Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vicksburg National Military Park

Vicksburg National Military Park
We pulled into Vicksburg on Sunday the 28th for a three night stay at Ameristar RV Resort.  This is a good place from which to tour the Vicksburg National Military Park.  The RV park has level paved sites with full hookups for $22.00 a night.  It's only a couple of miles to get to the National Military Park, so we were pleased with this campground.

We toured the National Park on Monday. Bob was so excited, since this has been a historical site he's been wanting to see for a long time.  It's a wonderful park, so beautifully maintained.  We took the self guided driving tour, which takes you through the beautiful stretch of hills and deep gullies where the Battle of Vicksburg was fought in 1863. Bob's reading Grant's memoirs right now, and he told me that Grant described the land perfectly.

Sitting on a high bluff overlooking a bend in the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was heavily protected with artillery batteries and forts.  It was vital to the North to capture the city since control of this region would give the North control of the Mississippi supply route, and isolate Texas, Arkansas and most of Louisiana. Lincoln called Vicksburg the "the key" to winning the war, and ordered Ulysses S. Grant to clear the Mississippi of Confederate resistance.  Between May 16th and May 22nd, 1863, Grant battled Pemberton's forces, then finally on May 22nd Grant began a formal siege on the City.  The siege lasted 46 days, and finally on July 4th Vicksburg was surrendered.

The park is full of memorials built by the states that were involved in the battle of Vicksburg.  They're a beautiful tribute to the lives that were lost there, and a sad reminder of a war which tore this country apart.

Illinois Memorial

Ohio Memorial

Arkansas Memorial

Ulysses S Grant

Thayer's Tunnel

Shirley House - served as headquarters for 45th Illinois Infantry

The USS Cairo

The USS Cairo Museum was amazing.  The USS Cairo was one of the Union's seven ironclad gunboats that fought on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  The Cairo was sunk outside Vicksburg by torpedoes that tore holes into the ship's hull.  It was dredged up from the river in 1965, and restored.

Paddle Wheels of the USS Cairo
Monday night we went to the buffet at the Ameristar Casino, and then did a little gambling.  No winnings, but we had a good time.  The food at the Casino was average at best, so I'd recommend eating elsewhere.

Ameristar Resort - Vicksburg MS
On Tuesday we drove around the old city.  There are a number of old mansions which have been turned into Bed and Breakfasts down by the river.

Annabelle Bed and Breakfast

We drove over the bridge to Louisiana to see Grant's Canal.  Federal troops attempted to cut a canal across the Mississippi into DeSoto Point, but the canal kept filling in with silt, and the project was abandoned.  Many lives were lost due to Malaria and Yellow Fever.

Mississippi River Bridge to Louisiana
Connecticut Memorial at Grants Canal

Grants Canal

Tomorrow we're driving on the Natchez Trace Parkway to Tishomingo State Park where we stay for one night, then on to Chattanooga.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gulf State Park - Gulf Shores, Alabama

We've been in Gulf Shores State Park for almost a month now, and have really enjoyed our stay here.  This park is absolutely one of the best state parks that we've ever stayed in.  It has everything - a swimming pool, lakes that we can take the canoe on, miles of great biking trails, a golf course - even tennis courts for those that play, and of course miles of beautiful beaches along the Gulf coast.

We got great campsites for the month that we were here.  You can stay on the same site for only two weeks,  and then after that you have to move to another site.  At least they don't make you leave the park overnight as many state parks do.  You just have to get another site.  You can't reserve any particular site, so if you want a waterfront site you have to request it when you check in.  There are lakefront sites and sites on a canal connecting Middle Lake to Shelby Lake.  The canal sites are perfect for us to launch our canoe, so we took one of these for the first two weeks.  We managed to get out on the boat three times during our stay on the canal, and were really pleased with this site.

Our Canal Site at Gulf State Park

The canal site was perfect for our canoe

Bob and Mirra enjoying our campsite

We spent the second two weeks on a lakefront site, and really enjoyed it as well, although I think we prefer the canal sites, since they seem to be more protected from the wind (and we've had lots of that, almost every day).

Our lakefront campsite at Gulf State Park
The beaches are beautiful here - it's a lot like Topsail Beach.  The water was pretty cold, in the upper 60's when we first got here, but warmed up over the past four weeks.  We only had a couple of really good beach days, and both of them were this week.  We got in the water yesterday and today, and the water temperature was about 72.  The air temperature was around 75, but the breeze off of the Gulf made it feel cooler.

Beach at Gulf State Park
What a great park if you like to bike!  The campground connects to the Backcountry Trail, which is comprised of five different adjoining bike paths.  We took a couple of rides, and each totaled about 10 miles round trip.

Bike trail from the campground that connects to the Backcountry Trail

Taking a break along the Backcountry Trail

We never got to play the Golf Course.  It's very long - 7100 yards from the back tees, with no senior tees, so it's difficult for seniors.  We considered playing one of the other nearby courses, but never got around to it.  Maybe we'll get to play in Chattanooga.

Although the swimming pool was cold, we braved it and went in four times during our stay.  April is Spring Break month, so there were plenty of kids in the pool.

We did a bit of sight seeing while we were here.  Bob wanted to see the USS Alabama, so we drove into Mobile and took the tour.  What a great old ship.

USS Alabama

Another day we went to Fort Morgan, which was built in 1834, and was active during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.  It's most famous for the battle of Mobile Bay, where Admiral David Farragut won the battle, and made the famous quote "Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead".

Inside Fort Morgan
We loved Gulf State Park, and I've already made a reservation for two weeks next year.  We look forward to returning.  It's a great place.

Tomorrow we move on to Vicksburg for more history.  We're staying at Ameristar Casino RV Park, which of course has shuttles to the casino. Maybe we'll get lucky, and win a little money.