Appalachian Gravel Growler, Morganton to Collettsville, 42 miles| Finally Off Road!

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Lush forest, stellar views, very little wind and no traffic made for a near perfect day of riding off road on our first day.

This was pretty much a warm up day with just a little over 40 miles but dang… these two Hoosiers aren’t used to these climbs.

Good news is neither of us went over the handlebars, over the edge and we kept the rubber on the right side of the rocks.

Honestly the best part of the day was rolling up to Betsey’s (and yep that is how it’s spelled) Ole Country Market, our planned camping spot tonight and meeting 58 year old Bruce.

He was seated on the covered front porch in an electric wheel chair and gave us a hearty welcome. As owner he said he wanted us to make ourselves at home for the evening or else go home. His hospitality and enthusiasm were over the top.

He didn’t hang around long. From the middle of Pisgah National Forest he drives 45 minutes each way, each day in a modified van to work with a trainer to strengthen the left side of his body. He does squats, push ups, dead lifts and core work. This man is a stud!

So off Bruce went to the gym and we began to unload. Just about that time we heard thunder, felt rain and decided to rent the only cabin on the property, giving us shelter for the night. And that means Tom doesn’t have to haul a wet tent around all day tomorrow.

Soooo a shower, small kitchen to cook in, electricity and a comfy dry bed is ours tonight.

Giving thanks for the little things tonight and in awe of Bruce’s hospitality and mental and physical determination.

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Meriwether Lewis to Garrison Creek, 46 Miles | That’s a Wrap!

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Our northbound bike ride up the Natchez Trace wrapped up today! As we traveled north the number gnats diminished and the rolling hills increased – just the way we like it!

In all, I think we saw only two chuckholes on the Trace (and that’s when you know you’re not in Indiana anymore). Drivers were courteous, giving us plenty of room to ride.

The scenery doesn’t change much as in early June it’s just lush, green forests all along the way. It’s a solid route for reflection and training.

We were surprised we didn’t see more wildlife. It was mostly turkeys and box turtles with a lot of dead snakes, armadillos and froggies. 🤣 Dang who knew Mississippi had so many snakes?

Every place we stopped it’s the people, both the locals and fellow travelers that enrich the journey.

This ride was a training ride for North Carolina coming up in a little over a week. The Appalachian Gravel Growler is half the distance each day but over twice the elevation (sometimes four times the elevation) and it’s mostly off road. So stay tuned to see how that goes.

What a perfect way to spend the week before our 12th wedding anniversary.

 

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Tishomingo to Meriwether Lewis, 94 Miles | A Three-State Day in the Rain

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Oh such a great day but such a wet one! In addition to crossing both the Alabama and Tennessee state lines we rode most of the day on hills and in the rain. Gratefully it was a warm rain without a lot of head wind.

Not many pics today but for sure there were lots of smiles during the miles.

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Witch Dance to Tishomingo, 77 Miles | Blessed and Lucky Indeed

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From Tom:

Ok it is my turn again 😁

I was doing a lot of thinking of prayers over the past few days. We are back out on the road and the 15 mile prayers have begun again. I was thinking of what we were praying for last summer during our ride. So many of those prayers were answered and a few are still waiting to be answered in “Gods time”.😁.

Maybe it’s luck; maybe it’s the answer to a prayer or maybe a little of both but here’s what happened the last couple days:

  • Rolling into the “primitive campsite” last night and wondering how we are going to charge up our electronics (Garmin, phone, lights, etc). We pull on the maintenance door at the restrooms and it is unlocked with electrical outlets inside.
  • Twenty miles to go today with major thunderstorms all around us, and God held an umbrella over our head and hardly a raindrop hit us.
  • Checking into our campsite at the state park tonight and we are starving. Deb asked if there might be a close place to eat. Jeanine says “a pizza place just opened up two weeks ago and they serve pizza and beer”.

We got off early today again at 6:30am. We were looking forward to our first cup of coffee and sausage biscuit sandwich at mile 18 ahead.

We roll off the Trace and .1 mile up the road find a gas station that had been closed for quite awhile.

Onward another 5 miles to plan “b”. A brand new Chevron with so many choices to put on a homemade biscuit: sausage, fried ham, fried bologna, fried chicken, fried smoked sausage. Did I say “Fried”?

Tasty, tasty, washed down with a cup of coffee. We look forward to your comments guessing which “fried” we went with. (Teresa Black, you already know Deb’s choice 😁)

On we went with a quick stop at the Natchez Trace Headquarters to fill up our water bottles and see our new friends Bob and Chad who were also at the stop. With 35 miles to go and a threat of thunderstorms heading our way we started booking it to the state park.

  • For twenty miles all we saw around us were dark clouds, lightening, and winds (tailwinds 😁👍). As I said before God was watching out for us as we rolled into the State Park Campground with only a couple of drops to cool us off. After a jaunt off for pizza and a Bud, we are back at our campground, with tent up, showered up and ready to call it a good night.

Our next two posts should be wet ones with the forecast ahead of us. Stay tuned.

NoBo on the Natchez, Kosciusko to Witch Dance, 76 Miles | Locals Trump Locale Today

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First order of the day was to walk our bikes down the steps from the rear decking of the Kosciusko Visitor Center. Thank you, Tom!!

Great day of riding today. We got an early 6:30 am start and had the pleasure of meeting Johnson Spencer, a 77 year old French Camp native at our first stop.

Johnson claims to be the only man in Mississippi with two last names. He and his two buddies were chatting it up and wanted to know a little about our bikes and share a lot about themselves. And that was perfectly fine with us.

Johnson has been working his whole life and started when he was just seven years guiding his dad’s mule helping to haul logs out of the woods. He shared a lot about his work at a local school and some of the kids he still remembers. Wish we could have stayed all day to talk to him.

Today brought us very little traffic, a little more cloud cover for a reprieve from the heat and per usual, an awesome road to ride on with just few rollers to keep it interesting. But sometimes the locals trump any locale ya visit.

Finally cracked open the Whisperlite stove to cook a meal. At the end of 67 days on the road last summer I could fire it up blindfolded. Tonight I actually had to watch what I was doing.

We have officially passed the half way point and tomorrow will take us to and through Tupelo.

NoBo on the Natchez: Clinton to Kosciusko, 76 Miles | Into the Mystic

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Just a regular day of cycling – hot, relatively little elevation and just plain steady.

We didn’t feel as perky as we did yesterday but we made it to our destination in Kosciusko and we were still smiling at the end of the day. 😊

Right now we are camping on the back deck of the Kosciusko visitor center and it over looks the Trace. There are lightning bugs, (two ceiling fans yay), flushers and outlets. An Italian restaurant and gas station are located nearby. Everything a bike traveller could want.

It seemed extra hot today with the temps in the mid 90’s and I’m sure the heat index higher.

Loved the cycleway that bypassed Jackson, the huge reservoir we cycled next to for many miles and the Cypress Swamp. We finally met some northbounders today too!

The GNAT meter registered LOW today (praise God for that)! And the only critter we saw was a box turtle.

We were glad to be done and looking forward to tomorrow’s ride to Witch Dance.

NoBo on the Natchez: Natchez to Clinton, 100 Miles | Deep South

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We made it to Natchez last night about 7pm and without hesitation dropped our rental car off ready to ride bikes north to Nashville. We could not WAIT to get back to bike travel. I mean… it’s been a year.

We’d scouted a bit of the route on Saturday on the way down to get the lay of the land and were a bit surprised that there was more traffic than expected and no shoulders.

So we do what we always do: perform the “wave”. That means we would be using our defensive (and courteous) approach to cycling. When we see a vehicle approaching from behind, the left arm goes straight up and waves big until we see the vehicle moving over. We then give a thank you wave when they pass. That along with being all lit up seems to work.

We also thought of the big things that might be potential hurdles for today. We were a little worried about our longest day (92 miles) being our first day and the heat (forecast for mid ’90s) but it was the littlest thing that was the most challenging.

The GNATS. Let’s just say the rest stops were infrequent and very short.🤣 They swarm you when you stop riding and they are persistent.

I asked one of the locals who lives here in the Deep South how to get rid of the swarming nuisances and she said splash apple cider vinegar all over us. Should we replace one of our water bottles with a bottle of ACV? 🤷🏼‍♀️ If anyone has any other ideas, let us know. I don’t mind smelling like a pickle but don’t really have room for the bottle.

As it played out, traffic was very light and not an issue. Road surface was spot on – and without rumble strips, stop lights or commercial traffic.

As far as the critter count goes we saw deer, fox, lots of hawks, my fave snake (a dead one) which appeared to be an eastern diamondback rattlesnake and some armadillos who might have tried to play chicken with approaching vehicles… but alas, lost.

Walking a portion of the Sunken Trace was a highlight for me today. To think of all the people, history, emotions, hope, ambition that has been a part of that trail is fascinating to me.

All in all a perfect day of riding the Trace and we even squeezed in a century just because we could.

Because he is the best riding partner and husband ever, Tom found a Mexican restaurant a quarter mile walk from where we are camping so we celebrated with our own little mini fiesta after showering.

Tomorrow we ride through Jackson. Tom and I ran a marathon there in 2014. #memories

Thanks to our friends, family and followers who are following along!