Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce, TN is the perfect jumping off spot for exploration of Shiloh National Battlefield, site of one of the early big, strategic battles of the Civil War. Pickwick is an older State Park, with odd campsites – most are not remotely level. All have electric and water, but the water is all on the wrong side for an RV or trailer. Bathroom facilities are clean, but old. The humidity level in the bathroom is killer! Eh, so what?
We decide to spend our first whole day in the area at Shiloh. John maps out a bike route for the 18 mile ride to the Battlefield. Part of the road will be on a busy State Highway, filled with logging trucks (cyclist’s worst enemy) delivering huge loads of pine to the PCA plant along the way. But, we thought we would only be on this stretch of road for a mile or so. HA! The road he had mapped out didn’t exist. We were trapped on the Logging Expressway for about 6 miles. What a horror. The biggest laugh is that there is a big sign (familiar to all of you) along the roadside proclaiming Bicycle Route. That sign should have said Cyclist/Organ Donor Route. The road itself was the minimum width for a State Highway, with about a one foot, crumbling shoulder. Most of the pavement along the shoulder was non-existent. The lumber trucks roar past, not giving an inch of pavement, with bark, dust, and whatnot flying off the back. It was a nightmare. There are NO good roads in this area for cyclists. Not an extra inch of pavement exists for safety.
Shiloh was somber and informative, as well as very beautiful. The Union Army originally hoped for a quick victory in April 1862, paving the way for a collapse of the Confederate Army. But, an unexpected attack by General Johnston (killed at Shiloh – to date, still the highest ranking US Military Officer killed in battle) drove the Union troops back on Day 1. The tables were turned on Day 2, pushing back the Southerners, who retreated on Day 3, setting the stage for three more years of battle. The film at the Visitor Center was amazing – personal stories of soldiers on each side, and graphic depictions of the strategy/tactics made the Battlefield site much easier to understand. With our maps in hand, we cycled along the route, stopping at each of the points, set in chronological order. John’s great-great-great-grandfather fought at Shiloh as part of the 15th Michigan Infantry, and we saw many markers of their participation in this great battle.
The cemeteries always hold great interest for me. This was no exception. Sobering in the size – so many markers with numbers, yet no names. The hardships of the Civil War are so difficult to comprehend. The logistics of thousands of dead soldiers, and many, many more thousands wounded are staggering to comprehend. Memorials on the Battlefield site are abundant – many are elaborate. One of the memorials that I found particularly moving was the one dedicated to the Confederate Army. One side (the right) shows heads in profile held high – signifying the high spirits and hopes of the soldiers entering into the battle. The left side has the same profiled heads bowed in defeat. My photos don’t do justice to this memorial – it’s quite striking.
We arrived back at camp exhausted from cycling 50 miles in (mostly) awful road conditions. Had enough time to cook a quick dinner, and bundle Jezzy into her Thundershirt before the storms rattled with windows most of the night. When they stopped, the coyotes began. There must be a dozen of them, and it’s amazing to hear the range of calls and sounds they make.
Thursday was camp day. We’ve been living the high life, and not working too hard to keep our gear looking sharp. So, we spent the day washing the truck, and meticulously scrubbing bugs from 10 states off the grille, and doing the same for the Fireball. We’ve washed both along the way, but this was the first time we actually detailed all the tiny parts. Windows are shined, floor mats cleaned, and all the mystery wings and legs are cleaned off the headlights. Not a fun day, but we’re very happy to have spent the time doing it. The inside of the Fireball got tended to as well, and it’s now ready for the BRR!
Spent the rest of the day exploring the park on foot with Jezzy, then cycling to the dam/locks to check things out. We did find the dock to nowhere. No big discoveries, except for the gigantic wisteria growing near the entrance. It’s wrapped around a tree, and has flowers extending 30 feet into the air. Never have I seen one so big.
Saturday morning, we head off to Cloudland Canyon SP in Georgia. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?