Home Away From Home

Devastation in Convent, La

As I listened to the news last night and this morning about the destruction in Convent, La I couldn’t help but remember our time in nearby Gonzales, only 12 miles from the devastation. Actually we had planned to stay in an RV park in Convent but when we called they didn’t have any available sites so we ended up staying at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. Lamar-Dixon is basically a parking lot for RV’s and apparently the majority of the RV’s in the area we were in were transient workers like many of the residents in the park hit by the tornado.

In the spring we often have tornado warnings in North Carolina and occasionally we have tornado watches and yes, we have the infrequent tornado. While we were in Gonzales we had our first warning while traveling and to say it was unnerving is quite the understatement. After all I was in an RV and I had read other’s accounts of being in an RV during a warning. I turned the weather radio on and listened to its incessant chatter until the warning was lifted. Fortunately there was never a watch so we didn’t need to evacuate.

Last night I watched the videos of Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent and remembered riding by there on our way to visit plantations in the area. My heart goes out to the people affected, many of them homeless now. To the families of the ones who were lost I can’t tell you how much you have been in my thoughts and prayers. To the injured I pray for complete healing both physically and emotionally.

Our days are never promised and this horrific storm just re-emphasizes this. As I sit in my warm and safe home today with constant warnings that the storm is coming to our area I gaze around at my “stuff” – yes, stuff. Our possessions can so easily be replaced but the people in Convent lost a lot more than stuff last night so let’s keep them all in our prayers and thoughts today and tomorrow and for a long time. The tornado in Convent is gone but the destruction remains. For some it will be a matter of putting the pieces back together. For others life has been forever altered.

Schools all over Eastern North Carolina are being dismissed early because of the coming storm. I am on the coast and it is overcast, windy and the water is churning already with white caps close to the shore. Our Lord tells us to be anxious for nothing and to put our trust in Him. Today I must continually hold that in my heart.

Home Away From Home

Lessons Learned After Five Weeks on the Road

Wow – five weeks in the motor home traveling from North Carolina through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, lingering in Louisiana and then back home to North Carolina. Although the great majority of our days were sunny, temperatures ranged from a high of 72 to a low of 10 or was it 7?

Fortunately my husband and I not only love each other but we like each other and for the most part enjoy the same things. Once in a while we will do something that one or the other is not interested in but that doesn’t cause any problems. For instance when we visited Delta Music Museum I thoroughly enjoyed it but after 15 minutes Jerry was done. Instead of complaining or urging me to hurry up he just found a seat, pulled out his phone and began to read on his kindle app. Lesson One – don’t even plan to spend several weeks traveling in a motor home, even one 40 feet long if you can’t get along with your spouse. I can’t imagine being cooped up with a fractious person.

Lesson Two – watch the weather! As I said for the most part we had good weather but as we were returning to North Carolina we ran into bitterly cold weather and we were not quite prepared for it.

Lesson Three – Do Not leave home without a full tank of propane. We had never heated with the furnace before at least not for very long. Our heat pump had always been adequate however heat pumps don’t work when the temperature drops below anywhere from 30 to 40 degrees depending on your heat pump. After setting up in Pinnacle I couldn’t get the heat pump to come on and after an initial full fledged panic we remembered that but realized that we had only a fourth of a tank of propane. We rationed our heat very conservatively, in fact probably too much so but since this was our first experience with this we didn’t want to run out. Mostly we used the fireplace and a space heater (it was safe) but the last night out in Pinnacle the temperature dropped to somewhere around 7. When the furnace finally came on it was 55 in the coach and folks that’s cold! Also, the campground had asked us to turn off the water each night which was a little aggravating but doable, however in doing that we were not able to keep a faucet dripping so three mornings we had no water when we got up. Luckily Jerry had fixed the coffee the night before!

Lesson Four – Again, watch the weather. After a little nagging Jerry finally brought us a weather radio even though we have weather apps on our phones and iPads. We had never used it until this trip when suddenly we were in a tornado watch. We turned it on until all was safe. Know what county you are in because the alerts go by counties or since we were in Louisiana, parishes.

Lesson Five – have a contingency plan as best as you can. We had talked about what we would do if we were traveling and something happened at home, for example if something happened to Mom. Thinking we were preparing for that unfortunate circumstance we bought a suitcase and decided to keep it under the bed. It’s empty thus adding little weight to the rig and it would enable us to fly home if necessary. Prior to that we only traveled with a laundry basket and I don’t think the airlines would approve that. That plan sounds really good in theory but it isn’t realistic. Jerry is a retired principal and while we were on this trip one of “his teachers” suddenly lost her husband. One of my lifetime friends lost her husband and I just couldn’t be there. Jerry and I discussed it and decided that if we had been close enough to return home in a day we would have just left the coach parked and driven the car home. As it was we were over 1000 miles away and it was impossible to return home for a day. Further discussion ensued later in the week as to where we draw the line and I guess it will just be a decision we make when the time comes. Our longest trip had been three weeks and within 600-700 miles from home and fortunately we had not faced this issue before. I asked Jerry if these bad events – and there were more, I just mentioned two – occurred with rapidity when we were home or were we just more aware since we were away. No answer to that question.

Lesson Six – research and research and research campgrounds before deciding. We stayed in some very nice campgrounds but a couple I wouldn’t stay at again. Our most expensive campground had no cable and weak Wi-Fi until there was no Wi-Fi and a call to the office indicated they had no idea what was going on and quite frankly they weren’t quite as concerned as I would have liked them to be. Several people had recommended that campground as it was right on the Mississippi and you could watch the barges go by. Since we live on a river and frequently see them go by that really shouldn’t have been a high priority for us and shouldn’t have entered into my decision. In all honesty though there wasn’t a lot to pick from in that area.

Lesson Seven – if you don’t have cable and are depending on your Dish don’t park under a tree! We did and Jerry ended up watching the Super Bowl on his iPad – fortunately we still had Internet at that point.

Lesson Eight – Always keep extra gallons of water. Since we don’t travel with our water tank filled we decided to keep a couple of gallon jugs of water in each bathroom. As I stated earlier the campground asked that we turn off the water at night. Since the temperature was so frigid and the wind was blowing at 20 mph we had to turn it off early to avoid a trip out later at night. That meant washing my face and brushing my teeth before bed was a bit more challenging.

Lesson Nine – Be flexible. We were scheduled to stay at one campground four days and we enjoyed the campground and the people so much we extended our stay for eight days! We deleted one whole leg of our journey but that was OK! I have heard that RVers write their plans in jello!

Lesson Ten – Eat out when you can get local delicacies but don’t break the bank. Eating in is good too! Without a doubt we ate our way through Louisiana taking advantage of all local cuisines.

Ok – One more –
Lesson Eleven – Enjoy and when it’s time to go home, go. For us part-time travelers right now there’s no place like home and family.

Home Away From Home

The 2016 Winter Journey Comes to an End

Our plan was to get up around 6:00, get showers, a quick breakfast and hit the road as we had over 300 miles to go today. Guess the time change got us because we didn’t wake up until 7:00! Jerry had to put the car back on the dolly so by the time we got everything done it was 9:00 before we left. It took us 10 minutes to just get out of the campground and then the winding and hilly road. Actually that is not quite accurate. It was winding, yes, but hilly – well, that’s an understatement! I’d say we were in the mountains. It took us 45 minutes to go 23 miles and it took us 2 and half hours to get to 85 and easy driving. That did include a gas stop though.

We stopped for a quick lunch at a Pilot/Flying J and then continued on arriving at Greystone RV Park in Pinnacle around 4:30. This is a small Good Sam campground with only ten sites but plans for expansion. The view of Pilot Mountain is incredible and quite a selling point. Although we didn’t use it we did see a nice bath house. They also have a pretty pond stocked for catch and release. There were only a few other rigs there so we got our pick of sites. Check in was very quick and the owner was very friendly. We got set up quickly and then that was it! Nothing else for the day.

Amusingly, we had fussed for the last week because we didn’t have TV and then tonight we had it and it was not turned on. Um…change of habits perhaps? Internet is strong which enabled me to catch up on posting which was fun because I had such good memories of a great trip. We did so much and had so many different experiences that at times they would all run together so blogging has helped solidify those wonderful memories.

Friday morning dawned with cold temperatures. Upon request we had turned off the water at the tap last night but it still was frozen this morning. That didn’t present a problem since we had no pressing business this morning. We are being very conservative on the use of propane as we only have a quarter of a tank and have no idea how long that will last. We have two space heaters plus the fireplace so that keeps the chill off.

The fast few days of our trip were spent visiting with family and then early on Sunday we left for Tom Johnson Camping World/Charlotte Motor Speedway Campground in Concord, NC. Fortunately we were able to find some propane in Concord so we were warm and cozy for the remainder of the day.

We spent a week at this campground last year when we were snow-bound in Concord so we were quite familiar with everything. We had easy and quick check-in and then quick set-up in the frigid weather. Jerry never did get the cable to work so we just stuck with Dish which worked fine. Internet signal was good and Verizon worked well.

We got up early Monday morning, packed everything in the car – yes, five weeks of “stuff” and then took the RV over to Tom Johnson’s for it’s yearly check-up before the warranty expires. With trepidation we started the ride home hoping that we wouldn’t get stranded due to impending icy rain and snow. We made it home by 3:00 and it was a welcomed site, time to see the other grands!

The next couple of months will be busy catching up with family and friends but I’ve already started planning our next trips – yes, plural. I’ve always got something in the works so stay tuned!

Alabama, Georgia, Home Away From Home

R Ranch in the Mountains in Dahlonega, Ga

Another learning experience today! We woke up about 6:00 only to discover that we had no water. We didn’t know if the heated hose was not working or if the water had frozen at the spigot (apparently it was the spigot). We had our coffee and sausage balls and then donned yesterday’s clothes, pulled in the slides, pulled up the jacks and headed out. The temperature was in the 20’s.

Deerlick Creek Park is such a nice park and one I’d like to visit when the weather is nicer but I don’t see that happening as there are so many other places we want to go. Perhaps if we ever choose Alabama as our state we’ll get back.

As we were leaving Jerry stopped by the gate and told the ranger that he had been unable to turn the spigot off because it was frozen. He thanked him and told him how much we enjoyed our brief stay. On to the winding and hilly road out. One of the reviews I had read said that it was winding and hilly but manageable and they were spot on. Once we got back to civilization – about 3 miles – we stopped at a Marathon to fill up. I grabbed my toothbrush and went in, got my teeth brushed and my hands washed and that made things a bit better.

We hit the road and headed toward Dahlonega, Ga. Traffic was not too bad and the only stop we made was along the side of the road for Jerry to go to the bathroom. We drove on into Dahlonega and got there around 2:40 EST. Normally I don’t think it’s a good idea to drive with no breaks but things were going good, there were no rest stops and then we hit Atlanta (bypassing) and there was no stopping then. We also changed time zones so we were losing an hour. We wanted to get settled as quickly as possible as we had plans for the evening so on we went.

R Ranch in the Mountains is very appropriately named. Who knew there were mountains in that part of Georgia? Not me but I quickly found out. The campground website showed an alternate way to get in but apparently we misunderstood and we took the harrowing descending U-turn in. It was a bit scary but Jerry did a terrific job. When we got there he just raised his hands in prayer and said “Thank you Lord”.

R Ranch is bordered on three sides by the Chattahoochee National Forest and believe me there is a beautiful view wherever you look. The campground is gated and has full time security. It also has an equestrian center but the horses were under quarantine while we were there. Apparently many of the sites are privately owned as there were many rigs there but few people. In fact, we never saw anyone! I’m sure during the other seasons of the year it’s a busy place but in February it is quiet and peaceful and a Passport Park on top of that. Unfortunately because of time constraints we didn’t get to see all of the facilities but it surely looks like an interesting place to return to – but we will take the other entrance!

I went in to register and got a surprise. We made reservations to stay there in February of last year but had to cancel because of snow so I had a $5 credit meaning our campsite costs us $7.50 for the night. Pretty good! There is no cable but the Dish worked fine however there is no Internet. In fact, we haven’t had Internet for the last two nights but it has cost us less than $20 for two nights on the road. Wish I could say that about the site we’re going to be in in Pinnacle!

When Jerry plugged the power in I immediately turned on the hot water heater so we’d have hot water for our showers. Then I turned on the heat pump and nothing happened – another learning experience. We finally resorted to the furnace which I don’t like to use because it uses propane and that kind of frightens me and add in the fact that it’s also it’s noisy. You can’t debate its proficiency though – it is warm. It finally dawned on us that the heat pump won’t work if the temperature gets below freezing and believe me, it was below – about 25 degrees.

As soon as we got in and got settled Jerry grabbed a quick lunch and I had a bar and an orange. We both got showers and headed out to spend the evening with Debbie, Jerry’s sister and her husband Terry. We had a delightful visit and a wonderful meal. A home cooked meal hit the spot.

When we got in the car we quickly realized that we didn’t know the address of the campground. No problem, look it up on the Internet except because of the heavily wooded area we were in neither my cell phone nor my iPad could get online. Fortunately Jerry took the correct turns and we were soon back into an area where we could figure out the way home. Lesson learned – do not leave a strange campground without having the address written down!

Headed on back to the coach and turned in although I couldn’t get to sleep easily. I think I was a little worried about the heat but I had no reason to be. We slept warm and toasty all night.

Home Away From Home

Winding our way home

Despite our good intentions for an early start it was nearly 8:30 before we pulled out. Leaving Natchez was interesting as our two GPS’s, one a Clarion and one a Garmin told us two pretty different routes. So when all else fails we’ve learned to go to Waze which you guessed it – gave us a third route. Finally in desperation I brought up Google Maps and it was still another variation. Quite honestly, they all were about the same going 61 to I20E but different ways to accomplish it. Clarion wanted us to go down the Natchez Trace and for a couple of reasons I didn’t think that was a good idea. One the speed limit is 50 so that would lengthen our trip. Also, although no one seems to know it but us, length limit according to the website is 55 feet. We go over that by about 7 feet. Eventually we got to I20 and every GPS seemed to agree. I bet when we get to Tuscalooa there will be several different ways to accomplish the same goal to the campground.

We stopped in Forest, MS at a rest station for a brief break and then headed on to Cuba, Al where we had a sandwich for lunch. One of the very nice things about a motor home is having our kitchen and our bathroom right at hand.

The trip has been uneventful with little traffic but the wind gusts have been pretty bad, up to 19 miles per hour at time. I know Jerry will be glad when we reach our destination and we can only hope that the wind is not as strong tomorrow.He’s got both hands on the steering wheel and 75 more miles to go!

The wind certainly does seem to be picking up although when I check the weather there is no indication that it is. We do have 20 mph gusts and that’s a lot in a motor home. Jerry’s shoulder is beginning to hurt as he is really having to fight the wind. Fortunately we don’t have much further to go. I had wondered if we might breeze (no pun intended) by Tuscaloosa and head on to Birmingham today but that’s surely not going to happen. The 330 rule is certainly going to be in effect today.

We wound our way into Deerlick Creek COE Campground and believe me it was winding. One of the reviews I read said that it was winding and hilly but doable. I completely agree with that statement. It is about three miles off of the main highway and just when you wonder if you’re on the right track you arrive. Our campsite was at the end of one loop and was a pull through. It was a wonderful campsite with a great area outside the door.

Our view from the front door
Our view from the front door
Unfortunately it was so very cold and windy that we couldn’t take advantage of the beauty. In addition to all of that it only cost $11 with our America the Beautiful pass!

We nestled down for a quiet evening with no tv again and no Wi-Fi but for $11 who can complain.

Home Away From Home

Last Day in Natchez

We have seen so very much in Natchez and it has been a high point of our trip for sure. Today we just tried to see the few things still on the list that we had missed so we started our day in Ferriday at the Delta Music Museum.

The museum focuses on three cousins: Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilly and Jimmy Swaggart because they all are from Ferriday but other famous people mostly musicians from the Delta area are covered as well. The guide, Jane, was full of information and was quite eager to share it all. There are displays through the small museum but Jane was eager to explain each person. Unfortunately Jerry got a bit tired and bored but I enjoyed it for a while. For such a small town and small museum they have a lot of memorabilia from the various artists. The only person who was not a musician that was covered was Howard K. Smith, a journalist and broadcaster who was born in Ferriday.

I wanted to see the Fork in the Road which I understood was a monument to the slave trade. By the time we found it they wind was blowing so hard that we couldn’t stay outside for very long and despite what I had read there was nothing there but some written signs so we decided we could read about it on the Internet. I did stand there for a moment though thinking about the many people whose lives were so drastically altered by that place. The cruelty of being sold to someone is incomprehensible to me.

We left in search of Natchez Under the Hill. We didn’t find it but ended up riding down to the casino at the bottom of the hill, at least it seem to be the bottom to me. We didn’t stop!

We stopped by Stanton Hall to see if they had a Longwood magnet and they had one left. I chatted with three of the ladies in there for a few minutes – love talking with the people who live there!

Next we went in search of the Magnolia Grill for lunch as it had been recommended to us. Gypsy was her usual lost self so I pulled up Waze on my phone and we not only found Magnolia Grill but also Natchez Under the Hill! Unfortunately Magnolia Grill was closed so then we had to decide where to eat. We finally decided on Pearl Street Pasta which is not only on Pearl Street but right down from the Presbyterian Church I wanted to visit.

I had a salad for lunch and Jerry had a yummy flat bread pepperoni pizza. Then we topped it off with bread pudding for dessert. When you’ve had the best and we had the best at Oak Ally you shouldn’t go on looking for more. Although it was good it paled in comparison to Oak Ally’s bread pudding with raspberry rum dressing drizzled on it.

We walked over to the Presbyterian Church where they have a pictorial history of Natchez. There are any number of rooms that show pictures from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Houses, ladies fashion, steam boats, families, floods, and sinking boats – you name it they showed it. It was quite interesting.

Back to the coach to check the groceries and then off to Walmart for a final grocery run. Since we are taking the coach to Concord on Monday we don’t want to have too much on hand as we have no cooler and we will have to get it home somehow so we are only buying the essentials.

I’m a bit anxious about our travels home as the forecast calls for freezing temperatures – 9 degrees on Saturday night plus some snow earlier. Jerry has assured me that we are prepared for it and will not have any trouble staying warm with no freezing water in the coach. Prayers for safe travels.

Home Away From Home

The Natchez Trace

What a delightful day. The weather could not have been more perfect for wandering the Natchez Trace. We started in Natchez at the Southern Terminus and traveled until we reached mile post 41.5. During that time we made several stops along the way.

Our first stop was at the 10.5 mile post at Emerald Mound. It is the second largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in the United States, surpassed only by Monk’s Mound in Iowa. Built by the Mississippians (called this because of the concentration from the Mississippi River Valley) the 35 foot high mound covers 8 acres and measures 770 feet by 435 feet at its base.

Jerry at the top
Jerry at the top
Two secondary mounds sit atop the primary mound making the total height about 60 feet. There are steps leading up to the top of the mound and we climbed all the way up to see an amazing view of the grassy primary mound. Of course Jerry questioned where they got all of the dirt to build the mound. The builders carried baskets and may have collected the dirt by digging with sticks or their hands whenever they found the perfect dirt only to take the baskets to the mound, empty them and then start anew. No one knows how long it took to build it.

Our next stop was at mile post 15.5 at the Mount Locust Inn and Plantation. There was a volunteer park ranger on duty there so we got a great deal of information about the area. He and his wife are volunteering there for 3 months and living in their 37 foot motor home with full hook-ups. They work four days a week and then have the rest of the time to visit the area.

IMG_1252Although Mount Locust had a rocky beginning it eventually ended up in the hands of Paulina Ferguson Chamberlin. She had married William Ferguson and operated the farm with him for several years. After his death she married James Chamberlain who was an overseer at the farm and they continued to grow the farm. Although she lost both of her husbands she continued to prosper the farm. As the travelers would come by her house she would let them sleep with their sleeping bags on her porch for $.25 as it was better than sleeping under a tree. She also had a tap room in the center of the house where one could buy something to drink. This was very significant as this was a period of time when women were typically shunned from business but Polly was an astute business woman. Despite losing two husbands and raising 11 children she prevailed in a difficult era.

By this time we were getting hungry so we decided to try to locate the Old Country Store which has been written up as a craft and café that has wonderful fried chicken. Why oh why do we always end up on a dirt road. We headed out for Lorman and somehow missed it so we turned around and I put Lorman in the GPS. Gypsy took us down a long dirt, sometimes graveled, sometimes briefly paved road that eventually led us to the correct highway and we accidentally suddenly found the restaurant. When we entered the owner, Mr. D was singing to the diners about his grandmama’s cornbread. He welcomed us on in and we took a seat and then someone was promptly at our table getting our drink order and then encouraging us to try the buffet. Besides the incredible fried chicken the buffet was full of vegetables, biscuits and to top it off they brought me a split hot peach cobbler and raspberry cobbler topped with ice cream. Ah, sugar delight! As we were eating Mr. D came over and serenaded us and later came again and I was able to video it. Though the outside of the restaurant is quite unassuming the food is delectable and has been featured on TV.

With our appetites fully sated we headed to the Windsor Ruins. We have been to a couple of ruins before and Jerry was not impressed so he asked me to let this be our last one. I told him to just wait because he might change his mind and he did! Indescribable and again another sad story. When we arrived another couple was there and an older lady was talking to them. They left and she turned to me and asked me if this was my first time there and when I answered yes she begin to tell me about the ruins. I later told her I wished I had recorded her remarks because she was an absolute fount of information. Not only had she worked with the local Chamber but she also knew one of the descendants. Construction on the home began in 1859 and was completed in 1861 but sadly the owner Smith Daniell only lived there a few weeks before he died. During the Civil War the Union took over the house and used it as a hospital. There is a large oak tree in the front and the lady told me that that was where the amputated arms and legs were put until they could be buried. When the Union left they ordered that the house be burned down but the lady of the house went to the captain and told him that she had let her children go hungry while she looked after the sick soldiers and he better not burn her house down and he didn’t! That was done by a guest at a house party in 1890 when he left a lighted cigar on the upper balcony and everything except the 23 columns, the iron balustrades, and the iron stairs burned. The iron stairs are now at housed at Alcorn State University located nearby.

The road to our next stop was long and winding and it often had deep gorges on the sides. It reminded us of the roads in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Suddenly Jerry said he saw an armadillo so I asked him to stop so I could get a picture. As far as I can remember I have never seen an armadillo in the wild before. We certainly don’t see them in North Carolina! He must have been young and foolish because he continued to eat grass and he didn’t pay me a bit of attention as I took his picture!

We were planning to head for the Sunken Trace next but the lady at Windsor Ruins suggested that we go through Port Gibson to see the pink Presbyterian Church. The steeple is a gold hand with the index finger pointing up. Really? Well we went and yes indeed that’s what we found. The story goes that the preacher who had the church built was a fire and brimstone preacher with his arm frequently raised and his finger pointing in the air. Sadly the first service held in the church was the funeral of that preacher. Although we were told that the church was opened and we should go in to see the chandeliers which were from the Robert E. Lee steamboat Jerry was reluctant to go in so we skipped that part.

We headed on out to the Sunken Trace at mile post 41.5 and easily found it. It’s a portion of the deeply eroded or sunken Old Trace. We were told to imagine ourselves walking that land where a broken leg or arm could mean death for a solitary traveler. I can imagine the mosquitoes, the heat and of course those pesky reptiles. I’m not sure I’d want to be walking there in the spring or summer. We were already told not to put our hands anywhere that we couldn’t see. I didn’t have to be told twice and I did watch where I walked. After all, it was a bright sun shiny day and you never know what may come out to bask in the sun.

We decided then to head on back to the campground and since it was such a lovely drive we stayed on the Trace. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the spring and summer when everything is lush and green. The only green we saw were the shiny leaves of the magnolias.

Because of the way our coach was parked (under a leafless tree) we were unable to use our Dish. The campground had no cable TV so Jerry had the pleasure of watching the Super Bowl on his iPad! Helen Jo and I caught up on everything by phone and by then it was half-time. The Carolina Panthers were losing so I turned in for the night!

Home Away From Home

Three Town Houses and Two Cemeteries in One Day!

Three town houses and two cemeteries in one day! We started off at Stanton Hall timing it so we could get the tour and then have lunch at the adjoining Carriage House. It definitely was a good decision.

Stanton Hall is absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. The outside, as many of the town houses in Natchez are, is palatial to say the least and the inside is absolute overkill. The house was built in 1857 by Irish immigrant and cotton merchant Frederick Stanton. It is believed that Mr. Stanton’s father sent him and his brother to America in an effort to begin cotton farming here in order to circumvent the taxes that he had to pay on the cotton he used in his business in Ireland. Mr. Stanton married a young girl from Kentucky who was from a fairly wealthy family. Perhaps that it why Stanton Hall is absolutely over the top in many ways.

The front door measures ten feet by four feet and is the perfect entrance into such an extravagant home. The Greek Revival style residence in the heart of Natchez has a foyer that could easily hold a two bedroom starter home. Enormous mirrors hang in the end rooms, one re-silvered, one not and they are set up so when standing in the middle of the room you can look in one mirror and see a cascade of mirrors behind you. Mr. Stanton had hired an Irish architect and though the house is breathtakingly beautiful it is not livable. The bedrooms are located upstairs and imagine how high the stairs have to go if the ceilings on the first floor are 17 feet high! Unfortunately Mr. Stanton only lived in the completed home a few months before he died.

The home was then sold and became Stanton College for Young Ladies. The bottom floor was used as classrooms and the bedrooms upstairs were large enough to house several girls.

Eventually the home was purchased by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and they worked for several years to restore it to its original splendor. In 1974 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

IMG_1221After our tour we walked over to the Carriage House for lunch. It is definitely a place reminiscent of the old South. As soon as we sat down they brought us a plate of biscuits and a serving of grape jelly! I had a delicious salad with greens, bacon, eggs, grilled chicken, blue cheese and a yummy dressing. Unfortunately for my waist line we requested more biscuits to go along with it. Jerry had a Bingo Burger with pimento cheese, bacon and hickory sauce along with French fries. He said the burger was terrific. We both agreed that it was one of the best meals we have eaten since we’ve been gone but I do attribute part of that to it being just plain ole food like we’re used to!

IMG_1241We were then heading for Longwood House but saw a sign for the City Cemetery and since that was one of the places I had on today’s agenda we changed our itinerary. We missed the turn-in and ended up at the National Cemetery. It is located on the Bluff and one side looks over the Mississippi River. We rode through both sides and it was just overwhelming. Many graves were marked with World War II, Viet Nam, Korea and sadly enough Unknown. It is very humbling to realize the number of people who have lost their lives defending our country and our freedom. Wonder what they would think of what we have done to our country now. We saw graves marked with “wife of”, “daughter of”, and we were not quite sure who was eligible to be buried there so when we got back to the coach I looked it up. According to the National Natchez Cemetery website it is open to “all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children…” are also eligible.

Our next stop was the winding road of the City Cemetery. Some of the monuments honoring the dead were very large, some crumbling with age. We looked at the dates and saw many deaths occurring in the 1800’s.

Our next stop was the Longwood House, to me a rather sad house. Looking at it upon arrival one can hardly comprehend the majesty of the house. It is a six stories high octagonal home and is the largest octagonal house in the United States. Having seen the outside of other houses of irregular shape I always wondered how the inside was but when inside this house I never felt that it was an octagon.

Only the bottom floor, the basement, is completed. Howard Nutt bought the property complete with a house, cemetery and carriage house. When he decided to build Longwood he moved his family out and work began on the grand house. Unfortunately 18 months after the work began the Civil War began and the workers dropped their tools right where they were and went off to war thus the only completed floor was the basement. Mr. Nutt moved his family back into the basement but he died shortly thereafter. Mrs. Nutt continued to live there after the war but in very reduced circumstances. Of the thirty-two rooms planned for the house, only the nine rooms on the basement floor were completed. It is now owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez and is a Registered National Historic Landmark thus Nutt’s Folly will never be completed.

As we left Longwood we rushed over to Melrose Home which was not far away. We were a few minutes late for the 3:00 tour but they let us join in. The interior of the first floor is arranged around a large central hall and consists of rooms used for entertaining including a drawing room, a dining room, and a library. Interestingly at night they would completely close off the central hall because there was no heat there. Two of the outstanding features of the house are the painted floor cloth that is original to the house and the large

Punkah or Shoo Fly - not very clear but you get the idea.
Punkah or Shoo Fly – not very clear but you get the idea.
punkah or shoo fly over the dining room table. The punkah is said to the largest in the South. The upstairs is very different from the downstairs. Whereas the downstairs was used for entertaining and “living” the upstairs was very utilitarian with a central hallway and bedrooms and a bath emanating off of it.

Visiting town houses has been very different from visiting the plantations in Louisiana. Although the owners of the town houses owned plantations outside of Natchez, many in Louisiana, they lived in the town houses and they are all right there in the city. We had to ride long distances to see plantations and could only see one or two during a day but in Natchez we could really see a lot in a day. That’s how we saw three town homes and two cemeteries and still got back to the coach in time to cook dinner Natchez appears to be a great town full of Southern hospitality and a town I’d love to visit again. It reminds me of Memphis with its small town feel and gentility.

Home Away From Home

Natchez Visitor’s Center and Rosalie Mansion

Boy we made a day of it today! We left about 10:00 headed for the Natchez Visitors Center. I had heard that it was one of the best visitor’s centers and it certainly is nice. We got a lot of information about Natchez and bought tickets to see three of the plantations. We may see more on our own. We discussed the Natchez Trace and were assured that we could go in our motor home towing the car as we were thinking of taking that route home. I questioned that so they said they would check on it for us. We then watched a 15 minute video on Natchez and it was quite informative. I would suggest that anyone visiting Natchez make the Visitor’s Center your first stop. And —- everything in the gift shop was 25% off! Of course I bought a magnet and also a t-shirt.

We were told that if we were walking people we could walk to the several places we had planned to go to so we took off. If we were not walking people when we left we certainly were by the time we returned after 6:00!
We walked down to Rosalie Planation only to realize that the tours started on the hour and we had missed the 12:00 by 10 minutes. I bought a magnet in the gift shop and then we sat out in the lovely yard right on the Mississippi and just took in the beautiful view.

IMG_0952The tour started at 1:00 and Jerry and I were the only ones on it. Purchased by the Mississippi State Society Daughters of the American Revolution it has been kept in pristine condition. Many of the pieces of furniture are original to the house and are equally as pretty. One room had three pianos in it. Obviously music was must have been an important part of their lives as in addition to the pianos I saw a harp and a guitar.

Significant for its Greek revival style it is truly an Antebellum home. During the Civil War Natchez was very divided and perhaps that it why so few of the Natchez homes were destroyed. In fact, Rosalie served as Union Headquarters with all of their offices downstairs while the two surviving daughters of Stephen and Fanny Rumble lived upstairs during this time. As I heard one interpreter say “a series of unfortunate events” caused financial hard times: war, boll weevil and the Depression. The daughters were victims of these hard times as well so in 1938 they sold the house to the Mississippi DAR although both continued to live there until their deaths. Annie died in 1958 at the age of 101 and was the last descendant to live there.

By this time we were starving and as we were walking out another guide suggested we go right across the street to Fat Mama’s Tamales so off we went. Since I’m not too fond of that type of food I wasn’t very excited but I was hungry and it was close! The brick marker on the outside said they served Knock Your Clothes Off Margaritas. I didn’t try one but we did try the Fire and Ice pickles and they were quite tasty. We both got a gringo pie which is three tamales topped with chili, cheese, onions, and jalapenos. Wow, they were hot and very good!

We had been told about a Mardi Gras parade beginning at 5:00 so we decided to wait around for that. Since we had three hours to kill we started walking. I had earlier said that I wanted to take a horse and carriage tour and we walked right by them but I thought it was a little too cold for the ride since we didn’t have our heavy coats.

Wm Johnson HouseWe continued our walk and ended up at the William Johnson House. This is a part of history that few people know about. William Johnson was a freed slave who owned his own barber shop (The Barber of Natchez) along with numerous buildings and a lot of land in and around Natchez. He rented out the bottom of his house to various businesses and he and his family lived upstairs. A prosperous business man he also own slaves as well. Much of his life adult life is well known because he kept meticulous diaries. While there are only a few entries about his marriage he apparently had a good marriage and was a devoted husband and father to his eleven children. His life story is fascinating as he was apparently the son of a white slave owner and a black slave. Both his mother and his sister to whom he was devoted had earlier been emancipated but William was too young at the time. He was emancipated when he was eleven.

After our visit there we walked to downtown Natchez. It is not a large city and I was surprised at how quiet it was. Though there were many parked cars we saw very few people. We finally sat on a bench in the sun and decided to sit there for a while and wait for the parade. Jerry read and I people watched! Fascinating to say the least! After a while we moved down closer to where the parade was going to begin.

This parade was very different from the parade we saw in Slidell. There were no dance studios or cheering camps represented so no children. There were only two bands and the rest of the parade was floats from different krewes. Beads, beads, and more beads. I have no idea what we will do with them but suffice it to say we have a lot! I did get a nice coozie and we got a couple of pieces of candy.

After the parade we walked back to the Visitors Center and then headed to Walmart. The heater that we use in the bathroom in the mornings died today so we decided that since we weren’t going south but north now we’d better get another one thus our trip to Walmart. That accomplished we headed to the coach. We had taken a meatloaf out of the freezer in preparation for dinner tonight but decided that it was just too late to cook. Jerry had Brunswick stew and I didn’t eat.

It was a good day but a full day and more to follow tomorrow!

Home Away From Home

Frogmore Plantation

Again, a very uneventful trip today. In fact as were coming into Vidalia and following the GPS, Jerry saw a sign that said River View RV Park and Resort – 3 miles. Since that was where we were staying he quickly made a U-turn by pulling into a grocery store parking lot and we were very at the park in no time. They take Passport for one night and then Good Sam’s or FMCA for the rest. They also take Escapees which is a 15% discount but we are not members of that – yet! The more we travel the more clubs we join. I estimated that it saved us a little over $40 for this visit and since we’re already ahead on the enrollment for both Good Sam’s and Passport we’re now saving money – well, you know what I mean.

The park is right on the Mississippi and after I had checked us in and got back in the coach Jerry told me to look out the front window. I did and saw guys cutting grass, using the blower but really didn’t notice anything else. He said look what at what they are wearing. Well, it’s pretty cold and windy so I remarked that they were dressed for cold weather. He said, “Look at their pants” and I did and they looked a little striped. Yep, the prisoners are cleaning off the bank! Oh well, I feel secure – I guess!

We checked in, got settled, had lunch and were preparing for our trip to Frogmore Plantation and then our uneventful became eventful. We suddenly lost all electricity. We checked to see if others in the park had electricity and they did so we knew it was our problem. Jerry finally remembered that a 300 amp fuse under the coach had blown last March on our first trip in this coach and Camping World came out and repaired it to the tune of $650. He remembered what they had done and repeated it by bypassing it. We can’t run the generator now but that isn’t a problem so we’re good to go for the time being. We take the coach in to Tom Johnson on the 15th for its checkup before the warranty expires on the 20th and that can be attended to then.

We had earlier scheduled a trip to Frogmore Plantation at 1:30 but called to cancel it because of the electrical problem. With that problem solved we called back and they told us to come on so we rushed over there.

IMG_1162Lucky for us because it was an excellent tour. Thus far our tours had covered sugar cane plantations but this was a working cotton plantation. Growing up in a cotton producing state one would think I knew a lot about cotton but that is not the case. I certainly did not know that cotton is a hibiscus flower! It only stays pink about a day, then blue and then the cotton boll emerges.

Jerry overlooking a cotton field
Jerry overlooking a cotton field
Vidalia was the perfect place for growing cotton because the silt from the floods fertilized the grounds. Natchez on the other hand, across the river became the merchandizing and social section. Families often had homes on both sides of the river. Growing cotton was a very labor intensive process and required the hands of many slaves.

One building that we visited was called the washhouse or Mistletoe. That is where the weaving, sewing, spinning, clothes washing and ironing took place. On the wall were examples of the skills that the white girls learned such as tatting and crocheting.

We have heard all through Louisiana about how the phrase “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” came about but today I learned that “fair and middling” came from cotton. That’s how they grade cotton and in the South when someone asks how you are doing your answer can be “fair to middling” meaning ok. I also learned that Crisco stands for crystallized seeds of cotton. Apparently cotton is in everything! When shopping I have seen sheets made with Pima cotton but didn’t realize that indicated the highest grade of cotton.

When the slaves were in the field they could not return to their homes for lunch so they would take corn meal and after building a fire and heating the hoe they had been working with they would place the corn meal on the hoe and cook it over the fire, thus the name “hoe cake”.

Often the slaves would sing as they worked. This served two purposes. It would set a cadence to their work giving them a rhythm. They could also be singing a warning though to any slave that might have run away. For instance Wade in the Water might signal a runaway to go to the water to hide so his scent couldn’t be detected by the dogs sent out to locate him.

After a series of owners Frogmore was purchased by Buddy and Lynette Tanner and together they made it a working cotton plantation plus restored the original plantation by scouring Louisiana and Mississippi for the old buildings. Today it is a non-funded private, working cotton plantation open for tours through their generosity. The modern gin was also open for tours but we did not go down there.

I still can’t quite believe what I did next. I got my hair cut! I had it cut the day before we left home and I was already overdue but knew that I was going to have to live with it until we got home. When I checked in the campground I asked if they knew of a local salon where I could get a trim and they suggested Hair Hut so when we left Frogmore we headed to Hair Hut so I could schedule an appointment. I got there at the right time and they took me right in and Marlene trimmed my hair! It’ll be fine until we get home plus it won’t look so bad when we go to see David and Jane for the 4D of Olivia!

We had taken spaghetti sauce out this morning so for dinner we enjoyed that along with some of the delicious frozen bread we had bought in Maurice.
Unfortunately we don’t have any TV as the park does not have cable right now due to the flood and because of the trees we are under the Dish cannot receive a signal. One night without TV is OK but five and one of those is the Super Bowl! Oh my!