In Mississippi storms (and mud) are part of life in the spring. We started in the south and are now just shy of the Tennessee border. We have traveled nearly the entire length of Mississippi — mostly on back roads. Our number one observation is how wet it is. Wet is everywhere rivers, lakes, ditches, puddles, and mud. Our current campsite is closer to Tennessee than any big city, in any direction — that includes if you count Tupelo as a big city.
Our first stop was just across the border between Louisiana and Mississippi. In Louisiana, we only spent one night at a rest stop. We exited Texas right before the polar vortex made travel very suspect. The plan was to get as far east as possible, while still staying as far south as possible. Our stop was in Kiln, Mississippi. Kiln was our choice to sit out the Mississippi storm part of the polar vortex. From Kiln we ventured south to New Orleans twice (more later).
Texas rehash with reasons
Our Texas crossing was all done in four driving days. We paused for a few days north of San Antonio and when we got to Austin State Park, near Houston. We intended to stay in Texas for a few more days and then wander across Louisiana with four stops. It was at Austin State Park when we started hearing about the polar vortex cold front that was pushing south across Canada. Hearing about the onset of cold and probable below-freezing weather in Houston, we quickly made the decision we didn’t want to be in Texas anymore. Mississippi storms had to be better than a Texas ice storm.
Moving faster and further east was a much better plan than sitting in a city that nearly never has freezing weather. We had already traveled across most of Texas way faster than we normally travel. Bad weather was coming and we include our wheels as part of our heating plan. When we left Texas the first part of the cold front was causing heavy rain.
We stopped at Port Arthur for the night and stayed inside. The rain let up, but to in order to get into our site, we drove through a super large puddle. The parking spot was wide enough, barely long enough, and at a location that didn’t need exploring in the rain.
I was surprised that it wasn’t raining when we left Port Arthur the next morning and crossed Lousiana. We had some rain but nothing nearly as wet as we experienced in Port Arthur. I really don’t like driving the RV when the wipers are at the highest speed. Earlier I explained (and in our previous post Adding new states) how we only spent one night (at a welcome center) in Lousiana. I even introduced you to our campsite in Kiln, Mississippi. I explained that I didn’t like the campground or campsite on the first night but I also predicted that I would really like it on Sunday afternoon when the noisy Saturday crowd went home. My prediction was correct and we enjoyed our stay in Kiln.
County campgrounds in Mississippi are called water parks. Water isn’t hard to find and given the summer temperatures water play is very desirable. Our waterpark at the Jourdan River was outside the tiny town of Kiln and north of the small city of Bay St. Louis.
The biggest Mississippi storm — (ever) was in Bay St. Louis, Bay St. Louis was completely destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Nearly nothing was standing when the hurricane was over. Half of the houses were gone. All of the rest were severely damaged. It was almost the same for nearby Biloxi. The bridge between the two was shredded. The worst part of the hurricane was in Bay St. Louis, which was far worse than New Orleans. New Orleans was still standing, miserable, but at least it was still there. Bay St. Louis has recovered and rebuilt and was very nice and they had all the things we needed during our stay. Some of the rebuilt houses are sitting on telephone pole foundations 30 feet above ground level. Here is a link to a CBS news article on the hurricane and recovery. Katrina 10 years later: Mississippi
While Texas was suffering from the Polar Vortex we were OK. We had gone just far enough to only get to the east edge of the cold. Mostly it was dry during our stay in Kiln. A few nights dipped below the 20-degree mark and we were running our heater all day and most of the night. During this Mississippi storm, we weren’t warm, but we weren’t freezing, or without power like most of the rest of the country and nearly all of Texas. One thing we learned is that we didn’t need additional heat in our storage bay to keep our batteries warm. Thankfully, we also didn’t have to start our generator to recharge our batteries.
Mississippi Ice storms and new plans
Our stay in Kiln was planned for one week. Following that, we were going to another Mississippi campground near Meridian. The Meridian campground was right on a lake and I was really looking forward to it. The campground however canceled our stay due to the ice storm associated with the polar vortex. So instead of leaving, we stayed an additional week in Kiln. This enabled us to make an additional day trip to visit New Orleans.
The number one attraction for me in New Orleans is the World War II Museum. Here is a link. National WWII Museum This museum was equal to or better than any of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC. I am very glad that attendance is up and it was worth wearing our masks (due to Covid) for the entire visit. We spent the day there and were amazed at the coverage of the war and artifacts (including full-size boats and airplanes).
Compared to nearly everywhere else in the country (except southern Florida) we had a good spot to ride out the polar vortex. Just to the north of our campground (at our now canceled park at the lake) instead of rain, they had ice storms. This ice gathered in the trees and broke branches so extensively that they had to close the campground. Of course in Mississippi, storms are the cause of the mud. During our trip through Mississippi, we saw plenty of mud; southern Mississippi was flat (and muddy) and northern Mississippi along our route was hilly (and muddy). We didn’t go through western Mississippi and it is extremely flat (and muddy).
Another cold front and storm system moved through two days ago and this one caused tornado warnings and sightings on the border between Mississippi and Alabama (we stayed in Alabama one mile east of the state line). When the fire department sirens went off, we drove to but did not enter the storm shelter. A massive thunderstorm, complete with a rotating bottom and wall cloud had just passed to the east of us, heading north. A quick walk outside showed that we were not in danger. We went to the parking lot of the storm shelter anyway. This visual storm check is easy in the day, not so easy at night. We had another scare, just after it got dark.
After departing Kiln we made a long drive to our next reservation in Columbus, Mississippi. Just west of town we stayed for a nice week on the Tombigbee waterway (river turned into a canal complete with locks to lift ships while traveling upriver). This stay was very nice and just behind the RV, there was a nice section of the Tombigbee waterway.
We weren’t done with the Mississippi storms yet and while we were there we had plenty of rain. In the past, they had problems letting enough water through the dam and they had to evacuate the campground. We investigated the water level as soon as we arrived. Our indicator was that the boardwalk on the pier was about six inches above water level. The next morning the water level was about six inches above the boardwalk. It was nice to see that later in the day, the boardwalk was back above water.
Bulldogs are the name for the Mississippi State University athletic teams and between Columbas and Tupelo, the name Bulldogs describes lots of different locations. My favorite Bulldog location is the Bulldog Burger in Tupelo. After our stay in Columbas, we went further north along the Tombigbee waterway to Fulton. While in Fulton we wandered back south to Tupelo (twice). The burgers were that good. Here is a link to my review of the Bulldog Burger location in Tupelo in the snippets section. Bulldog Burger The short version is that the mushroom and swiss cheeseburger has made my all-time best list. The french fries were the best french fries south of Idaho, tied with and maybe better than the french fries in Idaho Falls. Further investigation on this subject is warranted.
Along the Tombigbee river, further to the north, we spent a week in Fulton. This was another good park, this time between Mississippi storms. A few people have noted that we typically pick locations along the water. With luck, some of the locations we pick work out so that we can face our RV front window looking at the water. My perfect location would have the water in front of the RV with our private beach and our kayaks parked on the beach right in front of the RV. (yes, occasionally this happens). Fulton wasn’t perfect, but we would go back there anytime. You can see the picture of our view at the top of the page just after sunset.
It bears mentioning that rules have changed in Mississippi pertaining to beer. You can get beer in grocery stores but not liquor stores. Another changed rule is that counties in Mississippi were dry by default and locals had to vote to allow alcohol sales. This rule has flipped and locals now have to vote to become dry.
Since we have gradually become beer snobs; the beer we want isn’t found typically at grocery stores (especially Mississippi grocery stores). For good beer, in Mississippi, you have to go to a gas station. We had to ask where to find good beer and while it doesn’t warrant a separate article, the very best beer snob gas station in Tupelo is at Papa V’s on Main Street. We met Johnny, the owner and he has a wide selection of beer meeting the criteria for beer snobs. Here is a link to his Facebook page. Papa V’s In case you are wondering, there just isn’t anyplace for beer snobs to find good beer in Mississippi north of Tupelo.
I will be covering our stay in Red Bay (Alabama), in our next travel post. Red Bay is the place our RV was manufactured and our destination as we traveled north through eastern Mississippi. We stayed in both Red Bay and in Mississippi during our stay in the area.
This post would be very incomplete if I didn’t mention the Natchez Trace. This was the footpath between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi. Gradually the footpath was made into a wagon trail, then a narrow road and now it is National Park, along a very long road. The entire length of the trail is now a National Park. In this case, the word “trace” refers to the marks left by eons of travel along this path.
We first crossed the Natchez Trace when visiting Tupalo and followed it in the car for a few miles. We stopped at a visitors center (closed due to covid), then we drove along the parkway and took a very short hike. Further north also crossed the Natchez Trace as we traveled to our next campground west of Red Bay. We will cross it again heading east at the end of the week.
Someday we intend to explore the Natchez Trace, but for now, we have only seen a small part of it. A 444-mile long National Park is too important to ignore.
About thirty miles west of Red Bay we are at a wonderful campground, Piney Grove. This is where we are camping now and this will be our last camping spot in Mississippi. Piney Grove is on Bay Springs Lake which is also part of the Tombigbee waterway that connects southern Mississippi with the Tennessee River.
We are not done with the Mississippi storms yet. Later this week we may get wet yet again; I hope not. From our front window, we have a very nice view of the lake and the setting sun. Unlike Fulton, the path to the lake is nearly level. Our kayaks will be in front of the RV at the edge of the water.
A cub scout joke is “how do you spell Mississippi with only one eye”. If you don’t know the answer, ask a Cub Scout.