Heritage Road

Journey to the ST.N National Meet
Day 2 – Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN
~450 miles

There is a rest stop off Interstate 80 in Nebraska (?) where you can stand in wagon wheel tracks worn deeply into stone. They were made by pioneers heading overland to Oregon and California. I remember marveling at the idea of standing where thousands traveled toward their dreams. The 1840s heyday of the trail seemed indescribably ancient to me at the time.

Today I traveled a trail with age and relevance that puts the Oregon Trail to shame.

The crazy quilt network of trails that became the Natchez Trace had humble beginnings as an Indian trading route. It was later used by Kaintuck farmers heading home from selling their crops and post riders delivering the mail. It played a small role in the civil war but fell into disuse with the ascendance of the steamboat. Much of the trail had been reclaimed by the forest by the 1930s, when it’s importance was recognized and construction of the parkway was used to inject life into the local economy.

I started at the beginning in Natchez. In my first hour of riding, I only managed thirty miles. There was so much history to read and landscape to take in! I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.

Realizing that I needed to move a little faster, I began to pick and choose where to stop. There was little traffic, but each car I came upon provided an excuse to take the next turn-out.

There is a sense of traveling through virgin territory. Fences are rare and there are no billboards. The few local roads that cross discreetly under the parkway do not disturb this feeling. The visitor’s center describes it as a series of “viewscapes” to preserve the pristine feel of traveling the original trace.

I saw mounds left by the ancient Mississippi Indians. I saw wayside inns. Swamps dotted with cypress trees announced their presence to my nostrils. The original trace can be seen in several places. At times it’s a narrow sunken footpath. Other times it’s a wide wagon trail.

Needing fuel, I sought a gas station in the town of Kosciusko, MS. A Baskin Robbins was attached to the BP station, so I ordered a milkshake. There was a bbq counter as well, and the attendant was placing fresh fried chicken kabobs into the display. Hungry for more than just a snack, I got one. The chicken was accompanied on it’s stick by onions, bell peppers, and what could only be hamburger pickle chips, all battered and deep fried. The fried pickles were a little weird but maybe that’s how they do it here. Authenticity!

The flora changed as I entered Alabama and changed again in Tennessee. It was also beginning to cool off from the high temperatures of the day.

With reluctance, I left the parkway and headed toward the Nashville KOA. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my connector road (TN13) was a twisty roller coaster. If this is any indication of the roads found in Tennessee, I should have a very good day tomorrow.

The KOA was nowhere to be found at the indicated exit. I could have dug my printouts out of the top case, but I didn’t feel like stopping. While gliding down I-40, I got the GPS to divulge that there was an exit with a multitude of major brand motels just a few miles away. The Day’s Inn was the winner, with a cheap advertised price and free wireless internet.

Good thing I wimped on the camping tonight. After dinner, I was sitting in my hotel room surfing the internet when the thunder and lightning started. The ST is currently getting a nice shower. Glad I’m not.

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