I had a rather interesting upbringing. Most people refer to me as a Yankee because of my accent and the fact that I was raised on the Westside of Detroit, but what most people don’t know is my mama was from Dora, Alabama and my dad from Trenton, Georgia. To put it simply, I grew up on the best of southern cooking imaginable and there wasn’t anything quite as good to me as waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of fresh biscuits and red eye gravy.
Smells have an amazing impact on our memories. Several years ago I went on a ride with a few of my friends along the Natchez Trace Parkway, but the ultimate destination included some of Lon and Annie’s homemade biscuits piled high in the center of the table. Lon and Annie became famous for their amazing breakfasts all the way back to 1951 when they purchased the Harpeth Valley Tea Room along Highway 100 in Nashville, TN. Their southern cooking was so popular they built a small 14 room motel, cured their own hams, and became a landmark in the old city.
Our ride took us out of Spring Hill, TN through Columbia and onto the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Natchez should be on every riders bucket list, especially in the fall when the landscapes are a kaleidoscope of color. The Natchez Trace Parkway is mostly unencumbered riding from Nashville, TN, 444 miles to Natchez, MS. The route of the parkway is actually a National park commemorating the travelers, adventurers, and settlers that tamed the great American wilderness. Along the way you discover breathtaking landscapes and waterfalls, the old log cabin where Meriwether Lewis died, several civil war sites and cemeteries, an old Indian burial grounds (and so, so much more).
Stopping at the Meriwether Lewis Memorial provided an opportunity to learn more about his mysterious death. The official cause of death were gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen, but family members don’t accept some of the explanations of what happened on October 10th, 1809 and have lobbied to have Lewis’ body exhumed to see if any clues were left behind.
The most common explanation is that Lewis, at age 35 committed suicide. He was having financial problems and suffering from depression. Prior to leaving the Lousiana territory for Washington D.C. he even provided several of his associates the power to distribute his possessions in the event of his death. William Clark, his companion on the Lewis and Clark Expedition went as far as to say, “I fear the weight of his mind has overcome him.”
Today, over 200 years later theories continue to swirl around the early death of the great explorer. Some suggest he was murdered by robbers along the trail, others suggest that it was an assassination plot by army General James Wilkinson. Whatever the cause, a stop at the Lewis memorial is well worth taking some time off the parkway to expierence a bit of our countries history.
This particular pathway across Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi still remains my favorite stretch of road anywhere in the United States. The landscapes take your breath away and a historian could spend his entire life and not cover all the history along the Natchez Trail.
On this particular morning you could feel the cool morning air as Autumn quickly encroached on the summer heat. The leaves were starting to turn a deep burning red, and a thin fog was lifting as the sun drove away the moisture in the morning air. It’s not a long ride from Spring Hill to Hwy 100 in Nashville, but by the time we arrived, we too would be some hungry travelers ready for some of Lon and Annie’s homemade biscuits.
We finally arrived at the old historic site and as expected the place was packed. The server told us at least an hour, which allowed us time to wander the grounds and soak in the atmosphere. The little motel rooms where now gifts shops and mail order offices. The old house still looked as inviting as ever and our mouths were practically salivating by the time they called us to our table.
Nine of us sat down at a country sized table and had the option of ordering individually from the menu, or for $12.95 each we could order the family style breakfast. We opted for the later. With family breakfast, the servers brought out platters of fresh biscuits, bowls of sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, plates filled with bacon and sausage, grits, and hash browns. There was no limit on how much you could eat. If you emptied one platter of bacon and sausage they brought another. If you got low on biscuits, more, fresh out of the oven were placed on your table.
The beauty of this place was the homestyle cooking. This wasn’t a fast food, all you can eat buffet. Fresh cooked food was brought to your table in much the same way grandma used to, and it tasted every bit as good. Lon and Annie Loveless weren’t there to greet us with their world famous biscuits, but the historic family café that bears their name didn’t disappoint. They changed the name to Loveless Café and Motel in 1952, but Lon and Annie sold the place in 1959.
The Loveless Café sits at the every end (or beginning) depending on your departure point, of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Whether you are wanting to get an early start on one of America’s most beautiful rides, or you have come to the end of the trail, the Loveless Café is a must stop for everyone visiting the Music City.
And while you’re riding, be sure to download our podcast “Bike Chowdown,” on iTunes for more great places to visit.