I’ve cycled on city streets, rural roads and traffic-free paths in urban and rural settings. But the cycling I like best is riding the streets of a small town.
I like quiet streets, where your bike is transportation — from the bed & breakfast to the library, to the bakery for lunch, to the grocery store and to church.
When I moved to Shreveport more than 30 years ago, people told me about the east Texas town of Jefferson, an hour away. It has been a favorite bicycling destination ever since. Jefferson is similar to my hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi, as it was once was a prosperous river port that was bypassed by the early railroads.
Jefferson eventually got a railroad, but not before other Texas rail cities grew faster. Thankfully, must of homes and historic buildings from Jefferson’s heyday have been preserved. At least 70 or so are on the National and Texas historic registers.
Downtown is filled with antique shops, restaurants and an old-timey general store. The downtown district is entirely walkable too, but on a bicycle you can pedal along the side streets and see more of the historic homes. There are antebellum Greek Revivals, gingerbread Victorian mansions and cottages, Italianates and just about every architectural design.
Jefferson isn’t as affluent as Fredericksburg or other tourist towns you might find over in the Texas Hill Country. But Jefferson has an interesting blend of historic charm, eccentric personalities and authentic everyday experiences you would expect in a southern town of about 2,000 people trying to make it in today’s world.
And as a former newspaper person, I’m amused that Jefferson’s weekly newspaper is the Jefferson Jimplecute. The name is an acronym for the paper’s motto: Joining Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy, Capital (in) Unity Together Everlastingly. But I like the legend that a former publisher dropped the type tray, and the letters that spilled out spelled “Jimblecute.”
Jefferson is full of those kinds of stories that you can hear over breakfast at the B&B, on the ghost tour or over a 5-cent cup of coffee at the Jefferson General Store.
Here’s a photo gallery taken from two recent trips. Click on the photos to learn more about the places. We recently went on a sleepy July day, but if you go to jefferson-texas.com you can learn about special events throughout the year when the town is more alive.
A few of the bed & breakfast homes may have bicycles to use, but you need to plan on bringing your own. You also can expand your sightseeing options by taking a carriage ride, riverboat ride on the scenic Big Cypress Bayou or a steam train during special events.
If you’re looking for another nearby town to bicycle around, I’d recommend Marshall just 17 miles away. There’s a wonderful old downtown department store that has been renovated into shops. You can read about it here.
And if you are more of a road cyclist, USA Today has some suggested routes around Jefferson and nearby Caddo Lake in its Travel section.