A Meridian teacher and endurance cyclist has cruised into the title of the first person to bike the perimeter of the entire Magnolia State.
Edward Abdella made the “Bike Around Mississippi: From Merrehope and Back” journey to bring awareness to historic preservation and to raise funds for Merrehope in Meridian. The historic treasure is one of Mississippi’s only remaining Greek Revival homes and requires numerous roof repairs.
“We wanted to raise money for Merrehope’s roof, and so, when I got the sponsorship, I said everything we get goes to the roof and that’s it,” Abdella said, a popular American history teacher at West Lauderdale High School in Collinsville.
“Everyone was like, you did this, and I said, we did it in just a few days,” he added. “And I know, when you sit there and say, hey we’re going to go ride around the entire state of Mississippi. Here’s the map and the routes. They must’ve said this guy is insane. It’ll never happen.”
But it did happen.
Abdella left the grounds of Merrehope, a 20-room neoclassical mansion on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Meridian, at 4 p.m. on July 4 and pedaled 1,161 miles counterclockwise around the perimeter of the state. He completed the trip in four days and three hours, on only a total of eleven hours of sleep.
His race team included team leader Clint Blackwell of Magnolia State Cycles and team members Kevin Brooker, Chris Perry, Nick Barraghan, and Kathy Parrish. The on-the-road team cruised alongside Abdella in vehicles and took turns watching over him on his journey. Blackwell said they saw some beautiful back-country scenery and stopped at several notable sites to promote historic preservation.
“We used to have a race called BAM, Bike Across Mississippi, but that’s only like 160 miles,” Abdella said. “People have done that route for decades. I wanted to do something that nobody’s done, that would get the most attention and get us the most bang for our buck.”
He added the team traveled on remote roads that are specifically bike friendly and used the Komoot app to stay on roads that were not dangerous.
This was not Abdella’s first or even last long-distance bike journey.
In 2020, he completed the Natchez Trace 444, a cycling ride that extends the length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. In March 2022, he began a 24-hour ride around West Lauderdale to benefit his school’s band program but had to cut the trip short of the 24-hour mark because of a winter storm moving into the area earlier than forecasts predicted.
Abdella hopes the current ride will help him prepare for his ultimate biking dream, which is to one day participate in Ride Across America or RAAM, an ultra-distance road cycling 3,071-mile race that crosses the west and east coasts.