Thanks to Lisa Hensinger, we have pictures of the Mississippi trip on the KLEEK Pix page. They follow the old Savannah pics that have been on file forever. The first few are pics I took with my phone. The rest are real pics from a real camera.
Real-time update number 8 - Eleven adventures, all on our Harleys, (plus two convertible car enthusiasts) are back from Mississippi. In spite of a few really bad dining experiences, it was a good trip. The weather gods gave us mostly good weather when we were on the road, peppered with some rain storms while we were either in our lodging, or at a restaurant. We were never on dangerous roads because of weather, but we did see some nasty stuff in Vicksburg while we were safely inside a pretty good italian restaurant. Some amazing facts for this group are: We only visited ONE Harley shop (Dothan), never stopped at a chinese buffet (or any kind of chinese restaurant), nor did we have any mexican food. Aside from the lack of chocolate chip cookies at the first two Hampton Inns, we didn't have any real issues with lodging other than one air conditioner failure and some temporary cable loss during the bad weather. The B&Bs are worth going back to, the roads we were on could all be repeated, and some of the restaurants could be visited again. All those along on the ride are welcome to ride with me any time. The following contains as close to a real-time update of our travels as you'll get:
Real-time update number 1: Saturday, April 28th. Day 1 was from home to Marianna, Fl, by way of Tallahassee. 308 miles. Jeanine surprised us all - she let William and Lisa be the last to arrive at the departure point and they were ten minutes early!!! We made very good time heading north on the toll road, but my coin holder had a stuck spring and when I took out my quarter for the first toll, it emptied all the other quarters out - one at a time, over the next 20 or 30 miles. The 'Dining in the past' restaurant moved tables and patrons to accomodate us. We were in and out in under an hour and no one complained about the food or prices. A couple stops later, we were at the selected lunch joint - Southern Fixins on Apalachee Parkway in Tally. I missed the driveway, so we got to circle back across Apalachee. Food was good, met Bill Barnes, a friend who now again lives in Tally, and then encountered GROSS INCOMPETENCE at the register. Traffic in Tally really sucked, esp westbound on US 90. We eventually found Marianna and the Hampton Inn - which was overbooked and suffering from a staff firing earlier in the day. One key out of the bunch worked, no more cookies at this Hampton and this is a dry (sorta) county. Fortunately, there's a Po Folks right next door. Late update - the Po Folks was close to mediocre. I think we'll skip Marianna next time through the pan handle.
Real Time update #2 Sunday April 29th. Day 2 Marianna to Hattiesburg, MS. Another long day (the GPS recorded 281 miles, but I had a section of US98 where the unit locked up and didn't record miles), almost 100 miles were on I-10. Lots of idiots on the highway, but only a couple were getting awards from the LEOs. Lots of bikes on the road today. Getting HOT! We skipped the planned lunch in P-Cola and found The Backyard Cafe on US98 just west of downtown Mobile. Luck was on our side - good food and cheap. Folks were in and out of the place like there were no other choices for miles - but there were. When we reached MS, US 98 was 4 lane and speed limit was 65. Lots of traffic, lots of big trucks. We got to the hotel before 4:00 , but I had no room at the Inn. The desk clerk handled all the others then put me in the presidential suite. Amazingly, the presidential suite looks like any other double and doesn't have towels. It is close to the pool, just like Jeanine's and Bill's rooms. Ask Jeanine about the horned helmet and the group with riding with her. BTW, the Hampton in Hattiesburg has cookies, JUST NOT ON WEEKENDS!!!! (late editorial comment - Michael came through with some cookies after dinner, but most of the group already headed back to their rooms._ The desk clerk recommends the Outback over the Lone Star, so dinner's at 6 for those who don't want to wait until later. Ten of us headed over at 6:00, seated in two groups of 5 immediately. Good food, good service good night.
Real-time update number 3 - Monday, April 30th. We started with a tour of downtown structures. We saw the Saenger theatre, the historic High School (now boarded up), good and bad neighborhoods. We did pass one house that reminded me of the bowling ball house in Safety Harbor, only not quite as artistic.The yard was FULL of lawn jewelry, the porches were full, and shreds of old FEMA tarps were detectable on the roof. The good news is we accidentally found the Post Office and Bill was able to mail his letter home. After we left town, we headed west and watched the temperatures rise. We passed a serious wreck in the middle of nowhere, arriving with the local LEO and People-Wrecker. The detour into Woodville to find lunch was another U-turn and no restaurant. We had to head all the way to Natches to find lunch at a convenient Ruby Tuesday. After lunch, once again, believing the MapSource data was a mistake, but we did get to see some homes that we would definitely not live in. A local explained my error and sent us on our way. When we arrived at the Briars, we were immediately impressed. Once inside, we discovered the rooms hadn't been assigned, so we all picked a room based on needs and preferences. I wound up upstairs in the two-bed 'suite' with two bathrooms. The road to the out-building was a bit of a challenge for a motorcycle, but it was conquered. The view from the main house and the out buildings are impressive - a clear shot of the Mississippi River. Pictures to follow. Dinner was a ride to Cock of the Walk on the river, fortunately a short ride. Unfortunately, a place to which we won't return. Too much price, not enough selection, low quality food (except for the corn bread). After dinner, we walked around the area, saw some old buildings and some run down places much in need of repair.
RTU Number 4 - Today started with a walk around the grounds, some pictures, and a trip to the 'riverwalk' which is a pathway to the highest point on the river banks, (GREAT VIEW!) followed by breakfast in one of the out buildings. Henry, the Southern Living Souvenir, served coffee, OJ, Secret Southern Sausage Casserole, grits and apricots, with buttermilk biscuits and blueberry cornbread. It was good, but not universally liked. We departed about 9:00 for our trip to the Natchez Indian mounds. It was quite a place, worth the visit. We checked with the staff for a dinner recommendation and they all said 'the Sand Bar' in Lousianna. After 75 or 80 minutes of the grand village, we headed to the Natchez Visitor Center to get house tickets, but discovered a bus tour for only $20 per person. Our tour guide was a bit difficult to understand at times, but it was a good tour of the town. We were able to eliminate houses for later tours based on driveways. After the bus tour, we went down under to the Magnolia Grill for lunch. It is a one cook place and we were there after a lot of others, so we dallied over lunch, then walked the businesses in the area and discovered that the Magnolia Grill was half of the open businesses. We wandered up to the casino boat, but it was $5 general admission, so we passed. Back to the visitor center for house tickets. We first went to the Rosalie mansion, but it was 50 minutes until the next tour and we only had two hours to get in three houses. We went to Magnolia Hall, waited ten minutes for a tour, followed by a short ride to Stanton Hall for another tour. Both very nice, restored homes. Decent docents, too. We'll add Rosalie to tomorrow's agenda. On the way back, a few of us went to Louisianna to check out restaturants and came back decided that the Sand Bar was the place for tonight. They're not out of steak. When 6:30 happens, we'll all head for Louisianna and dinner.
STRONG WARNING #1 - STAY AWAY FROM THE SAND BAR IN VIDALIA, LA!!!!! We arrived about 6:40, were immediately seated, got drinks, placed orders and then the waitress went and hid. They had a couple other large parties and swamped the kitchen. We learned this after waiting an hour for food. Lots of people told us ours was 'on the grille right now'. Steaks all came out like shoe leather, except one that was medium on one end and basically raw on the other. I had a chat with the manager who said had we walked out earlier, they would understand, but since we waited for the food, we had to pay for it. She was unwilling to move on the built-in tip, too. When one order came out wrong three times, several meals were cancelled. The bills came, with tip. Voicing dissatisfaction was met with a threat to call the police - even when it was just over paying a $2.50 tip. Since it was 'on the menu', it was a valid charge, according to the staff. The manager, phone in hand to reinforce the threat, was told by the owner's mother that the one tip could be removed. While we were working the issue, a redhead in the group and I encouraged three potential patrons to leave before being seated. It worked and staff was not happy with us, again. Those who paid with credit cards are encouraged to protest the charge with their CC company. So, STAY AWAY FROM THE SAND BAR IN VIDALIA, LA!!!!!
Real-time update number 5 - please note that there really have been more than 5 updates - I edit old updates daily, so go back and reread them. Wednesday May 2nd. Day 5 was a trip up the Natchez Trace, with another historical home en route to Vicksburg. Henry, the Southern Living Souvenir was out today, so the cook had to serve us. She needed Henry. Fortunately, we delayed our departure so we could see Rosalie at 9:00. It's quite a place with mucho period furnishings intact / refurbished. The DAR owns the place now - purchased it back about 70 years ago. After the house tour, we stopped for gas and were about to head out (BTW, MapSource doesn't show one-way streets as such) when a local who said she and her husband ride a GoldThing, volunteered to lead us to the Trace. So, we followed her. Peaceful on the trace - no commercial traffic, no cross traffic, not much traffic of any sort. We stopped at Port Gibson to adjust fluids, then back on the Trace. As we approached Vicksburg, we began to get some very light rain. Showed on the windshield and visor, but didn't feel it on clothes or skin. Since it was about oneish, we stopped in a local eatery known as the Cracker Barrel. Aside from the wait, there were NO ISSUES!! Then, after noticing the clouds all but vanished, we headed to the Vicksburg Military Memorial park. We stopped at a few of the memorials and the Cairo gunboat display / museum. The boat is impressive. It is one of seven used in the War between the States, and the only one sunk. The weather became oppressive. Our last memorial stop was the Kentucky memorial, high up on a hill, back up the road, around the corner and out in the open sun. This is quite a place; rugged terrain doen't come close to describing it. It's hard to imagine attacking a battery from down in the valleys. It appeared that most of the monuments are from the northern states, we were mostly through the 16 miles before we found the first Confederate monument. After the ride through the memorial park, we went to downtown Vicksburg and our night's lodging. It's another glorious old house. The lady of the house provided ice, cups, diet coke, popcorn and even made dinner reservations across the street in a fancy B&B that a few on this ride had used on another ride. We have nice rooms, computer access and parking in the front yard, behind the front gate. If it weren't so drippy wet outside (no, it's not raining, it's just HOT and HUMID), it would be a perfect day. Oh, I forgot to mention, the docent at the Rosalie was the same one who barked at us yesterday when we tried to get in just after their tour started. She graciously welcomed us back.
RTU Number 6 - Thursday, May 3rd. Day 6 Today was the ride to the petrified forest with some gemstone mining, followed by free time to return to the battlefield, shop, rest, whatever. The day started with a liesurely breakfast at the Corners - our B&B here in Vicksburg. I failed to mention that WHN did a great job picking this place and the Briars in Natchez. Back to breakfast - stuffed french toast, fruit, bacon, OJ and coffee. Afterwards, we all headed east along US 80 (or remnants thereof) to the town of Edwards, then north on 22 to Flora. Nice roads, narrow, low traffic, few stop signs, etc. 80 had a lot of rough sections, but the other factors overcame that flaw. We arrived at the petrified forest and it might be called that because of a biker's reaction to the parking lot - gravel and sand. We wandered around the gift shop, then paid our reasonable fee, and entered the forest. We saw lots of petrified wood around the property, all pretty much the way they were found. It wasn't a tourist trap place with a few pieces on the porch - this place was worth the ride. If you visit, note the weeds throughout are POISON IVY. After the tour out back, we bought bags of stones for gem mining. We all got about 100 carats of diamonds, amethysts, or amber, plus a couple ounces of real gold. Or, maybe not! We all did find some keepers, however. On the ride back, we hit seven miles of rain, but another 15 miles to dry off before we stopped at the battlefield visitor center - we didn't do that yesterday. We picked up some passes for those who qualified, saw the 18 minute video, toured the gift shop and then headed back to the Corners. It was still early, so naps happened for some.At the designated dinner departure time, the weather was a bit iffy. Although the rain had stopped, there was concern about wet roads. Eight of us went into town to an italian restaurant for dinner. It was another good meal with excellent service. The owners of the Corners were there - a regular haunt for them. Just about the time we finished dinner, the winds picked up, then really picked up, followed by a downpour. Since we had no place we had to be, and some rain gear was at the B&B, we waited. Then we waited some more. It finally started slacking off. By the time rain gear that was available was donned, and a little red car made a shuttle trip, we headed out with NO RAIN! The roads were still wet - and brick - so it was a slow, cautious return. The rain held off all the way back. A good end to a really good day.
RTU 7 - Friday, May 4th. Day 7 took us east to Selma, Alabama. We started with a good breakast at the Corners, bid our hosts farewell, and departed about 9:15. We headed east on I-20 to get ahead of the rain. After Jackson, we were back on US 80 - what a road - wide open, no traffic, no nothing but road and scenery. We were fortunate to stay dry the wholeway - a few drops on the windshield three miles from the hotel, but nothing materialized. The down side to US 80 is a lack of selection for gas and food. One town had either no 93 octane or no one who could turn on the pumps. We were all the way to Demopolis before we found food - another southern style buffet. I opted for the menu. When we found the Hampton inn, my first question was 'do you have cookies?' which was ignored, but later we found out that they'll be out at 5:00. The desk clerk also recommended a couple nearby restaurants for dinner. I checked out the area - the Golden somethingorother is close and parkable. It looks like an old Denny's. When I got back, there was only one CC Cookie left, but it disappeared quickly as I passed by.
RTU 8 - Saturday, May 5th. Day 8 saw us headed southeast to Tallahassee from Selma. We started the day in the rain, but very light rain. By the time we fueled up across the intersection, the rain was about stopped, so the rain gear was more for warmth than dry. Because there are few roads headed the same way we are, we had to improvise. This caused us to try a couple county roads that were EXCELLENT two-lane rural delights. The down side was long distances between opportunities for gas and drinks, but when we needed them, they were there. One real treat was getting stuck behind a chicken truck in a town devoted to the chicken industry. Hatchery, processing plant and 'Protein recycling' plant all in one town. Chicken trucks STINK!!!! After lunch in Dothan (our second Cracker Barrel visit on this trip), a short stop at the H-D dealer, travel to Tally got pretty hot. We probably could have used one more hydration stop, but we were already headed for a 4:30 arrival (just in time to see the derby coverage), so I chose to mush on. Our hotel was filled with Florida LEOs in town for the annual police memorial. They party loud. We get even in the early morning when we depart. Dinner a block away was very good. The bad dining experiences are behind us.
RTU 8 - Sunday, May 6th. Day 9, we dropped like a rock from Tally to Newport, then east to Perry and south on US 19. It was nice and cool in the forest, and not too bad after that, all the way to lunch in Crystal River. The seafood restaurant we picked was not full; the food was good, prices were reasonable and service more than acceptable. Looks like a lunch ride destination to me. Nothing to report the rest of the way to the Tampa Bay area, other than my GPS missed a few miles with random shut-offs, but it still recorded 1719.9 miles. Home again, about 2:30, in time to watch the race.