Sunday, September 30, 2018

Traveling Down the Mississippi

At the beginning of August our family took a road trip following the Mississippi river down to the end (or very close to the end anyway). It was part of our longer trip to take Mara down to Texas, we just thought it would be fun to follow the Mississippi since we live on it and also as we were wanting to visit friends in Louisiana.

   A few days before we left we went to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park (it is around an hours drive from our place). The Mississippi flows our of Lake Itasca and the picture above shows Megan sitting at the place the lake goes into the river.

It gets narrow fairly quickly. The picture above is one I took earlier this summer when Ken's sister and family were visiting and it shows a bit better how narrow it is and shallow as well.

 Our family decided to record "The River" by Garth Brooks and then video portions of it as we went down the Mississippi. Aaron and Megan did a duet on the first verse so they were the ones to try out being videoed first. It was an interesting experience to do it out in public like that. We were actually super blessed to find hardly anybody there the evening we went. That is super unusual but very nice for us.

This walking bridge is one of the next places to see the "Mighty Mississippi" Mara and Thomas were stopping to admire it. That Sunday we also had fun going on a bike ride and having a picnic up at Itasca. It is a beautiful park to visit.

I thought it might be nice to include a Map of the Mississippi. Itasca is where it starts then it goes through some wood lands, swamp lands and various beautiful areas before coming to Bemidji/Lake Bemidji and then on to our place on the Northern Most part of the Mississippi.
Image result for map of the mississippi river

After we had left the park and drove aways the road went across the Mississippi again. I love how little it is here and the beautiful mist over the low land.

We also stopped at Coffee Pot Landing that day. It is a nice little campground (free) that can be driven into and can also be used by canoers/kayakers.

This is the walking bridge at that campground.

Megan and Aaron were again the ones that were being videoed when we were in Bemidji (the First City on the Mississippi- and our lovely town.
We had them record on the bike bridge that goes over the river in the little section between Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji. Aaron can be a stinker when it comes to posing for pictures.

This is our favorite view of the Mississippi because it happens to be our our backdoor. It is much wider here because we have a dam not far beyond us. After the dam it does get a bit narrower again. We left home August 3 at about 3 pm (after Ken did some final work at his office and I did flowers for a wedding that my sister Keren delivered for me the next day).
Here we are, ready to travel.

We "followed" the Mississippi on our trip but not always super directly. We skipped the Grand Rapids area and headed down to Brainerd instead. This is what the Mississippi looks like there. (Both directions- photo above and below)

 We got to Minneapolis as the sun was starting to set and a rain storm was on the horizon. Finding parking for a big RV is challenging but we managed that and then we were quickly search for the best place to record quickly. We found a super pretty picturesque spot but getting the right angle to show the cool bridge and the Mississippi was a challenge.
And then there was the debate on whether it was better to be on the top of the bridge of have it in the back ground. Up on it were more people which made many of us self-conscious. In the end we did it both places and up on top was as the rain started to fall. Then we had to dash instruments and all back to the RV.

 After that the rain really pelted down. Ken got to experience driving an RV through a city in a very heavy rain storm. I tried to take a picture the next time we crossed the Mississippi but between night time and rain the picture was simply black. :-)

We drove down into Iowa while it was still dark.

 We spent the night at a city park in the town of Waukon, IA. It was an inexpensive place to camp but also a pretty neat park. It was big and pretty, easy to drive in and hook up, had a place to dump and a shower house (not the cleanest ever but not horrible), a bunch of different cool and interesting playgrounds, disc golf and a swimming pool with a slide.

Shortly after leaving Waukon in the morning we came to the little picturesque town of Marquette. It was on the banks of the Mississippi. It had cliffs, cute shops and looked like it would have been a fun place to stop.

Then a mile or so down the road (that had the Mississippi on one side and cliffs on the other) we came to the cute little town of McGregor. That area is totally a place I would like to go back to. In McGregor there was a street musician playing, a yellow piano sitting in the park waiting to be played and it just looked like a really fun place to be.

And then right next to McGregor is Pike's Peak (the Iowa version) that overlooks the Mississippi. It was the highest place that we found to look over the Mississippi and it was a really neat view. We totally enjoyed our stop there.
And I did not really get a good picture of it. Ken and I were the ones being recorded at that stop so I didn't have a chance to take many pictures of it.
After that we crossed the bridge over into Wisconsin. We had decided that we would go into every state that borders the Mississippi as we drove down. The land that is closer is still Iowa but Wisconsin was on the other side.

A little later we went back into Iowa and in Davenport we checked out the river walk. It was a pretty place to stop. There were various touristy things close by that could have been fun to explore if we had more time. But we didn't see any ice cream there and that was kind of on our minds so we kept moving.
Here is Ken our faithful driver for the majority of the trip. I am so thankful for him!
Mid-day the kids figured out there was an icecream shop not very far of the route and they thought we should stop. It sold Chocolate Shop icecream which is the same specialty ice cream sold at the ice cream shop that Jonathan works at (and where Mara used to work). We went to "Smilees" in Iowa. Megan and Aaron got these funky double cones which allowed you to have a smaller portion of 2 different types of icecream for the same price as a single scoop in a bigger cone. When we were stopping to get ice cream the GPS had given me directions (I was driving at the time) to go one way but I missed that road and ended up going to the next exit for that town and that ended up being right where the ice cream shop was. We saved a lot of time going that way and I was very thank-ful for God working that out. :-)

We also stopped at Fort Madison, Iowa. There was this old fort there that would have been a lot of fun to explore but there was some big event going on there and our time was pretty limited as we were trying to get to St. Louis before dark. So we ended up not going in. The Mississippi is really nice and big at this point!

Our next stop was Lover's Leap in Hannibal, Missouri.  This was an interesting experience. First off when we were headed to it we had to turn on this fairly narrow and very steep little road to go up to it. We are in the big RV and as we head up Ken realizes that we don't have any idea of what the parking was like at the top and whether we would even have a good place to turn around. Oh well! Thankfully there was a parking area - not huge but big enough and so all was well.

  This place has a legend of a native american couple that were from enemy tribes but were in love and wanted to be together. Their tribes didn't like that and were pursuing them or something like that and as they tried to escape I believe they perished on this cliff. I am not quite sure if that was how the story went but it was something like that. :-)

  This was, in my opinion, our most embarrassing stop. As I have mentioned everywhere we stopped along the Mississippi we were videoing footage to go along with a song that we had previously recorded at home. But in each video we would sing and sometimes play (we didn't always use the instruments) along with the music so that it would look like we had recorded it in that spot. When we got to Lover's Leap there were quite a few people already there - that can feel a little awkward. At this spot we were needing to do an instrumental section of the song. We hadn't worried that much about tuning mostly because we were in a hurry and hadn't thought to do that and because the sound wasn't being recorded and so it didn't really matter. Well when we got out and started to play here we discovered our instruments were quite out of tune, a crowd had gathered around to watch and Ken had said we had like 10 minutes to get done and out of there so we just did it. I am quite sure I look completely pained in the video and probably red as a beet. :-)
Crossing the Mississippi between MO and IL.

We wanted to make it to the St. Louis Arch by sunset and we were very nearly late but we made it. Our recording caught the tail end of the sun but it was gorgeous. We actually drove across to the other side so that we could have both the Mississippi and the Arch in the same picture. There was a cool platform in a little park (that you had to take these back roads to get to) over there so we could have a very nice view. As Ken and I had been planning our trip we did a lot of research and looking around online to figure out where we could get the best pictures. It was kind of fun. This photo was taken at the Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park in East Saint Louis, Illinois.

 Ken had reserved a campsite for us Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky for that night so we still had quite a bit of traveling left after this. So far we were eating all of our meals in the RV. I had pre-made a frozen several things so that I could just stick them in the oven to bake. We also did a few other simple things. That definitely saved us quite a bit of time and money. It was a unique challenge to prepare meals as we headed down the road. So that evening we ate and then many of us went to sleep as we traveled on. Ken and Jonathan were the only ones that stayed awake the whole time and they were full of stories of interesting roads in Kentucky. We were going down a state highway but Ken is sure that if he would have met anybody on it that somebody would have had to go into the ditch. Thankfully when traveling around midnight/1 am the road was deserted and we had what Ken thought was more like a bike trail to ourselves.

  The state park was lovely! I would have enjoyed staying there more. There were very nice and clean amenities, it wasn't very expensive, it was beautiful, full of history and right on the Mississippi river. It had been the site of a long civil war battle.

Megan and Aaron were up in time on Sunday morning to look around a little bit and play a little bluegrass in Kentucky (it just seemed appropriate). 
We were able to go record in the park. It was lovely.

We went up on a bluff there to see the Mississippi and I realize now that I didn't get any good pictures of the Mississippi while we were there. We do have some in our video though so we can see them eventually. :-)

Our next stop was to go to the Church of Christ in West Dyersburg, TN. We were a little late and that was a little challenging because there building was very full. I think we found the only section of empty seats big enough to fit our family that was available in the building. But that is pretty cool. I was encouraged by their service and their encouragement to the christians to go out and be a light in the community and stand up for the truth of the Bible. They had those getting ready to go to school come up front and they prayed for them. Anyway, it seemed like a neat congregation.

Our next stop after that was in Arkansas. It was super duper hot that day and each time we stopped we struggled to even want to have our eyes open as it felt to hot for them. I know, we are northern sissies that can stand the heat. Oh well. We deal with cold - you can have your heat. :-)
Jonathan and Mara had some solo recording to do at this location.

Next we stopped in Memphis, TN. Here we had chosen to go out on a walking bridge that goes over the river. This could have been fun but we were so terribly hot that we really just wanted to get back in the air conditioned RV and maybe find some ice cream. :-) Megan and Aaron were videoed doing solo parts here.
Natchez, MS was our next stop. The sun was setting, it was getting cooler and it was a beautiful location. We totally enjoyed this stop.
When we were walking along with River Walk we found a bridge with padlocks all over it. I was curious about it and Mara had heard of this and filled us in. I can't remember just what it is called but Lovers can get a lock, put their initials/names on it and then lock it onto the bridge and throw the key into the river. How romantic!! :-)
There was a pretty little gazebo in this park.
Afterwards we headed to Sonic to check out their icecream. Both Megan and I got to much and had to save some in the freezer for a later day.

That night we stayed at a camp ground in Louisiana. This campground was interesting in many ways (especially the reserving process) but it worked and we got some rest, filled up with some horrible water and were able to move on again.

This was the pretty view across the way from the campground. I think it was a historic home that would have been fun to visit but it wasn't open at the time.
We found a lovely place to stop and record in Baton Rouge, LA. This pretty place was off the beaten path, very quiet and lovely. It was near a very picturesque cemetery. Those are interesting places down south because of all their above ground vaults.

In New Orleans we went over to the Algiers area to record so that we could have the New Orleans cityscape as our background. Going around in New Orleans was especially interesting to me as I thought about how much we were paying attention to the city and all that was going on there when they dealt with hurricane Katrina.

Ken's cousin Esther and her two boys were able to come over from Biloxi, MS to visit with us in New Orleans. That was really fun. So we took some time and did some sight seeing there.
We went out to eat at a place called Mr. Ed's.
In Louisiana we figured that we should really try some of the specialty food.

Jonathan got a Shrimp Po' boy.  Other foods that we eaten were Jumbalya, Black Beans and Rice, and Crawfish.
Megan declined at the idea of being adventuress and had spaghetti and meatballs.
We went walking in the French Quarter. We experienced a rain storm and hung out in a paint store for a while, waiting for it to pass.

We visited a few different shops.
We checked out monuments and dealt with panhandlers.

We enjoyed looking at the different architecture.

We did also drive beyond New Orleans to see the Mississippi lower down. We didn't have time to go as far as we could go in the Delta so this was where we stopped:

It is one wide river.
 We videoed our final section there. Poor Megan is super scared of snakes. I am pretty leery of them myself but nothing like Megan. At this place that we found to stop we had to walk through some tall grass. I held her hand and walked in front of her and we made it up to the top of the levee. She still hated being out there.

Ken carried her for a little while on the way back. We never did see any snakes this trip but "we" certainly worried about them plenty. Unfortunately the fear of them is still really bothering her. Hopefully we can figure out how to get past that.
 So, we traveled the Mississippi from the top to almost the bottom. It was pretty fun to see and I loved seeing God's handiwork throughout the length of it. We then headed West to stay with some friends in Crowley, LA. I will tell more about that part of our trip another time.

  I know we missed seeing many beautiful spots on the Mississippi - are there any that you have been to? I would love to hear about them. Who knows, maybe someday we will repeat doing a Mississippi river trip. I have always thought it would be fun to canoe the length of the Mississippi. I am not as interested in doing the southern portion so much anymore but it would still be fun to try. Maybe someday.


Amy and Mark said...

What a neat trip! Thank you for sharing! I always enjoying reading about your travels.

Tracy dixon said...

Yall should have checked out Bass Pro Shop in Memphis at the pyramid. It has a tOP level where you can go out and take pics of the city.

Abbi said...

Amy, Thank you! It is fun that somebody likes to read them. :-)

Tracy, That would have been fun to do. I would suppose that you could see the Mississippi from their which was our big goal. My son had hoped to bring his drone along so that we could have gotten some high pictures like that but it ended up needing to be sent in for repairs.


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