Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moundville Alabama to Tatum Texas

October 31 Saturday (450 miles)

We woke up to 48 degree temperatures – quite a drop from the 81 yesterday afternoon. We had rain off and on all night but I love the sound of the rain on the metal roof of the Sprinter. A quick breakfast and run through of the checklist and we were on our way west at 8:15.

We found our way back to I 59 and followed it to I 20 in Meridian Mississippi. We crossed both the Black Warrior River and Tenn-Tom Bigbee waterways – both have locks and are navigable. We were surprised by the lack of crops as we had expected to see cotton, corn, etc. There were mostly cattle and catfish farms where we traveled in Alabama.

Cypress Trees along Tenn Tom Bigby Waterway

After a short stop at the Mississippi Visitor center we continued west across the state through Jackson. We stopped as planned at the Vicksburg National Battlefield for a national parks passport stamp and to view the areas noted in Michner’s Texas. We saw the introductory video and walked through the Jewish Cemetery to see the lunette defended by the Second Texas Regiment during the battle of Vicksburg. We did not take the 14 mile drive since we had done it on a previous visit. The weather was sunny and warm – a huge difference from early morning. We ate a snack lunch as we drove today since we really wanted to get across Louisiana before stopping for the night.

Cannons at Vicksburg

Both Mississippi and Louisiana got lots of rain during the storms that crossed the area yesterday – water was standing in most of the fields and along the roadsides. Across both states there were fields of cotton, numerous cattle, and even a few oil wells. A quick stop at the Louisiana visitor center gave us a map to follow across the state. We had crossed Louisiana on I 20 before, but I remembered nothing about it…Shreveport surprised us with its huge casinos. The Louisiana State Fair was in progress and the crowd was massive. We passed on through and crossed into Texas.

After searching through our campground materials we selected the Emerald Glen RV Park in Tatum which was about 40 miles south towards Nacogdoches where we hope to learn about the early history of this part of Texas. We are about 30 miles south of Longview – really barely into Texas when you consider the size of this state.
The campground is out in the middle of cattle farms and is very rural. Probably 60 sites – there may be 15 travel units here and most of them look like they are fairly permanent – but we have seen no one at any of the sites. The owners told us on the phone to select a site and leave money in a box. It has great wireless and we are
able to watch recent TV shows on There is a nice pool, great laundry and restrooms. We expect a quiet night after all the excitement last night it will be welcome.

Kingsport to Moundville Alabama

October 30 Friday (416 miles)

We rolled out of the driveway at 8:15. Our goal was 8:00 so we almost made it! The trees along I81 were very colorful and we noticed significantly more traffic than usual due to the closing of I 40 from Asheville to Knoxville when the rock slide occurred this past weekend.

The miles clicked by as we listened to a mystery on CD. Jane had not been through Knoxville on I 40 since the construction in downtown was completed…very nice. As we passed through GA south of Chattanooga we noticed the kudzu was still alive and growing and the trees were less colored….they had not had frost yet. We stopped at the Alabama Welcome center for lunch and Ben was remembering when he and George Stevenson came through here on the way to respond to a hurricane for the Red Cross. He remembered all the welcome and rest were closed for the hurricane.

We passed through Birmingham on the Interstate with no problems and set the GPS to find the Moundville Archeological Park south of Tuscaloosa where we had planned to stop for the night. The time also changed so we were able to see the video and a few of their items before the welcome center closed at 4:00. The museum was closed for repairs and we were sorry not to see all their relics. We drove around the area with 20 Indian Mounds which were quite impressive. The tallest one was 60 feet (82 steps) high- nothing compared to the ruins in Mexico but it was still a climb. The Mississipian Indians lived here for hundreds of years and about 800 years ago just disappeared. There was a village here and several others surrounding with a total of over 10,000 Indians who were roughly contemporaries with the Anznazi in Chaco and San Juan River area. Staying here and in Chaco gives you the opportunity to live in the exact locations of the villages. This location is preserved and managed by the University of Alabama. The campground is nice – not large but had water, electric and nice restrooms. It is certainly worth the $12 fee.

We were setting up camp when the guy across the road came over concerned about the tornado warnings…We had been surprised by the 81 degree temperatures this afternoon but had not been listening to the radio. It was also very windy – all signs that should have alerted us to severe weather. I got out my Red Cross radio with weather – cranked it by hand since it dawned on me what the electric cord was I had taken OUT of my computer case – "saying what in the world is this for???" Well it was for the radio…but it uses batteries and the hand crank too so it is always Red Cross ready!

We found the weather alerts but then had to get out the map to find out what county we were in!! It turned out the storms coming through were just to the north of us…but they were all along the MS/AL state line to the north. The temperatures behind the wind were going to be in the 50’s….a 30 degree change!

We had rain – nothing severe. Ben was able to get the local TV station with weather with his homemade HD antenna. We bought a small TV for viewing DVD’s and TV when we could get it and it is a little snowy but sound is good and it is very watchable. Supper over, we have settled down to a quiet evening – Jane writing the blog and downloading photos and Ben watching TV. So far we have not found anything we left at home. Hope it rains tonight – and the weather map shows rain in Meridan Mississippi – about 60 miles west of us…. We will see.