The Natchez Trace National Parkway is the most pleasant and peaceful road I’ve driven. There are no billboards, no trucks, very little traffic, and the speed limit is only 50 mph. The Trace is a 440 mile forest lined road running between Natchez Mississippi and Nashville Tennessee. I’m now just north of Tupelo Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
The drive is surreal, almost “Twilight Zone” like. While on the Trace, all you can see is a narrow winding road surrounded by trees. Upon exiting the Trace, within 1/4 mile, you are back in civilization. Rather quickly many cars, trucks, buildings, and billboards surround you again, regular Americana. The Trace is actually a 440 mile long and 1/4 mile wide National Park.
The ride on the Trace did not go as planned. I reserved a site at a campground in Starkville Mississippi, about the midway point of the Trace. When I pulled into the campsite, a swarm of thousands of bugs descended on me and the coach. I felt like I was in the middle of one of the seven deadly plagues. I quickly fled the campsite, got my money back, then drove down a highway over 70 miles per hour trying to blow the infestation off the coach. The little bugs held on. I had no idea what kind of insect they where. While stopping to refuel, using a long brush on a pole, I managed to brush most of them off.
Now a different problem confronted me, no place to stay for the evening. The afternoon was getting late and there are very few campgrounds along the Trace. About 3 hours of daylight were remaining. So I abandoned the Trace and hi-tailed it on Highway 15 towards Tupelo where the campground directory showed two RV parks. I was hoping to see a sign for them on the highway. I must have blasted by the first one without seeing any signs for a campground. So I stopped, remembering the saying, measure twice, cut once. I found an address for the second campground and entered it into the Navigation System. The NAV unit guided me on a twisted route with many turns to the campground. I never would have found the campground without the directions from NAV unit. Right now, that NAV unit is one of the most important parts of the RV for me. After getting settled into Trace State Park, I looked on Google Maps. Realizing I was only nine miles from Tupelo astonished me. I thought I was in the middle of nowhere. A very friendly camper came over to help me back into the site. I told him about the bugs. There were several of them still on the coach 100 miles after the first attack. He told me the “Soft Bodied Wood Nymph” was the name of the bug. I am not making this up. He said the bug was completely harmless and didn’t bite. I don’t understand how thousands of any kind of bug all in the same place is harmless.
I’m spent a second night there, then headed into Tupelo see the see where Elvis was born. Rejoining the Trace after going to Krogers and Exxon, I drove towards Tishomingo State Park, my home for the next three nights. Tishomingo is right next to the Mississippi/Alabama border. Tishomingo was a Chicksaw Indian Chief who died at the age of 102 on the Trail of Tears.
While pulling into a visitor center on the way to Tishomingo, a van pulled in with bikes on the roof and pulling a trailer. I instantly recognized the van as a sag wagon for a bicycle tour. I just passed about 15 cyclists. Since I have taken about 20 bicycle tours, I walked over to the sag wagon just as the tour leader started to exit the van. A very beautiful blond woman stepped out of the van. She had a wonderful smile and was very friendly as bicycle tour leaders usually are. Wearing a Telluride t-shirt (for the second day in a row) the tour leader noticed my t-shirt right away. She said she was from Telluride and asked me if I was from Telluride. I told her I picked up the t-shirt when I visited Telluride back in August. Quite amazing that I just happened to have that t-shirt on today, she simply said, “Synchronicity”. I really didn’t know what the word meant, thinking the word was some new age term. I thought the word had something to do with strange but positive coincidences in the universe. Later I Googled the word and found out Carl Jung coined the word back in 1952. Jung used the word “synchronicity” to describe “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.” “How are we to recognize acausal combinations of events, since it is obviously impossible to examine all chance happenings for their causality? The answer to this is that acausal events may be expected most readily where, on closer reflection, a causal connection appears to be inconceivable.” – Carl Jung. I still don’t understand this gibberish, but I was happy that our acausal meeting occurred. Spending hours on the road by oneself can become quite lonely.
Here is a little history of the Trace. The history goes back 9,000 years to the time of Paleo-Indian Hunters, so this is only a very brief description. The Natchez Trace began as ancient animal trails worn by creatures heading toward the salt springs in what is now Nashville. From Buffalo paths used by prehistoric hunters, the Trace became a series of Indian Trails for the Natchez, Choctaw, and Chicksaw Nations. Hernando De Soto claimed this territory for Spain in 1540. The Trace was used by French and Spanish trappers, traders, missionaries, and soldiers. By 1798, the Spanish relinquished their claims. This freed the port of Natchez to open more widely to Mississippi River Trade. The infux of boatman who needed a way home did much to publicize the route. As commerce and land attracted more settlers, the U.S. Government needed a quicker way to communicate with the Mississippi Territory. In 1800, the U.S. Government established the postal route between Nashville and Natchez. In 1801 Indian Treaties permitted the establishment of a road. Abandoned when water travel down the Mississippi became more reliable, the road fell into disuse. A New Deal Project resurrected the road in the 1930s.
There really isn’t that much to see on the Natchez Trail compared to other National Parks. Still the ride is peaceful and serene, reminding one that enjoying the ride is just as important as where you go. Wherever you go, there you are.
Link to Enjoy the Ride by Krewella