Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Return to the Natchez Trace Parkway - Fixie

The highest bridge in Tennessee is on the NT Parkway
  It's been over a year since I rode 600 kilometers on the famous Natchez Trace Parkway.  Since that time I've not been able to forget this most unique National Park. While passing through the Nashville region on a trip to Arkansas I decided to layover and visit the parkway again.  This time I would use my fixed gear bike and ride only about 75 miles total, with about 50 of those miles actually on the Parkway.   

I left my hotel about 11am on a Friday morning headed for the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace.  There was a big climb on the way which was managed with considerable effort on the fixie.  Once inside the parkway entrance  the serenity of the place was just what I remembered.  The little amount of traffic was almost all recreational, despite the start being located in the heart of a bustling suburban area.     Bikes, motorcycles and the occasional motor home are encountered, but little else.  I'd forgotten how hilly the northern portion of the roadway is and worked hard over some good sized rollers.  I made it past the Garrison Creek area before needing to turn back to make it to my hotel before rush hour traffic.  The unusually warm January weather had more than a few riders out passing by me on their way to the south.  The same hills were enjoyed on the return, with the possible exception of the killer climb just four miles from the end.  Once over the top the 36 mph descent and accompanying 180 rpm spin had me ready to call it a day.

During the ride I had the germ of an idea that it might be fun to undertake the entire 442 mile length of the Natchez Trace Parkway on a fixed gear.  It would make a great point-to-point permanent with the option to return for a total distance of 1400k.  It would be a long ride with a very short cue-sheet as there is only one road for the entire distance.  It's something I'd like to think about for 2012.  I'll try and find a local rider to submit the permanent. 
The famous Loveless Cafe just before the entrance to the historic Parkway

Resources like the Natchez Trace Parkway are integral to a high quality of life.  It requires considerable tax dollars to preserve this national treasure for us as well as future generations.  It is imperative that it be enjoyed, or the public interest in maintaining it will wain.  Whether used by cyclists, or other recreational road users, is of little importance.  It just needs to be appreciated.  It leaves a lasting impression on those who venture onto any one of its 442 miles.  Most likely a lifelong impression on those who traverse its entire length.  I hope to one day be among the latter group.  I hope to see you there.

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