I walk to the small lobby. It's surprisingly clean. I find some oatmeal, the orange juice is good, the coffee is weak. 2 out 3 not bad considering.
We roll out at 8. Todd turns left. The gps says go right.
Todd resists. I convince him to turn around and follow the Garmin. Sure enough, a couple 100 feet down the road we turn right again, and there's a hidden entrance to the Natchez trace.
Todd states "I guess it was worth backtracking to avoid making a left turn on the highway." I'm puzzled but say nothing.
We reach the trace and Todd wants to turn right. I smile and tell him that it's a left and that by the way, we actually did not backtrack, that we're ahead of the game....He agrees and we laugh.
After Todd's brief navigation role in Carmel where he quickly led Tom, Diana, Sean, and me on a wayward climb, this was yet another confirmation that navigation is not Todd's strongest point! But the truth is, I'm not much better. This could be dangerous!
From this point on, after every stopping point along the Trace, we both made sure that, we were heading in the right direction. We repeat "Off to the left, back on to the left. Off to the right, back on to the right." It works.
As we ride I notice that I'm not feeling well. My legs are heavy, my breath is short. I'm pretty sure it's the lack of sleep, but I'm busy checking all vitals as we roll. Todd is feeling great so I'm happy to do more than my fair share of drafting. And we roll at a comfortable, recovery pace. So that helps.
We stop at every rest point and our knowledge of local history continues to grow. We meet and talk with other tourists along the route and hand out our cards. People take our picture and wish us the best.
We see portions of swamps and original portions of the Natchez trace foot trail and I can't resist riding them. It's fun. See the video below...
We then see the path to the highest point on the Trace. Only about 600 feet high, but I'm worried.
This surprises me. Normally I love climbing. I briefly consider not doing it, but then curiosity gets the better of me and Todd and I both head up.
About a quarter of the way up, Todd thinks this might be a Strava segment and starts hammering. I feel compelled to follow suit. Erghhh.
But the climb is short and soon we are at the summit, and the views make it all worthwhile. We later find out that Todd stopped 3 feet short of the Strava segment end.
15 minutes after taking photos he crosses the finish line. His big climbing effort gave him spot number 60 out of 62 riders! Too funny. At least I think so.
At the top of Jeff Busby Park
(Jeff Busby was a US Congressman who helped launch the parkway in 1934)
Todd's still smiling not knowing he has yet to cross the 'finish line'
Video recap of our ride
(off road portion was all optional and only a small part of the ride)
We roll into Houston (Ms) around 1:30, do a quick clean up and at 2:15 we're looking for lunch. We find a good Mexican restaurant (No Way Jose) and eat well. We also discover we are in a 'dry' county. 50 mile drive if we want a beer. Oh well.
Next, I'm in my room (which is thankfully clean!) and work on uploading photos and video. We look for dinner around 5:30 and find nothing. We walk into a local pharmacy just to see what's inside and are surprised to see an an actual working soda fountain. Too bad it closed at 2pm.
The pharmacist's wife sees us, greets us, offers to take our picture, and shares her life story.
We hear the same story we have heard in almost every small town. Things are drying up. No jobs. Business'es are closing, particularly the small ones near downtown. The Walmarts and big chains by the freeway accelerate the downturn. Only the old people are left. This is a sad reality. These towns have so much history and beauty.
We leave and continue our search for food. We pass on a smoke filled local hangout where eyes stare at us as if we were from Mars. We finally settle on a Pizza Hut. The service is great and the Chicken Milano I order hits the spot. Never would have thought I'd find this there. I feel guilty eating at a chain, but really, we have arrived too late.
All the best local eateries have gone out of business.
Tomorrow is a 73 mile ride to Belmont for me , 135 miles or so for Todd as he's skipping the stop in Belmont and riding on to Collinwood. I wish him well.
We both need to make sure we avoid Tupelo during rush hour traffic so we're planning on a later (8:30 am) departure from Houston.