It was a cold morning. We knew it would be cold, so we had planned another fast cold start, straight to a hot breakfast in Jackson. We had scoped out breakfast options the night before and were disheartened to find the pickings slim. Options seemed to be a great looking place 3 miles north of our location (i.e., a six mile detour), a Waffle House, an IHOP 11 miles along our route, or wait until 11 am for the brunch places to open. We had been about to give up on our dream of a hot diner breakfast when Mike discovered Brent’s Pharmacy, just two miles away and along our exit route. So, there we were at 8 am, warmly welcomed by the staff and situated at the counter where we could avail ourselves to all the plugs our iPhones could want for. In short order, we had hot coffees and (unfortunately less hot, but still yummy) food, including cheese grits (Mike) and multiple biscuits (me).
Powered up, we did some quick foraging for dinner at the next door store and nearby Rainbow co-op, so it almost 9:30 am before we really got riding. We had nearly 20 miles to ride–through Jackson State University and past the airport on some pretty bad city streets–until we caught up with the glorious smooth Trace again.
It was nippy, especially in the long shady sections, but there was a quartering tailwind so we started making better time. About halfway at milepost 55, we stopped for lunch at Rocky Springs. As Mike was settling the bike and I was walking toward a sunny grassy spot to set up, I heard someone yell “TANDEM!!!!!” I guess I was too focused on food, because it took a couple more shouts and the shouter had to get pretty close before it penetrated my consciousness. Turned out to be a really nice guy named Dave Fritsch who was also riding a tandem along the Trace with his partner Rhona. We’ve only seen one other bike tourer (not counting Mr. Hoopdy), and now there’s another tandem. How cool.
And what are the odds? Anyway, Dave invited us to their lunch table and we had a grand time exchanging stories. Dave and Rhona are from West Virginia and are doing an 8-day trip from Nashville to Natchez on a brand new Comotion Tandem. But this wasn’t their first rodeo, the Comotion is their third bike and they’ve been touring for nearly two decades — including some incredibly aggressive routes (some off road) around the country. Impressive. Dave blogs on the CrazyGuyWithABike site, so when I get home, I am looking forward to reading about their trips. Some of their trip journals have been published, so it might inspire me to make these posts more interesting for a third person reader. The problem is that I am always tired at the end of a long day. (Maybe just lazy).
Ah, there are so many things to aspire to.
Because of this fortunate encounter, we got on a road a little later than usual, with 45 or so miles to cover. We made good time but it was hillier than we anticipated. Still, we didn’t really stop much, except that we (Mike) kept trying to get a picture of the cool moss hanging from the trees. We’d stop and take a picture:
Only to find an even cooler tree down the road:
Eventually, we gave up and just started pushing towards the day’s final destination, Natchez State Park. When we finally found the park (a few miles off the Trace), it was getting dark and we had two options: right to campground A or left to campground B. No other information or map was posted. After trying to look at a very poor map on the internet (Reserve America is really a disservice to camping, but I will rant about them some other day), we choose right. We biked quite aways until we saw RV spots but could not locate the tent spots. The instructions said to locate a spot and then reserve it at the park office. We kept going in search of the tent spots. Eventually, we came to the left option road and headed toward the park office. It was a LONG way, downhill, in fading light until we reached the office. You know what is coming: it was closed with absolutely no instructions for campers. We were tired, cold and hungry. (And I was grumpy). So we gave up and pitched our tent at the picnic area next to the office, hoping the ranger won’t show up and kick us out.
It’s past nine now, so we hope we are safe. At least, we are fed (Mike made a nourishing and filling vegetable curry) and warm in the green tent. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.