Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Natchez Walk and Drive to Vicksburg, Mississippi - Monday, May 1, 2017

Two days just couldn't be any different. Yesterday we had thunderstorms, lightning, high humidity, torrential rain, and tornado warnings; today: blue skies, perfect temperature, light breeze and low humidity. 

Our drive from Livingston, Louisiana, to Natchez, Mississippi only hit one snag. There was an accident midday on I-10 west in Baton Rouge which caused about four miles of creeping traffic. After that, we didn't have any problems and enjoyed our drive on US 61 north from Baton Rouge. The road was mostly four-lane, divided highway with very little traffic. We departed the RV park at 10:45 a.m. and arrived at the Natchez Visitor Center about 1:05 p.m.

Great RV parking at the Natchez Visitor Center
After looking around the Visitor Center and collecting information, we paid $2 each for a mediocre movie. I stamped my National Parks Passport Book. 

If you like guided tours, the Visitor Center sells tickets ($20 per adult) for a one-hour Open Air Tour. The vehicle is a glorified golf cart that holds about six people. 

We decided to drive to the Melrose House, an antebellum mansion. We asked the clerk at the Visitor Information Center if there was RV parking at the Melrose House. She said yes, there's plenty of parking. [Tip for other RVers: Do not believe everything the clerk in a Visitor Center tells you. Be sure to ask if they've ever driven an RV into the site they're telling you about. More about that in a minute.]

Here are some photos from the Visitor Center. The write-ups on kudzu and facts about the Mississippi River are quite educational, especially for someone who has not traveled in these areas before.

The Great River Road

Toll Plaza Colonnades -- these used to flank the
toll plaza on the Mississippi River Bridge
A Jell-o plan was made (although we didn't know that's what it was when we made it) to drive to Melrose Mansion, park the 5th wheel there, look around, then do a walking tour of downtown Natchez. Remember, we were told there was plenty of RV parking at Melrose Mansion. 

We drove about 2-1/2 to 3 miles the mansion. When we got there, we saw a small gravel road going through a narrow gate. We couldn't see the parking lot from the road we were on. In an act of faith and with much trepidation we drove through the gates, down the road, and saw a parking lot ahead. 

Melrose antebellum mansion
Back of Melrose
Thankfully, there were very few people at the mansion this afternoon! If the lot had been full, we would have been in big trouble with our 33' 5th wheel. As it was, Bob backed up our 5th wheel under trees so the cats could have shade. Then he took a look at the map we picked up at the Visitor Center. It quickly became evident we would not be walking to and through downtown from the parking lot at the mansion. We had no idea the mansion was three miles from downtown. 
A large, old oak tree on the grounds of Melrose
New plan: After walking the grounds of the mansion, we drove back to the Visitor Center and walked to downtown from there. Thank you, Bob, for noticing how far it was. You're right, I wouldn't have been happy with the length of that walk. 

From the Visitor Center, it was a straight shot into downtown. Some interesting homes and a view of the Mississippi lured us to Bluff Park. 

Rosalie Mansion

The Mississippi River Bridge from Bluff Park

Looking north up the Mississippi River

Barge pushing a long load upriver

The Parsonage
Some trivia for you: The Methodists refer to their minister's house as a "parsonage," while Presbyterians use the Scottish term "manse." A priest of the Roman Catholic or Episcopal Church resides in a "rectory."

Edelweiss, a Swiss Chalet-style home from 1883

Reminds me of New Orleans
Apparently, almost all the restaurants close from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you want lunch, you need to eat before 2:00. We didn't know that and we were hungry. We spent almost 30 minutes walking up and down downtown Natchez streets looking for a place open for lunch. The Visitor Center had told us about two: neither of them was open. 

As we traipsed back-and-forth and up-and-down the streets of downtown Natchez, we noticed a dearth of people and vehicles. It was like a ghost town. We wandered around so much we passed two men sitting on a bench, who had a dog, three different times. I told them on our third time by we liked them so much we had to keep coming back to see them. They laughed.

We asked at a tavern that was only open for drinks if they knew of any restaurants serving food and they told us of a coffee house three blocks away that was open all afternoon. Off we went on another wild goose chase. The coffee house was open, but their kitchen had closed at 3:00 p.m. (We arrived at 3:10 p.m.) We opted not to have muffins or cookies for lunch and continued looking. 

Finally, we found the Pig Out Inn Barbecue. Success! We both had smoked turkey barbecue sandwich plates with two sides and a drink. Ahhhh. 

"It's swine dining at it's finest"
On the "Pig Out Inn" wall. Enlarge the photo below
for the rest of this.

Enlarge, this is wonderful! It's on the wall.
We liked this place! With full tummies, we continued our walk to the nature trail and along Bluff Park, by the old train station.

Nature trail

Factoids on Spanish Moss...
it's related to pineapple!

Good thing we ate a protein-packed lunch.
 Bob decided it was his turn to take photos of me by the Mississippi.

The day was perfect!
After Natchez we hit the road, Natchez Trace to be exact. The part we drove from Natchez to Port Gibson was beautiful, peaceful and just a few cars. We didn't spend time stopping to see sights but we were happy to be off U.S. 61. No semis or large commercial vehicles are allowed on Natchez Trace.

It appeared there was tornado damage along the Trace. We drove through a few miles where trees were down or the tops were snapped off. All the branches had been cleared from the road; however, we did see electrical crews in cherry pickers repairing the lines along one section.

Many branches down here

Tops of trees missing

Big branch down

Whole top of tree snapped sideways
As we drove into Vicksburg to look for Ameristar Casino's RV Park, we saw the Ameristar Casino sign on the left-hand side of the road. Remember, we've never been here before. We turned left onto the road by the sign. As Bob made the turn, I saw a small sign that said, "No 18-wheelers or RVs allowed." Aaaaack! Noooo!

I only saw the tiny "No 18 wheelers or RVs allowed"
sign after we turned here (out of the corner of my eye)
We drove back to look at this sign again on our way out of town. The photo below is what the "No 18 wheelers or RVs allowed" sign looks like when you're in the left-hand turn lane. You can't read it at all. The upshot is: don't turn toward the river!!! Go straight at this Ameristar Casino sign and you will come to the Ameristar RV Park in about one block on the side opposite the river. Why couldn't they have told us that over the phone? I even asked the lady I made the reservation with if there were any special instructions to get to the RV park. She told me the address and told me to follow GPS. GPS wanted us to turn left at that Ameristar Casino sign and go down where we weren't supposed to go. Never, ever trust your GPS in an RV, even if you have the fancy trucker/RV GPS. 

Can  you see the "No 18 wheelers or RVs Allowed sign?

This is the Ameristar RV Park you seek.
Bob stopped the truck as soon as we were out of the intersection. Another 5th wheel was in the left-hand turn lane to follow us. When they saw us stop and put on the back-up lights, they wisely decided not to come that way.

As it turned out, at 7:30 p.m. not many cars traveled the highway we had turned off of. Bob had to wait through a couple of lights, but then the traffic cleared enough that I could stop one car while Bob backed our 5th wheel out onto the highway. We then had to go to a motel parking lot, turn around and head back past the road we had tried to take. The RV park was down about 1/8 mile on the opposite side of the road.

But wait, our adventure wasn't over yet. As instructed, we picked up our reservation paperwork with site number from the front door of the office as we were after-hours arrivals. We followed the directions to our site (#34) only to find a big Tiffin Phaeton parked in it. 

Site #35 was empty, so we pulled into the empty site. I knocked on the door of the Phaeton and showed the guy my reservation with site #34 on it. He explained when he called this afternoon, he was told they don't take reservations for Monday and Tuesday nights. He was told to take any empty site. I said, "Yes, they do. They took mine and put my reservation paperwork on the door of the office." He was perplexed, I was too. 

I told him I'd go to the office door and make sure no one else coming in tonight was assigned to site #35. (No one was.) We stayed in #35, he stayed in #34. He was on his phone talking to the casino about the SNAFU. He asked if I wanted to talk to them. (I did, so he handed me the phone.) The casino said we could stay in site #35, but to go to the office in the morning to finish registering. We will be out sightseeing before the office opens so I will call them after 9:00 a.m. We have decided to add another night in Vicksburg. 

That's the end of our action-packed day. Before we leave, Bob and I are going to walk up to the Ameristar Casino sign and take a photo of the baby sign by it that says no 18-wheelers or RVs allowed. From across the street where the left-hand turn lane is you can't see the little sign. I only saw it after Bob had already turned left. We also want to walk down the road and see what's at the bottom and why they don't want RVs down there.

Tomorrow we're off to Jackson, Mississippi to do the State Capital Volksmarch first thing in the morning. The weather is supposed to be awesome! 

We'll take photos of the RV park tomorrow evening. In the afternoon we're going to Vicksburg National Historical Site and will finish up visiting it Wednesday morning. We also plan to go back down Natchez Trace Parkway with just the pickup truck to do some sightseeing there as well. 

Good night. 

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