Natchez Trace Tour Day #4
Rocky Springs Campground MP54.8 on the Natchez Trace in MS to Ridgeland MS
Today: 55.5 miles Cumulative this tour: 240.0 miles
Wow last night I heard some of the coolest owl calls I’ve ever heard. Low booming hoots that resonated through the woods. First a call from one side of my tent, then from the other side more distant. It made me feel calm and relaxed, and, you know, a part of the earth. A reason to love tent camping.
It was a warm night, but by 3 or 4 in the morning it finally got cool enough for partial use of the sleeping bag.
In the morning, Jack told me that even though some of the calls sound different, it is often the same species of owl. People call them “hoot-owls” but I’d like to know which species of owl we really heard. Screech owl? Great horned owl?
We had a nice breakfast in the quiet woods, PB&J sandwiches and a bottle of ice coffee, all the time watching squirrels, birds, and the handicapped guy messing around his red camper trailer and the bath station.
We still were uncertain about drinking the brown water. I tasted it and it seemed OK. Jack then had a revelation – his water purifier! He set it up – all 88 lb of it – and together we filtered out enough to fill all 6 of our water bottles. The water was still brown, but we now had confidence that it was fit to drink.
We rolled out about 8:30AM into nicely cool temperatures. My crank was giving me an annoying click with every pedal revolution and I stopped often to examine it and apply WD40 at various points. To me, the right side pedal seemed to have a tiny bit of mechanical play when compared to the left side, which felt rock solid. That’s not something I can adjust or tighten, I don’t think.
Thirty miles of riding brought us picturesque forests, hayfields, and a few fields of cattle or soybeans. Like yesterday, it seems we gently climbed and descended the same 50 feet over and over.
Outside Clinton MS, we found a Subway clone for lunch, a place called Lenny’s Sub Shop. Decent Philly cheese steak and a very pleasant staff. Then a stop at an Exxon convenience store for water and afternoon drinks.
We returned to the Trace around 2PM and rode through one of the busiest sections of it, the miles between Clinton and Ridgeland (these are both suburbs of Jackson). The ACA map advises bicyclists to stay off this section during rush hours, but even at 2PM the traffic was steady. As usual, most drivers were courteous, but a few earned the “asshole” title, you know, for thinking the road is not to be shared. Wherever there are too many people, you can count on some behaving badly.
If you are in a hurry, PLEASE stay off the Trace.
We exited the Trace about 3:30PM just past US51 in Ridgeland and rolled down Pear Orchard Road, which was quite horrible passage for bicycles, tight and jammed with traffic. We found our quest, though: the Indian Cycle and Fitness Center, a bike shop.
The friendly mechanic there took note of my rightside pedal play but doubted that was the source of the clicking. He thought maybe it was a cleat click but I knew it wasn’t. Wisely, as a trial, he took a substitute pedal and replaced my right one, then asked me to go for a spin, to include a good strong mash up a hill. The replacement pedal fixed the clicking 100%, although neither of us could explain why.
I had both pedals replaced (with the higher quality pedals suggested by the mechanic) and ended up with a $100 bill. The $100 click…was it worth it to get it fixed? The old pedal had been functioning fine except for the click, but I look at it as a “quality of life” thing. Hey, this is my vacation.
When checking out, I chatted with a friendly gentleman waiting in line, who suggested we use a bicycle path out of town tomorrow. When we departed, he handed me his card – turns out it was the mayor of Ridgeland MS himself!
In a couple of miles Jack and I found a Day’s Inn and checked in for the evening. As usual, we spent a couple hours vegging, phoning, emailing, and showering, then considered going out for dinner. Thank goodness that Jack thinks the way I do – it felt a lot better to just hang out in the room and watch TV.
We called up a nearby Maggios and had pizza delivered. Mushrooms, olives, and half chicken, all of it stuck irreverently to the top of the box. TV gave us CNN, The Bucket List, and finally some kind of cool zombie show that was like a modern-day Night of the Living Dead. All the while, some hyperactive little feet pounded the ceiling over our heads, back and forth, back and forth. Sounded like some crazy little rhinoceros up there playing fetch. Earplug time.