Bicycling the Natchez Trace

In April 2010, Frank Briscoe biked the Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Below is an account of his cycling trip and several photos that you can view.

Highlights of the trip and links for more information:

Excerpts from Frank's Journal

In this journal I’ll be concentrating on what I learned about myself, my ability to ride a bike with all the gear needed to be self contained (carrying camping gear) and credit card riding where you carry a minimum of clothing, stay at Bed and Breakfasts and eat meals at restaurants.  I’ll also share my observations of the folks met on the Trace and the places where I stayed over-night.   As in life this journal is about the journey not the destination. 

Day 1 -  

Feeling really hungry ...as I came into Port Gibson, I caught sight of a street vendor selling BBQ in my peripheral vision and immediately did a U-turn and wheeled my bike over to the little place.  Two middle aged gentlemen immediately informed me, “we has the best BBQ in all of Port Gibson if not the whole South”.  One with tongs waving in the air announced “We got ribs, sausage, pulled pork and chickin. What’s gonna be”?  I go for the chicken.  For six dollars I got 4 leg and thigh combinations and some spaghetti meat sauce.  Weird, combination but tasted oh so good.  During the 20 minutes or so I was eating my chicken,  I think half the town of Port Gibson must have come to these guys for carry-home, we were outside so I can’t say carry-out. 

Day 2 -

Ten miles before the end of this day’s ride, I was stopped resting on the north end of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.  Watching and wishing I was out on the water enjoying anyone of the many water sports activities going on from swimming, water skiing, jet skiing.  How nice it would feel to have my hot sweaty body submerged in the cool lake water. 

Day 3 -

Wow!  Double Wow!!!  French Camp is like stepping back into the 1830-40s.  For real, French Camp is run by a non-denominational Christian group.  I learned the Camp had celebrated 200 year of continuous operation in 2009. They run a school for kids with problems and part of the curriculum and experience of being at French Camp is the restoration and preservation of the settlement as it originally was established.  They have done a stellar job of it, too.  The cabin I stayed in is over 150 years old and in pristine condition.  It was so inviting and peaceful I could have stayed here forever.  Of course they had modernized the interior with electric and bathroom facilities but kept the hardwood floors, walls and décor from the 1800’s.  It is an awesome place and I highly recommend French Camp to anyone who visits the Natchez Trace as a must see. 

Day 4 -

At breakfast met Chip and Marlene who stayed the night in the main cabin.  They too are riding the entire Trace, heading North same as me. I suggested they might be able to stay at the Bed and Breakfast I planed to stay at this night and gave them the contact information for not only tonight but for the rest of the trip too.  Chip said he’d check it out and see if they could get lodging.

After arriving in Houston, MA and a Wal-Mart stop it was a short distance to tonight’s Bridges-Hall Manor Bed and Breakfast, two blocks off Houston’s Square.  What a beautiful Grand old Victorian style home.  Ms. Carol Koutroulis met me at the door with a warm Southern hospitality welcome.  She inquired, “You must be Mr. Frank Briscoe”?  Yes, mam I am he.  “How far behind you are the other couple you recommended to stay tonight”?

Day 5 -

The slower pace did cause me to be a little later arriving at tonight’s B&B the Sachem in Baldwyn, MS owned by Tom and Jeanne Stott.  Well actually, this B&B is located 10 miles off the Trace.  To avoid having to ride an extra 20 miles, Tom said he would come pick me up at their exit and deliver me back there tomorrow morning.  That sounded like a great idea, so when I was 5 miles out I phoned Tom.  To my amazement he said he was already in route to pick me up as they were concerned my bike may have broke down or something else had gone wrong.

Upon arriving at Tom’s home, he showed me where to stow my bike in his garage for the night.  Then amazed me further by advising me I could take his Volvo into town for dinner.  Are you kidding, you’re going to trust me with your Volvo?  Sure, and I’ll tell you where there is a pretty good Italian restaurant to load up on carbs with a good pasta meal and a couple beers.  This is too good to be true but it was. 

Day 6 -

I made it to milepost 341, the Alabama/Tennessee border before I felt like I couldn’t ride any further without taking a break.  Mostly the need for a break was due to the pain caused by the saddle sore as the rest of my body was holding up quite well today.  At this border crossing there was a good sized sign on the south side was the State of Alabama Great Seal and a brief history of the State, while the North side had Tennessee’s Great Seal or Crest and a brief history of that State, too.  The grassy area the sign sets on had just been mowed and smelled so sweet, even a little cool and much too inviting to pass up a break.  I sat down in front of the Tennessee side ate a snack, drained a 20 oz bottle of water.  Then decided to lay down put my legs up on the supporting column between the Crest and history, I may have even dozed off for a little while. I must have been quite a sight to see all sprawled out with my bike laying off to one side, too bad no vehicles stopped so I could have someone take a picture of me. 

4:50 p.m. finally made it to Miss Monetta’s Country Cottage, of course, the last mile on the Trace was all uphill.  Guess, the Trace wanted to remind me there would be more hills to climb tomorrow.  Following the directions to the cottage I passed by Diane Butler’s beauty salon, she was at the door motioning for me to stop.  Said she’d been waiting for me and was beginning to worry she’d have to come looking for if I hadn’t got there by 5:00 p.m.  I learned from Diane that Chip and Marlene had arrived about 3:00 p.m. and probably were at a local diner Chad’s a couple blocks away.  The cottage was only a half block further down the street from Diane’s salon.  As I rolled into the driveway I noticed the front door was open.  Chip immediately came to the door and said they had been waiting for me in order for the three of us to go to dinner.  Chip said I wouldn’t believe how nice the inside of the cottage was as he showed me in.  Wow!  The inside of the cottage looked like something you would see in a magazine or model home, very nicely decorated, beautiful hard wood floors throughout, really comfy sofa and recliner in the living room, flowers on the dining table, treats laid out on the kitchen counter. 

Day 7 -

The first 11 miles were mostly flat to downhill.  The 12th mile, yep have to pay for that easy riding, all uphill slowing my speed down to 5-6 mph.  Still better start then yesterday’s unending hills.  To my great surprise all 38 miles today were relatively easy.  Since this was my shortest day, I stopped at all 10 of the historic sights and points of interest I came to.  Even took extra time at each, helped get my mind off the saddle sore pain.  The highlight of the historic sights was the Meriwether Lewis Memorial (The Lewis of “The Lewis and Clark” expedition fame) where I spent almost and hour reading and walking the area including a couple hundred yards on the actual Trace Trail.  

1:05 p.m. arrived at Fall Hallow B&B.  Nice long hill going from the Trace down to Fall Hallow, which means tomorrow’s ride will start with a nice up hill, ride I can’t wait.  As I rolled up to Fall Hallow, I could see a nice campground, a large metal building with a small restaurant on one end and a nice sized Country home out back of the building nestled beneath a cliff with a stream running behind it.

About 2:00 p.m. a couple in an SUV drive-up next to the building.  Ah ha!  Has to be the owners, back of the SUV is full of groceries.  The driver opens his door steps out and introduces himself as Bill Roper, about this time his wife comes around the back side of the vehicle and he introduces her as Kathy.  He then apologizes for not being there when I arrived but it’s Thursday and they’ve been out buying food for the restaurant and they didn’t expect anyone to arrive so early.  Fine no problem, then I offered to help carry in the groceries.  Good move on my part as Bill asked if I’d like an Ice Tea and a sandwich after we finished.  He made not one but two huge Turkey Club sandwiches, chips and bottomless glass of ice tea.   

Chip, Marlene and I met for dinner about 7 at Fall Hollow.  The special for tonight a 12 ounce Ribeye steak that melted in your mouth, oh so so good best meal of the week.  Bill also threw in a couple pieces of his Specialty Fried Catfish, which was also delicious. 

Day 8 -

Up at 6:45 a.m., the last day on the Trace makes me feel melancholy. As promised last night Bill is in the restaurant and has breakfast ready promptly at 7:00 a.m.  Bill made us one huge and delicious omelet, orange juice, coffee, homemade biscuits and bacon from a local farm. 

This final day turned out to be the most beautiful of all the days, the most wildlife spotted and oh yes the hottest temperature of the week as well as the steepest hills of the entire 450 mile length of the Trace. 


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