I want to ride but we won't if there's lightning and thunder. Plain old rain is ok.
I walk out a 6:17. 2 minutes late. Dennis and Todd are not up yet. I hunt around for oatmeal. All I can find are some pre-fabricated egg disks and sausage. I find some yogurt in a fridge and some raisin bran. I guess that will do.
Dennis and Todd come out. Both talk about the thunderstorm. I guess I slept right through it.
We talk with a couple sharing the breakfast nook with us. Very friendly. She and her husband holds our hands, we form a circle, and she prays for our safety. It is touching and heart warming.
We debate driving to the trace or just riding from the hotel. We opt for the latter. It's not raining. Let's ride while we can.
Within minutes, Todd and I are on the Natchez Trace. It is nothing like it was yesterday. Hundreds of cars. Narrow two lane road. Soon Dennis shows up in my rear view mirror. Little by little, traffic is piling up behind him. It's nerve racking. Cars are in a hurry and few pass the van and us at poorly timed moments. When will this end? I vaguely remember reading:
"bicyclists are encouraged to NOT use the following areas during heavy traffic periods: Clinton to Ridgeland, Mississippi, Milepost 87-103, from 7:00-9:00 am"
We pull over every 5 minutes or so and let a new stream of cars get by. We are not popular. Still it's surprising considering this is a national park road. Lesson learned..
At mile 103, as advertised, the traffic disappears and Todd and I are back on the road we remembered from yesterday.
We ride on at a comfortable pace and see a cyclist up ahead. I say "Rabbit!". Todd nods and slowly we pull him in. We reach him and the conversation begins. This is Caleb. He works in Ridgeland and is enjoying a 10-20 mile ride before work. Todd and I can relate.
After a few miles, Caleb turns back and now it's just Todd and me, with the White Goose in close pursuit. We are at about mile 30 and we are ready for a nature break. Surely we will see a rest stop soon.
We are now at mile 35 and still nothing. I see a flat spot with some large trees. This will have to do. I try to avoid all the three leafed plants.
We are back on the road. The miles are sliding by quickly. Todd mentions "we just a passed a bridge". I ask "Do you want to check it out?" He says "it's ok, we can go on." For some reason I say "No, let's take a look". So we do. It turns out it is the Cypress Swamp at milepost 122. There's a bridge runnign across a water tupelo cypress swamp. I think this would make a great setting for the series "Once upon a time" Todd's never seen this but tells me it reminds him of a scene from Deliverance.
Here are some shots:
It is amazing. I ride my bike over the bridge and take it all in. Here's a 10 second video:
and here's a shot of a couple we met there (Danny and Linda). Danny is a stroke survivor and gets ultrasounds now every year..
We agree it was well worth the trip. Todd says "Next time I say let's go on, swat me over my head!"
We come across more scenic points and pull into each one just to make sure we aren't missing another spectacular site. These turn out to be mostly historical markers, but are fascinating to read all the same.
I see some retread on the road ahead of us. There are not commercial trucks aloud so I'm puzzled. The retread though is walking across the road. We slow down. It's a turtle. We stop. He stops. We try to get him to move off the road but no luck. Todd decides to pick him up. The turtle squirms, Todd yelps, and next thing I know the turtle is off the road, in the field, and upside down. We turn him right side up and hope we did more good than harm.
Todd comments that with all these stops, we have really messed up our average speed metrics. After all, half our followers check our Strava numbers and judge our activity by these numbers.
It's still early and there are still 30 miles to go. I think, "Why not?" and start ramping up the speed. Soon Todd and I are taking turns pulling and we are pushing a steady 20 to 22 MPH. It feels good. I'm in front and see I'm pushing 300 watts to hold this speed. Now Todd passes and I tuck in. Same speed. 150-200 watts. I'm resting. The beauty of drafting. I'm happy Todd is here for many reasons. This is but one of them!
We stop with 5 miles to go. Dennis goes ahead to see if he can get checked in. It's only 11:30 am and we've ridden 70 miles. Todd and I ride on, cooling down.
I'm thinking how lucky we are to have missed the rain. It's cool out thanks to the cloud cover but I realize I'm drenched thanks to the Mississippi humidity.... I sure hope I don't have to wait for a room as a hot shower will be most welcome.
Todd spots a snake on the road. A big one. We do a u-turn and check it out. Amazingly, it's alive and slowly swallowing some fresh road kill. Nature at its best. I'm fascinated. Todd though has seen enough. Doesn't want to get any closer and is ready to head on. So we turn back.
So we have snakes, but at least no dogs. On that topic, here's a cute cartoon Andrea emailed me:
We reach the hotel and Dennis greets me with a room key. Yes! It's barely noon.
I take a hot shower, get my laundry done, and get the hotel to vacuum my floor. I had moved a small table and chairs to make room to stretch and discovered some nicely aged cheddar cheese and crackers on the carpet. Pretty disgusting but I've seen worse.
It's now 12:45 and we all head out for lunch. Todd has seen an Italian restaurant near the trace so we head there. The menu is a strange mix of Italian and Mexican food. I opt for the former and order a medium veggie pizza. It hits the spot. I think we will go back there for dinner.
Tomorrow is another 'short day'. It should be warmer with cross winds and no rain. I think we'll start around 7:30 or 8:00 am. That can be a topic of conversation over dinner.