My plan was to be on the road by 10:00 Saturday morning. My ultimate goal was to see and photograph the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge. I had passed beneath it once before, travelling from Nashville to Memphis, and was fascinated with it. Remember thinking it looked like something out of the video game Halo.
I awoke around 8:45 after a peaceful night's sleep at the Belmont, showered and went into the dining room for breakfast. Had a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, and a couple bites of a honey bun. Loaded up the car. Said goodbye to the innkeeper. Took a picture of the outside of the hotel. And was on the road shortly after 10:00.
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town at a BP station. There was no pay at the pump option. The gas pumps didn't have credit card machines in them, so you had to go inside to pay. That only added to the slower pace, the old-fashionedness--and yes, the quaintness--of the town.
About fifteen minutes down the road, I realized from the map that while I was on the right highway, I was going the wrong way. So I had to backtrack. All the while I was listening to a local AM radio station.
At 10:25, the announcer came on to read the day's local birthdays and anniversaries. Then he announced the winner of the daily birthday drawing. Then proceeded to announce each winner of the drawing for the past week, going all the way back to the previous Sunday. Finally, he said, "Tune in at the bottom of every hour for the birthdays and anniversaries." They read the birthdays off every hour?
That was followed by a rather lenghty live community calendar. Which was followed by a pre-recorded ad that said, "Tune in for the funeral announcements three times a day." Throw in a few commercials, and it was 10:39 by the time they played another song. It was like I was driving around in my Model A Ford waiting for FDR's fireside chat to come on.
It was nearly 11:00 by the time I got to the Trace. End to end, the Trace is 444 miles long. It's almost entirely two lanes and the speed limit is 50 the whole way. There are no stop signs or traffic lights. No stores or commercialization. Mostly just trees and fields on either side of the road and signs that say "Historical Site 0.5 miles." The bridge is located around milepost 438. I entered the Trace around milepost 302. So I had about 140 miles of driving ahead of me.
One of my first stops was Colbert Ferry. The story here was a man who operated a Ferry along the Trace across the Tennessee River. And that he once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his army across. I encountered a lady and little girl walking a puppy here. As I approached the puppy started barking. I spoke.
"I was gonna say what a cute puppy, but now I'm not so sure."
"She acts mean, but she's all talk," the lady replied.
The puppy then proceeded to walk around and in between my feet, pulling on her leash. Looked like a Spaniel. It was cute. All the while the little girl was saying, "She is cute. She is cute."
"She sure is. And so are you," I said, as I walked back to my car.
There was a hike there, but I didn't take it. The next place I remember stopping was Rock Spring. I did take a 20-minute hike along a trail there. And took some pictures. I was nervous at first about leaving my vehicle and walking off into the woods by myself. But soon got used to it.
There wasn't much traffic along the Trace. There were a few cyclists. But the most common site was bikers. Mostly riding alone or in pairs. Rarely would a car come up behind me. Maybe three or four times the whole trip. It was nice to drive along at 50 miles an hour and not be in a hurry or feel like I was going too slow.
Three different times I had to slow down, almost to a stop, to let what I believe were wild turkeys cross the road. One of the times there was a mother with her young. She made sure all the young crossed first, then she followed. It was beautiful!
Still, at this pace, it soon became evident that I was going to have to be selective with my stops. One stop that I wish I hadn't skipped was the Meriweather Lewis Site. Which has a monument to the explorer of Lewis & Clark fame. He died along the Trace, of gunshot wounds, while travelling from Louisiana to Washington, D.C.
I wanted to stop at places where there were hiking trails, but the maps weren't always clear on that. I also tried to stop at any place with Falls in its name. Two such places were Fall Hollow and Jackson Falls. Both had fairly steep trails.
I got off the Trace sometime around 3:00 and drove into Columbia, Tennessee, to get lunch. Brought the food back to Jackson Falls and ate at a picnic table there. Then I hiked down to the bottom of the falls. The hike at Jackson Falls was the longest and most intense that I went on that day. I was a bit disappointed as there wasn't much water coming down. I got much better pictures at Fall Hollow earlier in the afternoon.
The hikes were my favorite part of the whole trip. Just walking thru nature, nearly untouched by man. Hearing birds singing. Seeing all kinds of trees, plants, flowers, insects, in their natural habitat. The hikes were my favorite part.
It was probably 4:30 by the time I got back on the Trace. I don't think I stoppped again until I got to the bridge. And there it was.
Spanning more than 1600 feet across. Rising 155 feet below the valley below. It was beautiful. With its graceful arches and artful design. I remember when I was little, I was scared of bridges. Now I'm fascinated by them.
I took several pictures, both from bridge level, and then from the valley down below. And then it was time to go.
There was a Krispy Kreme in Franklin that had been calling my name for the last couple of hours. I stopped off there, and then hit the interstate home. Back to life. Back to 80 miles an hour.
But sometimes, every once in awhile, it's good to slow down.
"Don't tell me how to be. Cos I like some suffering. Don't ask me what I need. I'm just fine here finding me..."