Friday, April 19, 2013

A Meander Among the Mansions, and a Taste of the Trace

MISSISSIPPI! We crossed the bridge from Vidalia, LA to Natchez, MS. It was not a bad bridge crossing as there was a nice wide shoulder.

We didn't have many miles planned for today due to camping options. Therefore, we had time to do the Natchez Mansion Tour. There were 11 mansions along the tour. Most all were built circa 1800s. All are available for touring with a ticket obtained at the Natchez Visitor Center (which we did not do). We went by 10 of the 11 (the only one we didn't see was Longwood). We didn't stop at all 10, but did about 6 of them. The last one, Melrose, seemed to be the most important as it is part of the Natchez National Historic Park (run by National Park Rangers). Sadly, it was partially under construction, so not the best photo-op. One of the more elegant mansions was the Stanton House (built 1850). The photo below with Betsy gives an idea of the size of Stanton House (and most of the others too).

At Melrose, we asked the ranger in the visitor center where the nearest grocery store was. That was our other quest while in Natchez. She directed us to the local Wal-Mart (woo hoo...). So, after our meander among the mansions, we hit the highway and rode to Wal-Mart. At least it was on our way! We restocked our groceries (perhaps got a little too much), had a snack, and headed for the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a route that runs 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville. Lots of cyclists make a tour just of the Trace alone. By no means do we ride the entire Trace (although that would be cool). We just get a taste of the Trace. We will detour from the Trace on a road that will take us to Vicksburg and back to just the MRT.

The Trace itself is rich with history. It was a major commerce route for the Natchez Indians, and later settlers and an important mail route. We saw part of the Old Trace along the nice smooth road of the current Trace. The terrain is rolling, with the ups seeming to top out at a bridge across either water or a road. As we were going up one of the longer hills, we passed 5 women out for a day ride. They caught up to us at a info site for the Old Trace. They were all near 60 years old and this was their first ride together as a group. They are all local gals from Natchez--Marie, Pat, Mary, and 2 Kathy's. They were all very enthusiastic about cycling, and I encouraged them to keep it up!

From our visit with the Natchez gals, we didn't have much further to go before the turnoff to Natchez State Park. That doesn't mean we were anywhere near the park, however. We had to cross Hwy 61 and then ride another 5 miles or so to get to the Gate House for the park. As with Pedernales, they have located the Gate House at the far end of the park, past the two campgrounds. We had to ride there to pay for our campsite, then ride back to the campground. Camping continues to be pretty inexpensive--$18 for a site with water and electricity. And, the showers are still free. There are what they call primitive sites that are cheaper, but they are located far (like, have-to-get-on-your-bike-and-ride-to-them far) from the restrooms. We are fine paying a little more to be closer to the showers and restrooms.

And now, a word or two about the ants (Christian's "friends" as he seems prone to stepping on their hills). They are EVERYWHERE! I don't mean everywhere in the sense that, well sure, there are ants. No, I mean EVERYWHERE! Their little dirt anthills line the roadways. They crawl all over the picnic tables. They work their way up and onto the bikes. Every campsite has several mounds and dirt trails. They make interesting little towers of dirt after it has rained. The towers look like miniature nuclear power plant cooling towers. I've learned to watch where I step so as not to disturb them. They're not too bad if you don't mess with their houses.

Tomorrow we return to the Trace for about 40 more miles (plus the miles to get back to it from the park). I can check another state off my list. Now to find me a Mississippi Subway restaurant...

Later in the evening...

Christian and I set out to walk the nature trail to the lake. Before we could get to the lake, I commented to Christian that an RV we were about to walk by looked interesting. It was not really like any of the RVs I have seen. Christian said, "Oh, it is German". There was a woman sitting outside. Christian said hello to her in German. She answered in German, and thus began the rest of our evening. Adalbert and Petra are touring around North America in their RV that they shipped by boat to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The coolest thing about their RV is that they have a large photo of themselves on one side and a collage of photos from Freiburg on the other side.

We spent a wonderful evening talking with them. I like to hear Christian speak with other Germans. It is the most speaking I hear him do! Tomorrow, before we leave, I'll take a photo with them. Maybe I will see them in Germany???

One last thing, on the way back to our campsite, I saw what I thought was a possum. I said to Christian, "Look, there's a possum." But, it wasn't a possum. It was an armadillo! I tried to get a photo, but those buggers can run fast when they want to! Darn!

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