Thursday, January 31, 2013

P4W2 Day 25 Simmesport, LA - Natchez State Park, MS 82 miles

My goal today was to travel north into Mississippi, the 49th state
I've to.  The route in the morning took me due north.
I pedaled on a massive windswept levy of the Mississippi River.
Water control and diversion structures were everywhere.  It would take a lot
of study or a stop in one of the many Army Corp of Engineers offices
to determine what all the structures where for and where the water was headed.
Many, many birds inhabited the river bottom lands still left flooded;
white pelicans, bald eagles, countless hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and wood ducks were all seen today.

I made 70 really slow miles as the west wind throttled me full-tilt.  In fits
and starts I pulled the winter biking garb back out of my bike bags; it
had gotten pretty much ignored over the previous week and I had a hard
time finding it and then putting it on...once I was on the levy there
was no place to stop or hide from the wind over the flat miles to the
river crossing.  The big bike was a partial blockade from the wind!

By mid-afternoon I had crossed the big river on a wide and (now needless to say...)
windy bridge.  The Mississippi with a cold clearing wind whipping it into a
muddy froth, looked pretty intimidating if I was to get blow off the bridge...maybe a 150 foot swan dive.
This marked the third time I had crossed the river on my bike trips.  In
Minnesota, the river is, obviously, considerably smaller.  There is a lot of
erosion between here and there to create that kind of mud load.  Chocolate milk has nothing on the Mississippi this far down.

Natchez, MS is a really nice town.  It has sweeping views of the river and
stately red brick buildings.  In a lot of ways it resembles a smaller version of
Williamsburg, VA.  I had three good stops in town.  The folks at a really nice
visitors center gave me some route advice.  I stopped at the Natchez Coffee Company and
gave the owners son a geography lesson on where I had pedaled over the past 3 weeks.
And I stopped at Trippe's Western Auto to get my bike tires changed.  Chris
Trippe, the owner, was a great guy.  He told me that his grandfather bought and
owned one of the original Western Autos in the 1930s.  Chris's store remained
an independent franchise after the other stores were taken over by by Sears in a buyout
years ago.  He had added a bike department to his store due to the popularity
of bicycling here.

My goal for days was to intercept the historic Natchez Trace Parkway in order to cut through a
wide swath of the Deep South on a good road.  I had done a bit of homework on the
Parkway and read that it was a bikers dream.  This is spot-on.  Late in the day
I finally left town and got on the Parkway for the last 10 miles of riding.
A smooth, quiet, and pretty road with great scenery.  Dozens of deer hurdled off in front
of me.  Frogs chirped from river bottoms before their likely re-hibernation due the
recent cold snap.  I even treed a raccoon that wasn't quite sure what to make
of me in the new-found cold twilight.   Stately oaks, beeches, hickories, and pines line the Parkway.

For folks in my reading audience that may be considering a bike trip of their own, the
rolling topography of Natchez Trace might be for you.  The scenery is apparently outstanding during spring
bloom and fall color seasons.  There are lots of places to stay along the Parkway,
and motorists appear really cognizant of bikers; for the first time during the P4W2, I had
motorists stop in both directions to let a biker past safely.   Wonderful!

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