Journey to the ST.N National Meet
Day 1 - Cypress, TX to Natchez, MS
It keeps you going when the deserted road you are hurtling down suddenly turns into a one-lane potholed goat trail from hell. A glance at the GPS (traitorous beast) cheerfully guarantees you’ll be out of it in 10 miles. Momentum, yes. A little throttle too. Brakes don’t help when there are 20’ stretches of gravel between patches of broken up pavement. Attempting to negotiate a u-turn would almost guarantee bike droppage.
A long process of building momentum got me here, a hotel room in Natchez, Mississippi.
From the moment I decided to move to Texas, the thought of attending the ST.N National Meet was in my mind. I got the time off, bought needed touring accessories, and planned a route. The process culminated last night at 1:30 AM when I was madly dashing between the attic and the garage, trying to remember where various items were stored.
Needless to say, I did not get an early start this morning. That’s ok, because my planned route for the day was only 400 miles.
I finished some last minute packing and sat down to a breakfast of bagels and lox with my parents before heading out the door around 10 AM.
The morning was spent on familiar East Texas Piney Woods roads. Lunch was at the Texas Star Café in Colmesneil with a sandwich and a pitcher of sweet tea.
I finally reached new territory after entering Louisiana at the south end of Toledo Bend Reservoir. The roads in Many, LA were very torn up, and should have given me a hint of what was to come.
A national motorcycle roads website had suggested LA118 through Kisatchie National Forest. Maybe I misread the map when planning my route, but the road was excellent right up to the town of Kisatchie. At one point in that nice stretch I pulled over for some pictures. I waved cheerfully at a passing cruiser rider, but he was back minutes later to make sure everything was okay.
The cruiser rider was nowhere to be seen when the pavement disappeared. The devastated vegetation in that area should have been a hint. Katrina? Or some other natural disaster?
I guess it wasn’t so bad. There was never a time when I couldn’t see the distinctive red asphalt of a patch of pavement ahead. The ST handled the bumps and loose stuff like a champ. I stayed relaxed on the controls and kept the panic instinct down. I never experienced my usual gravel-induced adrenaline high.
When the sign for I-49 appeared, I was understandably overjoyed. The familiar sensation of the R12ST floating along the interstate helped soothe my nerves.
With the aid of some nice, safe connector highways, I reached Natchez well before dark. After crossing the Mississippi, I explored the town a little, following brown tourism signs. I visited the historic downtown area, with “townhouses” built by cotton barons in Natchez’s heyday. I rode down to “Natchez Under the Hill” and saw a floating casino docked where once riverboat hands swaggered and caroused. One sign, mysteriously labeled “Forks of the Road,” brought me to the location of a notorious slave market. Besides the very tastefully done educational display, the only sign of historical importance was a round of concrete inset with iron manacles.
The front desk attendant at my hotel suggested “Cock of the Walk” for dinner. I highly recommend it for visitors to Natchez. Located in an a maze of an old building down by the river, it’s regionally famous for catfish. The boatman’s den ambiance felt authentic and the service was great. The grilled catfish and skillet cornbread was very yummy. I’d forgotten my book in the motel room, but my waiter owned a GSXR1000 and was happy to talk motorcycles and touring.
He even asked what I was doing later, offering to take me out for drinks. I had to decline. My body needs no encouragement to get dehydrated while on a tour. Also, call me a paranoid spoil-sport, but I view going out casually with a total stranger to be too risky this far from home.
With a long ride up the Natchez Trace tomorrow, I need to get a good night’s sleep. Gotta keep that momentum going…
LA118 - the good part