (the the museum) he pulled out his tip jar and played me some blues songs.”
Since he began his biking two years ago, Burchfield’s health has improved and he’s lost 50 pounds. As for his book, Burchfield said it has generated some interest among publishers.