Monday, March 12, 2007
An Eventful Vacation
Finally I have time to post about vacation! I'll have photos posted at my Flickr site (see link at the right). We started out from Mom & Dad's at 6:23 am on Sunday, February 25. It was raining lightly on us all the way through Knoxville. We could see blue sky peeking through the clouds as we reached the west side of Knoxville, though.
Shortly after turning south toward Chattanooga, the sun popped through, and good weather prevailed. We stopped in a Cracker Barrel in Gadsden, Alabama for lunch, then continued on our way. We arrived in Vicksburg shortly after 5:00 pm our time (EST). Considering the time we'd spent at lunch, we made excellent driving time.
Not long after we'd checked into our motel, Raechel called to say that Lesa would be getting off work soon, and they'd be out shortly after. When they came over, we learned that Jeremy was working, and we wouldn't see him until the next day. Mom and Dad treated us all to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. The furnishings in the restaurant looked a bit tattered and worn, but the food was really good. When we got back to the motel, we visited a bit. I knew that Mom and Dad had to be tired, so I invited Lesa and Rae to come to my room and watch the Academy Awards on TV until time for Lesa to pick up Jeremy at work. Rae fell asleep in a chair while Lesa and I watched the awards.
The next morning, since Mom, Dad and I were still operating on EST, we ate the complimentary breakfast provided by the motel and waited for Lesa, Jeremy and Rae to arrive. We then went to City Cemetary, a very old and unusually beautiful resting place filled with interesting historic markers. After walking a good deal in the cemetary, we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant where Raechel works. It was really delicious; their hot and sour soup is the best I've ever eaten anywhere.
After lunch, we went to the military park. Vicksburg has the most beautiful military park I've ever visited, and I've visited a few! There are 1,330 markers and monuments in the park, and the 16-mile tour road is a beautiful, leisurely drive. One of the highlights of the park is the U.S.S. Cairo, a Union ironclad which was sunk on December 12, 1862, in the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg. The Cairo was raised in 1964 and is on display. A museum houses various artifacts from the vessel.
Jeremy had to work Monday afternoon/evening, so we got back in time for Lesa to take him to work. Lesa then took a nap, and Raechel had plans for a bit with a friend. After a take-out dinner at the motel, Lesa and Rae went home and Mom, Dad and I turned in early. It had been an eventful day, and we were still operating on Eastern Standard Time!
The next morning we were up early as usual, had a complimentary breakfast again, and Daddy dropped Mom and me off at the Ameristar Casino. We told him we'd only be a couple of hours, and he told me to call his cell phone when we were finished. I hadn't been inside a casino in a long time, and considered my "breaking even" to be a real win! Mom wasn't quite as lucky. :-)
When we finished at the Ameristar, we still had some time to kill; Lesa and Jeremy were coming over after dropping Raechel off at work at 11:00 CST. Daddy asked what I'd like to do, and I asked if it would be too much trouble to go across the Mississippi River into Louisiana for a bit.
We went across the bridge, and turned down a road which took us out onto a levee. It was a beautiful warm day, and the sun shining on the pools of water by the levee was striking. After awhile, we came off the levee and back into Vicksburg. We stopped at the Visitor's Center for a brief time, then came back to the motel.
Jeremy and Lesa arrived at the motel shortly after we got there, and we went to a Cracker Barrel for lunch. We had to come back to the motel right away because there'd been a mixup with Mom and Dad's motel bill, and the manager was working on straightening it out. Daddy wanted to stay close until it was all settled, so we just rested and watched TV that afternoon until Jeremy had to go to work. After he went to work, I said that I'd like to go to the Port of Vicksburg. We went down to the port and saw some beautiful murals painted on the concrete walls at the riverfront. We also went through a lovely little park nearby, then drove through part of the historic district to see some of the wonderful old homes there.
We were too late to tour the homes, but got permission from one of the employees to walk around the grounds at Cedar Grove, a lovely antebellum estate which now serves as an elegant bed and breakfast. Cedar Grove took its lumps during the War Between the States; a cannonball is lodged in a parlor wall. The only reason Cedar Grove was spared during the shelling of Vicksburg is that its owners allowed the home to be used as a Union hospital. The mistress of the house was a cousin of General William Tecumseh Sherman, and was therefore ostracized by the residents of Vicksburg. Her husband, oddly enough, was not treated with the same animosity.
When we finished touring, we stopped and picked up some excellent take-out barbecue sandwiches and went back to the motel to eat. I felt like all we'd done for days was ride in the car and eat!
On Wednesday morning, after Mom, Dad and I had our usual quick motel breakfast, we went out touring around town a bit. We went down on Washington Street, where Mom and I spent a good while in the Tourist Information Center. We bought t-shirts and I bought a hat, and we talked with a guide there who told us lots of interesting things I wish we'd had time to do! After we drove some more in the historic district, we then went down to a little park on the river where we could watch a tugboat pushing a barge up the river. By then, it was nearly time for Lesa and Jeremy to come by.
We walked to a nearby Shoney's for lunch. I felt the need for something green, so I hit the salad bar. After lunch, Lesa looked just exhausted; she was to pick up Raechel at 2:00 (her lunch break from work), so Daddy suggested that she go to my room and take a nap until time to pick up Rae. Instead of waking her up when the time came, Daddy went to get her. When they came back to the motel, Jeremy, Rae and I started playing cards. Lesa was still sleeping. Mom suggested that Raechel call Lesa and ask when she was going to pick her up from work. *EG* Rae did so, and Lesa sure enough thought she'd slept through the time to get her. Mom and I quickly took credit for the stunt so Lesa wouldn't kill Rae. *LOL*
Lesa had to go into work that afternoon, and Raechel told us she didn't have to go back to work that evening. So Jeremy and Raechel stayed with us for a good while; we took them to Whataburger for supper. The food was good, but I enjoyed the music more than the food. (60's nostalgia)
After we dropped them off at their apartment, we went back to the motel to get packed and get a good night's sleep before heading home the next morning.
Since we were leaving long before the motel offered their complimentary breakfast, we checked out and went back to the Whataburger (open 24 hours) for breakfast. I liked their breakfast even more than the burgers they're famous for.
The beautiful weather we'd enjoyed since arriving in Vicksburg was gone. A cool rain fell on us as we headed toward Jackson. Daddy had offered to go home a longer route so that I could see some of the Natchez Trace. (I'd only seen the portion of it from Jackson to Port Gibson previously.) After we turned north onto the Natchez Trace, we began seeing deer in the early morning darkness. The rain lessened as daylight finally arrived. We stopped at a few of the historic markers on the Trace and took a few pictures. The weather was gray and dreary, so the Bynum Indian mounds were our last stop.
We came off the Trace at Tupelo, intending to see Elvis Presley's birthplace. The rain was setting in pretty steady by then, and we thought we'd missed a sign somewhere because we couldn't find the birthplace. We gave up and decided to turn north on Hwy. 45. (As it turned out, I learned later than we were probably less than 1,000 feet from the birthplace but didn't know it.) We drove to Corinth, Mississippi; on our way there, we drove through one of the worst rainstorms I've ever seen. A tractor-trailer was stuck in the median of the 4-lane highway at one point. All the ditches beside the road ran full of water. We were happy to see that storm move off to our east, even though we knew we'd have to drive through it again before we got home. We'd watched the Weather Channel the evening before and knew that we were apt to drive through some rough weather on our way home no matter which route we took.
We stopped at a Shoney's in Corinth for lunch; when we finished, I asked Daddy if he'd like me to drive awhile. He said he'd take it awhile longer. I knew he was thinking of that rainstorm, so I didn't press it. I figured he'd let me drive again after we got through that mess.
Driving east from Corinth, I realized we'd soon come to the Alabama state line. I wanted a photo of the state "welcome" sign since I'd missed getting a photo of it on our way to Vicksburg, so I took my camera out of its case and laid it in my lap. (Daddy was driving, I was riding the shotgun seat, and Mom was in the back seat, behind Daddy.) Fourteen miles east of Corinth, we were passing through a little community known as Burnsville, Mississippi. We were on US 72, a four-lane divided highway, traveling the speed limit. On our left, I saw a white Chevy S-10 pickup truck coming across from our left. He'd run a stop sign on his cross street, crossed three lanes of US 72, and hit Daddy's jeep in the left front.
When I saw the pickup headed across the highway, I thought "He's not gonna stop." Mom said that I actually said "He's not gonna..." before the kerblam! After the impact, I actually had no idea how bad the damage was. All I knew was that we were traveling down the side of US 72 in the pea gravel beside the road, and off to my right was a really deep ditch with what looked like a creek running in it. I heard metal on pavement and thought the tire was flat on the left front. It took a good way for Daddy to get the Jeep stopped. When we all asked each other if we were okay (we were), Daddy and I both got out of the Jeep. He started walking back up to the intersection where we got hit and said to me, "See if you can find my wheel. I don't know where it went." That was the first time I realized that the front wheel had been ripped off the Jeep! I finally found it down in the water in the ditch beside the Jeep.
The truck that hit us had the driver and two adult passengers in that little bitty pickup truck. Not one of them was wearing a seatbelt. The driver had no insurance, and was driving on a revoked license. The impact knocked the truck 180 degrees back into the crossover of 72. No one was injured. It was unbelievable. EMT transported the two passengers in the truck; there were no injuries, but there were some high blood pressure and high blood sugar issues to deal with. In our vehicle, Mom had what the EMTs called a "strawberry mark" from her shoulder harness. Her neck was sore for a couple of days, but other than that we walked away unscathed, thank God.
The Jeep didn't fare as well. As luck would have it, the wreck happened just down the road from a tire store that also did wrecker service. After the police came and filled out reports, the owner of the tire store moved the Jeep up to a locked lot on his premises. He invited Mom and me to stay in the waiting area of the tire store (warm, dry, and he had a big screen TV) while one of his employees took Daddy back to Corinth to rent a car to get us home.
While we were waiting in the tire store, a horrible rainstorm hit Burnsville. Watching the news, we heard about the tornadoes causing such terrible damage in Alabama. I told Mom that as bad as the accident was, we could have been in much more trouble if we'd gone home the way we went to Vicksburg. If we'd take that same route home, we'd have been right in the midst of the tornadoes! Talk about a strange set of circumstances....
With the weather forecasts for that night looking so terrible, Mom and Dad decided we should probably just get a motel room near Burnsville, stay the night, and start over the next morning. It sounded like a great idea to me. Daddy had rented a car from Enterprise in Corinth. Unfortunately, Enterprise there didn't have any one-way rentals available, so he was going to have to return that car by Monday afternoon. Paul, one of Daddy's good friends, suggested that maybe we could find a one-way rental in one of the larger towns over in Alabama and return the Enterprise car.
So, the next morning we packed up and headed for Alabama. Armed with a Florence, Alabama number for Enterprise and my cell phone, I rode shotgun again with Daddy under the wheel so I could make calls on the way. I had to wait awhile for Enterprise to open (we were still in Central time zone). When they opened, I learned that they didn't have one-way rentals, either, but that nearby Avis did. I got directions to the Avis location at the airport (actually in Muscle Shoals, where some of my all-time favorite music was recorded....Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, and my favorite song ever, Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll"). We got to Avis 20 minutes before they were to open, so we just waited in the parking lot, soaking up a bit of Alabama sun in the meantime.
When Avis opened, they told us they didn't have one-way rentals either. I have to admit that by this time my patience was wearing a little thin. The lady at Avis gave me a number for Hertz in Florence. When I called Hertz, they (hallelujah) said they had one-way rentals available. I got directions, and away we went. When we rented the Hertz car, Daddy drove it and I drove the Enterprise car; back we went to Corinth. Sixty miles. We turned in the Enterprise car, then went to the same Shoney's where we'd had lunch 24 hours earlier. The hostess remembered us!
We were then, finally, back on the way home. I drove from Corinth until we stopped for gas just before we got to Chattanooga. Daddy drove the rest of the way in. We had a slight scare just east of Huntsville. A young man pulled across 3 lanes of US 72 from a cross street, just like the pickup truck that hit us in Burnsville. I, luckily, was a bit paranoid and was expecting him to do something stupid. Mom and Dad both said that he looked up and saw me just as I got the car stopped. He actually never saw me coming. So much for having the right-of-way! *whew*
Other than a traffic jam in Chattanooga, the rest of the trip was uneventful, thank goodness. By the time we got the luggage in at Mom and Dad's and I got home, it was 11:00 pm. We'd left Vicksburg at 6:10 am the day before. Boy, was I ever glad to see home!
Luckily, we were able to handle all the paperwork (getting police reports to the right place, etc.) by fax. The insurance adjuster called Daddy Wednesday and told him the Jeep was totaled; Chrysler had told him to total it at $8,000, and he stopped counting the damage after he reached $8,300. So we got all the appropriate forms faxed to Detroit, and got Mom and Dad's new vehicle ordered.
All in all, a very eventful vacation! It's taken me so long to write this epistle that I'll wait until tomorrow night to post the vacation photos on Flickr.