The Natchez Trace Parkway: TN, AL, and MS

09Dec09

An alternate title for this post could be: We never thought we’d be freezing in Mississippi!

We left the Days Inn in Columbia on Wednesday morning last week.  We were stocked with 5 days worth of food and outfitted in full rain gear.  Even though it was raining it was time to get going.  We sometimes joke about how many more nights we can stay at the hotel we’re at based on the savings we have,  we could enjoy 4 plush months in Columbia, TN!

Our rations for the week

We rode 3o miles to get on the Natchez Trace Parkway and then rode 7 more to arrive at the Meriwether Lewis National Monument.  This is the final resting place of Meriwether’s remains.  He met his death here rather suspiciously in a small inn called Grinder’s Stand.  This is the famous Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  It was eerie to arrive at the site in the rainy weather and at this time of year.

The grave of Meriwether Lewis, it's short to represent his life cut short at 35 years

We arrived in the late afternoon to stay at the campground. To our surprise we saw another bicyclist tourist  named Sam who had set up camp a little earlier than us.  We were glad to make his acquaintance as we have met very few fellow bike tourists.  He was equally surprised to see us as he thought that no one would be out touring on the Trace at this time of year.  We ended up cooking dinner with him and keeping dry under his tarp.  It was a windy eveing and  we all turned in early.

Sam, trying to stay warm on the Trace

We left Meriwether Lewis on Thursday morning with a big day ahead of  us-56 miles to Cherokee, Alabama.  We were going to stay at our first  bicycle-only campground at Colbert Ferry.  We didn’t get on the road until 10:30am because we were so cold and we stopped to take in the Meriwether Lewis monument.   It was a bitter cold day, it didn’t get over 40 degrees at ALL, and we struggled to keep our fingers  and toes warm.  We stopped at a lovely visitor’s center in Waynesboro, Tennessee and had some Green Mountain Coffee to warm us up.  It was 2:30 at that point and we still had 30ish miles to get to our destination.  We were really pushing daylight!  We passed Sam for the last time and he invited us to stay at the bed and breakfast he was going to, we declined as we needed to get some miles out of the way.  We managed to make it to Colbert Ferry just after dark, over 30 miles in 2.5 hours-we were cranking!  We crossed the Tennessee River in the dark over an apparently awesome bridge that we couldn’t see very well.  Oh well!

We found the bicycle-only campground and gathered lots of wood for a great campfire, it was another cold  night.  That was the first night that we started using our emergency blanket on top of  us for extra warmth.  It made a huge difference.  We  also found the small candle lantern that we have helps warm up the tent too.

Dawn by the campfire at Colbert Ferry in Alabama

Interesting rock formations along the Trace

Pharr Mounds: Ancient Indian Mounds-over 2,000 years old, burial grounds

We woke up the next morning to finally see some sunshine.  We got all packed up and on the road early for a 64 mile ride to the Parkway Visitor’s Center outside of Tupelo, Mississippi.  We had been in Alabama for less than 24 hours and we were already in Mississippi.  We were excited to get to the Visitor’s Center because there were primitive cabins in the woods across the road for cyclists and boy scouts.  We had visions of fireplaces, and old rustic cabins.  We realized that we need to stop visioning our destination because disappointment can be the result.  The cabins we simple shacks  with green fiberglass roofs and not insulated at all.  We set up our tent inside the cabin and  braced ourselves for yet another cold night in the 20s.  We had a fire outside, ate dinner and went to bed.  We’ve been going to bed by 8pm most nights with our exhaustion and the cold temps.

Keeping it real in the primitive cabin

The next day we were TIRED.  We went back to the Visitor’s Center as soon as it opened at 8am to watch a 12 minute movie about the Parkway and to warm up.  We got some info about Tupelo and we headed into town to go to a Starbucks to get some coffee and a little wifi.  It was wonderful to sit on a couch for an hour and sip our coffee, it was not wonderful to struggle with the wifi connection.   We managed to go 33 more miles to a campground called Witch Dance in the Tombigbee National Forest on the Parkway.  It’s called Witch Dance because supposedly witches used to gather and dance there in the old days, and wherever they had danced the grass died.  We arrived early with plenty of sunlight which gave us time to prepare for our coldest night YET-24 degrees!  There were no fire rings at this campground and so we gather a bunch of wood and broke it into small chunks to have a fire in a barbecue grill.  We didn’t think that would be enjoyable, but it ended up doing the trick and being quite nice.

Sunset at Witch Dance

Fire at Witch Dance and Debi utilizing her fire stoking technique-it never fails!

Sunday morning we left Witch Dance with hopes of the day being warmer.  We were looking for just a few more degrees!  Oh to be biking in the forties!  It would make such a difference.  Luckily, it was a warmer day and we rode 41 miles to Jeff Busby campground.  We thought we were going to find a store at this location, but it had closed over a year ago.  We had plenty of food so it wasn’t an issue, we just wanted some goodies and conversation.

Bryan trying to stay warm on a lunch break

We once again collected wood-this was becoming a daily chore and we set up camp.  It was a clear night by the fire, but we knew rain was coming.  At 3:30am it started pouring and didn’t stop.  At 8am we knew that biking wasn’t in the cards for the day and we were discussing how to get in touch with our warmshowers.org hosts-Donna and Gary as we do not have a cell phone.  Just then a vehicle pulled up to our site and a voice announced “Are you Bryan and Debi?  This is Donna from warmshowers and I’ve come to rescue you!”.  We rambled out of the tent, amazed and pinching ourselves-are we really leaving?  Donna helped us put our bikes in her truck along with all of our wet gear.  She took us to a little cafe in a town called French Camp for coffee and we continued to reel from the fact that we didn’t have to spend the day in the elements.  Donna’s  generosity was unending and we arrived at her home by 10am and then found ourselves warm, clean, and enjoying a good dose of southern hospitality.

We’ve spent the last 2 nights with Donna and Gary, meeting their friends, eating wonderful food, and having great conversations.  They have been so amazing!  They insisted we stay until the weather cleared which was a good idea because today there was a tornado watch.  We were nervous when we saw this, but once we passed it by Donna, she said it happens all the time.

We are restocked with food and dried out.  We also have a small jar of freshly canned Worcestershire Sauce that Donna made today-we have to wait 2 weeks  for it to marry which is perfect timing for Christmas dinner.  We’ll be in Austin, Texas so we’ll surely be putting it on some steaks!

We have 160 miles left of the Natchez Trace Parkway. If you want to learn more about the Natchez Trace visit the National Park website here, and here’s a link to a map of the Parkway here so you can see the route.  We have to apologize for not having a better map of our route online.  We hope to tighten everything on here up in Austin where we’ll be spending a couple weeks at Debi’s friend BethAnn’s home.  BethAnn and her husband Kyle are headed to New York for the holidays and we’ll be house-sitting and dog-sitting for them.  We’re excited to have a place to call home for the holidays.

And the road continues.....

The Natchez Trace ends in Natchez, Mississippi-a historic town.  There are many Antebellum homes still intact as it was apparently spared from being burned during the Civil War.  We will be staying at a hotel, packing up our bikes in boxes in order to catch a greyhound bus to Austin.  We’ve had it with the cold temperatures and we really need to get going.  We’re looking to the state of Texas to warm our bones and it brings us oh so close to getting to Mexico.

We’ve been on the road for 3 months now and have traveled almost 2,000 miles.  Today is the 4 month anniversary of our wedding….wow, we can’t believe we’ve come this far.

We miss all of our friends and family and we hope you’re all staying warmer than we’ve been!

Much love,

Debi and Bryan

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8 Responses to “The Natchez Trace Parkway: TN, AL, and MS”

  1. Hi Guys!
    In 1987 Heidi and I had some trouble at Bynum Mounds, right at Witch Dance on the Trace. BUT we had a Saab with Massachusets plates! So nice to see the report. Glad you’ll be seeing Bethann… it was snowing in Austin last week, so the greyhound is a good idea,
    Well, it’s dumping here too.
    Looking forward to your next post!
    Steve

    • 2 thrubike

      Thanks Steve and we can’t wait to hear more of your trouble at Bynum Mounds!

      Take Care and we will talk to you soon.

  2. 3 Mo

    Wow! Love the pictures! I am continually amazed by you guys.

    • 4 thrubike

      Thanks Mo!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the e card!

      Happy Holidays!

  3. 5 Kate Cross

    Happy Anniversary! I love the “and the road continues” photo. It would make a great cover shot for your book! I’m sorry you’ve been so wet and cold. But the warmth will feel that much better. Sending my love, Aunt Kate

  4. 7 John Friedrichs

    Hello Folks!! We all have been asking ourselves,Gee I wonder where B&D are these days??So glad to hear that your having a safe time in the Deep South,even if the weather isnt as warm as one would prefer.Ira and Keri spent 4 days with us on their way back from NH at Keris Moms house for Turkey Day,and that was real nice.They had a few small jobs for gas $$$$ and then shoved off.While here we had a gathering of many of their old friends here at the house.Iras brother Jesse just happened to call from Hawaii as we were all gathered,and spoke at lenght on speakerphone,telling all about the hot lave,big surf,wild pigs running all about anf all the unturisty things that he sees everyday………Ill keep this short,take Care and stay Safe and WARM……..Best to you both……..Your Friend……John

    • 8 thrubike

      Thanks John!

      Glad to hear of your holiday and Family – Jesse sounds as if he is in one beautiful part of the world!
      Take Care and we will talk to you soon!


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