Unloading the bikes.

Unloading the bikes.

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday we headed back to ride the Natchez Trace. Chuck had surprised me with a new road bike that I wanted to break in, and because the Bike Ride Across Wilson County is only five weeks away, we decided to ride a little further than our last trip out. Twenty five miles seemed like a good stretch to attempt. Five miles more than last time, but still less than the BRAWC.

After circling the parking lot a few times to get used to the gears on my bike, we headed out with plans to turn around at about 12-13 miles. We were covering a few as yet uncharted miles so we were happily surprised to discover a rest stop right around our designated turn around point. We pulled in to sit for a bit at a picnic table under a shady cover, drink some water, and eat a couple of Fig Newtons (our standard bike snack). While there we saw a map of the Trace and enjoyed looking at the various sites there were to see “some day.” We had already passed a ramp that led to Leipers Fork–a small, artsy town that we had heard of but never seen–so we decided to pull off on our way back to the car. Our plan was to see how far it was, and if not too far, then to take a ride through the town.

Near the off-ramp we saw a little market-style gas station which we passed on the left as we rode along the narrow country road. There were beautiful, old homes on either side, but we didn’t venture far before heading back to the market to learn the actual distance to the town. As I said, the road was narrow and hilly, and we had already ridden 15 miles by the time we reached the market.

Pulling in we said hello to two older men who were sitting in rockers on the front porch. They gruffly responded and upon further questioning informed us that we were in the “suburbs” of Leipers Fork. Although only a mile or so away, they said they really couldn’t tell us what was in town. They had been born right where they were and they were not from there. They didn’t know anything at all about “that place” or “those people.”

The famous Loveless Cafe.

The famous Loveless Cafe.

Chuck went inside to buy some ice cream bars while I stayed outside with the bikes and my new “friends.” Trying to make conversation, I said that we were from Lebanon to which the nicer of the two men responded, “Lebanon. It’s different over there.” Hmmm. Okay. Then I mentioned the 15 miles we had ridden and how I hated to add more miles by riding to an unknown destination. Seconds later, the nicer man asked where we had gotten on the Trace and I told him near the Loveless Cafe entrance. Smiling (sort of) he said that we could ride into Leipers Fork and down Old Highway 96 to get back on the Trace without having to backtrack and add unwanted miles to our trip. Chuck was back by then and promptly pulled out his iPhone to check the route on the Maps app which the men claimed to be unable to read as they quickly emptied the rockers and headed back inside the market. We thanked them as they hurried through the door, mounted our bikes, and headed into town.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork was pretty cool. We enjoyed looking around a while then decided to follow our instructions and head down 96 to the Trace. It was a nice road that passed beside an old cemetary with tomb stones dating back to the 1700s. Chuck’s phone showed that we were on track to intersect with the Trace and we happily pedaled along. The only problem was that when we arrived at our road there was no ramp to get back on! Real funny. Stunned we just stood there in the shadow of the road and took our bearings for a minute. The highway continued away from the Trace so there was no hope of there being another intersection up ahead. We had no choice but to go back the way we had come. We turned our bikes around and headed back eventually passing the empty porch rockers with angry hearts–at least I know mine was angry as I mentally named our now ex-friends the Lard A** Liars of Leipers Fork.

The worst of the ride was still ahead of us as we faced long climbing stretches of road that seemed to go on forever. It didn’t help that my attitude was terrible, and I kept fighting back tears as I pedaled slowly uphill. By the time we reach the near-empty parking lot my new bike showed 32 miles, my body was aching, and my heart was broken. How could they have done such a mean thing to total strangers? To sweet little gray-haired me?!

How do we get up there?

How do we get up there?

As in most experiences, there were lessons to be learned. First, know who it is you’re following. Anyone can say they know where you should go, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Second, it’s easy to hate those who are different than you. Obviously those mean old men thought we were more like “those people” than we were like them so they felt justified in their meanness. Third, you can never know what is in someone else’s heart. Motives are hard to measure, but there are often red flags–which are easy to ignore when you really want what someone is selling, like to see Leipers Fork and not add miles to your trip (or maybe to believe in another’s innocence or guilt in order to justify your own bias). Ignoring the warning signs, gets you no where but on the underside of the road you need to be on.

Just what I want! Not for sale. :-(

Just what I want! Not for sale. 😦

Well, that’s it for me. No more detours to see the off-road sites, or to save miles, or to find retro porch furniture (another story) …. It’s the main road for me from here on. At least until the next time.

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