The Trace

It was time to take another fall trip and we thought what better way than to apply some knowledge learned last year during our summer trip to the TN and NC area.  We had been watching the weather channel pretty closely for about three weeks, and when we saw an open window that didn't conflict with family commitments we decided to take off on a clear and beautiful Saturday.  On Saturday morning the Weather Channel was calling for rain in the western NC area so we dusted off an old plan of going down Natchez Trace.

Day One - Cincinnati to Savannah, TN

We left early Saturday morning and headed down I-71 towards Louisville.  We took the southern bypass and exited onto US31E and headed towards Bardstown.  The fall colors had just about peaked and the weather was fairly warm.  We only needed our riding suits for a short time.  The road down to Bardstown is fairly uneventful and has developed quite a bit since I last traveled this route.  There are rolling hills and lots of farm land.  This is Kentucky Bourbon country and we passed many bourbon warehouses.  Bardstown is a small historic town with an abundance of antique shops.  We passed Talbot Tavern, a spot where my wife and I had spent a night in the accompanying B&B for our anniversary.  The tavern is an historic place where many travelers would bed for the night.  It dates to 1786.  We stayed on US31E, and once through Bardstown the road became two-lane, and our riding became more exciting.  A couple miles south of New Haven we came upon Lincoln's boyhood home at Knob Creek.  There is a visitor's center there next to the old log cabin.  The visitor's center was once a tavern itself.  Continuing south we came into Hodgenville where they were celebrating Lincoln Day.  Lincoln's birthplace is just south of the city.  We continued south on US31E towards Glasgow and Barren River Lake.  We stopped at the State Park there to view the lake.  We were growing tired of US31E, it had gotten rather boring south of Glasgow so we decided to get the road and take a back route into Nashville.  We turned south on K482 which turned into K174.  We got a little lost in the southern hills there but found our way back onto US31E and into Nashville.  After navigating through Nashville we found the entrance to Natchez Trace on the southwest side of town.  This parkway runs 444 miles from Nashville down to Natchez MS, although most southerners would say it run from Natchez to Nashville.  The Trace is an ancient path that began as a Native American trail and was later used by early explorers, "Kaintuck" boatmen, post riders, and military men, including General Andrew Jackson after his victory at the Battle of New Orleans.  Farmers would float their produce down the Mississippi River, sell their flatboats for lumber, then walk home via the trace.  For a time, this was the busiest trail in the "Old Southwest".  The Trace is similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway but isn't nearly as twisty nor as scenic.  Starting at the northern end of the Trace headed south the riding is at its best.  From Nashville, across Backbone Ridge and down to T50 the road is fairly twisty and elevated.  After on about 15 miles we came upon one of the more famous sites along the parkway despite it being only a few years old.  The Double Arch Bridge spans T96 and the Little East Fork river.  This bridge was opened to the public June 22, 1996. It is the first segmentally constructed arch bridge in the United States making it a double arch bridge.  One arch spans the length of nearly 2 football fields (582'). The entire bridge is 1648 feet long and carries the parkway 155 feet above T96.  Continuing south we went about another 40 miles before we stopped again.  This it was just below mile 400.  We stopped to view in old part of the trace.  We dismounted and walked about a 1/2 mile down the path.  There wasn't much to see.  Back on the bikes we rode down to mile 375 where another part of the old trace was drivable.  It is one way to the North but only runs about 2 miles.  The trail is worth taking, it offered some nice views of the valley below.  Once back on the main road we continued south and into Alabama.  Somehow Alabama had escaped us.  We didn't do much more than scratch the surface, but it least we can say we rode in it now.  We exited on A20 headed east and into the town of Savannah TN on T69.  Savannah is best known as the town nearest the Shilo National Battlefield.  We had found a motel on the internet and made reservations.


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Double Arch Bridge Ken at the Bridge The old trail
View of the Parkway Ken on the old Parkway trail Steve's bike on the trail
Savannah Motel    

Day Two - Savannah TN - Cincinnati

We left Savannah in the morning under threatening skies.  We headed east on US64 and turned north on T128 towards Clifton TN.  We stayed on T128 through Clifton which sits on the Tennessee River.  Staying on T128 we rode just south of Linden where we picked up T13.  T13 follows the Buffalo River.  As we crossed I-40 we stopped for Breakfast in Waverly.  We continued north on T13 into the town of Erin.  There we picked up T49 toward the Cumberland River.  T49 took us into the Fort Donelson area.  Over the river and we were in Clarksville KY.  It was Sunday morning and the numerous churches were packed full.  We stopped along the river for a rest.  We picked up US79 and in Russellville turned north on US431.  This took us to the Blue Grass Parkway, into Lexington.  There we jumped on I-75 and home.


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The Cumberland River at Clarksville Ken looking for a new a route

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