Thursday, October 29, 2009

Southern Charm

Genteel southern folk have a wonderful way of gossiping. They never really say anything bad about somebody, and if they do say something that might just come out bad, they'll tack on a "Bless his/her heart" at the end of it.

For example: "She means well, and I don't think that she really meant to murder and eat her own children, but those diet pills just set her off something fierce. Bless her heart."

I think that this is a natural outgrowth of the way we were raised. My momma always told me that if I can't say something nice about someone, to say nothing at all. But there are some people and things that you just really can't find a whole heck of a lot nice to say, and when you gotta say something ... like when you're writing a blog about a trip ... you really have to work hard to avoid damning some place with faint praise.

Bless its heart.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

RandoGirl and I absolutely loved the Fairview Inn. Yes, it was a pain to get there in downtown Jackson rush hour traffic, but it was so worth it. She didn't mention this yesterday, but they went ahead and upgraded our room, at no additional charge. It's possible that they learned that I was really RandoBoy -- named one of the top 100 ultra-distance bicycling blogs in Middle Tennessee (by me). This is the price of celebrity.

We slept great, although I did awaken a couple of times to hear the heavy rain and thunder. When morning came, it looked wet outside, but did not seem to be actively raining. Nonetheless, we enjoyed an excellent breakfast, talking with a fellow in town for business. He works for a short-line railroad, and I have always found railroads fascinating (even if I don't have any business around them).

We finally left about 10:30 am under ominous skies, taking a circuitous route out of town. Eventually, we were on Hwy 18. The speed limit was 65 on this four-lane road, but the shoulder was pretty good. We actually didn't even need the shoulder for most of this stretch, however, as the traffic was light enough (and people were kind enough) to go over and give us the right lane.

As we neared the Trace, the sun started peeping thru. The wind had been pushing us west out of town, and it also broke up the clouds. By the time we stopped for lunch at a Sonic's in Raymond, MS, we decided to also put on sunscreen.

After lunch, we went thru downtown Raymond, then continued west another two miles to hit the Trace. At this point the wind turned weird. At times, it would get behind us and we would be cruising uphill at 20+ mph. Then we would come out of the trees and it would clock around 180 degrees to smack us in the face, leaving us to strain to stay above 15 mph on level ground.

We also noticed two other things that we had never seen on the Trace before here. One was that the mile markers were now only double-digits -- the first one we saw was for MM 78. Another thing we started seeing was one of the true harbingers of the deep south: Spanish moss.

Nothing says humidity like spanish moss. It's also great for telling which way the wind is blowing.

Around mile marker 55 we took a break at Rocky Springs State Park. This is when we decided that it was actually not going to rain on us today, and RandoGirl could take off her jacket. We left the covers on the panniers, however, just in case.

A little bit south we passed another milestone:

Yes, that's mile marker 50. When you realize that you only have 50 miles left in a trip, it makes you a little sad and a little antsy. Part of you really wants to go ahead and finish up those last 50 miles -- I mean, c'mon ... it's just 50 miles! But part of you wants to relish the last part of your vacation, slow down, and smell the spanish moss.

By the way, don't smell the spanish moss. It doesn't really have a smell, and it's full of redbugs.

Instead, we slowed down a bit and took pictures of hay rolled up in the fields.

This is not something that is rare on the Trace. You can see fields just like this in Nashville, Collinwood, Florence, Tupelo ... you name it. You also see fields like this, because this is the land of cotton (where old times they are not forgotten):

Next thing we knew, we were getting off the Trace for Port Gibson. We were staying at the Oak Square Plantation Bed and Breakfast.

Twin beds mean that RandoGirl can get her Zzz's when I sleep-spin. This is an unpleasant habit I have on multi-day rides of pedaling a bicycle in my sleep.

Unfortunately, our room was not quite ready for us when we got in. Since we were hungry and thirsty again, we went into downtown to get an early dinner. This proved tricky, since everyone kept telling us there was no restaurant in town. Fortunately, RandoGirl saw this visitor kiosk:

This is where my southern gentility kicks in.

The kiosk pointed us towards the pizza place in town. The pizza was hot, and we could afford it. They had chairs to sit in, and tables. By not wasting money on decor, comfortable chairs, and good tables, they would be able to focus on their core business model, and will hopefully eventually be able to learn how to make good pizza.

After, we went to the real hot spot in town -- Piggly Wiggly. I got a few Diet Cokes, a pint of ice cream, some chips, and some candy bars for tomorrow. As Piggly Wiggly's go, it was one. By not wasting shelf space with lots of strange groceries that people might not want, they were able to focus on core staples ... like Diet Cokes, ice cream, chips, and candy bars. And the cashier did a great job passing my items over the bar code reader, taking my money, and giving me change.

Bless Port Gibson's heart.