Trace a line

It’s on, this traverse of Mississippi on two wheels. Nine weeks from now we’ll pedal off from the shores of the big river and head northeast on the Natchez Trace.

We will roll along in the spectral footsteps of Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek people. We will crank over land soaked in the blood of Grant and McClernand’s Union soldiers as well as Johnston and Pemberton’s Confederate fighters. Our tandem will run right between where Emmitt Till was fatally brutalized and the site of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner’s Mississippi Burning murders. We’ll spend two days in a town burned to the ground not once, but twice by Sherman and named for a man best known as an iconoclastic president, federalism disrupter, and slave-holding ethnic cleanser.

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On the trip’s first day we’ll start out in the morning and halt that evening on U.S. Highway 61. Though we’ll be far south of the mythical site, this highway girding the country’s gut is one arm of the crossroads where Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil. We’ll visit the Eudora Welty Library on Day 2. Though none will be the Ur courthouse in Oxford, every courthouse in the state (including the seven we’ll pass by and photograph) contains a little of Faulkner’ Yoknapatawpha.

History, evil, death, and edifying art along with an intriguing geology all distinctively its own.

My 14-year-old son, preparing to leap into high school, and I, a 53-year-old government worker, are riding a tandem across a diagonal of Mississippi from the southwest to the northeast.

We’ll be supporting ourselves station to station, toting our own luggage. There will be vagaries, more likely than not, from my oh-so-meticulously constructed itinerary. Vagaries sounds so much more romantic than thunderstorms, pinch flats, and saddle sores. More on that, as well as the necessary progress on the Choctawhatchee Chariot’s re-assembly, are ahead.

Hop on. There’s nothing for it but to pedal on.