It has been more than a year since I have done a bike ride of over 1,000 miles so I figure I am due. It will not be another coast to coaster, but rather a ride that will take me along a Parkway that is in and of itself a 444 mile long National Park.
The National Park known as the Natchez Trace Parkway follows a historic trail that was used as major south/north thoroughfare before the time the land belonged to the burgeoning United States of America.
While the Natchez Trace began as a series of animal and later Indian paths, it gained in popularity as the lands in Tennessee and Ohio area were being settled. Farmers in the region could grew far more crop than they could consume or sell locally, so they built flatboats and floated their goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans. As this preceded the advent of the steam engine, once the goods were offloaded from the boats they were broken down and sold as timber or kindling. Now without transportation, the farmer would walk with his pocketful of cash back home using the Natchez Trace. (Yes, many people were robbed or worse)
Famous figures such as Andrew Jackson, Aaron Burr and Meriwether Lewis trod upon this very trail. While things ended poorly for Lewis, Andrew Jackson marched troops along the Trace in the War of 1812 as well as followed it southward at a later time chasing after the woman who would become his wife. The Natchez Trace was even used for a time as a postal road. Use of the Trace declined significantly once steamships were plying the river systems. It wasn’t until 1937 that construction began modernizing the parkway and in 1938 was made a National Park.
My ride though will start in Baton Rouge, Louisiana before heading north through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. From Nashville, TN, the end of the Natchez Trace Parkway, I am going to make a right turn and head to Myrtle Beach, SC to visit with my Dad. I haven’t thought about the route once I leave Nashville, but I will have to cross of the same Appalachian Mountain chain that I spent several months hiking through.
I was vaguely familiar with the Natchez Trace but initially concocted the idea of pedaling it on the Winnipeg to the Gulf kayak trip last year. The town of Natchez, MS ended up being a water stop on the kayak trip and kindled my interest in the Trace.
And it seems to be becoming the norm that my support staff, in the form of my old buddy Ken, will get me going again in Louisiana. Ken was part of my 2008 cross-country ride as well as the main transportation provider for the Canada to the Gulf of Mexico kayak trip once that trip was complete. I never really thought I would be spending this much time in Louisiana, but there we have it. Thanks, Ken!
I plan to starting pedaling on or around November 2nd , so check back for my pre-ride updates as well as my daily post each night from the road.