Traveling the Natchez Trace with Meriwether Lewis…and author Andra Watkins.

I’ll bet you didn’t know I was a southern girl. And I’m not speaking of Southern California.  I wasn’t actually born in the American south, but family roots run deep and I often realize that some of my tastes and preferences pull from my close relationship to my maternal grandmother, born and raised in Mississippi.

My grandmother in 1998 in front of her birthplace home, Derma, Mississippi
My grandmother in front of her birthplace home, Derma, Mississippi. 1998.

My grandmother lived many more years in Southern California than in her home state, but her siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family were still in Mississippi when I was a child, and I made my first 1800 mile visit, traveling in the family car, when I was only five.

And I couldn’t be sure how many times I’ve made that trip since then.

A family reunion in 1998 introduced us to the 100-year old daughter of my great-great grandfather, a Confederate soldier. Somehow meeting her, and realizing that her father had fought in the Civil War, emphasized living history.

There is so much history in the Deep South.

I was very young when I first traveled a portion of the beautiful Natchez Trace. I couldn’t have really understood that it represented 10,000 years of North American history, or even the importance of the highway’s significance in the role of westward expansion.

What I first recall hearing was adult conversation about the Indian mounds. I don’t know what I really thought at the time, but in subsequent travels I began to piece together that the mounds represented an ancient culture and that the entire Trace has a mystical appeal.

And that brings me directly to my friend, author Andra Watkins.

Debra and Andra

Andra is currently walking- yes WALKING– the 444-mile Natchez Trace as part of her deep immersion into the historical significance of the characters in her newly released book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.

I am so eager to share with you my recommendation for this very interesting book. Released as both an e-book and in paperback, I hope you’ll consider making the purchase and reading this fast-paced tale that doesn’t easily fit a traditional genre category.

The book takes an “afterlife” look at the unfinished business and story of celebrated American explorer, Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark, and the Corps of Discovery fame.

On both Amazon and Goodreads I posted the following review:

I started reading this book on my lunch hour and had trouble putting it down and getting back to work. I relished the strong descriptive narrative, completely fascinated with the way the story unfolds in flashes between the historical past and modern day, and with my imagination stoked, I strategically carved out “reading appointments” to meet with Merry and Em.
I was a participant fellow-traveler along the hauntingly mysterious and beautiful Trace. The highway, home to the famous and infamous, is an important additional character in the story where memories of the distant past blend into current experience, and the reader is treated to the very satisfying challenge of discerning the ghostly past with the emotional present, concurrent with glimpsing potential future events.
I emotionally connected to the characters, and although I wanted to know their end, I was not eager to conclude the book. However, since my interest in Meriwether Lewis increased substantially due to the author’s creative interpretation of this fascinating explorer’s life and death, I will carry this story and these characters forward as I consider reading some of the books she has cited as research materials.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an element of mystery mixed with strong plot lines and a creative encounter with well-researched characters. A love of American history would be an added bonus, but is not necessary to finding this book an exciting read. ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis’ would be an excellent book club selection. There is so much that would make for a lively and rewarding discussion!

Natchez Trace

I hope you’ll consider reading Andra’s very enjoyable book, and if you leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media site, you’ll also be a participant in this very exciting book launch.

Read HERE to learn more about Andra’s Trace walk, as well as to learn about an excellent travel opportunity. To enter a contest that would lead you to Charleston, South Carolina, Andra’s current home, find the details HERE.

I am so impressed with Andra’s commitment to this project, and as you may recall, I am still looking for a way to claim her as a distant cousin.

Both of our grandmothers share a family name. Until I can establish clear family ties, I think I’ll draw a dotted line on the family tree and pencil her in. I’d love to claim a familial relationship to someone with her talent and artistic dedication!

I must repeat–she is walking the entire Natchez Trace!

Please take the time to check out Andra’s site, and to learn more about her and her book—then read it and enjoy! You won’t be disappointed.

72 thoughts on “Traveling the Natchez Trace with Meriwether Lewis…and author Andra Watkins.

    1. I’m really impressed with Andra’s commitment to this incredible walk, Charlie. She is so funny and entertaining, too. I think you’d enjoy following along with her blog and to see her 30 second videos each day where she answers questions about her travels. Her book is really excellent, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1. Thank you for reading the book review of Andra’s big effort! I am sure that because of the work you’re doing on your own book, you can appreciate the hard work and commitment. You might get a charge out of reading her blog right now. A book promotion is not an easy endeavor! 🙂

  1. Sounds like a wonderful, fascinating book, Debra. 444 mile walk? I imagine it will be quite an experience for her but, for me, it’s just not going to happen. Ever. 🙂

    1. If I could have found a way to join Andra for even a portion of her walk, and frankly, that’s all I could possibly see–a small portion–I would have loved to have joined her. I’m so impressed with her commitment. The book is so well done, and I enjoyed it immensely. Now to watch the work that goes into promotion I realize why such a few authors succeed. It’s just too much work for many! Thank you for taking the time to read the review, John.

  2. I used to think walking a mile for a Camel was far…but 444 miles? I’m getting blisters on my feet just thinking about it… And did I read you correctly? Someone reached 100 years of age in your family?!

    1. I am in awe of Andra’s walking schedule, Koji. She is walking 444 miles in one month. That’s an accomplishment, isn’t it? Yes, the aunt in question was 100 years old, and I think 101 when she passed. I really didn’t know that part of my family very well, but I was introduced at that time. She was in good health and good mind, too. Pretty great!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Andra’s book. I’m also glad you agree that it isn’t at all necessary to know Meriwether Lewis. Andra’s pretty remarkable isn’t she? I’m glad you enjoyed a little bit about my family, too, Fiona. If I can get my mother to be a bit more comfortable with me telling them, I might. LOL!

  3. dandyknife

    What a great adventure your friend is having. E.g. and I have been hitting the gym to prepare for hiking in Oregon in April, and I’m convinced that we’re ready to tackle those four-mile waterfall loops. Four down, 440 to go… Would love to do the Trace (or the Appalachian Trail, or…) but couldn’t imagine carrying the overnight gear and food. The hardest thing I’ve done is to schlepp a canoe on my shoulders for a one-kilometre portage; that was plenty.

    1. I’ll tell you this about Andra’s travels. She starts each day at a particular mile marker and then is picked up for the night, to be returned the next day to the precise location where she ended. She isn’t camping. For one thing, the Trace is a highway, and so it wouldn’t be possible, but I think probably sleeping in a good bed is one way to make sure she isn’t ill at the end of the month! I’m so glad you’re going to have the opportunity to do some hiking in Oregon. You’re going to have such a wonderful time. I look forward to hearing more about it as you make your way! 🙂

  4. Great promotion, Debra. Just downloaded the sample of the book yesterday. I love Andra. And you have to love what she’s doing. It’s fun to follow her progress. I also love the video clips of her answering reader questions.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. I’m loving Andra’s reader question videos. I love the “floating” book. LOL! She’s so funny. And this effort in promotion has to be exhausting even if you aren’t counting in the walk, which is just incredible to me. I really enjoyed her book, and wanted to do my part to promote it. I hope you get the chance to read it. 🙂

    1. I hope you will be able to read Andra’s book, Colleen, and perhaps follow her blog and the walk itself! I think the fact that she’s so tuned and committed to the promotion itself is really quite wonderful. You’d enjoy her personality! 🙂

      1. I do follow her blog. I haven’t yet gotten the book but I will. I am thrilled when anyone puts themselves to a challenge like this. And I like what I see of her personality. I can’t help but laugh when she talks about “Roy”. 🙂

        1. Wouldn’t you like to sit down and have a visit with Roy, Colleen? I think he is such a dear. I also think it would be so much fun to watch Andra interacting with her dad, in particular when he approaches a crowd of people and begins one of his stories. I think we know where her creative spirit was born. 🙂

          1. I love it when she calls him “dad” and the next thing she’s doing is referencing him as “Roy”. Don’t know why, but it cracks me up. ANd yes, it seems we get an idea of her creative origin. 😉

  5. Hi Debra!

    Interesting! I’m related to Merriweather Lewis’ sidekick, William Clark, a cousin of my ggg grandfather Thomas Clark.

    Anyhow, I’ve got the book on my reading list. Thanks!

    1. Those of us who have followed Andra for awhile have watched her develop this project and “birth” this book, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. It doesn’t really fit neatly into a particular genre, which makes it unique from the very start. What an interesting side note that you have William Clark in your family line. The Lewis/Clark expedition is such an interesting facet of history. I hope you enjoy the book.

    1. I love the idea of exploring and would really enjoy spending more time on the Natchez Trace, but walking the 444 miles…it never would have occurred to me, even when younger! I’m so impressed with Andra. 🙂

  6. Wow! Walking the Trace?! That is incredible – and inspirational. This sounds like a great book. I’m sure Mr. N would enjoy it as well. He liked learning about Lewis & Clark on one of our road trips. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    1. You might enjoy following Andra’s trek! She puts a very short (30 seconds or so) video up every day answering questions about her walk. I think Mr. N might even enjoy some of that and her pictures from the Trace. This is such a remarkable way to promote her unique book. Thank you for reading my review. You can tell I’m very much in her corner. 🙂

    1. Andra is quite something, isn’t she? I’m very impressed with her in every way. Those of us who have been following Andra for some time have really watched this book develop, haven’t we? Maybe that’s partially why we feel invested in her success and positive outcome! 🙂

    1. You would just thoroughly enjoy getting to know Andra, Dee. She is a very dear person with a lot of energy, drive and passion for writing. She’s been working on this book for quite some time, and it’s so wonderful that she’s now published it. And now here she is with this remarkable book promotion–walking the entire Natchez Trace. I hope you’ll enjoy the book and perhaps get to know her. 🙂 Thank you, Dee. ox

    1. You may be the only other person I know who would tackle this walking project, Lori! You could probably run it in half the time it’s going to take her to walk. But she’s meeting people along the way and talking about her book, too, so running probably wouldn’t work. LOL!

      1. If I were actually going to walk that far, I’d prefer to do it on a trail rather than a paved road. Still, I admire the idea — and it certainly is the perfect way for Andra to promote her book!

        1. It is a great book promotion idea, isn’t it Lori? I wanted to tell you I’ve really taken to heart your last post when you mentioned how you determine activity for each day. Your “activities” are marathon compared to mine, but I am going to follow suit as I can envision. I brought my walking shoes to work today and have figured out how far I can walk (and get back) in an hour. I’m looking forward to it. Who knows where this will lead. hahaha!

  7. I think I will be looking into the ‘To Live Forever’ book – it sounds fascinating Debra. I hope your friend is successful in walking the trail 🙂 I came across Natchez a while ago – not the trail but the place. In Eldorado, Mississipi claims to come from there where he was raised by a dubious character called Johnny Diamond. But I’ve also read The Quiet Game by Greg Iles that is set there. It almost feels like home, except it’s fiction! 😉

    1. There are some really fascinating places in Mississippi, and really the entire southern United States. I always find a new piece of history that I want to better understand. And the Trace is a whole study in itself. Her book is a unique tale, and you’ll read it quickly. By the time it concluded I realized I wanted to plan a trip of my own to go back to Natchez. I’ll drive the 444-miles perhaps. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed a little bit of my family story, Robert. I don’t often have a reason to even mention my Southern roots…but with Andra’s Trace walk, I’m right there with her! 🙂 Thank you!

  8. What a fantastic review, Debra ~ Andra will be thrilled with it . . . despite the blisters she’s picked up on the Trace!

    Wonder if her next book will cross the Mason-Dixon Line:

    1. Thank you for the compliment on the review, Nancy. I appreciate that, and hope Andra has time to read the many positive “notes” and reviews that are circulating. She has really put her heart and soul into this effort, and I admire that. And this song you’ve just shared is really beautiful. I loved it…new to me! I’m glad you included it for me to hear. 🙂

    1. I hope she doesn’t just ruin her feet, Jo! LOL! That’s probably me speaking from my current age. She is MUCH younger and undoubtedly up to the task. But it couldn’t be easy for anyone. I really admire Andra’s courage–but she is definitely channeling some Meriwether Lewis and I think she is being spirited along! 🙂

    1. Wasn’t Andra’s book good, Jim? She’s such a talent, and what a lovely person! I think that this walk along the Trace is going to lead to something even bigger than she sees today. What a creative and determined young woman! I hope you have a great week, Jim. What happened to the weekend? LOL!

      1. Agreed – I think she is on her way now. Here’s a question for you though – I read another bloggers book and it was awful (oh dear!) what is a polite way of reviewing the book or should I keep quiet to avoid upsetting her!

        1. That’s a tough one! I’ve worried a little about this kind of thing coming up. If you can avoid, that’s probably best. I’m not all that proud to admit that I’m pretty good at avoiding conversations that may lead to hurt feelings–and sometimes honesty really would have been best! If you need to jump in maybe you can find a way to praise the effort that it takes to complete a project. I have read other bloggers telling an author outright that their work “wasn’t for them” and that it didn’t really resonate in a way that connected for them, but that they were aware that enjoyment from any book was subjective and so admired the author for completing a project. I read the wonderful review you wrote for Andra (on Amazon) and it was so descriptive and an honest recommendation. That’s what makes a luke-warm review so difficult–the contrast! I feel for you, Jim!

  9. Sandra Young

    I remember that family trip you took this sounds very intresting what a great adventure for her. I will into the book

    1. I’d love to give you the book, Sandy. Let me know if you’re really interested. Andra is really something! 🙂 Yes, you surely do remember when we all went back to Mississippi for the reunion. That was such a special event, and I’ll always be glad we did it. 🙂

  10. This was so interesting, Debra and I’ve bookmarked the page to follow some of your links when i have more time. Andra has set herself quite a challenge and I wish her every success, both with the walk and her book.

    1. Andra is a delight, Perpetua, and the adventure she’s on, promoting her book as well as walking the entire Natchez Trace, is really so unique. I hope you might find the time to follow along, even if from a distance. I hope your week goes well and you continue to enjoy your new freedom in activity and mobility! 🙂

  11. I resided in MS for three years. We also drove from MS to LA. Have to say I prefer the latter. 444 miles of walking sounds brutal, but I could only imagine the fulfillment from it.

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