It all started at Mile Marker 442. A personal challenge of endurance propelled David “Randy” Pfeiffer to cycle the entire Natchez Trace in seven days. “I started at the base of the Natchez Trace, south of Nashville, Tennessee, and ended up in Natchez, Mississippi at the Zero Mile Marker,” Pfeiffer says, sporting a big grin.
The idea to ride a bicycle along the historic Natchez Trace first surfaced two years ago for Pfeiffer when he and his oldest son, Bryce, planned the father-son trip. They purchased two specialty bicycles and plotted their course. But the busyness of Bryce’s senior high school year interfered with their plans, and the trip was postponed. Then, in January of this year, the team selected a date and charted their trip again. However, Bryce, now an engineering freshman at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, was sidelined again with college work. Despite the scheduling adversity, the desire to bike the Natchez Trace prevailed in Pfeiffer, and he decided to ride the trail on his own. “I thought the idea of bicycling down the Natchez Trace sounded like a lot of fun. I never got to make the trip with my son, but I wanted to still do it. I wanted to challenge myself, and I had the bug in me. So I got in touch with the Natchez Trace Bed and Breakfast Association to help me find out about lodging along the Natchez Trace,” recalls Pfeiffer, the president and owner of CLC Engineering in Alexandria.
At 54 years old, Pfeiffer, who works out with weights and cardio exercises at least three times a week, has never been a cyclist enthusiast before. In fact, he has never even ridden in a bike marathon of any kind. But Pfeiffer did not have to go solo on this bike trip, as his cousin in Florida, Rick Bollenbacher, who at age 56 is a cyclist, opted to go on the quest with him.
To prepare for the Natchez Trace bike trip, Pfeiffer went to the gym everyday to work out for about an hour and a half, and in January started training on his Specialized Tri-Cross touring bicycle. “I was taking spin classes at the gym, and riding my bike to work. Round trip from Pineville to work, I rode about 20 miles every day. I had about 160 miles under my belt in training on the bike by the time we left on our trip,” Pfeiffer notes.
The first day of their bike trip on the Natchez Trace was October 13th, and the two men finished the 465-journey seven days later on October 19th. Pfeiffer’s wife, Laura, took the men and their bikes, to the gate of the Natchez Trace. His younger son, Aaron, who is 12 years old, rode along his father for the first five miles on that first day. “The Natchez Trace is truly America’s bike path. There aren’t any businesses along the way, no homes, and no commercial vehicles. It’s a beautiful pathway and the perfect place for bicyclists or hikers,” Pfeiffer adds.
Day 1 of the journey presented a foggy start to the two cyclists. They started out at the gate of the historic trade path in Nashville and immediately climbed for more than 2 miles. “There was lots of twisting, curvy hills the first 20 miles. The first day we rode 51.5 miles,” notes Pfeiffer. Along the Natchez Trace, Pfeiffer and Bollenbacher would stop every chance they got for water and ate complex carbohydrates for energy. On day 2, the two rode 38 miles; their shortest biking day, but it was almost all uphill. “We got caught in the rain with the wind in our face. We were miserable. We had five miles to go uphill, and the rain came. We were caught in a tail-end squall. We got drenched with no place to take shelter,” Pfeiffer recalls, adding that he was thoroughly exhausted when they reached their motel in Collinwood that night.
Day 3, the team rode their bikes for 60.84 miles, with the first 20 miles were “flat and easy.” Under a blue sky, the two stopped for lunch at Freedom Hills, and crossed into Mississippi shortly after lunch. They exited off the Natchez Trace at Mile Marker 307 into Belmont on back roads with lots of short hills, and reached their lodging by 3:00pm. Day 4 proved to be a “long, hard day” for the bicyclists as they rode 78.32 miles, with lots of short hills early on, a headwind, and lots of traffic on the Trace around Tupelo. Day 5, Pfeiffer and his cousin rode 71.34 miles. The temperature was around 57 degrees and the ride went smooth, with few small hills and light traffic.
On Day 6, the two journeyed 86.6 miles on their bicycles. The temperature was “chilly,” but they made great time as the traffic was very light, the roads were flat and there were no headwinds. That night, they stayed at Mamie’s Cottage, which was built in 1840. On day 7, the two biked 78.3 miles. It was a chilly 47 degrees when they left the bed & breakfast. “There were lots of hills, all day long. The weather was beautiful, just had a stiff 15-20 mph wind in our face almost all day long. The afternoon ride was tough again with the hills and the wind. I really got tired with about 20 miles left. But by the time I got to Hwy 61 at Mile Marker 9, I was sensing the finish line wasn’t far off and my adrenalin kicked in, kind of like a horse heading for the barn,” notes Pfeiffer.
An overwhelming personal satisfaction of finishing something he challenged himself with was within reach. “We blitzed the last 9 miles and finished up around 5:30pm,” he adds.
At the end of each biking day, Pfeiffer says he would be fatigued, but after a shower and some rest, he was ready to ride again in the morning. He feels blessed that they did not experience any bike mechanical problems or any strained muscles. At times, the cycling experience became a “grind” with the fatigue, traffic, headwinds and endless hills in certain areas, but other times offered a time of solitude in the beauty of God’s nature.
Euphoria about his accomplishment has settled in Pfeiffer’s bones for finishing a task he put before himself, and he does plan to bike the Natchez Trace again one day, hopefully with his son, Bryce. “It’s a good feeling to finish something you set out to do,” says Pfeiffer, “And it’s something I plan to do again one day, but I would like to do the Natchez Trace in 10 or 11 days,” he adds, while tugging on his yellow, rubberized wrist bracelet sporting the words, “LiveStrong”.