WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.13 - Natchez, Mississippi
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000 22:00:12 -0700

    Rollin. Rollin.
    Big wheels keep on turnin.
    Rollin by the rivvvver.

    (Aside: doesn't Tina Turner have great legs! She is as old as my grandmother and I ain't no spring chicken myself, but she can still pump a leg-man's dreams.)

    Some days there just isn't anything to write about. I may be jaded by the sameness of the roads between the Appalachians and the Rockies. Now that the spring foliage is filling in, the green curtain has descended along the roadside and there is little to see. Apparently a "scenic" road in the East is one with trees on *both* sides, because there is not much else visible.
    Once the coiled anxiety of the West Virginia terrain gave way to the serene valleys and pastures of  Tennessee, the states began to meld into a common element. There are about 1,500 miles between me and the next event - dinner in Kingsville, Texas, and making them go past is going to be a chore. Southern Tennessee, Northern Georgia, Western Alabama, Eastern Mississippi, they are all one memory - a two lane road with gentle curves and an occasional hill. The only notable exception is the Lookout Mountain area of Georgia. One significant ridge about 1,000 feet high. Ten miles of moderate climb and it is over. Next up is getting the bike serviced.
    Dixie Sports just happened to fall on the straight line path I drew across Alabama, so I called for an appointment. The nice folks there said sure they'd be able to fit me in. Yes, they could work on my K bike. Seems they 'forgot' to tell me one little detail, though. They are no longer an authorized BMW facility even though they are still listed in the BMW dealer locator. Good thing I didn't need warranty work, but no matter. Rik, the mechanic, is trained in the secret BMW handshake, and I have to say he really puts the 'good' in the image of good ole boy. Watching someone work who knows what he is doing and likes doing it is a pleasure in itself, to say nothing of the homespun country humor he keeps throwing at you as he works. Anthony and Brian didn't have a lot to do late in the afternoon when I arrived ... so just to fill time they washed and quick waxed my bike. Anthony is the owner, and Brian is the salesman. How's that for service?
    The nicest benefit of Dixie Sports to make up for them being north east south and west of nowhere is their bunk house which is always open to motorcyclists (whether or not you get service). It is a room at the end of the building with several bunks, a bath and shower, kitchen facility, and cable TV. It was better and cleaner than some of the motels I've stayed in and it is free! Just help yourself even after hours, they leave it unlocked.

    Asking Street Atlas for the shortest diagonal across Mississippi yielded several segments of the Natchez Trace. Oh gawd no. Feel your wrist. If you have a pulse, avoid the Trace. It ranks in contention for the most boring road in America. But just to prove my opinion again, I rode it. That effort lasted all of 15 miles before I was screaming to get off. Think of a driveway. 300 miles long. Nothing to see, 'cept the trees on both sides. Not a hill the entire length. One curve precisely every 2.647 miles and curves so gentle you could steer your RV with your knees ... which apparently is what it is designed for. Speed limit is 50 mph, and heavily patrolled. Anyone who claims to have ridden the length of this purgatory has a skill I never hope to achieve - being able to completely switch off their brain.

    Going south and west in Mississippi is to go back in time. The towns become post card models of tree lined court house squares. The stately patrician mansions still sparkle white, huddled under shade of giant sycamores. Some plantations are historical preserves, and some are still working. Shanty towns housing field workers still exist on smaller two lane backroads. The Old South slumbers on.
    At last again I come to the Great River Road, which is indeed near the river but after 40 miles I still haven't seen a glimpse of water. Eventually Natchez comes to crouch on the banks, giving one of the only two non-Interstate bridges to Louisiana across the big river north of New Orleans. The eastern portion of my trip is done.

304 miles
Knoxville TN168 TN33 US411 GA2 GA193 GA136 GA301/AL75
US431 AL69 AL157 US31 cr1343 North Vinemont

382 miles
Vinemont AL157 I65 AL69 AL124 AL102 US43 AL18 AL96/MS50
US82 MS12 Natchez Trace MS429 MS43 MS16 MS22 I55 I220
I20 MS18 US61 Natchez
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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