Beaumont, Texas February 16-17

We arrived at the Gulf Coast RV Resort ($25.50/night) in Beaumont, population 119,000, around 1:30 PM on the 16th. We quickly set up and went over to the Babe Didrikson Museum.

The Didrikson Museum was small and had double duty as the Visitors Center, remember I said to always visit the Visitor Centers. For those of you who don’t remember, Mildred Ella Didrikson, known as Babe, was a fabulous athlete. She excelled at 20 sports including: golf, basketball, baseball and track and field and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics. She then turned to professional golf and won 10 LPGA championships. She is still thought of as the greatest female athlete of all time. She died at 45 after battling colon cancer.

The museum has film footage of her performances and many of her awards and personal items. Babe’s legacy is The Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation, which gives scholarships to outstanding female athletes at Lamar College. More information on Babe: Check it out! Sorry, no pictures.

Next on our list was Saint Anthony’s Basilica Cathedral, built 1901-1909. This is a must see if you are in the area. We stopped in shortly before the 4 PM mass and it was truly a marvel inside and out. The inside design is breathtaking and will move those who are not particularly religious. I was in awe of the craftsmanship and the appointments. Wonderful.

We headed back to the campground to relax. This was a quick layover on our way to San Antonio and we were leaving around 7 AM the next day. Beaumont was a great little town and we enjoyed poking around!

Vicksburg to Natchez, Mississippi February 13-16

We rolled in to River Town Campground (a Good Sams Campground at $24.61/night) in Vicksburg around 1:30 PM on February 13th. This campground is nicely laid out and all the sites are pull though, which helps in getting the RV set up quickly. 10 minutes tops.

After set up we headed to the visitor’s center. While traveling in the past I often bypassed the visitor’s centers. This is a big mistake if you want to take advantage of the best places to visit in a limited amount of time. Note to self: always stop by for an orientation of the area and some very helpful advice.

Leaving the visitor’s center we headed down to the historic downtown drive. This is a quaint area of eclectic shops and riverfront murals, casinos, and restaurants. Beautiful area! Pre-civil war buildings are in short supply as during the Siege of Vicksburg the town was hit by barrages of artillery from May 29 through July 4, 1863, when Lt. Major John Pemberton surrendered to the Union army of Ulysses Grant. Vicksburg was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The buildings that did survive mostly did not survive the great fire of 1910.

Early on the 14th we toured the Vicksburg Military Memorial Park which is part of the US Parks Service. This park was magnificent, with 1800 acres, demarcation of the red and blue battle lines and monuments for each state and regiment that fought there. The restored ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo, is also on the grounds. It was a marvel built in 1861 for the war effort. Seven of these gunboats were built in 100 days. I was very moved by what I learned there.

After about 4.5 hours we were overwhelmed and left for a late lunch/early dinner of soul food. LDs at the riverfront was excellent! One meat, 3 veggies, bread, dessert and water for $8.50 each. The staff was as great as the food. We even had pink angel food cake with pink icing for Valentines Day. It tasted like pure sugar! This place is a locals’ favorite and we would eat there again!

We headed to Natchez on the 15th, down the Natchez Trace. This is an old Indian trail that is now kept up by the National Parks Service. It reminds me of a more southern version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Natchez is the ancestral language of the Natchez people who historically inhabited Mississippi and Louisiana They now live among the Creek and Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma because they were removed from their native lands by the US Government. Natchez was discovered by French traders in 1716. They started the first European Settlement in Mississippi, named Fort Rosalie. The First American Flag was raised on the highest ridge in 1797 to claim all Spanish lands east of the Mississippi.

The French explorers left and went further south and founded New Orleans. New Orleans became known as the Big Easy and Natchez was known as the Little Easy. I found that very interesting. The architecture in both cities have a lot of similarities from the French influence.

Many of the historic homes in Natchez survived the Civil War and many are now bed and breakfast inns that allow tours of these treasures. The Historic Spanish Promenade that was built on the bluffs in 1790 is still being enjoyed today. That is where we started in the historic district of this alluring town.

Under the Hill was up next. It was the original Natchez which was a river port in 1730. At that time the area was home to gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen, and prostitutes. Around the time of the Revolutionary war the more respectable folks coming to the area built their fine homes on the bluffs above. Under the Hill is now home to eclectic shops and cafe’s. I did not see any current day prostitutes nor gamblers but I was there in the early after noon! Pictures below.

The following pictures are from the historic district, also full of eclectic shops. I really loved visiting this place.

Saint Mary’s Basilica was an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1842. Wonderful!

Our last stop was the Melrose Estate, an 1800’s Greek revival-style mansion that reflects the height of Southern prosperity and “King Cotton.” It was built by the John T. McMurran family and has 21 guest rooms, original full bathroom and contains 80% of the original furnishings of the home. It is maintained by the National Parks Service and our guide Barnie was the best tour guide I’ve had. He knew his history and made it a fun and entertaining tour. I consider this place a must see. Pictures follow:

We thanked Barnie, our guide and headed back to camp. We were leaving for Beaumont, Texas at 6AM on 2/16/19. Another adventure on our trip of a lifetime. More to come.

Americas Georgia – Habitat for Humanity

We arose early and headed to Americus, Georgia (population 17,041) and surrounding areas on February 8th, our last day at Montezuma. Americus was founded by General John Americus Smith. While he was out on a scouting mission with his men he realized that there was a distance between towns so he came back in 1825 and purchased the land that would become Americus. The town was a simple courthouse town until the arrival of the railroad in 1854.

Our first stop was the welcome center on Lamar Street, where we got some recommendations of must sees and a helpful young woman gave us a couple of maps for self guided tours of the town. More about the maps later.

The Windsor Hotel on Lamar Street was practically next door so we stopped in. It is a spectacular five story Victorian hotel that was built in 1892. Many dignitaries, stars and GANGSTERS stayed there over the years. Most notorious was Al Capone who stayed in a suite for extended periods with his mistress. John Dillinger was another of notoriety that stayed on occasion. Locals have many stories to tell about their stays, including that a man still living in Americus is the son of Al Capone. More hotel info here:

A Thunderbird car show was in town. Look at all the lovelies above.

After the hotel tour we pulled out our new trusty self guided tour maps. I could not for the life of me read them. Frustrated I handed one of them over to Ray. We discovered that the maps were printed upside down and backwards. We honestly tried to follow them and ended up seeing a lot of 1800 homes despite the maps. I started calling this adventure the “snake eyed tour.” That name has stuck for other things that we have encountered on our trip. Funny….

We needed a break so we went over for a late lunch at Gladys’ Kitchen. It did not disappoint. For $7.75 you get a great home-cooked meal with choice of one meat, two veggies, bread, and dessert. I could have licked my plate! The butter bread was the best. Well, everything was good but that butter bread, good lord!

My meal was fried chicken, collards, black-eyed peas with limas, corn muffin, and blackberry cobbler. Ray had the fried chicken, peas and limas, fried okra, corn patty, and that scrumptious butter bread. I understand that Governor Deal and his wife eat there when in town. It is a great experience and the staff makes you feel like family.

Americus is the home of Habitat for Humanity. We toured the global village were copies of homes that are built all around the world (70 countries) are on display. Linda and Millard Fuller developed the concept for Habitat for Humanity while living at Koinonia Farm, an interracial Christian community farm outside of Americus. The farm was founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan in 1942. President Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have been instrumental in raising awareness of this wonderful effort. The first international house was built in Zaire in 1973-1976, three years. When the Fullers returned to the USA they started Habitat for Humanity International in 1976. They have helped 13 million people through affordable housing. More info here:

It had been a long day of history and learning. We headed to camp to contemplate the things we had seen and learned. We were also thankful that the snake-eyed tour was over.

Ocmulgee National Monument / Hay House

February 4th day trip to Ocmulgee memorial to the peoples of antiquity. 17,000 year record of human life on the Macon Plateau. This place felt sacred and the artifacts and mounds of these people were breathtaking. This is a 702 acre site with Temple, ceremonial earth lodge, and funeral mounds. Most artifacts are from the years 900-1200.

These people were known as Creeks and are from the Mississippian period. We spent hours exploring these wonderful artifacts.

Me at the entrance to the Ceremonial Earth Lodge Mound.

View of Ceremonial Earth Lodge

Inside Ceremonial Lodge. The floor is 1000 years old.
Chieftains seat inside ceremonial lodge. Eagle effigy carved in floor in front. Once a year the sun shines through the door and highlighted where the chief sat. Truly this meant that he was THE Chief!
Ray going up to the Temple Mound.
Ray on steps to the Temple Mound.
View of Macon from the Temple Mound.
Enjoying the weather and the top of the Temple Mound.
The funeral mound with more than 100 graves. Much of this mound was lost when the railway went through in the 1830s.

After hours learning about human history, we moved on to tour the Hay House historic site in Macon. They Hay House is a beautiful 17,000 square foot marvel, built from 1855 to 1859 in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style, with all the modern conveniences. It was built by William Butler Johnston. He also became the keeper of the Confederate Treasury. There are rumors that Confederate gold is hidden in the walls and secret places of this home. To date, no one has found it. Johnston married at the age of 40 and took his bride on a 3 year honeymoon (called a grand tour) in Europe. The design for the house and the furnishings came from those travels.

Back of Hay House 1.
Back of Hay House 2.
Bryon Stained Glass in Stairwell.

Formal Dining Room.
Pantry Door from dining room.

Ball Room.
Double Living Room.
Sitting Room.

This ended our day. One of the takeaways from our two days in Macon: The people are the some of the most friendly and gracious that I have encountered in a very long time. Looking forward to what our tours tomorrow will bring.

Big Dan’s Big Feed

Before I share about Dan’s big feed I should probably give a little background. Dan is a retired farmer and now government employee and his wife, Paula, is a retired math teacher. I met them over Thanksgiving 2018 when I was invited to a down east oyster roast. Dan and Paula had 12 of us over for 3 bushels of oysters and several pounds of shrimp. It’s fun working for our dinner. There was repartee and jokes while we shelled shrimp and shucked oysters. I hadn’t shucked oysters in a long time but it really comes right back to you and is fun. There was so much food that we forgot to get the salad from the refrigerator. No one missed it. It was after that event that we were invited to the New Years Day “down on the farm!” I was introduced to Dan and Paula by Amy Powers and Rich Murray. There is a long history.

New Years Eve was spent at Rich and Amy’s smoking pork shoulders. Amy is the daughter of Ray Bittner, my travel partner. It was a laid back day full of chatter and friendship. Dan and Paula came over around 5 pm and the pork chopping began. The secret is having really sharp meat cleavers and keeping your fingers rolled away from the blade. Ouch. I really don’t remember how many pork shoulders there were but as they say down east in North Carolina, “It was a gracious plenty.” While visiting and chopping there was plenty of beverages and laughter. We were ready for New Year’s Day!

Paula, Rich and Big Dan chopping Pork.
Ray helping out.

We all met at the farm some distance outside of Ivanhoe, NC and down some scenic country roads. The day of the event chicken was grilled to add to the lunch. Good ole southern cooks brought in covered dishes and desserts. Lord, I’ve not seen that much food in a month of Sundays. Pork, Chicken, hush puppies, limas, peas, green beans and green bean casserole, potato salad, pickled okra, deviled eggs, and other southeast NC recipes that had been handed down through generations. Then, there was the dessert table! A couple of pound cakes, banana pudding, sweet potato pie with a hefty meringue. There was also baklava and MORE. Oh, MY!

Big Dan and Rich cooking chicken.
The Spread!
I really don’t know who’s lunch this was and I’ll never tell!

I lost count but I believe 90 to 100 people showed up for the feast. I learned that Dan and Paula had done this celebration every year and this was the 20th year. It is their way to thank their friends and family for their friendship and to simply show southern love through meeting at the community table. While the food was delicious and plentiful, I must say that the fellowship is what made the day. I heard stories about old time farming and “barning” tobacco and other memories that were shared. I met many new folks from all walks of life. I even met a “cat lady” like myself. We showed each other pictures of our cats and got to know each other well. She also has a “thing” for dragonflies just as I do and that lead to an even deeper conversation. My grandmother, who was born in 1901, used to ask me, “What for time did you have?” I would have to respond that this was one of my best New Year’s Days in recent memory. I thank Ray, Amy, Rich, Dan, and Paula for making it possible. Happy New Year!

Amy and Cricket.
Some of the new friends.

The Livestock Guardians across the road.

Here goes……

I retired January 1, 2016 and devoted myself to living a healthy and bold life. At the encouragement of my grown children I’m fulfilling my bucket list. All of it. Travel is a cornerstone of this endeavor.

My life partner died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest in November of 2016. Taking life support from one you love, even though it is what they wanted, is a sobering act. Life changed in a big way which included my coming to the realization that you have to grasp each day and go for it. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful family and friends. I’m thankful.

Having the means to do this is a blessing. I’m frugal so it helps to be able to travel and do more. I’ve learned that using airbnbs can save a lot of money and so far the places have been awesome. I also learned that airlines run specials and you can have alerts for price changes. This led to a two week stay in Norway and Iceland for air and rooms at less than $1300.

So….. This is the beginning…. My next trip is February 3 on a 5-6 month trip RVing across the country. I plan to blog my trip on this site. I may also posts some about my past trips to Norway, Iceland, New England, and the like. Hope you find it informative and that it gets you motivated to see the world. You can.

More later.