We woke later than usual, but it was ok because we only had 50 miles scheduled for the day. We’d spent the night at a Rodeway Inn at the junction of highway 230 and Interstate 40, so, basically nowhere, which is why our dateline is Rodeway Inn. It was so generous of our friend Paul to come out and meet us, and we were starving for conversation with someone who wasn’t a complete stranger and who didn’t look at us like we were crazy. It was a wonderful evening.
So we had the now familiar cheap hotel breakfast and rode off on a lovely county road with little traffic. It reminded us both of northern Minnesota or Wisconsin without the lakes. The days are unseasonably cool, so we are told, with highs in the 80’s. Since biking creates some natural air conditioning, we actually felt a little chilly starting out.
The towns we came to were introduced by dozens of election signs for offices like sheriff, county recorder, registrar of deeds, and in one case, county mayor. I guess these are highly sought after positions and some candidates want to make their county great again.
Our morning coffee was at a McDonald’s in Nunnelly where we got coffee and ate bran muffins supplied by Paul’s wife Erin (delicious, along with some red grapes she included.)
We rode out of Nunnelly on a busier road, which kept us on our toes. We’ve seen this many times – the shoulder is separated from the roadway by a rumble strip, leaving about 10 inches for a rideable bike lane. Next to that, a steep drop off. Not a lot of deep thinking going on in that situation.
We’d hoped to have lunch and maybe buy some groceries in the town of Duck River, the last stop before getting on the Trace. The store we found was a very old general store (which all seem to come with a half dozen old guys in overalls that just hang out there), with no groceries to speak of, but the proprietor made us great sandwiches. Someone asked us about our ride, and we got the reaction we’re increasingly getting, something like “no you’re not! You started out where?!”
I’m having a harder time remembering what day it is and where we were yesterday. But the biking for the last few days has been extraordinarily beautiful. We also sense we are going downhill more than uphill lately or maybe we are just getting stronger.
We arrived at our “bed and biscuit” early enough to walk down to a spring fed creek for a sublime dip in the cool, clean water. Later, we had sandwiches with a fellow biker, Carlos, who is also riding the Trace southward. He’s a charming fellow from Washington, D.C. with whom we hit it off immediately and we spent several hours chatting and emptying beer bottles. I hope we see him again, and expect we will.
We’ve been riding alone so long, it is weird and fun to see other bikers, and they are a common sight on the Trace.
A word about logistics on the road. This section of the Trace is limited access, meaning once you are on, you don’t get off easily – it may be 10 or 20 miles before you can get off. The nearby towns may be 10 or 20 miles off the course. So some planning has to go into your trip. Finding a place to camp isn’t hard, but finding food to eat is a different story, and complicated. There are neat historical installations and markers all along the way.
It was a beautiful, even ideal day, and tomorrow we’ll leave the Trace for an overnight in Muscle Shoals, home of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, responsible for some of the greatest music recorded in the 60’s and 70’s, including songs by The Rolling Stones (“Brown Sugar”), Aretha Franklin (“Do Right Woman”), the Staples Singers (“I’ll Take You There”), Wilson Pickett (“Mustang Sally”) and Paul Simon (“Love’s Me Like a Rock”) and hundreds more. Muscle Shoals, Alabama is only 20 miles off the Trace, so we can’t miss that, we hope to find a hotel and good food in addition to good music.
For now, we wish you a good night from the Natchez Trace.
Addendum from a Facebook post on June 4: We saw many dogs today and most of them chased us but none of them caught us. My favorite, though, was the first one who came out to see me when I was stopped for a minute. He was a little dog, kind of non-descript. He looked at me and stood up and…he hugged my left leg. I can only describe it as a hug, it was gentle and brotherly and warm. I needed a hug really bad, my spirits have been troubled with the daunting adventure we’ve taken on. Was this God taking the form of dog, coming to me to say ‘all will be well’? I don’t know, but it made my day. It was karma or the earth mother or he was Finn’s representative. Our dear Finn, who sits at home wondering where we are and when we’ll return. That little dog was my first blessing of a day full of wonder. I wasn’t able to get his picture but that is the way with spirits, I guess. These are more friends I made today. Hug your dog for me.