Favorite Rides & Destinations

Fall 2017

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www.FavoriteRidesAndDestinations.com | ridermagazine.com PAGE 65 FALL 2017 ISSUE 02 / VOL. 02 I awoke to sunshine, shared a hotel breakfast with a group of riders from Detroit, and did some minor bike maintenance until the roads dried a bit. I couldn't pass up a quick ride to Elvis Presley's childhood home in Tupelo before resuming the journey north. Just up the Trace from Tupelo are the graves of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers (mile 269). Speculation is that the men died defending the nearby headquarters of General J.B. Hood. The original grave markers were lost, and the National Park Service erected the marble headstones now in place. Each gravestone was adorned with flowers and accompanied by Confederate flags. Farther up the road I encountered Pharr Mounds, another sacred Native American site (mile 287). Eight dome-shaped burial mounds are scattered over an area of 90 acres. Archeologists believe that the site traces back to earlier than 200 A.D. The scenery along the Trace begins to transform in northern Mississippi. Woodlands give way to farmers' fields and large meadows lush with wildflowers. North of the Alabama state line, the road becomes hillier and you notice more roadside rock formations. Once into Alabama, I crossed one branch of the infamous Trail of Tears. Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Federal government ousted entire tribes from their eastern native lands and marched them to "Indian Territory" in Oklahoma. Thousands perished during the exodus, which the National Park Service now calls a "journey of injustice." A simple two-lane bridge crosses the broad Tennessee River at mile 327. In the early 1800s, George Colbert operated a ferry at this site. Legend has it that Colbert once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to transport his Tennessee army across the river after Jackson's victory in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Today, Colbert's Landing is the ideal site for a picnic or to simply sit on the riverbank and contemplate the current. A bit farther up the road, I had the opportunity to journey into the past. I turned off at mile 375 and rode down a section of the "old Trace," the original walking path. The narrow, gravel path meandered through deep forest. It was a nice change of pace, and gave me some idea of the peaceful solitude the old travelers experienced. These rugged vagabonds averaged between 15 and 25 miles per day by foot or horseback. The life and death of Meriwether Lewis, senior commander of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and a governor of the Territory of Louisiana, is interwoven with the history of the Trace. Lewis crossed the Trace, many times, and was shot to death at an inn just west of mile marker 386. The identity of the assassin remains a mystery to this day. An impressive monument stands guard over his grave. There are two notable waterfalls on the northern portion of the Trace, at mile markers 392 and 405. You might have more luck than I did as low water levels in May led to disappointing views. About 40 miles from the northern terminus, the Parkway grows more mountainous. Over its entire length, the elevation of the Trace varies between 70 and 1,100 feet. In Tennessee, wild turkeys pick at the roadside grass, undaunted by passing traffic. Look for the turnout at mile 401 Far left: The Meriwether Lewis Monument was constructed in 1848. The broken column symbolizes a life cut short. Lewis was murdered at age 35. Left, top: Split-rail fences and a rich spectrum of greenery reminded me of Ireland and my home state of Kentucky. Left, center: The double-arch bridge was assembled using precast concrete boxes, fabricated off site and hoisted into place. Below, left: Abundant wildlife included wild turkeys grazing at the roadside. Below, right: The lazy Tennessee River flows past Colbert's Landing. Muscle Shoals, Alabama, just downriver, is a recommended side trip for fans of classic rock 'n' roll.

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