The Really Long Way Around
The choice seemed easy. Drive from New Orleans to Nashville by:
a) an 8-hour route along 70 mph interstates; or
b) an 11.5-hour route along the 444-mile long National Park Service’s Natchez Trace Parkway, a two-lane, 50 mph winding road.
After a two-second conversation the choice was made.
We picked up the Natchez Trace Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi.
The parkway officially begins in Natchez, Mississippi and heads Northeast through Mississippi, Alabama and finally Tennessee. It celebrates the history of the Old Trace, which was a path followed by many in North American history (including the famed Lewis & Clark). When Dave mentioned there was a 444 mile road that went through a National Park, I had to take it. I had been dreading the drive from New Orleans to Nashville along the interstate. I could only handle seeing so many Waffle Houses in one day.
The road was two lanes with a maximum speed limit of 50 mph. No commercial vehicles were allowed so it consisted mainly of passenger cars, one or two bicyclists and the occasional deer, possum and raccoon.
Each mile was marked by a post and the guide map we picked up at the Mississippi visitor center provided insight on historical landmarks and places of interest. Most people drive the road over consecutive days so we knew we were going to miss a lot trying to finish it in less than a day. Come to find out, the majority of places of interest would really only interest my dad who cannot pass up an opportunity to read a historical plaque.
Our one diversion from the road was a mile-long hike to one of the highest points in Mississippi at the 193 mile marker. At 603 feet, we stood proudly on the top of Little Mountain in Jeff Busby State Park.
Our path also led us through Tupelo, Mississippi – the birth place of Elvis, but more importantly, the home of BBQ by Jim. Dave hadn’t eaten a rib since we left Houston and I had been watching him get a little shaky from the withdrawal. He claimed it was the best rib he tasted on the entire trip. I think it was the victory of finding BBQ by Jim that may have clouded his taste buds.
This was our longest driving day as we were attempting to get from New Orleans to Nashville all while puttering along at 50 mph. Once the sun set for the day, our sweet Natchez parkway became a dark, rainy race car video game. Deer to the right, possums to the left.
At the first sign of service on our phone, we found our way off the parkway and onto a more well-traveled road to get us to Nashville without a deer ornament hanging from the front of the Subaru.
It was shame to miss the last 50 miles of the parkway. The views coming into the Nashville area are supposed to be very pretty. I was just happy to not have seen a Waffle House and to have made it safe and sound to Yazoo Brewing in Nashville before it closed.
A triumphant success in our books.