Port Gibson to Natchez MS - 45 miles with a little climbing, mostly on the Natchez Trace
Another short day. I could get spoiled by these fifty mile days and B+B accommodations, but I can't afford either the time or the room charges. Natchez is a interesting place to wander around - a lot of history here!- and the Trace is a nice place for relaxed riding, so, for this special day or two I feel Ok about 50 mile days and B+Bs. Last nights B+B was expensive - $100 - but very comfortable and the proprietor went well out of his way to make my stay enjoyable. Breakfast was huge and very good and he packed so much food to take with me that I didn't need to buy anything else till supper.
The end of the smooth ten miles on the Trace
Riding down the Trace was more fun today, in part because my knee forced me to take it easy. I was averaging 10 mph, not counting stops and I stopped fairly often to eat and to just enjoy the day. Since this part of the Trace is very park like, I could pull over at almost any spot, lean my bike against a tree, and settle down in the shade enjoying peaceful surroundings. Since it was pretty hot riding. I found myself pulling over every ten miles or so to relax and cool down. There was good headwind - 10 to 15 mph as forecast - but it was blocked, or greatly reduced, by the trees on most of the Trace. When the Trace was more open, then wind was a problem, but mostly it was gentle enough to be useful for cooling while not slowing me down very much. The Trace itself slowed me down a bit with it rough surface and bumpiness, except for one lovely ten mile stretch between mileposts 30 and 20 that was smooth surfaced and bump free. Ahhhhh!
It took me about three hours to ride from Port Gibson to the end of the Trace, 28 miles. Then I had to ride MS 61, which is a shoulderless divided four lane highway with a 65 mph speed limit and moderate traffic including log trucks - i.e. not ideal riding, for three miles to Washington MS. I was surprised that the Trace would end on such a bicycle unfriendly stretch of road. After Washington, the rest of the ride into Natchez has a shoulder and, while not great bicycling, is OK. There is another route into town that leaves the Trace about two miles before it ends and does not require riding on MS61. I was relieved to discover that he folks pulling the kid trailer behind their tandem had taken that route. It would have been really scary for them on MS 61!
Wensel House B+B
When I got into Natchez and found the B+B where I was staying, the tandem folks I met last night had just recently arrived. I came into the B+B and found them (a couple and their three year old child) being shown their room. I had a nice visit with the proprietress and then, after cleaning up, spent several hours walking around Natchez. The highlight of that walk was an exhibit of prints, made from glass negatives exposed in the late 1800s, at the First Presbyterian Church. Wow! A local MD has made it a 20 year project to collect, restore, and make prints from negatives taken by two local photographers over a century ago. The collection contains many great prints showing the people and the lifestyle in Natchez. Just to see all those folks and the great houses that were built before the war was quite fascinating. I returned from my stroll about 6 PM and, about 7 PM, went out to supper with my fellow bicyclists. Companionship, including the three year old variety, was fun and supper was good.
Mississippi river looking north from Natchez
I enjoyed most of my 235 miles of riding in Mississippi. I don't think I'd want to ride the entire Natchez Trace, but fifty miles of it was a nice change from regular roads. I hope Louisiana is as good a state to bicycle in as Mississippi! Oh, on a down note, not five miles after I started down the Natchez Trace yesterday, someone in a new pickup truck thought it would be funny to come across the center line towards me. Empty road and all that. I held my line - never let 'em see you flinch - and stuck my tongue out at him. He pulled back across the center line. Why is it that in thousands of hours of riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway this kind of infantile behavior has never been a problem, yet it happens half an hour after I start riding the Trace in Mississippi?