Monday, June 9, 2008

The Summer Road Trip or On the Road with Loopy

Disclaimer note: This post will be long and full of pictures.

I started out this trip hitching a ride with a friend to the Denver Airport to spend the night prior to my crack-before-daybreak flight to Atlanta. The Microtel Inn is on Tower Road and gives you the impression that you are staying in a farmer's field. As I sat in room's window seat that afternoon knitting, I watched a variety of birds fly by, a big yellow butterfly float about and baby rabbits playing in the bushes under my window. I walked to the Moonlight Diner for an early supper and saw a momma bunny and two or three little ones all chewing on tall grasses. It was very pleasant to be this close to a metropolis and still feel the country. I hope they do not pave it all over too soon.

My early AM start found me at the airport before the ticket counters or security opened. This is a view of DIA that most people rarely see -- no people. At the hotel it had been the automated wake up call, wash and wear hair and a shuttle ride at 3:45 a.m. I discovered that you can use self-check in for carry on baggage and, for the first time, it worked.

Got to the gate and watched the Delta maintenance crew work on a cockpit window. First he glued it and added additional screws. The ladder lowered and he was gone. Good, that is fixed. Then 45 minutes later he came back to check it. Next he pulled out a roll of duct tape and finally fixed the window to his liking. We arrived safely in Atlanta, so I would say the patch job held. Uneventful flight, arrived 30 minutes early because we had a 150-mph tail wind. Did see the makings of a couple of those nasty storms that have been plaguing the heartland for the last two weeks. Flew around them but still had seatbelt signs and bumpy air for about 20-30 minutes.

Loopy was happy to get to off the plane and on the road to Macon. He was anxious to visit Creative Yarns. He even got to meet my brother, the one you know as the Evil Elf. The store and staff is/are delightful. We saw all kinds of great samples of things we will want to knit in the future. They have it all: from yarn, patterns, spinning supplies and a lovely place to come in, sit, work and visit.

Loopy made new friends and thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Not enough room for all the pictures and the Evil Elf threatened us if we put all the pics of him up on the blog. Oh well, I can use them for blackmail or in later posts when he is not looking. Besides he is now in Germany and it is a long way to chase me down. :-) (thanks for being a good sport, brother dear)

The next day the folks and I loaded up into the new used vehicle they got from my brother and we headed west. The trip was planned to be a way to get the new car back to Colorado but not just to drive all day, sleep, and drive again. Mom and I spent a lot of time planning the route that would offer us fun, interesting and historic places to see while racking up the miles. Most of the route was designed with Dad in mind and we found three great attractions to fill the bill (we hoped): Vicksburg Historic Civil War Battlefield; Fantastic Cavern and Boot Hill. Now to test our theory:

This day was spent driving on state highways and identifying flowers, trees, bugs, birds and roadkill that are indigenous to the South. The one thing that really surprised us was how many armadillos that were roadkill. We never saw a live one, but the dead ones littered the highway and shoulders. It got my mother to wondering aloud as to the creatures reason for being besides the obvious -- a speed bump. I have done some research and found a wonderful resource in Wikipedia.

Click on either the picture to the right or the highlighted word to go learn more about this interesting creature. I thought they were only found in Texas. Wrong! We found them from Georgia, through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and eastern Kansas. That is quite a range.

Not much time for picture taking but we saw lots of green, pecan and peach trees plus reasons not to go exploring in the woods as they were so dense and probably populated with poison ivy. We arrived in Meridian MS in time to check in, unload the bags and get ice before a really ugly little thunderstorm roared through. Gave us the lightning and how hard can the wind blow show and was gone. Just a reminder that we were in tornado country.

The next morning found us headed for Vicksburg Battlefield on the mighty Mississippi River. It was one of the most southern battlefields and one we had missed in all our previous battlefield tours.
Loopy was excited to see cannons and had to perch on one for a pic. The visitors center in the background provides a small museum, interactive map and a short film that tells and shows how the battle played out.

Then there is a 16-mile driving tour you can do with either a CD or video self-tour. We opted to just drive and read the signs. It begins with the Memorial Arch.

The entire park is full of winding roads, most one-way, fortunately, and lots of monuments, memorials, busts of famous generals, colonels and other military geniuses plus many cannons.

The highlight was the USS Cairo Museum. The museum itself is built from brick in the shape of an ironclad and houses artifacts salvaged from the ship when it was brought up out of the river in the 1960s.

The remains of the ship are found under a large tent canopy in front of the museum and you can walk around and through to read the informational markers. Loopy thought it was quite fascinating.

We left Vicksburg after lunch and drove across the Mighty Miss into Louisiana. We hung a right and started north towards Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Enroute we saw lots of fields of crops from corn to, what we think was, soybeans to rice. Guess that high price on rice and corn have folks planting it fast because all the fields looked newly planted.

We found the town of Transylvania, LA. on Hwy 65. It even has a bat painted on the watertower. I'll bet that is a swinging place on Halloween.

As we met highway 82 we looked east toward the Mississippi River and saw what looked to be a huge tall ship. Later we found out that it is the newly completed in 2006 Greenville Bridge. It is the longest cable-stayed bridge span over the Mississippi River. Very impressive.

Our night in Pine Bluff was uneventful and unremarkable. The first stop outside Little Rock was at Pickles Gap in Toad Suck Country. It started out as a rest stop and ended up being full-fledged exploration and history lesson. I know you are asking the same question about "Pickles Gap" so click on the link above to learn more.

Then we headed north through the eastern edge of the Ozark Mountains to points farther north like Branson and Springfield MO. In Branson we just did a driving tour up the main drag and back and the best picture in Branson was the new Titanic Museum, complete with walk-through iceberg.

We overnighted in Springfield MO and Loopy made a new friend from the Cracker Barrel. This duck will be added to my growing collection in my bathroom.

The next morning we drove the short 8 miles from North Springfield to the Fantastic Cavern which lives up to its name.

This is the only ride-through cave in the United States and one of only four in the world (the others are in Barbados, France and Yugoslavia) . It was well worth the time and travel to get to this one.

Loopy met the nice lady who sells the tickets, JoAnne, and we got a pic with this picture as a backdrop. Amazing photography which is difficult to do in a cave.

The tour is about 55 minutes and our tour guide was fabulous. She made sure that everyone on the early-morning-not-too-crowded-tour jeep and trailer could hear her and see all the best sights available.

The jeep is powered on propane to cut down on any damaging fumes to visitors and the cavern alike.

Sarah, our tour guide, explained that until electric lighting came on the scene they used this steam powered generator to power lights for the cave.

This cavern has been a family owned and operated attraction since the 1950s and the cavern was toured and used as early as the 1920s. The most interesting part was the fact that the farmer, John Knox, who discovered it prior to the Civil War kept it a secret from both sides so it could not be used to prolong the war.

The original entrance to the cavern is the little opening in the far left side of the picture. It was just large enough for Knox's dog to chase a critter into and then Knox had to try to coax the dog out. It has been widened to let in visitors.

It was difficult to get good pictures in the cave but this one turned out well enough to see the colors and textures. It was a really great experience. Bit of Trivia: Missouri is known as the Cave State with over 6,000 appraised caves. (Then I came home and watched the movie The Cave -- very scary).

After we left the cavern it was total driving for the rest of the day. We headed west to Wichita and on to Dodge City for the night. The next morning we packed up for our final day of driving and headed over to Boot Hill. This small parcel of acreage is all that is left of the rootin' tootin'est town of the plains. They have preserved Front Street as a museum, and some grave markers on the original Boot Hill, plus a building with wonderful displays and information about the peoples native to the area.

From there we headed west into Colorado and home. We were very lucky to miss the majority of severe weather outbreaks that happened last week and are glad to be back in our cooler mountain air. The rest of the summer we will have to be satisfied to be "backyard tourists" what with the gas prices being so dear.

Hope all of you find a way to satisfy your wanderlust this year even if it is closer to home. And watch for my reports of my local touristing as I visit some of the things that are in my own backyard.

1 comment:

Cathy R said...

Looks like You and Loopy had a great time. Vicksburg is a magnificent (if sobering) tour. One of my favorite places.

Welcome home!