The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile roadway/designated bike route that travels through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. We heard about the Natchez Trace Parkway, operated by the National Park Service, from some friends who had done biking vacations on sections of the Trace. Promoted as a "bike friendly" roadway, it was on "RVentures" bucket list. Since we are in Vicksburg for the week, we decided to explore two different sections of the Trace as it was just a short drive away.
As you can see, the Trace is a nicely paved two-lane road with limited access points. Bikes and cars share the road. The first day we chose the section between Rocky Springs and Port Gibson. It was a quieter section of the Trace, but we quickly realized that the posted 50 MPH speed limit for cars and the reminders to give bikers 3 feet passing room were just "suggestions" for a number of cars that passed us. The scenery and numerous historical sites, however, made a mostly enjoyable first day ride.
The Natchez Trace is the natural travel road that dates back many centuries. Thus the Trace travels beside Indian Mounds, "sunken" sections, bayous, and other historical sites.
It does not have, however, many services for cars or bikers. To get gas, water, bathrooms or food, you have to get off at one of the limited access points and be prepared ... the cities off the Trace have very little tolerance for bikes. We had to ride on the gravel shoulder of a busy highway to get the mile into Port Gibson for lunch ... all the while dodging a lot of broken glass. Returning to the trail, we studied google maps and made our way through side streets and up a grassy hill to get back on the Trace ... being careful not to step on the gigantic hills of fire ants.
Wanting to check out the state capital, we decided a couple of days later to try out a section of the Trace near Jackson, Mississippi. We drove to the City of Clinton Visitor Center and biked to Reservoir Overlook and back. Although we are smiling in this picture, it is because we survived a "way too close call" of two impatient drivers trying to pass an oncoming car just as we were biking toward them. I have never been so thankful for my Guardian Angel ... and Doug who directed me to the shoulder as the cars whizzed past us. The Trace at this particular area seems to be acting as a "short cut" for fast, impatient drivers wanting to bypass the City of Jackson. Just after that, we were happy to get off the Trace when we found the beginning of a 10 mile bike path that took us safely to Reservoir Overlook.
We took a more cautious ride back and short drive into Jackson to check one more State Capital off my list.
Slightly disappointed, but lesson learned. In Mississippi, we will stick to biking on "friendly" roadways ... like around the Vicksburg National Military Park. Beauty, history and safety ... always the best biking combination.
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