Seized grub nut

Departure in 72 days.

Preparing for this trip – an adventure I’m uncertain I can pull off physically or fiscally – is now in full bloom. I have multiple fronts –files with hyperlinks, blog entries, lists; spreadsheets with mileage, links, mileposts, and intersections; images with Trace map sections, county highway maps, and adjacent bike paths – on parallel tracks with the tandem refurbishment detailed along one rail and the voyage planning along another shiny rail running off toward the infinite horizon.


At the same time, I’ve piled up the texts. The relevant Foote volume is pulled down, another Eudora Welty collection is requisitioned, Faulkner is staged, Trace histories are ordered. Returning to the Vicksburg campaign narrative has been a revelation even before my son and I roll through history on the Natchez Trace National Parkway.

Maps make the difference.


Maps bring a story alive, place a tale in context, allow it to occupy a space beyond imagination and project it onto a segment of the globe. Without one revolution of pedals or wheels, I gain a sense of the landscape. Cycling cue sheets are complemented by elevations along the Trace. At my online disposal are dynamic maps of the full length of the parkway, its exits and services within 2 miles of those access point. This is valuable information, all available at a touch on my phone. Even so, I’ll print out county highway maps and cue sheets and mark up Trail guides. Because that’s what I do.

The path we’ll follow is real. This is distinct from our first tandem trip, along U.S. 90 from Tallahassee to Pensacola, following what is called the Old Spanish Trail, a remnant of the subscription road associations created to encourage construction of auto-worthy paved highway systems. It was only called the Old Spanish Trail, without any connection to a historical version.

Contrarily, there has been real suffering and tragedy along the Natchez Trace’s route. For the United States alone, a short-term actor on the global scene, here is the nexus of the nation, its dark underside and unforgivable past, the truth and shame of our present so many of us cannot or do not or will not acknowledge. It is here where so much has been nurtured into being. More than the alluvial soil is rich. U.S. Grant, Lightning Hopkins, Andrew Jackson, Eudora Welty, Marcus Dupree.

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It’s a remarkable place, fertile land with a unique ecosystem and a firm hold on the narrative of this country’s history.

All of this fascinates and motivates me. For now, though, one of the set screws securing the eccentric sleeve of the captain’s bottom bracket on the Santana is locked up in its corroded threads. The other, the left of the two, I successfully backed out. Further, with the right one being thus stuck, I’ve managed to round off its hex sides. I dropped the Santana’s frame off at a bike shop and asked them to have a go at extracting what I was told is called a grub nut.

I knew I’d been feeling out of sorts. Of course. My grub nut is seized up.