Tincan Travels

Winter in the Southeast 2018

This winter we decided to spend most of our time in Florida visiting with family and friends. We will be criss-crossing the state and camping in state and regional parks.

After a short visit with Andrea & Jeff, we picked up the Tincan from where we had parked it at Mike & Donna’s. We drove to the coast and set up camp at Tamoka State Park. It was a little cold temperatures dropping into the mid-20s the first two nights. This didn’t stop us from enjoying the sand and the scrub hardwood forest. Tomoka State park is located on a peninsula between the Halifax and Tamoka Rivers at the site of an ancient village of the Timucau people. Spanish explorers encountered the village in the 1600’s. At that time it was a thriving town on the peninsula between the two rivers. Today you can still see plenty of shell middens that accumulated from that time. It’s a popular spot for kayaking and fishing.In spite of the cold weather we did see some blooms. Plenty of hiking and biking.

Inevitably the Timucuan people were driven away or enslaved. An indigo plantation was established by Richard Oswald in 1766. (Coincidentally Oswald was a preliminary signer and British negotiator of the peace agreement with the colonies after the Revolutionary War.) In the 1950s,after the park was developed, a group of people wanted to pay tribute to the native people who made their home there. They chose to immortalize a mythical chief named Tomoki from a legend of the Timucuan people. It is a kitschy statue in the old Florida tradition. We spent an afternoon wondering around downtown Ormond Beach on the banks of the Halifax River at the Rockefeller Gardens. Lunch was @ Hull’s Seafood, and old-school fish counter-no pictures but definitely worth a stop. Monday afternoon we moved up the coast for a week at Anastasia State Park in Saint Augustine Beach.

The Way Back

It’s been a few weeks since our last posts from the Mississippi Delta. This struck us as an abrupt end so we decided to write one more post to complete the Tincantravels cycle for this season.

We continued up the Mississippi River to Memphis and then headed east to Kentucky for a visit to Mammoth Cave.Mammoth Cave is aptly named with its 365 miles of surveyed passageways and upwards of 600 miles of unexplored passages. Visitors have lots of options for cave tours. We chose “Domes and Dripstones”. These tours are not intimate affairs, we did the tour with about 80 people. We entered the cave through a man made entrance and vertically descended 280 stairs to a passageway for a 3/4 mile hike underground.

The Park Service uses red lights to illuminate the way.

Not all of the cave is decorated with stalactites and stalagmites. Most of the tour traveled through large dry domed chambers.

The Park has a nice selection of hiking trails to explore.

The reason for portions of the cave being dry is due to a large sandstone cap on the surface which prevents water reaching the limestone caves. Spring was in full force in the Park.

We also saw a hatchling Ring Neck Black Snake, at about 3 inches, it is the smallest snake we’ve seen. Traveling the back roads of Kentucky you never know what you’ll see. From Kentucky we headed to central Ohio to drop the Tin Can at the Airstream Factory for some end of travels maintenance. From Ohio we headed west to Chicago for a week of fun and games with our granddaughter Rebekah.

It was a fun if exhausting week. Rest assured that while this is the last post for a while, we are already planning our trip back to the southwest next autumn — so look for new adventures in a couple of months.

Out On Highway 61- At the Crossroads

During the early 1900’s cotton plantations dominated the Delta area. Large cotton gins bought and processed cotton to be shipped north for milling. Sharecroppers worked the land-and the work was hard. The Dockery farm was one of the largest and was home to Charlie Patton, considered to be influential in the early development of the Delta style.

The “Gin”

Charlie Patton wrote the song “Pea Vine Blues” about a train that ran from the Dockery farm through several neighboring towns. Howling’ Wolf, Willie Brown and Tommy Johnson all traveled the Pea Vine with Charlie.Hopson Farm was one of the first farms in the Delta to fully mechanize the planting and harvesting of cotton. Pianist Pine Top Perkins drove tractor at Hopson’s. It’s said that he taught Ike Turner to play while at Hopson. After mechanization many musicians left the Delta and made their way north.

The Sunflower River runs though the county and through downtown Clarksdale – which is having a bit of a renaissance. We spent a few days exploring the town and traveling the backroads. Our base of operations was a Casino parking lot on the Misssissippi River 30 minutes from town. (Full hook-up)Cat Head Records and folk art shop is a hub of activity. The owner Roger Stolle works very hard with the community to promote the blues to visitors and locals alike. They sponsor a juke joint festival the second weekend in April.

Clarksdale boasts having the Delta Blues Museum. This has been an ongoing project that works hard to promote and preserve the collective memory of the blues. Sorry, no photography allowed in the museum. They were pretty adamant about it. They have a great collection of memorabilia which includes Muddy Waters shack from the Stovall Plantation. The shack was where Alan Lomax first recorded Muddy in the early 1940’s.

No trip to Clarksdale is complete with out a trip to a juke joint. We chose Red’s Lounge to listen to Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and Allstars. Red’s can hold maybe fifty people and it was packed the night we where there. The patrons were a mix of locals and out of town folks. The band was excellent.

It was a fun evening.

While the Delta area is still mired in poverty, there are lots of entrepreneurs looking to improve the quality of life. There is an after school arts program and coffee roaster that employs local young people and decorates the town with art. New and old restaurants share the clientele that the Blues Trail promotions have brought.

And of course– just outside of town — the Crossroads

Out On Highway 61- The Blues Highway

Our first stop in the delta was Leroy Percy State Park. This park has a small lake and acres of woods surrounding the campground. We heard owls every night. This small park put us in position to explore the towns of Greenville, Indianola, Leland, Greenwood and in striking distance of Robert Johnson’s grave.

One day we headed to Greenwood for some lunch at Steven’s BBQ. The brisket was excellent. Our goal was to locate Johnson’s grave in a small cemetery on Money Road. On the way out of town we crossed the Tallahatchie River.And we saw this guy throwing something off the bridge. We found Money Road and Little Zion Church where Robert Johnson’s grave was located. Well, it’s actually one of three graves purported to be his final resting place. The research we did led us to believe that this site was the most likely grave site.

We had never been to the Delta before. This area is the ancient floodplain of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. It’s mile after mile of vast cultivated fields.

It starts just south of Memphis and ends at Vicksburg, about 200 miles long by 70 miles at it’s widest point. Ninety percent of the area was a virgin swamp forest full of wolves, alligators, bears, panthers, snakes and insects until after the Civil War. The swamp was cleared by previously enslaved people to get at the rich soil. Vast fortunes for a few were made here. It also became home to some of the most influential music this country has ever produced.

Further on down the road we found the remains of Bryant’s Grocery. This is the infamous location where Emmett Till had his fatal encounter. The original doors have been removed and are on display @ the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

The Delta is dotted with towns and hamlets where early blues musicians plied their craft. B.B. King got his start in Indianola where you’ll find his museum and grave site.

This is the corner where a 17 year old Riley B. King would play for tips on Saturday nights.

Near Greenville you’ll find the hamlet of Leland. Johnny and Edgar Winter hail from Leland and although they lived in Texas – they spent summers visiting their grand parents in Leland. You will also find the Highway 61 Blues Museum. The museum is a mix of photographs, stage outfits, autographed instruments and folk art. The surprise attraction was Pat “Cat Head” Thomas, blues performer and artist. We spent an enjoyable hour listening to him play and tell stories.We left Leland and went in search of one of the more well known Juke Joints in the area, Poor Monkey Lounge. The proprietor passed away three years ago but was legendary for making sure the good times rolled.

After a few days we moved up the Delta in search of the Crossroads. Perhaps a deal can be made.

Jackson, Mississippi God Damn

When we planned this trip last year we knew we were traveling along the Mississippi River from NOLA to Chicago. So when the new Civil Rights Museum opened in Jackson, we included it on our itinerary.The museum is a comprehensive look at race relations in Mississippi with a focus on the 20th century. We were impressed with the honest telling of this history, no whitewash here. The museum is set up with a central hub with exhibit halls radiating from it.

It felt like the museum was making an attempt to validate the experiences of Black Mississippians while starting a healing process in Mississippi. Certainly Mississippi as well as the rest of the country have a long way to go but this museum is a positive step. We had the opportunity to meet and speak with a Jackson native who was arrested when the Freedom Riders rolled into Jackson. He was thirteen and was held on death row at Parchment Farm. No bitterness or hate, he was just grateful to be alive and still able struggle against racism.

The Civil Rights Museum is right next to the Mississippi State History Museum. It takes a few hours to get through the Civil Rights Museum. We took a break from that and went into a display of quilts made in Mississippi. The exhibit was called “Stories Unfolded”. Those stories went from the early 1800’s to the present.Most of the quilts were hand quilted. Amazing detail work.

We set up camp at Lefleurs Bluff State Park. The park is a large green space surrounded by suburban sprawl.

Our backyard

The park put us in position to investigate some Jackson neighborhoods. We had lunch and explored the Fondren neighborhood. This is an up and coming neighborhood with a food coop, restaurants and art galleries.

“Bubba”(really), who we met at the art gallery, recommended that we explore the Belhaven neighborhood. What lovely homes!! Eudora Welty’s house and gardens were in the neighborhood. They were closed for the day but we did have a look around.

We’ve been enjoying our stay in Mississippi. We’ve met so many friendly and helpful folks. The Mississippi we’ve encountered does not comport with it’s northern stereotype.

We left Jackson by way of 49W on our way to the Crossroads of the Delta.This petrified wood is in a small park in Flora-just north of Jackson. The driftwood logs were buried in mud about 36 million years ago and have eroded from the banks of the ravine.

Next stop:The Blues Highway.

Out on Highway 61-Natchez

We left New Orleans anxious to explore a part of the country we had not visited, the Mississippi River Delta. Our explorations started in Natchez MS.We set up camp about 20 minutes outside of town at Natchez State Park.

The location put us close to the Natchez Trace, Mississippian Mounds and Vicksburg.

The Natchez Trace is 450 mile plus trail system that connects the bluffs of the Mississippi River to the hills of Tennessee. These trails have been in use for thousands of years, first by Native Americans and later by European settlers. You can still walk on parts of the original Trace and add your footprints to thousands that previously walked the paths.In 1938 a parkway was constructed to commemorate the the original Trace. Now instead of walking you can drive the 444 miles from Southwest Mississippi to Tennessee. The Parkway allows for easy access to a number of ancient mound sites. These mounds where constructed as sacred places by the ancestors of the modern day Natchez, Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. We visited the Emerald Mound (the second largest of the Mississippian mounds north of Mexico).It’s an impressive structure constructed by hand starting in AD 1350. The view from the top where the tribe’s leader would have built his house.

We traveled the Trace up toward Vicksburg and visited a number of historic sites along the way.

Mount Locust Inn and Plantation is one of the oldest structures in the area. It was built in 1780. As traffic on the Trace increased with the influx of settlers, the owners started to feed and house travelers creating one of the few inns on the Trace. The slave cemetery was a stark reminder of how this country was built.

The Mississippi River was of vital importance to both the North and the South. The Union needed to control the river to allow troops and supplies to pass into the South. The Confederates also needed the river for supplies and recruits. By late summer of 1862 only Vicksburg and Port Hudson LA blocked Union control of the Mississippi. After fierce fighting and a siege of 46 days the Union prevailed. Close to 20,000 died during the battle and siege. Touring the the park will take between three and five hours. We arrived late in the day and really just got a quick overview. Battery De GolyerThe Park has over 1,000 monuments commemorating state battalions and officers who participated in the battle. This is the Illinois memorial.

Also on display was the resurrected remains of the Union ironclad gunboat Cairo. The boat was sunk in 1862 with an electrically detonated torpedo. We toured a Confederate ironclad in Kinston NC which made for an interesting comparison.

On the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River sits the town of Natchez. Before the Civil War the area was home to more millionaires then any other place in the US. That wealth was generated by the thriving cotton plantations. Many of these planters were investors from the North who came to Natchez to make their fortunes. Instead of living on the plantations they used slave labor to build homes near the river.

We enjoyed walking the grounds of these antebellum homes and admiring the gardens.

This home was built on the bluff after the Civil War and was one of our favorites.

We enjoyed wandering and reading the many historical markers explaining the towns long history.

As always we like to checkout the local flavor of wherever we find ourselves. Steampunk Coffee served up excellent coffee and conversation. Highly recommend. Sorry no photos. It was across the street from the local brewery where our conversations continued. Highway 61 continues up the backbone of Mississippi and we’re on it.

Funked Up On The Bayou

We left Florida’s Panhandle and headed straight to New Orleans and the French Quarter Festival. We like to park the Tin Can on the west bank of the Mississippi River at Bayou Segnette State Park.

Our front yard

This park allows us easy access to the Algiers Point ferry that takes you across the Mississippi and deposits you in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Louis Armstrong greets you as you enter the ferry terminal.

We love exploring NOLA by bicycle and checking out new neighborhoods. This trip we discovered the Lafitte Greenway. This bike path allowed access to City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art and a chance to check out the Bayou St. John neighborhood.

Some of Carlos Rolon’s work as seen at NOMA.

During our last visit we heard about the French Quarter Festival- four days of free music on 12 stages. The focus is on New Orleans musicians. It sounded like our kind of festival.

Three of the larger stages are set up along the river. During the first day of the festival we started smelling diesel fuel but couldn’t identify the source. Turns out a ship docked to hard and punctured its fuel tank. We found this out when the ferry was canceled. The clean up

The music is nonstop from 11am to 9pm. That’s a long line to sit in one place. There is so much going on in the streets that needed to be checked out.Magic on the streetWait in line for fresh beignets

Lots of excellent street musicans

And then there was this guyYes, he did land it.

New Orleans has a jazz museum housed in an old Federal Mint near the French Market. There was an exhibit of iconic jazz images by Herman Leonard. A terrific exhibit. The museum also had some interesting artifacts on display. Fats Domino’s piano

Louis Armstrong’s first coronet

There was also a fabulous display of Mardi Gras Indian costumes. The costume takes a year to construct and is used for only one Mardi Gras season. But our New Orleans visit was more than just music and history. There are lots of neighborhoods to explore and this time we chose to revisit some old favorites and check out some new ones. The Garden district has some beautiful homes and as we missed out on a tour of the Lafayette Cemetery last visit, we made a point to tour it this time.

Since we were nearby, we wandered over to the Irish Channel neighborhood for lunch. Bon Appetite’s choice for restaurant of the year is located on Jackson Ave.

The jasmine was in bloom and scented the air everywhere. After an afternoon of wandering, we bellied up to two for one cocktails and conversation with the locals @ Barrel Proof Whiskey Bar. (We had too much fun to document that though.)There’s always something to celebrate in NOLA.

And no trip to NOLA is complete without a Levy on the Levee.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

We thought we were done with Florida but things happen. The last two times we headed West from Florida we tried unsuccessfully to procure a camp spot on the National Seashore. This year’s plan was to head to Alabama and camp on the Gulf. Out of curiosity, we checked the Natioal Seashore website and found there was one spot available on the days needed. We grabbed it. We spent two nights here and realized that we’ll need to head back at some point to explore the area more completely. What we did find during our stay was miles of white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water and an abundance of wildlife.

The beach was a five minute walk from camp, across the dunes on a boardwalk.

This guy made sure we stayed on the boardwalk when we crossed the dunes.Both evenings we walked the beach we watched schools of Rays riding the waves into shore eating as they went. Quite a show.The beaches are as deserted as they look. One evening we had to share the beach with this guy.

This Park is across the bay from Pensacola and has a long military history. Fort Pickens is located a couple of miles from the campground along the Florida Scenic Trail.

We saw lots of birds along the trail. Particularly impressive were the numerous Osprey.

But it’s also fun to see the familiar as well. Fort Pickens is a brick and mortar structure competed in 1834(construction was done primarily by slaves) and remained in use until 1947. From 1886 to 1887 Geronimo was held prisoner here. The Fort was active in Mexican- American War, Civil War, Spanish American War and the two World Wars.

The Blue Angels are based across the bay from the Fort and practice every Tuesday. We weren’t there for practice but did see them fly over the campground in formation. For us the attraction of this area is the the beach and wildlife.

While we didn’t see many people there was evidence that we weren’t alone.

Hopefully, we have the opportunity to come back for a longer stay.