Thursday, March 11, 2010

Peace on the Parkway

I'm in Natchez, MS now having just finished the southern 250 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Trace runs 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville, TN. It follows a historical road used by Indians and colonist traders back in the 1700 and 1800's. It's now a corridor run by he National Parks Service, completely lined by forests and fields with numerous historical sites, nature trails, and picnic areas throughout.

Once I hit the tail it was immediate relief. No more logging trucks zooming by (no commercial vehicles are allowed), no turns or even intersections for days, easy camping, and overall peacefulness. This is a very popular bike ride, and with my first two nights in free bike only camping" areas, I hoped I might run into some other tourers, it's been so long since I've seen anyone else. I did met one older couple, the woman was riding and her husband driving the sag wagon, and greatly enjoyed chatting with them.

On the Trace

That 2nd night on the race I started feeling awful. I'd been fighting a cold since leaving Memphis and it had finally hit me full bore. Calling my parents that night, my dad thought my bike had been stolen or something terrible had happened from the way I sounded; he was glad to hear I was just sick. My voice was as bad as it's ever been, I could barely get words out and breathing wasn't easy. My parents tried to convince me to take a day or two off. Although I didn't want to, the next morning I knew I had no choice as I hadn't been able to sleep for days and breathing was still not easy; time for meds. Luckily, I was camped legally and just outside of Kosciusko (Oprah's hometown).

The morning of my day off, I wandered over to the visitors center to stumble upon a ribbon cutting ceremony fora remodel of the building. Being the only visitor there, and "visitor is what this is all abut," they pushed me forward for pictures. Te newspaper and radio that were there also interviewed me about my ride. Lots of attention lately, I'm not used to this! Everyone was incredibly friendly and the mayor even came over and introduced himself. I really enjoy happening upon these random community events. After picking up some meds, I spent the rest of the day resting and soaking up the sunshine.

Kosciusko Visitor's center

Even though I woke up to rain the next day, I felt good enough to put in an easy days ride. One other nice thing about the Trace is that it's near flat, so I was able to take it very easy. Although it rained most of the day, it was warm out so didn't bother me; I love that it's warm again! Thunder showers continued through this morning but the sun came out yesterday afternoon and it was gorgeous. South of Jackson, spring is here: the frogs are noisy, grass is green, and the flowers are in bloom. I love being able to wear just a jersey and shorts again. After three months in a jacket and leggings it's time to get my bike tan lines back!

Tupelo-Cypress swamp

One of the most exciting things for me recently is that I saw my first wild alligator yesterday! I'd been scanning all of the wet areas since getting into Mississippi in hopes of spotting one and I finally did! I'm actually afraid of them (because of how I camp and my complete ignorance of them), but I was high enough above on the road so felt safe. I'd guess it was 7-8 feet, I don't know if that's normal, but seemed big to me. Moving to set my bike down for a better pic, it swiftly slipped into the pool. I'm glad it was afraid of me, but seeing how fast it moved is also a little worrisome.


Lots of old, historical houses here in Natchez

I'm about to cross into Louisiana and follow the Mississippi River for a few days. Tomorrow I'll be in Baton Rouge, then onto New Orleans.

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