Ah, vacations. Lots of planning for a trip that may or may not turn out. Our main rule is that we don’t eat at chain restaurants, or at least, places we have around here.
Last year, for our vacation, we met some friends in the Black Hills on the way to see my sister in Northern Nevada, then circled down to the Grand Canyon and stopped in to see Dwayne’s mom in Kansas on the way home. Twelve states, 14 days, 4, 995 miles and one fight later, we were home. This year, we couldn’t decide on where to go. Stay home? Head out west again to see my sister and hit Colorado this time? Eat our way across Texas? Head north and go around the Great Lakes? A comment by Vi, Dwayne’s mom, decided our trip. Vi is a huge fan of Hank Williams (senior) and read in a book (that Dwayne had sent her) that Hank was buried in Montgomery, Alabama. Soooo….. we headed to the Deep South… in August…. with my mother-in-law. We tried to get my mom to come along, too, but she claimed she had to work. I’ll have to check to make sure that she did….
Despite my reservations of being stuck on a roadtrip with my full Italian mother-in-law and my half Italian-half German husband, the trip went surprisingly well. Lots of laughs, lots of driving (8 states in 7 days and 3360.8 miles) and no arrest warrants!
Our trip actually started before we even got to southern Kansas, which is where Vi lives. Dwayne and I stopped in Kansas City for a couple of days. We tracked down the original Oklahoma Joe’s barbeque joint. It is in a gas station and is always crowded, but the food is really good! We ended up with left overs to put in the refrigerator at the hotel. When we got checked into the hotel… no refrigerator! I put ice in the sink, put the container on top and covered the whole thing with the tray that sits under the ice bucket. It was still cold in the morning, so Dwayne had ribs for breakfast. Then we headed to the zoo!
The lorikeets were pretty noisy, but fairly friendly.
While waiting for SOAR-Symphony in Flight, we caught the sea lion show. Delilah didn’t really feel it….
At the Symphony in Flight, we got up close and (almost) personal with one of the cast members
We saw flamingos having a siesta in the shade
… elephants (my favorite!)
…a herd of oryx (among other African antelope breeds)
…and getting slimed feeding the deer
The real fun began when we picked up Vi and headed south.
Our first touristy stop was the Blues Highway… Highway 69 that runs from Memphis, Tennessee to Vicksburg, Mississippi. We stopped at the Crossroads (Highways 69 and 42), where legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson, allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for incredible talent.
We actually veered off the Blues Highway to take the “scenic route” of Highway one. The road was good, but you couldn’t see the Mississippi river due to the levee. We did see a lot of cotton and rice, though!
In Vicksburg, we visited the Vicksburg National Military Park. During the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression-depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you are on), Vicksburg was the only remaining Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The Union wanted to control the entire length of the Mississippi for supplies and to effectively split the South in two and make it more difficult to fight a war. After a daring move by General Ulysses S. Grant, Vicksburg was under siege from May 14 through July 4, 1863. We were worried Vi would be bored, but we all found it more interesting than expected. The Park is set up so you can drive on 16 miles worth of roads through the area where Union and Confederate soldiers “held the line”.
Different types of cannon used during the Civil War
During the siege, Union soldiers dug a tunnel to supply other soldiers digging a trench to get closer to the Confederate line.
…from the Confederate side, at the top of the hill….
Each state that had soldiers in the siege put up a monument. Iowa’s was the most beautiful, in my opinion!
The United States Navy was also involved in the siege. The USS Cairo, named after Cairo, Illinois, was a mine sweeper that was sunk in the Yazoo River, a tributary into the Mississippi. She was in the water (and mud) for almost exactly 100 years. She is now on display at the National Military Park.
Next stop… Montgomery and Hank’s gravesite!
I’m pretty sure the car was stopped before Vi jumped out…
Next stop was the Hank Williams’ museum downtown. Vi ran into the building… she was like a kid in a candy store! It was pretty nice to see her so excited. I’m not sure how long we were inside, but I’m sure it was at least an hour. When we came out I was heading to the car to put our Hank Williams purchases in when I heard Dwayne say “Turn around and accept your thanks”. I turned around just in time to be attacked..er.. hugged by Vi. She was so happy and it made me feel like a good daughter-in-law. And we weren’t done, yet. A couple of blocks away was a statue of her idol.
She is one happy camper!
Next on the itinerary was Mobile, Alabama. It is only a two and a half hour trip between Montgomery and Mobile, so we had a little time to kill. Dwayne had mentioned that Vi wanted to see some antebellum-type homes, so I used my tablet (with my phone as a mobile hot-spot) and looked up any sort of plantation tours in the Mobile area. There just so happened to be one….
This is Oakleigh Mansion in Mobile. We got a tour (once again, no pictures inside) right before they closed up for the day. It was very nice inside and the docent had a wonderful accent (to my Yankee ear).
There are also LOTS of Live Oak trees in the south.
It was beautiful… and very humid. We had been fortunate to hit a time when the temperatures were “cooler and less humid” than normal. Although it was still pretty muggy for “us northerners”!
We ate before we found a hotel for the night and we ended up passing our next destination.. the battleship, USS Alabama. And there happened to be a hotel right next to it… and they just happened to have a couple of rooms facing the battleship!
They even light it up at night (although I, obviously, don’t know how to use my camera in the dark…)
The next day was a long one (and the hottest one)….
We started with the battleship…
This is Commodore Dwayne
The Big Guns
You could climb inside (a tight fit) and look inside the breach
This is what the sailors had to look through on deck…
This is as high as we could get above deck
This would not be a good sight to see if you are on the other side of the fight…
A beautiful ship
On the way down the pier to get this shot, I looked at my mother-in-law with her sunglasses on. She was missing a lens and didn’t even know it. We laughed about this the rest of the trip!
When we left Mobile, we headed west along the Gulf Coast on Highway 90 and stopped to put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico near Biloxi, Mississippi.
Vi got an up close look at a Great Blue Heron. He wasn’t too happy we interrupted his fishing.
Saw footprints in the sand of the sandpiper…
and the gull…
so we added our own.
We had supper in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana that evening at Landry’s, suggested by KWWL’s very own Bob Waters. It was excellent!
The next day we visited the Tabasco factory on Avery Island south of Lafayette.
Every bottle of Tabasco in the world comes out of this factory. They produce 700,000 bottles a day for 120 countries in 22 different languages! We were there on a Friday and they do maintenance on Fridays. They happened to be bottling for Sweden while we were there due to the approach of future Hurricane Isaac. Also on the Island is Bird City and the Jungle Gardens. This was the only day we had rain while we were sightseeing. Fortunately, we drove most of the route and, when we did get it out of the car, it was warm.
Nesting area for Snowy Egrets among other migratory birds.
And here is a Great Egret butt. Actually, I don’t know how great it is, but that’s what they call it….
The Cleveland Tree… I think they told us it was on the property when they set up the Gardens and named it after President Grover Cleveland. It is huge!
There is even a Buddha on the property!
There are signs for alligators
Our first time around, it was raining and we didn’t get out of the car. After the rain took a break, we drove back to the area. We got out of the car and….
Don’t worry, Vi did NOT go in for alligator food. We didn’t see any right away. Although, I think all of our laughing brought them out….
We saw five of them, all around two feet long. We did not see Mom, but we did see a path that was a lot wider than the kiddies looked. We only stayed a little longer… we got back in the car as the rain moved back in!
We got out of Dodge (really Shreveport) before the Hurricane moved in. We left Louisiana Saturday morning, spent a lot of time in Arkansas, including stopping at a Rock Shop (where we bought a new addition to our garden), drove through Joplin, Missouri to check out the cleanup from last year’s EF5 tornado and got to Vi’s house around 8 in the evening. We slept well that night!
All in all, the trip went well! I’ll have to tell my mom about all the fun she missed.
I’ll save other pictures of some of the plants I saw on the trip in another blog. I think I’ve bored you enough!