Posted by: dbreisch | May 8, 2012

Day 7 – Fall Hallow to Nashville

This was it, last day!  Bill was up early with us for breakfast.  It was time to fuel up because I wasn’t planning on making a lunch stop.  Over the past 7 days I have accumulated a ton of granola, powerbars, dried fruit and jerky.  I’m not sure why I was hording but it was time to eat them today.  I set off first to conquer the hills.  There is a step grade not to be overlooked when you climb out of Fall Hallow.  Fortunately, there is a very nice waterfall and then an overlook to break up the climb.  As I was leaving the overlook Bill and Michael (the gentleman that stayed the night) pull by in Bill’s truck.  I think Michael may have had the right idea.  At Devil’s backbone park I caught up with them and then rode with Michael for about 10 miles afterwards.

He went on about riding in Austraila and eastern Europe.  This guy had some good adventures for sure.  We both pulled into Jackson Falls to take a break and check out the area.  This is a really nice stop if you are on the trace.  Take of your cleats first and the walk down a 1/4 mile steep path to the falls.  This is the best falls I have seen this trip and a good place to take a rest.  At this point Michael and I split up again.  I wished him good luck and heading up to Nashville.

The road in this area really rises and falls with the landscape and you will have to use your low gears for the first time.  A couple more good long climbs and I was almost there.  I took lunch at Garrison Creek and rested for a short while.  Knowing I was 15 miles from the terminus I polished off some more food and a spare water bottle I carried for almost 400 miles.

I probably shouldn’t have stopped that long because another climb was waiting.  I’m starting to wonder why I don’t have any decent and curse every southbound rider this day.  Only 10 to go and my legs are mush.  Finally lunch must have set in and I felt better but it took quite a while.  I had a small decent and a long bridge appeared in the distance.  This must be the double arched bridge I have been waiting to see for 438 miles.  It was quite a structure and I spent about 10 minutes mid-span looking East and West and snapping photos.  On the North side of the bridge, there’s an overlook that may easily be overlooked.  Stop and do not drive by.  This frames a nice picture of the bridge and landscape.

Back on the bike and 6 miles to go.  The last few miles gives its last few rolling hills then the decent I was looking for all day.  If you’re heading North, enjoy the ride to the terminus.  It must be demoralizing to a southbound rider to start the trace on a two mile climb.  Don’t get discouraged, the rest of your day will be much easier this way.

Finally the end.  The bike shop at the terminus was closed but there’s a nice bathroom in the shopping are to change and collect yourself.  I did exactly that and then heading into Loveless Cafe for some biscuits, jams and a cup of soup.  My adventure was over and I am somewhat sad to see it end.  Tonight, I have a chance to visit with some friends from college and get a nice dinner in Nashville.

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Posted by: dbreisch | May 7, 2012

Day 6 – Collinwood to Fly Hallow

Today was a short day as planned.  I had been tracking a storm last evening so I made a run for it early in the morning.  Not much to see in this part of the trace so I just moved on in hopes to beat the storm.  The weather was cool and beautiful so I spent the morning shooting pictures, looking around and enjoying the ride.  The spring smells  were out in full force today and I about got knocked off my bike with a wave a honeysuckle. 

I took a quick break to stop by the Meriwether Lewis park and see some sights.  Just then, the skies darkened even more and began to drizzle.  I found shelter at a bathroom building and took a while to do some reading about the place and prepare for my next arrival which was only 5 miles down the road.  The storm let up so I took off.

It was only 11 in the morning and I was done for the day so I pulled into Fly Hallow campground and immediately ran into Bill the owner.  He said that he was on his way into town to run some errands if I wanted to ride along.  I sure did so I dumped my stuff and grabbed a quick shower.  Hollenwald is a swiss settlement in central Tennessee and the closest town in these parts.  I was treated to a hot lunch and good conversation, which was both appreciated at this point in the trip.

When we pulled back into the campground, another biker was there looking tired and hungry.  I mentioned to Bill that I thought I recognized him and in fact I did.  This was a gentleman I rode a bit with on the previous day.  He was turning 70 this month and was hoping to make it to Minneapolis for his birthday.  Bill fixed him a quick lunch and offered him a night’s stay.  After all of us chatting until about 4:00, he decided to stay too.  It was good to have some good conversation and share stories.  He had done many of these trips including a ride from Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope.  

 Bill again shuttled us both into town for dinner.  This night, tex-mex and a beer.  That was  great change to granola and Gatorade.  There was much resting to do this evening, for the hills are coming in the morning. I was excited for the next day to be my last so I wasn’t sure if adrenaline or climbs would win out.

Posted by: dbreisch | May 6, 2012

Day 5 – Baldwyn to Collinwood, TN

What a great day of cycling, the humidity dropped and the cloud cover was perfect. Tom, being the gracious host, shuttled me back to the trace to my starting point. From there I had several moderate climbs and some good decents. My first stop of interest today was Cave Spring. There’s a couple small caves Along the Pkwy that Indians used to keep cool and get their drinking water. I saw a sign advising that the water is undrinkable so I heeded its warning.

Shortly after Cave Spring I had to bid farewell to Mississippi and hello to Alabama.

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Alabama greeted me with a couple very long climbs, probably a mile or more. This was actually welcomed compared to the previous 300 miles of flat and some Rolling hills. The scenery in Alabama was beautiful, probably the nicest I’ve seen thus far. At the end of the climb I was rewarded with freedom hills overlook.

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It was approximately 800 to 900 feet of climbing, which doesn’t sound much to some of you from Pennsylvania or Tennessee, but try doing it with 30 pounds on the back your bike.

After a nice long descent I reached Colbert ferry. A Chickasaw chief George Colbert once operated a ferry across the Tennessee River at this point. Here, I one-mile bridge spanning Pickwick Lake was my destination. This lake is a result of the Tennessee Valley Authority damming the river in 1938. The river was probably less than a quarter mile wide back in the early 19 century when wooden rafts would be ferried across the river.

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After crossing a river it was a short climb up to Rock springs. This is a must stop for anyone doing the trace. You can take a short walk out to a natural spring which has been dammed up by beaver and supports all types of wildlife.

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Food and water is very sparse in this section but I happen to find a market about 3 miles east on route 20. After grabbing a quick lunch and some much needed water I got back on the trace to hit another state line, this time Tennessee. It was a great feeling to be in Tennessee and quite an accomplishment to traverse three states in one day. It’s an accomplishment but there wasn’t much of the trace that crossed through Alabama.

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I could feel the end of a long day in my grasp and then as I looked up I saw the clouds begin to darken. I turned on the gas because I was only 3 miles outside the town of Collinwood but no dice. I pulled off at the sunken trace exhibit just as the skies let loose. I found a large tree to stand under which kept me drive for most the time as I put on my rain gear. After about 20 minutes I thought the storm and passed and for the most part it did. Out of the entire day three measly miles to ride in the rain! As I exited the parkway I saw a welcome center with a nice covered front porch. I shook the rain off I was invited in for some coffee and cookies.

Collinwood is a nice little town and my accommodations for the night are spacious. I have the entire miss Monetta’s cottage to myself which includes the washer the dryer. It was a welcome benefit after five days of riding and an afternoon rainshower.

Posted by: dbreisch | May 5, 2012

Day 4 – Houston to Baldwyn

Today was the shortest day by far and thank goodness for that. I had a 6 mile ride out of Houston to get back to the trace this morning. The weather was very muggy and warm which was not the case for the previous three days.

The first 20 miles felt like my legs were just going along for the ride too. I couldn’t seem to get the cramps out of it and it just felt like they were swollen and tired. I guess they probably should be. I made a couple stops along the way at some attractions and historical sites which helps rest the legs and pass the time.

Next stop was Tupelo Mississippi. I took a brief detour through Tupelo to visit a couple sites and see Elvis Presley’s birth home. Hey hardware store down the street is still in operation where he purchased his first guitar. On the way out I stop by sonic for some food and gave a local bike store a call.

With the rain in the dirt the past few days I felt as if my gears word gummed up in my chain was filthy. Brian from paceline bikes through my bike up on the stand cleaned it down and re-lubricated the chain and sprocket for me. It felt like whole different bike after he had done that work. Much smoother ride now and the miles just click the way until I got to the Tupelo national Park welcome Center. I met up with two bikers there; one heading south the other north. By the time I got there they were on their way out so I didn’t get to chat long but about 10 miles down the road I ended up catching up with the one cyclist. He was from the Seattle Washington area and is heading in my general direction. Tonight he’s staying at the Tishomingo State Park which is about 20 miles north of me but hopefully I’ll catch him in the morning and we can ride a little bit.

My exit was about 2 miles down the road from where we departed so it’s time to give Tom from Sachem bed-and-breakfast a call. Tom, an avid cyclist himself, picked me up so I didn’t have to take the 11 mile trek into Baldwyn. He moved down here recently after living more than 30 years in Albany New York. He’s been a gracious host and is letting me use his car tonight to pick up dinner and some groceries in town. Tomorrow is a 70+ day again but not on the roads are that I have seen. After I crossed into Alabama there’s quite a few climbs leading up to the Tennessee River and then more climbs into Collinwood Tennessee where I will be spending my night tomorrow.

Posted by: dbreisch | May 4, 2012

Day 3 – Kusciusko to Houston

Everything is falling into place today. I finally got the groove of the trace; when to eat, when to drink, and the correct gear setting for the perfect pace. This was the best date by far and I think I can put all the psychological and physical issues to rest. 75 miles today but it didn’t feel quite like the 75+ the two previous days. This section had some rolling hills which made things more interesting and actually a bit of a climb at one point. I got an early start and avoided the sun most of the day.

The first stop 20 miles up the trace was French camp. This place still had the historical replicas of old pioneer time. They made sorghum on site and had a bakery of sorghum products. I grabbed the bran muffin and tried to get it down. I’ve been having problems eating for some reason. I should be starving but when I go to eat I feel nauseous and have to force feed myself.

Back on my bike I head up to Jeff Busby campground and park. Jeff Busby was a US Congressman from Mississippi who introduced a bill authorizing a survey of the old Natchez trace. In 1938 The Pkwy. was entered as a unit of the national Park system. I found a picnic ground where I had a couple bottles of water and a banana. The banana actually went down well so it’s quite thrilled with that. I tipped my helmet to Jeff Busby on the way out and continued to mile post 204 in search of food and water.

There was promises of a restaurant this exit so I got off and took the 2 mile trek. I’m sure the restaurant was good but I spotted a subway at a gas station and decided to try that. I got a turkey sub with bacon chips and a soda and it never tasted better. Something must’ve settled with my body because now I’m starving all the time and welcome the feeling.

After I got on the parkway again I road through a section about 8 miles long where a tornado ripped up all the trees. It was interesting to see the power of the tornado; how it snapped the trees and cleared the area. The bad part about this section was I lost my shade cover and had to ride it in full sun. I stopped at mile post 222 and snapped a couple pictures. This is the halfway point between Natchez and Nashville Tennessee. Seeing that really lifted my spirits so I turned on the gas for the next 8 miles to get it off at my exit. Tonight I am staying in Houston Mississippi, about 5 miles W. of the Pkwy. After being on the parkway so long I forgot about things like trucks, stoplights and intersections. It was a rude awakening.

Bridges Hall Manor bed-and-breakfast is a huge house and very nice. I have the entire place to myself since there’re no travelers coming through here tonight. Carol was very helpful directing me towards dinner and accommodating a 7 o’clock breakfast so I can get back out there early. I saw Tex-Mex restaurant on the way and I might try for a pseudo Cinco de Mayo since I don’t think I’ll be finding one tomorrow.

Posted by: dbreisch | May 3, 2012

Day 2 – Raymond to Kusciusko

The day started with a hearty breakfast followed by a tour of the Dupree house by its owner. There were two couples from Florida staying here and heading south to Fort Gibson. Unfortunately I was headed north and couldn’t ride with them.

I set off around 930 which was a little later than I wanted but it was worth the visit and conversation with the couples. The day started off a lot better than the previous. I feel great for the first 15 miles and pulled into Clinton for some water at the visitor center. When I got there I noticed I couldn’t find my charger for the phone so I gave Charles a call to see if I left it in the room. Indeed I did and he was nice enough to drive it up the trace for me.

After Clinton there was a auto detour because part of the trace collapsed. This was a lucky break for me since I was on a bike and I allowed through. This meant about 10 miles without any traffic one of the busiest sections of the trace. Near the end of the detour I met up with two bikers are out on a day ride. They clued me in on a bike trail that runs to the little towns nearby.

After Jackson the trace runs along a reservoir which is about the same length and size of Lake Nockimixon back home. I got off the trace nearby inserts of food. Food was very sparse in this area but I found a package store that sold microwave cheeseburgers. Not my cup of tea but it’ll have to do. Back on the trace about 10 miles on the north end of a reservoir is Cypress Swamp. This was quite a sight with old trees growing out of the swampland. I took a walk along the boardwalk in search of some alligators or maybe some turtles but didn’t seem to come across any.

Back on my bike I started feeling a cramp in my left leg that wouldn’t go away for miles. I finally was forced to pull over at milepost 137 to rest. This is not a good sign and quite demoralizing after having such a good day of riding. I stretched for about 10 minutes, popped an ibuprofen and decided just to get on with it. Something must’ve worked because 10 miles down the road the pain was relatively dull and I was able to finish the ride.

I’m spending the night in Kosciusko which is one of the bigger towns however not very big at all. I road about a mile and a half down to Walmart to pick up some bananas water and dinner for the night. At 8 o’clock I feel ready for bed although I want to read about tomorrow’s ride and do some more stretching. I hope to get up earlier and get out on the trace sooner than I did the previous days.

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Posted by: dbreisch | May 2, 2012

Day 1- 85 miles

After a restful night of sleep I started my day with a wonderful breakfast at the bed-and-breakfast I was staying. There was a couple from Holland on a vacation that I sat with. Another couple rode a motorcycle down the Natchez from Kentucky so I had a ton of questions for them. They were very helpful. After thanking my host for breakfast and a wonderful stay I was off to return my rental car. The guy from enterprise was nice enough to shuttle me 2 miles to the entrance of the trace. Now the real adventure begins!

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The first 10 miles were surprisingly difficult mostly because I was towing an extra 30 pounds behind me in my bike bag. After that I got into my groove and tore off a quick 20 miles. By this point it was time for lunch so I took a 5 mile detour to Lorman Mississippi in search of food. I came upon a old country store that looked half closed and half dilapidated so I had to go inside. They had plenty of food, items to purchase and gadgets that you probably couldn’t find anywhere else. The owner came out and told stories, sang some songs, and entertained us while we ate. It was probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. The potato salad was also good but I couldn’t finish it all.

Back on the road and back to the trace. The first few miles after such a heavy lunch felt tiresome and demoralizing. At mile 41 I stopped at a part of the old trace which was sunken into the ground about 20 feet. It was quite interesting to see how eroded the land got in this area.

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As I left the sunken trace I heard some low rumbling off in the distance, dark clouds rolled in and I kind of knew what was coming. I made it about 5 miles before I felt some soft sprinkle on my face which actually started to feel good after such a hot day. The good feeling quickly ended when the small drops turned into a large globs of rain. I grabbed my rain jacket quickly and put a cover over my bike pack. I actually had to pull off for about 10 minutes because the rain was so intense. After about an hour of straight rain the sky started to clear again and with only 15 miles left I made a run for the finish.

The last 15 miles were harder than expected although there was a lot to look at. I met up with a friend turtle in the middle of the road and I quickly moved him to the side to avoid getting hit.

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10 miles to go and I’m really craving that potato salad I left on the table. The sky darkened a little bit more and I got a sprinkle of rain right before I pulled into my bed and breakfast.

Tonight I’m staying at Mamie’s cottage just south of Raymond Mississippi. Brenda was nice enough to pick up dinner and deliver it to my room. Mediterranean pasta and turkey chili was just what I was looking for after a ride like that. Off to bed and another 80 miles tomorrow.

Posted by: dbreisch | May 1, 2012

Day 0 – Natchez Mississippi

After two great flights I finally landed in Jackson Mississippi. I was greeted by the wave of heat and humidity as I exited the airplane which set reality for the next seven days. I grabbed my rental car and headed down south to Natchez.

I was starving when I reached Natchez so I stopped in at a local tamale restaurant. The food was very good but I don’t think I’ll be eating like that for the rest of the week. Off to the bike store to retrieve my Bike and then to a supermarket to pick up some supplies.

Tonight I am staying at Devereaux Shields House. It’s a nice little bed-and-breakfast close to downtown. I’m hoping to find an Italian restaurant with some pasta or chicken tonight and maybe a beer to celebrate. Off to sleep early since I have a long day tomorrow.

Posted by: dbreisch | April 22, 2012

Boxed up, and ready to go

Today was packing day. It started with a quick disassemble of the bike but that was all that was quick. The box I purchased from shipbikes.com was very easy to assemble and they thought of just about everything. There are spacers for wheel skewers, protectors for the wheel hubs, tie downs and extra support for the bottom bracket. For $35 it’s a great deal, I’m just hoping the box is sturdy enough to survive FedEx’s shipping depots.

The bike fit like a glove in the box, it just took a bit of trial and error to get it lined up to the tie down support holes and accommodate the wheels on top. I found a way to lay the handlebars flat on the box and use them as support for the wheel rim. My helmet and cycling shoes complemented the support for the other wheel. The bottom of the box has a hollow triangular section and adds support for the frame but doubles as a fantastic hole to stash tools, patch kits, screwdrivers and other items that would come loose during transport. The trick is to stuff the ends with extra tubes for the tires.

Filling the void was the tricky part. We’ve gone too digital here at home, and therefore I don’t have any newspapers on hand. Luckily, I was able to borrow some and the packing was complete. Shipping worked out nicely too. The website where I bought my box provided prepaid labels so all I needed to do was type in the destination, pay by credit card and print out my label. Off to Fedex in the morning to ship it out.

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Posted by: dbreisch | April 21, 2012

Full Dress Rehearsal

Today was trial and error day.  I went for a ride with the trunk pack fully loaded, iphone, wahoo sensors and heart rate monitor.  The first think I was most curious about was the fully loaded trunk with panniers deployed.  All I could imagine is a parachute behind me but in actuality, my legs seems to break the wind for the most part.  It was a bit noticeable when I caught a cross wind but those are the breaks I guess.  The only annoying discovery of my rack installation is I find my legs rubbing the seat post rack eyelets.  Fortunately it’s only notices when I sit up riding and not all the time.  I think I’ll live.

My apps worked just like I would expect from Apple and mapmyride.  I was able to record a good hour with minimal battery drain and thanks to my extended iphone battery case from Wahoo, I should make a good 8-10 hours.  This technical test went flawlessly.

New shorts and socks worked out nicely so they will be packed for the trip.

The only thing I noticed later in the day while I was out on my deck was that my phone shut down due to overheating.  Granted it was sitting in the case in the sun charging but then again it may be doing that for quite awhile in Mississippi.  I’ll have to keep an eye on that one and maybe  it’ll have to be stored in the trunk if I see that condition return.

Legs feel good and mind is at ease.  I think I’ll ship my bike.

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