Road Trip--The Natchez Trace Parkway

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Cholo

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I got back late yesterday afternoon. The Shawshank tour was from 4 weeks ago.


I've ridden the Natchez Trace Parkway, aka The Trace, from the north end to Natchez, MS with a friend in '08. I've ridden sections of it many times over the years. It follows the old Indian trail with a rich history. The entire 444 mile roadway is run by the Department of the Interior meaning it's pretty much a National Park road like The Blue Ridge Parkway. You'll see no commercial signs and there's very limited access. No commercial vehicles, either. Just 444 miles of serene blacktop meandering thru the beautiful countryside. Nope, no snow capped mountains, no cascading waterfalls, and no fish jumping out of mountain lakes with halos. Just completely uncluttered southern beauty pretty much void of people.

Also, you can never see more than a few hundred yards in any direction except up. It's woods and fields, along with some crops. This is a place where I don't have a care in the world, but I never do while on a motorcycle. There were absolutely no politics or negative thoughts. There's no such thing as growing older when on a bike, either. I feel just like I did when I was 21, that is until I climb off and...my knees 😭

I just thought about this: The Trace is the only uninterrupted roads of it's length in the entire USA. You have to leave the roadway for literally everything including lodging, gas, eats, everything. It's just road that keep on going for 444 miles! I checked and The Blue Ridge Parkway does have some places to stay and dine. That just leaves The Trace.

The Trace is not for everyone. It's exactly the kind of riding I love to do. The Blue Ridge Parkway is gorgeous, but the hoards of people who flock to it are some of the most obnoxious vermin on the planet. I pretty much have The Trace to myself. Except around Jackson, MS the speed limit is 50mph. I can't imagine wanting to go faster.

I love October riding in the South and it was gorgeous! When I left it was 50* which is a little cool for me because I don't have all the heated gear crap so many bundle themselves up in. I have a leather jacket and warm leather gloves. I have some fingerless gloved for when it warms up. The temps this trip went from a low of 50* to a high of about 88* in Natchez, MS. Most mornings were about 60*. Even at 88* the humidity was at least 25 points less than in the summer.

I don't "do" interstates. I got on The Trace from Hwy. 72 just past Cherokee, AL. It's mile marker 320 of the 444 mile road which ends at 0 in Natchez, MS. The black bag on the seat behind me is empty. I brought it only to stuff my jacket into when it got above 80*. Oh, it was also good for hauling takeout grub back to the hotel.

I really wanted to do it again from the very start just south of Nashville, but didn't want anything to do with the Nashville misery when it comes to traffic. If I had it to do over again...

Entering The Trace. While taking the pic a family stopped and asked me if I wanted to have my pic taken by the sign. I didn't, but it was a nice gesture. A couple on a bike asked me if I was having trouble. Fine people around here.

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I didn't take many pics on this trip. I take these road trips to enjoy the ride. I'm not enjoying the ride if I keep stopping.

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The Pharr Mounds. www.nps.gov/places/pharr-mounds.htm

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I pulled into one of the small rest areas along the road to lose the morning's 6 cups of coffee. There were a few horse trailers in a spot made for them. 3 nice looking women were walking towards the black Jeep I pulled in next to. I said: Let me guess. You're here to ride horses LOL. No, we are actually a support vehicle for someone riding a bicycle. Huh? We exchanged pleasantries and they waved and drove off.

Anyway, these ladies were great! :) About 10 miles down the road I came up to their black Jeep riding really slow behind this guy on the bicycle. They saw me coming and they're all waving at me and yelling. 6 arms just waving away! I'm telling you--they made my day! 3 women less than half my age flirting with me. To top it all off? This is what I looked like passing them :ROFLMAO: (I wasn't planning on posting this pic, but WTH) LOL

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I should have stopped them and gotten some pics of us all together. They'd have been fine with that. I love meeting these kinds of folks on the road.

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Here's what many of the exits look like:

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Anyway, the rest of the trip was uneventful. The weather was absolutely perfect, blue skies and not a drop of rain!

I was going to visit the Lynyrd Skynyrd memorial at the plane crash site in MS. I've seen pics of it and it looks a bit gawdy. I was close, but I'll do it some other time. I went due east across southern MS and AL then back up to NW, GA.

I didn't have a single close call on the bike, not one. Well, I did have a cop pull out in front of me in a little Nowheresville, AL town. I'd rather he did that than pull in behind me LOL It wasn't dangerous, but if someone would have done it to him they'd have gotten a ticket. I didn't see all that many people, either, except for where I bunked for the night. All the crowds are on The Blue Ridge Parkway right now peeping at leaves. I'd have been miserable.
 
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Awesome write up. I'm not sure if I've crossed Natchez Trace or have just seen signs for it.

Does it have scenic pull offs like the Blue Ridge Parkway? I did take that for about 15 miles after I left Contenders. You said you have to leave the Parkway for everything, so I assume there are exits at different towns along the way? So then it doesn't go through any town? Interesting.

I'm on my phone right now. But next time I turn on the computer with the large monitor I'll have to see the whole route at once.

Is it part of the National Park Service?

As an aside, you know the Great Smoky Mountains now charges a $5 fee per day if you plan on stopping for more than 15 minutes at one of the pull offs inside the park.

I wonder if they want to do this for the Natchez Trace? Or Blue Ridge? I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, sounds like it was a great trip!
 

edm1

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I grew up traveling on the trace. Did bike rides on it for Boy Scouts and took it back and forth to college. Beautiful road. Lots of nice pull offs if you want and no big rigs. Lots of wildlife also. I punted a raccoon on it at midnight once… and you see lots of deer. It's nice to have roads to travel that aren't all gunked up with signs and stores.
 

Cholo

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Awesome write up. I'm not sure if I've crossed Natchez Trace or have just seen signs for it.

Does it have scenic pull offs like the Blue Ridge Parkway? I did take that for about 15 miles after I left Contenders. You said you have to leave the Parkway for everything, so I assume there are exits at different towns along the way? So then it doesn't go through any town? Interesting.

I'm on my phone right now. But next time I turn on the computer with the large monitor I'll have to see the whole route at once.

Is it part of the National Park Service?

As an aside, you know the Great Smoky Mountains now charges a $5 fee per day if you plan on stopping for more than 15 minutes at one of the pull offs inside the park.

I wonder if they want to do this for the Natchez Trace? Or Blue Ridge? I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, sounds like it was a great trip!
It has plenty of pull offs, but I don't recall them being called scenic. It's all scenic, but it all stays the same in a way.

Yes, it's part of the National Park Service.

It doesn't go thru any towns, but when you cross highways and interstates you see what everyone else sees for an instant.

The bridges crossing The Trace all look the same, like the BRP. The people traveling under The Trace see the bridges all the same. There is an exception in TN, but I wasn't that far north this time.

If you've cut across MS you've likely crossed over or under The Trace.

I wouldn't recommend anyone take a vacation for this drive. Most people would want different scenery after about 20 miles. I loved it! :)

I might even go back in my car in January. This way I can see all the Confederate gravesites and other points of interest. It's a lot easier to get out of a car than it is to get off a motorcycle with gloves, jacket, helmet, bad knees etc. and so on LOL
 
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The Natchez Trace is awesome. We only traveled a part of it years ago, but what a drive. Natchez itself is a very interesting place. Would encourage anyone interested to make the trip. Only place in the South I felt discriminated against, tho. We went to one of the casino boats there and were definitely not appreciated.
 
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I had to take a trip up to the north east corner of Mississippi and got on the trace in Natches. I didn't know that it was a slow speed limit scenic byway at the time. Honestly, even the beautiful scenery couldn't make up for the slow pace I had to drive. I was needing to get to my destinations due to my father-in-law's health problems, and the trace just about drove me crazy after about three hours. I'll agree that it's a beautiful drive but you got to want to take your time not and be in a hurry and be patient which I guess I'm just short of these days.
 
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Great Adventure Cholo. A few years ago we drove from Vicksburg/Jackson to Natchez with the Jeep on the Trace. Then back to Vicksburg, on the highway, where we had left the motorhome. A great drive for sure. Did you stop to see any of the original Trace? The place we explored was about 6'-8' lower than the surrounding area due to all of the Boatmen travelling back North.
A lot of history goes with the Trace.
Great pictures and story as always.
 

ProfessorWes

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I've driven the Trace from Tupelo to Jackson and back. Pretty drive. This was back in the mid-nineties.

Actually got pulled over by one of the park rangers who told me that "Yeah, you were doing fifty-three in a fifty zone, but I really pulled you over because you have Missouri plates. I'm from Springfield." Spent a pleasant fifteen minutes on the side of the road shooting the breeze with the Smokey.
 

Cholo

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I've probably ridden my bike 1,200+ miles of the 444 mile Trace over the last 15 years and have never seen a cop. You just got "lucky" LOL Glad you got let off. Blue lights suck, though.
 

Cholo

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...the Avenue of the Giants.
I visited the Redwoods in '18 on a different bike. In '19 I went back in my van to explore a lot more. Avenue of the Giants was amazing, just gorgeous! I didn't hike too far from the road because it's so easy to get lost in there.

The pics below show way more light than there really if because the cell phone gathers too much light. It's actually relatively dark in the Redwood forests.

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Another must see, of dozens in NoCal, is Cal-Barrel Rd. in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Void of people when I went just after daybreak and absolutely gorgeous!

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