Friday, April 23, 2010

CYCLING THE NATCHEZ TRACE, APRIL, 2010

This year's epic cycling adventure featured 442 miles of the Natchez Trace Scenic Byway from Natchez, Mississippi to near Nashville, Tennessee. This is a very smooth, 2-lane road without commercial traffic and a 50mph speed limit. However, motorhomes and travel trailers are allowed. I picked a south-north route because of the southern prevailing wind. As it turned out, we had a front/high pressure system come in and put a slight wind in our face for five out of the six days.

Cyclists Amy, Barry, Byran, Jerry, and Rick enjoyed excellent weather and took a zillion pictures, some of which are included here.

Somehow my precise mileage calculations had a few mistakes, leading to a long day of 88 miles rather than 81. This day also included about 30 miles of chipseal rather than the smooth surface we loved. We averaged 10mph overall (including stops) and except for the long day, finished in mid-afternoon.

Early April gave us peak wildflowers. The Dogwood and Black Locust trees were spectacular. Off the bikes, if you wandered the towns, the azaleas showed their best colors. We even managed to hit the cypress swamp right after the alligators appeared.
My suggestions: 1) Six days is just right, averaging a little over 70 per day. 2) Have a support vehicle. This allows flexibility in lodging and off-bike touring. We each took a turn driving, thus 5 days cycling. 3) Use http://natcheztracetravel.com/ for any and all help you need. Randy did an outstanding job in finding us lodging and giving food recommendations. 4) One caveat: this is not for inexperienced cyclists. The traffic around Tupelo and Jackson is heavy, and elsewhere the motorhomes and trailers, while mostly courteous, can come perilously close. Rick had one motorhome run him off the road and the same driver came very close to Amy (we found later when comparing notes).

I managed to cycle all six legs of the trip. Driving from the north the day before the official start, Marilane dropped me off outside Raymond and I cycled to Natchez. BTW, for that day, the prevailing wind blew in my face rather strongly.

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