Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Riding the Trace

I'm going to combine two days of riding into one blog tonight.

On Monday morning, we left Franklin and headed northeast to the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace. We got a reasonable start, about 8:30am, and got onto the Trace about 5 miles south of the terminus. So, we rode north, got off, and got gas at a gas station beside the Loveless Cafe, an old, famous restaurant at the end of the Trace.

When I went inside to get some water, I asked the attendant if there was a welcome station nearby. She told me no, but handed me a map, her last one. She said there was a place about 7 miles south, and that there were lots of places along the way that had maps.

When I went to the bike, folded the map, and attempted to slide it under the map pocket on the tank bag, the bottom came unfolded. For those of you who don't ride, there must be an art to sliding a folded piece of paper (maps) under a clear plastic window. I never learned it! When I tried to refold it, and to slide it into the pocket, I simply pushed a big hole in the map. That made me so mad that I ripped it out of the pocket, wadded it up and threw it into a garbage can. I knew that there were plenty more along the way, so I'd just get another one down the road after I'd cooled off. WRONG!!

We stopped at every place along the way for the firs hundred miles or so, and NONE of them had a map! Oh well, the best plans of mice and men...

The Natchez Trace Parkway (it's official name), is a very neat road. It's 442 miles long, running from Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN. It was first created by the Indians, and then later by settlers and traders. It was the Interstate of it's day. When it was learned that ships could sail all that way, it lost it's importance, and gradually fell into disuse. It has been obtained by the National Park Service, in the late 1930s, who now maintains it.

In the northern end, it's fairly mountainous, winding and climbing and falling along the landscape. Devoid of commercialization, it is a very quiet place, without all of the hustle and bustle of most roads today. There are a lot of turnouts and overlooks, but IMO, they are nowhere as nice or as pretty as those on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But there are lots of neat things along the way.

I think the most unusual feature is the number and variety of Indian mounds found along the way. Some are very huge (Emerald in the south), and some are fairly small. Some were apparently burial grounds, and some were places of ceremony. The largest, Emerald, is probably 40 feet high, and 200 feet long. Huge! Some are so low that they are almost indiscernible. Neat!

The weather was great both days. Low to mid 80s, with some breeze. With a speed limit of 50 mph or less, it was so nice to set the cruise control on 50 and just sit back and enjoy the scenery and listen to satellite radio. A very relaxing ride. I was worried that I'd get bored riding at that speed, but it was very nice for a change. No rush!

We rode 243 miles on Monday, staying in Tupelo, MS, at Tombigbee State Camp. We set up the tents, hoping threatening showers would hold off. They did!. Before going to the campground, we went to the Elvis Presley Park, to the house in which he grew up. It was after 5pm, so it was closed. But I got to see it and take pics.

We had been at the Presley Park and Gary noticed that the lights were on at my bike. I walked over to turn them off and thought no more about it. A little later, we got on the bikes and started off. I needed to turn mine off and restart it, so I did. When I tried to restart it, it would do nothing but click! The battery was dead! I tried rolling it to start, but it would not budge. So, I called Gary (who had ridden off without me) on the radio, and he came back. I got out the jumper cables, and after a few minutes, it started. I guess there's always some adventure with bikes!

The campground was okay; we had good campsites with neighbors on one side. The next morning, our neighbors offered us coffee, which was a great treat.

We broke camp and were out on the road by about 8am. Got back on the Trace and rode south.

We stopped at a number of sights along the way. Places where the original Trace ran. We actually rode on about a mile of the old road at one place. Stopped at French Camp and went to a museum and talked with one of the ladies who managed the museum. Pretty interesting things, and what impressed me the most was the pride the lady exhibited in showing us things in the museum.

Today's bike issues include one headlight bulb that burned out (there are 3, so I'm okay even if I don't change it), and my rear tire has a nail showing. I hope to pull out the nail and not lose air tomorrow morning. We'll see. If it leaks, maybe I can plug it successfully.

Stopped in Natchez at the beginning of the Trace and took some pics. Then rode across the Mississippi River into Louisiana, took some pics, and then back to Natchez and the motel for the night. Washed some clothes, had dinner, and am finishing the night with this post.

Rode 309 miles today and had only one rain shower.

Tomorrow: Louisiana.

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