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: https://www.espn.com/sportscentury/features/00014147.html 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!
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.
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.
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: http://www.windsor-americus.com/
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: https://www.habitat.org/
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.
February 5th we continued touring Macon, which has a rich and varied music heritage. Phil Walden founded the South’s premier R&B booking and talent agency and Capricorn Records in the 60s. Macon is the home of Little Richard Penniman, Otis Redding and where James Brown, The Allman Brothers and many others congregated to make some wonderful music and showcase their talents.
Historical areas to visit include: The Tic Toc Room, Douglass Theater, Red Lamp Lounge, The Rookery, Elizabeth Reed Music Hall, Hippie Crash Pad, and the “At Filmore East.” So much history, so much music, and so much love in this city.
We visited the Otis Redding Foundation, which is run by his wife, kids, and grands. We spoke at length with Justin Andrews, Otis’ grandson and learned a lot about how they are helping youth realize their potential. The mission of the foundation is: “Empower, enrich and motivate youth through education in music and the arts.” They are doing a good job. I bought the Collectors CD of his music and Justin threw in a Dream CD as a gift. I invite you to check out their works at https://www.otisreddingfoundation.org/, you will be glad you did. Mr. Redding’s legacy carries on!
We also grabbed a bite to eat at The Rookery on Cherry Street. The Rookery was founded in 1976 and is a local favorite. They have signature sandwiches (you get a choice of meat) with names like “the Jimmy Carter Burger,” with peanut butter and jelly, “the Allman Burger,” with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. It was a very good experience and the food, service and atmosphere was worth the walk. More information here: https://www.rookerymacon.com/
To close out our day we visited Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. It is a Neo-Gothic design built in 1841. The towers are the tallest twin towers in Macon and measure 200 ft to the tip. The architecture is exquisite. If you love architecture and church history this is a must see.
This was our last day in Macon, the next morning we moved on to Montezuma, Georgia. The weather and the travel have been good and I can’t say enough about the people of Macon, who made us feel so welcome. I highly recommend a trip to Macon to visit the sights, meet the people, and enjoy the richness of it’s history. You will be glad that you did.