US Route 2 in North Dakota

Ten Giant Reasons to Visit North Dakota

MapLoco States I Have Visited
MapLoco States I Have Visited

In the last few days there has been a viral survey on Facebook (seems like there is one every week!!).  Simply put, “How Many States Have You Visited” is fun for all because it is simple and adds color and is really a “go viral” piece.  MapLoco.com has apparently used it to draw attention to their site.  I did it and my results are above – yes, I only have three states to go.  Many of my friends have done it as well and one common theme I found among many of them….they had not yet been to North Dakota.  In fact, a couple of my friends even indicated that they may never find a reason to go to North Dakota.

North Dakota Map from 1958
North Dakota Map from 1958

North Dakota gets a bad rap from people because in the winter there are unbearable blizzards and snow.  The state is relatively flat and “may not” have interesting places to visit (or so people think).  But, despite the cold winter, there is plenty to see and do in North Dakota for fun, especially if you go in late Spring or during the Summer.  Here are my TOP TEN places to visit in North Dakota.

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yes indeed, there IS a National Park in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named after the President that pushed forth conservation by establishing the National Forest Service, and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

2. The Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32 mile stretch of two-lane highway from east of Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND.  In my opinion, this is one of America’s TOP Roadside Attractions. (See my complete blog post about it here).

Fisherman's Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Fisherman’s Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway

3.  Interstate 94 – The Highway of Giants

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

Interstate 94 from Fargo to Dickinson boasts FOUR of the World’s Largest things (see my post about this part of North Dakota)…the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; the World’s Largest Sand Crane in Steele, ND; Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND (see #6 below); and “Geese in Flight”, the first piece of the Enchanted Highway and the Guinness World Record Holder for the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.

World's Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
World’s Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
Sumoflam at the "Geese in Flight" Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world's largest
Sumoflam at the “Geese in Flight” Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world’s largest

4. Rugby, ND – The Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, ND - The Geographic Center of North America
Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America

I got to visit Rugby in 2014.  The novelty of visiting the Geographical Center of North America was too much to resist (see my post here).

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America

5. Space Aliens Bar and Grill in Fargo, ND

Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND

I have visited three of these locations over the years.  For an out of this world tasty experience (they have BBQ Ribs!!) you must stop by Space Aliens.  They actually have TWO locations in North Dakota (Bismarck as well).  As you can see below, back in 2005 we finished off a massive all-you-can-eat dinner. And the quirky theme restaurant has all of the outer-space kitsch you want too!

Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005
Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005

6. Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, New Salem, ND

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

For an udderly moooving experience, Salem Sue is a must see attraction.  At 38 feet tall, 50 feet long and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this cow is amazing fun.  On a hill near New Salem, ND (I-94, exit 127), this bodacious bovine can be seen from as far as seven miles away on a clear day.

Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing
Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing

7. A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere – Nekoma, ND

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This pyramid is actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  Built in the 1970s. this complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. This lonely 80 foot tall pyramid can be seen for miles. (See my complete post about this part of North Dakota)

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

8. Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

This large four headed thunderbird statue at the Keelboat Park is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms. (See more here)

Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND
Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND

9. Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

A tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian roots, the Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique destination and most certainly worth a visit!! I loved it here.  (See my complete post).

Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with 30 foot tall Dala Horse at Scandinavian Heritage Park

10. Ducks and Ponds and Grasslands

A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1
Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1

Personally, I am not sure why North Dakota deserves the negative attention.  It is really a great place to visit (most times of the year).  Make sure to plan on adding North Dakota to your map of states visited!!  You will certainly have a Smile! (Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND)

Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

  (79)

A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf

Three Days in Galveston – Pelican Fascination

IMG_7131After a long two days of driving from Lexington thru Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, I got to spend three days with family relaxing on the beaches of Galveston Island and visiting many of the interesting sites on the island. And, for me, I got to spend some time watching the amazing brown pelicans as they flew in formation, glided over the Gulf of Mexico and took amazing dives for fish. It was a wonderously amazing visit.

Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston

Galveston is not only a city in southern Texas but is also an island. The city actually sits on Galveston Island and Pelican Island.

GalvestonMap
Map of Galveston Island

The town was named for Gálvez-town or Gálveztown in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez by Spanish explorer José de Evia  during his charting of the Gulf Coast in 1785.  Since that time many beautiful buildings were built, including some expansive hotels and old church buildings.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Church with a Fleur de lys

The main reason for coming to Galveston was a Kravetz family reunion.  It was great to spend time with my cousins, uncles, aunts and sister and dad.  It was nice to see the family…but no pics of them here.

Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time
Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time

Unfortunately, it was a bad year for sargassum seaweed buildup.  The beaches had piles of smelly seaweed everywhere.  In fact, there were tractors having to try to scoop up the stinky stuff.  This was a result of cold fronts that kept the seaweed in the southern Gulf longer than usual, where it continued to thrive in warm waters. The seaweed then floated north, deluging many of the beaches along the gulf.

People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston
People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston

Despite the seaweeds, the beaches were still enjoyable.  I usually am going going going, but, since family was all together, I was able to just take it easy.  In fact, I sat in a beach chair and just watched the pelicans and seagulls and those strange two-legged mammals (humans) frolic in the waves.

Sumoflam chillin' on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
Sumoflam chillin’ on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf

Though family is always important, my fondest memories of Galveston will always center around the graceful brown pelicans.  Their effortless floating over the city was fascinating.  In fact, I loved how they flew in unison as many of the photos below show.

Brown Pelicans in formation overhead.  So graceful in flight
Brown Pelicans in formation overhead. So graceful in flight
A single pelican in flight
A single pelican in flight
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf

Then, while sitting on the beach I saw something else that just blew me away.  I witnessed these graceful pelicans take high-speed nose dives into the gulf. While diving, the pelicans appeared to rotate their bodies ever so slightly to the left.  My research verified this and indicated that the rotation helps the birds avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of their neck. They have also apparently learned that a steep dive angle, between 60 and 90 degrees, reduces aiming errors caused by water surface refraction. This is pretty amazing.  I tried to capture a few shots of this unique practice.

A pelican starts it dive
A pelican starts it dive
Another angle of a dive
Another angle of a dive
Straight in dive
Straight in dive
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this)
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this) – and a jet skier made it more interesting!
A dive as seen from a distance
A dive as seen from a distance

I also enjoyed watching the seagulls.  I have always been used to seeing white ones, but the ones in Galveston are darker and have black heads.  These are apparently called Laughing Gulls.

Unique black headed seagulls on the beach in Galveston
Unique black headed Laughing Gulls  on the beach in Galveston
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A seagull taking off
A seagull taking off
Seagull in flight
Seagull in flight
 A pair of seagulls glide by
A pair of seagulls glide by

Galveston island is about 27 miles long and about 3 miles wide at its widest point. During my visit I circumnavigated most of the island.  My cousins rented a beach house in Jamaica Beach, which is on the southwestern end of Galveston Island and the only other town on the island.  We went there a couple of times during the visit and it was a nice drive.

Drive along the Seawall Highway on Galveston Island
Drive along Seawall Blvd. on Galveston Island
Heading into Jamaica Beach, TX
Seawall Blvd. turns into Termini-San Luis Pass Rd. heading into Jamaica Beach, TX

Before getting into Jamaica Beach, I passed the Pirate’s Beach neighborhood, which sits between the highway and the Gulf of Mexico. Some really amazing beach houses here, many of them built after the devastation of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Beach Houses on Pirate's Beach
Beach Houses on Pirate’s Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach

In the main town area there are a number of other rental properties that sit on some land that juts out between Jumbile Cove to the south and Carancahua Cove to the north. Many of the homes sit next to small waterways where boats can be docked and then taken out to sea.

Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Many of the roads were named after pirates.  The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.
Many of the roads were named after pirates. The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.

One of the recurring themes of my trip down to Galveston (and home as well) was alligators.  I visited the home of “Swamp People” in Louisiana the day before and on the way through Mississippi stopped in Alligator, MS.  So, it was only logical that I would run into something alligator related while in Galveston….

Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store in Jamaica Beach
Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store off of Buccaneer Blvd. in Jamaica Beach

I got a kick out of the product.  “Smoked Alligator with Pork Jerky.”  Made me wonder if the alligators were “pork fed” before being made into jerky…..

Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston
Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston

Back into Galveston….Seawall Blvd. is the “main drag” along the coast.  This stretch of road runs between the resort shops, restaurants and fast food places and the main beach.  Typical beach wear shops can be seen, as well as unique multi-person bicycles called surrey bikes.  I had never seen these before, but it occurs to me that these are the perfect mode of transport along the beaches.  There were rental places all along Seawall Blvd.

Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
A group on a Surrey
A group on a Surrey
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Enjoying the ride on a surrey
Enjoying the ride on a surrey

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to try one of these out.  I should have!! But I enjoyed the beach scenes anyway.

Jet Ski Rentals
Jet Ski Rentals
Umbrella Lined Beach...rent a seat
Umbrella Lined Beach…rent a seat
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
More surreys...some were as reckless as ever
More surreys…some were as reckless as ever
Waves on the beach
Waves on the beach
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston

Of course, there are all of the unique hotels, restaurants and shops to be seen.  I tried a couple of the restaurants while there.  Also drove by and captured shots of some of the hotels, condos, etc.

Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries
Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries – including a giant crawfish
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry's is there for you
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s is there for you
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
One of many eateries along the way
One of many eateries along the way
What's a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
What’s a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island

While I was in Galveston, my wife was with her sisters and brother on the beach in San Diego.  I had hoped we could adjust our schedules and take photos at the same time on the beach…but it didn’t work out.  But, I did capture something that was pretty fun.  They were staying at a condo time share in San Diego called “Capri by the Sea.”  I ran into one in Galveston and called her.  So, we were both at Capri by the Sea at the same time…in different places.

Capri by the Sea Condos in Galveston
At Capri by the Sea condos in Galveston while Julianne was at the same in San Diego
Capri by the Sea
Capri by the Sea

There is a completely different part of the town of Galveston, called the Strand Historic District.  While all of the family was on a boat ride, I drove around that area.  There were large cruise ships, old shops, museums, seaside diners and more.

Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Historic Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit overlayed by Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District

Back on Seaside Blvd. is Pleasure Pier, Galveston’s answer to “Coney Island.” The Current Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier was built 1,130 feet out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and had its “soft” opening on May 25, 2012.  The new pier compile is located where the original Pleasure Pier stood from 1943 until 1961, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla. The original Pleasure Pier featured rides, an arcade, an aquarium, concessions, a large ball room, named the Marine Ballroom, and fishing at the end of the pier. It was also the site of the USS Flagship Hotel, an over-the-water hotel built in 1965 that was demolished after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Pleasure Pier in Galveston
Pleasure Pier in Galveston

The Pier has a midway with games and amusements and then there are a number of rides, some of them that glide right over the gulf of Mexico.  I didn’t visit….but we stayed close, so I did get a couple of photos.

Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance

Galveston does not have many sculptures, but there is one on the seawall that is well-known.  Commissioned by the Galveston Commission for the Arts and installed in 2000, Galveston sculptor David W. Moore’s bronze sculpture is a monument to the victims and survivors of the 1900 Storm, which killed in excess of 6,000 Galvestonians, making it the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Disaster Memorial in Galveston, sculpted by David W. Moore

The only other major sculpture of any consequence in Galveston is the “Texas Heroes Monument” located at the intersection of Broadway and Rosenberg Avenue.  It was commissioned by Henry Rosenberg to commemorate the brave people who fought during the Texas Revolution. The monument was built out of granite and bronze. The sculptor of the monument was Italian artist Louis Amateis and was unveiled on April 22, 1900.

Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas
Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas

The monument is 74 feet high including the statue of Victory. The base of the monument is thirty-four feet in diameter. The bulk of the monument consists of four columns made from a single block of granite. These are fifty feet high.

Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX
Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX

At the top of the columns are words which represent the qualities of the men who fought for Texas: Patriotism, Honor, Devotion, Courage. The statue of Victory is twenty-two feet high. She holds a sheathed sword entwined with roses and her right extended hand holds a crown of laurels.

DSC_8413Finally, I should note the “quirky”… a couple of restaurants have some giant “crustaceans” resting on the roof.  Got a nice chuckle from these…

Giant Crab in Galveston
Giant Crab at Gaidos in Galveston\
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston

Then there is the giant crawfish

Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston
Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston at Nick’s Restaurant
Giant Crawfish at Nick's in Galveston
Giant Crawfish at Nick’s in Galveston

Overall, I had a great time with family and a great time visiting Galveston….even in the middle of the summer!! (127)

Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS

Highway 61 Visited – Day 2: Vicksburg, MS to Galveston, TX

Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
TNMSDay2
Map of travels from Vicksburg, MS down US 61 to Natchez, MS and then thru Louisiana and on to Galveston, TX via the Bolivar Peninsula.

Highway 61 in Mississippi may be called the Blues Highway, but there is much more to it than the Blues.  After my first long drive from Kentucky to Vicksburg, I woke up early the next day to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park before heading south on Highway 61.

Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in many places
Cannon line the grounds of Vicksburg National Military park in many places

The park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863 and also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. The expansive park includes 1,340 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, 144 emplaced cannons, a restored gunboat (the USS Cairo which sunk on December 12, 1862, on the Yazoo River, recovered successfully in 1964), and more. The Illinois State Memorial has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged.

One of the hundreds of monuments in the park
One of the hundreds of monuments in the park

Nearly 95% of the 1,340 monuments, markers, tablets and plaques,  were erected prior to 1917.

Stephen Burbridge bust in Vicksburg Military Park
Stephen Burbridge bust in Vicksburg Military Park. He was also known as “Butcher” Burbridge or the “Butcher of Kentucky”, was a controversial Union Major General during the American Civil War.

I drove a good part of the main road through the park and didn’t have lots of time to stop and look at all of the monuments, plaques and other items.  I kind of just shot those that struck me as unique or interesting. Following are a few more

Wisconsin 18th Infantry Monument
Wisconsin 18th Infantry Monument
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg
The Union Obelisk at Vicksburg with the sun gleaming behind
The Union Obelisk at Vicksburg with the sun gleaming behind
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg
Sculpture at Vicksburg

One of the most visited locations on the property appears to be the Illinois Memorial. It was dedicated on October 26, 1906. There are forty-seven steps in the long stairway, one for each day of the Siege of Vicksburg. Modeled after the Roman Pantheon, the monument has sixty unique bronze tablets lining its interior walls, naming all 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the Vicksburg Campaign.

Illinois State Memorial at Vicksburg
Illinois State Memorial at Vicksburg
Golden Eagle sits on top of the Illinois State Memorial at Vicksburg
Golden Eagle sits on top of the Illinois State Memorial at Vicksburg
Relief sculpture on top of the Illinois Memorial in Vicksburg
Relief sculpture on top of the Illinois Memorial in Vicksburg

There are apparently 144 cannon emplaced throughout the grounds. These were placed strategically such that one can envision what it may have been like during the war.

Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park – Illinois Memorial in background
A lonely cannon sits on a hill at Vicksburg
A lonely cannon sits on a hill at Vicksburg
Cannon and Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg
Cannon and Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg
A line of cannons at Vicksburg
A line of cannons at Vicksburg
Cannons in the trees in Vicksburg
Cannons in the trees in Vicksburg
A plaque explains the firepower of the cannons
A plaque explains the firepower of the cannons

A few other scenes from Vicksburg’s Military Park

Obelisk with sculpture
Obelisk with sculpture
One of the views of the battlefields
One of the views of the battlefields
Entry arch at Vicksburg
Entry arch at Vicksburg.  The Memorial Arch was sculpted by Charles Lawhon using Stone Mountain (GA) granite, and was dedicated in 1920.
Ohio Monument at Vicksburg
Ohio Monument at Vicksburg
A portion of Vicksburg National Cemetery
A portion of Vicksburg National Cemetery

Indeed, an entire day could be spent visiting the numerous monuments, historical sites and cemeteries at Vicksburg.  Further, a complete blog post could be dedicated to this powerful Civil War park.  But, there is more in Vicksburg than just this park.

The Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum in Vicksburg
The Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum in Vicksburg

One usually thinks Atlanta when thinking about Coca Cola.  But, not too far removed from the National Military Park is the Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum. The museum houses a wide variety of exhibits interpreting the beginnings of Coca-Cola, the history of the Biedenharn family, the process used to first bottle Coca-Cola, a reproduction of the equipment first used to bottle Coke, the history of Coca-Cola advertising, and Coca-Cola memorabilia from past to present.

Biedenharn Museum Sign
Biedenharn Museum Sign
Lots of Coca Cola memorabilia at Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum
Lots of Coca Cola memorabilia at Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum
Old Hotel Sign on side of The Vicksburg
Old Hotel Sign on side of The Vicksburg

As with my many other trips, I am always on the lookout for wall murals.  There are a number along a wall that parallels the train tracks.  Hard to get to from my location that day, I snapped a few shots through the fence.  Not my favorite way to do things….

Vicksburg Wall Mural
Vicksburg Wall Mural dedicated to Cotton
Wall mural of The Vicksburg Hotel
Wall mural of The Vicksburg Hotel
Another Wall Mural in Vicksburg
Another Wall Mural in Vicksburg
Vicksburg Wall Mural
Vicksburg Wall Mural

And finally…something to smile about….beautiful tree flowers on a tree in Vicksburg

Flowering Tree in Vicksburg
Flowering Tree in Vicksburg

After the lovely morning spent in Vicksburg it was time to continue south on US Hwy 61.  The drive from Vicksburg south had many more trees and was more scenic than the northern Mississippi section of US Hwy 61.

Tree lined Hwy 61 south of Vicksburg, MS
Tree lined Hwy 61 south of Vicksburg, MS

The next stop along the way was the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well.

Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Old Courthouse in Port Gibson, MS
Old Claiborne County Courthouse in Port Gibson, MS

Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above.  Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures. Unfortunately, they were quite a drive out of town and my scheduled didn’t allow for me to take that detour.

An old 19th century house in Port Gibson with a double chimney
An old 19th century house in Port Gibson with a double chimney – built in 1817
Monument to the Confederate soldiers from Claiborne County, Mississippi.
Monument to the Confederate soldiers from Claiborne County, Mississippi. Stands in front of the courthouse

Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple!

Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS

The “Hand Pointing to Heaven” is the unique feature of this Romanesque Revival style edifice. The first hand was carved from wood by Daniel Foley, a young local craftsman. The ravages of time, however, destroyed it; and around 1901, the present hand was commissioned and installed. It was taken down in 1989 to be repaired and replated. It was raised again in 1990 and placed atop a newly re-enforced steeple.

Close up of Port Gibson's First Presbyterian Church's "Hand Pointing to Heaven" steeple
Close up of Port Gibson’s First Presbyterian Church’s “Hand Pointing to Heaven” steeple
Hand Pointing to Heaven
Hand Pointing to Heaven

Of course, like many of the Hwy 61 towns, Port Gibson is steeped in Blues Music tradition. The Rabbit’s Foot Company (also known as the Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels) was established in 1900 by Pat Chappelle, an African-American theatre owner in Tampa, Florida, who owned the leading travelling vaudeville show, with an all-black cast of singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers in the southern states. After his death in 1911, the company was taken over by Fred Swift Wolcott (1882-1967), a white farmer, who based the touring company in Port Gibson after 1918 and continued to run it until 1950. The Rabbit’s Foot Company remained popular, but was no longer considered “authentic.” A historic marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail has been placed by the Mississippi Blues Commission in Port Gibson, commemorating the contribution that The Rabbit’s Foot Company made to the development of the blues in Mississippi.

Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Old building that housed the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in Port Gibson, MS
Old building that housed the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in Port Gibson, MS

There are other remnants of the past that can be seen in this little town on the Mississippi.

Old Trace Theater in Port Gibson, MS
Old Trace Theater in Port Gibson, MS

Used as a movie theater in the past, it was closed but in the 1980s the  ‘WestSide TheAter” served as a night club and entertainment spot, even as late as 2011 (according to Facebook).

Old Neon Sign for Red Goose Shoes in Port Gibson, MS
Old Neon Sign for Red Goose Shoes in Port Gibson, MS

This old relic of a neon sign above is actually more than it shows.  In fact, it is also a relic of the early 1900s Jewish heritage that once thrived in Port Gibson, MS.  According to a 1991 article in the New York Times, “The first Jews came to Port Gibson in the 1840’s from German states and Alsace-Lorraine. They were itinerant peddlers, carrying their wares in 75-pound packs on their backs. Then, as Port Gibson began competing with Vicksburg and Natchez in both commerce and the glory of its antebellum homes, the Jewish community became a bulwark of the town’s economy, and newspaper advertisements were filled with names like Bernheimer, Marx, Meyer, Cahn, Traxler and Ullman.” The old neon sign reading H. Frishman-Red Goose Shoes is all that remains on a building now occupied by Mississippi: Cultural Crossroads, a community center mostly serving the town’s predominantly black youth. The only other remnant of the once thriving Jewish heritage is the old synagogue with a Moorish Dome, which was restored in 1991.

Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson

Today, Port Gibson appears to be predominantly black in population.  Most, if not all, of the Jews moved away years ago.  Scenes like the man on the porch below were quite common on my trip.  It was obvious that poverty thrives in these small Mississippi towns.

A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
A sign of the past, this Ghost Sign for Claiborne Hotel in Port Gibson, MS
A sign of the past, this Ghost Sign for Claiborne Hardware in Port Gibson, MS. In the 1960s this hardware store was wrangled in a lawsuit with the NAACP for discrimination.
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural depicts history of Port Gibson, MS

After my long visit to Port Gibson, I was back on US 61 heading south towards Natchez, MS.  On the way I stopped by the “Old Country Store” in Lorman…more for a look see than to stop and eat (mainly because I had plans to stop at another cool place to eat just down the road — see below!). They claim to have the “World’s Best Fried Chicken.”

Old Country Store and Restaurant in Lorman, MS
Old Country Store and Restaurant in Lorman, MS

Though I honestly missed out due to schedule, I did learn that people travel for hours to partake of Mr “D”s ‘Heavenly Fried Chicken’.  On their menu: An all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. The buffet includes fried chicken and other meats (sometimes catfish and ribs), tossed salad, cucumber/tomato salad, potato salad, coleslaw, mac & cheese, corn on the cob, green beans, turnip greens, dirty rice, field peas, sweet potatoes, dressing and cornbread. All for about $10. And owner Arthur Davis (Mr. “D”) entertains diners by singing a song about his Grand Mama’s cornbread. Sounds fun and too bad I didn’t have the time!

Old Country Store inside
Old Country Store inside
Some old rusty vintage signs at Old Country Store
Some old rusty vintage signs at Old Country Store
Entering Natchez, MS
Entering Natchez, MS

A visit into Natchez was really not meant to be, so I continued south of of town to the Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe….the epitome of vintage novelty architecture.

Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS

Built in the 1940s, this unique place is a MUST SEE and MUST STOP destination if anywhere close.

Sumoflam at Mammy's Cupboard
Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS
Mammy's Cupboard Sign
Mammy’s Cupboard Sign – says their cornbread made from the original pan…
Off the Eaten Path" from Southern Living Magazine
Not quite “Less Beaten Paths” but the place was featured in “Off the Eaten Path” from Southern Living Magazine….

The woman’s skirt holds a dining room and a gift shop. The skirt is made out of bricks, and the earrings are horseshoes. She is holding a serving tray while smiling. Mammy’s Cupboard has been through several renovations, the exterior has been repaired and the interior refurbished.

Mammy's Cupboard Dining Room - Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside

All of the food is home made.  I had a nice sandwich with their wonderful homemade bread.  But their homemade cake was to die for!!  I couldn’t resist….

Homemade Cake at Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Homemade Cake at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
One last look at Mammy's Cupboard south of Natchez, MS
One last look at Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS

From Natchez I finished the last leg of the Mississippi portion of US 61 through Woodville and into Louisiana.

South on US 61...last few miles in southern Mississippi
South on US 61…last few miles in southern Mississippi
Passing thru Woodville, MS before leaving the state
Passing thru Woodville, MS before leaving the state

And into Louisiana….

Welcome to Louisiana on US Hwy 61
Welcome to Louisiana on US Hwy 61

From the Louisiana/Mississippi border I continued south towards Baton Rouge.  From the highway the tallest State Capitol Building in the US can be plainly seen.

Heading towards Baton Rouge
Heading towards Baton Rouge
Louisiana State Capitol Building as seen from US Hwy 61
Louisiana State Capitol Building as seen from US Hwy 61 (sorry, a bit blurry…)

I continued past Baton Rouge into Plaquemine, LA, where I would finally leave Hwy 61 and get on Louisiana Hwy 1.  Another town worth a visit, no time on this trip to explore.

Heading to Plaquemine, LA
Heading to Plaquemine, LA
Welcome to Plaquemine, LA
Welcome to Plaquemine, LA

As I noted above, I didn’t have time to visit Plaquemine because I had another objective on this portion of the trip. First off, I exited onto Louisiana Hwy 1, the longest numbered highway of any class in Louisiana.  This is a scenic byway along the Mississippi River, which I took into White Castle, Louisiana before heading south into bayou country on the back roads.

Louisiana Highway 1
Louisiana Highway 1
Welcome to White Castle, LA
Welcome to White Castle, LA

White Castle, the town, was carved out of the George Wailes Plantation “White Castle”. The 1883 Charles H. Dickinson Survey of several parishes of Louisiana shows the “White Castle” Plantation property. Nearby is the plantation property of John H. Randolph called “Nottaway”.

There is a White Castle Fire Dept, but no White Castle restaurants to be seen
There is a White Castle Fire Dept, but no White Castle restaurants to be seen

In White Castle I turned south on Louisiana 69 which enters the Atchafalaya Swamp, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Ultimately, my goal was to go hunting for “Swamp People.” It is an interesting story and I actually created a full post on it HERE.  Once Hwy 69 hits Hwy 70 I took that south into the small bayou town of Pierre Part, LA. The town was founded by Acadian French (Cajun) settlers around 1755, during which much of the French population of Acadia was expelled by its British conquerors. The town remained isolated from most of the world, since it is surrounded by water and was inaccessible by land until the mid-twentieth century. Before the Great Depression, the inhabitants of Pierre Part were fishermen. Very few people continue the traditional ways of fishing and living off the land with each generation, but one that does is the Landry family (including Troy, who is noted in my previous post.)

Bayou swamps abound in Pierre Part, LA
Bayou swamps abound in Pierre Part, LA
Egrets forage in a field in Pierre Part, LA
Egrets forage in a field in Pierre Part, LA
A trailer on the Bayou (if you are an Antsy McClain fan you'll get this)
A trailer on the Bayou (if you are an Antsy McClain fan you’ll get this)

As noted, my hope was to track down and meet Troy Landry…the whole purpose for going through Pierre Part.  I found him at the family bait shop/gas station (Duffy’s Shell on LA 70).  The whole story is on my “Swamp People” post.  But here is a photo of me with Troy…a bucket list item now checked off.

Sumoflam and Swamp People's Troy Landry...one of the friendliest and most personable guys you'll ever meet (Troy that is...)
Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)

After my short visit there, I made my way down a back road just a tad south of Duffy’s.  Once I got to Shell Beach Road, I detoured to head towards P’Maws Bait Shack, a really offbeat and fun place.  This place is the site of the Animal Channel’s SWAMP’D Reality TV Show (which I have never seen).  I had hoped to meet P’maw as well, but he wasn’t there.  This place is open 24 hours.  There is a fun video of P’Maw giving a fishing report:

Of course, I have photos of the place too!

A dragonfly greets me at the entrance to P'maws in Pierre Part, LA
A dragonfly greets me at the entrance to P’maws in Pierre Part, LA
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA
Now this is a Gator Boat!
Now this is a Gator Boat!
P'MAWS is open 24/7
P’MAWS is open 24/7
Visiting P'Maws in Pierre Part...home of another TV show from Animal Channel called Swamp'd
Visiting P’Maws in Pierre Part…home of another TV show from Animal Channel called Swamp’d
Cuddling with a White Gator at P'MAWS in Pierre Part, LA
Cuddling with a White Gator at P’MAWS in Pierre Part, LA
Green slimy swamp at P'MAWS...the Swamp Thing could come out any minute!
Green slimy swamp at P’MAWS…the Swamp Thing could come out any minute!
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part

One thing I had hoped to see in Pierre Part was a live gator.  No luck…and I drove along a good part of the swamp.  Oh well, off to Galveston.  I continued south on LA 70 to Morgan City and US 90.  I then headed west on US 90, passing by New Iberia (I had hoped to visit the Tabasco plant but it was too late).  I continued northwest towards Lafayette, LA and just kept rolling in order to get to Galveston at a decent hour.

US 90 Heading west to Texas
US 90 Heading west to Texas
Welcome to Texas
Welcome to Texas
Sumoflam in the Lone Star State
Sumoflam in the Lone Star State

By this time it was nearing 7 PM and I still had a ways to go, so I jumped on I-10 west towards Lake Charles, LA and Beaumont, TX, since it would be the fastest. Once in Beaumont, I continued southwest towards Winnie, TX.  I then headed south on TX 124 with the intention of driving along the Gulf Coast on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Wetlands and sunset as seen on TX 124 south of Winnie, TX
Wetlands and sunset as seen on TX 124 south of Winnie, TX

I finally hit the Gulf around 9 PM and the sunset was amazing.  Pelicans flew overhead and I could smell the salt in the air as I drove along with my window open to hear the waves crashing a few yards to my left.

Sunset as seen from TX 87 on the Bolivar Peninsula northeast of Galveston
Sunset as seen from TX 87 on the Bolivar Peninsula northeast of Galveston

The road ends at Port Bolivar where you need to drive on to a Ferry to cross the inlet to Galveston Bay.

GalvestonMapI got there and was third in line, but many more cars followed.  I waited about 20 minutes for the ferry.  But, when they loaded the cars I was put first in line.  Really cool!!

On the Bolivar Ferry to Galveston
On the Bolivar Ferry to Galveston – the lights in the background are in Galveston
My car is first in line...as seen from up on the Ferry Deck
My car is first in line…as seen from up on the Ferry Deck
Proof I was on the Ferry
Proof I was on the Ferry
Exiting the Ferry into Galveston
Exiting the Ferry into Galveston

I got into Galveston late, but much of the family was still out and about.  My next post will be about my visit to the wonderful island of Galveston, TX. (225)

Enjoying the Ride on the Back Roads of America

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