Trooper’s Log Days 35-42 (July 31-August 8)…. Heading East Through the Heat of the South: The Civil War, Civil Rights, Literary Museums, Mississippi River, Poverty Point, Confederate Statues, Coca-Cola, HOME!
If you have been thinking that I have been dozing off and not doing my daily journaling, I am here to surprise you with a final post that takes us from all the Family History Digging in Plainview (why won’t They ever let me dig up anything??), to back home in Bluffton South Carolina, a trek through the deep south with all the heat you can possibly imagine. It was an agonizing decision not to head North to Connecticut and Vermont, but I think this virus thing is getting to them – They wouldn’t be able to stay where They wanted, or visit who They wanted to see… so will hold off on a trek north until another day, when hopefully Life as we know if might return to some semblance of “normal.”
We left off in Plainview Texas where we spent hours looking into the family history – you can read all about that in my previous post, and now for the mad dash home, which will take about a week…
July 31: The next day we head to Vernon Texas, the decision to take all back roads for the rest of the trip whenever possible – we found Route 70 to be in great shape so I could sleep! There was beautiful scenery with rolling hills, churches everywhere, some beautiful ranches, windmills, but then we started to see more trucks and wind and general road insanity with wide farm machinery. This driving a big RV is not for the faint-hearted (as He keeps saying over and over…). Then into Vernon, where, again following the truth of Her constant reminders that every town has something to say for itself: Vernon was the home to Roy Orbison, of “Pretty Woman” fame (so you guessed it – had to listen to Her sing that for the rest of the day…)
And of course, a number of Historical Markers that you cannot possibly actually see while in a moving vehicle – but you can go to this interactive Map of all the Historic Sites in all of Texas! https://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/Map – jeez, if I had an extra 24 hours every day I could go through this and find all the ones we missed!
Other interesting things about Vernon: other than Roy Orbison, the town was actually named after George Washington’s Mt. Vernon and it’s on the route of the Great Western Cattle Trail – as the mighty Wikipedia informs me, “an estimated seven million head of cattle passed through Vernon on this Trail between 1873 and the 1890s.” Here’s a map (she LOVES Maps, so have to do this):
Aug 1: (hey! This is a “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit Day!! – and I actually saw one from the driver’s seat in the early morning – almost went through the window!) So today we head to Sherman Texas on Route 287, which takes us through Wichita Falls – which is called “The Gateway to Texas” – but the falls unfortunately are no longer there, washed away in an 1886 flood – so because so many people ask “Where are the Falls??” (wouldn’t you ask that if visiting??), the City built a reproduction in Lucy Park – we did not see it, but here is a nice picture so you know that I know what I am talking about) – Fake Falls!! Ha!
There were also tornadoes in 1964 and 1979 where much damage occurred – again, I wonder how anything remains anywhere with all these weather disasters…
From Vernon to Sherman, we saw a number of beautiful farms, missed the Tales n’ Trails Museum in Nocona https://www.talesntrails.org/index.html which was just up Her alley, but They kept moving anyway – and then this sign gave Them pause to just keep moving indeed:
“Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Convicts”
Sherman is known for the cyclone of 1896. President Clinton’s father and Frank James, brother of Jesse, were born here. They also liked the name of this restaurant:
FUKU Japanese Grill
We passed horse farms, the Shawnee Trail (another one of those cattle runs – all that cattle out here! – I sort of look like a cow, don’t you think? I wouldn’t want to get caught up in one of the runs to the slaughter house…); They argued over their respective GPSs – he likes the google earth map and have the direction reading like a map; She prefers the plain google map with the direction going from bottom to top like you are going – I had to listen to these dueling GPS voices (I think Hers gave better directions) for this whole trip – His made more mistakes I have to say in Her defense – where it got really insane was watching the GPS trying to figure out where to go when there was a road with 3 or more different names and numbers – total travel insanity!!
Aug 2: The next day we left Sherman for Texarkana (did I mention already that is so bloody HOT every day, They can barely go outside, so every campground was barely noticed…) – via Route 82, which again was a great road, We went through Paris Texas, where, for you movie buffs out there, She tells me there was a movie with that title that She liked very much: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087884/ –
Some of the things we drove past:
- The Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Bonham, TX (Rayburn was Speaker of the House for many years).
- The Town of De Kalb, TX is where Ricky Nelson’s plane went down in 1985 [and then, you guessed it, we had to listen to every Ricky Nelson song She could remember] – this one seems like it was written for Me:
Texarkana is right on the border of Texas, Arkansas, and close to the Louisiana state line, hence the name. It is here that JFK campaigned in 1960, so She wanted to get a picture of the Federal Courthouse / Post office where he spoke from (it has been said this is the second most photographed Post Office in the US – let’s keep it open and running, please...) – the building straddles the State Line:
There is also a Confederate statue right in the center of town, put up in 1918.
The Confederate Mothers Monument, also known as simply Confederate Memorial, Confederate Monument, or Texarkana Confederate Memorial, is an outdoor Confederate memorial installed at 500 State Line Road in Texarkana. Thought to be the only Confederate monument to include a woman in Texas, it is carved from marble.
The monument’s inscription for the Confederate mother statue reads: “O Great Confederate Mothers, we would print your names on monuments, that men may read them as the years go by and tribute pay to you, who bore and nurtured hero sons and gave them solace on that darkest hour, when they came home with broken swords and guns”. The inscription for the Confederate soldier reads, “To our loyal Confederates”. The soldier faces north.
I don’t know what will happen to this statue as decisions are made about such monuments – but She is expressing hope that either appropriate explanatory signage be made or it is moved to some sort of museum for all such monuments of our collective past that serve only as a symbol of how spectacularly wrong a lot of people were…and continue to be… Regardless, it is a beautiful piece of art…
Aug. 3: Texarkana to Minden, Louisiana: We continued on a highway (Route 49 south, following the Red River) through Arkansas (They had been to Little Rock several years ago [with that other dog Keeper I hate to hear about!] and had seen the Clinton Library, so They decided to take the more southern route home on Route 20) – so a drive by of Shreveport into the small town of Minden, LA – They both rather appalled by the bumpy roads and all the litter everywhere – very distressing for me because I couldn’t sleep at all…
Aug 4: Minden, LA to Vicksburg, Mississippi: the amount of sprawl is also appalling Them – “What we have done to the country??” – over and over again…and the same fast food restaurants everywhere – Taco Bell, Burger King, MacDonalds, Arby’s, Wendy’s, etc), and Outlet stores, and the Lowe’s and Walmarts, and the like – all spread out outside of each town, with many of the smaller towns looking deserted and litter-laden – They are starting to get depressed…which isn’t good for my well-being…
So, the question she asks is why does Louisiana have parishes, not counties? And, bless the internet, here is the answer! Louisiana is the only state to be so divided:
“Louisiana was officially Roman Catholic under both France and Spain’s rule. The boundaries dividing the territories generally coincided with church parishes. In 1807, the territorial legislature officially adopted the ecclesiastical term. Through each change in her history, Louisiana never deviated and the primary civil divisions have been officially known as parishes ever since.” http://vermilion.org/did-you-know/why-louisiana-only-state-have-parishes-and-not-counties
Interesting things we passed by:
The Eddie G. Robinson Museum in Grambling, LA https://www.robinsonmuseum.com/ – Robinson a famous football coach, museum closed at present, and She is not a football fan at all [I don’t mind it – I get to sit with Him during all the games on Red Zone, though now, even that is all on hold…]
A bit north of us, but worth commenting on – in Pioneer, LA, the Poverty Point World Heritage Site: https://www.povertypoint.us/
“Centuries ago, when Stonehenge was built and Queen Nefertiti ruled Egypt, American Indians were building earthen monuments in north Louisiana. Hand by hand and basketful by basketful, men and women shaped nearly 2 million cubic yards of soil into stunning landscapes. The result was a massive 72-foot-tall mound, enormous concentric half-circles and related earthworks that dwarfed every other earthen monument site for 2,200 years.”… [She would have liked going there…me too!]
The big deal on this route of course was crossing the great Mississippi River – so much of history divided here, so many descriptions of things – “the biggest building west of the Mississippi,” the smallest lake east of the Mississippi,” etc… and here we are, suddenly on the other side of it and right into Vicksburg, MS:
Vicksburg of course is the site of one of the turning point battles of the Civil War. Right after the Union win at Gettysburg (July 3, 1863), the surrender in this three-month long battle followed on July 4, 1863. They are not Civil War buffs (though He knows more than Her), but wanted to see how this compares to the Gettysburg monuments – the visitor center was closed but driving around was allowed – beautiful countryside really, much hillier than expected, and similar to Gettysburg with the numbers of state monuments scattered all around the battlefield. You can read all about the battle here:
- National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm
- American Battlefield Trust: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/vicksburg
And it was here that They did the only really stupid thing with the RV – instead of detaching the car and driving around in that, we all drove on ahead in the RV with Mini in tow through the road tour, following a map online [it did fit through the entrance arch] – which of course did not show the road closures ahead that prevented us from reaching the RV / Bus turnaround – so in 99 degree weather, He had to detach the car and back up the RV in order to get out of there and that is how They continued on to the campground… But She did take a few pictures of some of the memorials, the largest being the one from Illinois, which seems to be modeled on the Pantheon in Rome – it was to be “a temple of fame, within the walls of which will be preserved in enduring bronze and stone the name of every soldier from Illinois who participated in that memorable and decisive campaign and siege.” https://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/historyculture/illinois-memorial.htm
Downtown Vicksburg is quite lovely (or so She kept saying! – her pictures from the RV didn’t come out well enough to share!) – a small town with a row of stores and restaurants, everything hurting right now; but Vicksburg also has a waterfront, right on the Mississippi, and after one too many floods, they too built a wall, and taking their cue from Paducah KY (see my post on Paducah here ), they also commissioned these walls to be painted by local artists – all about Vicksburg history, past and present. You can see them all here: http://www.riverfrontmurals.com/muralssponsors.htm
And, here’s bit of trivia to make you the star at your next Trivia event: Coca-Cola was first bottled in 1894 in downtown Vicksburg. The original building is still there as a Museum: and here is a mural honoring this sweet local history:
I just wanted to jump into the Mississippi – I wanted to swim across! So I could go from being the Best Dog east of the Mississippi to the Best Dog west of the Mississippi, and then back again – but alas! I was not allowed…
Aug 5: Vicksburg to Meridian LA, through Jackson:
If we were doing this trip in cooler weather, we could have done more about traveling through various points on the US Civil Rights Trail: you can see a map on this website: https://civilrightstrail.com/ – and then each state has its own websites. Here is the one for the Mississippi Freedom Rights Trail where all the Historical Markers referencing Civil Rights are noted: https://www.mississippimarkers.com/civil-rights.html – here is one example:
Jackson is the capitol of Mississippi, and home to the Medgar Evers Home Museum and the landmark Mississippi State Capitol building. They did not get off, mainly because the roads on Route 20 going through Jackson were horrific, coupled with new construction – She got a glimpse of the capitol dome, but here is a picture of the whole thing, courtesy of https://www.state-capitals.org/mississippi.htm
Jackson was home to Eudora Welty now a literary landmark you can tour [she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist’s Daughter in 1973]:
Meridian, LA, She was happy to learn, was home to TWO Carnegie Libraries – one for Blacks and other for Whites – how ridiculous does that sound…! – when the libraries combined (finally!) in 1967, the latter became the Meridian Museum of Art, and the library for Blacks was finally demolished in 2008 (see picture below), which seems to have been a very sad mistake. Here are pictures of the library for whites in its day, and now as the Museum of Art: (we did not see these, much to Her annoyance, so the internet saves the day once again):
Aug 6: Meridian to Montgomery AL, through Selma.
We continued on back roads (Route 80) across the MS / AL border: They are noticing an abundance of Sonic fast-food places, and Waffle Houses [I LOVE waffles, though They never give me any – I am reminded of Donkey and Shrek and feel exactly as he does…] – They didn’t realize there were so many in the country – who knew?? – and then all the Dollar Stores (or Dollar General or Family Dollar) – doing more business than anyone else.
She likes the name of the town Demopolis, first settled in 1817 – means “City of the People”…
Driving through Selma was all part of the plan, so they first stopped at the very impressive Selma High School for some shade (and I could pee!) – the architecture on the main street was quite beautiful – and then over the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge https://civilrightstrail.com/attraction/edmund-pettus-bridge/ which was very emotional – the site of “Bloody Sunday” March 7, 1965 – it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2013 – all the more wrenching as we are still engaged in the same protests, and still being beaten up…55 years later. Why the bridge continues to be named after a confederate general and the head of the Alabama KKK, is beyond even my brain’s comprehension…
As we continued on Route 80 toward Montgomery, we noticed a number of markers noting the farms where the 1965 marchers spent the nights on their 55-mile journey from Selma to Montgomery – you can see the locations and names of the farms on this map:
What we missed in the Montgomery area that She most regrets:
- Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery, so much history here:
2. She most wanted to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: which opened in April 2018. [virus news: the former is open in a limited capacity, the latter closed until further notice]. The Memorial is informally known as “The National Lynching Memorial” which says it all – But because we couldn’t go, She found this in-depth article in The New Yorker talking about a visit in July 2018, so this will have to do in the meantime.
3. The Robert F Henry Lock and Dam on the Alabama River: https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/robert-f-henry-lock-dam/ – a prime place for walking and birding:
4. The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is the only museum dedicated to the lives and legacies of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the world. The Fitzgeralds lived here from 1931 until 1932, writing portions of their respective novels, Save Me The Waltz and Tender Is The Night during their time in Montgomery. Zelda was from Montgomery. We did not visit it, but there are numerous podcasts online you can listen to:
Aug 7: Montgomery to Perry, Georgia:
We are on our last legs, at least I am – this stop and go every day without a break for real site-seeing (so much closed!) or enjoying the outdoors (I like to pee in new places!), and the settling in and breaking down the RV every day in and day out starts to take its toll – and did I mention THE HEAT??!
Aug 8 – Perry to HOME! – so the last day is upon us – we drove through Perry and hit Route 16 straight into Savannah with Bluffton close by – felt like we have been gone a year…
So we finish as we began – with the Big Thing in the driveway as They unpack – like watching a movie in reverse of the packing up six weeks ago. Me?? – I have missed my daily anole hunt – I live for this – I admit to having caught a few, which completely grosses Them out, but because I get one now and then, I can only just keep trying – and they are everywhere – on the walls, in the gardens, on the patio and driveway – so I have been occupied since our return and why I have been slow to get the end of our trip documented – She has been beginning to nag, so here it is finally…long though it is.
Thank you so much for following along on our adventures – Stay tuned for our next one, soon I hope, but only if They promise to pack up a few anoles for me to chase after in the RV, and to stop arguing about the hellish but necessary GPS…