April 29 Down the Trace to the Tennessee River

South on the Natchez Trace was our direction for today. At the end of today’s drive, we will have driven the entire length of the Trace from Natchez, Mississippi, through a bit of Alabama up to milepost 405 here in Tennessee. We will only have the length between MP405 and the northern terminus up by Nashville remaining and we have enjoyed every bit of it. It is the kind of road where you roll down your window, set your arm on the door and cruise along without bothering to hurry. It is a magnificent drive.
We headed south from Hohenwald and continued until we made it to the Tennessee River over in Alabama where we had a great picnic along the shore of the river. Peggy had put together a lot of finger food and I took care of breaking out the kippers. We spotted very colorful birds in the trees and sunning turtles hanging out on partially submerged logs. The weather cooperated and our picnic was a big success.
On the way home we tried another section of actual Trace to drive and again it was narrow and the branches are low but at least this time there was pavement. We stopped by some wonderful turnouts alongside the road where we could loaf next to the creeks. Now that we are out of the flat lands of Mississippi and Alabama, the water in the creeks is crystal clear and the limestone creek beds can be easily observed through the water. Wildflowers are everywhere.
There’s a few photos if you click here

April 28 Up the Trace to Milepost 405

Today we did a bit of exploring up the Trace. We pulled out of Natchez Trace TT, passed under the low underpass that keeps the stupid honest and broke out onto the Trace northbound.
As usual, the road is very scenic with gentle curves, abundant flowers, creeks running clear water, no signals, very few intersections and low speeds. It may be the most relaxing drive in the U.S. except when certain drivers decide we should lead while they attempt to have vehicle sex with our rear bumper. For these folks we have devised a strategy. We have named this strategy the “I.Q. Test.” Since almost the entire Trace consists of gentle curves with long straightaways having a dashed line painted down the center, passing slower cars is extremely easily almost everywhere. For rear bumper fiends, we wait until their front license plate goes out of the rear view mirror and we start slowly reducing the setting on our cruise control. Some of the idiots will actually stay right on our bumper until we come to a complete stop before finally realizing they could pass us anywhere. For some reason, they become fixated on our rear bumper and our alleged ability to lead. Eventually, even the dullest tailgaters will swing around us and blast up the Trace, despite the speed limit of 50. We figure at this time that their speed in mph has exceeded their I.Q.
Up toward the north end of today’s cruise, we found a section of road where motorists can drive the actual Trace instead of the two-lane highway built by the WPA that basically follows the old trail. We followed it for a few miles despite it being the dirt road trod by so many feet back in the early 1800’s. We quickly found this side trip was not a place we would take the Barbarian Invader because this dirt road is narrow and overhanging branches are considerably lower than our travelling home. It is pretty, though.
To finish off the day, we drove back to nearby Hohenwald and made a tourist stop at the local ScabMart for groceries. Funny – the folks in ScabMart in Tennessee look just like the folks in San Diego’s ScabMart.
We took photos of things other than the ScabMart crowd that you can see by clicking here

April 27 Saulsbury to Natchez Trace TT near Hohenwald

This morning we awoke to clear skies for the second time in the last 10 days. Crummy weather, particularly rain, has dogged us across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and now Tennessee but it broke this morning and that worked out very well because it was a travel day.
We left Cherokee Landing Thousand Trails near Saulsbury and started a leisurely drive east across exclusively rural roads to near Hohenwald which looks to be about 60 miles south of Nashville. It is a nice drive through gradually rising and hilly terrain covered with hardwood forest, massive road cuts through rock and quaint little towns. The speed limit most of the way is 55 or less. The last dozen or so miles were on the Natchez Trace which is appropriate because we ended up pulling into the Natchez Trace Thousand Trails Nature Preserve. Strangely, the exit from the Trace closest to the campground is not the exit to take. If you do, you will pass under the Trace through an underpass with only 11′-0” of headroom, merely 22 inches less than our trailer requires to avoid ripping the roof and air conditioners off our traveling home. We deferred on taking the closest exit choosing instead to continue north until Randy, our GPS unit, told us to exit right on Camp Road. There is no Camp Road, regardless of the idiot ramblings of the electronic liar. We continued a bit further until we got to the place where Meriweather Lewis, half of Lewis and Clark, croaked and was buried. We pulled off and called the campground for directions which did not involve low bridges or imaginary roads and soon we were pulling into our camp spot for the next couple weeks. The lady at the gate said we would not believe how many people have exited the Trace at the wrong exit, all frothy about camping, and almost instantly ripped the top off their expensive vacation lodgings. Bummer.
We did not have the inclination to do any exploring today after we finished setting up our trailer so we don’t know much about this gigantic Thousand Trails facility. We got full hookups but have yet to try out the WiFi. It looks very nice. There are lakes, many amenities, a pretty big store right at the campground entrance and several toothless types proudly displaying Confederate flags at their sites. Troglodytes.
Some of the non-Troglodytes are shown in the photos. Click here

April 26 Still in Saulsbury

The weather app on our phone was correct yesterday when it indicated we may be in for some lousy weather. The rain started yesterday evening and liberated about an inch of water out of the clouds before midnight. It followed up with another 2.25” of rain today so we extended our stay here, moved our reservation at our next destination back a day and hunkered down inside our trailer and watched movies. It was very cozy.
See our neighbors. Click here

April 25 Birdwatching in Saulsbury

Today was our scheduled last day in Saulsbury. We did some initial preparations to depart with Peggy taking care of the interior stuff and me disconnecting the exterior utilities and cleaning up our outside lighting.
It was a beautiful day so we spent a good portion of it lounging under our canopy and watching the birds that are abundant here. We added another bird to our list – a gorgeous specimen we identified as a blue grosbeak. He is a spectacular guy. He visited us while we were busy checking out the geese, some red-breasted grosbeaks, a few large nuthatches, a passel of cardinals, some true blue jays, numerous tiny sparrows and some birds we spent a good portion of the day trying to identify. They look like little vireos or sparrows but they have yellow streaks. We have two good bird identification books but they must not be good enough because we just couldn’t classify these guys.
Late in the afternoon, our weather app indicated we are in for some terrible weather. Maybe we won’t be leaving tomorrow because we hate travelling in thunderstorms and it appears some are headed our way.
See our friends. Click here

April 24 Memphis

Memphis was our destination for today. It is located about 60 miles west of our current digs. We started west from our camping spot in Saulsbury but before we got to Memphis we passed through a town called La Grange, home to a big clump of old plantation homes that have been meticulously maintained. All of them are painted white, of course. The folks who lived there must have rarely seen each other because the houses are gigantic.
We continued our tour by heading into T. O. Fuller State Park which is south of Memphis, across the Mississippi from Arkansas. It is a gorgeous small park but it requires passing through a nasty neighborhood that has many malingerers loitering in the streets. It looks like it would be a fine place to avoid at night.
From the park we headed north a few miles into Memphis where we took a pass down Beale Street to check out B. B. King’s Blues Club. Memphis (at least the part we saw) was very nice with easy traffic, nice buildings and spiffy modern architecture. The river frontage is very scenic.
On the way home, we tried to find a good restaurant where we could reward ourselves with some tasty dining. Unfortunately, our search was extremely limited because we are camped out in the sticks and there really aren’t too many restaurants around. We had received a report from folks in our campground that the restaurant in Middleton near our camp spot was crummy so we elected to try Brad’s Barbecue in nearby Moscow. Too bad! It was shitty, too.
See the pictures. Click here

April 23 Kudzu

Yesterday it rained cats and dogs and we never left our trailer. The total rainfall at the nearest weather station for yesterday was a bit more than 2 inches. We let the ducks ands geese have the entire outdoors during the storm.
This morning the weather was better with periodic light rain and overcast skies. Before we departed Amanda and her dog, Donna, stopped by our trailer for a chat. We initially met these two at the Thousand Trails campground in Columbus, Texas, about 5 or 6 weeks ago and were surprised when we saw her here. Her dog is extremely vigorous and stayed very busy investigating in our trailer.
We decided to make a trip back into Mississippi today, specifically to Holly Springs. Holly Springs is both a town where Rust College, which neither of us has ever heard of and a National Forest is located just south of the TN/MS border. There are many fine old houses there.
In this area, the tree-strangling, invasive kudzu plant runs rampant, killing everything it touches. Some bozo introduced kudzu to this area for erosion control but it backfired, stripping large expanses of land of all vegetation and actually making the erosion problem worse. We spotted a lot of acreage where nothing is left other than real skinny sticks, a few logs too small to harvest and the effects of severe erosion – exposed brown soil and very steep gullies. However, all the places unaffected by kudzu are covered with abundant wildflowers and very pretty.
We wandered through the Holly Springs National Forest and noted there is a nice lake, a very pretty but almost unoccupied campground and more kudzu. Apparently, even the Feds are unable to stop this foul flora.
Along our way, we spotted many beautiful rural estates mixed in with the Dogpatch-like residences of poor hoarders. The contrast is stark.
See today’s pix. Click here

April 21 A loop E of Saulsbury

Our explorations took us east of Saulsbury today. We have to go somewhere other than Saulsbury because there is no there there. The closest town is Middleton so we started by stopping for fuel and then headed east on TN-57 through Pocahontas, Ramer, Eastview and Michie before arriving at the Pickwick Dam and Lock on the Tennessee River. It was a big project during the TVA days back in the Roosevelt administration and it is pretty impressive with a hydroelectric facility, the lock, and adjacent earthen dam, a bridge across the river and boat ramps, campgrounds, and overlooks near the dam. While we were there, we spotted a mobile home half that was being towed across the bridge that had lost an axle and was effectively blocking one of the two lanes on the bridge, irritating numerous drivers.
There are a passel of birds here. We have spotted wild turkeys, geese, eastern jays and tiny sparrows along with rose breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, red bellied woodpeckers, king birds and American goldfinches that we have added to our list. There are ground hogs foraging alongside the roads. On the way back from the dam, we drove through the Shiloh National Military Park where another very nasty Civil War battle occurred. The soldiers must have been ballsy troops because they were shooting at each other from distances where even thrown rocks would have been effective. About 5,000 never walked away.
We also stopped in at Big Hill Pond, another Tennessee State Park. It was just as gorgeous as Chickasaw State Park that we visited yesterday. The folks in Tennessee have really done state parks correctly. They are attractive and welcoming.
There are pictures. Click here

April 20 A loop NW of Saulsbury

From our campsite in Saulsbury, about 60 miles east of Memphis, we decided to do our exploring around a loop northwest of here. Tennessee terrain is quite a bit more lumpy than the flat lands in Louisiana and Mississippi and we were more delighted than we thought we would be to finally see some rock cliffs and limestone outcroppings. There are still plenty of swampy spots but mostly the ground around here is hills with small creeks at the bottom or magnificent flat pastures filling hundreds of acres.
Kudzu, a nasty, invasive plant imported from Japan by some idiot has established a foothold in large portions of forest here. It is a vine with big leaves and it spreads like flu throughout large portions of forest. The vines spread everywhere and then the plants’ big leaves shade out everything beneath them and kill all the trees, shrubs and grass. Large expanses of ground can be seen along the roads where kudzu has killed everything. The locals wade into these areas, clear cut all plants to the ground salvaging the logs and killing the nasty invader. Too bad they haven’t convinced the government it is a crop so they could get a subsidy for not growing it.
We wandered through towns with names like Hickory Valley, Bolivar, Montezuma and Middleton and they are all pretty tiny and look like they did back in the early 1900’s. We spotted what we thought was a steam engine but it ended up being a sassafras mill, whatever that is. There were truly magnificent brick and wood buildings along with some Dogpatch-like areas that we sort of expected to see here. The Dogpatches appear to be acreage where the owner has retained every single item he has ever acquired without discarding anything. Sometimes their funky little house is visible from the road where there is a gap in the junk.
We stopped in at Chickasaw State Park near Bolivar. Tennesseens have done it right; their parks are pretty, very well-maintained and free to those doing day-use. Camping costs but it is cheap. There are lots of animals about. There’s lakes with snazzy walkways and cabins and absolutely clean restrooms, unlike the state parks we have in California. The big hardwood forest covering this part of Tennessee is gorgeous except where the kudzu grows.
We got a few photos. Click here

April 19 Tupelo MS to Saulsbury TN

We gathered up our stuff and checked out of Tupelo, headed for Tennessee. Due to the unique nature of roads in Mississippi, in order to go north we had to go west, then northwest, then east and finally north before going west and south to arrive at Cherokee Landing Thousand Trails Campground. The campground may have been terrific in the past but it is pretty rundown now. Few spaces are large enough for our Barbarian Invader, the roads are pretty lousy with some impassable, there are very few full hookups and no wifi in the campground. However, the camp spot we ultimately found was situated in a big grove of hickory and oak trees and there are birds everywhere. We look forward to spotting some new varieties to add to our list.
Got some of our friends in front of the lens. Click here