The Long Way to Wisconsin
When you start out from Crestview, Florida and intend to wind up in Wisconsin, the shortest route is through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois. But nay, nay, my friend. Been there, done that.
It was one of Clay’s dreams to watch the barges slowly make their way up and down the Mississippi River and not be in a hurry. Just sit on the bank and contemplate one’s navel.
So, we left Crestview and drove due east, making it to Vidalia, Louisiana on the first day. The AllStays app is amazing- showing us both real time location on a map, then you can flip to a satellite view to make sure the beast will fit (65 feet with toad attached). This works well for rest areas and truck stops as well. Since we boondock (stay overnight without hookups and live off our generator, batteries, water and dump tanks) on the way to longer stays, we need to know if truck stops have pull-through parking, as we cannot back up in the RV with the toad (towed vehicle) attached. Not all truck stops are created equal, but you need to know this ahead of time.
Riverview RV Park, Vidalia, Louisiana
We stayed at the Riverview RV Park on the Mississippi River. The GPS voice pronounced it “Muh SISS a pee”. Being a word nerd, I giggled at that and kept repeating the mispronunciation. Clay has to put up with a lot.
The RV park is smack dab next to the river. You have to cross the levee to get to it, and sometimes it is closed due to river flooding.
We got situated and then walked along the river. I also floated in the pool on my super duper Swimways Spring Float ($15 from Target online). A delightful floaty thingy with a small blow up rim and pillow and a mesh bed. Folds up into a small circle. Small is good in an RV basement (the bay doors you see under a rig).
The next day, we crossed back over the river and toured Natchez, MS- the start of the Natchez Trace, an overland route which ran from the river through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Flatboatmen would sell their goods and boats (as lumber) in New Orleans or Natchez then make their way back by cart or on foot over the Trace. Plantations shipped their cotton south to New Orleans or upriver to St. Louis or Cincinnati.
Industrial progress sometimes has unintended consequences. The cotton gin (a simple machine used to separate the fluffy cotton from the prickly seed) allowed an increase in speed of processing cotton which then caused the planting of more cotton to keep up with the mill’s need for product. But this meant buying more slaves to do the unmechanized planting and picking.
Before the civil war, Natchez had more millionaires than any other city in the U.S and most of the antebellum mansions were spared during the war.
Longwood was an interesting octagonal mansion that was started right when the Civil War began and never completed inside. The succeeding generations of owners lived in the basement level and the rest of the top four floors were left open and unfinished.
After a few days, it was time to head upriver to Vicksburg, the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War- where the Union Army staged a brutal siege of the town and finally captured control of the Mississippi River, dividing the Confederacy in two parts: east and west eliminating their ability to re-provision over the river.
But, we didn’t want to spend the night in Vicksburg, and didn’t want to leave Zane unattended in a WalMart or rest area, so we got a satellite view of the Vicksburg National Military Park and saw there was bus parking. We’re as big as a bus, right? No problema. I was driving and, as you enter the parking area, there is a sharp right turn, then a guard shack on the driver’s side and a stop sign planted in the center of the two lane road on the left. About 10 feet apart. Eight foot wide Zane towered over the guard shack as I crept past it, trying not to bump my mirrors on the shack’s roof, and trying to keep that pesky stop sign in mind. It was a tight squeeze. Then an immediate sharp left turn into the parking lot, where we slid into the first spot we could find.
Whew. Yay for satellite views and nerves of steel (or at least really tough nylon cord).
A guy walked up to Clay later and said, “How in the world did you get that huge RV in here?” Clay replied, “I didn’t. My wife did.”
We took a quiet drive in Squirrel (our toad) through the battlefield. The signs of where each regiment was stationed along the battle lines (blue for the Union, Red for the Confederacy) as well as marble monuments at each state regiment’s position illustrated the tragic story of the long and dreadful battle. One child born in the caves the residents of Vicksburg lived in during the bombings was named Siege.
We also saw the ironclad boat, USS Cairo, which had sunk during another part of the war, and was dredged up in the 1960’s and reconstructed. It was a feat of engineering and its ironclad sister ships were responsible for securing the river for the Union.
Heading North to West Memphis, Arkansas
Then it was back on the road, part of the way driving on the Natchez Trace, a lovely two lane road through quiet woods and cotton fields.
Across the river from Memphis, Tennessee, we found another cool riverside camping spot called Tom Sawyer RV Park. Watched mighty tug boats with huge engines, smoke billowing out the exhaust pipes, fighting the current and sandbars going upstream, pushing 24 barges lashed together. At one point, they were probably only moving 2 miles per hour. Awesome to watch.
I quickly got groceries and rushed back to Zane to get ready to attend the Friday night session at the Memphis LDS temple. We drove about 40 minutes and noticed: no cars in the temple parking lot. What?? I checked the schedule on line and everything. What??
Oops. It was Saturday, not Friday. Temple closed at 1pm.
So, I guess I am officially retired. Cannot keep track of the days. My phone gets misplaced too now. For over 20 years, it has been constantly at my side, no matter where I was (and yes, it was near the shower, too) because I was on call for the hospital and my patients.
No longer. My phone is now just a great way to talk to family and text friends and check the internet. How wonderful is that?