Wednesday, Bill Glass and I did the Natchez Trace Northern Terminus 200K permanent. Mostly, we did it because we are both still sufficiently marginally employed that we could get out on a week day, but also because we had both let October almost slide away without a brevet. Since we are each working on a RUSA R-12 award right now -- which requires that you ride a brevet or permanent every month for a year -- the last day of the month seemed perfect.
It was cold at the start -- just below freezing, which is pretty uncommon for this time of year. We didn't leave the starting control, Starbuck's, until almost 7:30 since we were loathe to venture out into the chill and traffic. After just over a mile on busy Hwy 100, we got up on the Trace and soon began the first long climb there. We were feeling much less frosty when we reached the top.
The previous few days had been horribly windy, but the gusts had abated somewhat. We mostly had a crosswind as we headed south, but had to battle the breeze once we turned north on Hwy 412 towards Hohenwald.
It was about 11:30 when we reached the control, and Bill and I were ready for lunch. We went to McDonald's, and were just finishing up when a local character came by to chat with us for a while. He had apparently had throat cancer or some other malady, and to talk now he used one of those electronic devices with a straw that he stuck in his mouth. Bill and I both had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say, but you could tell that he mostly just wanted somebody new to say it to. We chatted for about 10 minutes before we finally jumped on our bikes and rolled out.
After battling the headwind for another mile, the route take TN-20 down to Meriwether Lewis State Park, which is also on the Trace. This stretch of road was purely downwind, and we easily flew along at 20 mph. Getting to the park, we remarked how it was too bad that we couldn't keep going to Lewisburg.
The wind was crosswise to us again as we headed roughly north back to the Hwy 412 exit, but I noticed that it -- and the road direction -- had shifted just enough to be behind us as we started climbing out of the Swan River Valley. The falls halfway up were very popular.
But then, these folks hadn't ridden their bikes there.
We passed a couple of bare-looking trees full of big, black carrion birds. It was extremely ominous, but appropriate considering that this was Halloween.
Bill was low on water, so we stopped at the Jackson Falls rest area. It turned out to be a very fortunate stop, since there were about 20 Model A's parked there. It turned out to be the Greater Houston Model A Club.
We met a few of the folks driving these cars, and they told us that they had spent the last three days riding the Trace. They had begun in Natchez, did about 200 miles a day, and stayed together at hotels along the way. The previous day, they had arrived in Nashville, but due to mechanical problems (which they told us are almost perpetual with these 80-year-old cars) had missed their reservations at the Loveless Cafe.
It was fun talking to these folks, but as someone once said, "That control isn't coming to us." So Bill and I got back on the road again.
The wind was now fully at our backs, making it easy to cruise along at an easy pace. Our shadows were getting long, however, and we had once again hit the more hilly parts of the route.
The temperatures had warmed up enough that I had taken off my long-sleeve base layer in Hohenwald, and then removed my full-finger gloves near the Water Valley Overlook. As 5 pm approached, however, I had to put the gloves back on. At least I didn't have to try to ride and change back into the base layer.
Pretty early in this ride, I realized that my yearly mileage had hit 10,000 miles. Of the four years in which I have hit five-digit total mileage, this is the earliest year that I've made it. Starting the final descent down to the northern terminus of the Trace, it felt sweet.