You Have to Start Somewhere
After spending several days packing food, clothing, and water we were ready to embark. Our nephew was getting married in Texas and we had about a week to get there. So at least we had a destination.
The night before leaving we sat at the dining room table with an atlas and Google Maps deciding how to get there. I wanted to avoid Atlanta traffic but it looked like such a long way around no matter how we mapped it. Finally we decided to push hard the first day and then meander after that. (I think anything within 250 miles of home always gets cheated because we always say we can do that later over a long weekend but never do.)
I realized in Atlanta while trying to maneuver the I-85/I-20 interchange that I had never heard the van’s horn. But I heard several others, deservedly so. It’s hard to move a large metal box blindly across multiple lanes at the last second! With no more reportable incidents we cruised into a Mississippi rest stop as the sun was setting. Each state has its own rules about where you can and cannot stay overnight. We’ve learned that Mississippi rest stops (but not Welcome Centers) are fair game. The hum of 18-wheelers would lull us to sleep.
One of our most asked questions this trip was “what’s your heat source?” Generally the answer is “Stay South” but that didn’t work this first night. It was 30 degrees. Luckily we had a heating blanket that didn’t deplete our power supply but the few minutes we ran a space heater in the morning to take the chill off almost drained the battery.
We had intentionally stopped just outside Laurel, MS where our favorite HGTV show “Hometown” is filmed. We spent a couple hours sightseeing and taking Wanda over cobblestone streets. No celebrity sightings but a large bearded man was almost asked for an autograph.
Then we set Natchez, MS as our next goal and proceeded across the state on smaller, yet uneventful, roads. Our research while driving said we could stay the night at the Natchez Visitor Center overlooking the Mississippi River.
When we arrived we went into the visitor center to check in as was suggested. The kind woman explained in an official, perhaps amplified, voice that overnight parking was NOT allowed as the city had turned the property over to the National Park Service. She said all this twice. As we stood there with wide eyes contemplating our next move, she turned her body away from the others behind the counter, pulled down her mask and more quietly said “I don’t check the parking lot when I leave. Nobody does. The NPS doesn’t check the parking lot. You park at your own risk. You understand?” And she pulled her mask back up. As we walked away, Jenni said she was confused about what had just happened. I told her it was crystal clear to me: a classic ‘wink, wink, nod, nod’. We had our spot for the night! Later I circled the large parking lot three times looking for a level spot but settled for one that kept our heads above our feet while sleeping.
Natchez was a great, historic city to tour on foot and by automobile. The next morning we crossed the Mississippi River and then Louisiana before entering Texas. The same highway in Louisiana at 55mph suddenly became 75mph in Texas. The road looked, felt, and sounded the same. God bless Texas. I didn’t even feel the need to go the speed limit but it was nice knowing I COULD.
We reached our Texas destination that night, having offended only a couple drivers in Houston at the start of their rush hour. A dense fog grounded us in my sister’s driveway as we resisted hugs and kept our distance.
We had just spent three days traveling what we sometimes had done in ONE day in a small car. As a pack of coyotes howled, we quickly fell asleep.