A RIDE TO SEE MY FRIEND
 
 

December 10, 2020 - December 12, 2020

Time For A Ride

 
 
December 10, 2020
 
   
 

My dear friend C.B. down in Port Neches, TX loves the ST1100 like me and rode one for years until his declining health required him to stop. He has really been through the wringer in the last two years. In 2019 he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. So he received major doses of chemo and radiation all during 2019. The only thing he could keep down during this period was Boost - no solid food for over a year. At the end of 2019, a nearby oil refinery had an explosion that blew the front doors and windows in on his house. Then in February of this year (2020), he lost his Wilma, his dear wife of many years to a brain aneurysm. The last hurricane almost got him because he was too weak to evacuate the area. He will 92 at the end of this month and he loves Stewarts Root Beer and GooGoos. I've picked up a stash a few days ago and have packed it in Redbird for delivery. It's time for me to make the delivery so away we go.

 
   
  The ever watchful Bowser sees the bag on the back seat of RedBird and knows daddy is going be gone for a while. He carefully notes that in his guard journal and then returns to his house.  
   
  I take my usual short cut by Newsom Station to get to the Trace. This journey will be mostly all two lanes with no interstate involved. It is rare that I have the luxury to do this, but on this trip I have been able to set aside the necessary time.  
   
  Soon I am going under the north terminus bridge to the Natchez Trace - one of the most peaceful rides in the United States. Imagine for a moment a two lane road that has very little traffic, no tractor trailers, and is well protected on both sides by a heavy border of woods and fields. The top forty or so miles are really twisty but the other four hundred or so are not. The route follows the original foot path from here to Natchez, Mississippi. I have seen an original construction map and they stuck very close to the 'original' route. This is also the path that General Andrew Jackson took to get his men to New Orleans for that great battle in the War of 1812.  
   
  As I cross through the original entrance, I still have to wonder why they removed the sign that stood here for years.  
   
  It is now several miles down the Trace which makes no sense to me. But then a lot of things the government does makes no sense to me like ...  
   
  this magnificent high bridge they built across highway 96 which has sadly become a 'suicide magnet' for those wishing to end their lives. A much simpler, lower bridge would have been closer to the original goal of following the historical Trace to me and would have avoided the unintended consequences.  
   
  The upper end of the Trace is a lovely, asphaltic serpent that bends and twists over the hills and valleys of the area.  
   
  Along the 'new' Trace are various places where they left the 'old' Trace in place.  
   
  In some sections you can drive on it, in others you can only walk on it like the original travelers did.  
   
  If you have a keen eye, you often see the original route even where it is not clearly marked like this section. There are lots of well documented historical sites along the Trace.  
   
  One is the death and burial site of Meriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He mysteriously perished on the Trace on his way to Washington, DC. Some claim it was a suicide, others claim it was a murder. In the 1840s when they did a partial exhumation of his body, one of the men declared that it must have been a murder for there was bullet hole in the back of his head. Existing family members have petitioned the US Park Service to exhume the body again so that the matter can be settled once and for all.  
   
  It is a peaceful journey for me as I enjoy the quiet for it has not been a very quiet year. With the Covid madness, some personal health issues, and other matters rattling around, it is nice to have some time just to let things percolate in the old noggin.  
   
  Soon I reach the Alabama state line. The Trace barely cuts the northwest corner of Alabama before it goes into Mississippi.  
   
  It crosses the Tennessee River and ...  
   
  Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway on its journey southward.  
   
  As I am deep in my thoughts, I see a feller standing on the bridge. It suddenly dawns on me that it looks a lot like William. He stopped by our church a few weeks ago on his walk across the country and really enjoyed our services. On that Sunday night, all the members - without planning it - made up 'care' packages to help him on his journey. I had counseled him head south on the Trace as it would be very pleasant and a safer path by foot. I grab the binders and head RedBird back to be sure. We chat for a few moments and I wish him well and get back to my travels and he to his.  
   
  It's about time for a little de-fuel/fuel effort, so I get off at Tupelo and find what I need. It's a bit past lunch and this store has some pretty nice chicken tenders that I enjoy.  
   
  Unlike the upper part of the Trace where there is limited access, the lower part of the Trace has just plain crossroads like this one. The real challenge is that the locals are not expecting traffic on the Trace and sometimes just shoot across ignoring those little red octagons that are posted on the crossroad.  
   
  It's been a pleasant day but I am glad to get to the bridge on the southern terminus because my hotel is not very far away.  
   
  Natchez is a very interesting city that has some really beautiful old plantation houses and magnificent church buildings like this one.  
   
  This is a little fancier hotel than I usually stay in but I figured I would treat myself on this trip after the way this year has turned out.  
   
  I get RedBird tucked into for the evening and make my way up to my room.  
   
  I purposefully chose a room with a view of the Mississippi River and I enjoy the scene spread out before me from my fourth floor suite.  
   
  It's supper time, so I stop by the front desk to see if they have an suggestions that are in reasonable walking distance. They tell me that Main Street is just out the doors and there are plenty of choices. I 'survey' the area and decide the Cotton Alley Cafe looks like it will work.  
   
  They have fried oysters on the menu but they are out. So I go with the fried shrimp and catfish and I am not disappointed.  
   
  With the battlefield cleared, I declare victory and settle up with my server. I head back toward my waiting room ready for a good sleep.  
   
  They have decorated various places along the walk with lovely lights.  
   
  The simplicity and artfulness is a pleasant relief when compared to some of the gaudy Christmas light displays I have seen.  
   
  Top to bottom along the Trace with a short stop for gas is about nine hours so I am ready to rest my anatomy. Tomorrow we will see whether or not I get to actually be with C.B. With these thoughts rambling through my head, I drift off into a peaceful slumber.  
   
 
December 11, 2020
 
 
 
  A hot breakfast, such as it is, is offered as part of the room cost. It's okay but nothing to brag about. I dispatch it quickly and hit the road across Louisiana and down to Texas.  
   
  It's a run that I can do easily from memory as I cut across to Alexandria, skirt around by the airport, and then down highway 165 diagonally across the state.  
   
  Highway 165 intersects highway 190 which will take me west to Texas and avoid Interstate 10.  
   
  Soon I am in Texas and making my way through Bridge City. There is a reason it is called Bridge City and I am about to go over one of them.  
   
  It's a short run from there to Port Neches ...  
   
  the land of oil refineries.  
   
  As I get close to C.B.'s house, I see the one that blew up and caused so much damage to his house. All the stacks are blackened and rusty and you can see the crumpled remains of the buildings that were destroyed by the explosion and fire.  
   
 

When I get there he is not at home and I am a bit disappointed. I chose not to let him know I was coming because I did not want to be a burden to him. Miss Debby, one of his precious neighbor comes over to see what I am doing. I tell her I came to spend a little time with C.B. who is my old friend. She tells me -

"He usually goes to lunch about this time and he'll be back in hour or so. Why don't you come over to my place and you can just chill out until he returns. I know he will greatly appreciate your company."

I take her up on her offer and get to meet her husband, Mike. We talk about growing up poor and raising kids, and just about have all the problems of the world solved. Then she says -

"That's C.B. coming back now."

So I thank them for their kindness and wander back over to his house. I am so happy that they keep a good eye out for him and make sure that he is doing okay. We go inside and I present him with his 'present'.

"C.B., I know you are not supposed to have this stuff, but at your age it don't really matter!" I tell him.

He just laughs and puts the root beer into his frig.

"I'll have me one of those later" he says with a grin.

"And I don't reckon I've had GooGoo since the last time you were here."

As always, he is a gracious host and a real treat to spend time with it. He explains to me that he was gone a little longer than usual. He had been out to help one of his older friends (95 years old) with a computer problem. I tell him -

"I'll be lucky I'm not huddled in corner drooling when I get your age and here you are out fixing computer problems."

He is amazed that I would ride 1,400+ miles just to spend a couple of hours with him.
I am amazed that he has such a good spirit and is still trying to help people when he can hardly get about. What an inspiration he is to me and what a blessing it is to know such a man.

 
   
 

But I've got to get back to my hotel room in Natchez, so I give him a careful hug from the side and head north. One thing I have decided - the next time I have some 'trouble', I'll just think of him and the way he embraces life as it is, hike up my big boy britches and get on with it.

As I make my way back across Texas and into Louisiana, I see the Dequincy Railroad Museum - which was their old train station. DeQuincy was founded as a railroad settlement, and the Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific railroads remain principal employers for area citizens. Given the history of the town, it is fitting that they decided to preserve the old building instead of tearing it down to put up a strip mall.

 
   
  But this area obviously got some serious wind damage from the last hurricane that past through.  
   
  There are a lot of 'blue roofs' as we say in the roofing business where roofs are tarped until they can be replaced.  
   
  Moving northward, I come to a town and notice that all the road signs have these really fancy sign posts. Speed limits, highway signs, 'do not enter' sign - you name, they are all hung on specially poured concrete pedestals with ornate sign posts. I can't imagine what that must have cost as it goes on for several miles. But I reckon nothing is too good for the poor taxpayers ...  
   
  Once darkness comes, I really crank back on the wick as I know there is plenty of wildlife out and about. So I don't get back to Natchez until the sun has been down a good while.  
   
  I finally arrive, get RedBird bedded down for the evening and up to my room to change out of my road clothes.  
   
  I figure supper was good enough last night so I'll give them another whirl. Right next door is this massive bank building that looks much like a Greek Temple.  
   
  Fortunately for me, they got in a supply of oysters so I am one happy camper. They are very fresh and very good and really hit the spot.  
   
  And since I have accomplished what I was hoping to do - be an encouragement to my friend, C.B., I celebrate with a lovely piece of chocolate cake with cookies and cream icing.  
   
  In the strength of that meat, I can easily make it back to my hotel and room for the evening with no shortage of 'energy'.  
   
  Tomorrow will be just a run back up the Trace to the Holler and hopefully the little bit of rain will blow through tonight. It's been a great day and it does not take me long to find that blissful place of slumber.  
   
 
December 12, 2020
 
   
 
I do a little better at the hotel breakfast this morning and score two sausage patties. The biscuits and gravy ain't bad, but it's a mix. But you take what you can get and be thankful for it I reckon.
 
   
  It's a bit foggy out so I wait just a little while as I do not want to be on the Trace in deep, thick fog dodging wild life.  
   
  When I do pull out of Natchez, the city is pretty much still asleep which makes my exodus a lot simpler.  
   
  I snag the southern parkway sign and I am out and after it.  
   
  It's pretty foggy still but fortunately I have the Trace to myself without other motorists or wildlife at this point and for that I am thankful.  
   
  Along the way I stop to get a shot of this old tree with the Spanish moss.  
   
  Up ahead in the fog, I see a rafter of wild turkeys. I give them plenty of space because if one of them takes flight and you collide, they can knock you off your motorcycle and do considerable damage to you.  
   
  As I make my way north, I have to stop and get a picture of this sign. One of my friends who also rides a ST1100 is named Raymond. Little did I know there was a battle named after him. But I'm sure his wife would say there have been more than one of those ...  
   
  As I pass Jackson, I get a wonderful view of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, an impoundment of the Pearl River. It serves as the state's largest drinking water resource.  
   
  Further along, a deer crosses the road in front of me and fortunately decides to head for higher ground. As best as I can remember, this is about the tenth deer 'crossing' on this trip along the Trace - with some way closer than others.  
   
  All along the Trace there are some magnificent trees to be seen. I think that might be a good 'coffee table' book - the 'Trees Of The Trace'.  
   
 

Two hundred miles or so (not quite half way) from the South Terminus is a place call French Camp. About 1812, Louis LeFleur established his stand 900 feet to the northeast on the Natchez Trace. Because of the storekeeper's nationality the area was often called "French Camp", a name retained by the present village. LeFleur married a Choctaw woman. Their famous son who changed his name to Greenwood Leflore, became a Choctaw chief and a Mississippi State Senator.

 
   
  Another bit of history is that Hernando De Soto, the great Spanish explorer, crossed the path that was to become the Natchez Trace in 1539.  
   
 

The ride up the rest of the Trace is peaceful and pretty much traffic free. I pull into the Holler Garage, thankful for a safe journey and thankful that I could bring a little sunshine to my dear friend.

THE END