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Travels with Grama

New Orleans - 2007

Page 1 - Calgary to New Orleans

Once again, in June, Doreen and I headed out on our annual road trip. With my new car (Doreen at the wheel and me riding shotgun) a cooler full of goodies, a full tank of gas, road maps and this year a compass, we were on our way.

I should mention, it is at this point as we are driving away from the house we've been known to look at each other and say - "OK - which direction? But this year we actually had plotted out a plan.

Destination - NEW ORLEANS.

We initially started our trip with the intention of pushing "hell bent for election" on interstates to get as far as Denver before we started our touring. The logic was, we have travelled most of the area between Calgary and Denver and it would give us more time to explore the more southern part of our journey. Well, that idea lasted about 4 hours into our trip. Somewhere around Shelby, Montana I started looking at different roads and new areas of interest. Oh well, so much for logic. We never did get anywhere near Denver!! When I'm navigator, our plans never seems to last past the border for some reason.

2007 New Orleans Photo Album

To Page 2 - New Orleans to Calgary

Little Big Horn, Montana

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument preserves the site of the June 25, 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, near Crow Agency, Montana. It also serves as a memorial to George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry and a combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho force.

Custer National Cemetery, on the battlefield, is part of the national monument. The site was first preserved as a national cemetery by the Secretary of War on January 29, 1879.

Broadus, Montana

Judge's Chambers

Judge's Chambers Restaurant specializes in food prepared from fresh products each day. A chef's garden provides herbs and greens, root vegetables in season. Sauces are prepared fresh each day and homemade bread is baked everyday. The chef uses local sources for eggs, lamb, strawberries, and other products that are seasonally available.

Wall Drug, South Dakota

I have been telling Doreen about Wall Drug for years and we finally managed to put it on our route.  We spent a delightful afternoon shopping and playing like a couple of kids.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

South on highway 240 for a quick trip through Badlands National Park. The cactus and flowers were in full bloom. We came across a few mountain goats coming down the face of a sheer cliff. Amazing how they maintain their footing.

It was a beautiful day for a drive and a big bonus, very little traffic.

1880 Town, South Dakota

The 1880 Town began as a movie set, though it was never used for filming by the movie company that constructed it. The set was given to a local resident, Clarence Hullinger, in payment for the antiques he supplied for the planned movie.

The town consists mainly of old buildings that were found in the area, and over the last several decades, it has been expanded with many additional authentic old buildings, artifacts and memorabilia.

In the upstairs level of the main entrance building, an impressive exhibit of props used on the Dances With Wolves set are on display. On the lower level are collections of artifacts, furniture and buggies once used in the old west. Outside in a coral and shading himself under an awning, we found "Buck" (Cisco), Kevin Costner's horse ridden in the movie. He was said to be 35 years old at that time.

We bellied up to the bar and had a cold "juice", had to get bailed out of jail, and headed out of 1880 Town.

Corn Palace - Mitchell, South Dakota

Another unique place of interest is the "Corn Palace" in Mitchell, South Dakota. I last passed through there with my husband and children in 1989 and was curious to see what changes there might be. The exterior artwork was "in progress" however the interior still held an assortment of cubicles where people were selling their wares. The popcorn from here is soooo delicious.

The city's first Corn Palace was built in 1892 as a way to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate. It has become known worldwide and now attracts more than a half a million visitors annually. The exterior of the Palace is redecorated yearly in a new theme using naturally colored corn, other grains and native grasses.

Branson, Missouri

On route to Branson, we did a quick dogleg through Sioux City, Nebraska across the Missouri River to Sioux City, Iowa (just to add Nebraska to our trip). From there we went straight south through Iowa and took another dogleg into Leavenworth, Kansas. We looked, but did not find the location for Leavenworth Prison. Then we hooked up with Interstate 70 back through Kansas City, Missouri on through to Clinton, Missouri where we spent a nervous night under a tornado watch. Lightning storms are fascinating, but a bit frightening when driving and we were happy to be under a fixed roof.

The next day, after carefully plotting a route to avoid the flooding from the storms, we made it to Branson, Missouri.

We made a quick stop at the Tourist Bureau just north of Branson, booked our hotel and purchased tickets for the Legends Concert and The Haygood Family.

The Legends Concert headliners were Alan Jackson, Britney Spears, Temptations, Blues Bros and a special surprise visit from Patsy Cline. Elvis had left the building and was not in attendance. A thoroughly enjoyable show and the incredible voice of "Patsy" took us back to our teens.

The next day we toured the local area and made a cooling off stop at Scoops, an old fashioned ice cream parlour on a hilltop overlooking the city. Scoops is set as a 1950's style malt shop with neon flashing, records hanging and the music to match the era. It's amazing the places we find while just "tootling" along. At the top of the hill we could overlook the home of Andy Williams - through the trees, of course.

Just when we thought we had run out of things to do, we stumbled onto White River Landing park at Hollister where the Branson Belle Showboat was about to set sail on Table Rock Lake. We held up the 1880's-style paddle wheeler (including the 500 people on board) while we purchased last minute tickets and ran like hell down the ramp and at my age - not a pretty sight. We DO have a tendency to make an entrance.

Two hours later, after a lovely meal served during live entertainment of Showstoppers, we did a little shopping in the stores along the landing and then raced back to the hotel to change for evening performance of the Haygood Family.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

the quaint community of Eureka Springs. This little town is built mainly on hillsides and many of the homes are supported by stilts down the backside of the house. Incredibly beautiful and will require another trip to explore further. It was obvious we hadn't allowed ourselves enough time to properly tour the area. Books and maps do not do justice to the "hills of Arkansas".

The highway numbers changed so much we never quite knew which one we were on. Suffice to say we went from Eureka Springs to Harrison and then turned south on Hwy 7 to connect with Interstate 40. Anyone in the vicinity should take the time to travel this highway. It surprised us with numerous sights, incredible scenery and a few laughs along the way. From Dogpatch to Mystic Caverns to Booger Hollow - well worth the drive.

Mystic Caverns - Harrison, Arkansas
Click here for full size.

I have been trying to get Doreen to tour some of the underground caves we've come across for 6 years now and finally convinced her to join me. It wasn't until I got home and uploaded the pictures that I realized just how paranoid she really is at being underground. The "deer in the headlights" stare into the camera tells it all and I laugh every time I look at it.

(She would be the one with her knees knocking wearing the hat......... she will quite likely want to hurt me when she sees this because I put a "click to enlarge" on this photo.)

However, the caves were fantastic and worth the time to stop - at least I thought so. I'm not sure Doreen remembers much of the tour.

Dogpatch, Arkansas

Just south of Mystic Gardens on Hwy 7 we came across a Ghost Town but access was closed either for reconstruction or safety reasons. We stopped and took pictures but were unaware until we started posting to this website, that it was the original town of Dogpatch - named after the famous cartoon strip. The name of the town had been changed to Marble Falls but eventually was abandoned in 1991. It's unfortunate that there are no signs posted to advise travelers of the history of the area.

Jasper, Arkansas

En route into Jasper, we came across numerous examples of homes and buildings that were built in mid-1800's.

The Chaney Log Cabin on the left was reconstructed in Jasper to preserve its history. The floor joists are not puncheon (split log) type but whip sawed. Every stone, log, sill and peg were numbered to assure proper reassembly when it was moved from Osage, AR to Jasper, AR by the Newton Country Historical Society.

Buffalo River Canyon
The Buffalo River Canyon Scenic Viewpoint shows Mt. Judea in the Boston Range of the Ozarks at 2169 ft. above sea level. 

The Buffalo River flows from west to east 1414 ft below this point - making it the deepest canyon in the Ozarks.

Hilltop Cafe

The citizens of Arkansas highly promote their own tourism business. Hill House Inn was recommended as the place to eat by several shop owners along the route.

Unfortunately, they were closing for the evening just as we arrived so we weren't able to sample the food. Maybe next time.

Booger Hollow, Arkansas

What else can be said when you unknowingly drive into the community of Booger Hollow. You have to stop and check it out.

The name originated with the belief that the hollow was haunted due to the numerous graveyards located there. Booger, in this case is a variant of bogie or boogie, as in boogie man. So to call the place Booger Hollow is a colorful local term meaning Ghost Valley. Legends of America - Booger Hollow

The owner of Booger Hollow Trading Post sold in 2004, but the new owners have not reopened the attraction, ending 40 years in operation.

Currently, Booger Hollow is closed and abandoned, another ghostly reminder of days gone by.

Louisiana Purchase State Park - Holly Grove, Arkansas

First of all, we had no idea the marker for the Louisiana Purchase would be found in Arkansas. It's one of those - hit the brakes and hang a hard left when you spot the sign. At the end of the 2 miles into the site, the road ends and the headwater swamp begins. This raised boardwalk goes deep into the swamp with information markers along the path. 830,000 acres were purchased for $15,000,000. Less than 3 cents an acre.

This stone marks the base established Nov 10, 1815 from which the lands of the Louisiana Purchase were surveyed by United States engineers.

Erected by the Arkansas daughters of the American Revolution sponsored by the Languille Chapter.

Burning Tobacco

Shortly before we crossed into the state of Mississippi, we observed huge clouds of black smoke climbing into the air. It turned out to be farmers burning off old crops.

Often called field burning, this technique is used to clear the land of any existing crop residue as well as kill weeds and weed seeds. Field burning is less expensive than most other methods such as herbicides or tillage but because it does produce smoke and other fire related pollutants, its use is not popular in agricultural areas bounded by residential housing. Let's not forget it also gets incredibly hot. I could barely tolerate the heat from across the highway.

Rosedale, Mississippi

If we thought Arkansas was magnificently lush and green, Mississippi's scenery took our breath away. The trees were in full bloom and the scent from the magnolia tree was unlike anything found in a bottle. From the ground to the tops of trees, it's difficult to discern one from the other.

We couldn't have timed our trip better this year to capture the Magnolia Trees in all their glory - from the pod to full bloom - these blossoms are huge. If I could just figure out how to grow them in Alberta !!!

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Vicksburg Siege

Abraham Lincoln said, Vicksburg is the key. The war can't end until the key is in our pocket. Beginning on May 16, 1863, General U.S. Grant held the city under siege, cutting off all supplies driving citizens to caves to escape shells. From July 1st through the 3rd, the tides of the civil war turned against the South as the Confederates were defeated at The Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 4th, C.S.A. General John C. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, to General Grant and the Army of the West. After a six week siege the Union gained control of the Mississippi, and the Confederacy was effectively split in two, and cut off from it's Western Allies.

Vicksburg is not great for directing travellers to areas of historical interest. The cemetery and cannons at the NW entrance to town have to be viewed from across a 4 lane highway - with no visible area to safely pull off. We found the showboat and visitors centre (on our own) and not much else.

Directional signage was not the city's strong point. The locals couldn't tell us where to find antebellum / plantation homes but they all knew where the Walmart was. Doreen made a comment that it's almost like they lost the war and didn't want anyone to know about it. Doreen's sister from Houston had insisted we include Vicksburg because of it's history and colour, so needless to say we were a tad confused. Did we come in on the wrong road? Did we ask all the wrong people? I doubt if we'll ever find out why we missed everything as I'm sure there is lots to see - somewhere.

Grand Gulf Military Park - Port Gibson, Mississippi

Grand Gulf is not a place we had on our agenda. We remembered our history about the fight to control the traffic along the Mississippi River but had no idea where the stronghold was. Travelling south on Hwy 61, we spotted a sign that said "Historical Site" so of course we weren't going to miss this one. The site was home to an information centre,museum, town replica, battlegrounds and best of all an eerie cemetery we could walk through. It even had an old still and mill.

Finally, we had found what we were looking for. Signs were everywhere to explain what had happened, who was fighting, what equipment was used and what the outcome was. We spent two or three hours and thoroughly enjoyed the morning. The road in was spectacular with lush vegetation that seemed to close in on us. You couldn't tell where the ground ended and the trees began.

The scenery took on an animated look of cartoon animals that moved in the breeze. The park bordered along the Mississippi River and was obviously a flood area.

Most of the summer cabins or trailers were built on raised platforms such as shown above which allows use of the land without loss of property.

Fort History Sign
Mississippi River Thru Trees
Cabin Overgrown
The Still
The Jail
The Mill

Grand Gulf Military Park is located northwest of Port Gibson between Vicksburg and Natchez. In May of 1962, the Grand Gulf Military Monument Park was officially opened, dedicated to preserving the memory of both the town and the battle in which occurred there.

Port Gibson, Mississippi

We drove in and around most of these houses of which several are privately owned. There are a few available to tour.

Port Gibson is on the Mississippi River between Vicksburg and Natchez. Its lavish 19th Century homes, old storefronts, and battlefields recall the days of plantations and old southern hospitality.

Rosswood Plantation - Lorman, Mississippi

Rosswood was a thriving cotton plantation of 1250 acres, long before the Civil War, with 105 slaves working the fields.

The Rosswood Mansion is a classic Greek revival home of 14 rooms, with 14 foot ceilings, 10 fireplaces, columned galleries, a winding stairway, and original slave quarters.

Completely restored and furnished with beautiful antiques and unusual items collected around the world, it has been home since 1975 for Colonel Walt Hylander and his wife Jean, who share its heritage and their treasures with their guests.

The most disappointing part of our trip up to this point had been the lack of information directing tourists to old plantation homes available for viewing. Even in Vicksburg, the bed and breakfast ones we did find were closed. We almost missed the sign for Rosswood - it wasn't very big but luckily Doreen spotted it. Then when we got there, she didn't want to go to the door because it didn't look like it was open to the public. I harassed her into knocking anyway and the door opened.

We were greeted by the most lovely and hospitable couple who said it was their home and for $10 each they would give us a little tour. Well, this little tour took us through every room in the house (3 floors) including the slaves quarters (with some original furnishings) and Jean gave us a complete history of the home and all the unique furnishings in it as well as a short video. In the basement, Jean had a small Christmas and gift display of items for sale and we liberated her of a good portion of her stock. Her husband Walter also interjected with interesting points of fact. The home also served as a bed and breakfast with four beautiful rooms available.

Unfortunately it was only mid afternoon and after two and a half hours, we had to get back on the road. We did promise that if we ever made a trip through that area again, we would come back and spend the night. We also promised to include our visit with them on our websites which I hope returns the kindness they showed us.

They have been opening their home for over 30 years and we wondered if other members of their family would continue the tradition, should they ever decide to retire. If not, who will keep the history alive with such grace and affection when the storytellers aren't there anymore.

Old Country Store

As we were leaving Rosswood, Jean and Walter told us to stop at the Old Country Store back on Hwy 61 and have some of Mr. D's famous southern food. The Old Country Store was built in the late 19th century and was, in fact, an old country store. Today, it is a restaurant serving classic southern buffet.

We were greeted by Mr D himself - Arthur Davis (owner, cook, janitor and waiter) who served our table and also sang a song for us. The food was phenomenal, service with a song and a smile and if not for the recommendation of a local neighbour, we would have driven right on by, not realizing what it was. We promised to give Mr. D a bit of free advertising as well for his friendly hospitality.

The Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, Louisiana

Seven years of these road trips and it still amazes me that our most interesting or unusual finds are by accident. In this case, we had left Rosswood and were pretty much satisfied having toured a real plantation. We had to put on the miles to make up for the three stops already made that day and we were barely an hour out of Vicksburg. So, we were not wasting any time and soon crossed into Louisiana and a pretty little town called St Francisville.

Suddenly, Doreen slammed on the brakes, flipped on the blinker and pretty much pulled a U-turn at a corner instead of turning left. I had no idea what was going on and while I was picking up the maps and junk from the floor, she said, "I just saw an old house, with a sign out front and a parking lot full of cars - maybe it's an old plantation or bed and breakfast. That would be the understatement of the day.

It was indeed a plantation and a bed and breakfast. The office is in a small storefront building at the rear of the home and as we entered, heard the clerk tell the couple in front of us, "sorry, but we're full." They left and Doreen went to the counter to get brochures and chat with the clerk while I browsed the gift shop area. He was apologetic but there was still an evening tour we could take.

So while we were signing up for the tour, the phone rings and the clerk says to us - "we have a double cancellation. You can have a room with your own bath or a room with a bath down the hall." We specifically asked if the rooms had 2 beds and he assured us they did so we chose the one with the attached bath. It was a bit pricey but we'd only get to do it once - right?

We had just enough time to throw our luggage into the upstairs room and get back in time for the evening tour. We opened the door and surprise - only one queen bed that was 4 ft off the floor. We explained that we'd confirmed there would be two beds and this wasn't satisfactory, - it wasn't even a king.

The young lad helping us up the vertical, skinny staircase with our luggage said "I'll be right back." Ten minutes later he came back with a second key for the adjoining room (for same price) and put Doreen's luggage into the other bedroom.  We happily trotted downstairs to gather with the others for the tour. And now comes the "kicker".

This was not an ordinary tour, it was a Mystery Tour. And this was not an ordinary home. The Myrtles Plantation, circa 1796, has the dubious distinction of being called the "most haunted house in North America".

Myrtles Plantation Site

I won't go into great detail but I believe the words "holy shit" came out of my mouth. Neither of us had a clue and in the rush and confusion to get the rooms and get back for the tour, we hadn't read the brochures or tour information. We daintily picked our jaws up off the floor and continued on with the group.

It was dusk as the tour began and the courtyard was lit with thousands of tiny lights shining through the moss and flowers on the trees, giving everything an eerie look. The guide was well versed and gave a thorough and haunting explanation of the 23 deaths that were to have taken place over the past 211 years.

As we wandered through each room, the guide would describe where the hauntings took place, and which character they believed was doing the haunting. I have personally had a couple of experiences that could not be explained but am by no means easily swayed. None the less, it turned out our bedrooms were two of the more "active" rooms for these ghosts. Oh Joy !!

I want to point out the picture on the left, just above the man in the blue shirt exiting the door. You can see what I've been told is an "orb". These "orbs" turned up on several pictures we took at both Rosswood and the Myrtles plantations. You might say it's a light reflection or spec of dust on the lens and you may be right. But the orbs also showed up on exterior photos in complete darkness and not in sequential order.

The fact I find most amazing is...I took over 1800 photos on the trip and the only place these 'specs of dust' show up are in the plantation photos. The tour ended, leaving Doreen and I slightly flabbergasted with the thought of spending the night in a "haunted" house. It wasn't like we were in beds three feet apart - she was completely in another room.

I needed a stepladder to get onto the bed and didn't think I'd be making more than one trip to the washroom.

No such thing as TV, so we read for a bit and then called it a night. I left the bathroom light on, laid my head down and next thing I knew it was morning. No ghost !!

I did forget to mention one thing. When we were touring the outside grounds, I had looked up at where our bedroom windows were and remarked to Doreen, the drapes reflect a peach colour in the light of the room. When we went back to our rooms, the doors were locked and the rooms were in darkness. We had left the lights on. Energy conscious staff or did we have a visitor ???

The Myrtles Plantation was named for the abundance of Myrtle trees planted on the property. They are a lasting tribute to those who called it home.

The Myrtles has been featured in New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Country Inns, Colonial Homes, on the Oprah Show, A & E, The History Channel, The Travel Channel, The Learning Channel, National Geographic Explorer, and Good Morning America. It was also featured in The Haunting of Louisiana.

St. Francisville, Louisiana

The town of St. Francisville, LA was established in 1809. Said to be a town "two miles long and two yards wide", it has a total area of 1.8 sq mile. It is home to many houses and plantation homes that are on the national register of historic places. Many of the historic homes are open for tours and some operate as Bed and Breakfasts. As we toured the town before departing the next morning, we came upon this celebration of Civil War History.

One Saturday in June each year marks The Day The War Stopped in St. Francisville, LA. This event commemorates the brief moment of brotherhood given for the burial of a Union officer, Lt. Commander John E. Hart, by his brother Masons that stopped a bloody war, if only for a few mournful moments. How fortunate for us to be in town on that one particular Saturday.

Bayou Sara, Louisiana
Instead of following Hwy 61 south to connect with I-10 into Baton Rouge and then New Orleans, we opted for a change and took the less travelled road southwest to Bayou Sara and caught a flattop ferry across the Mississippi River and picked up the old Hwy 1.
The hwy eventually brought us to I-10 on western outskirts of Baton Rouge and we cruised on down to New Orleans.

To Page 2 - New Orleans to Calgary
Next - August 2007 Trip With Mom