Saturday 28 December was to be our last day in Clinton Mississippi – well Mississippi full-stop. We didn’t have to have Romin dropped off till later in the day as our scheduled bus from Jackson wasn’t until almost 11pm so we wanted to drop Romin off as late as we could, but still within daylight so we could go over things with Glenda and Kenny. The morning was spent repacking bags – first time we have had to pull everything out for some 5 months. A few bits and pieces were culled, but for the most part, everything we accumulated for camper life stayed in Romin – we would just be taking our bags packed again – just like travel of old. We said farewell to Miss Germany and headed off from the camp around 3.30pm. The camper was going to Glenda and Kenny who live in Canton – a city around 40 miles north of Jackson (there’s a large Nissan plant close by which is the lifeblood of this city and a good chunk of Jackson). The day was starting to pack up as we headed off, and as if Romin was making one last stand, she wasn’t running too well today – but we pushed on regardless – we had to. We took part of the Natchez Trace Parkway – had intended to ride it all the way to the main Interstate but within about 10 miles of the Trace there was a road closure so we had to detour north on Highways 49 and 22 – the 22 taking us straight into Canton, and to our drop off point. Along the way we drove through the town of Flora and then Madison County – areas with large, very large homes, lots of gated communities, nice farmland with cattle and horses. Canton is known as the City of Light and has a large Xmas light display each Xmas – we didn’t manage to take that in, but have seen some nice light displays on our journeys, and many many houses decorated for Xmas with garden scenes – the big inflatable Xmas decorations are very popular.
Romin’s new owners are Glenda and Kenny who live just on the outskirts of Canton in a historic homestead dating back to 1829 I think it was. I think the house had seen better days and could benefit from some serious upkeep, but maybe that was beyond what Glenda was able to do? They already had a large Class A camper parked up by the house – Romin was to go alongside this and become ‘Kenny’s residence’. Glenda is a ‘cat lady’ and collector – there were maybe 15 cats in and around the house, and atleast 4 cars out in the grass growing weeds. We’re not sure why American’s seem to let things go so much, or just park something up as opposed to ‘moving it on’. The cars – which included a Mustang, Jag and Mazda MX 5 would be popular with many – yet, here they are not doing anyone any good – not sure why we have seen so much of that. Kenny wanted to take Romin for a run up the road so we do so – she didn’t run that well, but some of that was the way Kenny was driving her – you needed to know how to handle / treat Romin right. I was anxious about things, but we got back to the house, parked Romin up on the lawn, went over what was what with the camper, and collected our bags and cash for the sale – deal done. Glenda was kind enough to run us back into Jackson to the bus terminal and so we got dropped off around 6.15pm and wished them well with Romin.
As had been advice to us previously, Glenda was anxious about us ‘hanging around’ at the bus station, but we didn’t see that we had many options. Yes, it’s an area where some people live rough – seeking shelter on a cold evening in the bus terminal for as long as they can before security move them on. It seems that a number of people didn’t have much positiveness to say about downtown Jackson – that it wasn’t the place for people like us to be. People seem sceptical of one another. We had a guy in the RV Park that started talking with us when he saw us out and around the camp – him and his wife had a service called Demon Busters – we didn’t get down to the nitty gritty of what that involved, but they felt they were providing a service and this was their calling from God. Stan warned us about the people from Canton – ‘take care dropping off the camper – there are a lot of bad people in Canton’. I’m sure their might have been, but what was Stan basing that judgement on – experience??? I guess the same can be said about a lot of places – there are always going to be pockets which aren’t as nice as others, but our experience of downtown – of the bus terminal was fine. It would be fair to say of Jackson and Mississippi as a whole, that it is more of a coloured state than the likes of Northern and Western USA. I made a note that I would consider Mississippi to be more of a working class state – yes there are pockets where people are obviously doing well if that is measured by the type of car you drive, and how big your house is, but there are a lot of people in the south living a lower standard – but for the most part, people seem happy (the rich live rich, the poor just live is probably one way to sum it up). That said, a lot of people drive nice cars – maybe the price of cars in the US is so competitive that they can – there again, I think part of it could be the financing options available to purchase such items. We saw new house and land packages advertising zero dollars down – how does that work? With the car prices seeming so low, maybe that is a factor in why people just ‘park up’ the old car on the section, and set off in the newer car?
Other observations of the South – it seems that life is all about making things as easy as possible – people hop in their cars to drive 100 metres like we experienced in the RV Park, there are drive through’s for everything so that people don’t have to get out of their cars – supermarkets, bottle stores, ATM’s, chemists, and of course, fast food providers – there are just so many and too many options. A good example – where we stayed in Clinton was at a junction of Interstate 20 – within a 500-metre radius of the Interstate at this point you had something like 10 accommodation / motel options, and just as many fast food outlets. I think I made the comment that life here is an ‘instant society’ – made to be as easy as possible, but from our point of view, that looks to be detrimental. A lot of people don’t look to cook for themselves – there are so many food options, you could try them all and probably still not cover them in the space of a month. A real surprise for us – lots of people use disposable plates and cutlery for their meals – so they don’t have to wash up I guess. I’m not sure how much of that is based on trailer park living and not having the space, but I don’t think that should be a factor. Have people just got too lazy? We know it was very frustrating for us that there were basically no footpaths for us to walk on – this then discourages people from walking – which means no exercise, which then leads to people being overweight and health issues. We know that back home there has been a big push to go away from plastic bags – emm, no real signs of that here in the US – supermarkets are very generous / over generous with packaging, and the disposable plates we talked about – a lot of that is polystyrene – not too sure how that’s going to break down? My final note on excess – the caravans or rather Fifth Wheelers that adorn the RV Parks and Interstates of the US – seems that bigger is best, so most are in the 36 foot plus size bracket, which when you look at them, is huge by NZ standards, and yet these caravans are primarily only decked out for 2 people living with only the one large / very large bed, and maybe a couch of chair that will convert into a temporary bed if needed – seems like a real excess and wasted opportunity to me – rant over.
Back to the bus station – we got our tickets, and parked up with some others waiting for the bus and got educated on the American Football game that was playing (Saturday is College Football, and this weekend was the semi-finals of the competition – the Rose bowl competition I think it was???). Team from South Carolina and Ohio were contesting this game. The guys watching with us were heading to Atlanta on the 7pm bus, but were told it had broken down. Around 10.30pm we got word that the 10.50pm bus we were waiting on had also broken down (all the Atlanta buses originate from Dallas Texas). I always had this impression that Greyhound prided itself on its reliability and efficiency, but I’m not sure if its because bus travel is decreasing year on year, but the Greyhound service seemed to be lacking – seriously. The buses are old, well worn, and as a result, reliability looks to be becoming an issue. The news for us was that our scheduled bus wasn’t now expected into Jackson until maybe 4am in the morning, so with some effort, I got our tickets changed to the 7pm bus that still hadn’t arrived into Jackson – surely it would arrive before our now late bus? Around 12.30am the 7pm bus finally arrived, and after a lengthy refuelling stop, we finally boarded the bus (very tired), and left Jackson around 1.45am – well and truly late.
As is always the case with bus trips like this, the bus has to stop every 2-3 hours – driver reviver, passenger revivers etc. I had managed to doze off but snapped awake as we came into the Mississippi city of Meridian (the bus was following Interstate 20 directly across – the I20 having started in western Texas and runs to the East Coast). From Meridian (which looked like a nice city – cleaning, more progressive maybe that Jackson) the I20 heads north and out of Mississippi. We stopped in Birmingham Alabama around 5.45am to ‘revive’. Again, Birmingham looked like a nice city – some nice touches to it, but still some people living rough in and around the bus terminal area. The thinking was we would loop back through Birmingham once we picked up the rental car as they were a couple of motor-sport places I was keen to explore locally. Back on the bus for the last push, I nodded off for a time and awoke as we were nearing Atlanta. Along the way we gained an hour – instead of us arriving at 7.30am as planned, it was now 10am, but atleast we had made it. We hiked up the road for a mile or more into the heart of the city to find the Budget depot to collect a car. The plan was to collect a small ‘compact’ sized car, but they didn’t have any so they gave us a new Mustang Convertible – yes, most guys would dream of that, but a couple of things – did we want to be driving such a vehicle on the roads, plus it wasn’t convertible weather. All that said, we crammed our bags in, and headed off out of the city. For some reason – maybe Holiday traffic, the roads south of Atlanta were crazy busy and it was very stop start for a maybe 40 miles. We were heading south to get to the aircraft museum near Robins AFB.
Around 60 miles south of Atlanta the traffic backed up on us again and so we stopped as needed, but unfortunately the guy following us didn’t and he rammed up the back of us – not what we needed. The impact knocked us forward into the next car – that driver got out and had a look and waved it off – but I couldn’t wave off the impact to the back of the car. The driver of the other car got our very apologetic – he’d been distracted by his 2 young daughters in the back and failed to see the traffic stopped in front. Fortunately no one was injured – just nerves frayed. I managed to contact the rental car company after some effort, and they asked that I call the Police as a Police report of the road accident would be needed. The other driver accepted full liability, but the whole process of waiting for the Police and then getting the report taken probably took almost an hour and a half. Budget asked us to return the car to Atlanta Airport so we could be reissued another vehicle. With the nerves still on edge, we headed back towards the airport – with traffic now heavy heading back into Atlanta. Then the rain came in – very heavy. We finally got ourselves back and dropped the car off. No replacement Mustang for us – a little Ford Festiva awaited – probably what we should have had in the first place. So once again we headed out onto Interstate 75 and retraced our steps south and away from Atlanta – traffic still heavy. Today’s disruptions put pay to getting to the museum, and as it was it was around 6pm by the time we reached the nearby town of Warner Robins. We found a place to stay, got ourselves some food, and tried to switch off from the events of the day.
Monday dawned brighter weather wise so we headed down to the local Visitor Centre for some advice ahead of visiting the Museum of Aviation at the Robins AFB – Georgia. The Airbase is one of only 3 in the US which serves as a Logistics hub – I think it had around 3500 military personnel and over 20000 civilians based here. The Airbase services a lot military hardware and transports good around the country and the world from this base. The museum itself is set on 50 acres in the corner of the airbase. The museum was very good – no real surprises in so far as what was displayed – it was just displayed nicely and had a lot of information to go with it. The museum consists of 4 main hangars with static displays, and then there is a nice air park outside with a couple of dozen large aircraft displayed. With the sun shining it was nice to get out and around this area – yep, plenty of photos taken again today. Added bonus, the museum is free to enter, and works on donations. We spent around 5.5 hours looking around in total before pushing off from the museum. With the disruptions and delays of the previous day we made the call toe bypass the Alabama options and head east instead to Savannah and to explore that area. We opted for secondary roads as our route east following Highway 280 for a good chuck of time before finally linking up with Interstate 16 for the final run into Savannah. It was by this time around 6.30pm and Savannah was busy – well the old part of town here the shops and restaurants are and the tourist info site we were trying to get to.
Parking in downtown Savannah is a bit of a naff – the town is locked up with metered / paid parking, so unable to locate the Tourist Centre, we scrambled to pull over somewhere an explore our accommodation options. Savannah sits as you might expect on the banks of the Savannah River which flows out directly into the Atlantic. The river is still a very busy water way with large commercial carriers plying the waterway north and inland with their goods. On the opposite side of the Savannah River you have South Carolina – the river divides South Carolina and Georgia. Looking at our options we decided it would be nice to stay out by the beach – Savannah’s beach area is called Tybee Beach – a really nice beachside town situated at the outlet / inlet of the Savannah River and Atlantic Coast. Tybee Beach is around 20 miles further east of Savannah, so we trekked out there, found our accommodation, and subsequently headed out for a nice bite to eat at the Stingray Diner – very nice food. Tuesday – New Year’s Eve dawned nice and sunny, so we headed back into Savannah, found a Visitor Centre and got ourselves parked for a few hours. From there we set off on foot to explore the city – well the Historic Area / Old Savannah. It was really nice. The main touristy area is a mile by a mile so easy to cover on foot. We headed into town and found ourselves a bank and finally managed to cash a couple of the cheques we had been carrying around with us for some weeks – 2 cashed, 1 to go. With extra dollars in our pocket we headed down to the Waterfront area – very nice and stepped in history. The river was a main cotton trading area and the buildings around the waterfront area were cotton warehouses. The area has been nicely preserved and is now full of eateries, and novelty stores – lolly shops, art galleries, cigar shops, nut shops etc.
There’s a large old paddle steamer – the Georgia Queen, which in its day would have plied the river up and down with people and cargo. Now it runs a tourist service up and down the river, but to my disappointment, it didn’t look like the paddle is used anymore – all just decorative. We took the small local ferry boat across the river to Hutchinson Island and then up the river to a couple of stops, before getting back to where we started. Just up the river you have the main bridge that links Georgia with South Carolina – a very steady stream of traffic running back and forth. As we were coming back into Savannah I noted a very large container ship heading out – in port at the moment were a couple of large ore carriers – ships still being very active in the area. Along the waterfront there are a series of nice sculptures dedicated to various local history, events and icons. One of the more prominent is called the Waving Girl – recognising a young woman who use to stand by the river daily waving the ships goodbye from the area. Along the waterfront there were a number of lolly shops the local treat is called praline, and the shops tended to have nice samples for you to try – very nice. We then found a nut shop and again, there were main nice samples to try – both savoury and sweet nut combinations. Who needed to have lunch. From the waterfront area we headed back into town and up to the Colonial Park Cemetery – I think it dated from the 1700’s. From there we made our way to Forsyth Park which has a nice fountain as its centre piece. Along the way you pass some marvellous old homes – real period pieces from the 1800’s – most are very nicely maintained. Spanish Moss hangs from many of the large trees which shelter the streets and homes.
We made our way back to the Tourist Offices and back to the car. Across the road from the Tourist Centre there is a recreation of a American Independence battle site – the British look to have established Savannah as their own in the 1700’s and then in the late 1700’s there were battles in the city between the British and the French and US who had teamed up to try and repel the British, but to no avail – the British were to hold strong in Savannah for a few more years yet. Finding our way out of town we headed back towards Tybee Island. About 5 miles before the island there is Fort Pulaski – an historic Civil War fortification and National Monument. You can normally drive over onto the island (Cockspur Island) but with it being holiday’s they had closed the road off early today, so we have to satisfy ourselves with a bit of a walk towards the island. Heading back into Tybee, we stopped at the famous Tybee Beach Lighthouse – the first structure erected in Georgia around 1730 and also the tallest for many years at around 90 feet. The lighthouse has been burned down a couple of times (Civil War causality) but stands as it is today dating from the mid 1800’s. In front of the lighthouse is the Brumby Barricades – this part of coastline was important during the Civil War for bombarding opposing ships and forces trying to come up the Savannah. We got back to our accommodation (which for New Year’s Eve was double the normal rate – a factor we hadn’t counted on) but we were looking forward to the fireworks on the beach at midnight, so hunkered down until just before midnight when we went and joined the masses out on the beach. At the stroke of midnight we were rewarded with a solid 10-minute firework display. The night was mild and clear – with boats and ships lighting the waterfront area as the sky was lit up – very nice and a great way to see in the new year.
To add to the New Year experience, we climbed out of bed at 7am on New Year’s Day to get down to the waterfront to see the sunrise at 7.25am – another really special experience and a nice way to start the new year off. There was already a load of people on the beach with the same thing in mind – a special experience seeing the first sun rising off the Atlantic. Tybee Beach was a hive of activity as they have their annual polar plunge at midday on New Year’s Day and so town was busy with people here to do that. We packed up at the motel and headed out to the pier area where they were getting busy for the plunge – the sun was shining, but there was a cooler breeze today – it would be freeze, but not freezing I think – that said I only dipped my hands in the water this time. The area around Tybee is very nice – very beachy – with many of the homes / apartments being let out for accommodation. The beach is also home to the Loggerhead Sea Turtle – they come up on the back in March I think it was to lay there eggs which then hatch around May / June – unfortunately only around 1 in 3000 baby turtles survive the 30 years at sea before they would then come back to the beach to lay eggs. In addition to the turtles, there is also some good birdlife around in the area – saw some of my favourite pelicans, and there were egrets and eagles and the like. All too soon it was time to push on off from this nice area – we felt refreshed for our time near the sea – very nice.
We headed back into and across Savannah and carried on north on secondary roads like Highway 21 and 24. We headed north towards Augusta but cut below and around the city heading west again. The roads were nice and quiet, and the scenery was great – the landscape varies from cotton fields, to pine plantations, to Xmas tree plantations to nut plantations – and then some farm land thrown in for good measure – nice variety. There were nice little towns here and then along the way but nicely spaced out. At Wrens we headed north on Highway 80 up to the old town of Thomson which is to the west of Augusta but still a popular spot to stay when the golf masters is on in Augusta in March. We found a nice (and very affordable) room for the night and settled in. On Thursday morning we had to make the final run back to Augusta. Thomson is right on the junction with Interstate 20 so we simply needed to get onto it and point the car west for around 130 miles to Atlanta. The closer we got to Atlanta the heavier the traffic got but we still had a really good run – Carol wasn’t too stressed by the traffic, and we had the rental car fuelled up and dropped off in plenty of time. With that, this part of our road trip is over – we now have a few days in Atlanta to experience, before heading further east. The weather forecast isn’t the best, but hopefully things will improve for us to get out and about locally.