Around Louisiana: Central



One cozy Saturday afternoon last summer, I read, en boudoir, a collection of short stories by Eudora Welty from her book The Wide Net and Other Stories. These stories are all primarily set somewhere upon  the haunting Natchez Trace, which has always entranced me.  In the process, I wound up reading two of the finest short stories of my experience: “First Love,” a historically atmospheric and poignant telling of Aaron Burr’s escape into Mississippi from the narrative viewpoint of a young deaf boy, and “A Still Moment,” which chronicles a fictionalized meeting at sunset of Natchez Trace regulars: John James Audubon; evangelist Lorenzo Dow; and James Murrell, who terrorized the Trace with his crimes.
The Old Natchez Trace extends 440 miles from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, Tenn. It was created by the bison, deer and other game that wandered through the brush searching for food; later, American Indians propagated it more as they began to settle farther afield, using the natural breaks and foot paths created by the animals that had trailblazed before them. After the American Indian expansion, the Europeans streamed forth upon the trace on their way to become Americans.  Today, the Trace is a historic bike path.

Last October, according to the Cenla Focus, Alexandria businessman David “Randy” Pfeiffer, who at 54 regularly works out with weights and cardio exercises three times a week, decided he would bike the entire length of the Natchez Trace in seven days. He began training on a specialized bike, taking spinning classes at his gym and riding 20 miles round trip every day to work from his Pineville home.

 Starting at mile marker 442 at the base of the Trace just south of Nashville, Pfeiffer, accompanied by his cousin Rick Bollenbacher, began to cycle toward Natchez on legendary ground.  

“The Natchez Trace is truly America’s bike path,” Pfeiffer said. “There aren’t any businesses along the way, no homes and no commercial vehicles.  It’s a beautiful pathway and the perfect place for bicyclists and hikers.”  

While tackling the twisting hilly terrain, the two men drank plenty of water and loaded up on complex carbs for energy. Their second day was spent pedaling uphill. On the third day, they crossed into Mississippi.  Four days later, after a restful night at Mamie’s Cottage, built in 1840, the cycling pair biked 78.3 miles in beautiful 47 degree weather. Pfeiffer said he got tired with 20 miles remaining on their trek but when they reached Mile Marker 9 at Highway 61, he felt an immense rush of energy.  

“My adrenaline kicked in,” he said, “kind of like a horse heading for the barn.”    

At 5:30 p.m., their biking trek down the Natchez Trace was now history.

Although he fought and got drenched by downpours with no shelters readily available, Pfeiffer nevertheless said he feels an enormous personal satisfaction at successfully biking the historically and scenically resplendent Trace.  

His original plan had been to undertake the Trace with his son, Bryce, who was sidelined due to his curriculum as an engineering student at Louisiana Tech in Ruston. Pfeiffer fully plans to bike the Trace again, this time with Bryce, but said he would like to accomplish it slowly next time, in 10 or 11 days.

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