Day Six: Belmont, Mississippi to Houston, Mississippi - Destination Unknown - CycleBlaze

October 15, 2021

Day Six: Belmont, Mississippi to Houston, Mississippi

I was up at 4:30. I needed to answer a customer's email from yesterday, and I'd been too tired last night to think clearly enough about his problem to respond. So this morning that was the first thing I did.

Early morning math work.
Heart 3 Comment 0

That chore completed, I got ready to ride, the process of which was delayed when I dropped one of my contact lenses on the gross bathroom floor. No way was I going to put it in my eye after that, and I was carrying a new pair of lenses anyway, so I put them in. Whoa - I could see! I'd been wearing the old contacts for months, trying to stretch the life out of them.

By the time I got outside it looked rainy. I decided to wait a while on the porch of the hotel. A nice couple from Houston, Texas had stayed at the hotel last night, and were sitting outside, so I talked to them for a while until the rain passed through. They had the Usual Questions about bicycle touring. When I mentioned all the dogs that had chased me recently, the lady expressed surprise about this. As she said that, I pointed at a group of several stray dogs running down the street: "See, loose dogs are everywhere around here!"

I waited while the showers moved through, then took a pleasant, low-traffic, low-dog route out of town.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I got back on the Natchez Trace, which was beginning to bore me. I wasn't looking forward to riding through the busy Tupelo portion of the Parkway, and I'd also heard conflicting stories about a required detour that might or might not be a pain in the ass.

It was overcast, and very humid. I stopped a few times and looked at historical signs. I haven't had the patience to do much of that on this trip so far.

Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 3 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0

I reached the detour on the outskirts of Tupelo. Yesterday one of the New York cyclists told me that a worker at the south barrier had allowed them to ride through the mile or so of construction. Nobody was here this morning, though, and there was no way I could plead ignorance if I was caught when the sign was this explicit:

If this had been a barrier constructed by some county or state agency, I would have ignored it and ridden through the construction zone, asking forgiveness later if necessary. But this was a National Park Service operation and they are known for their humorlessness about that sort of thing, so I didn't risk it.
Heart 0 Comment 0

I exited and took the marked detour, which was on a ridiculously busy, shoulderless highway. Terrible.

I was able to quickly exit and ride a short back road to the nearby Parkway Headquarters and visitor center, which was open, surprisingly enough, and was staffed by a typically stone-faced federal employee with whom I initially almost lost my cool in a major way when he adamantly refused to let me ride the short, short distance through the "construction" zone which did not appear to contain any actual construction activity yet.

I controlled myself, though, after deciding it would be pointless (if temporarily satisfying) to pitch a fit.

I hung around the visitor center for a while, refilling my water bottles and charging my phone. Just as I was leaving, a female employee emerged from an office in the back and handed me an "unofficial" detour created by "the local bike club", which proved to be approximately 1,000 times better than the official detour. Why didn't they just hand me that when I first walked in (or have it taped to the front door)? Aargh.

After briefly backtracking on the ultra-busy highway, I got on the detour, which initially directed me through a neighborhood that had probably been THE place to live on the outskirts of Tupelo in the 1970s, and then onto country roads. 

Heart 0 Comment 0

This was an enjoyable segment. Even some of the litter was interesting.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0

In a few miles, I pulled into a grimy old gas station. This felt like an oasis after so many miles of riding on the pristine Parkway, where ice cold Diet Pepsi is completely unavailable. (And that includes the Parkway headquarters, where the officious employee there scoffed when I asked if there was a pop machine.)

I purchased snacks and sat outside the gas station for twenty minutes, observing a stream of locals walking in and out. One guy excitedly told his companion as they hurried in, "I hope they still have some of them [wing] tips!" I don't eat meat myself, but I get similarly excited about pie and pizza, so I could sympathize with him.

I got back on the road. The detour off the Parkway continued to be pleasant and low-traffic.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I rode past a cotton field immediately adjacent to the road. I decided it was worth stopping so that I could say that I had, at least once, picked cotton.

Heart 6 Comment 0
Heart 4 Comment 0

I removed a little bit of cotton, put it in my jersey pocket, and continued on. The route briefly wound through a much more upscale neighborhood, and then, after a few tenths of a mile on a busy four-lane highway, I got back on the Natchez Trace.

Near the end of the detour.
Heart 0 Comment 0

As I feared, traffic on the Trace through the Greater Tupelo area was heavy with local traffic, and unpleasant. For the first time on the Parkway, several drivers passed me far too closely. Maybe the park officials should spend more time enforcing the speed limit and the rules limiting use of the Parkway to recreational traffic, instead of hiding out in their offices, or whatever they are doing.

It got much flatter, and I was making good time, seeming to fly along, at least compared to the first few days of this tour.

Heart 3 Comment 0

I stopped for a while at a turnoff, rested, and tried to figure out the best way to exit the Parkway and get to my destination today.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I attempted to take an interesting photo of a pine cone, but failed.

Heart 1 Comment 0

Traffic *finally* thinned out around mile post 235. I didn't have any cell service, so while I could see a blurry version of Google Maps on my phone, I couldn't get directions to my destination, the town of Houston. I could see a minor road that would take me to town without getting on a busy highway, but there was no exit from the Parkway to that road, so I made my own exit my walking the bike down the steep embankment through the weeds to the road.

After scrambling down the embankment. The Parkway, which I was growing weary of, is above me.
Heart 3 Comment 0

The few miles to Houston (population 3,505) were on easy, quiet country roads. I only saw one dog along the road, and he seemed afraid of ME. A welcome change.

The road conveniently exited almost directly in front of the town's only motel - the cheapest one of the trip so far. Pretty run down, but fine for my purposes.

Dinner was some snacks from the discount grocery store across the road, and instant mashed potatoes in a freezer bag, "cooked" with water I boiled in my room's microwave.

Heart 1 Comment 0

Today's ride: 81 miles (130 km)
Total: 465 miles (748 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 0