Monday, June 2, 2014

2nd Leg on the Mississippi-Three Rivers, Louisiana to Natchez, Mississippi

We left 3 rivers on the Friday of Easter weekend. We would have stayed there through the weekend, but the fisherman was winning the staring contest, and our ACOE “guide” (mentioned in the last post) was giving too much “guidance”, so we left. Being Easter weekend, and that we're so used to summer holiday weekend camping can be really difficult to find spots, we got going early. We headed to Natchez Lake State Park, which actually was kind of full, but we found a site, albeit reluctantly (sites crammed together like cordwood), at the end of a run of sites, next to a camping trailer. On the way back to sign up at the ranger station, my gut was screaming “NO! Don't do this!”, but we did it anyway, paying to stay 3 nights to Monday. When we got back, our neighbor had appeared, a tall skinny guy in a black cowboy hat. He was sitting on the front stoop with country & western on the radio and drinking beer out of a carton sitting next to him. As it was only noon, that was not a good sign. It was somewhere around then we also realized he had a Rottweiler and a Pit Bull, each on their own chains, chained to separate trees. Now I wanted my money back, and to move on somewhere else.

Back to the ranger station we go, only to get into a dispute with the guy who checked us in, as he explained the state had a “no refund” policy. I told him not a problem, and that I will throw the charge in dispute at my credit card company, thinking to myself that, as he did not explain this when we signed the slip, our dispute claim would be valid. And the credit card slip was the only paperwork he gave us, which is unusual in a SP-you usually get a full sheet of regulations. Anyway, with that, he said to hang on a minute, looked something up, and offered a voucher. As the CG was such a bomb, I said no thanks, and we left. When we got back the second time, the radio next door was off, and the guy was playing with his dogs, so we moved in and got set up.

Saturday, we explored the area a bit, then got the new solar panel permanently installed on the roof-only the wiring left to go. Went into Natchez to pick up mail that had been delivered there, but the PO wasn't open-it closed at 11, unlike most that close at 12. Ahh-the USPS-it is a 50 mile round trip. Went to a Mexican place called “Fat Mama's Tamales”-good margaritas, really bad Mexican food. Sunday, we did a kayak on the lake the park is named after, and found a cool little inlet at the far end that we paddled a ways up.

In wet suits?

We were running out of time and headed back to fix Easter dinner, which was game hens on the grill with vegetable rice stuffing, and grilled vegetables. Got started late per usual, and didn't put enough charcoal in the pan, so I lost the coals before they were done. K also started late, so by the time we pulled everything and tried to eat, the veggies were still hard, and the hens only had parts here and there that were cooked. I gave it up and made a salad-K stuck it out and picked away at it. But the next night, after we'd moved to a forest service campground named Clear Springs, we threw it all in the oven, got it finished, and it was to was die for. As was the site we had in this CG-it had a deck that went right to the edge of a 30' drop, down into the little lake below, and was a great spot to just hang out at. Luckily it was, as we ended up here for 10 days, the last few because of weather. That was when northern Mississippi got hit with horrible tornadoes, and the storms producing them were passing us just to the north, within hearing and seeing distance.

The lake at Clear Springs below our site

Feel'in quite special at our lake view spot!

View from across the lake

We had a blast here-lots of stories (collective groan from everyone, no doubt!), but I'll try not to get too long winded, even though I already have. We did some drives, explored Meadville, just up the road, and Bude, just up the road from Meadville. In Bude, we got hailed on the sidewalk by an old fellow with a cane, who asked about the kayaks on the car, and ended up in a 10 minute conversation with him. He was drafted into the Army in 1950, and retired from it in 1987. I thought Vietnam would have been bad enough to experience, but that and Korea? I was in awe of him. We had to hit the hardware store, where another 10 minute conversation took place with the 2 woman working there, who told us of Lake Okhissa nearby, which we checked out before we went back to camp and decided we needed to throw the kayaks in there at some point. We then hit the tiny grocery store in Bude, Sullivan's, and what do we find? Cheap produce! After seeing red and yellow peppers running up to 3 to 4 bucks EACH all through the south, here they were a buck a piece! Same went for their meat prices. Chuck roast was running $4.99 to $6.99 everywhere up to this point-they had it for $3.99 a pound-bought one and cooked a “faux” brisket-whoa-hit the jackpot with THAT one! Jack Danial's BBQ sauce mixed with pureed chipotle and a little vinegar to cut the sweet and add some tang, then thick onion slices with the sauce on both sides in foil & on the grill it went.

The next day we had to deal with Gus, who was scratching her skin off, had a rash on her chest and was drinking water without let up. Took her to a vet in Meadville named Melanie Branston. What a pistol! Straight out of the old days and sharp as a tack, and tells it to you straight-she never heard of political correctness and it was refreshing! The place was a jumble of stacks of books, vet tools, x-ray machine, exam tables, huge birds in cages inside, even bigger birds in bigger cages outside, goats, dogs, cats-you name it. She spent two & a half hours going over Gus and Yoda, prescribed prednisone for Gus, and what to do with Yoda's hot spot, shaved the hot spot, gave us 30 days worth of the drug, set us up with an internet outfit for refills, and charged $90! That all would have been 5 times that in NH, if you could GET a vet to spend that much time. And she was a hoot just to talk to-talk about rough and tumble & full of stories-but I sure as hell wouldn't want to have her mad at me!

Towards the end of the week, we headed back to Bude to paddle Okhissa, but stopped for breakfast at the “First and Main Cafe” and almost didn't leave! You don't go anywhere in a small town in the deep south and get away with walking by someone-they somehow know your not from around there and stop you, by saying hello and asking how you are, and start asking questions. You will almost always wind up in a hilarious back and forth, and you cannot be in a hurry. You will go 5 feet and it will happen again, or a crowd gathers 'round and you meet the whole town (or at least half of it) right then and there. The south is the friendliest part of the country by far. Black, white or any other color-they are all friendly want want to know about you. And extremely funny! Everyone is introduced (or introduce themselves) and Ms. (first name) or Mr. (first name).

When we went in, there was one older fellow there (Mr. Leon, as it turned out) waiting for his food. Ms. Jenny was the proprietor, cook and dishwasher, and came out and greeted us while she brought Mr. Leon his breakfast. She was very good at doing all she had to do with a running commentary going full tilt at the same time! We ordered, and another, younger fellow named Don came in, and then it started! He kind of looked and sounded like a tall, Tommy Lee Jones-what a character, and we had a really fun time all getting to know each other. He orders his standard breakfast, a BLT, and starts firing questions, and a conversation started up that had everyone involved, and us in tears laughing at times. Don's retired, but has lots of hobbies he says, one of which was learning to run his I-phone, which he then pulls a chair up next to K and proceeds to show her what he can do with it. He even brought Mr. Leon into it, once Mr. Leon had finished eating. Mr Leon told of making a run to San Diego and back with his nephew recently, in 3 DAYS! I'm guessing he was around late 70's early 80's. By the time it was over, we had spent 2 & ½ hours in the cafe, including Don insisting we follow him to his girlfriends house down the street, because another of his hobbies is making jelly, and he wanted to give us some! A blueberry and a blackberry-so far, the blueberry is delicious!

Mr. Don, Miss Jenny and Mr. Leon

Ford dealer on main street Bude across from First and Main Cafe-looks like they ran out of cars. Looks like they ran out of roof too!

In Bude, everyone is so laid back!

The kayaking on Okhissa was beautiful, and I'll let the pics tell that story-great day overall!

On Friday of that week, the storms that caused so much damage in northern Mississippi started. We packed up, and stayed that way, in case we had to bolt. The CG host let us know that the church down the road was unlocked and open to anyone that needed shelter, as they had a basement, not very common down there. Fortunately, we didn't need to use their hospitality! Saturday, we had another funny adventure, in no small part due to my wife's expertise with nickel slot machines (they're the ones that squeak when the wheels turn, because the people playing them are so cheap). We went into Natchez for a blues festival on Saturday, that was being held in a park on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. A group of 50 somethings was playing stuff that sounded more like a high school garage band-really, really bad! So, we decided to walk down the road that left the park and went down to the river. Low and behold, what was down there but a casino! It was early afternoon and hot-mid to high 80's, so we decided to hit the bar and have a beer. We also had a phone call to make at 2 o'clock, so time-wise it was perfect-or so we thought! We talked to the receptionist, who directed us to the bar. We ordered our beers, and tried to pay, but the bartender explained that they don't sell drinks-they are free for people playing in the casino. She also told us that if we were first timers at the place, we could each get a $10 complementary card to play the slots, which also would take care of of the beer issue. SO, what does Mrs. B do with 2, $10 complimentary cards? Proceeds to make numerous $2 to $4 wins, cashing out each one as she goes, for a total of $17 cash-in-hand, plus the 2 free beers!!! And if we hadn't had to make that 2 O'CLOCK PHONE CALL, Mr & Mrs LONGPANTS, we would have been able to spend more time with the free beer! You two owe us! :>) 

Some pics of Natchez and the Mississippi:

Looking north from the park on the bluff

Tow full of coal coming south

A local pooper scooper model