Local conquers Natchez Trace

At 444 miles, the Natchez Trace is a lengthy road for anyone to travel, but Jeff Doremus, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Brookhaven, conquered the Trace on the seat of his bicycle this past October.

Completing a ride of this size demands not only peak physical condition but also months of prior planning and preparation. To train over the past year, Doremus has been riding 50 miles three to four times a week.

“You have to have enough ‘seat time’ so you can finish the whole 444 miles in a five-day span,” he explained.

As coined by Doremus, “seat time” is a measure of your ability to handle the amount of riding the task requires.

“I’ve had an interest in riding the Natchez Trace as something on my bucket list for a number of years,” Doremus said. “We had made plans about a year prior to that in order to pick the right season.”

Accompanied by his brother Jim, a pastor in Houston, Texas, Doremus set out from Natchez on the five-day trek.

“Mathematics dictates how far you have to ride each day.”

The brothers attempted to get through 90 miles daily, stopping every 15 miles and once a day for a lunch break.

“Most people will tell you that you ought to start in Nashville so you start in the hilliest part and get less as you come down into the Natchez area. We didn’t want to do that.”

To make the challenge doable, the two were met every 50 miles or so by Doremus’s wife Terry, the appointed “lunch lady” who drove the sag vehicle.

At one point in their journey, the cyclists’ path was obstructed by sinkhole that had opened up.

“I want to say it was very north Mississippi… and we were instructed by some other riders who were coming south that we really needed to trail our way around it because they had closed it.”

Taking a six-mile detour, the two made their way around and emerged on the other side to continue their journey.

“The weather dictates everything,” cautioned the cyclist with a laugh.

Ideal weather conditions cushioned their ride initially. Due to a strong tailwind, Doremus and his brother were averaging 22 miles per hour over the first four days, but the final day’s downpour turned against them. The two waited a day to rest up. The following day the rain had only slightly lightened up. Faced with a deadline and rough weather, they pushed on, drenched and weary and finished the journey just south of Nashville at the Tennessee end of the Natchez Trace.

“I’ve always been interested in riding a bicycle. One of the things I’m excited about that I’ve read in the paper is in 2016 there’s a bicycle advocacy group that’ll sponsor a ‘Tour of Mississippi’. There’s not a lot of details about it, but it’s a multi-day event that will go around the state.”

Doremus can often be seen around Brookhaven running, cycling or otherwise exercising.

 

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