Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring Trek 2016 Part 4: Texas to Tuscaloosa!

Easter Sunday, March 27
Mason, TX to Palestine, TX – 277 miles

  Alleluia!  He lives!  Up this morning to pack up.  The sky is dark and ominous – hardly a bright Easter morning!  And the temperature must drop at least 10 degrees between 7am and 8am as the wind picks up.  We say goodbye to Greg, Bea, Frances, and Chuck and pull out a
Inside UMC
few minutes after 8, bound for the side street near the Methodist Church downtown.  An 8:30 service beckons!  We are warmly welcomed, especially since we are wearing our CAV nametags.  I enjoy watching a young family sitting in front of us with two girls, the youngest of whom was having a great difficulty sitting still this morning!  She had the cutest ladybug style outfit on and carried her empty Easter basket. 

            We head east from Mason at 9:45.  The skies are still cloudy and the wind cool and strong, but we find the sun beginning to shine the further east we go.  The bluebonnets and paintbrush are still spectacular on this stretch of hill country highway.  In places some yellow flowers and pale pink morning glory types also dot the roadway. 
            We fail to find a restaurant quickly that will serve up breakfast, so we finally stop in Bertram at Pueblo Antigua, a Mexican place.  I check that it is open and give Rick a thumbs up!  We both have quesadillas – mine is Hawaiian with pineapple and ham.  I figure that
Yellow flowers line the road. 
will be my Easter ham! 
            Past Georgetown (north of Austin) and we link up with US 79 near Taylor.  Gas up and I take the wheel for the next 70 miles or so.  We immediately seem to leave the hills, the prickly pears, and a desert feel.  The land is flatter, green grass and cultivated fields surround us.  This is my first foray east of Austin into the land known as East Texas!  Frances promised hardwood forests and pine trees.  We are on country roads that wind in and around, up and down.  Trees line the road, wildflowers in profusion.  Paintbrush are especially the color of the day with whole fields deep red. 
We stop in the town of Franklin for a drink and Rick takes back the wheel.  US 79 seems to follow a railroad much of the way and hence many of these small towns line the tracks with rail buildings on one side and ‘Main Street’ on the other side.  Gas in Palestine and then another 12 miles or so to the R Space RV Park.  Surprise.
            There is no visible office and just a scattering of RVs in the heavily treed area.  We see a guy working on a concrete slab and drive over.  ‘I have a reservation for tonight.’  “How in the world did you get a reservation?  Who did you make it with?”  ‘Online. I have a receipt.’  “But the web site was taken down, it isn’t operational!  The park has changed hands.”  ‘I believe the website is VERY operational…my credit card has been charged.’  Anyway, the guy was very flexible.  He found us a spot, no charge (he’ll take it up with the former owner!), do we want the wifi code, and BTW, you are invited to dinner over at the RV next to the fence!

          A nice pond, but stagnant, and I did get some mosquito bites!  A rustic little cabin and a bathhouse under remodel.  But the corker is that they are reopening in a week as a ‘clothing optional’ campground!  I told Rick this might be the strangest campground I have booked us in!! 
             A walk around the grounds amidst the trees and then phone calls to moms and boys. Quiet evening and I have to admit....not much competition for the wifi!!  

See all of today's pictures HERE

Reflections in the pond

3.28.16  Monday 
Palestine, TX to Natchez State Park, Natchez, MS
(Through Louisiana!)
290 miles
See today's pictures HERE

            Well, an eventful day of travel touching three states in under 300 miles!  We left Palestine around 8am, the air brisk, and the mist rising from the pond with all the moisture in the air!  Rick ended up driving all day today (my bad!), but we took breaks in spite of a fruitless effort once again to find a breakfast place at the appropriate time!  We traveled up and down, noting more and more the waterlogged areas still under water from the recent flooding.  It got even worse once we were in Louisiana. 
            We crossed into Louisiana at Loganport and then to Mansfield.  I tried to text Mac and find out where Diane grew up because I had the idea it was somewhere around here.  But cell service today ranged from No Service to LTE T-Mobile premium!  Go figure!    The Sabine River forms the boundary between Texas and Louisiana and this upper region suffered torrential rains a couple weeks ago which eventually made their way down to the gulf and closed I-10! 
            We passed logging trucks today in the middle of Louisiana.  Rick remembered at some point that Weyerhauser left the PNW and went to the southeast pine forests!  Our US 84 route took us through some struggling small towns, beautifully landscaped homes, lots of oil and natural gas evidence, and water….lots of water and greenery!!  Without the internet I am struggling to finish identifying some of what we saw, but for sure crimson clover and wisteria.  The other horticulture highlight were the azaleas!  Huge bushes everywhere in a range of colors from pink to salmon to red to lavender – mostly pink though.  Very few bluebonnets now.  Thin spreads of paintbrush.  But the purple wisteria (I THINK that’s what it is!) is draped from trees, telephone lines, and stands alone as a bush.  I’ll have to confirm that later! 
            After the fourth little town in a row in which we couldn’t find a place to eat breakfast, we gave up and Rick pulled over at the side of the road and we ate from the trailer!  He was hungry and needed to stretch!  I found an abandoned building there, nearly covered with overgrowth, and it reminded me of Pastor Katy’s Easter sermon.  I did NOT go exploring inside ….bugs, snakes, alligators, and dangerous timbers lingered! 
            Just west of Vidalia, LA, we passed the Frogmore Cotton Plantation.  Frances of the Mason CAVs had told us it was worth the visit, so we plan to take it in tomorrow while the weather is still decent.  Nearer to Vidalia we pass a Wal-Mart and decide some grocery shopping is in order before we get out to the state park.  Seventy five dollars later, we are back on the road! 
            Through Vidalia and over a huge bridge arching across the mighty Mississippi.  We can still see evidence of some flooding here as well.  Through Natchez, which appears to be a clean and beautiful town – catering to the tourists!! 
            Natchez State Park is located about 13 miles northeast of the city.  Our plan was to get settled and then come back into town for dinner and a visit to the Visitor Center to collect some information.  But….once we wind our way back to our campsite (another 3 miles I would figure from the highway) we decide a home cooked meal will be just fine!!  I pull out the venison steaks we had with us, make a salad for me, and Rick enjoys the tater salad he picked up at WallyWorld.  We picked up materials at the state park office which give us what we need to know for tomorrow at least. 
            We picked well on the internet!  Our site, with concrete pad, is nestled on the outer edge of the loop with the door facing a thick stand of trees.  We can see the water of the lake just barely through the trees.  The lake is VERY muddy right now from all the rain and flooding.  Rick said he is MUCH happier here than at Riverside RV Park right on the Mississippi in downtown Vidalia.  We don’t have sewer connections, but the bathhouse is decent and if we are careful we can go four days on our holding tanks.  And….the price is very right at $18 a night rather than $35+!!   We have been warned, however, that ticks and wasps are currently abundant on the trails! 
Conversations with Luke and Cherrie tonight on the phone --- spotty service that bounces from No Service to 3G!  But we got questions answered anyway!    Good night!! 

3.29.16 Tuesday
Frogmore Cotton Plantation – Walking Downtown Natchez
Today's Pictures HERE

            My brain is overloaded with information tonight as I sit down to record our educational day!  A restful night as the park quieted down and the air cooled off (that won’t be the case tonight we fear!)  We pulled out shortly after 9 to drive back across the river to the Frogmore Plantation in Louisiana, about35 miles away.  We passed the plantation yesterday, and it comes highly rated, so worth the drive.  Stopped at Walmart to get some drinking water and postcards.  I couldn’t get any postcards…they didn’t sell them.  Obviously sending postcards is becoming a dated thing! 
            We got to the plantation just as a tour was beginning, so quickly paid our $15 each and joined in.  The tour guide was an Illinois girl, but she has spent plenty of time in the South based on her accent, plus she said she had worked the cotton fields as a young girl for her family.  She is the owner of Frogmore now.  The gift shop/headquarters is located in what used to be the ‘company store’.  We visited various buildings all over the plantation and heard trivia and facts that described the cotton industry from pre-Civil war when cotton was king and slavery very real through the end of the 1800’s and sharecropping to modern day cotton farming.
            Some random facts we garnered:

  •             CRISCO  is made from cottonseed oil! 
  •             Cotton is graded now by digital camera based on the purity, the strength of fiber, and length of fiber.
  •             Frogmore doesn’t charge other farms to use their gin.  Instead they keep all the seeds gleaned from the cotton and sell it for oil or livestock food. 
  •             The cotton flower changes from white to bright pink overnight. 
  •             Modern day machines can pick in a week the acreage it would take 150 slaves all fall to pick.
  •             During the heyday, 100 steamwheelers plied the Mississippi between Natchez and New Orleans carrying cotton to market. 
  •             Gumbo is an African term for okra.  Niyami is their word for sweet potato (hence the term YAM!)
Click on the link above to see the photo journal of the cotton plantation tour.  They will tell the story the best.  

            Thunder rumbles while we are in the tour and the road is wet in places driving back to Natchez, but we got little rain ON US today.  (The Frogmore gal did say that the area had received nearly 14 inches of rain in the past month.  They were a little tired of it!)
            We are hungry!  It is 1pm by the time we get back into Natchez.  We find the Magnolia Grill, located in ‘Natchez Under the Hill’ (otherwise known as the area below the bluff!).  It is situated right on the river and we get a seat right on the window.  Rick finally is able to see some barge traffic going up and down the river!.  The prices are a little steep so we decide to just have a bowl of the ‘Soup of the Day’ – Crawfish Chowder.  I think we both assumed it would be comparable to the soup listed on the menu….around $8.  Well, they were out of the chowder, so the waiter recommended the shrimp,corn,and crab bisque instead.  We said ok and I have to admit, it was a large, very filling, bowl of soup laden with good size shrimp and chunks of crab.  It was also $14 a bowl!  (And no bread or roll – not even a cracker with it!) So….lunch was good, but….
There was a photo at the Presby church of three
women, skirts hiked up, staring at a tree.  No
one knows what or who they are and we couldn't
photograph or sketch the I
came home and drew it from memory! 
Time to walk it off.  We drove around a bit and then found parking down at the Natchez Trails Pavilion right on the bluff.  Four trails are marked all over town with color coding – a bluff trail, a nature trail, and two ‘in-town’ trails highlighting various buildings.  We set off on the blue trail, but shortly lost track of it as we explored the Old Presbyterian Church and its huge gallery of
This is a manse!!  
historical photographs housed within.  The church itself was white….very, very white both inside and out.  Part of the architecture.    Early on the trail we passed a parsonage built for a Methodist minister.  It looked like a mini mansion and overlooked the river!  Nice explanation though of how the Methodists call it a parsonage, the Presbyterians, a manse, and the Catholics, a rectory.  It’s all the same thing – the minister’s house!
William Johnson House
  Our final stop is the William Johnson House, which is part of the Natchez National Historic Site buildings.  Free tour!  Johnson was one of about 200 free black men living in Natchez during the mid 1800’s.  He worked as a barber and raised 10 children in the house.  His father was probably the white slave owner who set him free.  Born a slave, Johnson owned slaves as he prospered.  Kinda hard to understand that part.  But he kept a diary and that information shed a great deal of light on life as a freed black in the South prior to the Civil War. 
            We are burned out.  It is 4pm and time to head back to the trailer for a light dinner and quiet evening. 

3.30.16 Wednesday
Natchez Trace Parkway and Vicksburg National Military Park
See Pictures HERE
            We decide to head to Vicksburg today as the forecast rain isn’t due to hit until after noon sometime, maybe even later.  Maybe we can dodge the water and get this trip in, saving the visit to Melrose Plantation house until a predicted very wet Thursday (at least it is indoors!)
            I arise early to grab a shower before things get busy.  As it turns out, the campground is absolutely still save for a couple solitary birds waking up.  Still relatively dark at 6:30 and so very calm.  I enjoy a good HOT shower! 
            We take off around 8am, but have to backtrack first toward Natchez because we realized we didn’t have enough gas to get to Vicksburg!  We missed the Walmart and Murphys gas yesterday and it is coming back to bite us!  But we only backtrack about 5 miles to find a gas and convenience store, grab coffees and donuts for Rick, and put enough gas in the truck for the trip (ignoring the fact we are paying almost 20 cents more per gallon than if we had driven further into town! 
I loved the wildflowers and
split rail fences!
            The Natchez Trace is an ancient historic trail from Natchez to Nashville, TN, approximately 450 miles long.  It has been used by native Americans, riverboat men to return to the Ohio River ports,  mail runs, etc. for hundreds of years.  The road is closed to commercial truck traffic, so RVs are the only ‘big’ rigs you will encounter.  Today there was very little traffic! 

Our first stop was Mount Locust, a former cotton plantation-turned boarding house.  When her second husband left her with 11 children to support and situated a day’s walk from Natchez with requests for room and board, she turned the plantation into a inn and died the 1850 equivalent of a millionaire!  The trace passes within a hundred yards of the old home.  Interesting, educational, and beautiful.  
            We stopped at the Sunken Trace briefly to walk down and see where the footpath has eroded down about 6 feet.  I imagine during heavy rains it becomes a creekbed! 
Sunken Trace
            From there it is another 20 miles of Trace Highway, and then we turn on State Rt 27 to cut across to Vicksburg.  It takes us right into town and the Visitor Center for the National Military Park.  Time for a history lesson!  Vicksburg was the key to the Union victory in the Civil War according to Abe Lincoln.  By taking the city, the Union regained control of the Mississippi shipping paths and divided the Confederacy.  But the victory did not come easily.  The city was under siege from May until July.  The Union suffered some major loses. The ironic and perhaps sad part in all this is that Vicksburg voted PRO-Union in the secession vote for the state of Mississippi.  They didn’t want to secede and yet they suffered gravely even after the war. 
Illinois Memorial
  The park is literally covered with memorials.  It seems just about every Infantry unit has one, and Illinois alone had 79 infantry units serving with General Grant!  Markers indicated every trench dug, lines fought, etc.  We had a ‘cell phone’ tour in which I could dial a number, indicate which stop, and then we listened to a 1-2 minutes description.  We used it for several, but actually didn’t even complete the 16 mile loop.  We stopped and visited the Shirley House and the Illinois Memorial.  The Shirley house is the only building remaining from the war.  All else are replicas.  The memorial was like the Jefferson in Washington DC.  Huge domed affair with open hole in the ceiling.  Every man from Illinois who served in the war is listed on the walls. 
USS Cairo - ironclad ship that sunk
    The park is hilly, much more so than Gettysburg.  There are few big fields, but trenches and bumps where underground bunkers protected the soldiers.  We headed down past more monuments to the Cairo exhibit.  Seven ironclad sternwheeler ships were built in 100 days to aid the Union army in taking back the Mississippi.  Similar to the work of the Monitor and the Merimac blockcading the Southern sea ports, the mission of these fortified vessels was to regain the inland ports.  The Cairo was sunk in the Yahzoo River by a mine set by the confederates.  The ship sunk in just minutes, but no lives were lost.  One hundred years later it was excavated and restored.  The museum was filled with all the artifacts left behind by the fleeing sailors.  It was a fascinating display.
Chase took our picture
            We left the park on a sidestreet that took us downtown.  We found the 10 South Rooftop Grill – located in a bank building.  ‘Take the elevator to the 10th floor’!  We each ordered from the lunch light plate – I had catfish tacos and Rick wafflefries smothered in chili and jalepenos!  Our waiter, Chase, was talkative, helpful, and perhaps bored as we were his only table!  He reminded me somewhat of how Luke would wait tables, even writing out directions for me to get back on 61 South. (Perhaps it was the man-bun!)  He brought us pretzels, water glasses to go, and we talked about his goals, our Habitat work, the downtown demise, etc.  A good meal. 
Rick and Chase survey downtown
            Rick drove us out of town and then I took over for the drive back down US 61 to the state park.  Four lane all the way, except for a short stretch in the middle as you go through Port Gibson. 
            We pull into the park with a few raindrops falling, but we have escaped any big storms today!  Rain stops.   Rick heads off immediately for a good long walk and I take a shorter one, exploring the nature trail briefly (bridge out), the lake shore tentatively (we have been warned about ticks and snakes) and then out the road for a bit before settling down to read and write and draw! 
I found a purple trillium!
            Around 6:30 the radio gives several weather warnings, but they are for towns to the east of us with the storm moving NE.  Severe thunderstorms, high winds, and big hailstones.  We do experience some heavy rainfall during the evening, and to date it appears Rick’s fix of the air conditioner has worked.  (Knock on wood!)  No drips so far and it has rained pretty hard.  It will be a warm night, however, as we can’t leave many of the windows open with the wind blowing the rain in from all directions. 
            Good night! 

3.31.16  Thursday
Melrose Estate and Cajun Cookin’

            Oh what a night!  It was 75 in the trailer when we went to bed, Rick prepared to turn off the electricity during the night if thunderstorms came.  So far all we had had was rain…in waves of intensity.  We woke around 1 to rumbles of thunder in the distance.  Rick went out to pull the plug then just because he knew he wouldn’t go back to sleep otherwise!  A couple big flashes and booms eventually nearby and then rain.  We fell back asleep.  About 4 am, CRACK!  We both about jumped out of bed!  That one was close!  Flash and boom!  Several more a little further away and then more rain.  Glad the power was off for that one! 
            When I got up at 7, the rain had stilled.  Puddles all around.  We are glad to be on a concrete pad rather than the muddy spot we first had at Mason!  The birds are singing and it is still 71 degrees in the trailer.  More storms are predicted today.  For now….I am going to draw!! 
Melrose Estate
            Evening.  We have had a few drops of rain early this evening, but so far the storms have not come.  From what I could see the one time I was able to get online this afternoon….we may be driving into them tomorrow! 
            We battened up the trailer and left for town around 10 with a list of stops to make – some fun, some necessary.  First stop was at a Jiffy Lube place to get an oil change for the truck.  We’ve driven 3000 plus miles and Rick is really good about taking care of our truck since it has to work so hard to pull the trailer!  Not the cheapest, but what we expected and we got a car wash and a vacuum job out of it as well!  Back on our way to make the 11am tour at Melrose – the National Park Service antebellum home available for tours.  Only when we arrive, we find an 11 o’clock isn’t scheduled, even though all of us have read “tours on the hour”.  Since there are 14 of us there, the gal calls for help and then gives us the tour herself! 
            The Melrose estate belonged to a Pennsylvania transplant to the south, trained and practicing as a lawyer.  He received two estates as wedding presents, along with the requisite slaves.  He moved up in the world rapidly and Melrose was built mostly for ‘show’ – to exhibit his wealth and status in the Natchez society.  Since it is park service owned and operated, meticulous attention to historical accuracy has taken place in restoration.  Much of the furniture is the original from either the first owners or the second, a banking family.  The land itself was never cultivated after the mansion was built.  Previously it had been the site of small cotton fields on the edge of town. 
This is a 'Shoo-Fly'!  Basically
a large fan operated by a slave
child to push air around. 
  There were four floors with a ‘clerestory’ on top – which I think is an opened patio with rails around the outside.  The basement and attic were mostly for storage or slave use.  The main floor was the show/entertaining floor (hence the gold guilding above the windows, fancy brocade upholstery, etc), and the family lived on the second floor.  Here we found a large central room with multiple bedrooms off of it. 
            Out buildings included the kitchen with slave quarters above (now the NPS office and gift shop), a dairy/laundry building with slave quarters above, several slave cabins, carriage house, etc.  There was an excellent exhibit on the slave life in one of the slave cabins.  Rick and I found seeing these lavish homes built and run on the backs of slavery difficult.
 On the grounds is a huge, beautiful live oak with fern-covered branches spreading out and draped with Spanish moss.  The azaleas are starting to pass, but a row of white iris was in bloom. 
Third item on our list – food.  We wanted to try some authentic Cajun cooking before we leave, so we find the Cajun Rice House serving Jambalaya and seafood gumbo.  I am leery of getting something too hot for me to eat, but I found both ‘tolerable’!  My mouth was hot when I was done, but it was good.  Both were not exactly what we expected.  Jambalaya is a dirty rice – ours was laced with various pork and sausage flavors and seasonings.  The seafood gumbo did not have okra in it, unless the okra was totally ground up.  It was a gravy like broth, spicy, with shrimp and crab bits.  The café also was selling live crawfish by the pound, or you could buy it cooked.  We refrained and bought some frozen shrimp at Walmart instead!  (Not quite the same, but convenient!)   I am wishing I had internet so I could look up some recipes to adapt to our tastes a bit more, but still with plenty of fish in it! 
We come to WalMart next for a grocery/gas stop.  The gas is very important as we don’t have much left in the truck!  Inside for some groceries and then….we find all the pumps have crashed at the Murphys outside the Walmart.  Sadly…they are 20 cents cheaper than anything else around!  So…
We hit a McDonalds in the hopes of getting internet long enough to make a reservation at an Corp of Engineers campground in Alabama south of Tuscaloosa.  Al and Judy reminded us in Mason of how nice some of these parks are, plus you get them for half price with the Senior Pass.  But I couldn’t get the web site to work!  Finally Rick called and we are booked for Service Campground just outside of Coffeeville, Alabama, about 210 miles away.  We’ll stay the two nights and then drive up to Tuscaloosa on Sunday morning – a mere 140 miles at that point. 
And then….we must get GAS!  Back to Murphys and we find the pumps are now operating.  Fill up the truck and off for the campground!  We are pleased with our Natchez adventure.  We are rested, yet we have explored a little, survived a storm, seen plantations, battlefields, and antebellum homes, AND tasted jambalaya, gumbo, catfish tacos, and seafood bisque.  Not bad! 
The campground is quiet and relatively empty.  Many of the rigs around us have left and no one coming in until the weekend.  Lazy evening with the fan going.  The air is still, muggy, and it is still 79 degrees in the trailer.  A warm night ahead!!  Hopefully without those sudden bolts of lightning and cracks of thunder! 
My favorite scene entering Natchez State Park...the relic of an old
building coupled with the beauty of a blooming azalea. 

4.1.16  Friday
Natchez, MS to Coffeeville, AL
211 miles

            NO RAIN last night!  Kinda eerie night, however.  Lazy start to the day as we don’t plan to leave until 10.  But…at 8:45 a few drops of rain start to fall which speeds us up a little.  We don’t want to be hitching up in a downpour!  We had already put the front end up last night in anticipation of wet, so that was already done!  As it turned out the few drops were pretty much it!  So by the time we empty the tanks at the dump station it is only 9:35 and we are on our way.
            We follow US 84 straight across the state of Mississippi.  And you certainly cannot complain about the traffic (very light) or the road (wide median, four lane, all the way!)!!  Rick drove to Brookhaven, where we gas up again and switch drivers (armed with a new cup of coffee as well!)  Then I drove to Laurel, MS, which ended up being a busier town than I anticipated.  But it is the crossroads with an interstate and another major US route, so….  We gas up and then find the Waffle House right across from the gas station.  Convenient.  Rick finally gets his promised breakfast out!  I thought about trying grits, but was calorie conscious and got the tomatoes as a side instead! 
Pathetic welcome, 'Bama!
            It is only 40 miles from Laurel to the border and then another 25 to Service COE Park just west of Coffeeville.  The terrain has been constant – GREEN!  Plenty of southern pines, hardwood trees, waning azaleas and purple wisteria everywhere.  It did not rain more than scattered drops all day.  I was disappointed in Alabama.  The only sign we saw was a green ‘Alabama State Line’ sign.  Where was my ‘Welcome to Alabama’??  Plus the road changed from the wide four lane to a two lane quasi country road!  Oh well! 
Our spot in the trees along the Tombigbee River
            We find the entrance to the Service COE Park very suddenly, but Rick manages to make the turn and we drive back to a beautifully maintained, albeit damp, park.  After a drive-through we go back out to the park host and ask for a different site (he had given us that option!) – the assigned site was difficult to back into, a shared site, and backed right up to a site FILLED with cars and kids.  The guy said he understood!  He is able to move us down 3 spots to #21 which is quite nice! 
Along the Tombigbee River.
            We settle in, but only open the back bed and don’t unhitch.  Will wait until after the predicted storm for that….just in case.  A quick walk through the park, back out to the day use area.  We find a Birding Trail, seeing a bald eagle and bluebirds, Spanish moss, budding trees, and the Tombigbee River – a wide muddy swiftly moving river, carrying a wide variety of storm debris downstream. 
            Later as we listen to the rain fall, something quite heavily, we hear what sounds like a train, perhaps on the opposite shoreline.  I look out the door to see if I can spy it and find a tugboat pushing a barge downstream right in front of us!  River action!  Pretty cool. 
           By 8:30, the rain seems to have quit…perhaps temporarily.  We shall see. 
            We got postcards written today.  Sixteen of them!  Plus text or email messages to both Moms and Luke.  (All done while in Laurel at lunch where I had LTE T-Mobile service.)  Here at the park we have NOTHING.  No cell.  No internet.  No TV.  So….time for old fashion communication….handwritten letters and postcards! 

4.2.16 Saturday
Coffeeville and Chillin’ at COE Park
            That was the last of the rain for abit!  I awoke this morning to the sound of birds, a 6:40 sunrise (we are further east!) and BLUE SKIES!!  Hurray!  Beautiful day! 
Flowers behind our campsite
    And we don’t make much of it!  I finished reading my book, we did a load of laundry, and after lunch we drove into Coffeeville.  Rick had already learned that the dam and locks are gated off and closed to the public…a 911 thing.  We did hear another tug on the river last night. 
            Our drive reveals a very small village struggling.  The high school/city hall was hosting a trade fair and there was a fish fry happening.  But we found the post office and mailed our post cards.  Who knows how long it will take for them to travel to Oregon from here!?

            We took a walk on one of the nature trails this afternoon.  It was very soggy, but we found some new flowers we hadn’t seen otherwise.  Really pretty!  There is one plant I am curious to identify.  It has bright green leaves nearly 12 to 15 inches long.  When we were in Mississippi we passed the Long Leaf Trace and there is a Long Leaf River.  I’m just wondering….  So many questions and no internet to provide the answers!  Ah well!  (Addendum....Sunday morning another forester camper said they were BIG leaf Magnolias - only grow in southern Alabama)
Big Leaf Magnolia
      It is cooling off faster this evening.  I might even have to get the heater back out, especially since we have put away the heavy sleeping blanket. 
            I added to my ‘treasures’ today.  Tiny shells from Perdanales beach, cotton bolls from Frogmore, and now sweet gum pods and a wad of Spanish moss. 
Another tug pushes a barge upriver in the setting sun. 


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