Heading East – Part 2

Gaffney, SC

In our last post we described our trip east from Nevada to Amarillo, TX.  After a two night stay there we continued east, taking US 287 to Wichita Falls, TX.   When we arrived we decided to visit the falls we assumed to be in the city.  Unfortunately, a flood in 1886 destroyed the original falls on the Wichita River for which the city was named.  After nearly 100 years of visitors wanting to visit the nonexistent falls, the city built an artificial waterfall beside the river in Lucy Park.  The recreated falls are 54 feet high and recirculate at 3,500 gallons per minute. They are visible to south-bound traffic on Interstate 44.

We stayed the night just north of the falls in a little city park called Wichita Bend RV Park  where we had water and electric for $17 a night.  We intended to spend an afternoon touring the city and hiking in nearby Lucy Park, but high temperatures and oppressive humidity cancelled both activities.  It turns out that Wichita Falls has a humid subtropical climate with some of the highest summer daily maximum temperatures in the entire country outside of the desert southwest.

Wichita Bend RV Park

The next day we continued east on US 82 to Texarkana, a small town that straddles the state line between Texas and Arkansas, and spend the night at a nice little park called Shady Pines RV.  The following morning we headed south on I-49, skirted around Shreveport, LA, and got on I-20.  After crossing the Mississippi we stopped at the Ameristar RV Park on the south side of Vicksburg, MS.

We stayed there for two nights to allow for a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Entrance to the military park

Vicksburg sits high on a bluff that at one time overlooked the Mississippi River, making it a key spot in the control of river traffic.  A flood in 1876 changed the course of the river to the west, leaving the main part of the city sitting on the much smaller Yazoo River.  But at the time of the Civil War whoever controlled Vicksburg controlled traffic on the river.  By late spring of 1863 the city was the last section of the Mississippi under the control of the Confederacy.  Union General Grant moved his army down the river and surrounded the city.  He tried repeatedly to take Vicksburg by force without success.  So he changed strategy and set up a siege, intending to starve the city into surrender.  After holding out for more than forty days, with their reinforcement and supplies nearly gone, the Confederate garrison finally surrendered on July 4th, the same day Robert E. Lee began retreating from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

Illinois Monument

Below is a photo of what’s known as the surrender interview site, where Union General Grant and Confederate General Pemberton sat on the afternoon of July 3, 1863 to negotiate terms of a surrender.

Surrender Interview Site

At the north end of the military park sits the remains of the ironclad gunboat USS Cairo.  On December 12, 1862, while clearing mines from the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, the Cairo struck a naval mine detonated by volunteers hidden behind the river bank and sank in 12 minutes. There were no casualties.

Over the years the gunboat was forgotten and was slowly covered by silt and sand.  Researchers from the military park found the remains in 1956.  In 1960 many artifacts were recovered from the ship including the pilothouse and an 8-inch cannon, both preserved by the Yazoo River mud.

The ship was raised out of the river in the mid 1960 and towed to a shipyard on the coast.  In 1977 it was moved to its present location and a small museum was constructed to display the many items found in it during recovery.

While structural integrity required the use of new lumber in some areas, much of the wood is original.

Model of the Cairo in the museum

Bottles found in the wreckage

Vicksburg National Cemetery, located next to the Cairo Museum,  holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers.  Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign originally buried behind Confederate lines, have now been re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery.

After touring the military park we drove downtown to the waterfront along the Yazoo River.  There a flood wall built on top of a levee has been decorated by a series of murals that highlight the history of Vicksburg.

After two nights in Vicksburg our journey continued on I-20 east across Mississippi into Alabama.

We stayed two nights in Sunset RV Park, just east of the city of Tuscaloosa.  We stayed there under a black cloud, literally!  A number of times while there, a storm would bubble up right over us and it would rain hard for a short time.  Drive a mile or so in any direction and the roads were completely dry.  With the extreme heat and humidity there we experience something we haven’t seen in a while (since we have been out west), steam rising from the park roads.

A steamy day

The next day we drove about 15 miles south of Tuscaloosa to visit the Moundville Archaeological Site on the Black Warrior River.  Extensive archaeological investigation has shown that the site was the political and ceremonial center of a regionally organized Mississippian culture chiefdom between the 11th and 16th centuries.  The archaeological park portion of the site is administered by the University of Alabama Museums.  It encompasses 185 acres with platform mounds around a rectangular plaza.  At its height, the population is estimated to have been around 1000 people within the walls, with 10,000 additional people in the surrounding countryside.

Mound B, the highest at 58 feet

The Jones Archaeological Museum, located within the site, houses an extensive collection of pottery and artifacts from the early inhabitants.

Jones Archaeological Museum

Bird/Serpent Effigy Bowl

The main attraction in Tuscaloosa is the campus of the University of Alabama.  Normally when we visit a university like this we ride our bikes through the campus.  But we left the bikes back in Boulder City as we need the space to bring back the contents of a storage unit we have in Pennsylvania.  And since it was much too warm to walk, we had to be content with a drive through the campus.  We were quite impressed with the beautiful campus (although it was difficult to get a good photo from inside the Jeep).

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa River Walk

Next we continued on I-20 east to Atlanta to spend a few day with our son, Kevin.

Approaching Atlanta

One of the fun activities we did during our stay in Atlanta was to go to Top Golf.  Top Golf is a high tech driving range with locations in major cities across the country.  The way it works is you pay an hourly fee ($35-$45) for a table with multiple seats and a golf tee area similar to a traditional driving range.  Each ball has a computer chip in it that gives you feedback if you hit it into one of the many green sized circles located at various distances in front of the tees.  An interactive screen allows you to choose from a variety of games and keeps your score.  They have a full menu and bar so your group can enjoy drinks and a meal while you play.  We had a great time and plan to check out the Top Golf location in Las Vegas when we get back west.

Related image

Kevin took a few golf lessons years back when he was a lawyer but has never played on a course.  We were impressed with his good form and he hit the ball very well.

Great form for a non-golfer!

This guy has played before

We have now moved north to Gaffney, SC to have the motorhome’s annual service completed.  Gaffney is the home of Freightliner, the manufacturer of the chassis on most motorhomes, and is known as the best place in the east coast to have work completed.

Beautiful Freightliner RV Resort and Spa

We called for an appointment months ago but they are so popular that nothing was available.  But they do allow for non-appointment walk-ins, so that is what we are going to do.  Since they will fit us in as time allows. our stay here may be short or it may be long.  We’ll just have to be patient and see what happens.

More on that later . . .

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33 Responses to Heading East – Part 2

  1. You always find interesting things to do as you travel. I hope everything goes well with the work on your motorhome.

  2. exploRVistas says:

    That is too funny about the falls. People wonder that about Grand Rapids (MI), as the rapids are now behind a dam. And…there is a plan to recreate them. 🙂

  3. Sue says:

    I loved the info. about and the photos of Moundville. I’m used to seeing Native American ruins in a totally different setting and shape. The bird effigy bowl was exquisite, such fine details, very unusual. We’re getting acclimated to the east’s humidity levels slowly, but thank goodness for AC! See you soon!

    • placestheygo says:

      I am so glad I found the Moundville Site. This was such a different type ruin area. The pottery in the museum was beautiful. They were a very talented group of people. I am glad you are adjusting to the humidity. We haven’t made that adjustment yet. Won’t be long now!!

  4. Mississippi is a state we gave extremely short shrift to as we were just driving through, but I really do want to return, especially to see Vicksburg. Seeing the civil war sites all around the east has been a fascinating part of our trip and your review of your time in Vicksburg shows why – it’s not just the battlefields that are interesting but all the smaller finds and stories that go along with them. I do think, however, that we’ll try to go in spring or fall. Your descriptions of the soupy air and steam coming off the pavement is enough to convince me I want no part of the southeast during the summer. 🙂

    Hope you guys stay cool and they can get your motorhome in and out quick.

    • placestheygo says:

      This was our first motorhome stay in Mississippi even after eight years on the road. Yes, I would plan a non-summer visit to Vicksburg. That way wandering some of the areas in the park would be more enjoyable. Our MH made it into the shop this afternoon but needs to return tomorrow for a few minor repairs. So one more day at the Freightliner “resort.”

  5. Debbie L says:

    We’re hoping to get to Vicksburg this winter. Now we have one good ideas.
    Hope you’re in and out with your motorhome. We’ve done great down the road at Cummins. But they are a bit like that, appts are booked but walk-ins welcome, but first come first serve. They only have two RV sites, electric only. They’ve always under promised and over delivered so we’ll keep returning.
    How many miles are you two driving? Do you drive, too, Pam?
    Looks like we might’ve in Pennsylvania at the same time! We’d love to meet you two in person-I think we’d be able to talk all night! We’re driving to Virginia on June 27. We’re in Black Moshannon State Park until the 25. Undecided whether to stay until the 27th and then have a long drive for one day back.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Debbie, the winter would be a much better time to visit Vicksburg. Our MH made it into the shop today but needs to return tomorrow for a few minor repairs. So at least one more day here, but it isn’t bad at all. It’s quiet, we have good power and super great WiFi. They also have water and a dump station. There are 20 sites with electric. And…there is a Starbucks just a couple miles away! We only had two big days of driving when we started, then we backed down to our usual 170 – 225 miles a day. It will take us three driving days to get to PA with a couple two day stays. No, I don’t drive at all. As a matter of fact, I have trouble sitting up front during construction.

      • Debbie L says:

        I’m not a driver either! But I know many couples crisscross the USA by sharing driving.
        Well it looks like we may be like ships passing in the night! When we’re in Fredericksburg, we’re not far off of I-95.
        We’ve loved our nearly 2 months in PA. But I’ve had a hard time keeping our blogging up to date. I’m almost done with our time at Shawnee State Park. The best “sight” was Flight 93 National Memorial. It’s constantly being updated. Such a wonderful and moving memorial. I asked who designed it and really made it so excellent. A committee included family members did it. So hard to really describe it….Bill said it was so sobering.

  6. Jeff Pierce says:

    Had to laugh at Wichita Falls, we stayed in the same RV park in the rain, it cleared enough in the morning to visit the ‘falls’ which were not flowing. We learned the water was turned off because of the drought! Doubt if we’ll be back.
    The mounds look interesting, we did Effigy Mounds in Iowa a couple years ago. There did not appear to be as much history documented there, but way fun mounds!

    • placestheygo says:

      Sorry you missed the “falls!” We only saw them from the highway since it was over 100 and the dew point was very high, and we weren’t about to walk the mile each way to see them from the park. We will more than likely never return either. The Moundville Site was well worth a visit if you should find yourselves in the area again.

  7. Laurel says:

    OMG, you guys really hit the wall of heat and humidity! But you still know how to have a good time, wherever you go. 🙂 The bird/serpent effigy bowl is gorgeous! I would enjoy seeing the Moundville Archeological Site, but I think we’ll wait until winter. Dang, I just can’t stand heat and humidity anymore. I guess I had enough to last me a lifetime growing up in Florida.

    • placestheygo says:

      We did hit the wall of heat and humidity, Laurel. All was fine til Wichita Falls, then it went downhill from there. Wichita Falls was the worst. Atlanta had a perfect spring week prior to our arrival. We seem to be bringing the heat and humidity with us as we move. But we are still trying to enjoy the new towns.

  8. geogypsy2u says:

    Rather funny that a town has to rebuild their falls to make the name viable. The mounds site is very interesting. Do they have any idea what the structures on top of the mounds looked like? Maybe you lucked out at the Fleetwood Park and will be on your way by now. Hang in there with that humidity.

    • placestheygo says:

      Gaelyn, there was one artist rendering of what the site might look like. But there isn’t anything definite. The university students did uncover a structure built under one of the mounds in 1999 when they excavated it. The photos reminded me of a Kiva type structure. We aren’t on our way yet, but they did finish up the work tonight so tomorrow we hit the road. It is so humid!!

  9. Nancy says:

    You have been finding great places to visit as you travel east!

    Is it steamy enough for you!!

    Good luck with repairs!

  10. Jim and Barb says:

    The history there is so different than that of the west! At $17/night at that campground I bet they lost money since it was so hot and probably had the AC running. I know we would have been!

    • placestheygo says:

      The history is very different. I am sure the park lost money on four of us that were in the park. It was the highest temperature and humidity level we have had there in Wichita Falls. The A/C couldn’t couldn’t even keep up.

  11. Gay says:

    Hot and humid are two words we don’t want to experience! So we headed east last winter to avoid them only to be hammered with days and days of extreme cold. I guess spring or fall would be better, but there are too many placed “out west” to visit then! I grew up with my grandfather who absolutely thought Bear Bryant hung the moon…Go Roll Tide!…it is a beautiful campus. The Indian burial mounds are very interesting and the pottery is amazing. Safe travels as you head towards the north east.

    • placestheygo says:

      You are so right, Gay. Spring and fall would be the best time but so are so many other places in the west. If you should pass near the Moundville Site, do give it a couple hours. You and Joe would enjoy it.

  12. Sherry says:

    Poor Witchita, it lost its falls. Might have been easier to just change its name than build a fake falls but who am I to say. You definitely picked the wrong summer to head east. The temperatures are at levels unseen this early in the year almost everywhere and with the constant rain the humidity is ridiculous. I’m so sorry you came. It was like the year we spent the summer in the Finger Lakes to see the many waterfalls and they were in the middle of a two year drought and we got to see trickles. I have always wanted to go to Moundsville. At least now, thanks to you I have an idea of what’s there. The effigy bowl is gorgeous. I have been to Serpent Mound in Ohio and it is very interesting. This is the history they don’t cover in school and IMO our country’s original sin. Wish we’d at least apologize for the deliberate genocide. Always wonderful to spend time doing something fun with the kids. Good luck at Gaffney.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, they lost their falls, but it was nice that they rebuilt some new falls. They were quit large but we couldn’t stop on the highway for the perfect photo and the mile hike was too much at 100 degrees. Moundville was especially interesting to me because we discussed the Cahokia settlement in the St Louis area in our third grade socials studies. Cahokia was the largest establishment. All went well in Gaffney with the MH.

  13. Erin says:

    As always … very interesting stops on your way east. We’ve been to the Freightliner in Gaffney once … just before we headed west. It was a good opportunity to get our annual maintenance done and attend Camp Freightliner as well.

  14. Jodee Gravel says:

    Great to see these nice spots as we may follow the route back in the winter. Can’t believe those steaming streets!! The mounds look so interesting. I always forget the rivers were such a big part of the war here – fascinating to see the boats of that time.

  15. Lots of history and learning on this post! I can feel your pain with humidity and heat, I just spent three weeks with a similar one but more intense! Steve had made reservation at Freightliner for November and that seems to be off season for he got the time he wanted. That Wichita Falls looks too fake and seemed like a giant home fountain. I know, sorry, we just visited some real waterfalls from the west 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad you got the appointment you wanted in Gaffney. We weren’t sure when we would be able to head east so making a last minute appointment wasn’t happening. But all worked out. The Wichita Falls were much larger than our photo shows. We were able to see the entire falls coming from the opposite directions on highway. You can also do a mile hike from the park to the base. But at 100 degrees and high humidity we weren’t going there. Natural waterfalls are definitely much nicer.

  16. LuAnn says:

    I can’t tolerate heat and humidity anymore either. At least during your travels through the steamy southeast you found some interesting historical sites. Good luck with getting your motorhome serviced.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, LuAnn! The MH service went well and we moved on Thursday. We finally had our first decent day today since we left Boulder City with temps around 80 and a little lower humidity with a breeze. We are hoping as move north the weather will settle a little and the rain will take a break.

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