The Natchez Trace: A Bicyclist’s Paradise… The 10,000 Mile North American Bicycle Tour

The Natchez Trace between Natchez and Jackson Mississippi.

I don’t think there is a place along the Natchez Trace that isn’t beautiful. I traveled on it for 370 miles of its 450 mile length.

This is my fourth post introducing new followers to the type of tales they can find in my blog. Way back in 1989, I did a solo 10,000 mile bicycle tour of North America. While the journey predated blogging, Peggy and I retraced my route three years ago. Traveling out of California, we crossed the US following a southern route, went up the east coast into Canada, headed back west through Canada to Minnesota, and then finished our tour following a northern route back to California. This is a chance to visit much of North America and hear tales about my bike trek. Want more: Here’s a post from Canada. Scroll forward or backward for the rest of the story:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2016/09/28/

A large, yellow mutt came wagging his way into my camp. I’d unpacked my gear, set up my tent, and taken off my shoes and socks. My toes were celebrating their freedom.

“Well hello big fellow,” I said to the dog, glad for the company. He sat down beside me and worked his head under my hand, demanding that I scratch behind his ears. Then I was required to pet the rest of him. I had just worked my way down to his tail when he rolled over and insisted on equal treatment for his tummy.

I provided an initial scratch but my coffee water had started boiling. “Priorities,” I told him, “the petting zoo is closed.” Apparently this meant it was play time. He leapt up, grabbed one of my socks, and bounced off about 15 feet.  “Hey! Bring that back,” I urged. Fat chance. He put the sock down, backed off a couple of feet, and started barking.

I finished pouring the hot water into my coffee filter and got up, tiredly, to retrieve my sock. It had been an 80-mile day and I really didn’t want to play ‘chase the dog around the yard.’ I pretended that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t going for the sock, and that I was terribly interested in a large bullfrog that had taken up residence in the swimming pool. The pool hadn’t been cleaned since the previous summer. It made a great pond.

The dog didn’t buy it. He dashed in, grabbed the sock and ran off across the yard. “Okay, you win,” I declared while picking up a stick. “How about a game of chase the stick?” The dog cocked his head and increased his wags per second. I tossed the stick and off he dashed, leaving my sock behind. I quickly bare-footed it across the lawn and grabbed my sock.

“Ha, ha, Mr. Dog,” I called after him while waving the sock about enticingly. To compensate my new friend for his loss, I played tug-of-war with the stick. We growled at each other appropriately, all in good fun.

It was early to bed. I had completed my trip from Alexandria by biking through the city of Natchez and was now camped about a mile from the beginning of the Natchez Trace.  I was eager to get up the next morning and start my 370-mile journey up the fabled Parkway through Mississippi and Alabama into Tennessee. As I zipped up my tent, the big yellow mutt did three dog turns outside the door and plopped down, making me wonder where his home was. I was hardly in a position to adopt a pet. Besides, he was well fed and wearing a dog tag.

My last memory before going to sleep was of the bullfrog singing to his lady-love. “Chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum.”

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

Peggy and I drove through Natchez on a Sunday morning and pretty much had the historic section of the downtown to ourselves.

Historic building with balcony in Natchez, Mississippi.

This historic building in Natchez came with an attractive balcony.

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi on a quiet Sunday.

The colors captured my attention here.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was busy with its Sunday service so I didn’t go inside.

St. Mary's Catholic Church is located in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

It was quite impressive from the outside, however.

Natchez has an interesting history. Once the site of a major Native American village, its initial contact with Europeans goes all the way back to Hernando de Soto in the mid 1500s. He wandered through the area searching for gold to steal, the primary occupation of Spanish Conquistadores. By the 1700s the French had entered the area followed by the British, the Spanish again, and finally, in 1795, the Americans. Native groups in the region included the Natchez, Chickasaw, Yazoo, Cherokee, and Creek, as well as the Choctaw further to the north.

As for the Natchez Trace, its beginning goes back 10,000 years and was probably tied to buffalo travelling along ridges doing buffalo things. Since these broad, heavy animals make good trails (think of them as early day bulldozers), Native Americans were soon using the routes for trade and travel between large communities.

The next stage in the Trace’s evolution was brought about by river trade in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Kaintucks, boatmen from the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, loaded flatboats with merchandise and paddled downstream to Natchez or New Orleans where they made handsome profits for their goods. The challenge was that you don’t row a boat up the mighty Mississippi. The boatmen had to hike or ride horses home. They sold their boats as lumber and made their way back to Nashville via the Natchez Trace

It was an adventure. There is a reason why the Trace became known as The Devil’s Backbone. It was crawling with highway men eager to separate the Kaintucks from their newly earned wealth. And that assumes that they could even get their money out of Natchez where cheap whiskey cost a fortune, hot love was based on cold cash, and cut-throats came by the bushel.

The development of steamboats in the 1820s changed things dramatically. These boats with their large, steam-driven paddle wheels could travel upriver. Boatman no longer had to hike or ride horses back to Nashville while fighting off thieves.  Gradually, people stopped using the Trace and it faded from memory.  But not totally.

In 1903, the Mississippi chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took on a project of placing markers along the original route. In 1918 the precursor to the Natchez Trace Association was created with the rallying cry of “Pave the Trace!” Work on the Parkway was started in 1937 and in 1938 it became a unit of the National Park system.

When I rode my bike out of Natchez in the spring of 1989, the Trace was mainly complete and had become something of a bicyclists’ paradise. (Today it is considered one of the top ten bike rides in America.)   To start with, there was no commercial traffic. No 18 wheelers would be whizzing by me. Nor were there any commercial properties or billboards, just lots of beautiful woods and small farms. Campgrounds and restrooms were located conveniently along the way.  Frequent rest stops featured local history. I was free to ride along and enjoy the scenery.

But I did have two responsibilities. The first was to persuade the large, yellow mutt that he wasn’t going with me. It started with a discussion in camp that I thought he had understood. Where I was going was dangerous for doggies. It was dangerous enough for me. About a mile from camp I chanced to look back, there he was, about 50 yards back. I stopped and waited for him to catch up, all a waggle. “No!” I said forcefully. “You cannot go. Go Home!” The tail stopped wagging. Two sad brown eyes accused me of horrendous deeds. Ever so slowly, he turned around and started back, tail between his legs. I felt terrible.

The second chore was more pleasant— rescuing baby turtles. Bunches were migrating across the Trace outside of Natchez. Each time I came on a crowd, I would stop, climb off my bike, and give the little tykes a lift across the pavement. I knew that there would be more coming along behind but I must have transported at least a hundred,undoubtedly saving them from being run over.

Following are several photos of the Trace from Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi that I took during the route review Peggy and I did this past spring.  In my next blog we will make a slight detour to the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi where a good friend lives and then head up the Trace to Tupelo and visit with Elvis.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

There are a number of barns.

There are a number of barns.

These trees had yet to leaf out.

These trees were just beginning to leaf out. I enjoyed the silhouettes they created.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences similar to ones that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

 

 

Hiding Out from a Tornado on the Natchez Trace… The 10,000 Mile North American Bike Tour

The Pharr Mounds on the Natchez Trace were built around 2000 years ago.

The Pharr Mounds, ancient burial sites, are one of the most interesting views along the Natchez Trace. They became almost too interesting for me when a tornado roared through the area.

I left Tupelo with dark clouds hanging on the horizon. Nothing new here, I thought. It was a rare day when I didn’t see something threatening to pounce on me from the sky. Usually, nothing happened. Or I’d get caught in a downpour or two and dry off.  Why worry? Down in Texas I’d dodged a few hail storms and tornadoes, but dodged is the operative word. Besides, the weather is supposed to behave like that in the Lone Star State. I would have been disappointed without pavement-melting sun and golf ball size hail stones. Where would the stories be?

I was ten miles up the Natchez Trace from Tupelo when a driver flagged me down. “There’s a serious tornado warning on,” he told me. “You should consider getting off the Trace.” I thanked him for his concern. My alarm level climbed up the worry meter a few degrees. But it wasn’t a massive leap. I’d save that for when I spotted a flying cow. Besides, there wasn’t a side road where I was. And when I found one, who’s to say that my detour wouldn’t take me toward a tornado instead of away from it. So I biked on.

At mile marker 286.7, I came on the Pharr Mounds, one of the most interesting sites along the Natchez Trace. Eight large burial mounds cover some 90 acres. Built by hunter/gatherer tribes in the area some 2000 years ago, the mounds range from 3 to 18 feet in height. Artifacts found in the mounds suggest the builders were part of a trading culture that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

One of numerous arrow head looking signs along the Natchez Trace that announce historic sites.

One of numerous ‘arrowhead’ signs along the Natchez Trace that announce historic sites.

This photo of the Pharr Mounds site provides a perspective on just how large the site is.

This photo of the Pharr Mounds’ site provides a perspective on just how large the area is. Note the mounds in the distance. They are up to 18 feet tall.

The Pharr Mounds north of Tupelo, Mississippi cover some 90 acres.

Another shot that provides perspective on the size of the area.

Flowers growing on the Pharr Mounds along the Natchez Trace in Northern Mississippi.

A close up of the flowers that added color to the green grass.

A group of model airplane enthusiasts were flying their toys over the huge field. The planes were big ones with wide wingspans. I stopped to watch the action and check out the mounds. I became a little concerned when the hobbyists had a hurried discussion, brought in their planes, packed them up, and took off— quickly. Ah well, I thought, climbing back on my bike. But something wasn’t right. The sky had turned an eerie color. I looked at the clouds; they were circling, ominously. Now my alarm level made its massive leap, even without the flying cow. “Oh shit,” I thought.

I hurriedly looked around. The Pharr mounds had a sturdy looking restroom. I had just peed there. I might be peeing there again, real soon, having it scared out of me. The bottom half of the facility was made up of a rock wall. “Okay, Curt,” I commented to me, “this is your port in the storm.” The restrooms had a further advantage of having a covered porch. I could stay outside, be protected from the weather, and watch developments. If necessary, I could scurry inside and duck. I made myself comfortable and waited for the show.

A bright flash of light lit up the sky, followed instantly by an earth-shaking rumble, followed seconds later by a flood causing rain. Noah would have been impressed. The rain didn’t have the good sense to fall straight down. It came at me sidewise, drenching my thoughts of a dry porch. I love a good storm, but this one was becoming worrisome. “Well, Blue,” I said to my bike, “I think it is time to head inside.” I couldn’t be sure, but I think Blue responded with something like, “What took you so long?”

Sopping wet, Blue and I made a beeline for the bathroom. It was dry inside, even warm in comparison to the porch, but I could hear the storm tearing around the building. It sounded like a monster trying to smash its way in. And then it was calm, uncannily so. The monster was gone. Except it wasn’t. In the distance I heard a rumbling sound, like a herd of buffalo seeking revenge, coming for me. I almost lost it at this point. I pictured myself on the floor, snuggling up to the base of the toilet, and holding on for dear life while the roof came off and my bike took off like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Here I am, standing next to the restrooms that provided me with shelter in 1989. Peggy took this photo when we retraced my route this spring. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Here I am, standing next to the restrooms that provided me with shelter in 1989. Peggy took this photo when we retraced my route this spring. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I don’t know how long the roaring lasted: seconds, a few minutes, forever? I do know that it grew louder and louder— and then it was gone. The roof was still on; my bike was still there; and I had missed my close encounter with the toilet. I opened the door for a tentative look, not knowing what to expect. The sun had the nerve to peek out from behind a cloud. A few branches were on the ground. That was it; I had dodged the herd of buffalo (or tornado?) that came roaring through. A celebration was called for, and lunch.

I returned to the porch, retrieved my backpacking stove and boiled up a pot of water for tea and soup. The celebration part involved adding a generous dollop of 151 proof rum to the tea. I almost added another one to the soup. I was half way through the tea when a car pulled up. A woman piled out.

“Did you see a tornado?” she asked excitedly. “There was one just down the road!”

I figured “just down the road” was far too close. I finished my tea and soup, visited the restroom one last time and rode on to Tishomingo State Park, which is near the Alabama border. My ride up the Trace was nearing its end. Fortunately, I’d be there to enjoy it.

Tishomingo State Park on the Natchez Trace.

One of the campgrounds at Tishomingo State Park is located on this beautiful lake. I stayed here during my bile trip and Peggy and I have stayed here twice since.

Peggy toasts my avoiding the tornado.

Peggy toasts my avoiding the tornado. Had it carried me off, I wouldn’t have met her at the end of my bike trek.

Being an absolute sucker for reflection shots, here are three more from Tishomingo State Park:

A reflection shot at Tishomingo State Park along the Natchez Trace in northern Mississippi.

Tishomingo State Park near the Alabama border in Northern Mississippi.

I will conclude with this one I took as the sun set.

I will conclude with this one I took as the sun set.

NEXT BLOG: I finish up my ride on the Trace and cut across Tennessee to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg.

 

Mississippi Burning— Plus Elvis… The 10,000 Mile North America Bike Tour

I met this little fellow in a Natchez Trace Information Center in Kosciusko, Mississippi. He looked like he wanted to give me a hug so I decided to pass him on to you.

I met this little fellow in a Natchez Trace Information Center in Kosciusko, Mississippi. He looked like he wanted to give me a hug so I decided to pass him on to you.

 

“That boy is one tough son of a bitch.” –John Hamilton Carpenter

 

My friend, Morris Carpenter, picked me up in Jackson and gave me and my bicycle a ride to his home in Philadelphia, Mississippi. I’d be spending a week with him and his wife Marianna, the first major break in my bike ride. Morris and I go way back, all the way to 1961 when we were in student politics together at a community college in Northern California. Later, we both served as Peace Corps Volunteers in West Africa. I’ve written about that experience in my book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam. Our paths have crossed numerous times since.

Morris lives on Azalea Drive so I photographed one.

Morris lives on Azalea Drive so I photographed a bush of them.

When my first wife and I parted ways, Morris even got the kid, our 70-pound Basset Hound, Socrates. Morris was living in Maine at the time, working for the Penobscot Indians. He had kept Socrates for us while Jo and I had spent six months travelling in the South Pacific and Asia. When we had returned and Jo had decided that she wanted a more stable, middle class life than my love of wandering and work for nonprofits supported, I’d called Morris with the bad news and asked if he could keep Socrates for a while longer. “He’s my dog now,” Morris had declared. He had fallen for the lovable, stubborn hound.

Socrates' grand dad had been a Canadian and America champion, or at least his papers so claimed. To us he was just a lovable dog who kept me company on backpacking trips.

Socrates’ grand dad had been a Canadian and America champion, or at least his papers so claimed. To me, he was just a lovable dog who kept me company on backpacking trips. Those feet could move more dirt than a steam shovel. I sometimes had to file environmental impact reports on his digging. (Kidding.)

Now Morris was working for the Choctaw Indians as their housing director. He had picked up his expertise by rebuilding villages in Vietnam destroyed by the Viet Cong.  In coming to Mississippi, he had come home. His roots were deep. His mom and dad had moved from the state to Northern California in the early 40s where his father had gone to work in the lumber industry. Morris, like me, had been born in Southern Oregon. For a while, when his dad had gone off to fight the Japanese in World War II, his mom had moved Morris and his sister back to the small town of Conway, Mississippi to live with their Uncle Wilson. The community is approximately 25 miles west of Philadelphia.

Morris has now retired. When he worked for the tribe, their primary source of income was light industry. Now it is this Casino located just outside of Philadelphia.

Morris has now retired. When he worked for the Choctaw, their primary source of income was light industry. Now it is this Casino located just outside of Philadelphia.

Morris still had many relatives living in the area. I was invited to a gathering of the clan. They wanted to meet Morris’s friend who was so crazy he would go on a 10,000-mile bike ride by himself. We sat around drinking bourbon and eating delicious Southern fried chicken while I entertained them with tales of life on a bicycle. Afterwards, Morris told me that his cousin, John Hamilton Carter, had said, “That boy is one tough son-of-a-bitch.” Morris assured me it was a compliment.

One day he had taken me for a ride over to Conway to revisit his childhood home. While we were out and about, he had driven me by the earthen dam outside of Philadelphia where three young civil right’s workers had been buried in 1964. They had been killed by the Ku Klux Clan in cooperation with the local city police and county sheriff’s department. A Baptist preacher had orchestrated the murders.

The Pearl River as it winds through Neshoba County Mississippi. Authorities would drag the river for the slain civil rights workers until an informal told them about the dam.

The Pearl River as it winds through Neshoba County, Mississippi. Authorities would drag the river for the slain civil rights workers until an informant told them about the dam.

You see a beautiful, bucolic sight like this in Neshoba County and wonder about the prejudice, hatred and violence that once existed in the county.

You see a bucolic site like this in Neshoba County and wonder how such prejudice, hatred and violence could exist in such a beautiful place.

The three had been working to register black voters. Mississippi had passed a constitution in 1890 effectively blocking blacks from voting. Using law and violence, the state had maintained the status quo since. Supreme Court rulings in the early 60s had challenged such laws. College students from throughout the nation had been recruited by civil rights organizations to help out during Mississippi’s “Freedom Summer.” Many Mississippians had been infuriated with this outside interference in their state. Thousands had joined the KKK.

I had listened to recruiters for the effort that spring at Berkeley. The idea appealed to me but I had to work summers to pay for my education. While I was driving a laundry truck between Placerville and Lake Tahoe, the young people were killed. Several students at Berkeley, including Mario Savio, had heeded the call, however, and spent their summer in Mississippi. The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley that fall had grown out of the University’s efforts to block students from participating in such efforts. I’ve blogged about my involvement in the protest.

A massive investigation by the FBI was ordered by the US Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy. The FBI designated the effort, Mississippi Burning. (The 1988 movie  Mississippi Burning starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe was loosely based on the 1964 incident.) Eighteen individuals were eventually charged. When the state refused to prosecute them, they were tried in federal courts. Seven were eventually found guilty and received relatively light sentences. None served more than six years.

Interestingly, in 2004, a multi-ethnic group from Philadelphia urged that the issue be revisited. As a result, the 80-year old Baptist minister and sawmill owner Edgar Ray Killen, who had avoided prison earlier, was charged with orchestrating the murders, found guilty, and sentenced to serve 60 years in prison.

At the end of the week, Morris had driven me back to the Trace and I had restarted my journey. He had watched me until I disappeared. “I was afraid I might never see you again.” he confessed. Morris thought what I was doing was too dangerous. If you want danger, I had thought to myself, try rebuilding a village the Viet Cong had burned down when the Viet Cong was still in the area.

This pull off along the Natchez Trace is known as Pigeons Roost for the thousands of Passenger Pigeons (now extinct) that once roasted in them.

This pull off along the Natchez Trace is known as Pigeons’ Roost for the thousands of Passenger Pigeons (now extinct) that once roosted in these trees.

There is nothing endangered about this pretty daisy (Fleabane, I think) that was growing at the site.

There is nothing endangered about this pretty daisy (Fleabane, I think) that was growing at the site.

We pulled off to check out these beautiful horses.

Peggy and I pulled off to check out these  horses.

While we were there, a bike tourist who was riding the Trace, Don Glennon, stopped to talk with us.

While we were there, a bike tourist who was riding the Trace, Don Glennon, stopped to talk with us. His outfit looked a little neater, more organized, and more waterproof  than mine had.

While Peggy and I were talking with Don, I suddenly felt several bites on my leg. Fire ants had worked they way up though a crack in the cement sidewalk and were rapidly moving up my leg. Much faster than it has taken to write this description, I was in the van and had taken by pants off. Nasty, nasty bugs they are! I had scars for weeks afterwards. The photo above is a fire ants nest.

While Peggy and I were talking with Don, I suddenly felt several bites on my leg. Fire ants had worked their way up though a crack in the cement sidewalk and were rapidly moving up my leg. Much faster than it has taken me to write this description, I was in the van and had taken my pants off. Nasty, nasty bugs! I had scars for weeks afterwards. The photo above is a fire ants’ nest.

A day later found me in Tupelo where Elvis Presley had been born. What better place for an Elvis-sighting? Maybe he still haunted the area. When I had graduated from the eighth grade in 1957, our music teacher had asked us to choose a song to sing at the ceremony. We had chosen Love Me Tender. Our choice was immediately squashed. Young women were already swooning at Elvis concerts and they squealed when he wiggled his hips. The older generation was going bonkers over this threat to our morals. We were offered a compromise: The Civil War era song, Aura Lea.  Presley had used the tune from the song for Love Me Tender.

BTW: Elvis claimed, “I’m not trying to be sexy. It’s just my way of expressing myself when I move around.” Um, yeah.

This road takes you to the Presley Museum in Tupelo that is located where Elvis was born.

This road takes you to the Presley Museum in Tupelo that is located where Elvis was born.

The house that Elvis was born in and where he spent his first years.

The house that Elvis was born in and where he spent his first years.

A bronze statue of the young Elvis with guitar in hand.

A bronze statue of the young Elvis with guitar in hand.

NEXT BLOG: I hide in a brick outhouse to avoid a tornado.

A Photographic Journey through America’s National Parks… Series Conclusion

Grand teton photo by Curtis Mekemson.

National Parks in the United States and throughout the world protect and preserve many of our most scenic natural areas. This photo is of the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming.

Peggy and I decided to take a year off from work in 1999 and travel around North America. I worked as a consultant/citizen advocate on health and environmental issues when I was behaving like a serious adult, and led wilderness treks when I wasn’t. Peggy was fully adult and served as an assistant principal at a middle school.

People were more or less resigned to the fact that I came and went. You might say I was self-employed and self-unemployed. The only person I really had to check with was myself. Peggy’s situation was different, but the school district really wanted to keep her. They offered her an unpaid sabbatical. We bought a travel van and off we went.

We left on July 1. Planning was close to zero. Our only obligations were to meet up with friends for backpacking and kayaking in Alaska and to join Peggy’s parents in Florida for Thanksgiving. Beyond that we could be wherever we wanted to be and do whatever we wanted to do.

Early on, we decided to visit National Parks, Seashores, Monuments and Historical sites whenever we had the opportunity. It was a goal we continued when Peggy retired from being an elementary school principal in 2007 and we wandered in our van for another three years. As a result, we have visited the majority of America’s National Parks as well as many in Canada.

Over the past three weeks I have blogged about a few of the parks we visited. I hope you have enjoyed the journey. Today, I will wrap up this series with photos from several more. I will return to the National Park theme from time to time in the future.

Volcano Natioanl park photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A view of Volcano National Park on the island of Hawaii. The white steam in the background is coming from an active volcano.

Big Bend National Park photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A view of the Rio Grande River as it winds through Big Bend National Park in Texas. Peggy and I spent Christmas at the park.

Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjord National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park. I ended backpack treks I led across the Kenai Peninsula near here.

Sunset at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sunset at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Niagara Falls photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Niagara Falls is not a National Park but it is a National Heritage Site.

Luna Moth on Natchez Trace.

We found this colorful Luna Moth on the Natchez Trace, a National Historic Highway that winds through Mississippi and Tennessee. No commercial traffic is allowed on the road, which makes it great for bicycling. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This brick outhouse found on the Natchez Trace is included because it is my favorite brick outhouse in the world. I hid out in it with my bicycle as a tornado tore up the countryside nearby.

This brick outhouse found on the Natchez Trace is included because it is my favorite brick outhouse in the world. I hid out in it with my bicycle as a tornado tore up the countryside nearby.

Photograph of Rocky Mountains National Park by Curtis Mekemson.

Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.

Photograph from inside Mammoth Cave by Curtis Mekemson.

A view from inside of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Photograph of Newspaper Rock by Curtis Mekemson.

A small section of Newspaper Rock National Historic Site in Utah. Native Americans have been leaving messages on this rock for over a thousand years. Note the guy shooting the elk in the butt with an arrow.

Photo of Painted Desert National Park in Arizona.

Painted Desert National Park in Arizona.

I'll conclude for today with this photo Peggy took of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll conclude for today with this photo Peggy took of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOG: We are off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the beginning of a new series. First up will feature photographs of Pelicans diving for fish in Banderas Bay. We were fortunate to be close to the action and caught some great shots. You won’t want to miss this blog.