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Monday, December 21, 2015

Going Home

I had a beautiful week in New Orleans. The weather was beyond expectations, especially after I read dire news the week before I was in NO. I only had one rain event and that was Sunday evening and ended Monday morning. Well, on this last day, I woke to rain, heavy at times and in a break, I broke camp and after showering and hitting the road the clouds opened up. I took 46 to 47 as I did coming in and joined Rt 10 where I got off and headed west to 410 to 10 to 61 North, the River Road, littered with Plantations. I left NO in dense fog and hit some heavy rain on 61. It was so intense; I had to stop twice because I couldn’t see the road. I stopped in Natchez and had a Po Boy and glass of Lazy Magnolia Pecan Ale. I was able to take a growler of the Pecan with me. While there I had fun conversations with a couple of drinking patrons about NO. I left town and continued up 61 to Natchez SP and got a lovely site. I didn’t disconnect, since I plan on leaving early. No sooner was I settled in, and then it started raining again. I’m glad I stopped here instead of moving on since it was raining and getting dark.
I woke at 6:30 and made breakfast and slowly broke camp. I was out of there by 7:30 and headed north on 61 to TO Fuller State Park just outside Memphis, TN. The drive was beautiful as I traveled alone over hill and dale through cotton field after cotton field and plantation after plantation. There was the occasional hay field. I gassed up and did my grocery shopping before getting of 61 and onto Rt 1 along the River.  Not much access to the Mississippi or even sighting because of the levees. What many people think about driving Kansas can be said of Mississippi in the Delta. It is all cotton as Kansas is corn. No wind turbines or solar farms here though. This might be a missed opportunity for Mississippi. Also I now see the red mud everywhere.
I listen to local radio and enjoy learning the culture of the area. I spend time with the NPR stations and I also like listening to the talk radio shows in this neck of the woods. Some make Rush look tame. Rush is on most of the stations. I love walking in local shopping markets and hanging by the tomatoes or laundry soap listening to conversations. I am learning so much about us; it is remarkable.
Gas prices have been very erratic during this trip. They are low. In Bernard Parish in LA, I saw on the same road to NO and within an eight-mile stretch the prices range from $1.68 to $1.98. All these stations had customers. Also the prices changed on a daily basis and were especially high on the weekends. I bought gas at one shop for $1.68 and the next day it was $1.78. Gas and camping fees make this a very economic trip. In St Bernard SP I paid $24 for the first night and $18 for the next five nights. In Mississippi I paid $13, because I was a senior. In Tennessee I paid $10. I get water and electric and a heated bathhouse with showers and laundry facilities. And I am only 30 minutes from all the action. I did a laundry and made dinner before heading into Beale Street.
Oh one more thing, it is colder. I left NO in shorts and my sleeveless dress bike white oxford. I woke Thursday to a chilly day. I put on my long chinos, a Burley long sleeve, a flannel shirt, and socks. When I arrived in Fuller SP, I put on my hooded sweatshirt. As I was listening to NPR in Mississippi the weather ranged from mid 60’s in Gulfport to low 40’s in Northern Mississippi. I was further north in Tennessee. I still need to go further north tomorrow and the next day as I return home.
After dinner, I dressed warmly: gloves, knit hat, coat, socks, and usual suspects. The drive in took me by the road I need tomorrow, 240 East, easy peasy. A direct drive in, but the parking was non-existent. I put the car in a lot at the Front St end of Beale St. Beale St is only a few blocks long. It is like Frenchmen In that the clubs are only on a few blocks. It was cold as I started down one side and after three blocks; I crossed the street and walked back. It was 6:30 and the only place with music was on a corner, so I went in. I don’t know the name of club or band. The bar was open air, so it was chilly on one side. The band was okay, not into it as it was cold and I was the only patron. Eventually more folks showed up and the band got more into it and they were descent. At the end of the set, I walked back to The Jerry Lee Lewis Club, where a trio was playing a mixed bag of music. I stayed for two sets. After they played “Can’t You See” and “Little Wing” beautifully, I had to leave since they couldn’t get any better. Going back from whence I had come, I passed the early music hall and the same band was playing to a medium size crowd. At the next corner a melodious sound drew me in. Good blues with as harp to die for. I stayed for two sets and was not disappointed. The drive home was easy enough. This is even easier than in New Orleans. Both State Parks are perfectly located for me to enjoy the fruits of each city. Nice!! Tomorrow is going to be a long day as I plan to drive across Tennessee to the Virginia border. Nashville doesn’t have any state or federal parks for camping nearby. I will need to do more research on camping in and around Nashville.
I drove from the southwestern tip of Tennessee to the northeastern tip, Colonial Heights. I stayed in Warriors Path State Park. I passed Davy Crockett SP and almost went there. I needed to make this a long trip to cover some ground. I want to spend Saturday in Staunton and maybe catch the Christmas Carol performance and enjoy Staunton. I like the town.
When I was in New Orleans and was planning the trip home, I debated over the more southern Rt 20 over the more northern Rt 40 because of the possibility of snow. All indications said the northern route would be okay. As I passed through Nashville and got to the other side the road was swirling. I realized it was snow. An ever so gentle light snow was falling. Yikes had I made a mistake? Onward and upward I drove on. I was glad to get to the campground in the light. I chose a spot and just parked everything and without unhitching, I did a minimum of needs for the overnight. I turned on the heat in the Scamp and then took a shower in the heated bathhouse, which was across the street from me. The hot shower was so needed. When I returned, the car had snow on the roof, but the Scamp was toasty warm for me. During one of my stops I took chicken out of the freezer for dinner. I grilled outside in the light snow. By the time I was done the picnic table and benches had a layer of snow. It was very pretty. I have very little to do tomorrow to break camp. I will sleep late and take a leisurely drive up to Staunton and be there in 4 to 5 hours. And then another 4 to 5 hour ride home on Sunday, to Berlin.
When I came up 40 and joined 81, I completed the circle I had begun on November 10 when I left home. It was at this juncture in the middle of Nov that I went east on 40 to Asheville and the Smokies from 81 South. In December, a month later I go through the same juncture but in the opposite direction, 40 East to 81 North. Staunton is also a common denominator in this scenario. I should be home on Sunday, December 20.  It was a great trip. A lot of memories, places to return to, places to go to that I missed, places to miss. Again, I have to make adjustments, improvements, and rethinking about future trips and what I take.
I woke with snow on the ground and car. I started breakfast to kill the chill in the Scamp. The heater did yeoman’s work last night and made it very comfortable all night. I had a leisurely breakfast as this was going to be an easy drive up 81 to Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA. After breakfast and before cleaning up, I started the car, to warm it up. Since this was an overnight without unhitching the striking of the camp would take 20 minutes. After scraping the ice off the windows of the car, I took off up 81.  It was the Saturday before Christmas and all colleges were out; Rt 81 was packed.  Again it was an easy drive as I drove at 65-70 in the right lane and let everyone pass me. I arrived a little after noon and set camp on the same site I had before, 45. I set camp and settled in and did some Internet work since I had WiFi here.  After lunch I headed into Staunton.
I bought a ticket to A Christmas Carol at Blackfriars for the 7:30 show. I then went to Red Beard Brewing Co. I took a growler of the Black IPA and a 32 of the Pumpkin Porter. My next stop was Shenandoah Brewing. When I walked in, the barkeep recognized me and asked if I wanted the Valley Rye? Yes I did. I took a growler of the Rye with me. I dropped my growlers at the car and went to Zynodoa for dinner. I got a table with a clear view of the bar and front of the house. I got the bisque and trout. This is an excellent farm to table restaurant. The bisque was sublime. I loved the presentation of the trout. It was on its side and not on a side. It looked like it was swimming. I arrived at the show just as it was about to begin. It was a wonderful rendition by an ensemble I saw do Shakespeare. What a treat. After the show, I went back to the car and picked up two empty growlers and went back for more of the Valley Rye. There was a guitar player playing some pretty tunes, so I stayed and eventually the place filled up. It all ended at 11 and I went home. It wasn’t as cold as it was last night. I went to bed knowing this was my last night on the road. 
I broke camp and was on the road by 9. I followed 81 to 66 to 495 to 50 and home. I stopped at Burley, had a couple of casks, saw Brian and his son, showed them the Scamp. It is always good to be home.

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