Natchez Trace Tour Day #9
Tishominogo State Park MS to Collinwood TN
Today: 57.8 miles Cumulative this tour: 530.8 miles
Absolutely perfect sleeping temperatures last night. Ultra quiet. A beautiful campsite by a lake. All by ourselves. This is what camping is all about.
Bottled coffee and Pop Tarts started my day, and then another stroll down by the lake. Big clouds of steam rose off the water’s surface, muffling sounds and adding enchantment. On the opposite shoreline, white ducks and Canada geese played about. What a morning.
The climb out of camp back to the ranger station was not as bad as we anticipated yesterday. There was one section about 20% (full granny) but the rest just a steady medium grind. While paying, we complimented the rangers on the park, especially on its bath house (maybe the best I’ve ever used at a park), and they seemed to appreciate it.
We hit some nasty steep hills before encountering the Alabama state line, and stopped for our traditional photo op. State number 25 for me – halfway around the United States complete!
Jack and I were betting on an open convenience store on US72 in Alabama and made it there in another 12 miles. Good thing, too, because we were completely out of provisions. Inside a very friendly Indian lady clerk was simply incredulous that we were riding our bicycles. “You cannot be serious. It takes 8 hours by car to get to Indiana from here! Do you know that? You are going by pedal bicycle? Really?”
Returning to the Trace, we encountered big ROAD CLOSED signs for the next 6 miles north. Nonsense! We’re on bicycles. We figured we could always walk around any obstruction we reached, even if it meant going through the woods, so we proceeded right through. We were right. Just a little shoulder maintenance along the way, and no obstacles at all on the road surface.
In 7 miles we reached the Tennessee River and stopped repeatedly along the bridge to take photos, and then again at the opposite bank for an extended rest and lunch. A few miles past the river, Jack spied a real Alabama port-o-potty and rolled off to take a series of photographs of it. You should have seen the construction workers eyeballing Jack like he’d gone mad.
Another 13 miles brought us to the Tennessee state line. Hello and goodbye Alabama!
The riding today brought a smile to my face. Perfect riding temperatures and only light breezes. Not too hilly. Frequent stops at the Trace historic sites. It got me thinking, and I decided that I was just damned lucky to be here with a good friend. One who rides at the same pace and style as me. One who enjoys all the nuances of this unique style of travel. One to share all of this with. Lucky!
We found the pretty Cypress Creek picnic area for lunch. My pre-made sandwich was good but the spicy snacks I’d bought were rancid, oh well. A lovely spot where we took lots of photos.
A mere 13 miles remaining for today, which we termed “just an afternoon ride.” We soon hit Collinwood TN, population 982 and rolled in to its Wayne County Welcome Center. The attendant John was SUPER friendly with us, welcoming us to use the city park for camping and use of the fire department rest rooms and showers (and couches if we wanted to). He even supplied us with chilled bottled water and a whole box of cookies! This made a huge positive impression with us – Collinwood really knows how to treat guests!
Jack found a Tennessee port-o-potty and took more photos, then used it. He came out wincing – full of cobwebs and odors. I guess these ones hadn’t been serviced in a long time.
After setting up tents, we rolled off to nearby Chad’s Family Restaurant, which was so close we coulda walked. Jack went with the salad bar and a stuffed potato, while I went with 2 thin pork chops, a potato and the salad bar. Both the customers and the staff were inquisitive about our travels and very friendly. One lady asked a ton of questions, apologizing regularly for being “nosy.” We shared travel notes with another group of three Brits travelling on motorbikes. They gave us a future Euro-trip idea: riding south to north across the UK. They specifically mentioned Deloitte’s Ride Across Britain as being fantastic. Noted.
Jack’s potato came out with bacon bits on it, and Jack had specified it without. The friendly server handled it fine, returning with a clean one. A little later, she brought out the restaurant’s container of bacon bits for a good review of the label, and together she and Jack decided that these bacon bits were probably meat-free, for future reference.
Back into the tents as the sun set. Both Jack and I took walks up to explore the fire station. We found it open but lacking toilet paper. No problem – Jack knew where to get some: in those ancient port-a-johns. Smart guy.
For me, today was one of the most enjoyable riding days so far this tour. And…my Motrin routine – 2 in the morning and then 1 right after lunch – seems to be helping my capricious knees quite a bit.