No adventures this time. Just our last journey with the “camper trailer” from Fort Clark, Texas, through “Middle America” to home in Fergus, Ontario. We allowed several weeks, since the journey is part of our escape from Winter.
Elaine says I should call this a “floral journey” since we do indeed see some breathtaking blooms along the way. I am not a botanist, and about as far away from horticulture as I can run. But my more empathetic wife points out that others who read this blog love flowers, and I will reluctantly admit that flowers, both wild and tamed, beat bare trees, brown grass and frozen ponds.
Fort Clark is not the floral capital of Texas, but the trees were bright green, and the mountain laurels were in bloom as we left.
Various cacti, including the yuccas were showing off. The first portion of our route takes us north on a winding but passable road with fantastic rugged scenery. Then I stop looking at flowers, and focus ahead for the cloud of smoke which hovers over Junction … aptly named because several roads meet there, and there is an enormous car park. Not much else in Junction, but it is home for the original Cooper’s Barbecue House, with massive piles of mesquite logs and several garage-sized smokers. Dining there requires tolerance, as the eyes of many stuffed deer heads gaze down on the pine tables and eclectic mix of bikers, truckers, bemused RV folk and other tourists. The sprinkling of obviously poor people reflects the prices, which are very reasonable. But it is one of those diners that feature on TV shows, since the smoked brisket and ribs are world-class.
Eastward through the enchanted Texas Hill Country, with a sea of bluebonnets and other wildflowers which, to be honest, is why we chose this route. The flowers follow the roadsides all the way home, but this stretch is nature’s majesty at its best. Photographs and even videos cannot capture the glory of these magical carpets of flowers, all the better for being entirely wild.
Through Louisiana, and into southern Mississippi the flowers become more “tamed” with banks of azaleas, towering magnolias, and other southern beauties, especially around Port Gibson. General Grant who was notorious for torching southern towns at the end of the U.S. Civil War, spared Port Gibson, allegedly because it was “too pretty to burn”.
Amazing this year in Louisiana and Mississippi were the wild wisteria, which reached high into the sky around trees that perhaps did not welcome this vine.
The Natchez Trace has featured many times in this blog, but it remains one of our favourite routes, running over 400 miles for the length of Mississippi, a wedge of Alabama, and into Tennessee. This is a Federal Parkway, following the old trail (or Trace) that pre-steam boatmen walked back from the Mississippi port of Natchez, all the way to Tennessee to build new rafts and float more goods south on the rivers before doing it all over again. The route became redundant when steam could take boats upstream, but it has been re-created as a magnificent two-lane highway. 50 mph speed limit, no commercial vehicles, no development for about a mile either side, and for its whole length you have the “right of way” over or under the highways, railways and rivers with only nature for company.
The wild dogwoods are legendary on the Natchez Trace, as well as many other blossoms and roadside flowers. The daffodils and tulips give way to summer flowers n the South as April moves along, but these surface again in further north in Kentucky and Indiana.
We consider ourselves “privileged” to have several times experienced “Endless Fall” on our way down, and coming back we really enjoy a journey which is “Forever Spring”.
Appropriately we ended up on Easter Sunday at Pinery Provincial Park, and miraculously it was warm enough for a walk on the Lake Huron beach –a fitting welcome back to Ontario.
Now, it is all over! Our trailer is emptied and ready for sale, and we are looking forward to seeing different places next year. But this is definitely our last year “On The Road”, so logically the end of this blog. However I have been persuaded (forcibly) to complete the tale of our years on the road with a look back on some of the more memorable moments, emphasizing the ones that were more amusing than others. This mainly for family, but others might just be mildly interested.
John, with suggestions and help from Elaine