Cycling the Natchez Trace: Day 5

Today was a more eventful day than the last, but it was a long day of riding–82 miles! The roads were a little more hilly, which was a good thing, too. We saw more wildlife: turkeys, deer, and snakes!

I almost had a very close encounter with a very large snake. Oscar was riding ahead and I saw him veer around something in the road. At about the same time, in my rearview mirror, I saw a car approaching from behind, then realized that a very long, very big, very alive snake was on the right side of the road. I had to make a quick decision…did I want to tangle with the snake or risk the car not changing lanes?! I decided that I would take my chances with the car, veered around the snake, and thankfully, the car changed lanes and veered around me!  Whew!

On our cue-sheet, I included bicycle shops that were nearby in case we had any mechanical issues. As we planned our day, we realized that one shop, Trails and Treads, was going to be right off of the Trace as we went through Tupelo, MS. We hadn’t put air in our tires during the trip and thought it might be a good idea to check the air pressure. We got off of the Trace and easily found the bike shop about a third of a mile away. Harris, the owner, let us use a pump to check the tires and told us that the store was in the process of changing locations, so we were lucky to find them! We asked Harris for suggestions for an easily accessible lunch location and he offered to drive us somewhere. We told him that we appreciated it, but would ride our bikes if there was some place relatively close by. He suggested Sweet Tea & Biscuits a little less than a mile down the road behind an antique/gift shop. Harris said that everything was freshly made and good.

Sweet Tea & Biscuits, Tupelo, MS
Sweet Tea & Biscuits, Tupelo, MS

After some looking–we rode too far–we found Sweet Tea & Biscuits! What a wonderful place, a hidden gem! Everything in the restaurant is homemade and delicious. We had the special of the day: macaroni and beef casserole, green beans, and fruit. We splurged on dessert, one of the things that we can do almost-guilt-free when riding 80+ miles, with cream of coconut pie and a buttermilk pie! Both were heavenly! Like most places that we stop, we got lots of questions about our trip from both customers and the employees. It’s nice that people feel comfortable asking questions and telling us about their experiences. I find it amazing that wearing spandex into places where it is not expected allows people to let their guard down to talk with strangers. It’s a nice benefit of looking a little out-of-place!

While still in Tupelo, we stopped at the Parkway Visitor Center and quickly walked through their exhibits. We ran into Mike and Debra again and talked with them about their trip up the parkway. Back on our bikes, a little farther up the Trace, we stopped to see the Confederate Gravesites and a section of the Old Trace. Like many of the historical sites, this one includes speculation and folklore.

Confederate Gravesites and Old Trace
Confederate Gravesites and Old Trace, Milepost 269

Later in the afternoon, we stopped to rest at a picnic table and overlook at the Pharr Mounds, Native American ceremonial and burial mounds. The shade and nice breeze made this a perfect resting and snacking spot!

Pharr Mounds, Milepost 286
Pharr Mounds, Milepost 286
Taking a break at Pharr Mounds–“Are we there yet?”
View from James Whitten Bridge over Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway
View from James Whitten Bridge over Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway

After crossing the Jamie Whitten Bridge at Milepost 293.7, we exited the Trace to go to Belmont, MS to stay at the Belmont Hotel. We enjoyed the very hilly ride through almost eight miles of clear-cut timber.

Belmont Hotel, Belmont, MS

The Belmont Hotel is an old hotel that is still in operation in a tiny, rural town nine miles from the Trace. Entering the hotel is like taking a step back in time. The bathrooms appeared to have recently been updated, but everything else seemed dated. The owner was friendly and helpful. He suggested the Mexican restaurant across the street for dinner, which was very good. Breakfast the next morning was self-serve with a wide assortment of prepackaged cold or microwaveable items.

Room at Belmont Hotel
Belmont Hotel room
Belmont Hotel room


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