Fun and Not-So-Fun Times

It’s been a week of crazy ups and downs, primarily caused by weather, which restricted our camping choices in very unfavorable ways.

Our RV park site in Vicksburg was not fun.  Located ten feet off US 61, it was loud!  The soggy conditions created by the previous week’s 5″ of rain sure didn’t help matters.  We could feel the Fireball sinking into the mud, although it had been level when we set up.  We wandered around town for one day on our bikes, touring the Coca Cola Museum (Coke was first bottled there).  It was pretty lame.  No ice cream.  No floats.20150324_130934 There are many pleasant sights in town, but it sure didn’t have a prosperous feel.20150324_124845At night, we were kept awake all night long by roaring traffic.  We were grouchy and unsettled, so we decided to cut our visit short by a day.  (Part of our unhappiness was the premature announcement that we have trailer brakes.  Turns out we have trailer BRAKE.  The brakes on the side where the new bearing and shoes were installed don’t work.)  Don’t even get me started on this topic….Vicksburg National Military Park was a must to see before leaving the area, so we decided to pack up, tour the Park, then leave from there. 20150325_110152I had really mixed feelings about my Vicksburg experience.  First of all, the Visitor Center was wonderful.  The video presentation at any National Park or Monument is always our first stop – we love the big overview that we get from watching the film. The personal element of the Civil War battlefield films is exceptionally good.  Excerpts from actual letters are read while re-enactments are shown on the screen.  The eloquence of the letters is always moving.  Vicksburg was very different than other Civil War Parks we have visited.  This was more than a battle between soldiers – the siege lasted more than six weeks, causing townfolk to retreat to caves for safety.  Confederate troops were near starving as supply lines on the Mississippi were cut off.    20150325_120053Armed with a brochure and our 20 minutes worth of video input, John and I set off on our bicycles to tour the 20 mile scenic drive through the Battlefield.  Cycling along any National Park scenic drive is an excellent way to see the area, and absorb the site. 20150325_120537 Perhaps it’s not for everybody, but we sure can appreciate the physical nuances of the geography better on a bike than we could in a car.  While we are wandering around, examining artifacts and looking for the trenches dug by the Union Army, we are passed by many cars.  Most people don’t get out to read the plaques or look around.  Vicksburg, check!  What’s next on the Bucket List?20150325_112156No blow by blow description here, but I do have to describe the sad feelings that overcame us here.  The grandiose monuments are from the Union states, Illinois and Wisconsin in particular.20150325_11302320150325_11351820150325_115139 Michigan’s monument features a woman with a large gear in her hand to symbolize industrial strength.  There is signage to the effect that some of the Confederate states took longer to return to prosperity than their Union counterparts, thus, their battlefield monuments are smaller, and less grand.  No kidding.  General Grant’s headquarters area features a huge statue of Grant on a horse.  The Sherman Circle is devoid of statuary.  It seems very lopsided.  Fair?  Correct?  To the victors go the spoils of war?

One area that we did enjoy exploring was the USS Cairo (Care-o) Museum.  The Cairo was one of seven ironclads built for the Union by one shipbuilder during a 100 day period, at a cost of about $100,000 each.20150324_144454 All we lost in battle.  The Cairo is the only one which has been recovered.  It was not discovered until 1960, then raised, and installed here a few years later.

At Vicksburg Battlefield Cemetery, the remains of 17,000 Union soldiers (of which 13,000 are unnamed), are buried, as well as soldiers from the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II. 20150324_15134120150324_151526 Most Confederate soldiers killed in the Siege of Vicksburg are buried in another Vicksburg cemetery.

Several hours after beginning our tour of Vicksburg, we hit the road, intending to camp at Warfield County Park, about 100 miles away.  Too bad for us – this park was closed.  Underwater!  We were directed by a couple of helpful gentlemen to check out nearby Lake Chicot State Park, about 20 miles away.  Sure, why not?  We plugged the info into Google Maps (our go-to source for directions), and headed out.  We shortly thereafter found ourselves driving along a rutted road on top of a levee, surrounded by cattle, who didn’t seem to understand why we were driving thru their territory.  It was awful, and yet a bit funny. We knew it was going to have a bad ending…..when we finally got to an area where the Google voice told us to ‘turn left to our destination’, it was a downhill trek into a gigantic swamp.  Perhaps there really was a State Park and a campground there, but there is NO WAY that we could have plowed our way down there, and forded all that water to find it.  John verrrrry carefully turned the Fireball around on the narrow levee “road”.  When we got back to the Highway, we pulled out all maps, phones, and camping resources to find a home for the night.  Everything is full (Spring Break), or closed (flood).  The only spot we can find is the Pecan Grove RV Park.

Another spot on a very busy major US Highway.  We are directed to pick any spot we want – “the driest ones are over there….”  As we’re setting up, there’s an old Dodge Caravan driving through the park with the horn blaring.  One of the doors has a sign on it like you’d see from a pizza delivery joint.  Here’s how this conversation went…

Me:  Are you trying to find a particular campsite for a delivery?

Cranky 90-year old African American (woman) driver:  What?  I’m just trying to sell YOU some tamales and pies!

Me:  Tamales?  I love tamales.  How much are they?

C90YOAAWD: $12 a dozen

Me:  Can’t use a dozen, but I’d take four.

C90YOAAWD:  I can sell you six or nine.

Me:  I’ll take six.

C90YOAAWD:  How about nine?

Me:  Can’t use them.  Sorry.  Forget it.

C90YOAAWD:  Why are you giving me such a hard time?

She hauls herself out of the minivan, and opens up the back, where she has a huge stockpot full of tamales (in bundles of 3!  I could have had just 3!!!).  Wraps up six in foil.  I give her $7.  We’re done.  For the record, they were awful.  We ate a couple of them, and threw the rest away.  Bummer.  We love tamales.

Next morning, we decide to bust for Little Rock, AR.  We hadn’t planned to arrive there until Friday, but we call an are able to get our campsite at Maumelle Campground (a Corps of Engineers Park) a day early.  Pulling in, it’s Ahhhh…….a real campground.20150327_091520 Trees.  Picnic Tables.  Fire rings.  A river.  Kids on bikes.  We’re going to be here for five days.  Already, the pressure of the last hideous week begins to dissolve.

Downside?  It’s freezing here (40s), and STILL RAINING!  Our arrival day is Thursday – it doesn’t stop raining until noonish on Saturday.  Long story short – this post is putting even me to sleep.

Clinton Presidential Library.  Beautiful, and interesting, but not as inspirational as the LBJ Library. To me, it just seemed to lack the charm of the LBJ.  20150328_11431020150328_121618 Clinton did sign the Family Leave Act into law, and also signed the law that made COBRA health benefits available to workers changing jobs.  NAFTA came into being during the Clinton Administration, as well as major strides in the Middle East peace process.  Most of everything was lost by the scandal which ensued from the Starr investigations into Whitewater and everything else Clinton.  The enormous Library is well worth a visit – it’s the largest, and most well-attended of all Presidential Libraries.20150328_12552720150328_12565020150328_122504We wandered over to the State Capitol.20150328_14330020150328_143440And the old State Capitol.20150328_134734Around downtown.20150328_13405720150328_13285220150328_135727The above quote was in a special bicycling exhibit in the old State Capitol.

The Central High School National Historic Site was a must-see.  Central High was where school desegregation came to a head in 1957.  Nine African American students were denied entrance to the school in defiance of federal law.  Federal Marshals were called in to escort the kids to school, along streets lined with opposing State National Guards troops and townspeople.20150328_160338 The photos in the museum are chilling, and the audio is shameful.  It’s chilling to think that this disgraceful episode happened so (relatively) recently.  We met a fellow camper here (with a T@B, no less!) who graduated from Central High.  Her father was actually a Senior there in 1957.  Every day is a history lesson of some kind or another.

Everything we have seen here revolves around the Arkansas River.  Perhaps it’s not as wide or dramatic as the Mississippi, but it’s certainly impressive.  Our campground is along its banks, it rolls right thru the center of downtown Little Rock, and there’s a bike trail that covers the 15 mile distance from end to end.  One of the most impressive features is the Big Dam Bridge, which spans the river.20150329_13175220150329_131822 This is the longest, largest bridge ever built solely for pedestrian/bicycle traffic.  Wow!  We pedaled into downtown on a sunny Sunday – one of the first nice days in the area.  We saw hundreds of cyclists and walkers along the way.  The biggest Community Garden I’ve ever seen was also along the path – there must have been 200 plots.  Some were as large as 30 x 30.  Lots of people out digging and planning.  I did stop several times to try to photograph this amazing area, but was unable to get a photo of anything that didn’t just look like dirt and fences. But, it was a fantastic area.

We cycled today (Monday) up to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  What a gorgeous spot to hike and bike.  The historic focus of the Park is on the Trail of Tears, the paths taken through Arkansas by the Native Americans who were relocated under federal order in the 1830s from their homelands in the Southwest to areas in the Southeast.  All these routes passed through Arkansas, either along the river or land.  There are amazing scenic views,IMG_1321-001IMG_1318 trails, and a quarry open for swimming in the summer. IMG_1316-001 It was worth all the huffing and puffing we had to do on our bikes to get up there.

We head out Tuesday for TN.  That will be our last camp before Evansville, where we’ll hang out with John’s brother for a few days before finally going back to Grand Rapids.  Until Little Rock, we were more than ready to go home.  Now, we’ve had a couple days of great weather, a sterling campground, and a bit of cycling and sightseeing to buoy our spirits.  Home doesn’t sound quite so sweet anymore.



25 thoughts on “Fun and Not-So-Fun Times

  1. Well all caught up…6 posts back to back. I did a clean up and lost the link being emailed to me. Got you added to Feedly as hate to miss any of your bl9gging goodness.

    Stinks to have travel repair mishaps…I feel the queen of that lately, like our speedy trip through Arkansas. One day I move on that visit to little Rock again…I so wanted to bike that city.

    HAPPY Easter…it’s beginning to green up and blooms bust in IL!


    • Travel mishaps are part of the program, I guess. But we were feeling a bit picked on – in the last year we have had more than our share. Of anyone who reads this blog, you certainly know what that feels like, Carla.

      Spring is here in Evansville. Doubt if it will be quite so nice when we roll into Grand Rapids Sunday.

      Hope all is working well in your new park job.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s too bad that you ran into such crummy weather again. But, a week or two in one of the fine Arkansas parks is usually a good tonic for about anything.

    I was very touched by your descriptions of the Vicksburg battlefield, that’s one I’ve not been to.

    About your trip in search of the park via Google, I have a saying, “When the wildlife you see in the road ahead of you are frogs, it’s time to turn around!”. ;)


    • Finishing up our trip with two exceptional camping spots helps us to put some of the lousy weeks of weather into a dim recess. Either that, or I’m just getting too damn old to to remember all of this blow by blow.

      The Civil War sites are very emotional visits for us. Each has its own character. But, I do find it interesting to contemplate the life of the people involved in these battles. It’s worthwhile to stop and think about the battles and the ideology that drove us into the War.

      Hope you have ordered up some nice weather for Grand Rapids next week, Jerry. Coming home is going to be hard enough without crummy weather, to boot.


  3. Sorry about the couple of crummy days! I’m glad it improved! I’m intrigued by the Bill Clinton library – did they say he passed the COBRA law? That’s not right, since it was enacted in 1986, long before he was elected. Interesting. I do want to visit Vicksburg – I had that same feeling of sadness when I visited Andersonville a few years ago.


    • The !library said that he signed a bill making it possible for workers leaving jobs to continue, or take, insurance with them. I thought that was COBRA, so that’s my own error. So many of the new laws are improvements, or extensions of existing legislation….. not my intention to mislead. Hope I got it right, this time, though I’m plagued with doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Based on their description, I would totally conclude they were talking about COBRA, but for all my years working in Human Resources. They are actually talking about HIPAA though, and I think they are being a little misleading. HIPAA is most known for its rules about privacy of health information, but the other big piece of the law allows for when you change jobs and get a new health insurance, the new insurance cannot make you satisfy a new pre-existing condition waiting period, as long as your break in health coverage hasn’t been longer than 63 days. That’s an interesting spin on the truth to say that workers can take insurance with them, because that isn’t part of HIPAA. It does make it easier for people with existing health problems to change jobs though, because they don’t have to worry about not being covered for awhile for their health condition. Cheers!


      • This may have been stated correctly at the museum (which it probably was), and I did my own internal translation to COBRA. There was a statement regarding employees and insurance, and my a-ha! light made that translation. These are all areas of mystery to me. Thanks for your clarification.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s storming here and I have a very bad Verizon signal so couldn’t see the pictures. I could sure feel the greyness that bad weather brings and the sadness of the Civil War. I have a picture of one of my ancestors in a gray Confederate uniform. He was killed in battle at age 27. He was such a handsome man. Such a sad situation on both sides.

    I’m so glad that you got through the grim weather and are enjoying your trip again.


    • The Civil Ear sites we have visited are all very emotional. Think Shiloh has been my favorite so far. It is difficult for me to imagine, in this day and age, the hardships that were endured by troops on both sides of this conflict. So many of the soldiers were just kids…..but I guess many of the Vietnam casualties were too. Perhaps we are slow learners. The National Parks, for the most part, do a pretty good job of helping to sort this out.

      We are deliriously happy to end out trip with wonderful campsites and good weather. Makes us head home, enthusiastic for the next adventure.

      Good luck in getting all your home front issues resolved quickly. I know you and Ron are anxious to be wandering again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Let me see if I get this ….. you’re heading to Tennessee now for a visit with John’s brother before heading home to Michigan …. and then coming back to Tennessee for the BRR, all in less than a month ?


    • Not exactly. We are in TN now. Our next stop is to visit John’s bro in Evansville. Back home (Michigan) day after Easter. We have some family stuff that we have to do for a few weeks. But, we consider May primo camping month, so we are heading out again….will hit BRR for a few days, then camp around TN, NC, WV, and OH and get home again around Memorial Day.

      It will be nice to check in home, dump off our winter clothes, give the Fireball a good cleaning and get some maintenance stuff done. Plus, we can rake the yard, and get a few spring chores started.

      This retirement gig is tough!


  6. Aloha from Tennessee! Will you make it all the way over to Chattanooga or the Great Smokey Mountains? Would love to see you review our fair city and the Chickamauga National Park.

    On one of our trips east from the desert we stayed at the casino in Vicksburg. No complaints and it was free.
    The weather here is good and it’s one of the prettiest times to be here. Wondering if you are touring the Oliver factory? Wishing you good luck with the rest of your journey.


    • Lynne, we are heading to Evansville from here (yes, we are touring Oliver. Shhhh…)

      We won’t make it your way thus trip, but are heading back to Townsebd end of month for T@B rally. If we get within shouting distance of Chattanooga, I’ll give you a shout. Would love to meet you.


  7. I’m amazed at your tenacity and that you’re still traveling and touring even with one brake. I would have licked my wounds and gone home. You are both as curious as cats about life, history and landscapes. NICE!


    • Hiya, Liz. We are on our way home. The brake situation won’t change if we drive four days in a row, or four days over two weejs. So, we’re not in a big hurry.

      You are already a camping calamity veteran, so you know of what we speak!


  8. WOW! Do you feel like you’re on a roller coaster? That seems to be a good analogy of your recent experiences – lovely, exciting highs and some frustrating lows. Your descriptions of the places and people are so vivid and entertaining especially your tamale trader.. Your attempt to find that state park from the levy road reminded me of directions given to me several times in Allegan, MI. I suspect some of those local yokels take great pleasure in sending strangers off on a wild goose chase. Glad you were able to extricate yourselves from that mess. Wonder what would have greeted you at the end of the trail if you had kept going. I would certainly have ended up in the river. LOL Those old Civil War battle sites leave me silent and sad. The loss of life tears me up, Have a great time on your way home. The weather seems to be warming gradually to greet you.


    • We have gotten screwy directions from The Google in the past, most notably in Utah in year one in the middle of a driving dust storm. We just say that we’ve “been Googled”. I have no doubt that the State Park wasdown there – this was just the back road to nowhere. But, it was SO wet that we would have needed pontoons!

      How’s the back coming along? Better every day, I hope.


      • Back is getting stronger, I think, though I do get tired faster than usual.. I see the doc tomorrow. Hoping he lets me drive. I’m getting cabin fever. We’ll see. Google must be related to OnStar. Crazy wild goose chases with them also.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Because of location I am at a KOA in Cortez, the traffic noise keep me up most of the night. The owls, ravens and. coyotes sound like music compared to this city havoc. And if your in Vicksburg, Mississippi even the Motel 6 sounded like I was sleeping on the shoulder of the road. Bad with the good, out here traveling and camping, there are a lot lot lot more good especially the people doing the same.


  10. Camped at Maumelle for several days years back. Nice place. You certainly had a rough time coming across the underbelly of the country.


  11. Your description of the encounter with the C90YOAAW was hysterical! We were right there with you! Safe travels home! Sandi & John


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