Day 23 - Rocky Springs, Mississippi

So let me describe a typical day. I get up when I get up. Usually this is in the middle of the night, so I look at my watch and go back to sleep. Today, one of the times I woke up, it was 5:00, which is about time to start the day. I pulled my shorts and t-shirt and socks I'm gonna wear today, and my fleece pullover top and pants into the super-toasty sleeping bag to warm them up. Fifteen minutes later I got dressed, and walked over to the campground bathroom. I'm wearing three layers: shorts and t-shirt, fleece pullovers and pants, and GoreTex shell. It is still pitch dark, and about 50 degrees out.

I take the panniers out of the tent using my 5-LED bike light as a flashlight. It is just getting light out. I assemble the panniers, roll up the Thermarest pad, and start disassembling the tent. I take yesterday's riding clothes off the clothesline (I rinse my riding clothes out nightly, and do wash every 10 days or so), and hang the tent rainfly on it to dry. By this time is is light enough to see.

I have a light breakfast of a banana and a maple granola bar. I pack the tent, and hang the tent and panniers on the bike. I make a special effort to remember yesterday's riding clothes, which I tuck under the pannier straps so they finish drying. I put on my helmet, put my mocassins in the outside pocket of the right rear pannier, put on my bike shoes, reset my trip computer, start my heart rate monitor, turn on Allen's cell phone and start the GPS applet, and take off. I'm wearing two layers: the fleece and the shorts and T-shirt. It's now 6:45, and the sun has just come up.

The road is flat and smooth and I'm making great time. After about 10 miles, I'm alongside a big reservior, with the water to my left. This goes on for another 15 miles. By about 8:00, the sun is up, the light morning fog and dew has burned off, and I shed the fleece layer. I tuck the fleece under the pannier straps, inside out so the sweat dries. It's about 60 degrees out, and I'm a bit past 15 miles down the road.

By 8:45, I'm at the Mississippi Craft Center, which is an information center, and where I have to get off the Parkway and go into Jackson. The Natchez Trace Parkway is still under construction for about 20 miles by Jackson, and there are handouts at the information centers with the bike detour.

I go in the information center and have the nice lady help me find Wi-Fi hot spots. She has no idea what I'm talking about, of course. I call up my voice mail on my cell phone, and get the message from my wife telling me where there are hot spots in Jackson. Two locations of Cups Coffee shop and a bakery. The information center lady calls the Cups place for me, we determine they are open and they do in fact have Wi-Fi, but they are about 5 miles off my route. Same deal with the bakery place. She looks in the phone book and finds there is another Cups only a mile away. We call them, and there is no answer.

I decide to ride to the Cups that did not answer, and if I have no luck there, to go to the one I know is open that is out of the way. I ride through a residential neighborhood to Strip Mall Hell, which is County Line Road. I turn west, because I am an optimist, and I am heading west. I come to a Barnes and Noble. I go in, determine that they are not a Wi-Fi hotspot, but I finished my book last night, so I buy a couple more. (The last book, which I purchased at Krogers outside of Nashville, was called "Drowning Ruth". It was pretty good. It took place in Wisconsin, usually in the frigid dead of winter, which was not great for riding in the cold, but it was a good book. I forget who wrote it. Some woman. All the male characters were dolts.)

A couple blocks after the book store, there it was - a Starbucks! Right next to a T-Mobile Store! (T-Mobile is the ISP that does WiFi for Starbucks) I go in, all excited. I ask "Do you guys do internet access?" The girl behind the counter says "No.".

I ask "Do you know of any other places that do internet access?" The girl says "We are the only Starbucks in Mississippi."

One of the customers says "Go to the Hilton. They have Wi-Fi." He points out the Hilton, a 12 story building, through the window.

I ride over to the Hilton. I ask the lady at the desk if I can sit in the lobby and connect my laptop to the Internet. She says sure, no problem.

I sit in the fancy lobby, as business people and convention goers mingle about me, wearing my grubby, sweaty riding clothes, and connect to the Internet. Astonishingly, it is absolutely free and wide open to the public! I connect for a good hour. I update the web site, read all my e-mail, look up the phone numbers of people I want to call in Austin, check the weather, and see if there is a camping supply store on my way out of Jackson. (There is, in the town of Clinton.)

When I'm done with all this, it is 10:45, and I've covered 30 miles out of the 70+ I expect to do today. I set out on County Line Road, happy about my accomplishments so far today (books, web site update, 30 miles), but in dire need of food. Everything around me is fast food. I pass it by. After about 3 miles, I meet up with the official detour route. Then there is nothing. I'm on industrial back roads for 10 miles.

I finally get to the town of Clinton, which is the home of Mississippi College, which is run by Baptists. (Will I never get beer?) I ride around Clinton looking for the camping outfitter store. I call them up, and get a machine, so I give up on the camping store. It's still all fast food, but I'm dying of hunger, so I break down and try Back Yard Burgers. I've been noticing these ever since Knoxville. They are fast food, but they serve very high quality hamburgers. Very tasty, except they only serve the burgers well done. They refused to make me one medium rare.

After lunch, I've covered 40 miles and it's 12:45. I calculate from the maps that I have 5 more miles of detour, and then 30 miles of parkway to the campground for tonight. The road is flat and smooth, and the miles fly by. It's sunny and about 85 degrees out. I roll into camp at 3:45. I have 90 minutes of daylight left.

I gather some wood for a cooking fire. I set up the tent. I cook some Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice. They have grills for cooking as well as fire pits. While dinner's cooking, I do my web page updates, saving writing this until last.

Night falls, as I write and eat. I get a vistor. This guy, who is about my age, rides up on a moped, wearing a bathrobe. The moped has a milk carton bungeed on the back. In the milk carton is an obese Sheltie. The guy has a little 3-LED light strapped to his forehead so he can see.

His name is Dan Norman. He's been living in his RV for six years. "It's all paid for. My expenses are only $1000/year." He says this every five minutes. He's drunk as hell.

Dan has a couple rules for living.

1. I learned how to be happy: Just don't want so much. The more you want the more you have to worry about.
2. There are only two reasons that make life worth living. One is love, the other is adventure. Without love you have loneliness, and without adventure, you have boredom. A man can be lonely, as long as he's not bored, and a man can be bored as long as he's not lonely. But to be both lonely and bored, that's solitary confinement.

Dan opted for adventure, and he has a dog. He also has a lot of bourbon, by the smell of him.

Dan and I shoot the breeze for about an hour while I finish dinner and do the dishes. It is now 7:00. As soon as I wrap this up, I'm going to take a sponge bath in the campground restroom, and read for an hour or so until I fall asleep.

So that is my detailed description of a day on the bike in 2003. I was bad about taking pictures again today, because the road rarely changed. But it was another beautiful day, and the miles flew by.

Here is the actual route travelled.

Actual23 (121K)