We have done many organized bicycle rides, but until cycling the Natchez Trace, had never done a self-supported, long-distance ride–meaning that we were going to carry all of our own supplies and would not have backup transportation other than our bicycles. Before our actual departure, we contacted the National Park Service (NPS) for maps and lists of amenities, read numerous blog posts about others’ trips, and had contacted Randy Fought at Natchez Trace Travel for assistance in planning. From these resources we figured out the approximate distances that we wanted to travel per day and where we thought we might spend each night. We planned to stay in bed and breakfasts as much as possible on this trip. Then we contacted Randy at Natchez Trace Travel to let him finish up most of our reservations. Randy was great about figuring out conflicts in either lodging and/or dining options and made suggestions for changes. He made the planning much easier and we highly recommend his service. The bed and breakfast owners sing his praises, too, which says a lot!
On April 30, we left our in-the-middle-of-nowhere home in eastern Georgia headed for Franklin, TN where we had reserved a full-sized truck from Hertz. We chose Hertz, rather than Enterprise, because Hertz does not charge a “drop fee” for a one-way rental and they had an easily accessible Natchez location.
We arrived at the Franklin, TN Hertz location to find that only vehicle they would let us take was a mid-sized truck. We made it work by taking off the front wheels of our bicycles to squeeze both bicycles into the back seat for a very tight fit. We left feeling annoyed that we did not receive the vehicle that we reserved.
We took our car to the Garrison Creek rest area on the Natchez Trace Parkway and called the NPS to let them know that our car would be left there for the next week. We left them our contact information along with an emergency contact. They informed us that most people have no trouble leaving cars at that lot, but that it was a “leave at your own risk” decision. We were off to Natchez!
The next day we arrived in Natchez, MS, checked in to the hotel, then went to return the vehicle. We filled the truck up with gas and arrived at the Natchez Hertz location to discover that the location was PERMANENTLY CLOSED even though our one-day-old rental agreement said otherwise! There was a small sign on the door that directed people to return vehicles to Vicksburg, MS–an hour and twenty minutes away by car! Not a good start to our adventure! We called the number on the sign, explained our dilemma, then were told to call a second number. We made that call. That person told us that we might try turning the vehicle in to the Natchez Ford dealership though they could not guarantee that the Ford dealership would help us by accepting the vehicle.
Natchez Ford Lincoln was a lifesaver! We met Craig Barrows, a salesman who helped us get the truck logged in. He told us that we were the fifth vehicle that had been turned in to them. Everyone at Natchez Ford was wonderful! After turning in the truck, we planned to walk the three miles back to the hotel. Mr. Barrows insisted on driving us back to our hotel. On the way, he told us about how great it is to live in Natchez and how much he enjoyed his job at the Natchez Ford dealership. He was a true ambassador for Natchez and his employer. As he dropped us at the hotel, he gave us his card and told us that if we had any trouble while cycling to give him a call and he would help us.
Overall, dealing with Hertz was very, very frustrating, but getting to meet Mr. Barrows was wonderful. He demonstrated what we have found time and again; there are lots of good people in the world!