Vicksburg, MS to Natchez, MS
Distance 72 miles all on my bike, 10.9 mph average, 6:36 ride time, actual time on the road 8 hours 05 minutes. Today’s Expenses $5.55
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This is getting ridiculous! I was ready to ride at 7:15 but as I rolled Spirit out of the fire station a thunderstorm struck. Back inside the station I went and upstairs had some breakfast to wait out this latest storm. Can’t make up my mind if I should change my moniker to “Old Guy Hitch’in a Ride” or “Old Guy the Rainmaker” either would be just as appropriate after this adventure. One of the “B” shift fireman just coming on duty checked the weather forecast and radar for me on his laptop. It appeared this was a small storm cell which should move eastward rather quickly. Sure enough by 9 AM the rain stopped and the sun came out. On my way out of Vicksburg I stopped to take a couple pictures of the Mississippi from the Visitor Center.
Though today’s ride is 16 miles shorter than yesterday’s it was much more of a challenge due to reentering hill country. Don’t know what I was thinking but when I got on the Natchez Trace I was thinking it was relatively flat but instead was a series of rolling hills, not steep but hills just the same.
Didn’t really see much I wanted to take a picture of on the Trace except for this picture of Spanish moss on the trees.
Port Gibson was about the only community on this stretch of the MRT where I could stop for a bite to eat. I stopped at a Subway for a Sunrise Breakfast sandwich on flat bread, my new favorite Subway sandwich. While I was waiting in line to order the lady in front of me said, “I recognize you, you’re the bicyclist in the Newspaper article who is riding the length of the Mississippi”. That surprised me as the last paper I was interviewed by was in Tiptonville, TN. Then I remembered Kevin Smith the Warm Shower Host in Helena, Arkansas said he was going to submit an article to his local newspaper. Yet Helena is almost 300 miles north of Port Gibson? The lady further surprised me when she paid for my lunch and wished me a safe ride. Her comment about the safe ride was weighing heavily on my mind, too. When I rode the Natchez Trace three years ago as I was leaving Port Gibson a logging truck driver try to scare me off the road into a deep ditch by laying on his horn and coming as close to me as possible when he passed, I won the bluff but it did scare the hell out of me.
Port Gibson’s claim to fame came during the US Civil War when General Grant ordered his troops to spare the city as it is too pretty to burn. General Grant and General Sherman used a “Scorched Earth” policy burning everything in their respective paths through the south. By destroying much of the South’s physical and psychological capacity to wage war it would force the Confederacy into surrendering. The policy for the most part worked. War is hell for all but the politicians who wage them.
It was taking much longer time to get to Natchez, due to the hills, than I had anticipated and I needed to see if I could arrange somewhere to stay before getting there. I pulled into a rest stop on the Trace and checked to see if my cell phone had service, it did. A Google search for “Methodist Church, Natchez, MS” did Methodist church as I’m a baptized Methodist Church family member. Jefferson Street United Methodist Church popped up and I read about the church being over 200 years old. Then I read the Church’s Mission Statement and knew this was the church family to contact. The Statement read:
The Jefferson Street community serves our neighbors and the world through many ministries. Several of these include children and youth ministries, providing needs for local people through our food pantry, and missionary work throughout the nation and the globe!
We are a people called to love and serve through being an example of Jesus Christ with “Open Hearts, Open Doors, and Open Minds.”
We welcome you with a southern hospitality that is truly unique to Mississippians…come and see us.
I knew this was the church to call and proceeded to dial the number. Gladys the church secretary answered the phone and I told her who, what and why I was calling. The tone of her voice wasn’t quite what I had expected, she was short and said the church was very busy today and didn’t have time for additional challenges. I asked if I might speak with the Pastor, John Kramer. A few moments later Pastor Kramer came on the line and I repeated my need for shelter for this night. At first the Pastor said he was very busy and ran through a list of the many activities going on in the church today. My heart sank and I was about to hang up when the Pastor said, come on in we’ll feed you and find you a place to stay tonight. I suggested he might contact a church member who rides a bicycle. Pastor Kramer said he had only been at the church for three months and didn’t yet know who what all the members of this 600 member congregation did for pastimes. He assured me regardless he would find a place for me tonight. Relieved that my needs for a place to stay this night was taken care of the rest of the ride to Natchez was much less stressful.
Pastor John had provided me directions to the church which were excellent. When I rode up to the Church I was amazed at the size and beauty of the Church. The Methodist folks in Natchez have a lot to be proud of in their church.
When I walked into the Church’s gym the first person to spot me was the good reverend John Kramer, we introduced ourselves and quickly began to form a bond of friendship and respect for each other. True the church had a lot going on a kick-off dinner to this year’s tithing (Annual Financial Pledges), a slide presentation of the many ministries of the church and being Wednesday it was Bible Study night. Pastor Kramer introduced me to many of the church family members and even invited me to set with him and his wife at dinner.
After dinner the Pastor even took a couple extra minutes to show me the beautiful 200 plus year old sanctuary with a very large pipe organ. I’d love to stay for a Sunday service but that would be too many days to impose on church family.
Pastor John asked me to stay for the adult Bible study as he’d like to use me in the lesson. OK, this should be interesting I thought. It didn’t take long to realize why it would be good for me to join in tonight’s lesson as it was about the “Good Samaritan”. Pastor John further surprised me when it came to the part about the Priest walking to the other side of the road and passing a beaten and robbed stranger in need of help lying in the road. Pastor Kramer admitted he almost made that mistake today when I made my request for a place to stay. His first reaction to my request was he was too busy to help a stranger. That took a lot of courage on Pastor John’s part to admit. I think the Jefferson Street United Methodist Church is going to be blessed with him.
During Bible study I discovered the man sitting next to me, Matt, is a bicyclist. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be staying the night at his home as the church had already made and paid for a motel reservation for me. Since it was dark when Bible Study ended Matt did volunteer to give Spirit and me a ride to the motel. On the ride to the motel Matt and I discussed bicycling, church and even took a little time to show me a few of the beautiful Antebellum homes in Natchez. My day ended knowing this Methodist church family truly does have “Open Hearts, Open Doors, and Open Minds”. Thank you to all of my church family in Natchez, you are an inspiration.