Transiting Nashville

I made it into Nashville just as planned and found myself out in the airport pickup zone with my bike and gear waiting for Steve, a friend met on one of the Facebook bicycling groups I hang out in, to come by in his truck and take me over to Trace Bike Shop, which I had arranged with in advance to set my Surly Disc Trucker up for the ride.

The shop had agreed to keep my bike bag, box, and duffel during the ride and it will be breaking the Surly down and repacking it for me the day I fly home. Steve rolled up and shortly we were whizzing down the Interstate past downtown Nashville.

The metro area is pretty compact and within an hour of landing I was offloading my bike into the shop.

Steve’s a retired guy like me and a local musician and photographer. We got better acquainted over a nice lunch at a Mexican place next to the bike shop. It just amazes me how kind people can be.

I’ll say it here, too. If you are touring on a bike, join some Facebook or other Internet groups and get the word out. The kindness of strangers has been instrumental to the success of the rides I’ve made in the past few years. It has made me resolve to offer anything reasonable I can do when I know about someone touring in Alaska- if you are planning to do that let me know.

Steve and I killed some time by driving down the Trace, the Northern Terminus of which was just a bit less than a mile from the bike shop, to the Tennessee State Route 50 NTP Bicycle Campground about 35 miles/55 kilometers in. It was a gorgeous drive, but gave me a pretty good idea of the significant hills I would be facing over the first couple of days. On the way back we took a few extra minutes and drove down the Tennessee State Route 96 exit on a significant hill to look at the Double-Arch Bridge (which carries the Trace across that road) from below. What an incredible and beautiful part of the built landscape.

The bike wasn’t ready by the time the shop closed so Steve took me back to his house where I met his gracious wife Susie and we had dinner. I was their guest for the night and worked for several hours to get all my arranging and packing done before bed.

The next morning Steve and I hit the road early in order to reach the bike shop at 10:00 when it opened. We grabbed a McDonald’s breakfast on the way- sausage biscuits and coffee are perfect cycling food in the morning. My bike had a few last minute things that needed my input at the shop, but that didn’t hold us up for long.

We loaded the Disc Trucker onto Steve’s truck for the short drive to Loveless Cafe, which is just a stone’s throw from the Northern Terminus.

I was ready to roll!

So Why Ride the Natchez Trace Parkway? (Part One)

Well, here I am in Chicago at O’Hare Airport getting ready to board in an hour or so the last leg of a series of all-night flights from Anchorage, Alaska that will deliver my bicycle and me to Nashville, Tennessee just before noon today. I’m headed, as the title of this post would indicate, to the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 445 mile- sez me: more about that later- two-lane road that connects the Music City to the river town of Natchez, Mississippi.

The Trace, as is is called locally, is a relic of those days when motoring in your automobile was a far more genteel and relaxed pursuit than the “are we there yet” madness of today’s superhighway era. With a speed limit of 50 miles/80 kilometers an hour and no commercial or heavy truck traffic allowed, the Trace is a sinuous ribbon of lightly traveled pavement in a 445 mile/716 kilometer long less than half a mile (and often far less) wide park, with not a single gas station, motel, McDonalds, or comparable establishment to be found anywhere along its length. “Park” is in fact a pretty apt term- the Trace is a unit of the National Park Service.

The Trace dates back to the early 1800s, when it was simply a forest trail used mainly by the crews of flatboats and other watercraft that had made the pretty much one-way trip down the Mississippi River loaded with goods produced in the Midwest that could be sold at great profit in New Orleans and the surrounding settled area. Those crews would make the roughly 1,000 mile journey south carried by the river’s ten mile per hour current and then spend months walking back north over the Trace and other early routes. Abraham Lincoln did it- look it up!

By the 1830s railroads and vastly improved riverboat service left the Trace obsolete, and it had mostly reverted to the trackless wilderness of the surrounding area. In a few places, though, segments survived and became incorporated into the local road network.

About a hundred years later, in the 1930s, some Mississippi politicians saw the recreation of the Trace as a (for its time) modern motoring route as a good candidate for a New Deal era public work. A trickle of funds was appropriated and, over subsequent years, the Natchez Trace Parkway as it exists today evolved. This took close to 75 years, and several segments of the Trace were not completed until the first few years of the 21st Century.

Continues in Part Two, coming later today.

Almost There!

Wheel full 70px This is another- the last, actually- of the occasional posts I’ve been putting up as we ride to explain why there have not been any ongoing posts during our ride down the Mississippi River. I’m pleased to tell you that you won’t have to wait much longer. Gary Schmidt and I have reached New Orleans, Louisiana right on schedule. We have just a little less than 100 miles/160 kilometers left to ride. As I’ve noted before, I have taken tons of photos- close to 3,000- and have made many notes along the way. It’s just been almost impossible to post to WordPress efficiently from my iPhone. So things here have been on hold until I make it back to Alaska in about a week.

Wheel full 70px In the meantime please check out the public Facebook group Mississippi River Ride, where Gary and I post pictures and occasionally a short narrative of the day’s ride. It’s open to all and we check it every day for “join” requests. Thanks for following along.

Wheel full 70px Again, see you here in about a week.

David

A Quick Update

Wheel full 70px Hey, sorry once again for the lack of blog entries. Their absence, though, means nothing. The ride is going great! Gary Schmidt and I are currently in Grand Tower, Illinois and we are right on schedule, about 1,250 miles/2,000 kilometers into the ride. And I have taken tons of photos and made many notes along the way, but find that it is simply impossible to post to WordPress efficiently from an iPhone. So this blog will have to wait until I make it back to Alaska towards the end of October.

Wheel full 70px In the meantime, we continue to post some pictures and occasionally a short narrative of the day on the public Facebook group Mississippi River Ride. It’s open to all and we check it every day for “join” requests. Thanks for following along.

David

Hey, Hello!

Wheel full 70pxGary Schmidt and I have been on the road for about two and a half weeks as this is written.  I have found it almost impossible to post updates here at the blog from my iPhone- it does not seem to like WordPress very much, and dodgy wi-fi really complicates things.  Never fear, though, I’m keeping lots of notes and will catch things up both here and in my crazyguyonabike journal.

Wheel full 70pxIn the meantime, though, for more or less daily updates you are welcome to join the public Facebook group we’ve created

Mississippi River Ride

Wheel full 70pxPictures we’ve taken will be posted there as we go along, and I’m adding narrative as time and connectivity permit.

Wheel full 70pxThanks for following along!

David