Day 2: Sunday, 10/5 – Nashville, TN to Tupelo, MS
One more cup of coffee……. for the road,
One more cup of coffee before we go……… to Tupelo
– Bob Dylan (paraphrase-The Valley Below)
Brrrrrr. We awoke to a sunny, very windy, very cold morning. Thirty-nine degrees. Yes, 39. That coffee had best be hot. We will be heading south today and looking forward to warmer temps. But first, we must fuel the beasts. No, not The beaST, the beasts in our stomachs! The only place in Nashville to do this (in my opinion) is the famous Loveless Cafe, a Nashville culinary icon that has been serving the traveling public since the days of cars with flared fenders, running boards, and heavy gauge U.S. Steel. Besides the excellent breakfasts and atmosphere of the place, it is conveniently located right at the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway!
We point the beaST due west, as we still had about five miles to get to the Parkway. We wanted an early start, anticipating a wait at The Loveless due to it being a Sunday. As expected, the parking lot was jam packed, but not to worry, because at The Loveless, motorcyclists are loved!
Now, that’s my kind of sign
Having a 45 to 50 minute wait (thank goodness for protein bars), we strolled around the grounds. I had been here back in 2012, but this was Roo’s first time, a Loveless newbie.
Loveless used to be a motel as well as a cafe, a one stop shop for travelers. Today, only the cafe remains. The motel rooms have been converted into individual boutique shops.
Right on time, after 45 minutes, the table buzzer goes off in my hand. We hurry inside as we are both famished. After ordering our food, Roo and I are sitting and talking excitedly about our upcoming trip down The Trace, when I notice a great photo opportunity right in front of me!
The Rooster and The Roo (a future blog title perhaps?)
Two cups of hot coffee later, our breakfast arrives, and it did not disappoint. It’s worth a future trip to Nashville just to ride for breakfast!
By the time we got our meal, ate, and walked around a bit, it was late morning and the temperature had risen to a comfortable 50 or so degrees. Time to suit up and head south to Tupelo. As I swing a leg over the beaST and wait for Roo, I hear “dammit!” Turning to see what happened. I had to laugh………..
The dangling ear bud
Finally getting her gear straightened out, Roo mounts up, the big Honda comes to life, and off we go on The Natchez Trace Parkway! With not even enough time for the big V-4 to warm up, we exit the Parkway for everyone’s first, must do photo-op. Motorbikes, cars, bicycles all stop to photograph this architecturally and structurally significant monument to engineering.
The Double Arch Bridge. This is the nations first arch bridge constructed with segments of concrete, and it spans 1648 feet! Highly acclaimed, the bridge has been honored with 13 design awards, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1995.
Some pictorial highlights on the road to Tupelo:
The Gordon House is one of only two structures remaining on The Trace from the early 1800’s.
Behind the Gordon House is a section of the original Trace footpath that travelers in the 18th century used to get to the Gordon House ferry crossing.
Signs like this abound on the Parkway. They signify a trailhead to the Old Trace Footpath that you can hike on.
You can just imagine how remote, difficult and dangerous it must have been in the 18th century to walk from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, 400+ miles, on trails like this.
Meriwether Lewis Burial Site – Murder or Suicide?
One of the most visited sites on the Tennessee portion of the Trace, Meriwether Lewis evokes a most solemn stop. Meriwether Lewis, of the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark fame, met his untimely death here on October 9, 1809. He is buried here where a monument was erected over his grave to commemorate this great American explorer.
Lewis had been appointed governor of the recently acquired Louisiana Territory, where he found political life to be quite arduous and not to his liking. The new Federal government was now investigating possible fraudulent purchases made by Lewis during the Corps of Discovery Expedition and was considering not paying Lewis. This would put him in a state of bankruptcy if he had to pay back the Federal government. Lewis was also prone to severe bouts of depression throughout his life. Such as it was, Lewis decided to go to Washington to plead his case personally. Part of his route took him on The Natchez Trace through Tennessee, where he overnighted at Grinder’s Stand (Inn) on his way to Nashville.
A replica of Grinder’s Stand
One-half of the original foundation of Grinder’s Stand
Lewis arrived at Grinder’s Stand on October 9, 1809 (we arrived on the 5th, almost 205 years to the day!). That evening, Mrs. Grinder heard two gunshot wounds coming from Lewis’s room. She did not investigate until morning and found Lewis lying on the floor in a pool of blood, a gunshot wound to the head and one to the chest. Murder? Suicide? It is still a mystery.
This is the original section of the Old Trace Footpath that leads to Grinder’s Stand, which Lewis took that fateful night.
Meriwether Lewis was only 35 years old when he died. The broken shaft on the monument over his grave signifies a life cut short.
Back on the bike, the ride for the next few miles down the Trace was a reflective one. Soon, we came upon the Tennessee/ Alabama state line, and another must do Trace photo-op:
Everyone stops here. Front wheel in Alabama, rear wheel in Tennessee
The Parkway goes through the northwest corner of Alabama before quickly entering Mississippi.
The beginning of a goal realized; bagging Mississippi for the Southern States Tour!
Just beyond the state line sign is the oldest pre-historic site on the Trace. Bear Creek Mound was first used by migratory hunters as early as BCE 7000, or roughly 9000 years ago! Standing on this exact spot, you are connected to 10,000 years of human history!
While at Bear Creek Mound, we had our first encounter with these guys:
They have an interesting story. There are actually four of these Model T Fords, each driven by an elderly couple. These folks are all from Nebraska. They trailered their cars to Nashville, and are driving them down the Trace, 444 miles, to Natchez, staying overnight, then driving back to Nashville the following day. These folks were no spring chickens! We would leapfrog with them throughout our trip down the Trace, then see them again in Natchez! Awesome!
We have one more stop as we make the final miles to Tupelo. Just outside the city, on another section of the Old Trace, is the final resting place of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers, whose faintly etched tombstones line the old roadway that was once a prominent final resting place along a busy route. It is unknown whether these men died from wounds or disease, but their graves speak about a chapter in Trace history buried here in the Mississippi soil.
Roo takes a solemn walk on the Old Trace
I thought it a bit disrespectful to see American flags on the graves of Confederate soldiers who were fighting and dying for a way of life they believed in. At one point in time, Confederate battle flags were flying over each grave (I have seen photos). When and by whom that changed, I do not know. Lest we forget, those who fought in the American Revolution were also rebels, fighting and dying for a cause they also believed in.
Now late in the afternoon, it was time to exit the Trace and make our way into Tupelo and our hotel for the evening. A fantastic day on the Trace, with more to come tomorrow!
Next post: Two Up on the Natchez Trace: Tupelo, MS to Jackson, MS