Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Silver Comet Trail

The Trail in Rockmart.

Black Betty and I spent the weekend camping at The Rock Campground near Rockmart, Georgia. We specifically went there to ride on the The Silver Comet Trail. Black Betty hadn't been on her bicycle for a while, so I figured that if I could get her on a nice riding venue, I might get her enthusiastic about it again.
I think my plan was successful.

The Silver Comet Trail is a 61 mile long "Rails to Trails" path that runs from Smyrna on the outskirts of Atlanta, to the Georgia/Alabama state line.  It is named for the silver passenger train that ran the route between New York and Birmingham from 1947 until 1969. Believe it or not, the whole trail is paved with brushed concrete. And following generally the path an old railroad grade, most of  the trail does not exceed 2% grade. It's perfect for riding. We found the portion of the trail that we rode, to be in excellent shape.
At the Alabama state line the Comet joins the Chief Ladiga Trail to continue another 33 paved miles to Anniston.

Our little Gnometown camper at The Rock.
 We decided to use  The Rock Campground as our base camp. The campground is in a perfect location for this, it sits about 1000 feet off of the trail, between mile 34 and 35. The campground provided hot showers, flush toilets, and electricity. The manager, Starla, was very friendly and helpful, and she provided us with a great trail map. What more could you ask for?
Oh yeah, did I mention the weather? It was beautiful!

You better love trains if you camp. They seem to run all day and all night!

On Saturday, we rode west and explored the little town of Rockmart and scouted the trail through the farm lands and pastures beyond it. There is some hill climbing west of town, as the trail leaves the rail grade, so we did get a good work out. On our return to the quaint downtown of Rockmart we ate a delicious sandwich at Frankie's Italian Restaurant.

Black Betty tearing up the trail.

On Sunday, we rode east and through a beautiful section section of the trail. This path led us by Coot's Lake, through the extremely cool Brushy Mountain Tunnel, across the Pumpkinvine Creek Trestle, and through the Paulding Wildlife Management Area. Black Betty kept remarking about how beautiful it was. I have to agree with her. It was lovely. As we approached Paulding Chamber (where we turned to head back) there were lots more cyclists on the trail. At this point we were within twenty miles of the start of the trail in Smyrna.
I know if I lived around here, I think I would be on this trail every chance I had.

Unique bird houses on the trail.
We will definitely be back to the Silver Comet Trail. I want to do this with my grandchildren and I would also love to do this as a touring trip with Black Betty. We are already talking up a springtime trip, I can't wait.

Brushy Mountain tunnel. It is 800 feet long and 3 stories high. It was originally built in 1912 and expanded in 1968.

Go Black Betty, go!

The Pumpkinvine Creek Trestle. Built in 1903 by man and mule, it is more than 700 feet long and 100 feet above the creek.

Our wildlife spotting while in the WMA was pretty much limited to this armadillo.

On the road home, in Windingstair Gap.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple-Smoked Maple-Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.

Smoky bliss!

I got this recipe from my good friends over at http://camp-cook.com/.  Camp Cook is a wonderful resource for campfire cooking, dutch oven cooking, grilling, BBQ, and everything or anything the camp cook needs to know. The real experts are over there, give it a look.


For the Brine
2 cups water
1 cup Dale’s Seasoning
1 cup pure maple syrup (we stocked up in Maine this summer)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cracked pepper or coarse ground pepper
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
2-3 bay leaves
5 large garlic cloves, smashed 

For the Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin, (mine were 7 lbs together, so they were about 3 and 4 lbs each)
2 -3 lbs. sliced bacon
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cracked pepper or coarse ground pepper
1 cup pure maple syrup 


Bring all brine ingredients to a boil, stirring to mix well.
Turn off heat and let cool.
When completely cooled pour into a plastic bowl with lid and submerge tenderloin. 

(Mine didn't submerge so I turned them a few times. The original recipe used 2 qts. of water in the brine. I didn't want to water it down that much and just used 2 cups).
Let these tenderloins soak overnight or longer.

Bacon Prep (Do this right before cooking)

Take the maple syrup and put in a bowl, add about 2 tsp or more of cracked pepper
Mix together well. Separate your strips of bacon and set aside. 

Pork Loin Prep
Remove loin from brine – DO NOT throw out the brine if you're smoking or grilling, set aside.
Pat loin dry with paper towel
Season loin with garlic powder, onion powder, and a little cracked pepper.
Take the tapered end of the pork loin and fold it over, hold it together. Dip 1 strip of bacon in the maple pepper mix then wrap tightly around the folded piece of tenderloin. Overlap your bacon and wrap tightly so you do not have loose ends or sagging pieces – if done correctly you won’t have to use toothpicks to keep the bacon in place.
Continue dipping the bacon and wrapping the entire loin. At the end of the last piece of bacon, tuck the end under another tightly wrapped piece of bacon to hold in place.

Take any leftover maple syrup that you dipped your bacon in and evenly pour over the loin.
Sprinkle bacon wrapped loins with a little more pepper (if you haven’t already gone wild with the pepper in the maple syrup and on the pork loin). Place the loins in the smoker and smoke at 200 – 220 degrees until the meat reaches 165 degrees, remove, wrap in foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. 

* By the way, the USDA now says that you can cook pork roasts to 145 degrees: USDA Recommended Cooking Temps 

I used my old charcoal smoker with apple wood chunks and chips. Any good smoking wood would be fine. 
The pork smoked for about 5 1/2 hours to reach the 145 degree temp.  It was moist, melt in your mouth delicious! I fed 6 adults and 6 kids, with plenty left over. 

If you decide to try this recipe, I would appreciate if you send me a comment and let me know how you liked it.

Thanks, Hometown Hiker.

Sliced and diced.

Black Betty served it up with mashed potatoes, corn salad, and green bean casserole.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Natchez Trace Tale

Miles of smiles on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Instead of jumping on the Cycle North Carolina train again this year, Nimble Nate and I decided to revisit the Natchez Trace Parkway. We rode it in 2003 and decided that another little tour of it would be fun.

Our original plan was to start riding on Sunday, but since it decided that it would rain over two inches that very day, we hung out and watched football in Jackson.

On Monday morning, we left Kosciusko in a cool misty rain and rode to French Camp where we shared a table at the Council House Cafe with Jamey, a cyclist from Alabama. Jamey, a novice bicycle tourer, was out raising money for the United Way, which helped his community after it was devastated by the April 2011 tornadoes. He was interested in talking to us about our Appalachian Trail adventures and insisted on buying our lunch.

After a delicious lunch, Nate had to ride 20 miles back to Kosciusko, where he had left his wallet in his shorts, locked in his truck. He decided that he would retrieve his  truck and drive it to Jeff Busby camp ground, where we were to camp. Nimble Nate rode south with Jamey, and I rode on north. 

The little, no fee campground at Jeff Busby offered nice, clean, flush toilet restrooms. It was quiet and cozy.  The only other campers were two cyclists from Baton Rouge. We set up camp and talked with the other cyclists a bit.

Since Nimble Nate and I had his truck, we ended up driving to Eupora where we ate a killer fried seafood platter at Larry's. I'm talking fish, shrimp, oysters, frog legs, hush puppies, and fries! Our waitress, LaPortcia flirted shamelessly with Nate. When he asked what was good there, she slapped his arm and said, "Me!"

9/30/12 Day One-Kosciusko to Jeff Busby: 35 miles
Lunch at French Camp. I had the famous "Big Willie" BLT, potato soup, and bread pudding for dessert.

The Council House Cafe, French Camp. Building circa 1820.

Jeff Busby Camp Ground on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Tuesday, we awoke to a seasonably cool morning . After packing up, we rode 11 miles north to US 82 and found the wonderful Trace Way Restaurant about 7/10 of a mile east of the parkway. We had the ridiculously inexpensive and exquisite 'meat and three veggies' lunch plate for a mere $5.00. The price included your drink and cornbread. I opted for the fried chicken, green beans, mac and cheese, and greens. Good stuff!

Back on the road, we met Rebel, a south-bound cyclist from Murfreesboro, TN. He was wearing a coonskin cap under his cycling helmet, a US Army cycling jersey, and was riding with a Frenchman. He told us that the Frenchman took him to France last summer to ride bikes, so he was returning the favor by taking him to Mississippi. It seemed right to me. 

By the time we got to Witch Dance, Nimble Nate's knee was bothering him. He also seemed to have a little "bonk" on. We rested up, fueled up, swallowed some vitamin I, and then pushed on north for another 10 miles. We left the parkway at MP 243 and and rode west about 4 miles to the Davis Lake Recreation Area. As we approached the campground, we picked up a friendly, young, white German Sheppard who insisted on running along side of us. He followed us into camp and stayed the night with us and could not be persuaded to leave.

Davis Lake is a developed campground with electric and water on all sites. The $20.00 fee for the site was well worth the price of the wonderful, hot showers. A few more dogs came and hung out with us. We had a three dog night.

10/1/12 Day Two-Jeff Busby to Davis Lake: 56 miles.

On the road.
Meeting the King.
Elvis's humble beginnings.
Wednesday morning, we packed up and headed back to the parkway with our white furry friend alongside. It ran the entire 4 miles back to the parkway with us and then for a few more miles before we finally lost it. Once again, it could not be persuaded to leave.

The commuter traffic started picking up as we came within 20 miles of Tupelo. These folks drive faster, and noticeably more aggressive, than your regular Natchez Trace tourists. I have no complaints though, almost everyone was pretty respectful of our bicycle space.

We rode into Tupelo on the busy 4 lane, Hwy 6. We quickly found Eli's BBQ and had a really good pork sandwich for lunch. Consulting Nate's iPhone, we hit the back streets and took a tour of Tupelo and found Elvis's home and museum. The real "Elvis moment" came to me as I entered the restroom in the museum and discovered a flat screen TV above the urinals on which one could watch Elvis perform in concert as one relieved his bladder. Now that's classy!

After the Elvis tour and buying supplies at a grocery store, we grabbed a motel room for the night. Nimble Nate iced his knee, and we watched the presidential debates.

10/2/12 Day Three-Davis Lake to Tupelo: 35 miles.

Dead copperhead.

A pack of Natchez donkeys.

Hometown and Nimble Nate at Witch Dance.

Thursday morning, we pointed our bicycles south and headed back towards Jeff Busby. Nate's knee was still bothering him, and we decided that we needed to head back to the truck. We knew that we had a long day of pedaling ahead of us, so we stayed on schedule and slogged our way over the rollers.

Stopping at Witch Dance for a break, I became the victim of the witch's hex. My tire went flat as we sat there. I had a fairly new (2 weeks) slime tube installed on my tire, I couldn't understand why it was flat. When I pulled the tube, I discovered what looked like a defect in the seam of the tube. So much for the slime, it didn't seal squat! We quickly replaced the tube, but before we could leave, Nimble Nate's sunglasses broke. Another victim of the mischievous witch! We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Later that day, a car passed us on the Parkway and soon turned around and stopped beside us. The gentleman in the car told us that a coyote was directly ahead of us on the road and was acting strange and aggressive. It was chasing his car, running up and down the parkway, and he thought it might have rabies. He obviously was worried for our safety. I picked up a stick and the guy drove ahead of us. Nimble Nate saw the coyote run off into the woods. We passed safely. I wonder if it was the witch wanting another crack at us?

We finally made it back to Jeff Busby. There we met a south bound cyclist named White Beard who was riding a three wheeled recumbent and pulling a bob trailer. He was from Denver and riding south for the winter.

We also met a real interesting character named Robert E Lee Voyles at the campground. He called himself the Mississippi Redneck. He had an old station wagon that he cut down to make into a home-made pickup and was pulling an old camper. Everything was hand painted an off red color. He had all kinds of mail boxes, axes, jacks, generators, cookers, flags, pots and pans, and other cool stuff strapped to and hanging off of his car. He told us that he just loved to travel and camp. It was a pleasure to talk with him. I thought of my hiking buddy, Boy Floyd, who carries a huge red pack, with lots of stuff strapped to and hanging off of it. The Mississippi Redneck took it one or two steps further. These two need to meet and compare notes, for sure!

10/3/12 Day Four-Tupelo to Jeff Busby: 70 miles.

The open road.

Natchez Trace Notes

  • Wildlife we encountered: lots of deer, turkeys, a few coyotes. A couple of dead snakes. Fire ant mounds everywhere you looked.
  • Road surface was mostly superb! Rolling hills in the north, flatter in the south.
  • Mississippi has lots of roadside litter. They did a nice job of keeping it picked up on the Parkway. Neanderthal slobs still threw trash out, lots of times mere feet away from trash cans. 
  • Weather: wow, couldn't beat it for the 1st week in October. Highs 70's, Lows, 50's.
  • Mississippi fried food: the best in the world!
  • Parkway traffic: low traffic, no commercial, speed limit 50 mph. Most drivers very courteous. Busy around Jackson and Tupelo. Signs posted on parkway "GIVE CYCLISTS 3 FEET". Nice.
  • Here's a great info-packed website that I used for logistics: Biking the Natchez Trace
  • Here's more info at the National Park Service website: NPS Natchez Trace