Category Archives: Mississippi

Mississippi thru Louisiana to the Texas border

Not much happening. Took a pretty straight route from Natchez (south western Mississippi – by now y’all must have your atlas out to follow my trip 🙂 ) through Louisiana to Zwolle, near the Texas border. Drove thru some very small towns, you blink once or twice and that’s it. Not much to see and seemingly not much to do either. Saw a sign for lawnmower racing. You only come up with that kind of stuff when there is nothing else to do. I would have loved to see a race. One town worth mentioning is Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-ə-təsh), home of Northwestern State University and one of the oldest settlements in Louisiana. It was one of those surprises that popped up in front of me. Nice cobblestone streets and beautifully kept old buildings. The main street runs along the Cane River and not like so many other towns this main street is only two lanes and very quaint. OK, the town had a little touristy feel, but not too bad. The movie Steel Magnolia was filmed here as well. There is even a mini walk of fame with the actresses from the movie. A little lunch and off I went again.

Natchitoches-a place to rest

I feel as if I have neglected Mississippi a little bit. I just had this urge to move west. I didn’t even want to move north into Arkansas, a state I have never been to.
From Tupelo I drove a bit south on the Natchez Trace Parkway, basically through the woods, up and down, not my favorite kind of road, too much work for my right foot. JD does fairly poorly going up hill. I left the parkway; it felt too sterile, manicured forest. Once I traded this two lane road for another things changed. Out of the woods into agriculture. Everything is green, corn is in different stages of growth, some will be ready for July others a month later or so, soybeans, and of course there is cotton.


I really regret that I won’t be in this area in September (of course I don’t know that for sure yet) when the cotton is in full bloom and ready to be harvested. Just thing of a beautiful snowy winter landscape minus the freezing temperatures. It must look great having all these cotton balls covering acres and acres of land. Pretty soon the rolling hills left me and it was easy gliding on a flat road, hurrah. This was Memorial Day weekend and I was very concerned about getting a camping spot. Several campgrounds I had talked to were full, booked months in advance. So I did what I don’t like to do, I made reservations; which means I HAVE to be at a specific place and a specific time, not my kind of traveling fun. I made a couple of phone calls and was told (by the general reservation’s line) that there are a couple of spots available, but it would be best to make reservations, so I did. A state park right at the Mississippi River, The Great River Road State Park in Rosedale, just across from Arkansas. However, no bridge to cross into Arkansas. At least not in Rosedale. There is a bridge 40 minutes south or 1 ½ hours north. Anyway, I arrived late afternoon, after buying some essentials, e.g. ice cream, just to find the main office closed and not a soul around. We are not talking little park here, no this thing is big, about one mile from the main road. There are picnic tables and a lookout tower. The main office is high up on stilts, the might Mississippi overflows from time to time. OK, let’s drive to the camping area. Shi…, this place looks like a ghost town. Not a single camper around! Yeah, there was an old trailer, but no car or person near by. Fallen down trees and branches, the bathhouse, also on stilts, looked unused. Here I am in the middle of the woods and nobody around and the nearest campground an hour away. No cell phone reception. Let’s see if I can get any connection via the internet with Verizon and skype. The signal is super weak. I call the forestry department the only number I could find. The woman who answers the phone can barely understand me, connects me to a guy who tells me, “yes, the park is open”, we lose the connection, I call back, all I hear the woman say is “I can’t hear you”. Finally, it’s the guy again. He had gotten hold of the assistant manager for the park, she will come to the camp site, at least something. Wow, you have to picture this; campground with 61 sites and none of them look like they have been used in a very long time.

Great River Road State Park

It was creepy and I didn’t know if I wanted to stay there all by myself.
Dorothy, the assistant manager, was very nice. Said if I didn’t want to stay I could get my money refunded. She told me that the park was flooded a year or two ago and never quite recovered from that. It also didn’t help that the last manager discouraged people from coming. Fortunately, the phone rang and people asked for availability for the night, great I won’t be alone. Once the initial “shock” had past and I had slept (2 groups of campers had shown up) I looked around and the park was quite beautiful, very quiet, tons of trees, birds and squirrels. The only drawbacks, mosquitoes and horse flies. So many that I had to put on long pants and a long sleeved t-shirt when I had to do anything outside and still, I got bitten in places where the sun don’t shine… besides the bucks, I also had no way to communicate with anyone, no cell, no internet. Some of you find this a blessing, but not in this case. I ended up staying all three nights as planned. I was only by myself for one of the three nights.

Clarksdale blues

The next morning I drove up to Clarksdale, home of the blues. Seemed like a nice place. There were tourists checking out some of the stores. Other than that the place seemed empty. Clarksdale, like so many other small towns has great old building stock. Unfortunately, there is not enough money to keep everything in tact. In addition to crumbling facades, there are empty store fronts.

Bill Lucket - future Mississippi governor?

I was walking around taking pictures when I ran into a man on a ladder who was scraping off paint from one of those old buildings. He asks me what I am taking photos of and we got into a conversation first about stripping paint, restoring buildings and then politics (he is a Democrat). Turns out that he is the co-founder of “Ground Zero” (named before 9/11) THE blues club in town, the other founder is actor Morgan Freeman. Bill is in the middle of restoring this old four story hotel. Lucky me, once again, I got a glimpse of the inside. It must have been one of those grand hotels back in the 50s or 60s with ballrooms and mezzanines. Bill has his hands full with this one. Restoring buildings is just a side business, Bill is a lawyer and he is running for Mississippi governor in 2011. Keep your eyes out for Bill Lucket.
On my way home I drove through Dublin and Rome, not enough time to visit Brazil as well.
That night I had dinner at the Blue Levee Restaurant just outside the campground at the site of an old gas station. From the outside the place looked like a regular small town dive. Dorothy had mentioned it to me the night before and it was also mentioned to me when I was in Clarksdale, one hour north from Rosedale. The place was packed. I counted about 60 guests. I didn’t have reservations, strongly recommended, so I sat at the bar. The countertop was a good 30 inches wide and about eight feet long, completely covered with beer caps (under plexi glass). I counted roughly 7,000 caps, the wait for the food was a little long, but worth the wait. They have 60 different beers on their menu! I heard something I hadn’t heard for some time, balsamic vinaigrette and Mediterranean salad. Remember, this is still fried food country. I skipped the special of the day, grilled Atlantic salmon, and I dared to be adventures and try something I never had before. Appetizer: fried green tomatoes, main course: blackened catfish with garlic mashed potatoes. The tomatoes were absolutely fine, but not something I would go crazy over. Another southern specialty I am not wild about. The catfish was yummy. I would have come back the next day for lunch, but they were closed. The nice thing about sitting at the counter is that you get to talk to the wait staff more than when you sit at a table. Everybody was crazy busy, but very nice. Rosedale is a town of about 2,000 and you would have not expected a restaurant of this caliber in this area. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Good luck in the future!

The drive down to Natchez was straight forward, except when I decided to take a little county road and ended up going back north instead of south. That little detour cost me about an hour and a half and I wish I had that extra time towards the end of the day when I drove thru Vicksburg and Port Gibson. Two towns with beautiful old buildings worthwhile a closer look. Unfortunately, I was still one and a half hours away from my final destination and it was getting too late in the day and I couldn’t look around.

Margaret's Grocery-Vicksburg

However, I did stop at “Margaret’s Grocery”, actually the only reason I headed that way to begin with. You will notice that I drive to or thru towns for the strangest reasons.

Margaret's Grocery - Vicksburg

Sadly to say, Margaret’s Grocery was closed down. The once colorful structure was in bad shape, paint peeling and signs falling. Reverend Dennis built this shrine out of love to his wife back in the 1980s. Margaret had the grocery store and Rev. Dennis made it into this colorful place of God. He used to preach in the school bus next to the store. You can read all about it when you google him and the store. Margaret past away last fall and the Reverend is in his late 90s, there was no sign of him.

Margaret's Grocery - inside

A kind hand opened the store to me and I was able to snap some inside shots. There was no light and I could only point and shoot and hope for the best. A local church is suppose to take care of the building, but I am not sure if that is going to happen, too bad.

I only stayed two nights in Natchez. I would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so damn hot and humid. Even locals found it too hot for this time of year. The lack of shade at the campground didn’t help either. I usually don’t complain about heat, I don’t have AC by choice and I don’t turn the AC in the truck on. Windows down while driving and you don’t notice that it is well above 90 F inside, until you get out and you notice that you are wearing a wet shirt 🙂
Natchez has a ton of antebellum homes and the historic downtown is well preserved. Finding a place that serves lunch after 2 PM is not so easy.

That’s all I have on Mississippi. Comments are always appreciated.

The report about Gadsden is in the works.

The Miss River Bridge at Natchez

Things to do when it rains

I don’t thing many of you have done either of the fun things I did in the rain this afternoon.

Well, after a great time in Gadsden, Alabama, post to follow (hopefully soon), I landed in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Tupelo’s claim to fame, it is the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  He lived here until he was thirteen.  But walking around town one could think he lived here all his life.  Tupelo itself is a strange town.  It lacks any kind of community feel.  The town is spilt in half by some four lane roads with chain stores (I like to call them the death of unique towns and cities everywhere) along the way.  A small section of the “downtown” area has some one of a kind store, but that’s about it.  I asked some people if there is a local place that serves breakfast, but there are only the Arby’s, Waffle Houses and Cracker Barrels of the world, sad, very sad.

I passed the Automobile Museum, but couldn’t bring myself to actually go and see the exhibit; I hear it is very good.  Since there was nothing else to do I did drive to the Elvis Museum which is right next to his birthplace.  I visited the gift store, but again couldn’t bring myself to visit the museum or even to take a closer look at the rebuild “birthplace”.  FYI, it is a tiny gun shot home.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon and I figured I could catch up on some writing and maybe get JD a badly need car wash.  Unfortunately, the entrance height at the car wash was only 84”, too low for JD.  Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.  It started to get pretty dark and my favorite “severe thunderstorm warning” interrupted the radio program.  I arrived at the campground just before it started to pour.

Here is the first thing you can do in the rain: wash your car.  After the first shower was over I got out with my great car washing mop in hand and I wiped down the truck.  Thunder was still in the air and I could be sure that nature would take care of the rinse cycle.  OK, this might not be the best way to wash your car, but it is better than nothing.

Now you ask what could be the other crazy thing she did in the rain.  Are you ready for this, I played disc golf.  I had never even heard of it until yesterday evening.  There is even a PDGA – Professional Disc Golf Association.  I am staying at a state park near Tupelo and after driving for four hours I thought I check out the trails.  A little hiking after dinner never hurts.  Along the trails I saw these strange metal baskets which looked like deer feeders and there were tees and on a bench it read  All very strange.  On my way to the trail I had passed a group of guys and I remembered one carrying a Frisbee.  Still it didn’t make much sense to me.  Heading back to my camper I saw the guys again and I decided to just ask them what this disc stuff is all about.  They were very nice and explained the game.  Basically, instead of a golf ball you use a Frisbee or a disc which you try to throw into this basket.  The rules and scoring are similar to regular golf.  The trick is you play this game in the woods, throwing the disc through trees and hopefully over creeks and up and down hills.  The baskets are 200’-300’ (60-90 m) from the tee.  Ethan, Michael, Tim, Jonathan and Danny, all self proclaimed rednecks, had been playing for some time.  I followed them along to the 18th “hole”.  Meanwhile, I was learning about the game and the different weights of the discs.  There is a putter disc which is heavier than the long distance discs. 

So, after I had washed my truck, Ethan drove by and we chatted for a bit and he asked if I wanted to throw some practice baskets.  I was a bit hesitant, it was still raining a little and the sky was still pretty dark.  What the heck, how often will I get the opportunity to play disc golf?  Off we went.  After a few throws it started to rain again.  Well, let’s play in the woods where we won’t get too wet.  So we played 18 holes in on and off rain.  It was fun.  My play stunk; I played a round of 82, that’s 28 over par!  Maybe I’ll do better the next time.

Lots of good stuff from Gadsden will follow soon.  Have a good Memorial Day weekend.

Smells and sounds

Good bye New Orleans and hello Wiggins, Mississippi. Hope I included all “s’s”, “p’s” and “i’s”.
I left New Orleans via highway 11, an one lane highway with a really long bridge crossing the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain. You don’t realize how much water surrounds New Orleans until you start driving. If it is not a man-made canal it is a natural waterway through the marsh, wetlands or lakes. Once outside the New Orleans area the scenery changed from marshes to pine forests.  What also changed were the road conditions, they improved and got even better once I entered into Mississippi.  Driving on bumpy pavement with a truck is not that much fun, the shocks are pretty hard.  However, driving with the camper on the truck is even less fun, you bounce up and down and even sway a little.

I am now at a quiet campground in Wiggins.  Most of the campers here are long term residence.  Some of the trailers look like they haven’t been moved in years.  No complaints on my side.  I can see a little lake out my back door and hear birds singing.  Sometimes a squirrel or cat walks by.  Quick comparison with my last campground:

Sounds Wiggins: birds, at night AC

Sounds New Orleans: birds, at night bull frog and shrieking raccoons

Wildlife Wiggins: Canada geese with young

Wildlife NO: Hornets and too many bugs to name, especially inside my camper.  I turned into a mass killer.  At one point I had to clean my computer screen because I had squashed so many bugs on it, sorry.

One of the wonderful scents in New Orleans was the sweet smell of the magnolias.  Here, I smell fresh cut grass, not bad but no match to the magnolias.

On my last day in NO I drove and than walked through an area called (Faubourg) Marigny.  Located to the east of the French Quarter, east of Esplanade Avenue.  I really liked to feel of the neighborhood.  Several cafes/restaurants one or two story homes.  No tourists.  I bought an iced tea at a place that reminded me of the Lower East Side in New York City before NYU students moved in.  According to the bar tender the area was voted second best neighborhood in the country.  Don’t know who voted and I have not verified this piece of information.  So, on your next visit to NO, venture out east and check it out.

OK, I have to go now and cut my hair to fight the oil spill.  Yes, you read correctly.  There is an organisation called Matter of Trust, located in San Francisco and they collect hair to make booms and hair mats that absorb the oil.  They used this method against the oil spill in the San Francisco Bay a couple of years ago.  Hair attracts and holds the oil.  Hair salons from all around the country and even people from Europe send in their clippings.  Pet hair works as well.  You have to sign up with Matter of Trust, for free, to find out where to send your hair.  Talk to your salon to collect a day’s worth of clippings to help.  This is not a hoax, google the organisation and see for yourself.  They don’t just take hair donations, go to their website and find out more

My first encounter with the New Orleans police

Greetings from New Orleans.  Apologies for the long break between posts.  Traveling, taking pictures and working a little can all turn into a full time job.

The distance between Gulf Shores and New Orleans is not very large, only about 200 miles.  But once you reach the Biloxi area you feel much further away.  You can’t help but think of Katrina and Rita and the damage they have caused.  In many parts along the Gulf coast did I see dead sticks in the ground, tree trunks without branches and only half their original size.  However, the damage to homes was more apparent in Mississippi and Louisiana.  Many empty stilts that once were the support and the protection to houses.  Four and a half years later roads are still being paved and as one contractor in New Orleans told me only recently have they put up street signs in some areas.  Why is this taking so long?  The contrast sometimes is amazing, boarded up houses on one block and beautiful homes on the next.  So far I have only gotten a very small sampling of the area, but I am planning on exploring more.

OK, you are wonder what happened that I met the NOPD.  Well, I wasn’t speeding.  Originally, I thought I had my first travel adventure or misadventure on my hands.  Leaving Alabama I noticed that my front license plate was missing.  My first thought was that someone in Miami must have stolen it while I was parked in the tennis tournament parking lot.  When I arrived at my campsite in New Orleans, the very nice St. Bernard State Park, I asked Ranger Johnston if he could tell me where the nearest police station was.  I wanted to report the plate as stolen just in case it is being used in some kind of unsavoury activity.  Instead of me going to the police, I had two officers show-up at my campsite within 15 minutes!  Unfortunately, they couldn’t help.  I needed to report the incident in Miami, oh what fun.  We had a nice chat and they left.  As I said I thought I had my first adventure on my hand, as it turns out it wasn’t one at all.  I looked at some pictures I took of the truck along the way and believe it or not, I must have LOST the front plate on my first day of travel.  All I needed to do was call the DMV (35 minutes on hold) and order new plates.  It was suggested to me to inform the NY State police and the Pennsylvania State police just in case.

Today I started my volunteering gig with Habitat for Humanity.  We are a small group of 8 putting up siding on a house.  I have to practice my handheld circular saw sawing skills.  Managed to hit not the nail on the head but my thumb, blue was always my favorite color 🙂  It is a slow process.  Some more people are supposed to join us tomorrow.

Let me go back to Alabama for a bit.  I would have never mentioned Alabama and white sandy beaches in the same sentence.  The sand is super fine and the beaches are clean!  If you are into shell collecting, this is the place to be; especially when you go to Dauphin Island.  The shells are bigger than my hand at least a 1/4″ thick, brownish color and pretty heavy.  I took a photo which I will eventually post.  Does anyone have an idea what kind of shell this might be?  The beach was littered with them.  Dauphin Island even has a bird sanctuary.  Some parts of the West End beach were corded off for migrating / breading birds.

I had my first po’boy on Dauphin Island, grilled shrimp, very nice.  I got to talk to the two ladies who were making the sandwiches.  They told my about the big fishing rodeo they have every year on the island.  Hundreds and hundreds of anglers from all over the world come to fish.  Supposedly the variety of fish is endless.

It is getting late and I still have to make dinner.  There is more to write about, the nice guy in Biloxi who told me how to get out of a bad traffic jam, the nice guy running a campground who didn’t know that there was a nice restaurant just 2.5 miles from the site (never ask locals) and the beautiful Live Oak trees.  Did I mention bugs, I have been eaten alive.  Itching and scratching for a week now.

Good night.  Next time some photos.