ants, brown water, and tan lines - New Orleans to Nashville - CycleBlaze

October 14, 2021

ants, brown water, and tan lines

Day Six: Port Gibson to Jackson

I woke up to a 7:00 alarm and, as usual, everything inside was a little damp... not bad, just a little moist-ish. Outside, on the other hand, everything was soaked with dew. It looked as if it had just finished raining.

After finishing my meal last night I left the empty package in the tent’s vestibule (the part outside the zippered area, but still covered by the rainfly). This morning I found several hundred of these guys paying me a visit.

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I brushed them away, reminding myself to leave the remains outside the vestibule from now on.

Because it was so wet outside I packed everything up without leaving the tent (except, of course, the tent). The tent itself was wet when I rolled it up, which is okay on a temporary basis, but I’ll need to dry it out later to prevent it from becoming moldy. 

Eddie was sitting there in his driveway when I crawled out of my tent this morning, watching me as I gathered everything and loaded it onto my bike. You’d think it would be kind of creepy having a guy staring at you while you go about your business, but it didn’t seem like that. Having talked to him yesterday, I know he’s just curious. When I was ready to head out at 9:00 I walked my bike over to his house and asked him if I could trouble him for some water for my water bottles. Instead of filling them with tap water he brought out six plastic water bottles. It took five to fill all my empties and I strapped the sixth onto the back of my bike.

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We chatted for about fifteen minutes and he asked some of the Usual Questions, as well as some that most people don’t ask. I learned about him as well. Although he doesn’t look like it, he’s actually 74 years old. He has diabetes which is well controlled because he works at it by eating right and walking five miles a day around the track at the park across the street. It typically takes him about 30 minutes and he’s really proud of it, as he should be. He seems like an all-around nice guy.

I started my riding day at 9:15. Today I’m working on making sure I eat something at least once an hour. At 12:15 I stopped for lunch and had one of my two lunch options (mayo + tuna + salt/pepper on a tortilla vs peanut butter + nutella + banana chips on a tortilla). Today was the former. I have individual packets of each of those items and in the mornings, I transfer enough for a single meal from my rear pannier to my handlebar bag so it’s more accessible.

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There’s a lot in this bag, albeit most of it’s pretty small. Sometimes I keep my 35 mm camera in it for quick access. Starting at the top and going clockwise, it includes:
sunglasses case with extra lenses (black, at the top, out of sight)
tortillas (in plastic baggie)
package of tuna
small Swiss army knife
chamois butt’r
spiral bound bicycle trip journal
bottle of lens cleaner (sunglasses tend to collect sweat and sunscreen)
lens cloth
small mirror (good to have if something gets in your eye)
hand sanitizer
banana chips
package of handiwipes
baggie with face masks
hat to hide helmet hair
protein bars for that day
charging cable
naproxen (in film canister)
small tube of sunscreen for reapplication during the day
band aids
insect repellant (left outside pocket)
lipscreen (left outside pocket)
handlebar bag key - prevents removal of handlebar bag from bike (left outside pocket
velcro leg strap - used to prevent long pants leg from getting caught in chainring (left outside pocket)
saddle cover to protect leather saddle from rain/dew (right outside pocket)                                                                                                                       

My legs feel like iron weights today, although it’s possible that I’m just climbing a very gradual grade. The road can sometimes fool you that way, the “ups” and “downs.” You can be climbing, for example, and you’ll see a short downhill before the next climb when, in reality, it’s just a less steep climb and not a downhill at all. The same goes for the other direction, when you’re going down - it sometimes looks like a short climb when it’s just a less steep descent. Optical illusions.

There’s a light headwind, and an occasional lighter tailwind. I passed a couple of cyclists going in the opposite direction who weren’t interested in any kind of interaction other than “hello.”

At 10:45 I stopped at Owen’s Creek and found they have no services, including water. I continued on and stopped at Rocky Springs where they did have a restroom. I only filled up one of my water bottles because the water was brown and, fortunately, never needed to drink it.

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The traffic started getting heavier as I got closer to Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, and I'm looking forward to getting on the All-Purpose Trail which parallels the Trace. 

As one car passed me I heard someone yelling at me, and when I looked over I saw Eddie calling to me through the passenger window, wishing me a safe trip with a big grin on his face. It was one of those contagious smiles, and I couldn’t help but grin back at him.

There are a lot of bridges like this. The road crosses the Trace, but there’s no access. Very scenic, in my opinion.

This picture is courtesy of Jeff Lee
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There are other roads which go under the Trace, also with no access. Today’s lunch break is on one of them.

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Traffic was respectful with the exception of one large SUV. This person passed me while there were cars in the opposite lane, but it was kind of odd…  he did it so slowly that we were pretty much going the same speed and it took him a full 30 seconds to pass me. At first I thought he just wanted to roll down his window to tell me something, but he just continued sliding past, about a foot every second. Even if he’d bumped me I don’t think it would’ve knocked me over.

My map said the All-Purpose Trail is difficult to see so I was very careful about not missing it. I set a timer on my phone to go off when I was getting close and memorized the instructions… and STILL missed it. After about a mile I was still able to get on it by walking my bike down an embankment where a road crossed the Trace but wasn’t an access point. 

The trail is much nicer, and there were very few people on it. Riding down it reminds me that it’s Fall. The leaves are changing colors and starting to blanket the path, but it’s almost 90 degrees so there’s a disconnect in my brain. You can see all the leaves blowing:

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Yesterday I reserved a hotel in Jackson for tonight, which was difficult since it’s Mississippi State’s homecoming weekend. I checked in online and attempted to get a digital key so I could bypass the front desk but that part of the app didn’t work. I arrived at 4:30 and noted that just behind the sign that said “All Guests Are Required To Wear A Mask,” the daytime hotel manager was unmasked. I had a nice room on one of the upper floors and immediately turned the AC to full blast, then sat down to finish the Gatorade I’d bought in the lobby. 

After resting a bit, I pitched my tent in the room so it could dry out, then emptied my bags, pulling out all of the dirty clothing to take to the laundry facilities. I wore my helmet while I showered so I could get all of the sweat and salt out of the helmet pads. There's probably a more efficient way, but now that image is stuck in your head so it was worth it. I also washed my sunglasses (not in the shower), which tend to get smeared with sweat and sunscreen. After checking out some Yelp reviews I ordered a pizza from Soulshine to be delivered.

Here are some before (immediately upon entering the room) and after (with all my stuff spread out everywhere) pictures… 

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I hate wearing sunscreen but, having taken enough skin cancers off so many of my patients, I wear it anyway. Here’s a picture of my tan line in spite of the gallons of sunscreen I’ve applied over the past several months.

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Downstairs, I started my laundry and after a couple of minutes realized that I hadn’t added any laundry detergent. I brought individual packets to use at campgrounds and in motel sinks, but it’s not compatible with machines. I went to the front desk but next to the fabric softener, shaving cream, and other toiletries there was just an empty gap where the detergent is supposed to be.  I asked Tina, the evening/night manager, if there was any and she spent at least 20 minutes rooting around in the back, even going to several other floors looking through the housecleaners’ carts trying, unsuccessfully, to find some. I ended up just washing it without detergent and it worked out fine. 

The pizza was delivered and I ate most of it while my clothes were drying. It was a really delicious pie, the accompanying brownie less so. 

Back in my room I repacked my bags. It seems that each time I pack them it’s a little different. This evening, because I’ve eaten enough of the dehydrated meals I’ve been carrying, I was able to put my tent into one of the panniers. I journaled for about an hour, until 11:30, then fell asleep, quite tired, about 11:45. 

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65.0 miles                                                                                                                              1921 feet climbed                                                                                                                5.2% grade                                                                                                                       7:24:14 total time                                                                                                         5:48:00 moving time                                                                                                         25.1 mph max speed                                                                                                           11.2 mph average moving speed                                                                                       3054 calories                                                                                                                     343.4 total miles

Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 344 miles (554 km)

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Jeff LeeI'm impressed that you could find the bike path from the the Trace

When I rode it the other direction, I thought at the time that there's no way a northbound rider could see it.
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1 year ago