Saturday, May 20, 2017

Traveling the Trace May 1-May 2


The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile long recreational road, similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway, that is restricted to non-commercial vehicles and part of the National Park Service. It travels through three states and follows a historic travel route used for hundreds of years by American Indians, settlers, and soldiers.  Today it is popular with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and anyone wanting a scenic route through some very pretty areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. There are multiple hiking opportunities along the way also. If you travel the entire route you will find areas that are remote with no cell coverage and also  larger cities with all the modern conveniences. There are three NPS campgrounds on the route that will accommodate any size camper.  We camped at all three! 
    

We were glad we waited to begin this part of our journey until the storms had passed as we saw many areas where tornadoes or strong winds had downed trees and power lines.  The first visitor center was closed probably for that reason.  There are many pullouts along the road where you can actually see what is left of the original road and the cuts through the earth and trees.  Some pullouts were not big rig rv friendly however.  Our advice  is to watch closely and don't pull in unless you are sure you can pull out!



After a leisurely drive on Monday we made an early stop for the night at Rocky Springs Campground at milepost 54.  Of the three campgrounds, we found this to be in the worst condition.  There were several pull through sites and a few that would fit a rig as big as ours.  The sites are paved but the pavement is in bad condition. However there looks to be some attempt at repairs.  Of course there are no services here (electricity, water or sewers) but the price ($0 !!) is right. The restroom was clean and in good shape but there are no showers and the second restroom was closed and in need of demolition. Of course we are all self contained and capable of a several nights of "boondocking". 




There is a short trail that begins near the campground that follows the original trace somewhat.  It takes you to the site of the town of Rocky Springs.  There isn't much there but some interpretive signs describing where some of the buildings once stood. However there is an old Methodist Church and an interesting cemetery.  They still hold church services once a month and we signed he guest book we found inside the open doors.  After a quiet night we headed out the next morning for a short side trip to Vicksburg National Military Park.






The park features a road that winds through the hills where civil war battles took place and the monuments and memorials dedicated to those who fought here.  The lady at the front gate thought we could maneuver safely through the park with the RV, but we had briefly driven through here a few years ago on the motorcycle and weren't really sure if that was true.  We probably should have disconnected the Jeep and taken it on the drive, but decided to just go to the Visitor Center and watch the informative movie and get our NPS passport book stamped. 



We headed back onto the Natchez Trace and a calmer, scenic route.  A nice stop along the way is at MM 122 and the Cypress Swamp where there is a self-guided tour among the cypress and tupelo trees on the boardwalk.  We finished the day as we pulled into our next campground, the Jeff Busby Campground at Milepost 193.  This campground was in much better condition than the last having freshly paved roads.  However, we found it very confusing as the sites aren't clearly marked and are just pull offs that don't necessarily feel like they were properly placed.  But, like the others, the price is right and we managed to find a fairly level site amongst the tall trees.  It's a pretty park and we had an evening hike up another nice trail to an overlook.






Our travel continued the next morning as we headed off the Trace again toward Florence, Alabama where we spent several days.  More about that area and the rest of our trip in my next post.  Thanks for following along!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Moving on up the Mississippi April 27-May 1


Next stop - Natchez, Mississippi.  We drove through the corner of Louisiana on our way to the Natchez MS area where we crossed the Mississippi over to Vidalia, Louisiana again to our campground on the banks of the river.  Appropriately called River View RV Park and Resort.



There were a few casualties along the way.  The "love bugs" were thick as we drove up from the Gulf.  First chore when we got to the campground was to wash their remains from the front of the coach before they became permanent decorations.


It was nice to have full hookups for our stay here.  The park/resort is quite large and most of the sites are pull throughs.  It was only about one third full at the most while we were here. There is a nice path along the levee which we walked every day.


We enjoyed checking out one of the local restaurants.  At Roux 61 we split a Seafood Muffaletta and sweet potato fries, then had plenty for another meal.  It was good, but I think either a regular muffaletta or a regular fish sandwich might have been better.  Our taste buds were a little confused !

Natchez is the oldest settlement on the Mississippi and home to so much history.  We enjoyed a visit to Melrose, a Greek Revival Style home that is owned by the National Park Service.  





The front of the home with faux marble painted columns.


The back porch over-looking the back kitchen, dairy and slave quarters.
 


This is one of the few homes in the area open to the public with many of the original furnishings. Notice the "punkah", a mahogany fan that was operated by a slave as the guests enjoyed their meal free of flies!


The home was built by the McMurran family in the 1840's and they furnished their home with the finest available at that time.  There are other homes to tour in the area and we also stopped by the William Johnson House.  Johnson, an emancipated black man, was a successful businessman in Natchez in the 1840's.  The park service has  used his diaries to make a nice informative display here. I can't believe we didn't take any photos. 


We ended up extending our stay at River View RV Park because of the forecast of bad weather in the area.  Having planned to begin our drive up the Natchez Trace Parkway on Sunday, we waited until Monday to leave the area.  It's a good thing we did because we later saw evidence of tornadoes along the Parkway.  This was the screen-shot of the  storm that came through our campground early Sunday when our phones were shreeking tornado warnings.  This is one of my biggest fears.  I guess my husband doesn't really have that fear since all he said was to "just go back to sleep" ! Ha! Like that would happen.  Of course, we were fine. 

It was almost exactly seven years ago when we in Natchez before.  It was a completely different mode of travel though and if you are new here, you can read about our motorcycle trip through the same areas HERE.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On to Mississippi! April 24-27

We left Alabama after a quick stop at Costco in Mobile to re-supply and made another relatively short drive to Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  We've been through this state before, but never to the coast line and the Gulf Islands National Seashore.




We spent three nights at the Davis Bayou campground. We found it to be a good location for the area and once again used our Senior Pass to get a great rate.  (There are some perks to being over 62!) 


Our first evening we walked down to the nearby bridge to see if we could get a glimpse of the resident 12+ foot alligator.  This would be the only time we saw him, and he was obscured by the marsh and the evening shadows.  Can you see him?

We did manage do see a baby alligator in the nearby creek just about every time we walked by.  He was only a couple feet long but looks impressive in this photo using a zoom lens.

  
I think this area would definitely be one I'd be interested in coming back to some day.  There seemed to several things to do in the area and of course, there's the beach. (Lots of casinos too, if you're into that sort of activity!) It was pretty cool the morning we drove to the beach but I did manage to get my toes into the water.  




This area was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and they are still recovering.  The little village of Ocean Springs has lots of interesting shoppes and restaurants though and just about every big box store that you would need.  On the last evening there, we met a couple from the area that had moved there to retire.  It would've been nice have their insight earlier in the week.  Perhaps we'll be back again Ocean Springs/Gulf Islands!!










Thursday, May 4, 2017

Meaher State Park April 18 - 24



We've got a (bad?) habit of planning our stops on the fly.  When we left Gunter Hill Tuesday morning we were hoping to snag a last minute cancellation at Gulf State Park near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  But since it was still the tale end of Spring Break time, of course there wasn't anything available for the days we wanted.  So we headed to Meaher State Park in Spanish Fork, Alabama.  We made a fuel stop along the way where we did our best to fit in with the big rigs! This is a photo of the rear view camera monitor.  We've been averaging a little over 8.5 miles per gallon of diesel which is probably typical of a RV the size of ours.  With a 100 gallon fuel tank, we don't need to stop too often.  
Our home for the next few days at Meaher State Park was this nice pull through site with a slight view of  Mobile Bay. The park's location is ideal for exploring the area, but there was constant background noise from I-10 just across the bay.  It wasn't too annoying but definitely a change from the last couple of campgrounds.  We also had to watch for the little harmless "sugar" ants that could invade a motorhome.  Most every rv/camper had a ring of Comet cleanser around the wheels to keep them at bay.  We were pretty successful until our last day there but a good dose of Raid resolved the situation.



There are lots of things to do in this area which is also close to the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores activities.  We've been trying to keep up with our walking as a form of exercise.  There weren't too many trails near here but we did make several laps around the campground and down the nearby nature walk.  Our first evening here we saw this little guy trying to hurry across the road.  I gave him a little nudge so he had a better chance.  I think he is a baby Red-Bellied Turtle but if anyone has better knowledge I welcome their input.


The view from one of the boardwalks back toward the campground.  As you see there are several nice water front sites.  




Dennis was thrilled to find several wild blackberry bushes nearby and usually came back to the RV with a handful of berries. 


We enjoy checking out the local eating establishments and there is no shortage of them in this area. Of course the main draw is the local seafood and we definitely weren't disappointed with the recommendation of the park gate attendant of the Original Oyster House in Spanish Forks. 

We shared one of the platters and added a couple bowls of gumbo.  Tasty.  And I don't usually like gumbo :)
A "don't miss" stop when in this area is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial which is located just a couple miles down the road from the campground.  We really enjoyed our visit here and were blessed with a beautiful day to take the tour.  After spending a couple hours on the self guided, hands on tour, we came away with a deeper appreciation for the efforts of the Navy and Marine forces during WWII.   


We even went back on Saturday for a Living History Crew Drill complete with a Japanese Yak attack with vintage airplanes.  We stood on a nearby fishing pier as the planes flew overhead and made several passes over the ship where the crew managed to defend themselves !  





My good friend Chris and her family made a post tax season trip to relax on the beach nearby so we were lucky to meet up with them at the famous Lambert's Cafe in Foley, Alabama.  It was wonderful to see some familiar faces and catch up on the news (and mail!) from home.  Chris and I met several years ago when we moved to Indiana.  We've been walking/exercise buddies, shopping partners, book club members and BFF's ever since.  This lifestyle has made me miss our family but I miss having close friends like her nearby too! 


As I type this and try to catch up on blogging, we are back in Alabama as we wind our way back towards Indiana for a little while. I've still got posts from Mississippi, Louisiana and the Natchez Trace to tell you about.  Stay tuned !

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gunter Hill Re-Visited April 16-17


Easter Sunday was a travel day of just a little over a hundred miles  to Gunter Hill C.O.E. Campground near Montgomery, AL.  

We actually have been to this campground a few years ago with our Pleasure-way Pursuit.  You can read about that trip (and it's drama!) here and here. But we enjoyed our quick stay then and knew we would be back someday.  Our site this time was extra long and quite private.  With full hook-ups (FHU) we could do some laundry and spend a couple days exploring the area.  This leg of our trip wasn't without a little drama too.  On the way across the city, Dennis had to make a "quick" stop as a light turned red.  We've gotten into a habit of making sure that everything is put away or "buttoned" down for travel, but I do have a small wooden bowl that sits on the bathroom counter way in the back of the coach.  It holds a few odds and ends and today it had coins, earrings and my favorite gold pearl/diamond ring.  We've never had a problem with it moving around during travel, until then.  It came all the way  up to  my seat in the front.  We couldn't figure out how it got that far since there is no clear path with the slides and bed pulled in.  Anyway, to make a long story shorter, we spent the first hour and a half at our campsite hunting for the contents of the bowl.   The earrings and coins were found right away, but of course the ring was not.  I was afraid it was caught in one of the slide out mechanisms, but FINALLY, after inspecting just about every inch of the coach, D found it under the brake pedal.  As far as it could be from it's launching point!  (That bowl now is stowed away in a cabinet for travel 😀)


On Monday we took a little drive to downtown Montgomery where we stopped at the Visitor's Center located in the old Union Station.  I love when old floors mimic quilt designs!  


The city has a nice walkable self-guided Civil Rights History Tour so we spent the afternoon getting our steps in and learning more about a tumultuous time in our nation's history.  


Alabama State Capitol Building 


Civil Rights Memorial


Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church along the Civil Heritage Trail where the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.

We enjoyed our little walking tour of the city.  It was a quiet, warm day, and not many people were out.  In addition to the Civil Rights history, there was an interesting Hank Williams museum and gift shop.  The remainder of our stay in the area was uneventful.  Just a little bike riding, cleaning and a quick dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.