Backroads Across America: It’s the East Coast!

Cross country, coast to coast, backroads across America — whatever you call it, we have alas made it to the East Coast!

The Mt. Pleasant KOA (photos above), just east of Charleston, SC, is our home for the next three nights. We will have to cope with 80 degrees and low humidity. This is yet another lakeside campground where you put your toes in the water at risk, although we have looked carefully at all the logs on our walks around the swamps, and none moved.

We spent the last three nights in Georgia state parks and were most impressed. They rival the facilities in our home state of Oregon, except they have even more space per campsite.

Driving on backroads across the middle of Georgia? It was gorgeous: Lush green landscape, thick forests, rolling hills and some beautiful ranches, farms and homes.

We have logged about 4,500  miles in the Tacoma and Rockwood. Coming up on four weeks. So, how is the RV life? Sue says it is “the best way to experience the country.”

 

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Backroads Across America:  Magnolia Springs State Park


We scored another winner tonight in the Georgia State Park system.  While we couldn’t ask for a more restful setting, Magnolia Springs hasn’t always been a quiet little campground.  Magnolia Springs has a story to tell.

Back in 1864 this area was known as Camp Lawton, a prison established by the Confederate Army to hold Union soldiers during the Civil War.  It was thought to be the largest prison of its time.  Although it was constructed, occupied and abandoned all within just three months, Camp Lawton still managed to house nearly 11,000 prisoners.  The site was quickly abandoned as General Sherman and his Union troops advanced across Georgia.  That was the end of the Camp Lawton story until 2010 when an archeological dig began.  A history center opened in 2014.  Both are located within the park boundaries.


Today, Magnolia Springs Upper Lake appears to be a peaceful spot to soak up the sun, cast out a fishing line or paddle a canoe…and you can do all that, but beware!


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Backroads Across America: The Place Where FDR died

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We came to Warm Springs, Georgia for its amazing scenery and to stay at Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, the state’s largest, seen at top on our drive today. History was another attraction. FDR came here for more than 20 years to bathe in the warm waters that helped him cope with the paralysis caused by polio.

He would drive his convertible, using hand controls he helped develop, from his rustic cabin into the town of Warm Springs and swim with locals. He especially enjoyed sharing the pool with children, even playing water volleyball. These photos show his wheelchair, the desk at which he was sitting when he fell mortally ill, and the bed in which he died on April 12, 1945.

We drove from the Little White House into Warm Springs and enjoyed an authentic southern luncheon buffet at the charming Bulloch House Restaurant in the tiny town. We were too stuffed to sample the boiled peanuts and deep-fried gator offered at the outdoor market, where we strolled after lunch.

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Backroads Across America: Georgia offers State Park stay

 Yesterday we managed to reserve Saturday (tonight) and Sunday night in FD Roosevelt State Park in the beautiful state of Georgia.  I suspect we may have snagged the last spot available for the weekend.  After I checked us in (and realized we had lost yet another hour when crossing the border into Georgia), I was handed a yellow tag and sent in search of an empty campsite with a matching yellow, tag-free pole to stake our claim.  


What a surprise to have found this site so easily.  We quickly set up camp and sat down to enjoy the view.  Knowing we have two days here allows for some much needed R&R for Reg.  We’ve come over 3,500 miles and in another week will meet up with our son Chris and his girlfriend Gail.  After that, we’ll begin to think about the return trip.  Until then, we have much more to see!


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Backroads Across America: Alabama Paradise for $11

 

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Perfect spring conditions framed our drive today, which began with the first 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful 444-mile two-lane path from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. We left the National Park Service-maintained trail at Jackson and caught Highway 80 east across Mississippi.

A fellow camper (traveling from Santa Barbara, California) in Louisiana had advised us to watch for the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. So, here we are at one, Prairie Creek, just past Selma, Alabama. What’s not to like! Quiet, lush, spacious sites. Lakeside vistas. Electricity and water hookups. Just $11 with a National Parks senior pass. If we were cats, it would be time to curl up and purr.

 

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Backroads Across America: Historic Natchez, Mississippi

Perched on the bluffs above the Mississippi River is the historically rich town of Natchez.  The area was home to the Natchez Indians when the French arrived in 1716.   Soon after, with the arrival of English and Spanish settlers, the inevitable territorial tug-of-war began.

In 1797, the first American flag was raised and the Mississippi Territory was established.  Statehood followed in 1817.

Natchez is proud of its history and a great number homes and buildings date back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  Its proximity to the Mississippi River and fertile, cotton producing land created great wealth for landowners in the early days.  However, it’s important to remember the riches came at a great cost.  Slavery allowed the landowners to become rich beyond their wildest dreams.  By 1860, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. City.   Life for most came to a screeching halt with the end of the Civil War.  Fortunes were lost, plantations were returned to the banks and the cotton markets never completely recovered.

By chance, we arrived in Natchez during the annual Spring Pilgrimage month when many of the historic homes are open to the public.  Above is Brandon Hall, dating back to 1856.  This dapper gentleman on the right greeted us as we began our tour, filling us in on the history of what used to be a working plantation.  The home currently operates as a bed and breakfast. 

Below is a view of the pond from the front yard.

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Backroads Across America: Drive-Thru Cocktails

IMG_0393A two-day search for wine in markets and convenience stores in Louisiana and Mississippi had proven fruitless, other than Boone’s Farm and some with mold on the bottle. Then we found this store today. Not only did it offer a good selection of our favorite Chardonnay, it sold drive-thru drinks to go. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but it is true. As long as the lid is not punctured by an open straw, you can buy a variety of cocktails from your car in Louisiana. Just no “bottom’s up” until you get home!

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Backroads Across America: Hello Ol’ Man River

Two traveling days have taken us from the Texas Hill Country to the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Natchez, Mississippi.

We have ambled along backroads lined with lush green grass, forests (even some pines) and rainbows of wildflowers. The beauty of the Hill Country continued through most of eastern Texas. Today, in Louisiana, it was more of the same colors without the hills.

We missed the picnic areas and rest stops of Texas today and settled for lunch in the trailer parked at a gas station. We passed no picnic or rest areas across Louisiana.

This is our third straight RV park next to water. In the Hill Country, it was the Guadalupe River.  Sue found a fantastic spot last night on Lake Livingston in eastern Texas. We walked along a wonderful path next to the Mississippi tonight after dinner.

Quite a river, indeed. I think we’ll settle here for a spell.

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Backroads Across America: Two wheels and a tent


The editor of the community newspaper I worked for used to say, “Everyone has a story to tell.”  
Meet Australians Rachel and Skip, two fellow travelers who will have quite a story to tell when they return home.  Our paths crossed today at the Onalaska KOA campground along the shores of Lake Livingston in eastern Texas.  As we head east, they are heading west on the home stretch of a year-long motorcycle odyssey that has taken them on a crisscrossing journey, tent camping their way through the U.S., Canada and into Mexico.  

Positioned just below their motorcycle windshield is the above reminder that life is short.  Rachel and Skip claim to be “not escaping life, but just stopping life from escaping us!”  We couldn’t help but admire their spirit of adventure.  

So, as the sun sets in Onalaska, Texas we wish Rachel and Skip safe travels and many new adventures to come!  Tomorrow we will cross into Louisiana, headed toward new adventures of our own.

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Backroads Across America: A Texas-size storm


My phone screamed at 7:00 this morning, signaling an emergency alert:  Tornado watch in your area-take shelter now!   

As the wind, buckets of rain, hail, thunder and lightening intensified, we circled each other in the trailer wondering what to do.  Our truck was hitched up (in the hopes of getting an early morning start), but the trailer jacks were still down. We couldn’t safely unhitch in the increasingly stormy weather, and the office wouldn’t open for another two hours.  


In an effort to calm me down, Reg poured coffee.  We finally opted to sit in the truck. My thinking (however flawed) was, “If a tornado blows through the RV park, I want to at least have the security of a seatbelt and airbags.”


At 7:45 am, right on schedule, the weather began to calm down…and so did I!  As the storm moved through, fellow RVers surveyed the damage.  Not too bad, although a falling branch damaged a trailer hitch across the way.  The storm is moving east and so are we, so we have opted for one more night here.  Tomorrow is another day!

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