Thursday, October 11, 2012

10-8-2012 Back home!

Miles driven---1417

Ahhh! Home sweet home. It feels so good to be back home after seven weeks of being on the go. What did we miss the most while on the road? Being able to hug our grandchildren and children, horseplay with our grandsons, our home, our own bed, our car and truck, and the simple comforts of home. Being able to relax and enjoy a morning cup of coffee, having meals prepared the way we prefer, being able to bathe in our own bathtub and shower in the privacy of our home. Being able to watch, listen, or read about local news. Our normal daily exercise of jogging and riding an elliptical.

Overall our trip went very well. We had excellent weather, with high temps in the 80’s starting out and high temps in the 70’s finishing up and of 56 days total only got rained on three times. Mechanical problems were as minimal as could be expected, one broken shifter cable and two flat tires (the same one twice, caused by the same wire puncture). The routes traveled were very good roads overall in excellent condition, however most of the roads through Missouri were narrow and winding with no shoulders and short site lines which made for potentially dangerous conditions. The 444 mile Natchez Trace Parkway is a bikers paradise. There are no trucks allowed, the speed limit is 50 MPH or less in places, no litter,  very well maintained, scenic if you like forestry, and has 50 to 75 waysides with historical markers telling of the use of the trail over centuries and of the history in the area. The Great Rivers Route takes you through a wide range of geographical and cultural conditions, from the heavily forested northern Minnesota to Wisconsin’s dairy land, to the bread basket of Iowa’s and Illinois’ corn country, to Missouri’s Ozark mountains, to Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes, to Tennessee’s woodlands and tobacco country, to Alabama’s pine plantations, to Mississippi’s forests and cotton fields, to Louisiana’s cypress swamps, bayous and antebellum mansions.  The Great Rivers included the Mississippi (crossed 6 times), the St Croix, the Wisconsin, the Cedar, the Iowa, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and probably 50 minor rivers too numerous to mention.

So, why do we do these long tours? There’s something exhilarating and exciting about riding away from all sources of security that make the tours a real adventure. Traveling by bicycle is not the dangerous endeavor many people perceive it to be. Certainly you are vulnerable when on a bicycle and you have to look out for yourself when in traffic. We try to ride as though we are invisible, no one else sees us and we have to look out for ourselves. With that in mind after touring 7600 plus miles, we have never encountered a hostile motorist or have ever felt threatened in any way. Motorists in general are quite courteous and are willing to give you a break. The general public is very supportive of our tours and we have been offered assistance  numerous times by complete strangers without asking. The people we meet when touring are one of the things that make the trips so memorable, like the man in Shelby, Montana who bought us dinner so we would have a fond memory of Shelby, like the black man in Niagara Falls, Ontario who rolled down his truck window waved and hollered out “welcome to Canada” like Ole Erickson of Page, North Dakota and Dennis Olson of Whitefish, Montana who both invited us into their homes and fed and put us up for the evening. And we do it for our biking friends with hopes that our stories and our experiences will encourage them to do the same. The bicycle touring experience renews your faith in your fellow man, people have been so good to us.

The Great Rivers Route was without a doubt the toughest of the tours we have completed. However, one host of a B&B we stayed at had suggested that touring by bike is quite similar to the birthing of a child, the experience is long and painful and when it’s over you swear you’ll never do it again, but as time goes by you forget the struggle and the pain and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll want to do it all over again! I suspect she’s at least partially correct.

We hope you have enjoyed our blog as much as we have enjoyed the comments received.

Life Is Good!

John & Kahti

Sunday, October 7, 2012

10-7-2012 (Sunday) St. Francisville, LA to Baton Rouge, LA

Miles biked today—26 miles
Ride time—2 hrs. 10 min.
Average speed—12.0 MPH


We were both anxious to finish our ride but couldn’t see any point in getting to the airport before Hertz Rental opened, so we enjoyed sleeping in until 7:30 and then a good continental breakfast at the hotel before leaving at 8:20.

To get to Baton Rouge from Natchez and then to St Francisville we decided to go off the Adventure Cycling route and follow the safest and most direct route which turned out to be state highway 61. By doing so we cut off about 30 miles. We arrived at the Baton Rouge airport about 10:45 and were able to get the rental car without any complications. Breaking down the bike went a lot smoother this time than last year in Bar Harbor. This time before leaving home I had made sure the couplers were well greased and we also made sure we had plenty of padding for loading the parts of the bike so they won’t get scratched. The breakdown of the bike and loading of the car took about 1 1/2 hours.


With that accomplished we headed out of town towards Lafayette on I10. Halfway there we stopped at the Atchafalaya Visitor Center to pick up literature on what there is to see and do in the Lafayette area. When we arrived in Lafayette we went to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and spent about 1 1/2 hours in the Acadia Culture Center.

Just before we got to the airport we ended up having to take a detour to get past the tracks.  There was a train stopped and we didn't know how long it was going to be there.  All the cars were doing u-turns and going the other way.
Later in the afternoon after driving around Lafayette a while we had an early supper at Shoney’s before checking into the hotel for the evening and watching some football. 


Saturday, October 6, 2012

10-6-2012 Natchez, MS to St Francisville, LA

Miles biked today – 62
Ride time – 4 hrs. 56 minutes
Average speed - 12.5 MPH (Nice tailwind today)

We have pedaled 1,942 miles from home since August 28th, 2012 and between our trip this summer from International Falls to Wisconsin and then from Wisconsin to Baton Rouge we have bicycled 2,402 miles and only have 26 miles to go to get to the Baton Rouge airport and complete this journey.

This is "Kudzu" which is a plant that was imported from Japan!

Kudzu was introduced to the U.S. in 1976 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, PA.  Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country.  The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes.                                                                                                             

We left the Comfort Suites in Vidalia, LA at 7:20 this morning and  bicycled back over the Mississippi River to the state of Mississippi to get on Hwy 61 where we bicycled approx. 46 miles before we crossed back into Louisiana.  On our way to St. Francisville we stopped at a Sonic Restaurant for a sandwich before we finished our 62 mile ride today.  We had a beautiful tailwind the entire way, cooler temperatures, and gradual rolling hills which made for a very enjoyable ride.


We bicycled passed a cotton field today that had large round bales of cotton in the fields.  They are baled just like hay is baled back home.

Bales of cotton in the cotton field along Hwy 61!

We arrived at our hotel around 1:30 and got cleaned up and then went for a walk. We were told that there was a BBQ cook off and live music at the park so we walked down there and spent a couple of hours there.

It’s been a long, long ride and it’s good to be able to see light at the end of the tunnel. We are both in the “gitter done” mode and are looking forward to heading home to see family and friends again.

Our plan is to get up tomorrow morning and bicycle the last 26 miles to the Baton Rouge airport where we will pick up our rental car. From there on we will be on four wheels and will spend a little time checking out Baton Rouge and Lafayette before heading for home.
It won’t be long now!

Friday, October 5, 2012

10-5-2012 Day in Natchez with Dana and Bill Brown and Paul and Jane


Today is the first time since we left home that we did not ride our bicycle at all.  Yesterday we put it in our hotel room and it hasn’t moved since.  It seemed a little strange but yet was nice to be able to travel around Natchez without having to pedal.

I was up early this morning because someone had requested a 5:55 wake up call for our room.  It wasn’t us so I am not sure if it was the person who had stayed in our room the night before or if the front desk just messed up.  Anyway, once I was awake it was impossible to get back to sleep.  About 6:30 I finally gave up and got up and used the hotels washer and dryer and got two loads of clothes washed and dried so we are ready to go tomorrow morning.

We had a very nice breakfast at the hotel and then about 9:00AM John and I walked down the river walk along the Mississippi about 1-1/2 miles to where Dana and Bill are camping with Paul and Jane.  The six of us  left about 10:30 in Bill and Dana’s vehicle and went and toured the Stanton Hall which was built in 1857.  It is the home of a wealthy planter and cotton broker named Frederick Stanton.  It was really a beautiful home and afterwards we went to the Carriage House restaurant for lunch where there specialty is southern fried chicken.  Everyone’s meal was delicious and we still had three more homes to tour so away we went.  We also toured the Glenfield, J.N. Stone house, and Green Leaves. Some of the homes we were not allowed to take pictures inside.  Each one was very interesting and beautifully furnished with amazing historical backgrounds.


Southern Bell of Glenfield - she had a wonderful sense of humor!
Beautiful old live oak tree in the back of Green Leaves!

Following is a few of the dishes that the group had at the Carriage House Restaurant!


Around 5:00PM we went and had a carriage ride through Natchez with a gorgeous Belgium horse and a very informative and nice guide.  It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in shorts and short sleeved shirts. 


Afterwards we went to the “Pig Out” restaurant where everyone had something to eat before they dropped John and I off at the hotel.  We said our goodbyes and will head out tomorrow morning for St. Francisville, LA where we will spend Saturday evening.  It is approx. 62 miles from Natchez.  Then on Sunday we will bicycle the final 21 miles to the Baton Rouge airport to pick up our rental car.

Bill, Dana, John, Paul & Jane at "Pig Out"
We would just like to thank Bill, Dana, Paul, and Jane for a wonderful day and half together in Natchez.  We enjoyed seeing the area, touring the beautiful antebellum homes, the carriage ride, but most of all spending good time with good people.   Travel safely home and we’ll talk soon.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10-4-2012 (Thursday) Port Gibson to Natchez, MS

Miles bicycled today – 48 miles
Ride time 4 hours 26 minutes
10.9 MPH

Getting ready to leave Port Gibson, MS on Thursday morning!

We didn’t leave Port Gibson until 8:30AM this morning as we only had 48 miles to bicycle to Natchez which is the end of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  It was a pretty uneventful bicycle ride and we were anxious to get to Natchez to meet up with Bill & Dana Brown and their friends, Phil and Jane.

On our way we stopped at Mount Locust Inn which was constructed in 1780 and is one of the oldest structures in Mississippi.  It functioned as both a working plantation and as an Inn where travelers on the Natchez Trace could rest for the night.  Mount Locust Inn is the only surviving Inn of the more than 50 that existed during the period of greatest use of the Old Natchez Trace.  It was very interesting.


As we were leaving Mount Locust Dana called and we agreed to meet them at milepost 0 in Natchez.  We still had 15 miles to bicycle to get there but it was a pretty easy ride and didn’t take that long.  After meeting them we all bicycled to the Visitor center and bought tickets for a carriage ride and also tickets to tour some of the old plantation homes tomorrow in Natchez.



From the Visitor Center we ended up having to cross the Mississippi River and bicycle into Vidalia, LA which is where the four of them are staying in a RV park tonight.  John and I ended up getting a hotel room at Comfort Suites about a mile or so from the RV Park.  We got cleaned up and then around 5:00PM they picked us up and we went to where there was supposed to be a carriage ride – unfortunately the horse, carriage, and owner did not show up this evening.  We’ll try again tomorrow.  We were all getting hungry so we went to Magnolia Grill for dinner and enjoyed good food and good company. 


Bill got a little bit too close to the shrubs with the bicycle rack on the back!

Tomorrow they will pick us up around 10:00AM and I am sure we will have a busy fun day!