Texas Day 8: They Can Hear Clearly Now, The Static Has Gone

April 8, 2006

So I wake for the first time in my life in the State of Mississippi. My trunk is now firmly bolted on to my luggage rack, thanks to a trip to a well stocked K-Mart, and the use of Jim's tools. The container is not in the room with me, as I usually am able to detach it quickly from the bike. The mounting bracket that was on the bike is now in the trash can. The tiny can is also filled with beer cans and the refuse form the meal we ate in our rooms last night.

Our first stop was the Visitor's Center in Natchez. Shooter Jim knew it was off track from the Trace Parkway, but he wanted to see if Ducnan would notice. They had both ridden the trace before. The trace was a return path of about 450 miles up the Mississippi River. Apparently, men would float goods down the river, then sell them in the south, and sell the boat for the lumber for housing. Then they would walk the 450 miles back, then buy another boat, and do it all over again.

When we arrived at the visitor center at 8, we realized that it doesn't actually open until 8:30am, even though the web site, and all the other centers we had visited, opened at 8. We waited out front, and watched a couple of other groups try to open the doors. An older woman came across the entrance, and bought a paper, The Natchez Democrat. No bias in the paper, I bet. Duncan shot about ten pictures of her, without her knowledge, and with Jim's camera, as she didn't want to be photographed. I guess this was a challenge for Duncan.

The trip along the trace would be one of contrasts. At it south end, where we started, the trees were full of green leaves. The morning was the most pleasant yet. Every once in a while the forested road would give way to openings, providing a wide vista. The trees in the distance would still keep this area from being like the big sky country we had been in, however. I was still having issues with the CB on my bike. At one point the connector that screws into an elbow came loose. When we stopped for photos, I tightened it back up. The next time I talked, you could have heard a chorus! Duncan and Jim were both excited to hear me, and crystal clear!! Now, the three of us could have conversations, and Jim wouldn't invent things from the garble like shower muffins. Anyone, anyone know what shower muffins are? I may sitting on a fortune here.

After a hundred miles or so, things started to change. It was like we were going backwards through time, and moving from spring back into winter. The trees had fewer and fewer leaves. Then the foliage gave way to buds, and that gave away to bare, lifeless branches. The weather was changing also. Sun glistened through the trees, and bounced off our shimmering bikes in the morning. Buy the time we got to Tupelo, the halfway point, the clouds were thick and gray. Tupelo was supposed to be our stopping point, but that would mean a 500 mile plus day on our last day. After filling up on Kentucky Fried, we headed out on the trace once again, in attempt to tackle the 200 miles left on the trace.

The dark clouds were disappearing, but we would only see a few peaks of sun, before it would set behind the horizon. The temps were now dropping, and we were on a dark winding road. Before total darkness, we stopped in Collinwood, Tennessee for gas. They had a weird display of army camos and boots, used and new, in the store. There were also two young blondes inside eating. Too young for any of us, but it was still a welcome sight along the trace.

The most unusual thing we saw along the road was a turtle. It may not be able get across the street at a hare's pace, but he ducked his head and legs in his shell pretty darn quick!

We did see several deer off the side of the road, none on the road, or coming at us. I was riding in the second position, the place were the deer would actually hit. We ran a tighter formation, so to be safer through this wildlife area. When we got off the trace it was cold, maybe mid-fifties. Duncan and I would have conversation on whether it is better to leave in the cold, or get cold as you are riding. Tomorrow would complete our test, as we would be in both situations. We actually went by downtown Nashville, and were about 20 miles north when we hit heavy traffic. We would find out the back up was from people rubbernecking the tornado damage that occurred here earlier in the week. After booking into a Red Roof Inn, I could see a structure that was heavily damaged. A moment about Red Roof Inn... I usually like their hotels, they are well priced, have great features, and I like the outward facing rooms. We thought we were getting wireless internet, but no, you have to pay T-Mobile and Red Rood into get it. Jim said he liked Red Roof Inns, also, but this is probably the last one we will be staying at. Duncan and I shared a room in Carlsbad, a tourist trap, at a Super 8 for 33 Dollars, and we had free internet!

It had been along day, and we decided ordering a pizza would be the final meal of the day. We were able to get another 200 miles in, so tomorrow would be about 300 miles to get home. It was tonight that I would realize just how fast this week had gone passed.

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