Trip to Montgomery Alabama – Birthplaces of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Movement

In view is the capital building of Montgomery Alabama where a vote was taken by a group of states to secede from the Union, forming a new government. On the right two blocks from the capital, below the white stairwell, is a locked door leading into what I understood to be the church office area of Dr. Martin Luther King JR – Beginning at the age of 25 he pastored just one church, and this is the one. By age 39, he would die for a cause.

Within my last post I mentioned I might violate an RVer rule whereby to preserve the peace we do not talk about controversial issues. This has been a most difficult post to write because it requires restraining my opinion which I admit has been influenced through our travels from state to state. This has required much reflection on my life’s experience, and frankly in light of recent national events is upsetting to think about long enough to write about. After much thought I decided to write this wordy statement:

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone followed the rules! Some decide that violence is a better solution. I think because some violent rule breakers, and some that support them directly or indirectly, believe chaos will force a community into changing the ethical, moral or legal standards of a nation. Chaotic behavior is unpredictable and appears to be random – but it’s not.

I love our country. Next to family and God, my country is all I have. Anything that affects my country is very personal. Just as I’m sure it is for others who are reading this text. The United States is the finest nation ever formed in the history of mankind and with the support of God and our diversified people will remain so. As designed, our system of government is molded from our national experiences as well as what worked and what did not work in nations before us. We are a young nation where its founders were smart enough to know the Constitution was just the beginning, that it required a process to amend its laws. Reaching our full potential as a nation has yet to happen, but it will. We have a roadmap. Progress has been slow but deliberate. Many have suffered along the way; history reminds us of this. I love my country and being an American comes first before any argument between the left or the right.

Jump to the bottom of the post if you are just interested in RV tips, in this case regarding staying at cabins within RV parks as an alternative form of travel.

Our visit to Montgomery was not a pilgrimage. There was a lot to see in the area and worth a longer stop as we were heading through town. We had a chance to visit Hank Williams along with the Tuskegee Airfield and downtown Montgomery.

Now on to Montgomery

Montgomery Alabama history reveals two dramatic events along our nations path to becoming what we are today. Montgomery is the birthplace of the confederacy and civil rights.

Our approach to Montgomery was over much of the same road where in March of 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capital in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama. These Americans marched for what is a basic right to vote. A right guaranteed through amendment to our Constitution but interfered with. The first attempt was bloody. Later the Federal government provided protection as the march was finally completed. There are monuments and a visitors center today for those interested in understanding the march.

While in Montgomery we setup camp at Gunter Hill Corp. of Engineer Park. This is an amazing campground especially the Catoma Loop where there is not a bad spot for big rigs. We booked one near the Alabama River for nine nights. We should have stayed for the two-week limit.

Gunter Hill COE Campground (Catoma Loop), Montgomery Alabama. It’s about a 20-minute drive to the city from here. Full hookups on a long concrete pad. Easy maneuvering on the interior roads. Wonderful laundry room. Half off with the America the Beautiful Pass.
Finally found a small Christmas tree for the RV!

One Approach to Changing a System – War!

I’d have to summarize a dozen prior posts to reflect on what we have learned during our travels regarding the American Civil War. For me, the most dramatic are the graves. Oh my god, the bodies lying shoulder to shoulder in graves at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. I’ll never forget that. I still feel I could have done more to find the history of the two young soldiers, one from Andersonville and another from the Shiloh Tennessee battlefield, where I took a photo of their tombstones wanting to know who they and their family were. I discovered these young men had no history, or at least not enough to be remembered even within published US census records.

January 11, 1961, an ordinance of secession withdrew Alabama from the “Union of Sovereign States” inside the senate chamber of the Alabama State Capital building. The first President of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. He was sworn in on the footsteps of the capital. His statue remains to this day at the building. Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederacy before it relocated to Richmond Virginia. The first white house of the Confederacy is located in downtown Montgomery.

This is Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate State of America outside the capital building in Montgomery. We have visited the site of his capture by the Union army after the war as well. I’m of the opinion statues should stand until citizens of the community decide otherwise through proper legal action. Then they should be preserved for historical value. Those that deface monuments should be charged with crimes. Thirty yards away is another monument recognizing a visit to Montgomery by Marquis de La Fayette (we call him Lafayette) to the city after the revolutionary war. Surrounding the drive to the capital building is a modern flag of every state in the Union. These folks in Montgomery are telling a story if one listens.
Preserved State Senate Chambers in Montgomery where the Confederate States were formed.
First White House of the Confederacy. Lots of sites to visit within walking distance of downtown where parking is cheap and available. Take your bike for even more access.
This one will throw a few curves in someone’s game. This is on display within the same room where the Confederate States were established. This is a list of black representatives that served in the Alabama House of Representatives after the Civil War. Wow, lots of names on this plaque. So good they had a role in reformation of the south. Today 80% of Montgomery population is black. Where I lived and went to school in Missouri most are white like me. It’s not uncommon to stay within large communities of black Americans when visiting the deep south. We have met so many good people of all races, often just standing in line at the grocery store or laundromat talking about whatever. Sometimes we are the only white folks in the building. No worries, people are people, and everyone likes to pet our dog, Wyatt.

Well, I hope our country learned a civil war is not the answer to over-throwing a government? Glad 10 million or more did not die like during the Russian Revolution that came afterwards. Study the history, our country may be young, but our system of government is not when comparing to what has happened around the world that led to other current governments. I still consider myself under oath to protect our Constitution. An oath we all for sure take before joining the military and as civilian law enforcement. My father once told me he recalled when the word God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. I looked into the history of the Pledge which was fascinating. On June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a joint resolution of Congress adding the words “under God” to the Pledge.

The war ended with some still thinking the law of the land was wrong and their cause was important enough that they should resist change. This goes on for years leading to the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. I’ve just unfairly described 100 years of complicated American history in two sentences for the sake of moving on to the next chapter relative to the civil rights movement.

Montgomery – Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement

Two people come to mind when thinking about the definition of leadership. They think out ahead of the rest of us, sometimes taking us down roads we don’t want to travel. But they know where we as a nation need to go and prod us along usually at great expense to themselves. Two gave their lives in service to our nation and in my humble opinion are the definition of leadership.

I appreciate President Kennedy when during his ignoration speech of 1961 he told the world what he believed. He says, “let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens – and to let the oppressed go free. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world – ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” President Johnson later signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote. Discrimination did not end but now there was specific law to enforce. This is progress and it continues today, perhaps too slowly, but that is the nature of things when opposing forces bang heads.

I appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King JR. and what he said during a 1963 speech in Washington before 250,000 peaceful Americans, black and white. He says, “in a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Months ago, I downloaded a readable version of the Federalist Papers. Wow, it’s like War and Peace and Atlis Shrugged jammed into one book and written in early English dialect. I’m gaining an appreciation for what colonial America leaders went through just to get most of the states to ratify the Constitution, in 1788 or about five years after the Revolutionary War. The Federalist Papers are a group of articles published to gain support from the public to vote the Constitution into law. I’ve not made it all the way through the Papers but am finding enlightening history such as the notion slaves are property as well as people.

Fast forward – in slow motion- to 1956 when lawsuits were entered because of segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks was 42 years of age when in Montgomery she refused to give up a seat assigned to black passengers, to a white passenger because the white seats were full. There is a museum in town to include the bus. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Before her refusal to move from her seat on the bus others had been arrested to include a 14-year-old child. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pressed into service to organize a bus boycott which resulted in change and most likely began the modern civil rights movement that goes on today.

We missed the Rosa Parks Museum and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Due to Covid inside the Civil Rights Memorial was closed. We wrapped up our stay at two more area attractions.

Dr. King’s church down the street from Capital.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Tuskegee Alabama is maybe 30 miles east of Montgomery. We tried to stop at the Tuskegee Airfield last year but the federal government had it closed down due to Covid. This year the grounds were open but not the aircraft hangers and museum other than on specific days of the week. No worries, there is a paved walking trail with stops along the way where signage tells the reader about the heroic all black fighter squadron of World War 2. I’ve known about the Tuskegee Airmen since I watched the movie years ago. It’s impressive they never lost a bomber while escorting them to include into Germany. The recruits that flew were well educated self-made men. Nearby the airfield is Tuskegee Institute National Monument where the graves of alumni Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are located. The campus was shut down due to Covid. I’m glad in the past recent years there has been more attention paid to funding black colleges that produce men and women of this caliber.

After the war and even today past members of the Tuskegee Airmen travel around giving talks about success. Many went on to great careers in the US Military. One story is when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the field when training was being conducted. She demanded a plane ride and received it from a black pilot. She then asked the base commander why these men were not in Europe fighting the war. She went back to Washington and told the President what she knew. The Tuskegee Airman promptly left for the war. At first they were shunned by white pilots until their heroic efforts to guard bombers was discovered. Thereafter they were requested by bomber crews to escort them flying the state-of-the-art Mustang fighters.

View from outside into the stairs leading to the control tower. The airfield is still under use with the museum and grounds sitting off to the side with the original buildings.

Hank Williams Grave – Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery

Oakwood Cemetery is huge. If one does not find the Hank Williams loop and end up in the old cemetery you will find the roads to be tight and have to drive over to Hank’s grave. Frankly, the graveside is a bit overdone, maybe even gaudy. More impressive for me were the well-manicured graves of around 90 foreign pilots who died while in training at Montgomery’s Maxwell Airforce Base during World War 2.

Confederate soldiers that died in the hospital.
Huge cemetery. Hank’s grave is on the hill in the background. There is a well-marked circle drive off the main road leading to it where you can park.
Here is Hank! – On the right.
Foreign pilots killed in training at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery during WW2

Warning – Personal Opinion Ahead

I have to add a comment in support of my brothers and sisters who are still on the job as police officers. The memorial in Kansas City Missouri honoring officers who gave their lives in service to the community was vandalized during a “peaceful” protest. This is an insult to those that serve our neighborhoods at great risk. This is an insult to the community itself who hire the officers to protect them. I’m retired so I can say what I want. Others on the job cannot. This has been on my mind for well over a year. If someone does not support law enforcement, they should get a T-Shirt that says so. And hang a sign on their house as well. We are way under-staffed and would certainly be willing to take someone off the list who does not want our help. There, I’ve said it in a public forum even if I’ll bet everyone agrees that reads this.

We have not seen the last of this. The more recent civil rights movement activity was laced with more than just being black. Others want to be recognized who are also protected by civil right legislation. Others still want to fundamentally change how our government works or popular opinion involving ethics and morality. Some who view criminal behavior as normal will continue to weaken punishments. Those committing minor crimes will once again grow into committing larger ones. But behind the scenes there will be needed changes that as usual will come around slow and deliberate.

RV Tip – Rent a Cabin if You Want to Get to Know the RV Community and Don’t have a Rig Yet.

Maybe because we once camped so much in tents along a trail or spent whatever weekends we could parked in an RV nearby home is the reason I never knew one can rent cabins inside RV parks in tourist areas rather than a stale hotel room.

Until we started traveling fulltime in an RV I had no idea there were cabins to rent inside wonderful parks. Karen and I have often visited with folks renting the cabins, some who were interested in the RV lifestyle. On one occasion in Buffalo Wyoming we met a family with a small RV parked next to a rented cabin. Their truck had broken down and was in the shop. The parents enjoyed time alone in the RV with the kids camping nearby in a furnished cabin. If you consider the cost of owning and hauling an RV, to include the depreciation, cabins certainly are a good deal. Wish I knew about cabins at RV parks when traveling by car across country. Below are a few photos I took when Karen and I were considering building a cabin to “go home to” when not traveling in an RV.

These are about a mile out of Custer State Park in South Dakota. RV’s, horse camper/trailers and cabins all in one park.
Northern Florida – yup, has an air conditioner which is a must to ask about when booking.
Central Mississippi. Two story! Had the best lake spots compared to us RV campers. Our favorite…
For just $11 more a night one can rent a furnished cabin compared to an RV spot. Bring your own bedding.
A final tip, someone left this behind at a spot we camped in. We use a rubber sewer connector at times to hold the hose connection inside the sewer hole. Someone filled a gallon zip lock bag with nearby gravel which is used to hold down the sewer connection when the sewer pipe has no threads. Neighbor across the street also says get a box of large puppy pads that are used in dog training. When they use the public showers, they place one on the floor to stand on as they exit the shower.

We are currently parked in St. Augustine Florida for two months. 81 degrees at the beach on 1/2/22

Time to Move From Mississippi to Alabama

Our route includes mostly divided two lane US Highways until we drop down to Interstate 10 where I know the highway to be less congested in the Florida panhandle.

It’s raining outside so this would be a typical time for us to do the laundry, go shopping for food, watch a video or whatever as the sunny warm days are reserved for having fun. But we are moving tomorrow to Alabama for a 10 day stay west of the capital city of Montgomery so that prompted a slight change in the daily activity of this full-time traveler. No shopping or watching videos until a few other things get done such as route planning and pre-packing.

We had been watching the weather reports for the last several days, which is typical before a move. Appears we are lucky in that tomorrow turns out to be the best window of opportunity to move without rain and wind so no need to extend our stay or change the next stop. We have been parked here in Quitman Mississippi for a full month. Wow, that was nice as we had been on the move since last March, never staying anywhere for more than two weeks until now. We are looking forward to St. Augustine Florida for winter where, for only the second time in all our travels, we will be stopped for a full two months.

This morning I completed route planning for our next move. No big deal. Just 170 miles on US Highways for three hours. Check-in time for the Corp of Engineer campground we are moving to is 4:00 pm. That’s way to late for this time of year when the sun sets early. I checked and someone has our spot the day we arrive. Check out time is 3:00 pm so that’s when we plan to arrive. Here is Quitman Mississippi we arrived at the designated time for check-in, also 4:00 pm. We did not fit in the assigned spot and it was dark by the time I finally was able to back-into a different spot elsewhere in the heavily wooded campground. I’ll not repeat that mistake again. I’ll arrive early with plenty of available daylight.

I finished up route planning that includes for me, comparing the route suggested by my trip planning application (RV Trip Wizard) against what is suggested on the Garmen RV GPS. Then I check Google Earth street view for anything of concern. In this case someone had posted in a campground review the road to the park in Alabama was heavily treed with lots of limbs and it was easy to miss turns into the campground. There will be no problem as I’ve even taking Google Earth screen shots on the laptop computer showing the intersections and campground signs as needed. I also have a photo saved on the phone of the actual campground map as so often there is no one in the check-in booth when we arrive. I’ve completed the route planning to the point I can visualize the entire move. Get a 10′ pop-up trailer if you just want to hook up and go without any planning. Get a 35′ fifth wheel that’s 13′ tall and weighs 15,000 pounds and you best not slack off on route planning 🙂

I rarely plan for any fuel or rest stops anymore. I did when we first started traveling as I felt more comfortable knowing in advance where we could fit this big RV. After almost 14000 miles of towing, I’m comfortable enough with just pulling off the highway where it might fit. On interstate highways there is always a rest stop but on US highways it’s a bit tricky noticing a possible resting place in time to get the RV slowed to make a turn. It is rare that we travel over 230 miles in a day which in my planning would require researching a spot to stop for fuel. We can travel about 320 miles between refueling and it’s my rule we always have 100 miles of range left in the fuel tank wherever we are going. Hense the 230-mile limit (320-100).

Home for 30 days

I should probably get on to how we got here in central Mississippi and what we did of interest while we were here. I have a couple other points to get out first. I’ll add some RV tips later. I should report there are now more than 300 folks who follow this blog. Wow, that is amazing to me. I had only started the blog back in 2014 to record research info and later get comments and suggestions from others during our planning stages for full time travel. Although we occasionally handout a business card to special folks we meet in campgrounds, we do no advertising or pull any gimmicks to attract readership. I go back and read most posts before hitting the publish button, fearing I might leave any political or overly religious content behind which is considered a no-no for Rver’s. Some are really emotional about certain topics. I consider myself open to all opinions but definitely want a chance to state my own opinion. Then we can each walk away and think about what the other said. I hope I’ve been living up to expectations regarding blog content. I sometimes break the rule. I suspect after we leave Montgomery Alabama in a couple weeks, I’ll break the rules regarding posting my view on continued racial tension in our country. My question or topic would be “why are we still having to talking about racial issues in this country”, one of just a couple still under their original forms of government?

I could write twice as much as I’ve been doing. You would be amazed at all the amazing one-time experiences that happen on the road or the weekly lists of challenges. The blog would become a diary if I were to report all the details.

Okay, back to travel… This trip started back in maybe 2016. You read that right, 2016. We were camped in Illinois at the time when an old-timer camp host said he spends the winter in Mississippi where the prices are cheap, the weather is tolerable as are the folks that live here. We moved to this very park in Quitman Mississippi during the first weeks of the pandemic and decided we wanted to return during our fall trip. We stopped at the Dewyane Hayes Corp of Engineer Campground in Columbus Mississippi on the way here for a few nights as we headed south.

Spot #1 Dewayne Hayes COE outside Columbus MS. Harder back-in but we are getting good at it. No neighbors and big yard on paved full hookups. Not bad for being in the woods.
Some travel fulltime in boats. This one spent a couple nights just off the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, on Columbus Lake in Mississippi. Maybe a blog follower will recognize it. I understand this a popular route to/from Mobile Alabama.

Then we moved to Archusa Creek Campground near the small town of Quitman Mississippi for a much needed month stay. We were tired from the travel season, having only stopped for two weeks at a time after leaving Florida last March. Sometimes the destination is the campground itself which is the case with Archusa. The roads inside the park are narrow making the spots hard to back into. But worth it to be in the tall trees of the forest that surrounds the park. We left the kayak inflated and took the dog out wearing his new $100 life jacket with us on the small shallow lake on several occasions. Upon arrival we policed up all the extra firewood left behind by others. Took long walks. Watched the dog run the entire campground loop off leash, which was nearly vacant most of the time. We planned a day trip to Meridian Mississippi located 30 miles north but only ended up touring the local historic cemetery and doing some shopping at larger stores. Meridian is the sixth largest city in Mississippi and of significant historical value as well as having a few modern notables such as home of the father of country music. Meridian has a couple newer multi-million-dollar interactive museums and civil war sites. All in all, I would not consider Meridian a destination spot. Below are a few photos from the Rose Hill Cemetery where apparently the Queen of the Gypsies was buried with family in the early 1900’s. I’ll spare you the history lesson regarding gypsies and their country of origin other than to report a huge clan buried their “queen” here with 20,000 in attendance at the funeral.

The Queen’s grave. Legend has it if you leave something on the grave she will visit you in your sleep and tell you how to fix your problems. Karen asked me if I had a dime but never said the queen showed up.
Back in the early 1900’s some idiot publish an article stating the Queen was buried with gold coins. The cracks on the cover are from grave robbers.
Hmm. A couple folks went cheap and did not buy a concrete vault to hold their coffin which has now collapsed making it harder for folks to mow the grass or walk over the grave safely. Overhead were passing jet aircraft from the local Navel flight school.
Wonder if the kids at the local high school knew confederate soldiers from the civil war hospital were buried under the school grounds? 100 were found during construction and piled into the mound at the cemetery in a mass grave.
I still liked the historic graveyard in Natchez Mississippi more than this one, but it was worth the trip. It is a miracle they were able to terrace the rows back in the late 1800’s with no modern earth moving equipment. That’s a lot of digging to get the hills flat for graves.

In Quitman we simply enjoyed our days outside in the sun and trees. For the first time in months, I used the credit card just once to top off the truck fuel for our next drive. I’d bet it costs a good 25% more to travel than it does just sitting around at the campsite. I’ve got a good start planning our spring trip for 2022 which will be up the east coast from Florida to Washington DC then back to Missouri where we are hoping to spend three months in the Branson area. On the way we will most likely cut up into northeast Tennessee and Virginia. I’m still considering the best route west from DC to south Missouri, probably through Pennsylvania.

I have been hitting the books learning about mountain driving in the east for our 2022 spring trip. I’ll probably describe the process in a future blog when asking for route ideas.
This is just a quick attempt at planning our 2022 spring trip. Will probably go north from Florida to Charlston South Carolina, then through the hills to Asheville North Carolina then northeast on I-81 in the general direction of Washington DC as I’m wanting to stop at a few places on the way. I’m plugging seven day stops into the schedule for now so that I can come up with an approximate date we will be in Washington DC then later Branson Missouri. Then I’ll call ahead and see when we can get spots at those two places and plan accordingly. More on this later.

I’ll close with a couple RV tips. I knocked out a few maintenance items and minor RV repairs while we were stopped for the month. It’s a never-ending thing if one uses their RV enough. Had a 50′ green garden hose that was hard to roll up for years. Finally, the connections wore out so I bought the best replacement which is a 50′ Zero G hose. I cut the old green hose up into sections and put new connectors on the end. Now I have a 10-15′ shorter hose to use to flush the black tank. No more fighting to roll up the longer hose which makes just one more thing easier to do on a move day.

Cut up an old hose, added new connectors. Now it’s easier to roll up after flushing the black tank on a move day. I put the leftover hose in the truck just in case I end up needing to cut one longer.
Quick connects on the black flush a fresh water connections. Again to cut down on time to setup and tear down camp.
While in the basement of our fifth wheel, I took time to check the filter attached to the water pump. It’s the clear cap on the right side of the water pump. When they build RVs they route out plastic to connect pipes to the fresh water tank. Over time the plastic pieces will make it to the pump filter. Check yours at least once while you own the RV. I checked it a long time ago, found the plastic but nothing else this time.

See ya in sweet home Alabama. Can’t wait to visit Hank Williams in Montgomery. Also looking forward to the national civil rights memorial and much more.

Huntsville Alabama – Home of Rocket Scientists and Wonderful Landscape

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong July 1969

Tranquility Base is the landing site on the moon where during July 1969 Apollo 11 crewmembers Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landed their lunar module named Eagle while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins remained in orbit waiting for their return. The three had launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, bolted on top of the now famous Saturn five rocket. Designed and assembled in Alabama pictured above as seen from near our campsite.

Michael Collins died yesterday 4/28/21. I read about it hours after posting this blog. I never remembered his name as being someone on the Apollo 11 mission. Now I’ll never forget it.

Mans journey to the moon would begin years before those famous words were uttered to the control room at Houston Texas. I’ll have to take you back to the end of World War II in this blog post and work forward to our visit in the Appalachians region of Huntsville Alabama. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with a way to pass along the info in a condensed version. As well as include some RV tips, in this case, Karen and I spending time apart touring places of interest.

Continue reading

Twenty Nine Days in Alabama – Been There Before…

Can’t say we started out in 2021 thinking we would spend so much time in Alabama but we have. Adding last years three week stay during the pandemic in the Tuscumbia area with this past winters two month stay in Gulf Shores, this brings our total to nearly four months having lived in the state of Alabama.

During this post I’ll pass along what we found near Alexander City to Double Springs Alabama. I am saving our visit to “Rocket City” Huntsville Alabama for the next post.
Continue reading

Leaving Gulf Shores Alabama for Florida – Plenty of RV Maintenance Completed

We are finishing a two month stay at Island Retreat RV Resort at Gulf Shores Alabama and heading towards central and north Florida for at least five weeks. We have enjoyed the stay but its time to move on. The weather has been okay at Gulf Shores but a little cold for a winter spot in December and January. Locals say this has been a colder winter than normal. We had hoped for consistent temperatures in the mid-sixties without luck. Karen and I briefly discussed next winters plans and wonder how the weather and wind would be near Brownville Texas at Port Isabel? Last year we stayed on the Texas gulf shore around Rockport and Aransas. It’s doubtful we will ever return to the Alabama Gulf Shores but it was certainly worth the first time visit. Judging by the winter vehicle traffic this certainly is a popular winter spot. It must be insane around here during spring break with all the hotels that line the shore. If I had to plan a visit to Gulf Shores Alabama again, I’d think February/March would be a good winter time to stop on the route.

Continue reading

Winter Stop in Gulf Shores Alabama

It is 45 degrees outside and cloudy which is good weather for staying inside to catch up on our past five weeks on the road. We are currently stopped at Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores Alabama, having arrived on 12/2/20 for a two month stay. Our plans include leaving here on 2/2/21 for Florida with a couple stops before arriving at Stagecoach RV Park in St. Augustine on 2/15/21. The only other stop we have booked so far is near Mayo Florida on 2/4/21 at Suwannee River Rendezvous. We are still researching a stop in Ocala. As usual, towards the end of the post I have added a couple RV topics to include a unique fifth wheel build.

Alabama has less than 40 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Lots of traffic in this area because of few major highways. Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are the main towns. All have easy access from Interstate 10 which can include a bypass around Foley. Winter temperatures should be days in the low 60’s and nights in the 40’s.
Continue reading

Journey Through South Central Louisiana to Natchez Mississippi

The above might be a confusing map of our most recent trip. Having to navigate through south central Louisiana and Mississippi on the way to our ultimate destination at Gulf Shores Alabama was both challenging and rewarding.

We have driven on the preferred I-10 route in the past, from west of Houston to New Orleans. We opted for a change of scenery and chance for new discoveries by taking inland routes. There were but a few decent highways I could locate that would take us through the interior from the west to the east in this part of the country. Our trailer is 13′ tall at its tallest point, the front air conditioner, when hooked up to the truck for towing. The yellow X marked on the above map is a low bridge which caused us to reroute to the north. Thankfully both our RV GPS and RV Trip Wizard have user preference settings where you can input, among other things, the height of your rig. Both detected the low bridge over the Sabine River in Louisiana while I was planning the route. We also have a paper Rand McNalley Motor Carriers (trucker’s) Atlas that I’ll refer to at times for route ideas. The highway with the low bridge was actually shown as a truck route in the atlas. Even though semi trucks are at the maximum allowable height of 13’6″ when the bridge clearance in question was closer to 12′ tall. One feature I do like about the atlas is a section that lists all the low highway bridges by state. One can also get in a jam during the drive through Mobile Alabama because of a low tunnel clearance (which we avoided). More on that in my next blog post.

Alexandria Louisiana

The first leg of the trip was from Livingston Texas (just north of Houston) eastbound to Alexandria Louisiana. We truly enjoyed the peaceful drive through the wooded countryside. Portions of the drive was on Louisiana scenic byways to include the El Camino Real (King’s Highway) which connected the original colonies to old Mexico and the west .

Last year we spent time in southern Louisiana where a local suggested we take a trip further north where old settlements were located. At Alexandria we had a hard time finding a camping spot because of the damage in the south from multiple hurricanes. Campsites were full of insurance adjusters and workers. As we drove into Alexandria we discovered cotton plantations for the first time. Unfortunately the virus thing has somewhat restricted tours of these still active older plantations. It was interesting to see cotton in fields and bailed along the roadways. Alexandria was a quick stop. We ended up staying at River Cities RV Park just off Interstate 49. Scheduling a stop at this park can be totally without contact with management. Book and pay online, get a gate code, pull in and sleep. We were in site 17 closer to the front and nearer to the highway. Road noise was not an issue however.

Clipped photo from campground web page. River Cities RV Park has the most unique business model. These parks need to show up all over the country. Designed for ease of short stays with minimal amenities on a clean concrete spot. They actually had grass between the spots rather than weeds.

I say it’s about time an RV park is designed to the smallest detail for Rver’s for the intended purpose, if that be a wonderful stay in nature or finding a place to simply sleep for the night. Small details like marking a park map with directions which way to pull into the spot to connect to utilities. Wide roads that are not one-way. Central location for laundry and restroom. When you pull out to leave the next morning you find signage pointing towards the exit where someone actually considered the best way to go without hitting anything on a curve. I called the owner to complement their park design.

If you are interested in Civil War history then Alexandria has much to offer. We spent part of a day at pet friendly Fort Randolph. This area was part of the fascinating Red River Campaign in 1864 fought to control the waterways. The fort is an earthworks post rather than one built of wood or brick. Constructed to house guns to shot down at Union ships making their way along the river. There is a wonderful museum to tour and a walk out to the fort through the woods. Unfortunately hurricanes had damaged the area but strangely the damage was interesting to witness. Talk about a small world. I spent some time talking to the Ranger at the front desk who was a published historian and civil war reenactor. I mentioned Missouri lost a great historian and friend of my family by the first name of Jay to which the Ranger asked if that was Jay Jackson (click on his name). We thought back about Jay’s uniqueness to include being the go to man nationally for correct civil war era uniforms.

Painting found inside Fort Randolph museum with fort along the river.
Storm damaged boardwalk that extend above the forts earthworks. If would have been nice to stare down at the fort rather than walking through the dirt trenches.

Natchez Mississippi

Fortunately we can all tour historic Natchez Mississippi in its originally beauty. Unlike Alexandrea Louisiana, Natchez was not burnt to the ground during the Civil War, presumably as Union troops had occupied it through the end of the war. Natchez was our destination for the Thanksgiving holiday where we spent a week along the Mississippi River camped at River View RV Park (located across the bridge on the Louisiana side).

A few facts I can recall is that Natchez was named after the Indians that occupied the area. Founded in 1716, it is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. At one time Natchez, on a per-capita basis, was home to the most millionaires in the country prior the Civil War. It is the starting point to the Natchez Trace trail that runs over 400 miles north to Nashville Tennessee. It was the first capital of the Mississippi territory before the capital was eventually moved to Jackson Mississippi. Surviving antebellum homes are plentiful. Natchez is a must stop for anyone traveling near the area. The town of 15,000 welcomes an estimated 700,000 visitors a year.

You know a city had money when they could line the ditches with brick… Or was it they had cheap labor in the form of slavery?

There is a lot to do in Natchez which I’ll not attempt to describe. For us, we wanted a spot to stay over the holiday where we knew there was plenty to do outside for a week. You all know Karen and I are not much for visiting big cities as we have been there – done that – in our younger days. Once the virus thing clears out, and the dog is old enough to stay at home for longer periods, we will be more likely to see the indoor sites.

Yet another wonderful cemetery to tour… “Established in 1822 on a 10 acres tract, the Natchez City Cemetery is notable for its variety of 19th century iron and marble work.” We also found the planted landscaping to be wonderful.

Here is an interesting one. A child’s grave where the mother had glass put over the coffin at the bottom of the stairs. Later, a concrete cover was added.
And this one where the deceased asked to be buried in his rocking chair, hence the pyramid design of the tomb.

The city cemetery was big, but perhaps not as large as another down the street about a quarter mile north. In this case the cemetery was not marked, there are no tombstones and no directions to be found online or elsewhere. After a bit of detective work, such as watching video of news reports and checking topographic images of the area, compared against description of the “concentration camp” I believe I located The Devils Punchbowl (click for video).

I had done quit a bit of reading regarding General Grant’s army in the area. In his own words, Washington DC had not established a plan for ex-slaves coming into Union army encampments. And apparently there was no plan to handle the mass of freed slaves that followed at the end of the war. I might also note that Mississippi did not come back into the Union until 1870, which is after the war ended in 1864. During this period of “reconstruction” the south was occupied by Union armies. You may not know the occupation was ended in 1877 after the “election” of President Hayes. The election became known as the Compromise of 1877. If you think this past election was controversial you may be shocked to read about Hayes’. Basically the democratic party conceded the election to the republicans if they promised to remove troops from the south. Hayes was awarded the election and the troops were removed.

Not all Union solders were happy to have been involved in a war where most thought they were fighting to free slaves. Many were fighting to preserve a Union or were drafted into the army. Thousands of freed slaves descended into Natchez where the town of 10,000 grew to over 100,000 nearly overnight. Union solders rounded up ex-slaves and placed them in concentration camps. One camp was located between cliffs along the Mississippi river where pirates and others had once hang out. Legend has it that 20,000 of these freed slaves died in the Punchbowl. The Union army gave survivors shovels and they buried their dead in place. You will not find the Devil’s Punchbowl on any list of top things to do in the area. I wanted to find it so I could stand at the edge of the cliffs and have a silent moment to think about the terrible loss of life during a terrible time in our country’s history.

This is the general area of the Devil’s Punchbowl. Drive north from the city cemetery on Cemetery Road to the first bluff on the left. I found a cross street with parking at Old Smith Road. Be careful if you walk over to the bluff where I found footprints on the short hill. It is a sheer drop off to the bottom.
Looking down into the Punchbowl all you see are tree tops.
This is private property so I only looked across from the cliff. You can see the Mississippi River faintly in the distance.

It’s important to point out the terrible parts of our country’s history. But I’ll move on from here to the RV park festivities for Thanksgiving. Management figured out how we could all get together safely. You signed up and brought a dish. Management provided the meat and drinks. All the food was kept on tables inside a large room while we ate as family groups spread out at tables outside. Management served the food while wearing gloves and masks and restricting access to the food line at the entrance door.

Views of boats heading down the Mississippi. The campground is right on the river where a very long paved walking can be used. Sorry I did not take many photos of the area to include the views of lights at night in town or on the bridge. If we are ever in the area again I could see staying for a month as there is much to do in town and nearby.

We are currently at Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores. I’ll update you later regarding the remainder of the trip here through Hattiesburg MS and Mobile Alabama. We are in Gulf Shores for two months which will be or longest stay since hitting the road in August of 2019.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. – Mark

Tuscumbia Alabama and Sad News Regarding Huck

We finished up what became a three week stay in Tuscumbia Alabama. After living in Mississippi for weeks and needing a new place to park we moved to Tuscumbia RV Park in an area called the Shoals on the boarder of Tennessee.

Our Spot at Tuscumbia RV Park – #413. Easy back in with shade but close to the road. Spots at the back of the park are quieter. The park is owned by a husband and wife  who RV and really know how to run a park. No pool but the laundry room is clean enough to sleep in.

Our preference would have been to stay at a nearby Mississippi Corp. of Engineer park but the virus thing had it shut down. We had driven around to find a new park and Tuscumbia turned out to be a great find. I would just warn any visitors the highway and train noise can be obnoxious. Now that I think of it, the motorcycle traffic down US 72 might be worse. This park is located at the Appalachian Mountain foothills and I supposed the area is popular for motorcycles. I’ve owned four bikes, some with loud exhaust. I know some even remove the exhaust baffles to get the sound. Now I feel sorry for everyone that had to listen to ours when we owned them.

We spent a lot of time at home. Thankfully our spot had a great outside area to enjoy. We also managed to find a few things in the area to safely visit. But missed out on a few closed attractions such as the music rich history of the area, Helen Keller’s home tour, a road trip to the Shiloh battlefield and more. We did manage to find a few outdoor spaces to enjoy and went to a local restaurant for the first time in weeks where their phone number was written on the side of the building, their menu was online and they carried our order out to the truck. Remember to tip those waitresses well so it’s worth being at work!

In my last post I commented about driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a national park running over an area of 444 scenic miles. We drove about 40 miles of the Trace, making quick stops at various jump-off points along the way where the park has historic and other sites to visit. During this virus thing we found almost no one on the walking trails.

The Natchez Trace – we toured the area highlighted in yellow.

It was hard to get any photos that could take in the springtime beauty of the place. It’s rolling hills and sheer quietness of the surroundings are emotional. We stopped at the Tennessee River crossing where during the war of 1812 the local Indians charged the Hero of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson, more than $70,000 to cross his army on the river ferry. We toured an Indian mound, trading post sites, a casual hike to a lookout point and more. All of these places are spread out along the two lane highway drive at various intervals.

With the virus thing still being an issue, there was no one other than us in the parking lot. This is the access to a trail leading to a water spring. Note, the Natchez Trace roadway is in the distance. In the front of the photo is a box. Push a button and it tells the story of the area.

A short hike to a hilltop for a panoramic view.

Trying to keep up with Karen and our dog, Huck, while taking a photo during a short hike on the Trace.

Open fields of spring flowers, mowed lawns, beautiful old wood trees and a smooth road surface along our trip. No commercial vehicles allowed. We did not see any RVs but if I had a Class C or smaller I’d be on this road for sure

We got lucky when the Rattlesnake Saloon was able to reopen at reduced occupancy. This turned out to be more than a visit to an outdoor restaurant. The family friendly place is located in the deep woods. We were shocked to see dozen of RVs camped in the area, horse trailers everywhere, dirt bikes on trails and a very interesting “hotel”.  There was plenty of parking as again, the virus thing kept people away. The trip including riding in the back of a truck down a short but steep hill from the parking lot to the Saloon. During normal operations you can walk to the Saloon/Restaurant but many take the shuttle. Great views and okay food underneath the rock outcropping. Beer only is served after 5:00 pm and their is a live band at times.  Only three tables were occupied and the staff were all wearing protective masks.  We stopped at the gift shop for post cards which Karen sends to family and friends. Management asked about us and we told them we had been in nearby Mississippi for RV upgrades and repairs. Apparently this place is a popular hangout for the Tiffin family and as we own a Tiffin product a free post card was provided.  Karen found ANOTHER purse at a great value. One she can easily carry during outings. I suggested a t-shirt and was happy she did not buy any of the rocks or heavier stuff.  And no, we did not see any rattlesnakes.

These are single unit hotel rooms!

Truck ride down the hill to the restaurant and saloon.

Dogs while living in an RV are a wonderful thing. It’s a great way to meet other RVers who might not otherwise come out to visit. They are companions, enjoy forced marches for exercise, humorous with individual personalities and are flexible in that all they want to do is be with their family in an RV or elsewhere. So why not take a trip to the worlds only Coon Dog Cemetery! Located in the hills of Alabama, the cemetery was created in 1937 when the first loving dog owner needed a place to bury his dog named Troop. Coon dogs are a big thing in this area and as time went along others would meet the stringent requirements to also bury their special dogs in what became the unusual cemetery. Perhaps the most interesting part of the hour long visit, other than the drive through the countryside, were the individual headstones/markers. Some are very interesting and might include just a wood marker with an old dog collar hanging around it.

And now to the sad part. Months ago Huck, our black cocker spaniel dog had developed a sore on his lower lip that grew overtime. We had it removed. Later a lump had come up on the left side of his throat. We found a fantastic vet in Alabama who treated him for an ear infection, believing the new lump might be a lymph node responding to the infection.  With medications and all the lump is still growing. Back to the vet where bad teeth were removed and the lump was tested, finding it to be cancer.  Our boy is doing well at this point although sadly he is not expected to survive. He is happy although sleeping restless. We hope he will be with us for awhile and are glad he is still eating and walking. He smiles at times because he really likes this lifestyle. You can’t ask for a better RVing companion. He does not bark, even at nearly 15 years old has a 12 hour bladder and loves to meet people and their dogs.

Huck is on the left with his smile during an RV trip. Ringo is on the right and could take or leave RVing, only wanting to be around his mom. Ringo passed away at 18 years of age a year ago.

A couple months ago, when at the time Huck was his normal self with no signs of distress, Karen and I talked about getting another dog as we had lost Ringo last July. I was not for adding another dog as it’s just too much for a tiny space.  A miracle happened, which might be a common event if one pays attention during hard decisions. We camped near a family who was considering giving their young dog up for adoption. Karen really wanted that dog.  The family with the dog was going through an emotional decision and in the end decided it was best to keep the dog as their children, and parents I suspect, had grown attached.  I will never forget when the family’s mother came over to the camper to break the news to Karen they had decided to keep their dog. She was so worried about Karen’s emotions and that she might be overwhelmingly sad. The tears came out. The dog’s mom, what a special person she is, was upset having to break the news when we were actually very happy for the family. Had the decision to consider adopting the dog not come up I might not have seen the light that a dog will always be in our family. Karen decided at the time it was best to just let Huck enjoy having all the attention so things worked out. Although we started considering who might be our next pet. We both like cocker spaniels and were considering a cavalier king charles breed.

Fast forward only a matter of weeks and we received the bad news about Huck.  I suggested we should get another dog because, although it might be wishful thinking, I think Huck’s personality would be good for another puppy to learn from if there is still time. I also know Huck likes other dogs and a puppy might give him something to do. There are many other reasons, some of which I mentioned earlier.  I also recall how Huck helped us deal with the emotions of loosing Ringo as Huck had done with the dog before him.  Mushy stuff for sure but I don’t mind sharing a weakness with friends.

Well, I finally got Karen to go along with a second dog in our lives. What an ironic change of events. I came full circle in agreeing on that decision. I’ll post this now because for at the least Karen is sharing the news on Facebook. We will be picking up another puppy sometime in late June when he is old enough to be away from his mom.  The puppy is located in Miller Missouri which is a town in the county where some of my family lives. Turns out the well known breeder is world class when it comes to raising cocker spaniels. What a coincidence.

Both Huck and Ringo were named after scenes or characters in the movie Tombstone. The scene in particular is when Doc Holiday shows up to gunfight with Johnny Ringo, telling Ringo “I’ll be your Huckleberry”.  I’m trying to convince Karen to name the new pup Wyatt.  We will have a chance to meet him for the first time as we happen to be located in Missouri making a trip back to Kansas City.  Unfortunately the breeder does not allow young puppies to be handled for health reasons until they are ready to be weened from their mothers.

Our future dog and hopefully Huck’s new playmate – a four week old cocker spaniel. Sorry for the photo quality. Karen asked the breeder to send her a photo.  So far, I’m impressed with the breeder who has had cockers in his family life for 60 years.  I could go on about the breeders attributes and believe me this old police detective did his homework. At one time Karen rescued cockers. I know there are plenty of dogs in shelters to be adopted but we have our reasons to get this one from a breeder. Both Huck and Ringo were rescues.

Our dogs are not replaceable. Any loving pet owner will agree. We need them in our lives because there is less joy otherwise.

We are currently located in Poplar Bluff Missouri, making our way west to Springfield then north to Kansas City. And on this Memorial Day – God Bless our Veterans. And may all Americans demand those freedoms they died for to include our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

RV Maintenance Part 2 and Our Upcoming Travel Schedule

Last November I posted a wordy blog titled RV and Truck Maintenance – Part 1. In this next installment I’ll provide my to-do list in case it helps someone else come up with their own list.  Later I’ll dig out all the chemicals, grease and the like to point out what I’m using, although I’ve got plans to downsize, and will post that in part 3 in this maintenance series.

But first, our near-term travel plans so family and friends will know our travel plans. Currently we are nearing the end of a three week stay at Tuscumbia RV Park located at the extreme northwest corner of Alabama. For weeks we have been limiting our travel and holding up longer-term in campgrounds with full hookups waiting for states to open up. Historically speaking,  pandemics end more often when the public is ready to start returning to a normal way of life. I’m thinking we are better prepared to avoid or deal with an up-tick in contamination. Because at the very least we are now aware of the virus that was running around our country for maybe weeks before we knew it was a problem.

We decided on May 17 we are going to start our migration towards Missouri where a family campout is planned in June.  Our route is west to Corinth Mississippi, north towards Jackson Tennessee and on to the boot-hill of Missouri.  We will head west into southern Missouri at Sikeston and Poplar Bluff Missouri arriving at Mansfield Missouri on 6/4/20 where we are staying at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Campground. We will arrive at Pomme de Terre State Park in central Missouri on 6/11/20. Then we will head north to Kansas City, staying at the Basswood Resort beginning 6/18/20 where we have stayed in the past. I can’t remember the last time we booked our sites this far out in advance. We figured it was a good idea given the current status of the virus thing.  No worries, we will stay safe and have plenty of room in our schedule to react to any changes brought on by the virus thing. I’m also starting to think about travel ideas for this upcoming flu season beginning in October. Time will tell if we need to also consider longer stays or if we can return to the wild.

Our next series of moves. I’m liking RVTripwizard.com which includes features that show elevations and hill grades as you move the curser around. I pay around $40 a year for the service which has a reasonable number of campgrounds listed as well as options to show things such as low bridges.

The RV maintenance section of this blog post is short.  Below is a link to a file in both a Word and PDF format where I have all my maintenance items listed to include research notes.  I combined all the information from each manufacturer of materials/systems found in our RV as well as notes from friends/forums and straight out of the owners manuals.  Rather than discuss various elements I’ll just say I pay particular attention to any place water can get in and the suspension system. Over time I’ll be cutting my list down but for now I kept all the notes for the benefit of readers.  Most of these maintenance items are becoming second nature.

My RV Maintenance Schedule in a Microsoft Word Document

Same Maintenance Schedule as a PDF

Enjoy and any feedback is welcome.  Someday maybe we can figure out how to keep our tank sensors working properly. I’m nearing a conclusion on that and will report back.