The Coke Bottle & the Biedenharns of Mississippi and Louisiana

Drinking a bottled Coke not only brings back childhood memories, but also makes me think of places such as Rome, Georgia, and Paris, Tennessee.
It seemed that Rome, Ga. was on the bottom of every other Coke bottle at our house. If it wasn’t Rome, it was likely Macon or Columbus or Augusta.

My hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi even came up on a few. Every Saturday when I walked from my house downtown to the movie theater I paused at the Coca-Cola bottling plant to watch those classic contour Coke bottles rolling along the conveyer belt.
Then, I didn’t know about the Biedenharn family that made Coke the worldwide sensation.

The Coke formula was first developed in Atlanta in 1866 but nearly 30 years later, Joseph Biedenharn took what was once only sold in soda foundations and began bottling it for the masses, first in the rural area around his native Vicksburg, Mississippi. He later set up a network of franchise bottlers that is still the model today.
Although Atlanta is Coca-Cola’s headquarters and home to the World of Coca-Cola complex, these smaller museums in Vicksburg and Monroe, Louisiana are worth visiting too:

Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, 1107 Washington Ave., Vicksburg MS. The exhibits aren’t extensive but it’s still worth a trip to see where Coca Cola bottling began in what was then the Biedenharn Candy Co. It’s in the middle of historic downtown Vicksburg with many interesting buildings within walking distance.
Biedenharn Museum & Gardens, Riverside & Forsythe, Monroe, LA. Joseph Biedenharn later moved to Monroe and the family’s home is preserved just as it was when Biedenharn’s daughter, Emy-Lou, an opera singer lived there.She died in 1984. I visited last month, and the tour began with a fascinating story about the development of the Coke bottle’s iconic shape and the Biedenharn family’s contribution. The gardens are beautiful, and there’s a Bible museum of Emy-Lou’s collections including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible and other rare editions.

Two “Coke bottle” memories
*King Size: The top shelf of my grandfather’s refrigerator was full of king size Cokes. (In the days before Big Gulps and supersizing, king size meant 10 ounces). I would grab one, drink about three ounces and be full.
*Welcome Sounds: I loved hearing the screen door to our carport opening and listening for the sound of the Cokes clanking in the carton when my mother came home from the grocery store.

Welcome: Why I Blog and Bike

I’m so glad that you found my blog and hope you’ll check in often. My desire is to encourage you to dust off your bicycle and pedal away. You’ll see the surroundings in a new way with the side benefit of getting a little exercise. Even if bicycling isn’t for you, I think most of the travel stories I write about will apply to any road trip.

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A wanderlust at heart, I’m now rediscovering the simple joys of icycling and soaking up the scenery along the way. I really started this blog to savor my road trips and share experiences and tips with others. This blog will share some of those from New York City’s Central Park to remote Utah with pit stops along the way for black walnut ice cream in Jefferson City, MO and Louisiana strawberries in Ponchatoula.

You won’t be reading about the best century rides, touring Australia on bike or the Tour de France, although I did “attempt” the Tour de Fire Ant in Marshall, TX once. It was too hilly for me, so I found the sag wagon halfway into my ride. Besides I seemed to be the only one with a “kickstand” on my bicycle and the only one more interested in stopping  to snap photos along the way than racing to the finish line.

I grew up in a small town in Mississippi and enjoyed riding the streets and looking at the Victorian homes in my hometown. As a child, I don’t remember my first bike – just riding on Stingrays borrowed from neighborhood kids. I do remember fantasizing about the three-speed black English racers I saw in the Sears & Roebuck catalog or the Schwinns advertised on Captain Kangaroo. When I got my first job at 16, the first thing I purchased was a bike. Yes, that is the age most people dream of getting a car but since that was out of the question for me, I plunked down $95 for a champagne colored 10-speed at Western Auto.

A couple of years after I got my first real job as a newspaper reporter, I used my entire week’s $325 paycheck to buy a Japanese Kabuki with drop down handlebars and toe clips and rode all over Tupelo, MS –on residential streets and occasionally to work , downtown where Elvis bought his first guitar and along the Natchez Trace Parkway where Native Americans forged a footpath pursuing bison centuries ago.

I still have that bike 34 years later, but today I mostly ride a hybrid. Most of my rides are far away from city streets on Rails to Trails, abandoned railways that have been converted into multi-use paths across the United States. I’m trying to include some bicycling in every road trip I take.

I’m also looking for farmstands as I travel. My second career was spent helping small businesses so I’m partial to the local diner, independent drug store and  locally-sourced products.

A former newspaper reporter and feature writer, I’m glad to finally join the blogging word. Bear with me as I dust off my typewriter, brush up on my grammar and learn the technical side of blogging.