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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Jones Archaeological Museum, located within the site, houses an extensive collection of pottery and artifacts from the early inhabitants.
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).
Next we continued on I-20 east to Atlanta to spend a few day with our son, Kevin.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .