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!

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