Natchez Trace Tour Day #3
Natchez MS to Rocky Springs Campground MP54.8 on the Natchez Trace in MS
Today: 63.7 miles Cumulative this tour: 184.5 miles
Well, the bad news and the good news.
The bad: The Red Carpet Inn in Natchez MS has bug problems. Several types I’m pretty sure. In the bathroom, there are little baby sewer roaches crawling around the floor. It was lovely to go in there in the middle of the night and see them crawling around. The other bugs I suspect were bed bugs, although I did not directly see them (they are quite small). But I did wake up with rows of little bites on my legs and torso. I thought it ironic that I didn’t need my insect repellant the previous night camping, but I probably could have used it last night.
The good: I think both Jack and I were too exhausted to care very much about it, and we both got a good night’s sleep anyway.
More good: My saddle sores healed up maybe 40% today, but both Jack and I let out a little groan on first seating this morning. I know from previous tours that judicious use of Chamois Butter, antibiotic, and sometimes a bandage or two will eventually alleviate the issue.
Jack and I executed a true goosechase this morning around the interchange of SR84 and SR61, seeking out a breakfast spot (Red Carpet Inn’s trough was too meager to bother with). We finally settled on Subway for a breakfast egg sandwich although I was left wanting for coffee.
Another mile of retracing brought us to the very start, Mile Post 0.0, of the Natchez Trace. Let the serene riding begin! The Trace has a speed limit of only 50 mph. Although there is no shoulder, it prohibits all commercial traffic. That means no semi-trucks, which although usually courteous, are offensively loud and difficult to share the road with. And it means no commercial pick-up truck drivers, who have a greater inclination to be young, stupid, in a hurry, and disrespectful. What that leaves are touring cars, RVs, and motorcyclists who are generally very pleasant to share the road with.
On each side of the Trace is a hundred yards or more of mowed grassy terain typically flanked by a wall of mature trees. Jack and I both had the same thought, too – wow, it must take FOREVER to mow all that grass.
Soupy humid riding this time of year, but immediately enchanting. Lots of the trees sporting beautiful Spanish moss. At first, we did not see much wildlife, except for many dozens of black butterflies perched on the road surface – later identified as spotted purples.
The Trace has frequent historical stops which usually include a big informational sign. Jack got ahead of me, and so I pulled off at the Elizabeth Female Academy to peek around. A little later I stopped at the Loess Bluff, and read that the term loess refers to a geologic layer of windblown top soil. The sign explains that the word is pronounced “lo-ESS”, but that is contrary to what I knew. Many years ago, in the early 80s, I worked summers for a USDA sedimentologist who had always pronounced it “lerse,” which actually sounds a lot cooler to me.
I rode past a small yellow snake coiled up on the roadside. The image in my mind finally registered it as a plastic toy snake, not a real one. I got another 100 yards down the road before deciding to turn around and take a photo of it in honor of my friend Gary, who has an affection for snakes (not).
For mojo, a little sock monkey wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers patch was riding in the back pocket of Jack’s bike trunk. I had neglected to bring anything, and so decided that this snake was just the thing. Besides, I did not want to get too far along the ride without a good luck charm aboard.
In this section, the Trace does gentle ups and downs, almost never flat. This type of terrain is actually a benefit to my iffy knees. Somehow, the slight changes between climbing and descending offer relief. Additionally, I had started taking preventative Ibuprofen, with a usual regimen of 2 in the morning (always with food), and then 1 more just after lunch.
Jack and I skipped the first detour, a 4 mile jaunt to Lorman, and instead exited the Trace at MP40 to visit Port Gibson for lunch. I immediately disliked the looks of SR61 (no shoulder and trucks) and so used Google to find the “cool” way on back streets into town, which had Jack teasing me a little bit.
The old historic area of Port Gibson is neat. There are precious few businesses in town, and we had to roll quite a way to finally find a market and Subway for lunch. I checked out a Fried Fish restaurant, too, but was immediately informed that they were closed because they’d run out of fish.
Before leaving town, we bought provisions at the M&M grocery for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast, since we’ll be camping on the Trace.
We stopped at another historic site, this time one showing where sunken remnants of the original Natchez Trace route still exist, and explored around for a while. While appreciating the history, it’s actually kind of blah. Sort of a muddy creek bed.
At MP52, we checked out the Owens Creek Waterfall. The big sign informed us that the waterfall rarely flows anymore, but we did observe some flow. Maybe recent rains.
A bit more wildlife presented itself, albeit not all alive. Jack saw 2 deer, and together we saw yet another one. I spied a dazed viceroy butterfly on the road. From a bridge, we spotted schools of fish and turtles down in the waters of Big Bayou Pierre. Perhaps most impressive was the hugest centipede I’ve ever seen in my life, at least 8 inches long. Dead on the roadside, this thing looked truly prehistoric. Didn’t know they got so big. A little research later suggests this might have been a giant Sonoran cenitpede Scolopendra heros.
At MP54.8 we found our nest for the night, Rocky Springs Campground. The site is free, primitive, with picnic tables in a pretty old woods. A couple of Harleys guys soon left, leaving just us and one older handicapped gentleman as the only campers – sweet.
Dinner of leftover hamburger rolls, cheese, tomato, (ham, for me), Cheetohs, Pepsi, and tea. The woods were warm but nice and quiet, with only a constant chorus of insects. We briefly considered lighting a fire but the night ran out too quickly. A good spot.
Another good ride today, over 60 miles. Jack and I still feel like we’re in training mode, working our way into everyday touring shape. Humidity today was still off the charts, but temperatures were held down by overcast skies. Jack rode stronger today for sure, although his backside is still hurting. I started out lethargic this morning but picked it up nicely by midday.
Tomorrow we’ve got 35 miles before reaching any kind of store, so I hope our provisions hold out. We’ve already noticed that the water spigot at the latrine here comes out with a brownish tint, so we’re wondering if it is potable.