Our Cross-Country Trip
Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!
On Monday, we toured the 35K ton battleship USS Alabama, the submarine USS DRUM, and several fighter jets and airplanes at the Mobile shipyard. The USS Alabama was commissioned in 1942 and shot down 22 enemy airplanes during WWII earning 9 Battle Stars. It took about
an hour to cover all the decks and passageways. The submarine was commissioned in 1941 and earned 12 Battle Stars during WWII. We went down the forward hatch to the Torpedo room, walked the entire length of the submarine and came up the hatch above the After Torpedo room at the other end. It was amazing to think of 73 men working in such a small space! Later, we square-danced with some friendly folks called the Spanish Twirlers in Spanish Fort just east of Mobile.
Tues-Thurs, January 14-16: Mississippi
We headed southwest through Irvington again to Grand Bay on Route 90 across the state border to Biloxi, Mississippi.
We stayed at the Southern Comfort RV Park that had every amenity you could want, including the nicest and cleanest laundry room we’d ever seen at a campground (which by now we needed). We drove all around Biloxi to see the sights. That night, we ate 3 dozen oysters at Famous Joe’s Sports Bar & Grill then spent a fun night gambling on one of Mississippi’s casinos, the Grand. We couldn’t find any space at the Blackjack tables, but we managed to spend a whopping $35 in about 2 ½ hours at the wheel.
We spent the morning of the 15th browsing the unique shops of Orange Springs where we found cool sea-life charms for a “Port Charlotte” charm bracelet for Bonnie and some other fun items. Then we stopped at the Bayside Café for a lite lunch of crab & asparagus quiche.
Moseyin’ onward to Irvington, AL, to revisit our friends Jackie and Rene, we stopped for a shrimp boat tour but it was closed, so we walked along the pier and played with some Pelicans that were waiting for bait from any generous fisherman there. So that she could get a closeup of this guy on the right, Bonnie pretended she was handing him some food (using her digital camera as bait). The trick worked so well that the pelican tried to eat the camera and Bonnie’s hand too. She won’t be foolin’ these fellas again!
Further down the road, we passed by the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and had to check it out. John Hudson, now 82, owned the farm and raised alligators for meat and their skins all of his life, both here and just outside the Everglades in southern Florida. We were the only ones there, so he spent quite a while with us, explaining a lot about crocodiles and alligators and even let us hold one of his 3-month old baby alligators! Of course, we left with a pound of fresh gator meat for fried gator-bites another night.
We finally ended up back in Irvington and had the most delicious home-cooked Fettuccini Shrimp with mushrooms and Caesar salad dinner, which Jackie has always been famous for. As usual, Jackie sent us home with a huge doggy bag and some of her homemade cashew brittle for snacking on while moseyin’.
Thursday, we toured the last home of Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America. It was originally built in 1852 and owned by James Brown, then later purchased by wealthy Sarah Dorsey, who named the estate “Beauvoir” which means “beautiful view” because of the view of the Mississippi Sound in front of the property. In 1877, she invited Jefferson Davis to live there while he wrote his memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, which was published in 1881. He and his wife, Varina Howell Davis, later bought the property and many of its furnishings for $5,500. After Jefferson died, his wife and daughter went to New York City to become writers for Joseph Pulitzer because they could not afford to maintain the property. But the property remained in the Davis family until 1903 when part of it was sold to the United Sons of Confederate Veterans for $10,000 with the stipulation that it be maintained as a memorial to Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy and it be allowed to be used as a home for Confederate veterans and their families. During the next 54 years, it was home for more than 1,800 individuals, about half of whom are buried in the Confederate Cemetery on the property.
Afterwards, we hit another casino, Treasure Bay, to try our luck at their Black Jack table…we didn’t have any. L Deciding to save our money,
we headed back to the motorhome for a little R&R before tonight’s square dance.
We dined on our care-package of Shrimp Fettuccini (thanks Jackie!), then backtracked to Pascagoula to square-dance with the Singing River
Swingers. There were 4 squares of great dancers, and Ted Kennedy was a wonderful caller who really kept us on our toes!
Fri-Sun, January 17-19: Louisiana
We’re on our way to New Orleans! Heading west via Rt. 90 again through Gulfport, we crossed the State line going over the Pearl River bridge. Crossing, we saw little wooden shacks lined up along the river that were built on buoys so they would rise and fall with the tide, and there were wooden signs for Swamp Tours everywhere. We stopped and talked to a guy living on the river who said they catch catfish & shrimp and hunt nutria, raccoon & deer. Just a few miles from downtown New Orleans, we pulled into Jude Travel Park, a tiny campground (just one short road with two rows!). After setting up and eating what was left of Jackie’s shrimp dish for lunch, L we drove down to check out the French Quarter.
We walked around the historic town, which is bordered by the Mississippi River. It has a Riverwalk, row after row of townhome shops, and people performing on the corners. There were artists and even psychics and palm readers set up in some of the side streets. It had a feel of Fell’s Point, the Inner Harbor and Ocean City’s Boardwalk all rolled into one. Many shops were selling Mardi Gras beads, masks and other items for the big event, which is going to be in March this year. InThe Artists’ Market, we met Richard Lewis, an artist who painted homes, shops & cafes from the French Quarter in a bright colorful style he called “Caribbean Primitive.” We just had to have two of his prints.
On the way back to the motorhome, we found a seafood shop, so we dined on two dozen steamed shrimp while watching a movie that night.
Saturday morning, we took a guided tour of New Orleans through the French Quarter again, and the Arts and Garden Districts. The St. Louis Cemetery was interesting because all of the graves are aboveground in what they call “ovens.” They are so-named because they use wooden caskets that deteriorate quickly from the high heat and humidity. After about a year, the front and back of the casket are removed, the bones are pushed back until they fall into a space behind the vault, and the space is replaced with a new wooden casket (containing a new body of course). Then the whole process begins again. The system is about as close to cremation as it gets.
Afterward, we took a Mississippi river paddleboat cruise aboard the Cajun Queen. It took us to Chalmette, site of the Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812, where troops under the command of General Andrew Jackson were victorious against the British.
That night, we square-danced with the Tammany Twirlers in Slidell, LA. They had eight squares, a great caller, Lem Gravelle, and we even won the 50/50 raffle!
we drove downtown again to the New Orleans’
Audubon Zoo, known to be one of the best zoos in America.
The zoo had many unique animals such as white alligators, white tigers
and komodo dragons. It even had a real
Louisiana Swamp in it where we caught a glimpse of a Swamp Monster! We made friends with lots of other animals
in the zoo of course. One pair of
gorillas was really funny…it was as if the female gorilla
to entice the male with some kind of plant and the male was saying “not tonight
honey, I have a headache!” J And we saw
the biggest turtles we've ever seen!
Next, we went to the Café du Monde in the French Quarter where we watched the horse & buggies go by as we relaxed and had Café a Lait and Beignets (French donuts with no holes). From there, we ventured down to the Farmer’s market for their famous pralines, then to the flea market where there were lots of neat crafts and art. We ended the night at Mulate’s, known as the original Cajun restaurant, where we had fried crawfish tails, grilled alligator, fried catfish bites, boudin (a pork and rice sausage), shrimp & oysters wrapped in bacon and huge batter-fried mushrooms which were all delicious. They had a live Cajun band and we even did a little country dancing!