Not Dead Yet II: Still Not Dead!

September 5, 2000

My decision to remain in Natchez for another day was a good one, perhaps one of only a handful I expect to make this trip. As I travel north the air temperature stays constant as the day progresses, so I know that I am approaching the cold front. The day's travel is pretty uneventful, and I stop outside of Rosedale, Mississippi at the Great River Road Park, which offers camping near the banks of the river. I pick a campsite well away from the other two campers in the park, so the place is rather deserted. After I set up my tent I walk to the park's access to the river. The seasonal water level has lowered the river to where the park access is literally one mile from the actual river. I am stunned - I come expecting to dip my feet in the cool water of the Mississippi and instead I have a long walk across the dry riverbed. The wind comes down from the north, picking up sand that scours my legs and arms. The sand is crusty but shifts and slides, making walking awkward. How surrealistic, crossing the Mississippi on foot.

I make water after 30 minutes. The far bank is just as far from me as the bank I just left, so at this point the river would normally be two miles across. I stay for a while, hoping for a tugboat pushing a barge to come by, but none do. I turn and begin my return trip, but this time I am angled slightly more into the wind. I try to follow my tracks back to the park, but the wind has remorsely erased them. The day's travel is catching up with me as I make my way back, and I feel the impact of the solitude as I look up and down the riverbed and no one is anywhere in sight, and I can see a mile or more in each direction. In an instant I know why I take these trips. It is the challenge of each day that yields special moments that permanently etch themselves into my identity.

As I mentioned, the camping area is quite deserted. The cold front is pushing a lot of wind through the trees and it is actually quite noisy. Darkness is falling as I try to heat some beans. I'm clumsy from fatigue and spill most of the can on the ground while trying to pour off the water. Food near a campsite is an open invitation to the local wildlife coming closer than I feel comfortable, so I end up scooping up the debris with my bare hands. As the remains are not enough to fill me up, I try again with another can. I don't know how, but I manage to spill most of this can as well. Again I am scooping up beans and cleaning off the ground. At least between this can and the first can I have enough for a small meal.

With night comes the recognition I never should have watched The Blair Witch Project. I'm not sure I'll have the same enthusiasm for camping after the scene where some unknown entity is shaking the tent and there is no way to find out what without leaving the tent. All I will say about how I felt that night is that it took Tylenol and earplugs for me to get to sleep. And when I woke up in the middle of the night needing to go to bathroom I just unzipped the door and went from within the tent. Think I'm a sissy? You watch that movie and then sleep in a tent at the edge of the woods in the middle of nowhere with the nearest person several hundred feet away. I bet you don't feel so tough once it gets dark. I think the camping industry ought to file a class action lawsuit against the creators of that movie.

September 6, 2000

I make it through the night unmolested. I pack and head out, a nice cool morning with clear skies. I am amused by a road construction crew that has dug up a road and piled it up several hundred feet long and forty or fifty feet high, and then placed a sign against it that reads: Used Road For Sale, Some Assembly Required. They should contact the state of Louisiana.

Such amusement is short lived. I stop to take a picture of the Tennessee welcome sign and when I go to start my bike it is dead. Not a peep, zilch, nada, zero, my social skills, kaput, nothing. I remember that the last time I stopped for gas my ignition switch felt odd, and I know that it has been slowly indicating that it was closing in on failure, so I disassemble it and sure enough, a wire has broken off of a terminal. From my previous experience with the switch I know there is a little ball that I have to take great care not to lose. In my intense focus on the ball, I drop the little spring that holds the ball in place. A half hour later I find it, and I find myself closer to God. Now I have to figure out how to make the wire connected again, and all I have is electrical tape. First I use the tape to hold the wire in place over the terminal, but it isn't tight enough to force it to make contact, so I place a small pebble on top of the wire and then tightly tape it in place. I then cut the tape on the other side of the switch where it covering the contacts and put it back together. Houston, we have ignition. After a few failed attempts to find a location where I can make a more permanent fix, I find a motorcycle dealership that lets me borrow a soldering iron and I fix it for good.

From there my travel was uneventful, as I passed through Memphis on Elvis Presley Boulevard, waving at Graceland as I drove by. I've been there before and I highly recommend it, especially if you can make it at Christmas time. I travel less than I anticipated, with the breakdown putting my behind schedule, but I push beyond where I would like to stop. What a day.

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