Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Chattanooga TN to Kingsport TN

Monday, October 24, 2011

We were up and on the road by 8:30 and arrived home at 12:30. Back on Eastern Time will require a little adjustment! No surprises on the interstates coming home and we made only one stop to buy gas. Total mileage was 5,796.  Other statistics when I get past the dirty clothes! Good to be home after a really great adventure. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bay St. Louis MS to Chattanooga TN

Bay St. Louis MS to Chattanooga TN

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We left Buccaneer State Park a little after 8 AM hoping for a quick trip up I59. The temperature was in the 70's - the sky clear and the water of the Gulf calm and beautiful. We need to get back down to this beautiful Gulf coast next spring! 

We really wanted to be home by late Monday morning to attend a funeral; but traveling more than 400 miles in one day is very difficult for us. We made a tentative reservation in Gadsden AL but when we reached the correct exit it was CLOSED! It was 20 miles to the next exit and the only town of any size coming up was Fort Payne. Having been to Fort Payne once and having a less than satisfactory experience we just drove on to Chattanooga. 

The trip was hardly exciting- maybe just our frame of mind -but it started out as swamp, moved on to scrub forests and then finally to hills and some trees. The trees are barely beginning to turn just an occasional barely red or orange tree.  We watched for tornado damage in Tuscaloosa but did not see very much along the interstate. Since you can avoid most of Birmingham now, the few towns of size along this route did not hold much interest. I think we want to get home!

We had hoped to find a pecan farm along the way but nothing in Mississippi or Alabama. We enjoyed an mystery on CD which was ending just as we reached our stop in Chattanooga.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel was pleasant and we only had to walk across the parking lot from our motel room!  That made it even better since it was a long day  in the Sprinter.

No photos today. I have posted last 2 days photos tonight and will try to get the other 2 missing days done tomorrow when we get home. 


New Orleans LA to Bay St. Louis MS

New Orleans LA to Bay St. Louis MS
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Successful end to our journey down the Great River Road!  At 10:45 we reached the end of the road in Venice LA so 24 days after we left Lake Itasca MN we ended our journey from the headwaters of the Mississippi to as close to the Gulf of Mexico as roads go. What a fascinating journey it has been!

We left our campsite a little after 8 AM and found the West Bank Expressway a lot less congested early on a Saturday morning. We turned off US90 on LA23 and headed south. We finally saw a LA Great River Road sign and since we were not sure we would see another we stopped and took it even in bad light. Lucky we took it too because we only saw one more and it was covered in mud.

We had expected a two lane road in a very rural area for this 70 mile journey – surprise!  The journey today was down a peninsula – we are calling it a delta peninsula. On one side of our road was the Mississippi River levee – often ½ mile or more from the road or sometimes as close as 50 feet. You could not see the river but you knew it was there because every once in while you caught site of the upper portion of a freighter or container ship.  On the opposite side was slightly more land as we began the journey but midway down the peninsula we could see a levee there as well and as we crossed a high bridge over a bayou – there was water as far as we could see.
The road was four-lane more than half-way to Venice and then became two-lane.  Today was Election Day in LA, so political signs were everywhere and supporters were lining the road in groups both large and small.

Mostly there were small communities every 15 miles or so.  Small homes and large farms were seen frequently. We saw a several cattle farms and a fair number of hay fields. One had round hay bales so close together the fields looked like a cemetery – very high yield!  There were numerous citrus groves – very short trees heavy with fruit. We discovered they were Satsuma – a fruit similar to clementines or tangerines. The fruit has very thin skin, sweet flesh, and no seeds. We bought a bag later in the day and they were great. Seems they are ready for market the first of November and usually sold out with pre orders. 
 Yes all those tiny specks are hay bales!

 Several petroleum producers have huge refineries along the river. We also saw two huge coal yards- the coal comes down the river on barges – is unloaded here and then loaded on freighters for journey to anywhere. Remember early in our journey, we saw coal barges being loaded on the Ohio to begin their journey down the Mississippi. 
 One of numerous refineries we saw
Another very interesting business along this road was the heliports. There were several businesses with helicopters and huge parking lots full of cars and mostly trucks. The workers come here leave their vehicles and are taken by helicopter out to their work on the oil rigs in the gulf. When we reached Venice half the business operations were related to the oil business – lots of names you would recognize and others you would not.

The other half of the business in Venice and all along the lower half of the peninsula was fishing and shrimping – either for sport or for business. At mid-way down the peninsula and at the end were more shrimping and fishing boats than either of us have ever seen. One unusual sight was a small shrimping boat with an outboard motor…guess they could go where the larger boats could not.  We drove all around the area. We took some photos at the end of the paved road but we explored around several other roads. Before we left we stopped at one location with a Shrimp for Sale sign and bought 6 pounds of shrimp for a grand total of $20. Sure wish I could have gotten more in my tiny freezer in the camper!
 Scenery at Venice LA

 Cabins to rent while you fished - note how high up

End of Road - less than exciting - we could not find anyone to take a photo for us!

We started back up LA23 and stopped at Fort Jackson to explore a little and have a picnic lunch. This fort was built in the early 1800’s and then had some armaments added in the late 1800’s.  It had only reopened 3 months ago after the damage done by Katrina.  Fort Jackson, while built in the same style as other forts along the MS and AL coast, it was smaller and less formidable than the others. The fort was managed by  Plaquemines Parish and the man staffing it explained how high the water had been. He was talking to us in a room inside the fort that had been a museum before Katrina. He says “tourist stuff” comes last in getting repaired. The water was up to 2 Bricks from the sloping ceilings – probably 5 feet at least in the fort. 
 This was taken from top of Fort Jackson - overlooking Mississippi

We continued about half way up the peninsula where a LA ferry took us across the Mississippi so we could continue our journey on the other side and avoid going back into New Orleans and crossing in all the traffic.  The ferry was small and held maybe 10 vehicles at the most. There were 7 trucks and us on this trip. The trip across took less than 5 minutes. This ferry travels back and forth every half hour from early morning to late evening.  We crossed the McKenzie and Yukon both on ferries when in Alaska. Those rivers were much wider than the Mississippi we crossed today near the mouth into the Gulf of Mexico.   
 Ready to drive on the ferry.

Both sides of the river were very similar. When we reached the top and came back into the outskirts of New Orleans, Mr. Brit took us on a couple roads and suddenly we were through Challamete, Slidell, and over Lake Ponchatrain and headed into Mississippi.

We stopped about 4:00 at Buccaneer State Park near Bay St. Louis. The park is right on  the Gulf and very newly remodeled having been totally destroyed by Katrina. The ranger who checked us in showed us how high the water had been 22 feet! They built their new park offices very high to avoid water that high again!

 During Katrina water was 22 feet. They built new office 24 feet above ground!

Katrina damage to their water park - still not repaired yet.

The Silver Slipper Casino is a couple miles down the road. We have been intending to eat a Casino Buffet somewhere this trip and tonight is our last chance. Knowing what slim pickings were left in my cooking drawer – the decision was not a hard one at all! The Buffet did not disappoint at all. They had all you could eat of anything – 3 kinds of crab, roast beef, many varieties of seafood and other main dishes, soups, oriental, Italian, salads, and desserts. Jane’s favorite thing was the coconut shrimp bisque – it was out of this world!  Everything we ate was good. We forced ourselves to eat dessert – Ben having 2 pieces of pecan pie. Jane had a funnel cake with sugar and strawberries….no one left that place hungry.

No gambling for us – off for a quiet evening of TV shows, blog writing and picture transfer.  We planned the shortest route home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Orleans - French Quarter

New Orleans - French Quarter
Friday, October 21, 2011

The blog writer is tired tonight. We left the west bank in New Orleans on the Algiers Point Ferry about 10:30 for the short trip across the Mississippi for the French Quarter and Canal Street area. The ferry is one of two free ferries that run continuously from 6:30 AM until Midnight. One is goes back and forth between Algiers Point and Canal Street. The second leaves from another point a bit more north on the west bank. The campground suggested the Algiers Point so we took it.  It took 10 minutes for the crossing. Nothing very exciting about the ride - it is free for pedestrians and $1 for cars. There were lots of people on bicycles and I don’t know what they paid. My estimate is 60 people and 10 cars on the ferry on our morning run. 
Our ferry for trip across in NOLA
We walked along the waterfront from the ferry station, near Riverwalk, towards the Jefferson Square area. Ben was the navigator saying he remembered the area from when we were here in 1977 with Jeff to see the King Tut Exhibit.  The riverfront is now a very nice park with benches and sculptures and even a few entertainers. We took some photos of the church in Jefferson Square and wandered down to Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets – yum, yum, yum! The place was mobbed. There were huge lines for take-out and people standing in line to pounce on your table when you got up – imagine it is worse other times of year.

We continued walking with a couple destinations in mind. First we came across the Jazz National Park Visitor Center and got the passport stamp. We enjoyed reading the menu’s posted outside restaurants considering what we might eat later. I know it sounds like all we have done is eat on this trip – but the cultures are so different and to fully enjoy and understand them we have to eat! We browsed around in shops and finally found the café where Jude Acers was supposed to be playing chess. He was not there yet (more on him later) so we continued on our way. We found the other National Park Visitor Center for the French Quarter and the War of 1812 Battlefield. The ranger was very helpful and gave us some good ideas for our trip to Venice (the end of the Great River Road) tomorrow. 

We finally settled on Bubba Gump’s for our lunch and had a great Caesar Salad and a Super Shrimp Trio or Something – coconut shrimp, boiled shrimp, and tempura shrimp with really good dipping sauces.  We split it all and it was the perfect amount. 

After the rest we continued our exploration. There were numerous artists, fortune tellers etc all around Jackson Square. We saw the Louisiana Museum was having a Katrina exhibit so we went through it and the Mardi Gras exhibit on the second floor. That was a treat – what elaborate costumes in some of the years past.
 Jackson Square
Street dancer interacts with children

Back down Decatur Street we went to see if Jude Acers was at his chess playing location – he was.  Jude was one of the Katrina evacuees from New Orleans that ended up in our Red Cross shelters in East TN when the government evacuated the last folks from the hurricane. He had lived upstairs in an apartment and did not want to leave but was finally forced to evacuate. He was put on a plane and did not know where he was being taken until he was escorted from the plane at Tri-Cities several hours later.  We had arranged for a 4H camp near Greeneville out in the middle of nowhere for this group. It was a rather remote location and for the city dwellers must have seemed like the end of the world.  Ben was helping that evening when the folks arrived and he and Jude struck up a friendship.  One request he had was for a New York Times – not common place in Greeneville.  I found him a New York Times a day or two later and also enjoyed getting to know him.  He was a world class chess player – and had played all over the world. He also staged expo’s where he played a number of people at one time. Long story short –he went back to New Orleans and now plays anyone who comes along the street for $5 a game. He is an interesting character to be sure.  We just wanted to say hello.  Jude was there playing chess. We had a short conversation, took his photo and he said put it up on the World Wide Web!    

We continued walking around the streets in the French Quarter and did a little shopping. Eventually we were tired out and headed for the Trolley and rode it back to the RiverWalk Shopping Center where I finally found a shirt to suit me. I know picky-picky!  Then we walked back a short distance to the ferry terminal. We just walked right on a ferry ready to depart for Algiers Point. This afternoon about 4 PM there must have been 200+ people and a line of way more vehicles than could fit on the ferry – what a change from the morning trip.
 Part of Mardi Gras Exhibit - costumes from the "blue tarp" ball held sometime after Katrina. In case you are not aware - homes needing temporary protection after damage - cover their roof with blue tarps.

We drove back to the campground – it was slow going on the Westbank Freeway. Ben says for 2 miles we were neck and neck with a dad, his daughter on his shoulders, walking on the sidewalk. In the end we think the dad won!  I noticed a sign the road was a future I49! They sure need something. We have now driven on this “Freeway” (US90) 4 times and there has been awful traffic each time. Not sure why it is called a “freeway” as there are traffic lights every two blocks and no limited access at all. It runs the entire length of New Orleans on the west side of the Mississippi. We will have to drive it one more time tomorrow when we leave.  

Supper was the leftover sandwich from yesterday and some restful TV.  I can’t emphasize enough what a great campground this has been. It has all they told us it would have – WIFI (just not strong enough for photos), nice restrooms, a free laundry, level sites, water and electric.  There are lots of big rigs here as well as tent campers.  They have nice playground equipment near each restroom and a wave pool and other water activities in another area of the park that we have not visited. Location wise it is pretty good – not perfect but for a huge city you can’t do much better.

Tomorrow we complete our journey on the Great River Road.  I believe it is about a 2 hour drive south from here and not much exciting along the way.  Each part of the journey has been interesting in its own way so I am sure tomorrow will be no different.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Orleans D Day and WW2 Museum

New Orleans – D Day & National WW2 Museum
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today was totally consumed with travel to and from the D Day and National WW2 Museum.  Travel to and from the campground to the museum was a challenge – thanks to Mr. Brit we found our way and thanks to Ben’s driving skill it was not as bad as it could have been. Tomorrow, however, we will take a ferry to the French Quarter!

We thought the traffic crush might be over by 9 when we left the campground ; but no such luck. The museum was located in the Warehouse District and we did not think travel on the ferry would work for that location. Well ,whatever, the day was very interesting, informative and enjoyable.
 Toll Booth Traffic on Mississippi Bridge
We spent from 10 AM until 4 PM at the museum and were busy and involved the entire time. It is really more of an experience than strictly museum gazing.  The Stephen Ambrose/Steven Speilburg/Tom Hanks collaboration on several multi-media presentations created an excellent experience.  One was a 4D film presentation that involved visual and audio experiences, odors, shaking seats, and at one point during the Battle of the Bulge – snow falling on the audience.  Many personal interviews with all sorts of military members and civilians gave the exhibits depth.  All aspects of WW2 from the historical situation around the world prior to the war; the situation on the home front; and both the war in Europe and in the Pacific were covered well.  There were WW2 vets around throughout the museum to explain exhibits and answer questions. There was an effort to be sure the participants understood not only the story of the US but also information and comments from both the Germans and Japanese.

We had lunch in a 40’s Soda Shoppe that was part of the complex – we had a Sicilian Special Sandwich – should have shared it – we now have enough left for another day!
 Sicilian Special - (half of it!)

There were additional films on the D Day preparations and the Campaign in the Pacific. Both done using actual war footage but put together to tell the story very well.  In almost all sections of the displays there were some video interviews to give the information a personal touch. My strongest overall impression was what a great job they did of making all the various parts of WW2 fit together - at least for me it helped me see the time frame and interaction of many separate battles and situations. 

I particularly enjoyed talking with a veteran about the landing crafts on display. My Dad’s job in WW2 was teaching swimming as well as how to get on and off these craft.  I did not recall ever seeing one as closely as here. This gentleman explained they were made from mahogany which if used in saltwater would last forever…if used in fresh water would rot…learn something everyday!  Today I learned more than most days.
Higgins Landing Craft
The one thing we missed was a performance by the Victory Singers – a trio who present “Andrews Sisters” type music. During the off season they only perform on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  

We made it back to the campground after battling traffic again. I was able to get one good photo of the Mississippi from the bridge. 

We stopped near the campground and picked up some to-go seafood and enjoyed it back at camp.  At 6PM the temperature is only 54 so we expect another cool evening. It is very quiet here at the campground in the evening; but it is filled with construction sounds all day long – starting at 6:30 AM. They are building a flood wall separating the state park from a canal of some sort right beside the road into the campground.

While it does not sound like a very busy day it was a good one. This museum was an activity we had planned to do someday long before we planned this trip. Most of the photos were just not of the quality to post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baton Rouge to New Orleans

Baton Rouge LA to New Orleans LA
Wednesday October 19, 2011

Wow what a day!  We left our campsite in Baton Rouge after a good nights’ sleep, the sun was shining, it was still windy but the temperature was up from yesterday. We found a Wal-Mart and made our way back across I12 and I10 and the Mississippi to find Rt1 our beginning to the GRR for today. Today crossing the Mississippi we could see lots of activity on the river. I am going to post yesterdays photo and this mornings just to contrast the weather!
 Late Afternoon in fog and rain (top) and Morning after cold front passed (bottom)
Route 1 was marked as GRR on the LA map but did not have any signage at all. In fact while we have followed the roads on the map and definitely followed the river closely – LA has not had any GRR signs that we have seen.  Often the road was close to the levee and it was not possible to drive up on it to view the river.  Sometimes it ran further away from the river and the following description was on both sides of the road. There were a number of small towns, huge industrial complexes  (chemicals, oil, fertilizer, no idea what some of them were), a small grocery, gas station, or café and lots of homes of all types. And sugar cane, sugar cane and more sugar cane. It was being cut, hauled to the processing plants in huge trucks, and we also saw fields being burned.
 Sugar Cane Fields ready for Harvest
One of numerous Chemical Plants
Here and there we drove on smaller roads that went towards the river and then looped back to Route 1. The scene was much the same and the levee was always present. Many small homes and trailers were along the smaller roads as well as an occasional larger home.  This continued for the first 40 miles or so. When we passed through Donaldsonville we transferred to another route – LA18 that was known as the River Road. Along this road were more homes and villages and huge plantations you have read about in books or seen on TV or in movies. Many of them have been used as sets for films. Some were easier to photograph than others. There were also many smaller homes and a good number of churches with accompanying cemeteries. The raised graves are not unique to this area – they are common in any part of the world where the water table is shallow. They are an unexpected sight for some people.
 St. James Church Cemetery

One of the plantations I had wanted to try to photograph was Oak Alley.  The light was not perfect but I was able to get a fairly good photo of the Oak Alley.  We were also able to park and walk up on the levee here in front of Oak Alley. The river was right there on the other side of the levee – no space for the water to go….
We stopped at BC Fish Market and Restaurant for lunch – a catfish Po-boy and fried okra. They were excellent.  
 Oak Alley
After lunch we drove to Laura Plantation for their tour. This was a Creole Plantation not one of the Antebellum White Column Plantations. I really knew little about the Creole culture and had read this was an excellent tour…it did not disappoint. We waited about 10 minutes and then were given the tour with another couple from TX.  We noticed two other large tour groups as we left so we felt very lucky to have had only the 4 of us. Our tour guide told us about the Creole culture and the history of the family who owned the home and managed the plantation for several generations. In the Creole culture and in Louisiana prior to it becoming a part of the US women were equals with men in ability to own property, manage business, and manage money. The Duparc family who owned and managed this plantation were originally from France. He was given the land where Laura Plantation was built by Thomas Jefferson. We learned many stories of how the grandmother, then her mother, and finally Laura lived on and managed the plantation. They lived in New Orleans during the season (Mardi Gras) and lived and worked here on the Plantation in Vacherie during the rest of the year – the growing and harvesting season. They also had a large number of slaves – over 200 for the sugar cane plantation.
 Laura Plantation front and dining room
The plantation home was lovely and had been restored by a couple and now managed by a board of directors. The restoration of a portion of the plantation and publication of the story of Laura and her family  has taken place since 1993. Laura sold the plantation in 1891 to the Waguespack family who continued sugar cane cultivation until 1981. The location had been empty several years when purchased in 1993 by the people who have restored it. The story of how the restorers found Laura’s memories is fascinating but I will not go into that here. We toured the home, the out buildings, the garden and grounds, and the slave homes. I included a couple photos above.

Another interesting part of the tour was information about Alcee Fortier who wrote Compare Lapin the French Creole version of the Brer Rabbit Tales by Joel Chandler Harris. Laura Plantation was one of the locations where the tales were collected from the west African slave descendants in the late 1800’s and used by both of these men who wrote them down. The tour and story was so fascinating I bought the book of Laura’s memories and Ben bought the French version of Brer Rabbit (in English of course!) 

After the tour we continued down the River Road and about 3:30 we put our State Park Campground in the GPS for Mr. Brit to help us find our way there before the office closed at 5 PM
We arrived about 4:30 and found a lovely campground with water, electricity, free laundry, and wifi !  We were amazed. We are supposed to be able to drive a few miles down the way and park and take a free ferry over to the French Quarter area.  That is our plan for 1 day,  another we will go to the WW2 Museum, and another we will drive to the Gulf – about 75 miles south. Nothing much on that trip to see but the levee but we are committed to finish the tour!  We will schedule our 3 days depending on the weather. We will plan to head to the museum for the day it looks like rain!

Dinner, some TV, blog writing and reading….I have so many choices right now – Memories of the Old Plantation Home by Laura, Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, or my paperback novels . I read 4 books on the Nook and then they expired. I had only been able to check them out for 3 weeks and suddenly one night it just said “expired”!  Good thing I finished the 4!  I might like one but sure do not want to use one from the library that expires again…


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Natchez MS to Baton Rouge LA

Natchez MS to Baton Rouge LA
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We are back on the road today feeling ready for a great day.  The temperature was between 80 and 86 for two days with lots of sunshine…Ben got out his shorts and Jane put on some Capri pants. Before we left camp it was beginning to sprinkle rain but was still warm. More on the weather as the day progresses….
We visited the Natchez National Park Center and Natchez City Visitor Center located on the bluff above the Mississippi, the views were pretty outstanding but doubt my photos do it justice.  The entire area from the visitor center high on the bluff to the river below is cudzu – we are back in the south! We have been seeing it since entering TN several days ago but this crop is outstanding! We drove through the Natchez Down Under area right along the banks of the river which was the community for the lower class folks while the mansions and community on the bluffs was for the higher class members of the community. At one time Natchez was said to have the second highest number of millionaires in the country – only place with more was New York City.  Some of the homes were beautiful but touring mansions will have to wait for the River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. 

 Mississippi from Natchez - top one shows cudzu jungle

We crossed over into Louisiana here in Natchez and visited the Vidalia Riverfront Welcome Center where we received the most exceptional service we have ever had from a Welcome Center.. the young lady helped us with information on each of the areas we planned to visit.  
 From under the bridge at the Visitor Center - Vidalia LA

 We headed west to Frogmore,  an 1800 acre working cotton plantation with a currently operating gin. They also had original slave quarters, out buildings, and an early gin. We thought it would be interesting to compare the cotton plantation of the past with the current operation we have been observing from the road for the past few days.   After a video presentation on the history of the plantation we toured through slave cabins, slave kitchen, an overseer home, and a gin from the early 20th century. We were able to follow the cotton from the bales through the ginning process, and packaging up for sale to mills.  The number of bales completed in a day escapes me but well less than 50.

 Gin Building and Gin in upper photo
We then drove to the modern gin run by the current owners of Frogmore – the computerized process goes through all the same tasks as the older gin but is huge in comparison and almost completely automated. They process 900 bales a day.  They are in operation from October through mid November. The gin was working today.  Mr. Tanner operates the gin by processing the cotton for no cost – other than keeping the seeds. This must be profitable and he must have lots of business – we could see where the modules (correct name for the huge bales we have seen in the fields) previously processed had been and the number would have been very large. 

The temperature was continuing to drop – it must have been in the low 70’s or upper 60’s. The wind was blowing and we were glad to get back to the Sprinter and put on long sleeve shirts!  We drove back towards the river and our GRR route for the next portion of the trip LA15. Right at the cut off was a Sonic and a hot hamburger and fries sure did sound good so that was lunch!  Not many choices for eating in the small town of Ferriday.  Route 15 was different – we drove beside the levee, on the levee, and away from the levee.  Definitely an interesting afternoon!  On our left was the levee and we could seldom see the Mississippi and on our right was either harvested cotton fields or thick vine covered forest – maybe you could call it a jungle because you could certainly not penetrate it on foot.  Occasionally we could see fenced in portions with DO NOT ENTER signs posted and a sign to a hunting lodge.  This was very remote terrain that continued for about 60 miles. 
 Highway 15 runs along levee - river to left and fields to right

 We passed an area where large containment structures had been built by the Corps of Engineers to hold back the river from what was called the Old River Area. Supposedly this was a previous river channel.  Then we came to the Morganza Spillway – remember it from the flooding last spring – there are 125 gates that can be individually lifted to spill water from the Mississippi on the left side of the road into the farmland on the right side of the road and on into the Atchaflaya River Basin. The road was running on top of a levee built maybe 30 feet higher than the river level at this time.  There were still huge pits in the ground to the right of the road where the water had rushed through when the gates were open. I remember seeing it on TV and it looked like a huge dam spillway. Today it was peaceful green farmland with cattle grazing.  The current river channel was small in relation to the huge area that would fill with water before the spillway would be opened. It had only been opened once in 1973 since its construction. In 2011 seventeen of the 125 gates were opened.  It was definitely an interesting adventure down this roadway. 

 Morganza Spillway - lower shows gates on left and upper shows the pits in ground where the water was forced through the spillway during the 2011 spring floods
We then entered the sprawl of Baton Rouge. Our selected campground was on the east side of the city and we were not able to find anything else so Mr. Brit and Ben braved the 4PM traffic and road construction and we made it to the KOA by a little after 5. We set up a little in this very nice campground with all the amenities you could want at the highest price we have paid yet for a campsite - $47.  It was the only campground in the metro area that we could locate….and it is quite full.  The “snow birds” are heading south – we talked to a couple from Ohio at Natchez that was headed to Gulf Shores for the winter.  You can tell by for a high class campsite is better by far than a cheap motel!
  Campsite at KOA in Baton Rouge

Jane had selected several Baton Rouge restaurants but we sure were not going back into that traffic so we searched around here in our area and found Don’s Seafood Hut which was highly recommended and turned out to be excellent.  Cajun seafood – shrimp, catfish, crab stuffed shrimp, gumbo, oysters, etouffee – all great.  Ben met the Parish President Candidate when he mistakenly went into a banquet room full of folks at a political party function. .
 Great Dinner and Ben met the Candidate for Parish President

The temperature is now 55 and wind is rocking the Sprinter off and on. We have the heater out again.  Jane packed her fleece jacket away yesterday and will now get it back out!  Weather forecast is to be clear with temperatures at 68 tomorrow and then climbing back to the 80’s by the weekend….what a change. To be honest we prefer the cooler temperatures it is just a rather abrupt change! With internet Jane is uploading all the past blogs and Ben is watching cable TV – we have seen very little news - so it was good to catch up a little on that and then of course NCIS!

Natchez Trace State Park

Natchez Trace State Park
Monday, October 17, 2011

This will be a short post – we drove to the park office to register since it was closed when we arrived on Sunday. Other than that we went nowhere. Managed to eat 3 simple meals, read books, Ben whittled a walking stick. Jane caught up on a couple records for the trip, did her walking and cleaned up the Sprinter which takes about 5 minutes.  We are rested and ready to finish and enjoy the last leg of our trip down the Great River Road. We have stayed 2 nights in the same place only twice – both times in cities where we were very busy…so after 23 days on the road we deserved a down day! Natchez MS is 10 miles away and it did not tempt us to drive that far…..did not even take one photo! There is always tomorrow. We have lots of time to explore as we are only going 100+ miles to Baton Rouge.

Greenville MS to Natchez MS

Greenville MS to Natchez Trace State Park, Natchez MS
Sunday, October 16, 2011

We were on the road by 9:30 and drove to downtown Greenville before heading south. We needed to find the Great River Road and it was US1. We found the MS visitor center but they had no nice guide to GRR like TN had. The woman there told me the GRR Group did not print them anymore so it is probable that I got an old one at the Wickcliffe Visitor Center in KY since it was a rather remote location. Too bad they do not print them because they were excellent guides. 

The levee is just a block off of the main street of downtown Greenville. We drove up on the levee to look at the Mississippi – the only way you can see it now other than when crossing a bridge.  There were tows as usual – even on a Sunday morning.  

One of the sites mentioned at the Visitor Center (modeled after a River Boat and was used as the Mississippi Exhibit for the World’s Fair and then brought here to serve as the visitor center) was that Leland – just before reaching Greenville is the home of Jim Henson the creator of the Muppets. We saw it as we can into Greenville last evening but it was already closed.

 Kermit was created here near Greenville

Heading south on US1 we saw cotton, cotton, and more cotton. Occasionally we caught sight of the levee. It was interesting to see the piles of debri between the fields of cotton and many of the transformer boxes still had sandbag protection around them. This area must have had some flooding in the recent past.
We arrived at Vicksburg and since we had just toured the Battlefield Park when we went to Texas in 2009 we did not visit the park. We did go down to the river and took some photos at the flood wall and photos of the casinos. The river is wide and far below the town that is primarily on the bluffs.  
 Mississippi from Bluffs in Vicksburg

 We stopped at an unusual place – The Tomato Place – for some local color and food. We split a catfish po-boy and some sweet potato fries.  Very good on both counts. They had produce, local crafts, bread, jellies, peanuts, and lots of colorful decorations. 

 Bottle Tree at The Tomato Place

We had two options for tonight one was Grand Gulf Military Park and Campground near Port Gibson and the second was Natchez Trace State Park near Natchez. We elected to pass up Grand Gulf and drive 50 miles down the Natchez Trace Parkway and stay at the state park.  

We passed through Port Gibson – a small town known as “too beautiful to burn” by General Grant. The homes were beautiful and we photographed the Presbyterian Church with the golden hand pointing to heaven on the top of its’ steeple. I am not a Monty Python fan but they say it is in one of his films. 

 First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson

Driving down the Trace was quite different than the cotton fields along the GRR. It is natural landscaping with pine and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.  We stopped at Mount Locust Inn which was a stopping place for travelers on their journey down the Trace from Nashville to Natchez. The national park ranger told us it was the usual thing for groups of 15 – 25 to stay the night at the location. Often they stayed on the porch of on the grounds since the home was 3 bedrooms and the family had 11 children! There were many of these inns along the Trace but this is the only one still standing.

  Mount Locust Inn on Natchez Trace
We continued down the Trace for another 15 miles or so and drove to see Emerald Mound. This was another Mississippian  Indian Mound. This one said to be the second largest in North America – Cahokia being the largest. 

Nearby was Natchez Trace State Park. We found a site we liked and set up for some relaxing. We are both tired and Ben thinks we will just stay here tomorrow and do nothing. Staying may be a good idea particularly if we can drive around and find a site with cell service. We have it one minute and not the next…so a site on slightly higher ground may work better.  We cooked dinner and had a very quiet evening.  The evening entertainment was watching an armadillo root around in the campsites nearby. Another interesting thing to watch is the variety of camping set ups that people have. 

 Our Campsite at Natchez Trace State Park

 Easy to track Armadillo