Saturday, February 2, 2013

P4W2 Day 27 Jackson - Mathiston, MS 88 miles

Another great pedaling day on the Natchez Parkway.
I think that this road has spoiled me for the remainder
of the trip!  Many pines and oaks line the Parkway.
Oaks here are impressively sized. The growth rate
of red oaks here looks maybe double the rate in New
England, based on the radial spacing between rings here;
about 1/2 inch (~ one inch diameter growth per year).

I had told Ben Ball at the Talk Station that I thought
that I had entered the very fringes of the Appalachians
back near Natchez.  Now I don't think that was true.  Today
turned out to be flatter than Day 26.  And I noticed that
the highest elevation in the state as posted on my map is
only 900 feet above sea level.  I think that the Apps missed
the state of Mississippi. 

Today I wound through
swamp areas with a lot of standing water.  I saw many
groups of wood ducks, including some of the really brightly
colored males.  They spook easily but I got quite close to them
due to how quiet a bike is on a smooth road.  Is it the
world's most quiet machine? (at least when the chain is oiled?!).
I tried to get close to a big flock of wild turkeys, but
they would have none of it.  I saw dozens of deer, including
several bucks that still had their antlers.

Today was also surprisingly cold.  A north headwind bit into me
all day.  The difference in speed between yesterday and today
was 2 mph, but it felt more than this.  Despite another day
with cloudless bluebird skies, the winter hat never left my head.
Ironically, it felt warmest today when the wind stopped at around
dusk.  I think I have advanced farther north than spring.  The
grass is less green up hear and the vernal pools were mostly
quiet of frogs.  Great blue herons looked like they were snacking on cold-stunned frogs in these pools.  Daffodils along the Parkway looked about 10
days away from blooming.

Late in the day I got to the historic town of French Camp.  I still
had a few miles to pedal to my campground, so didn't want to get
too far off the Parkway.  But this town is right on it.  I turned
left to a convenience store that had a little side business of
southern fried dinners.  I got a really nice meal of fried fish,
plus boiled stuff which was a welcome change from the batter fried
business of LA.  Boiled sides included true southern flare - okra (sliminess
and all), collards with butter, corn on the cob, and then also fresh
cole slaw.  The only zany part of my purchase at the store was
the pre-packaged coconut pie I bought.  In the dark at the campground
I was about to lay into one.  I noticed through my dim headlamp that
this product hadn't left the shelf very often - both pies were covered
in a healthy layer of fuzzy green mold!  Even my appetite couldn't
deal with that type of frosting.

On the way back to the Parkway from the store I noticed another
side of French Camp.  The French Camp Christian Academy maintains
some really nice old historic buildings.  I wish I had discovered them earlier in
the day.  I went into the cafe, which was located in an early 1800s cabin.
After 80 miles of cold pedaling, I could have napped by the red oak log fire for
a few days.  It felt great.  The ladies sold me my second take out dinner and some first-
rate dessert - Mississippi mud cake made from scratch in...Mississippi.  I should have asked for 3 or 4 servings.  The
old oak beam dwellings and exhibits the Academy maintains at French Camp were really
well maintained, and a great stop for somebody visiting the Parkway.  Before
I left to get back on the Parkway for my last 10 miles of pedaling, I sat in
the rocking Adirondack chairs on the porch.  I would have liked to take one
with me - much, much more comfortable than my bike seat!  The chain connecting
the chairs is to keep bike tourers from getting any ideas.

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