Saturday, 29 December 2012

Historic Natchez Trace

Starting on December 14, we spent four days along the Trace.
The natural travel and trade corridor leads from the lower Mississippi River to the southern Appalachian foothills. This 444  mile long trace, now a road, meanders between Natchez MS to Nashville TN. It became a major route for travel and trade in the late 1700's into the early 1800's. The Trace, meaning trail, bisected the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Park and is flanked by one mile of natural lands, on both sides to preserve the area's history. The original trail is still used today by adventurers who want to add the trace to their list of completed American hiking trails.

The speed limit of 50 miles per hour sets the pace and mood for a visit along the Natchez Trace. The road is a balance of forests and agricultural lands, acres of grain and grazing cattle interspersed with gorgeous treed woodlands. We drove through an eight mile stretch of the route where destruction was evident of a tornado passing through in 2011. The barren ground, twisted and broken trees stand as in a horror film, a frightening depiction of nature's power.
                                                                        vultures stretching their wings

There are three visitor centres within the park which provide maps, exhibits of artefacts found on the old trace, interactive nature displays as well as books and souvenirs. We watched an excellent film depicting the history of the trace. Special places such as bridges, cemeteries, old schools and Indian mounds are well marked along the highway. Many pull outs and picnic areas are provided and campgrounds are available free of charge. We set up in Jeff Busby Park for our first night where we enjoyed great hiking and met an amazing neighbour.

Margaret is an eighty five year old woman who RVs on her own. Every winter, she drives from her home in Ohio to a campground in Texas. She not only drives, but can repair mechanical problems, winterize and maintain her Class C Chinook RV. She told us about her years of Airstream Rving around the world with her husband. Before he died eight years ago, he taught her all the basics about their RV. She has had a stroke, has a bad back, both knees give her problems and she walks with a cane but nothing holds her back.  How inspiring!!

Over the next three days we explored more of the Natchez sites. Spent some time at the impressive Cypress Swamp where huge, elegant cypress trees reflected in a silent pond. Amazing groups of "knees" which spread out and provide support for the submerged tree trunks, look like a fellowship of hooded monks standing ankle deep in the water.

Cypress knees
We walked on a few sections of the "Old Trace", named Sunken Trace, where a large section of the pathway had collapsed under the weight of so many travelers.  Farmers and merchants would float rafts down the Mississippi river to markets in the south, sell their goods and use the trace to walk back up north to their homes. These sunken areas were favorite haunts of bandits who would lie in wait for unsuspecting traders and merchants with pockets full of cash to rob. We saw one of the many Indian Mounds, huge 15-30' high hillocks, that were constructed by carrying and dumping baskets of earth. These were created for use as sacred, ceremonial places by the native communities. We hiked along cedar rail fences into woods decorated with numerous lichen, moss, mushrooms and fall leaves. We found a handful of old gravestones to examine. They were so overgrown and decayed, they looked like an organic component of the woods.

                                                                                  Indian Mound

Monday, 24 December 2012

Comfort & Joy

                                    We hope that everyone has a little of both! Cheers.....Caron, Chris and Dixie.
Santa on the Natchez Trace

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Out and About in Red Bay Alabama

With our kitchen-slide weather stripping ripped and our bedroom slide sticking now and then; we decided to head to Tiffin in Red Bay while we were fairly close. We stayed there for a week, four days of waiting and three days in the repair bays. That may seem like a long wait but the factory does close on the weekends and we also spoke to a few folks who'd been there for six or seven weeks depending on the nature of their repairs.

We spent Sunday in Florence Alabama about an hour from Red Bay. Dixie led us through the soft pine needled pathways in the woods and demanded some stick retrieving in the chilly Tennessee River at McFarland Park. Pleasure and fishing boats raced under the new and old bridges pushing their wake up against the rocky cliffs. The sun warmed the tree trunks and whiffs of pine sap reminded us of hiking in Ontario. We considered renting one of the park's picnic-fireplaces to hang our Christmas stockings on but we were a titch early for that.

A Frank Lloyd Wright home, restored in 1999 by the town of Florence, offered a great tour inside and out. Spacious interiors, walls of glass and wood with turquoise, butter yellow and lime green upholstered furniture were iconic Wright. A series of flat roofs sit atop the brick and cypress wood exterior. One wall in each room is filled with floor to ceiling windows and a border of glass runs along the interior roof line. They are framed in Wright's simple wooden tessellation designs. Uniquely, the home was built and owned by one family, the Rosenbaums. The original home was built in 1939-1940. An addition including a larger kitchen, huge bedroom for the boys and a Japanese garden was added by Wright.
Chris and I were the only guests in the house so our guide was able to give us a thorough, leisurely tour.

When the coach was in the shop, Chris stayed close by to check things out with the mechanics and technicians. Dixie and I would drive over to Tishomingo State Park to hike miles of wooded trails running beside Bear Creek. We climbed up to the tops of many of the rocky outcroppings. The park, in the Appalachian foothills, also had an old log cabin, mossy stone bridge, small waterfalls and a gorgeous swinging bridge over 150 years old.

We had the park to ourselves but did see some signs of nature's creatures preparing for Christmas. Their little hollows in trees and mini caves under the rocks were decorated with a variety of  crimson leaves, brilliant green moss, crisp holly and fresh red berries. I swear I could smell baking chestnut pies and acorn pudding too! Hmmmmm!?!

On Friday December 14, we left Tiffin and Red Bay. The weather stripping on the kitchen slide was replaced. No problems were found with the bedroom slide. The jacks were checked and an oil leak repaired. We were lucky to have an engineer check the RV while it was up on the lift. He recommended the installation of some brackets that he had newly modified to add strength to the chassis. We were not charged for any of the repairs even after our warranty had expired one year ago. We only had to pay our camping fee! What an amazing company to provide such great customer service.

We were free to travel and play as we wished. The Historic Natchez Trace was close by so we headed to the woods for adventure and no-fees camping.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Different World

I think of the Christmas and Hanuka Season as a time of sharing and giving. Many people are more generous with their charity and helping others. Yes it is also overwhelmingly commercial and it is also a painful time for many folks. I cannot fathom that all that positive energy could be so shattered as it was in Newton, Connecticut where a young man murdered his mother, six educators and twenty innocent little children. Horrific!
The flags all hang at half mast across America and hearts pump sympathy and comfort. So many questions repeat in my subconscious:How will the families ever recover? What will the future be like for their siblings? Will the other students at the school or in any school ever feel safe again? How will this impact teachers, administrators and support staff in schools? What can be done to avoid these senseless killings?
The borders of love and hate are blurred.  As we join with our own loved ones this season, I hope that we remember the lives of the 26 victims of  tragedy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Acorns keep Fallin' on my Head

Sunday driving is always good, less traffic and construction workers at home. We travelled up into Alabama to the huge campground called Rainbow Resort. The Live Oak trees are in fall mode and their little black acorns are piled on the ground and raining down from the trees in a slow drizzle. They could be heard all over the campground and during the night, hitting the metal roofs of the motor homes.

                                                                  Amazing what some RVers boat?!
                                                                        Magnolia seed pod...note "fur-like" stem
On Monday, we drove to the famous or some say infamous restaurant "Lambert's Cafe, Home of the Throwed Rolls" for lunch. The restaurant opened in 1942 with a handful of tables and eight stools at the counter. Even through the war years, it survived and grew to the huge place it is today, based on the generous portions of  fresh, down home cookin'.  Fresh, warm dinner rolls have always been passed around to guests when they are seated in Lambert's. The crazy practice of throwing the rolls across the restaurant began when an impatient guest shouted to have his bread tossed instead of delivered and a tradition was born. Lambert's exterior wall is covered in murals and inside,antiques and country signs and artifacts decorate the walls. As well as the items on the menu such as the fried chicken and catfish that we ordered, are a huge list of pass-arounds that are offered throughout your time in the restaurant. Just a few of those are: black-eyed peas, fried okra and apple butter. Needless to say, we both loaded large carry-out containers with our leftovers. Dinner not required!

Chris was a little under the weather on Tuesday so I drove to Pensacola Naval Air Force Museum on my own. The base and museum are in a fabulous location on a sandy peninsula jutting out into the ocean. Two huge hangers hold an incredible number of restored aircraft on the museum floor and hanging from the rafters. As well as early and WWII aircraft, there are displays of helicopters, coast guard planes and modern jets.
Many exhibits are interactive and visitors can sit in the cockpit of a Blue Angel jet, or experience a simulator and view downed planes under water in a mock  submarine. The mechanically inclined can peer into engines and at control panels and peeled back panels of aircraft.
Throughout the museums are huge models of aircraft carriers with numerous model planes parked on deck and miniature marines tending to the hundreds of jobs that keep those specialized floating behemoths operational.
The Hall of Honor displays commemorative plaques and statues of important naval and air commanders, pilots, admirals and other heroes.
Wartime lifestyle was depicted in a street scene with a small grocery, a drugstore, barber shop as well as a simple family home with its basic kitchen and sitting room, all with products and artifacts from the 1940's.
Four Blue Angel FA 18 Hornet Jets hang in the atrium looking respectfully down on three heritage planes. A giant American flag inspires awe.
I was stopped in my tracks outside when four jets flew above me with their hair-raising, muscle-clenching roar; thrilling me to the core.

Before heading back to Chris & Dixie, I stopped at the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. It was festively decorated for Christmas and filled with furniture and objects from the early 1900's.

Close to "home"I caught a shot of the gorgeous terracotta-coloured soil, rich with pigment and nutrients.