Saturday, April 27, 2013

Team Amelia

"Who is Amelia  and why does she have a team?"

The questioner, dressed in Cardinal colors, was waiting with us for a table at Guido's "On the Hill" in St Louis.  It was the bottom of the ninth inning of a cold drizzly game and the home town team was losing.  Lots of drenched fans were bailing out and showing up for warmth and really good Italian.  The waiting room was crowded, noisy and the air was close. Sitting tranquilly in her young aunt's lap atop a bar stool was Amelia, her blond ringlets perking up in the humidity, eyes following the commotion, one arm linked into her Meme's. Botticelli could never have captured her. 
She had been up at 6:00, rode in an  stroller three rainy miles through Forest Park with an adoring throng of thousands, been handed through the arms of countless relatives, entertained and amused all her admirers and now was hosting a late evening supper.  This was a big day for a two year old, but there was not a murmur.

" This is Amelia," said one of the cluster of folks in raincoats and bright blue green "Team Amelia" tee shirts.  "She has a team because she was born three months early, the size of this beer mug and look at her, SHE'S PERFECT!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Some days you don't end where you thought you might.  I thought today might end beside the limpid waters of the upper St Francois River in Missouri, a place where river rats play in spring freshets and the song of currents among the stream-smoothed boulders would lull us to sleep. But the navigator turned us into the Old Greenville COE campground, perhaps more influenced by frugality than any historical research, or perhaps it was the sun over the Ozark uplift after a morning running North in a cold rain.

Level spot beside the St Francois River

Now I love my navigator and the many surprises she brings into my life, so we unloaded bikes and began a slow ride along what turned out to be the Lower St Francois at the head of Lake Wappapello. The "bike path" was more a street and...what's this?  SIDEWALKS ...running into the green lushness of second growth trees and ferns.  Parallel pathways seemingly going nowhere...



Soon we nearly tripped over the placards which unlocked the riddle.  This was the old town site of Greenville established to loot the surrounding land of its "inexhaustible" timber and to provide all necessary services.  It survived into the early 1940's suffering catastrophic floods routinely. (NO trees, beside river = floods. duh!) 1938, in the depths of the depression the WPA build sidewalks in the town even though the COE, having tampered for a century on the Mississippi, had turned their expertise on the tributaries. The Wappapello Dam was finished in 1942 and the citizens of Greenville salvaged their homes and moved the whole town to higher ground, supposedly using the spanking new sidewalks.

Excellent placards tell the story     

 By delightful coincidence our friend Delores turned up beside us in the campground. You really must know Delores (and we always wish we had time to know her better.) 

Delores is a Full Timer. She has been everywhere on this continent in her Born Free camper, TWICE!  Before that she hiked and backpacked all over the US and Europe.  Now that she is a beautiful white haired lady "of a certain age", she crisscrosses the country visiting friends and revisiting old haunts. We always wish we had a week to listen to the quiet tales she tells of big adventures and small treasures she has found along her way.

She would not pose for a picture, preferring to be remembered by her Ragged Ass  (bumper sticker from the road in Yellowknife Alaska she is making famous.)  


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tanglefoot Trail Mississippi

At the Mississippi Welcome Center we heard rumors of a new Rail to Trail “from  New Albany to Houston – 44 miles”, but the name and opening date were shrouded in mystery.  Tuesday we set of to find it.
Fifty miles from our campsite, we admired the lively city center of New Albany, found a likely looking abandoned rail bed and a nearby library.  Surely, the mystery would now be  unveiled. 
“It’s not open”, said the information desk librarian sternly.
We explained ourselves…
“They’re keeping folks off it”, she offered again, with the same emphasis.
We smoozed, complimented the lovely city scape, mentioned our having birthed a librarian, helped a patron balance her baby carrier…
At best, we got a list of the mid trail towns and a recommendation for a lunch spot –- Tallahatchie Gourmet.
OK, we grudgingly admit the information librarian really does have the 411 on food!  The Gourmet is wonderful.  I only wish we could come back Friday for the Shrimp and Grits Special.


We wandered along the obvious trail around a few orange barrels and into the construction site of a big overpass –the obvious holdup.  We looped South to Ingersoll, MS where the Baptist minister (with a bike racked up on his car)  welcomed us to park in the church lot trailside and briefed us.  The trail, we learned, will be called the Tanglefoot trail and “the dogs around here are not used to bikers yet…”
Warmed and warned, we biked South along  butter smooth pavement that will “need a little cleanup after the storms we’ve had.”

OK, we passed a few orange barrels

...and jumped a tree...

...met some friendly folks proud of their trail


...and saw some really lovely springtime countryside

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Natchez Trace in Springtime

The Natchez Trace is a different experience from a bicycle seat than it is at the top vehicle speed of 45 MPH.  At one tenth that speed, on an interminable hill, there is time to see each wildflower pass.  (Sometimes, between gasps, your wicked couch sitting, Blue Bell ice cream eating life passes before you as well.) But when all the random noises have been tweaked out of the bikes at rest stops (which are totally maintenance related) and the easy bends and dips are swinging along nearly effortlessly, the sounds of Spring Peepers in the puddles, brimful creeks hissing along and crows calling fills your world.  Our senses mark each new vista; We become accustomed to this new place in a new season. Miles fall behind and yet seem quite new when we retrace back to our start. It's a subtle experience, yet far more powerful than the isolated view from the climate controlled vehicle. 

Sorry, we nearly fail to take a photograph,  Here it is, but we hope you will someday experience this place at a pace that helps you feel it. 

Best Idea of the day: Sweet dried Bing Cherries in the Gorp  

Quote of the day (As Patty heads UPHILL on a trail to an Overlook):  " This is our rest stop, right?'

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Take heed, take heed of the western wind

Oh I'm sailin' away my own true love
I'm sailin' away in the morning

Bob Dylan “Boots of Spanish Leather”
So take heed, take heed of the western wind
Take heed of the stormy weather

Also Bob, and a Greek chorus of highly agitated weather forecasters…
So we Have been idling away some really pleasant Spring weather since the last band of tornadoes ripped through Mississippi.  The Dogwoods are blooming and Violets are populating the driveway seams. We want to return to the Natchez Trace in the Spring before it get too hot and the first mowing takes down the roadside wildflowers.  We have driven this long ribbon of NPS serenity countless times, often rerouting to see it again in another season.  We have biked it most times, nibbling away at its 440+ miles of smooth graded two lane.

2011_0422CHURCH_LOOP0047 2010_0424ANTHONY_AT_THREE0001

The paparazzi can be so unkind.

Al has ridden it in scorching Summer and we have been blown off it in “Thunder Snow”, but in 2011 we found ourselves camped at Jeff Busby CG after a blissful couple days riding “out and backs”.  That night EF 3 and EF 5 tornadoes surged past us in the night, doing fatal damage in the campground and apocalyptic destruction in Tuscaloosa.  Since that frightful night our wanderings have taken us near other scars created by the same outbreak -- Pine Mountain in Georgia, the Hatcher Mountain trails in GSMNP and across the Interstate near Damascus VA. WE ARE BELIEVERS.  So a couple days delay here, the next ugly red smear on the map will pass and  give us a few clear days on the Trace.  We will be following the Real Weather very closely. 

Sunday began early with a ruckus in the neighborhood.  Al was awake and Patty soon followed.  Since we were already hitched and packed, we launched at dawn and ate a quiet breakfast in the Maplesville Rest Area. (This lovely rural Rest Area on a lonely two lane exists wholly for the  convenience of football fans traveling from  Montgomery to Tuscaloosa). 

By afternoon, we were settled in the nearly empty Piney Grove campground on Bay Springs Lake, bedroom window pointed at the lake, the early moon rising over the windswept water. Life is Good, but we were too wasted from our early start to do more than walk the campground and pick our ride for tomorrow.

Springtime along the Trace 

Lakeside Dining

2626 Lakeside