The next morning we hoped to leave at noon so we shopped like maniacs around the local bike shops for parts and spares. The people of Madison immediately proved themselves to be both kind and generous. On announcement of our trip we were instantly provided with many parts, no few free of charge, and were even offered free doughnuts. This was to become a common trend over the weeks ahead, dealers could never do enough for us and were constantly apologising for the prices of their products. Despite none of us ever asking for a penny off a single product the dealers invariably insisted on reducing the products costs or giving them to us.
Typically we had problems fitting some of the parts and didn't leave Sam's until 4pm. Luckily Sam was driving us to the trail head and the bikes were on a trailer so any problems were soon forgotten on the 7 hour drive along one straight road through one forest! The Natchez Trace was only the first of many indications we were to get over the next few days that the USA was a BIG place!
Problems fitting the parts is something of an understatement. The bars on my bike had an internal diameter too small for the Acerbis brush guards I had purchased at not inconsiderable cost that morning. So it was that Sam's son Philip and I set off to find a drill bit of the correct size to make the holes bigger. "Logical" I hear you say, but easier said than done. The first purchased drill bit wouldn't fit in the chuck of Sam's drill, so off we went to find another. As it turns out, there are no 14mm drill bits to fit Sam's drill in Madison Mississippi, so we had to ask a very nice man in a lawnmower repair shop to do the job for us with the only drill bit we could find that was big enough sourced from Home Depot, which I think is basically B&Q for those of you in the UK (The livery is the same anyway). This he did for no charge and the guards were duly fitted, but only after some 3 hours of messing about.
Arrival at the trail head was a relief and although we stopped in a strange town for a 'tailgate party' dinner in a petrol station, I couldn't help wondering how I was going to cope with US food. How could it be so different in two countries which were supposed to be so similar? Who wants to eat chicken gizzards and corn bread? or biscuits and gravy for breakfast?