Natchez Trace Tour Day #5
Ridgeland MS to Kosciusko MS
Today: 65.9 miles Cumulative this tour: 305.9 miles
Trough breakfast at the Day’s Inn was not really too bad, including some pre-fabbed egg-like cheesy product labeled as an omelet. Add in sausage, danish, raisin bran, juice, and coffee.
Up and outta there by 7:30AM – not bad. Jack and I are starting to get the idea that the cool morning hours are the best ones to cycle. We hit up a convenience store for drinks, and then found the bike lane that runs parallel to the Trace heading east out of Ridgeland.
It’s a really nice passage out of town, paved and winding through the woods. I was wondering why the ACA maps don’t even mention it. A few casual cyclists and a few Saturday morning joggers shared the way with us. At the path’s end, there are nice views of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
The route continues north around the shoreline of the reservoir, then generally follows the Pearl River. The riding is really flat, and we stopped often for the views.
The next historical stop on the Trace is a Cypress Swamp at MP122. Wow, this has gotta be one of the very coolest places to visit along the Trace. It’s truly mystical and natural – the photos speak for themselves. Jack and I spent at least a half hour here, strolling around the decks built up over the swamp waters. Jack even spied a swimming water moccasin.
At the Ratliff Ferry Road, we turned right to seek out food, which turned into a clearing at Ratliff Ferry Trading Post. It’s a little store catering to boaters, plus a great porch attached to a bar and grill that overhangs the water. Just about perfect.
Jack enjoyed nachos while I had a cheeseburger and fries. From our perch, we watched boats of flyfishermen plying the waters in front of us (no bites). A couple also sat on chairs on the dock beside us casting out bottom baits. Very peaceful place to stop.
Several of the Harley biker types in the parking lot asked us about our travels, where we’re from, the usual friendly questions. This place is probably a roudy honky tonk biker place in the evening.
Continuing up the Trace, we saw nothing but flat riding as the route continued to follow the Pearl and then the Yockanookany Rivers. In the clearings, we pressed against a mild headwind, but most places were fully sheltered by tall pines and other trees. Marvelous riding, hot and humid of course.
Almost too marvelous really. After 3 days of riding, it occurred to me that Trace riding almost has a boring element to it. One is always looking at the National Park Service’s version of wooded bliss with an apron of mowed grass. At least the few skittish deer we spied broke up the monotony.
Jack and I continued our pattern of stopping at nearly every historical site. Such an approach is good for the legs, the rear, the knees, one’s psychy, and of course, we learned things too.
A side road pointed to a tiny dot on the map called Thomastown, and I cajoled Jack into the trip there. I think I just wanted a break in the scenery. It turned out to be a thoroughly busted old town, hardly more than a four-way stop and a few old buildings. Jack observed that the 4-way stop used to use lights, but the lights had been mechanically covered with 4 metal stop signs.
Although I can’t call it a dog encounter, Jack and I passed one house on the way with a cage full of probably 10 puppies that looked like pit-bulls, all yapping and howling at our passage. On the other side of the house was another cage with 10 adult dogs, snarling and jumping at us as well. Yikes – haha!
All day, Jack and I had been discussing the possibility of watching the Ole Miss game tonight, and so were considering either a motel room or finding a sports bar. From a southbound Trace cyclist, however, we learned that there is no Ole Miss game tonight – they have an off week and the game is next week! What a mistake! Good thing we found out before making any concrete moves.
Kosciusko. With no game in our future, we decided to tent camp, and found the Trace welcome station. The place was closed, but there seemed to be picnic table sites around, so we started scouting them. The ground is very sloped everywhere, not conducive to tenting, but we eventually decided we could make it work. A worker finally showed up to lower the flag, and advised us that it was probably illegal but also probably OK if we camped here, but that another campground exists just a few yards south on the Trace.
We found it, complete with flat gravel tent pads, and we set up. Even though our tents are among the smallest you can buy, each one of our tents spilled off the gravel pads. What government weenie designed these things? The campsite itself was nice enough, secluded with lots of mature trees and a water spigot, no john.
On unloaded bikes we rolled into town and found the Rodeo Family Mexican Restaurant. After sweet teas, chips, and salsa, Jack introduced me to queso blanco cheese dip sauce. Jack says that he has only seen it served at Mexican restaurants in the eastern US, never in the west. Tasty stuff!
Veggie enchlidadas, chicken and shrimp chipotle, beans, rice, veggies in cheese sauce – all quite good. The servers frequently spoke to each other in Spanish so we did a little too.
We rode back to camp at dusk, checking out an Italian place for breakfast tomorrow in the process. Long ride planned tomorrow, so we both hit the sleeping bags by 7:30PM.