Natchez & Nashville
May 2, 2012
|Wednesday, April 25, 2012, Carol and I headed north for a short drive to Vidalia, LA, which is just across the Mississippi River from Natchez, MS. The River View RV Park is right on the Mighty Mo with a great view of the river and the river traffic. Most all of the river traffic was barges being pushed by tugs. After we got settled in at the RV park we drove the Jeep across the bridge to Natchez, MS and then down under the bridge to their riverboat casino. We didn’t go there to gamble but instead for a buffet lunch aboard the casino boat. This was a permanent anchored boat not like in Kansas City; where they build a building along the river and call that riverboat gambling.
Thursday morning we drove back across the river to Natchez and visited the Visitor Center, which has a National Park office for the Natchez Trace Parkway and also a visitor center for the city of Natchez. We picked up literature for the Trace and then paid for and caught a bus for a tour of Natchez. This small town was one of the busiest port cities along the Mississippi River in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It was also one of the richest towns with all the cotton plantations and huge mansions when “cotton was king”. Now a majority of the mansions are open for tours or belong to the National Park system, but a few are private houses. Nice little town with narrow streets downtown but some beautiful park like boulevards further out from the central district.
Friday morning we drove the RV about 10 miles north of Natchez to the start of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Trace – an old-fashioned name for a path or roadway, was once an Indian trail but became a path for men who floated merchandise down the Mississippi to Natchez or New Orleans. These men sold their goods and the lumber from their boats and then rode horses or walked back north on the Trace to get more merchandise. This Trace had many “stands” or inns for the travelers to rest overnight. The Trace path was well worn and in some places the path is sunken below the surrounding terrain. Soon after the steam engine and steamboats were developed the Trace fell to disuse as the men had an easier method to get back north. In the 1930s a highway was built that parallels the old Trace. The highway is now part of the National Park System. The road is a narrow two-lane highway that does not allow any commercial traffic and has a speed limit of 50 mph. When I said narrow, it does not have any shoulder at all; it just has grass along side of the pavement. It has some gentle curves and hills so that kept me busy keeping the large RV in my narrow lane. Even on the weekend there was very little traffic, you could drive for several minutes and not see any other traffic. You drive through areas that look like a tunnel of trees or other areas that are much more open. There are many places to stop with historical battlefields, buildings or markers, Indian Mounds, trails, swamp, lake, picnic areas and several viewing spots of the actual Trace (path). Within a few miles of the Trace are markers or museums noting the birthplace of Oprah, Elvis, W.C. Handy and Helen Keller and where Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame died under mysterious circumstances. Off the Trace, in neighboring towns, are campgrounds, fuel and other supplies. The trace either goes over or under any other roads that it meets and if it does meet another road the Trace has the right-of-way. You can drive the entire 444-mile road with out a stop, except around Jackson, MS, there is an eight-mile detour.
On Friday, our first day on the Trace we made several stops; one was Mount Locust, one of the “stands” or inns. We also stopped at a small waterfall and another stop we viewed the sunken Trace, a stop for lunch break and then the small detour at Jackson, MS. We only made it to mile marker 115 and stopped at a very nice campground operated by the local county and only 3-miles off the Trace.
Saturday must have been a bicycle competition because we meet or passed many people on bicycles but made it to mile marker 266. There just north of Tupelo MS., we stopped at again a very nice campground just ¾ mile off the Trace. Later that evening we took the Jeep and went to Applebee’s for dinner.
Sunday we only stopped once to eat lunch and look at the Trace again. The Trace goes through a corner of Alabama and then on into Tennessee and stops at mile marker 444 just 15 miles south of Nashville. The last several miles of the Trace was more hilly and curvy than the rest of the Trace. We then drove to the Northeast corner of Nashville and parked at the Two Rivers Campground in the tourist area near The Grand Ole Opry House.
Monday morning I took a backstage tour of The Grand Ole Opry, where they show you the dressing rooms of the stars and the stage areas. They had a mark on the wall where the 2010 flood covered the stage with about 3-foot of water. That afternoon we drove to downtown Nashville to visit Antique Archaeology, Mike Wolfe’s shop from “American Pickers”. That is a National Geographic Channel TV program that Carol watches regularly and she recognized many of the items that he “picked” on his show. They have a shop in Iowa and this past July opened this shop in Nashville. Later that afternoon we went to Gaylord’s Opryland Hotel next door to The Opry. It is a huge hotel that has four separate indoor garden areas, which we walked through. In the Delta section we rode a boat that floats through the Delta gardens. All that walking wore Carol out.
Tuesday morning we caught a tour bus at the campground that gave us a tour of central Nashville. Two of the tour stops were The Ryman Auditorium, which was the home of The Grand Ole Opry until 1974; I think that is the correct year. The second tour stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The tour only allowed us an hour and ¼, which was just about enough time for us as neither Carol, or I are Country Music fans. For the real fans that would be way too short because there are three floors of displays, videos and listening booths for sampling music. There was a temporary display about Chet Atkins, which I liked because I like his music. That evening we went to dinner at a nice restaurant very close to the campground called Cock of the Walk.
Wednesday morning, May 2nd we started our way back to Kansas City/Liberty.
About a week after arriving in Kansas City we need to leave to head to Vancouver to ride the Rocky Moutaineer Train.