Day 8 - Ridgeland, MS (Hampton Inn) to Kusciusko, MS (Super 8) - Seeking A Bicycle Warrior's Death, Part II: The Great Rivers South - CycleBlaze

September 29, 2022

Day 8 - Ridgeland, MS (Hampton Inn) to Kusciusko, MS (Super 8)

Meetup With Doc & Sis

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Statistics, Useful & Otherwise;

Elevation Gained Today;    1,301 ft            Cumulative;  11,604 ft

Roadkill Seen Today;    Possum(1)                                                                               Cumulative;  Hawk (2),  Raccoon(1),  Possum (6),  mouse (1) , unknown (2) 

Found Money Today;           $0                    Cumulative; $0.28

Lodging Cost Today;     $0 (points)           Cumulative;  $672.50

Bad Drivers Today;                                          Cumulative; 3

Dog Chases Today;           0                             Cumulative; 2

Confederate Flags Today;      0                    Cumulative; 1

Average Speed Today; 9.9mph                   Cumulative: 10.5mph    

Summary of Today's Ride; Cool morning, overall good ride, afternoon headwind.

Have you noticed that sometimes the mileage indicated on the map is different than the mileage shown at the bottom of each entry?  That's because I prepare the maps in advance, and they show the planned route.  But if I get lost and add a bit of extra riding, or if I divert from the path a bit to go to a store or restaurant, then the actual mileage I rode may be slightly different than what's shown on the map. Now that you know, you can once again sleep at night. 

I awoke at 05:30 so I could enjoy the Hampton Inn breakfast at 06:00 and get an early start to beat the traffic.  I was a bit slow and didn't get away until 07:15, but that was fine.  The trail system is great in that it keeps you off of the Trace in the busy Jackson metroplex area, but like every city trail system I have ever encountered it is sorely lacking in directional signage.  It seems as though the planners assume that everyone on the trail is local and knows their way around.  Yes, of course I got lost, but with the help of Google maps I got back on track and rode the trail to the overlook of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

Geese Flying Over The Reservoir
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The route rejoins the Natchez Trace here, and I rolled on.  The morning traffic was much better than it was yesterday evening as I was entering the metroplex area, and since most of it was going into the city there were very few cars passing me.  Being the nerd that I am, I counted and got a 54:13 ratio of traffic coming towards me vs. behind me.  So there were 4.15 cars coming towards me for every 1 car coming up behind me.  I was going the "right" way this morning.   The lesson here for cycle tourists is to carefully plan when you will be passing through the Jackson Metroplex area. 

Long before the Natchez Trace existed, long before any Europeans set foot in this country, people lived here.

Who Really "Discovered" America?
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My sister and brother-in-law (Sis and Doc) started riding the Natchez Trace about the same time I started this adventure in New Orleans.  They are riding from north to south and we had hoped to be able to overlap such that we spent one night together, but our itineraries didn't match up.  But we did have a brief roadside meeting this morning.

Bud, Doc, and Sis; The 3-letter Name Trio
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I was slightly amused that they thought it was cold and dressed accordingly;

Is It Winter Already?
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Judy HenryHey, in our defense, it was 48 degrees when we left the hotel! That’s cold for us southerners:) We stripped down to summer attire around lunch time
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1 year ago

They had stayed in Canton last night, and the route back to the Trace consisted of a couple of miles of highway with no shoulder and truck traffic passing uncomfortably close.  Sis was frazzled from that experience and glad to be back on the Trace.  I have noted that most Mississippi highways seem to be built with no shoulder, so you really have to be cautious when exiting the Trace.  Google Earth is a big asset for planning a bike trip along the Natchez Trace; you can check the roads you plan to use to access lodging and restaurants by using the street view feature. 

I stop at every historical marker and every park exhibit, at least long enough to read the informational placards.  I won't bore you with all of them, but just an occasional one.  I stopped to walk down a trail into a cypress swamp.

I'm Still Hunting For An Alligator to Photograph
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In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Trail of Tears is a well known example of the forced relocation of Native Americans by the U.S. government.  But the Cherokee were only 1 of 39 different tribes that were forcibly relocated to "Indian Territory" in Oklahoma. The Park Service tells the story honestly.

History Is A Cruel Teacher
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I saw cotton growing in fields immediately adjacent to the Trace today.  I also saw 1 deer and 2 coyotes (one at a time in different locations).  The coyote is one of my spirit animals (the Pileated woodpecker is the other) and it brings me joy to see them.  Perhaps they will sing to me somewhere along this journey. 

Old growth tall trees line much of the Trace and provide shade for cyclists. 

The Shade is Nice
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Because it can be dangerous to exit the safety of the Trace and cycle on Mississippi roads and highways, I usually just plan on carrying food and having lunch somewhere on the Trace where I find a picnic table.

This Journey Is A Real Picnic
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The last 3 days have been harder than they should have been.  The terrain has been gentle, riding on the Trace is great, so why has it been hard?  There has been a north wind every day; since the predominant wind direction here is from the south, I hadn't expected it.  The mornings are good until about 10:30, then the wind starts picking up and in the afternoon it gets funneled between the trees on the Trace and adds a load to my cycling.   It hasn't been super bad, but where I would have been cycling 12 mph it slows me down to 8-9 mph and extends my work day. 

Today was day 3 of a 9-day cycling run until I get a rest day.  Days 7 and 8 will be the hardest days.  This 9-day stretch is pretty much going to tap the limit of my physical ability at this time, so I don't need additional stressers (like adverse wind) compounding my workload.  I'm pushing on so that I can (hopefully) get across the Tennessee River bridge before it is closed for road maintenance.  It will be closed for 2 weeks sometime in October, but the exact dates of the closure are unknown.  If I stay on my schedule, I will cross the bridge on October 3rd, assuming it's still open.  If it isn't, that throws a huge monkey wrench into my plans.  I would have to divert through Muscle Shoals, Alabama to cross the river, and that will add a day and throw off my lodging schedule.  I would have to redo hotel reservations, an AirBnB reservation, and call the City Manager of Collinwood, TN and rearrange the date I had planned to sleep in their fire station - in other words, it would be one big mess.  Honestly, it would probably take me a full day just to cancel and redo reservations.   Some of my lodging is mom&pop B&B's where you call and leave a message, then they call you back and tell you they will have to check their book when they get home to see if they can accommodate you, then they call you back when they check their book - you get the picture, it really takes some time.  So I need to get across the Tennessee River on Oct 3rd as per my schedule.  Oct 1 and 2 are weekend days, so they probably wouldn't close the bridge then, and I'm just hoping that it doesn't get closed Oct 3rd.  So that's how I'm rolling; full speed ahead at 10mph, damn the torpedoes and hustle across that bridge.  

Okay, it's getting late.  I'm in a Super 8 tonight.  It's adequate but certainly not great; hey, I got it for free with points so I shouldn't complain.  They don't serve a breakfast, so I walked to the nearby WalMart and bought some breakfast items.  All is well in my world, but it feels like I have been pushing hard and I haven't even gotten to the hard parts yet - so I better toughen up soon.

Good night everyone, I hope you aren't under any deadlines to get across a river.  I'll leave you with some country music tonight.  They like country music in Mississippi, not sure if they'd like mine though;

Today's ride: 64 miles (103 km)
Total: 434 miles (698 km)

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