I am on the Natchez Trace Parkway, at Meriwether Lewis National Monument. This is where Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition fame, met his end. He was travelling along the Natchez Trace to Philadelphia to present the story of his journey.
I've been fascinated by Meriwether Lewis since my last bike ride. I followed the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition for much of the way. I read Stephen Ambrose's biography of Meriwether Lewis as I rode. This was a great experience. Lewis completed an amazing expedition, and was one of the most famous people in America, a great hero, given a plum job as governor of the Missouri territory, and then he just... imploded? He never succeeded at anything again, and never organized and presented all the terrific scientific information he had gathered. He died at age 35, here. The circumstances are mysterious. Ambrose suggests it may have been suicide, and suspects that he suffered from bipolar disorder. Lewis was definitely a Generation X kind of guy.
The Natchez trace is really cool. There is the parkway, which is a two lane road like the Blue Ridge Parkway, for scenic drives, with no services, and widely separated campgrounds with no showers. The original Natchez Trace was the first federal road to the southwest. It was built in 1801, and it ran from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. It went through Indian territory, and the government got a treaty to build the road. In places, the parkway crosses the original trace and there are signs pointing this out. Here is a shot of a section of the original trace, from near Meriwether Lewis' grave.
The way this worked was the settlers in Kentucky and Tennessee would haul their produce on boats down the Mississippi to New Orleans to sell. Since there was no way to get the boats back up the river, they would sell the boats for the wood and return overland on the Natchez Trace. This went on until 1820, when the first steamboat sailed upstream from Natchez.
I had a really great day of riding today. I left Bellevue at the crack of dawn, and loaded up on supplies at the Kroger on the way out. I'm just going to cook for myself until Tupelo, which is the day after tomorrow. When I left, it was about 40 degrees out. You can see the frost on the ground in this picture at the start of the Trace.
There were a lot of hills at the start. This part of Tennessee is pretty rough. Nothing tall, but there are lots of ravines and gorges. It was about 50 most of the day. About 10, the wind picked up, the sky became overcast, and there was occasional very light rain for the rest of the day. I ate from the snack bag, and got into the campground at 2:00. I cooked myself some tasty Zatarain's Black Beans and Rice for dinner, and now I'm happily sitting next to the fire.
I'm very proud of my fire. It's quite a construction. All the wood is wet from the rain. The fire is in layers, with the top layers consisting of wet wood that is drying out. I have a supply of dry sticks now for tomorrow morning. Of course, there is no firewood for sale here. They don't even bother charging you for the camp site. It's all free. There's no electricity either. I can go five days on the laptop between charges, but Allen's cell phone has to be recharged every two days. I'll see what I can do about that. I am not optimistic.
Here is the actual route for today. For the first time in nearly a week, I am stopped somewhere on my original plan. I am one day ahead of the plan.