Map of Our Natchez Trace Bike Trip

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How I get Geri to pedal 75.9 miles in upper 90 degree heat!
Not an ideal spot for changing a bicycle tire!

Geri on the Natchez Trace Parkway
Day 21 - We got up early again hoping for a predawn start, but the front tire was soft again and I decided that I better change it with the comfort of running water available from our motel room rather than on the side of the road later without that convenience.  It didn't make any difference, however, because before we were out of the Vicksburg city limits, the front tire went flat.  It was very frustrating to change a tire that I had just changed 30 mins. earlier.  By now, I imagine that anyone reading this must think that I am incompetent at changing bicycle tires and repairing tubes, but I promise I have never had this much trouble before.  Vicksburg is full of history and we hated to leave it without seeing some attractions, but we had to focus on our goals for this trip and move on.  This is one of the biggest disadvantages of traveling by bicycle.  We are not able to visit everything because of traveling time restraints.  We decided to push ourselves hard today and try to reach Natchez, MS. in one day instead of two as we had planned.  This would free up a day in our schedule and allow us to spend an extra day in Natchez for bike repairs and sightseeing.  Early in the day, however, we got discouraged that this would not be possible.  We fought a moderately strong wind directly in our faces for 35 miles.  We were reduced to sub-10 mi/ speeds for many miles.  When we reached Port Gibson, MS., we stopped for a long Subway lunch to recover from, not only the nonstop wind, but the excessive heat as well.  We have battled afternoon temperatures in the high 90's for many days now and it is wearing us down.  We left Port Gibson with the intention of getting as close as we could to Natchez and then camping, but the shortest route to Natchez at this point was to follow the Natchez Trace Parkway.  The change in traveling conditions was unbelievable!  The Parkway had very little traffic with glass smooth roads and extremely friendly hill grades with lots of shade from the thick trees on both sides of the road.  Most important, however, was the lack of wind.  The forest surrounding us now created a fantastic wind break and our average traveling speeds increased from below 10 mi/hr to nearly 15 mi/hr.  We felt like we had been transported to a different state, because not only did we loose the wind, the temperature seemed over 10 degrees cooler.  Our earlier fatigue did catch up with us, however, and we felt the need to pull over at a shaded picnic table and take a long rest.  The power nap recharged our motivation and with the great traveling conditions I calculated that we could reach a motel in Natchez before dark.  We continued to make great time with the only delay of another copperhead on the road.  I have seen 6 copperheads in the wild in my life and half of them have been on this trip!  This one, however, was a thick 4-foot monster that did not like to be photographed, so I stayed away from the end with two sharp points!  We saw several other cyclist taking an evening ride on the Natchez Trace and one friendly rider even rode with us for the last 6 miles to Natchez.  The sun set today at 7:01 PM and we reached the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway at exactly 7:01 PM.  In less than 30 mins., we were checking into a nice motel to reward ourselves for covering 75.9 miles today in much less than ideal conditions and averaging 10.5 mi/hr.  An end of day coincidence occurred in front of the motel.  We had just arrived when a friendly couple drove up beside us and asked if we had been in Vicksburg earlier in the day.  After we said, "Yes," they told us they saw us changing a tire on the side of the road and apologized for not stopping to help!  We have found this part of the country to be the most friendly of all the places we have visited in our many adventures.  There was no blogging or journaling tonight.  It was lights out, get to bed and NO morning alarm! 

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