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Topic: Jay and Lisa Ride the Natchez Trace  (Read 8255 times)

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« on: July 30, 2019, 10:53:20 pm »

Lisa and I decided to take a long vacation ride this year. I picked the Natchez Trace to suit her riding style and because she wanted to go east – last time we went west. The Trace is a 444 mile long, two lane route of easy riding, maintained by the National Park Service. The south end is in Natchez, Mississippi and the north end is in Franklin, Tennessee. The maximum speed limit is 50 mph, zero stop signs or signals, no businesses on the route and no commercial traffic allowed. Access points are very limited. It has dozens of historic and/or scenic stops.

I had ten straight days off from work. The plan was to leave on Friday afternoon, ride the route, then head into Kentucky to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park. This would give us a day or two buffer so we wouldn’t have to stick to a strict schedule. We hoped to be on the road by 2:00 – we left at ten till. It may have been the first time ever that we actually started ahead of schedule.


The first day was spent riding through Oklahoma and Arkansas on the interstate. We stayed the night in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. 316 miles for the day.


We headed for breakfast at the Huddle House. We had never been to one. They are comparable to Waffle House so we figured that would be a safe bet (we kinda like WH.) When we pulled into the parking lot:

What is the first thing we saw? The car we parked next to:

They were painfully slow, we nearly walked out - and the food was average at best.
Our route for the day would take us into Louisiana and on to Natchez, Mississippi for the night. We crossed the border into Louisiana.

It was nothing but cotton fields and a few farm buildings, no traffic. About three miles in, I slowed to check out an old abandoned building and Lisa rode on. I decided to skip the building and just as I got going again, I see the police lights coming at Lisa. The deputy made a U-turn and he and Lisa came to a complete stop before I even got there. The deputy waved for me to pull over too. He proceeded to write us each a ticket for 74 in a 55. No way in Hell I was going 74 and I was at least a half mile behind anyway. I probably hadn’t even reached 50 yet. I was pissed but wasn’t about to argue on the side of the road with Barney. I heard him tell Lisa, “It’s a slow highway.” Cop-speak for ”speed trap.” Lisa admitted that she was going 74 and hadn’t seen any speed limit signs. If that wasn’t enough of an insult, within another mile it started pouring down rain. We turned around, went back up by the abandoned building, parked under a tree, and put our rain gear on. When we got going again, he already had another car pulled over. More about this later.

We rode through several rain showers but by the time we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi, it had stopped. We pulled into the visitor center on the Mississippi River to remove our rain gear and take a break.

Historical markers and the Mississippi River Bridge at Vicksburg.

Natchez was still about 80 miles away and I had several stops planned along the way. We saluted this Confederate monument in Port Gibson.

And the grand county courthouse.

An abandoned cotton oil plant in Port Gibson.

Before we got out of town, the storms came again. We couldn’t find any shelter so we stopped under a huge oak tree and put our gear back on. About the time we got a thorough soaking, it quit again.

Next up was an old historic church and the ruins of a plantation.

Then we ran into this:

At this point we were about three miles from the river but it was backed up that far. Lisa was afraid to ride through so we turned back toward the main highway. This guy was grazing in the road.

After all the rain and the detour, we chose to just ride on to Natchez and forget the other planned stops. But I had one last stop I wanted to make. Lisa is a fried chicken freak so I had picked out a dinner stop at The Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi. It is world famous for their fried chicken.

I thought it was pretty good. Lisa said it was just average. She’s a fried chicken snob…

At Natchez, we crossed the river bridge a couple times then called it a day. 289 miles for the day.


It was forecast to rain all day so I went ahead and reserved the room for another night. About 11:00, the rain ended. Since we already paid for the room, we decided to visit some of the sites we missed the previous day. We rode two-up this day.
Bethel Church, Alcorn, MS. Built mid 1840’s.

A couple miles up the road is the Windsor Ruins. The remains of a large plantation house - said to be the most photographed site in Mississippi.

From Wikipedia: The ruins consist of 23 standing Corinthian columns of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in the state. The mansion stood from 1861 to 1890, when it was destroyed by fire.

When we got to the ruins, there was a pickup parked there with Louisiana plates. They came over and talked to us for a while. We talked about where we were from and where we were going, that kind of stuff. I mentioned that we had gotten speeding tickets in Louisiana. He asked where and I told him which highway and the location. He said it was Lake Providence and that they lived there. He said it was a well-known speed trap. He even knew the deputy’s name. He told us that once he drove through a school zone that was in effect until 9:00 a.m. His clock radio said 9:02 so he went normal speed. He got pulled over by that same deputy. He stated to the deputy that his clock read 9:02. The deputy replied that his radar gun said 8:59 and proceeded to write him a $250 ticket.

This old tree was in front of the ruins and probably predated them.

We continued on toward the flooded road. We saw a critter rooting around on the side of the road so Lisa insisted that I stop. This ‘dillo walked up to within a couple feet of us as if we weren’t even there and just cruised right by us.

We reached the flooded area and turned back.

On the way back we passed Alcorn State University which is literally in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t ride through as they had security at each entrance.

Just past the university was Rodney Road, leading to the ghost town of Rodney. Rodney was flooded too so we were only able to go down one street.
The old general store.

Today’s services are cancelled.

We wandered around country roads and found these two old stores in Stanton.

From there, we headed back to the room. 131 miles for the day.


This would be our first day on “The Trace.” We started with breakfast at Shoney’s. I hadn’t been to a Shoney’s in probably twenty years. Didn't miss anything.

We began our three-day long ride of The Trace at the entrance in Nachtez. We checked out nearly every historical site and landmark along the way.

Ruins of the Elizabeth Female Academy, 1818-1845. First higher education facility for women in Mississippi.

Emerald Mound, eight acres. Second largest of its type north of Mexico. Not a burial mound but was support for temples and ceremonial structures ca. 1300-1600.

Deeply eroded/sunken portion of the Old Trace.

And some dork.

Owens Creek waterfall.

The Trace ran by the now ghost town of Rocky Springs. The spring that fed Owens Creek made this an ideal location for a settlement.
Methodist Church built in 1837.

I think the sign was built in 1837 too.

A safe and cistern.

This tree is probably older than The Trace.

We passed through Jackson, only stopping for ice cream. Have I mentioned yet that it was near record highs for our first eight days of riding?

Just beyond Jackson, we slowed to turn left into another historical site. I was in front, followed by Lisa, then a Suburban, and a Honda Accord. I turned, then heard tires skidding and a loud crash. I just knew they got Lisa. I looked back and Lisa was okay. She was quick enough thinking to pull forward when she heard the skidding. It was an old lady in the SUV behind Lisa. As she stopped for Lisa’s turn, she got rear-ended. The cagers were okay, no injuries. We waited for the police, gave them a statement and our contact info, then rode on. My heart was pounding for five minutes…

The next stop turned out to be Lisa’s favorite – the Cypress Swamp. We walked down to the foot bridge across the swamp. They had a trail about a half mile long there. We decided that it was too hot to do the hike and walked back out to the bikes. A couple came out from the other end and said, “We saw two alligators!”  I said, “No way, you’re kidding.” They showed us the pic’s on their phone. I told Lisa, “We’re doing the trail.” It was really cool in a swampy, creepy kind of way but we didn’t see any gators.

We rode into Kosciusko and got a room there for the night. 181 miles for the day.

A guy on a Harley had a room two down from us. He joined us for dinner at the Mexican restaurant next door. He was from the Detroit area, was retired, and spending his retirement riding around the U.S. He was doing the Trace in the opposite direction. He had some good travel stories and was fun to talk with. Lisa advised him to visit the Cypress Swamp.


Tupelo was next on the schedule. We left the Trace for a few hours. I had a couple places that I wanted to see. In case you don’t know, my last name is Bissell. I wanted to get a picture of this church. Other than on vacuum cleaners, we don’t often see the name.

And this street sign.

Well, I couldn’t pass through Tupelo without seeing the King’s birthplace. I was surprised at the number of young people there. Maybe I shouldn’t have been? My 22 year-old daughter is a rock music history freak. We got her a couple Elvis gifts.

After the rock and roll detour, we were back on The Trace. We visited a portion of the Old Trace that contained the graves of thirteen unknown Confederate soldiers.

The next turnout was at Cave Springs. A former watering stop on The Trace.

Someone had dumped a dog here. Lisa fed it half of her PayDay bar and gave it some water. She probably would have adopted it if we weren’t on bikes.

We crossed the state line and entered Alabama.

We spent the night near Muscle Shoals - didn’t see Skynyrd anywhere. 214 miles for the day.


This would be our final day on The Trace.

The Colbert Ferry Bridge over the Tennessee River.

And now the Tennessee state line.

Another portion of the Sunken Trace.

The gravesite of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.

We had a little surprise at the next site, Falls Hollow Falls. We pulled into the parking area and noticed an SUV hanging over the edge of the bluff. It had been held up by a few small trees, saving it from about a 60 foot fall. No one was around and we checked the vehicle in case anyone was inside. It was empty. There was a cell phone left on the parking barrier but it was dead. We checked the falls trail and it was empty too. When we got back up to the parking, there was a car with two ladies and a man. They said they had driven up the road to get cell service to call in the accident. They told us that when they first got there, a woman with two small children was there. They said she was obviously drunk and blamed the accident on one of the kids. They were nowhere to be found. Either they hitched a ride or were hiding in the woods. The police showed up and we moved on.

One of us may have tried to push it over the edge...

After all that, I needed a relaxing smoke. We stopped at the Tobacco Farm but it was empty.

As we approached the Duck River, we visited the Gordon House. Gordon operated a ferry on the river here. The house was built in 1817.

Nearing the end of Trace was the Double Arch Bridge over Birdsong Hollow and Highway 96. Completed in 1994, it is 1648’ long and 155’ above the valley.

At the north end of The Trace was the world-famous Loveless Café and some good fried chicken. Better than the Country Store and they had motorcycle only parking.

We spent the night in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. 199 miles for the day.


Now that we were done with The Trace, we headed for Kentucky.

The Sanford Duncan Inn, Franklin, Kentucky. Built in 1819 as a stagecoach house.

My first Rock City barn. I had seen pictures but never one in person.

We rode on to Cave City, Kentucky. I had a surprise for Lisa – we were staying the night in a teepee!

It was old and worn out but it still had that novelty factor to it.

After we checked in, we visited Mammoth Cave National Park. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I was in grade school and wrote a report about the state of Kentucky. At age 60, I finally made it.

We were the last tour of the day and it showed. They hustled us through there as quickly as they could. A few of the older people had to sit down and catch their breath. Hell, it wore me out too.

149 miles for the day.


We started the day by riding around the park. We stopped at a couple old country churches. They are some of the few remaining structures that were there when the government bought out the area for the park. All the others were torn down or moved.

The Lord told me to take the money to help pay for my bogus speeding ticket.

I knew there was a couple ferries in the park so we thought we would take a ride on one. We rode down to the crossing but no one was there other than a lady who was picking up kayakers. I asked her what was going on with the ferry and she said it was closed because the water was too low. Ironically, back home in Oklahoma, they were experiencing record rainfall and flooding.

I asked her if the other ferry was open. She said they closed it during the government shut-down a few years ago and never reopened it.

Leaving the park, we headed northwest and into Indiana.

We crossed the Ohio River into Old Shawnee Town, Illinois. The Bank of Illinois: built in 1839, closed in 1930’s.

We got to have our ferry ride after all. We crossed the Ohio River back into Kentucky on the Cave In Rock Ferry.

We rode on into Missouri and got a room in Sikeston. 364 miles for the day.


Saturday would be our ride home day. I picked Sikeston so we could have breakfast at Lambert’s, The Only Home of the Throwed Rolls. Their gimmick is that they throw hot rolls to the customers. Little did I know that they are not open for breakfast. We didn’t find a suitable alternative so we decided to ride to Poplar Bluff and have breakfast there. We happened upon another Huddle House so we ate there. It was slow, like the other one but it did have this trike outside. That’s what Lisa wants to get when we are too old to hold up our bikes.

From there we just blazed home on the interstate - tired and worn out from our longest riding vacation yet. 429 miles for the day.

Totals: nine days, nine states, 2272 miles.

P.S. Regarding the speeding tickets. Lisa mailed in a $218 check for hers. I wrote the court a letter explaining the circumstances and that I was not speeding. They sent a return letter stating something to the effect of: I could pay it through their traffic diversion program. It promotes safe driving and driver responsibility. It would be reduced to a non-moving parking violation and would not affect my driving record.

Wait for it:

“For the amount of $368.” Sure it’s about safety.

I paid it.

« Last Edit: July 30, 2019, 11:02:39 pm by jay547 » Logged

It's not the fall that hurts, it's when you hit the ground.

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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2019, 11:20:18 pm »

Great pictures as always. Quite a bit of history in your ride.

Past bikes: Dirt- '74 MX360, SC500 x 2, '77 YZ400, '78 YZ400, '83 CR250, '85 CR250, '86 CR250   
 Street- '74 S3400, H1500, '72 H2750 x 2, '78 GS1000C, GS1000EC x 2, '80 GS1000S, '00 1200 Bandit, '05 FJR1300, '07 ZX14, '16 1250 Bandit, '17 KTM SD GT
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2019, 11:21:30 pm »

Quite a bit of history in your ride.

Yep, that's what I like. I even left a bunch out.

It's not the fall that hurts, it's when you hit the ground.

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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2019, 09:45:40 am »

Excellent and historic ride report. Wonderful pictures and narrative  Thumbsup  Thumbsup

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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2019, 07:25:02 am »

But the horse seems to have been completely unimpressed  Lol

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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2019, 02:01:34 pm »

What is a Natchez trace?

Is that some type of food?


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