Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15, 2011

More Parkway and Over to Vicksburg

Comfortable continuation down Parkway with brief detour into Jackson for gas and groceries.  Out of Jackson as quickly as possible and back on Parkway.  South about 10 miles and then west to Vicksburg.  Settled in nice RV park.  Tomorrow, tourism.

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There is one community right on the parkway.  It is the village of French Camp.  Historic site established in mid 1800’s to house a religious school.  School still functions.  ( Students have to work several hours a week in various village spots. Met a teenaged girl working in gift shop who now lives in Mississippi but was from Sacramento. Probably as a young child because she had no recall of the area. )Lots of neat old buildings in good repair or authentic restoration and most of them functioning.


Sorghum field.  What do you do with sorghum?

Make molasses


Sorghum press in operation.  There is a horse off to the right that was brought in later.  Tractor was used to more rapidly get starter batch of juice.



Cut sorghum ready for press

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Feeding stalks into press.  Note steady stream of juice coming from press.


Boiling trough to purify and concentrate juice into molasses.


Raw juice vat that feeds boiling trough.


Boiling trough.  Jars are filled from spout on far end when juice boiled to proper consistency.

While watching the molasses process we met a woman who lived not far away.  “Where are you from?”  “California”.  “What part?”  “Auburn, near Sacramento.” - “My brother lives in Nevada City”  The world keeps getting smaller.



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Met this fellow about 8 inches from side of nature trail.  Black with yellow/white under belly.  Stout body. Pit viper shaped head.  Research says possibly water moccasin.  Days excitement.


Trees are ‘Bald Cypress’.  Pointed spiky things are not rotted trees.  They are projections that grow from roots.  Thought to help stabilize tree.  Called ‘knees’.

October 14, 2011

Step Repaired, Start Down the Natchez Trace Parkway

At 9am we went into Tupelo for some supplies.  When we returned at 10:15 they were just finishing installing the new linkage.  Paid and expressed MUCH thanks and resumed our adventure. 

The Natchez Trace Parkway roughly follows the route of the old Natchez Trace that extended from Natchez to Memphis.  Much history, good and not so much.  Trace was sometimes referred to as the ‘Devil’s Backbone’ because traveling it could be quite dangerous.  Long lonely path with many opportunities for outlaw activities.

parkway sign parkway the Trace Natchez Trace

The Parkway is truly that – a parkway.  440 mile green corridor with a wide two lane road down the middle.  50mph limit, no trucks, no stop lights or stop signs.  Intersections with roads are done by clover leaf that removes traffic to stop sign on intersecting road thus keeping parkway flowing.  Parkway goes through dense forests, swamps, farms, and even cities.  You barely see the farms and never see the cities.  Trees line the road and open areas next to the road so you do not see what lies beyond.  Might be more trees, a field, or a city but on the road it is green space and trees.  Every few miles there is a pullout with some historical point of interest explained.  Every so often the Parkway touches on the path of the old Trace.  The ground here is pretty soft so travel along the Trace wore a pretty good ditch.  Nature is taking back the path but it is still visible.



Short portion of Natchez Trace that has been kept cleared show how it would have appeared.

There are no services right on the Parkway.  You must go into nearby towns for gas, food, lodging.  One exception.  About halfway along the Parkway there is a small campground.  First come, first served.  Less than 20 sites, holds everything from tents to large RVs, AND no charge. :)  Guess where we stayed.   Very quiet and no street lights.  Very restful night.


View from overlook above campground.  This spot is one of the highest places in Mississippi – 603 feet above sea level.

October 13, 2011

Layover in Tupelo

Last night as we opened (or closed – don’t remember) the door to the carbus there was a thunk followed by the sound of a motor running continuously.  The linkage that raises and lowers the step broke and the motor was trying to finish its’ function.  Turned off power to the motor but now we had a step hanging down.  Internet search showed RV service center in a small town 10 miles west of Tupelo.  Called early this morning and explained problem (passing through, broken step, etc.).  Service manager said come on over and we’ll see what we can do.  Drove the 10 miles carefully avoiding any bumps.  “Needs a part.  We have part for two step but not single step.  Can have it here tomorrow.  You are welcome to stay here.  Just back in next to the shop and we’ll plug you in.”  So that’s what we did.  Spent the day watching RVs move in and out of the shop.  Actually, we had a project we are working on that needed some time so we kept busy.  At 5:00 everybody left and it was just us and the occasional train.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 12, 2011

Tupelo, MS

Short day.  Did a little shopping leaving Memphis and then about two hours east to Tupelo.  Went to visitor center for Natchez Trace Parkway for info and enlightenment.  Will head down the parkway tomorrow.

Next, Elvis’ birth place.  Small park area containing museum/gift shop, several buildings, and info signage. 


Elvis birthplace and home for first 13 years.


Elvis at 13


Church Elvis’ family attended. Moved a block to park site.


Elvis and his parents moved from Tupelo to Memphis in a car like this.


Elementary school Elvis attended.

Tomorrow the parkway.  Speed limit, limited access, and no signs. Nice!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 11, 2011

Home of The King

Looking at the map and time open to us, Mississippi was the obvious next goal.  Saw Tupelo on the map and that sounded familiar.  Looked it up.  Birthplace of Elvis Presley.  Gotta go there obviously.  Looking at map some more getting to Tupelo tales us very near Memphis.  Graceland!  I enjoy Elvis’ music but Graceland had never been a driving have to see for me.  Very pleasantly surprised.  The Graceland tour of the house and grounds is very well done.  Very tasteful and informative.  The tour is an audio tour that has an itinerary  but you are free to move along at your own pace.  The home and grounds are located across the street from the ticketing and touristy museum/gift shops/food stores areas.  You are bussed over to Graceland in small groups to take the tour.  As I said, I would not make this a have to do destination (others do) but if anywhere nearby it is  definitely worth seeing.  Glad we did it.


Picture yourself in this picture = for a price.


Graceland front entrance


Living room. Couch on right is 15 feet long.


Dining room.  Kitchen (to right of photo) is large and functional and has all modern appliances and perks.


TV room


Game room


One wall.  There are walls and walls and walls.  Actually there are buildings and buildings and buildings.


Pricilla and Elvis’ wedding attire.


Another room


Think this is the dead person’s grave we will visit for a while.


Tourist :)

If interested,  here is trip to date.

October 10, 2011

Hot Springs National Park

Sun rise over the Arkansas River.

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South this morning on one of Arkansas’ designated scenic roads.  This one really was.  Narrow, twisty, two-lane through some very pretty country.  Even had more color than we had seen before.

Scenic road sneaks in from the north to the town of Hot Springs.  Named for the hot springs located there.  LONG history of use and development of the springs over years.  National Park established to protect the actual springs from damaging development.  The park encompasses a row of bath houses, the springs, and the hill behind which has an observation tower at the peak.


Looking along Bath House Row

The visitor center is in one of the old bath houses and the whole building is a display of the layout of the bath houses.  For their time these places would easily rival any resort/spa you could find today.  They were pretty comprehensive and spiffy.  Baths, saunas, massage, hydrotherapy, exercise machines, gym, lounges, beauty salon, sun decks, and more all in one building and all first class.


Skylight in men's bath/pool room


Gym on top floor



Natural spring not covered by building :)


Fountain in front of a bath house fed by hot spring.  The misty look is actually steam.  Water comes out of ground @ 145 degrees.

Back east again to Clarendon, AR.  We got a taste of very small town Arkansas.  In finding and hooking up in the city RV campground we met a city councilman/levy district chairman/former mayor/etc. who guided us to the park.  We also met the chief of police who turned on the electricity for us.  We also spoke to the current mayor on the phone (called him at work – he runs the town’s liquor store).  We met the councilman’s sister and mother.  His mother spent her junior high school years in Marysville, CA.  Small world and this part of it is a different experience for us.

October 9, 2011

Fort Smith and Arkansas Ozarks

Back to our original planned route today.  West on a back road (pretty and rural).  Then south on a freeway (we screwed up – there is a scenic alternate but we missed the turn).  Even the freeway was scenic and pretty much rural.  Winding through the hills with no buildings or frontage roads to spoil the view. 

Tourist stop for the day – Fort Smith.  This is now a city but it is the site of Fort Smith which was the major protection and supply center for administering the Indian Territories (later to become Oklahoma).  It was also the primary center for administering justice for crimes committed in the territories. 


Parade ground.  Building is enlisted mens’ barracks – now visitor Center and Museum.


Gallows. Plenty of room.


Full length trap door of gallows.


Arkansas River.  Fort Smith sat on bluff above river.

We spent an hour at the  fort site touring the visitor center and the grounds and then headed east again.  We are now in a nice little Corps of Engineers campground on the bank of the Arkansas River. (The Arkansas River is fairly straight but we seem to be crossing it often even with our back and forth route.)