|sunken trace, the original trail|
April is the cruelest of months
It also brings showers—this much I know
In a list of unknowns, we didn’t know anything
Only anticipations and broad guesses
We were riding our bikes from Nashville to Jackson, MS on the Natchez Trace
A National Park parkway, a place for cars and bikes with minimal traffic (again, an unknown)
How long had I been planning this trip—the thought came a few years ago and every
Spring I thought about it until—I booked tickets on Megabus and the train, for there and back
So this we know—we will bus to Nashville and a week later train home from Jackson,
Now the list of unknowns . . .
We arrived in Nashville about 8:30 a.m. after a cramped night-bus and re-assembled our bikes in a parking lot. One unknown known. We did it! While the sun shone, then after taking beginning photos the clouds rolled in. Another unknown: weather. Would we get a break?
Rolling hills, Belle Meade and other local roads to get to the trail head. On Sneed, one hill
So steep we walked the bikes up. This didn’t portend well for the trail.
After 20 miles of Nashville and beyond we made it to the Loveless Café—
An end point and beginning for many.
Rolling clouds. We biked beneath overcast skies, but we hardly noticed because the road was so good and not so hilly, we didn’t have to walk the bikes up. Yet, we were using all our gears!
I told stories, we talked, we rode side-by-side. We saw
Wild turkeys and turkey vultures, wild flowers and spring blossoms
Indian paintbrush and dogwood in bloom
Smelled sweet perfume. Butterflies and hoppy toads.
We discovered road shorthand—
An overlook on the map means you must go up.
I learned what goes up, must come down.
Thank God. Chin down, almost touching the handlebars to get EVERY ounce out of every turn of the wheel.
We picnicked under a tree, we snapped pictures from the road while straddling our bike.
Rolling thunder. In the distance, begun by the chu-chink of scattered rain drops. We’d passed
Shady Grove one of the places we talked about camping for the night
Camping! Yes we were riding self-contained.
Every uphill wasn’t about riding, but moving my body and a steel-lugged old-school Trek ’82 frame, wasn’t about riding, but transferring about 30 – 40 pounds of food and gear. I strained my knees and stood up in the saddle just to get an extra couple of feet HIGHER, FARTHER, CLOSER.
So it wasn’t the rain that stopped up, but how dark everything got. We figured it was 5:30 pm and we’d done 60 miles, so knock off until the rain stopped.
Jackson Falls was our life raft because the rain didn’t stop. We pulled in under the picnic shelter just as the drip-drip-drops took on heft, weighted as marbles, and my riding partner announces
I have a flat tire.
Two unknowns: weather and maintenance encountered. Only one under our control.
She fixed the flat, we ate, we set up camp, and hoped for the skies to clear.
Huddled beneath an eave off to the side, we listened to a system that kept swirling, circling in upon itself, with sweeping rain and thunder. Then a car pulled in. Guests? They stayed for an hour and at one point tried to pester us, strangers unknown to them, in a tent. Finally the couple left and we could breathe, and per chance to sleep.