Friday, November 6, 2009

What Detour??

112.2 Miles - Kosciusko, MS to Tupelo, MS


Given how many people have been hit by cars on the Natchez Trace Parkway near Tupelo, I wanted to be sure I was safely in town before rush hour. That being the case, I get my start at 4:15. I just flipped on my light and was away. The few cars that did pass at that hour probably thought I have lost it, but I enjoyed the ride. The temperature was in the upper 30’s, but between my clothing and generating some internal heat, I was good to go. The light performed like a champ. While the picture is a bit blurry, you can get the idea. I could see at least five or six lines (the yellow dashed lines dividing the lanes) ahead. Cars coming my direction would turn down their brights when they saw my light. You go Light & Motion!

While pedaling along a saw a few fox loitering on the side of the road and as dawn was settling on the day the last of the bats returning home. Riding at night provides a much different view of the surroundings.

Once there was enough light to see I noticed that the leaves were more colorful than they had been the day previous. I also caught sight of a bunch of deer, numbering on the south side of the double digit range.

It was on the chilly side, but mostly from the wind-chill. My face became a bit numb and my gloves didn’t keep my fingers as warm as I would have hoped, but I was fine. When the first ray of sunshine hit me though it was like getting a shot of morphine; my shoulders slumped and my body totally relaxed.

As I rode along I noticed another biker coming my direction. The guy had panniers as well as a trailer. He was an older guy with everything packed in his trailer. I didn’t ask, but I can be pretty sure that the kitchen sink was buried in there somewhere. He was wearing jeans and his protective headgear was a baseball hat. He left from North Carolina a couple of months ago and claims that once he makes it west of the Mississippi River, he will never come back east.

Later in the morning I rode into Chickasaw Indian territory. While historically, Indians didn’t have hard defined boundaries, the Chickasaw and Choctaw used what was called Line Creek as a delineating boundary between the two tribes. Baton Rouge was another notable exception.

I knew that there would be a detour off the Parkway as there was some roadwork being done. My biker friend mentioned it as well. As it isn’t this cowboys first time to the rodeo I decided to try an stay on the Parkway through the detour. I found that about 75% of the time where there was roadwork and a road was closed, I with my bike could skirt my way around somehow. The distance between the road closure was ten miles, the detour total was 22. It was a gamble. Were it that I rode five miles in and I couldn’t get through, I would have to go the five miles back and then ride the 22 mile detour.

I pedaled along. The road was in great shape. I pedaled, pedaled and pedaled some more; no roadwork. It was only at mile nine that I saw the evidence of a bulldozer. As I approached, a police car intercepted me. I was politely informed that that road was closed. I acknowledged that fact, but added the rebuttal that I have done this enough to know that a bike can usually get past some road work. I was told to wait while he went to his car to get the official release about the roadwork. It didn’t say anything in there about bikes, so he said he wouldn’t give me a ticket. We were in a national park after all and I could carefully skirt the 100 yards of construction that closed 10 miles of road. I was on my way; success once again!

I made it to Tupelo, just after lunch time, which was my goal. I stopped at the main Natchez Trace Visitor center to talk to the folks there. I had five hours of daylight and was hoping to put in another 40 or 50 miles, but the next accommodation I could find were 140 miles up the road. I will have to save that for tomorrow night.

I had some time in Tupelo, but it is a decentralized city, leaving me in limbo. I wasn’t about to ride my bike all over the city, so I opted to strip down my bike and clean it. It was time well spent. I grew tired early after my early hour departure that morning, so I made it an early Friday night in Tupelo. I am going to have another early morning tomorrow.

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