Day 16: Madison, MS to Vidalia, LA

After Patricia made us a breakfast of biscuits and eggs, we loaded our bikes back into Fred so that Warren could drive us over to the Sherwin-Williams store of Madison. There, we talked to noted editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion-Ledger, and freelance photographer Will Smith (see related post). In the store, Patricia and her team had McDonald’s egg and cheese biscuits brought in for us, as well as coffee and donuts. They gave us Sherwin-Williams t-shirts and baseball caps. We scarfed several donuts, but we weren’t too hungry after breakfast at Patricia’s house, so we stashed a couple of egg and cheese biscuits each in our bags for the road.

Marshall gave us directions so that we could ride a couple of miles just down the main road from the store, then jump on a bike path that took us right back onto the Natchez Trace. After about 40 miles into the ride for the day, we stopped and had a McDonald’s biscuit for a snack. At around 64 miles, we took a short detour off of the Trace to the town of Port Gibson to find some lunch, but did not have any luck there. We just grabbed a Gatorade and snack at a grocery store, then got back onto the Trace and ate another biscuit to tide us over.

In the meantime, we got an update from the Sherwin-Williams people in both Cleveland and Natchez that there were no hotel rooms available in the Natchez area. This was due to the area being hit hard by Hurricane Gustav last week, and the hotels were booked with local residents out of their homes, and temporary relief workers. We spoke to Gary, the local Sherwin-Williams store manager, and he made arrangements for us in an RV park/campground just across the river in Vidalia, Louisiana. We really appreciate that they folks in the Natchez area were able to take care of our accomdations, in spite of the the hardships that they were enduring after the hurricane. We had to mention, though, that we were a bit disappointed that we would not have the opportunity to explore all of the amenities that the town of Natchez had to offer. Even as far back as our second day on the road in Ohio, we had gotten comments from fellow travellers about what an interesting and historic town it is.

During our ride on the final, southernmost stretch of the Natchez Trace, we ran into some rain again for a few miles, at times pretty hard. It seemed like we were riding right along the edge of the rain clouds, as we could see sun to our right, and dark clouds to our left, and oftentimes it would start and stop raining as we rounded one bend in the road to the next.

We spoke to Gary again when we had about 10 miles to go on the Trace. The last section of the Trace was mostly downhill, and we covered it pretty fast, probably the fastest stretch that we’ve done so far on the trip. Just up the road from where the Trace ended, we pulled over into an Exxon station and called Gary to let him know that we had arrived. It was just in time, too, as it started raining and thundering pretty hard again. Just by chance, a young man named Casey, one of Gary’s associates at the Sherwin-Williams store, had just stopped by the Exxon to get his car washed (he bagged that plan once the storm started), so we chatted with him a bit until Gary arrived. We loaded our bikes into Gary’s truck, and he was nice enough to give us a short driving tour of town, including seeing a couple of the historic antebellum mansions. Then, he drove us across the Mississippi River into Vidalia, and dropped us off at the Sandbar restaurant, where he had arranged to take care of our dinner for us. It was still raining at the time, and Gary’s assistant manager graciously offered to let us stay at his house nearby. But, by the time we finished dinner, the rain had cleared up, so we proceeded just a mile or so along the river to the campground, where we were able to get refreshing showers and a good night’s sleep.

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