Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Two Souvenirs I Bought on our Trip

The first souvenir I bought is a Keokuk Geode. These geodes are the claim to fame of Keokuk, Iowa where they are found along the Mississippi River. I usually prefer rockhounding for my rock collection, but bought this one because I didn't have much time.

A geode is a circular-ish hollow rock that frequently has crystals inside. This is the geode. The quarter is for scale. Looks like an ordinary rock, right?
Ordinary, until it is cut in half!
The other thing I bought. Who knew there was such a thing? Apparently it is a requirement for making gumbo, whatever that is. I will google a recipe at some point and try to make it, preferably vegetarian.
I am sure having the OU is a requirement for the regular everyday gumbo eater.
BTW, the quarter in the first photo is a Mississippi state quarter.
I also brought home some air plants. Probably some sort of bromeliad. They look like a cross between Tillandsia and Spanish Moss.
These were scavenged. Hard to imagine, but I found them just growing on trees!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Photos of Places Mentioned in Yesterday's Post from December 2nd, 2020

Ferne Clyffe State Park, IL
Fernes growing in the Clyffe
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge
Ten Mile Pond
Big Oak Tree State Park
big oak
The Big Oak had blown over a few years ago

Our campground at Reelfoot Lake State Park, TN

Monday, February 15, 2021

One of the Highlights of Our Trip was Due to a Mechanical Failure

Continuing our Covid Winter trip...

December 2nd, 2020

We had travelled a bit away from the Mississippi River for a few days to Ferne Clyffe State Park, IL (yup, that's the Ye Olde spelling) and were heading to Reelfoot Lake State Park, TN (yup, reely). The route we plotted included a 20 minute Mississippi River ferry ride from Dorena, MO to Hickman, KY.

We called the ferry before we started out in the morning from Ferne Clyffe to make sure they were running this time of year and to ask about the schedule. We were told they run all year and to call when we were 10 minutes away. Apparently, they go back and forth across the river on demand!

After making a few stops along the way - a bird viewing platform at the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge (no birds), the Ten Mile Pond Observation Area (hundreds of birds but too far away to identify), and Big Oak Tree State Park (some champion trees, a bald eagle, a swamp boardwalk trail) we called the ferry at about 3:00 to say we would be there in a few minutes. . .

Only to find out that the ferry had stopped operating that afternoon due to a mechanical problem. They had no idea when it would start up again. It wasn’t clear, their southern accent was hard to understand, were they waiting for a part to be delivered?

We looked at a map, asked Google, and found out that instead of the 25 miles to the campground by way of the ferry, it was more than 100 miles and over 2 hours of driving via the “nearest” bridge.

We drove the few minutes to the ferry landing to see if we could get more info but no one was there. Two extra hours of driving at that time in the afternoon did not sound appealing. We made a few calls to try and find a nearby place where we could park overnight. Then if the ferry still wasn’t running by sometime the next morning, we would head for one of the bridges.

Long story short, we found out we could just stay the night by the ferry landing. That would work! So we made ourselves comfortable. Walked around enjoying the view of the river and the shore. Watched barges float by. Saw some birds. A car pulled up; we told the driver that the ferry wasn't operating. Watched the car turn around and drive off, restoring peace and quiet. Started making supper. 

Barge floating by
Barge floating by
And then the ferry pulled in.

This was no Staten Island Ferry. It was a flat barge, a smaller version of one of the hundreds we had seen transporting cargo down the river, pushed by a tug boat or more accurately, a pusher boat.
Ferry incoming
ferry docked
It seems the ferry had gotten tangled in one of the buoys in the river, and the delay was for a diver to be located to deal with it. The ferry was still dragging the buoy.

The ferry was going to be able to make the last run of the day, at around 5:30. A few pickups drove up. One of them dragged the buoy ashore. The buoy looked like a cross between a torpedo and Little Boy. Bob went outside to supervise and take pictures. Bob had an interesting (socially distant) conversation with one of the drivers waiting to get on. He was a farmer who lived in Kentucky but whose farm was in Missouri. The ferry was part of his daily commute. He also may have been the ferry's owner.
The buoy
Bob wasn't the only one supervising
farmer taking photo
or taking pictures. This was the farmer.
We had settled in and were looking forward to camping in this great spot, so we told the ferry operator we would catch the ferry in the morning. The locals were amused by how entertained we were watching the trucks being loaded on the ferry.
ferry loaded
bon voyage
Bon Voyage!

It was a wonderful evening and night. The almost full moon was reflected on the water. It was just us, the river, and some massive farm equipment parked nearby. Nice and quiet all night except for some  occasional booming on the Kentucky side of the river from one of the industrial? processing? complexes there.
We watched the ferry cross the river over to our side in the morning at about 7:30. The sun was behind low clouds making it seem even earlier than it was. The commuters drove off. The farmer from yesterday was one of them. He rolled down his window to ask us how our night was. “Best campsite ever!” was our reply.

Once again, the locals - the crew and other passenger, were amused by us and by how much we enjoyed the 20 minute crossing. We were taking a Mississippi River Cruise! Regular tourists pay big bucks for this! Goodbye Missouri, hello Kentucky!   Historic photo
A historic photo. This ferry has been running since 1840 and hasn't changed much.

We were able to spend some time at the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge on our way to the campground. It would have been too late had we come the day before.

Next post will have photos from places mentioned in this post.

Monday, February 1, 2021

We Are Home!

I'm so glad we got home in time for the snowstorm! I'm drinking hot chocolate and looking out at my backyard.

We got home a week ago after spending the last days of our trip at beautiful Gulf State Park, Alabama.

It took two days of steady driving with a stop overnight in Lexington, North Carolina.

Bob got his 1st Covid vaccine on Wednesday which was the reason for coming home now.

In two days, we went from this:
To this:
A week ago, when I missed snow, there was this (piles of sand)
Now there is this!
We were away for 3 months, from Oct 25,2020 to Jan 25,2021.

We drove a total of 6,175 miles. 1,212 of those were in the two days coming home from the Gulf Shores. (You can make really good time when you travel with your own bathroom.)

We were in 21 states and DC: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware.

B"H, we stayed safe and healthy, although Covid had a big impact on the trip. This itinerary wasn't what we originally hoped to do, but it was a terrific opportunity. Gam Zoo L'Tova (It's all for the best.)

What an amazing country this is!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

We Reach the End of the “Great River Road”; We Are Coming Home!

Bob managed to snag a Covid vaccine appointment for next week! We are coming home!

But we we able to get to “The End of the Great River Road,” as was the plan. Yesterday we followed the Mississippi River south as far as you can go without chartering a boat.

It was a long slog from Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego, Louisiana (yes, that is really the name of the city; I am not making it up; it is a suburb of New Orleans) to the end of the Great River Road in Venice, Louisiana.

It’s not a very scenic drive down Route 23. There are two lanes in each direction for most of the way. You pass endless oil refineries, dreary towns, buildings built on stilts so tall that you’d have to climb three flights of stairs to get to the front door, occasional piles of garbage, one or two beautiful homes that look weirdly out of place, trailer parks, and telephone poles/powerlines running down both sides of the road. 

You can’t even see the Mississippi River on the left or the bays on the right because the ever-present levees block the view on both sides. It was only when the tops of huge ocean going oil tankers and cargo ships could be seen passing behind the levee (surreal; it looked as if ships are sailing on the top of the levee) that we realized how close to the Mississippi we actually were. 

We climbed over the levee in a few spots to see the river

The only thing of interest on the drive, other than the “End of the Road” which was not that interesting anyway, were the ruins of Fort Jackson, built after the war of 1812. We could not understand why a moat was needed for a fort by a river, but we obviously do not have military minds. We were lucky to run into Nathan Huegen who was the only other person there. He is the director of educational travel at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. He is usually traveling worldwide, leading tours of major battlefields, but is currently stranded in the US due to Covid. Anyway, he was at the fort doing research for something and was happy to tell us about the history of the place. Bob might remember some of it.

We finally saw water towards the very end of the drive. There were various bodies of water with dead cypress trees on one side, and a sort of drainage ditch with a few wading birds on the other. A lot of toxic waste has been dumped here. 
At the very end of the road, there was a helpful sign welcoming us to the “Southernmost Point in Louisiana. Gateway to the Gulf.” 

Ta da! The Gulf!

Despite this claim, there was a spur road going a few miles further south, according to google maps, to Hilcorp Energy Company’s industrial complex, but there was a big sign “Private Property! Trespassers will be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law! etc. etc.” and we decided not to chance it.

But the "End of the Road" was not the end of the Great River Road, as the road had veered away from the Mississippi River a little further north. (See map below.) 

This was the southernmost point we could drive to on the Mississippi River . There was not even a sign marking the end of the Great River Road. A bit of a let down.  
Looking downriver
Some google map screenshots to put this drive in perspective

Today we said goodbye to the Mississippi River until another time. 

We are currently in Gulf State Park, Alabama. Not a levee to be seen. We are here till Sunday morning when we will, IY'H, start a marathon drive back to NJ.