Western Caribbean 2019:
Day 1 - Great River Road


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Western Caribbean 2019: [Day 1 - Great River Road] [Day 2 - New Orleans] [Day 3 - New Orleans Sailout] [Day 4 - At Sea] [Day 5 - Chichén Itzá, Mexico] [Day 6 - Roatán, Honduras] [Day 7 - Harvest Caye, Belize] [Day 8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Costa Maya, Mexico] [Day 10 - Drive Home]

Friday, November 15, 2019: We grabbed some McDonald's, dropped off Claire at her day program, and headed out of Indy.
Soon, we were in Illinois.
A couple of hours later, we stopped at a rest area on beautiful Rend Lake.
In the distance, we could see white blobs on the water, ...
... that turned out to be pelicans.
Here's a random thing by the side of the road near Benton, Illinois - a large cutout painting of George Harrison and some screaming fans.
We got some lunch at Long John Silver's in West Frankfort, ...
... then we arrived in Cairo, Illinois, atround 12:30 PM.
Turn left to go to Historic Downtown Cairo. We continued straight.
We headed to Fort Defiance Park for the first of the day's four Mississippi River sightings covering six different states.
The park had an odd little pavilion with a second level, so up we went for the view.
Here's the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Here's the view looking back up the Ohio River to the north. That's Kentucky on the opposite shore.
Turning to the left, here's the view looking up the Mississippi River to the west. That's Missouri on the opposite shore.
At the entrance to the park was this sign discussing the Lewis and Clark expedition and their six-night stop at this location. Someday, we're going to have to do a Lewis and Clark road trip. Someday.
There was a large blue sign there as well, ...
... with a nice, large Great River Road logo. We've only ever seen the Minnesota and Wisconsin versions, so once we saw this, we knew we had to collect as many as we could find.
Here's the more standard look for the logo. And what's this? A Lincoln Heritage Trail? Since we had already been in Springfield earlier in the year, we're pretty sure we've made some good progress on that one.
Cairo is a lovely town with nicely-restored old buildings.
Here's a cool mural of the USS Cairo.
We made our first Mississippi River crossing of the day ...
... when we crossed the bridge from Illinois ...
... to Missouri.
Our next stop was Riverfront Park in New Madrid, Missouri, approximately 45 minutes later.
Once again, that's Kentucky across the river.
We were at an odd little point on the Mississippi where Missouri almost completely surrounds Kentucky.
We continued to drive and passed our first cotton fields, reminding us that we were definitely in the South now.
Here's a truck carrying cotton bales, with little wisps of cotton flying off all down the highway.
We do love a nice crossing sign.
The rest area just south of New Madrid was amazing. Seismic waves decorated the pillars leading into the building.
The real star of the show was a large mural on the floor showing the locations of a series of earthquakes back in 1811 and 1812 along the New Madrid faultline.
Benches showed the dates, times, and power of each quake, with numbers corresponding to the floor mural to indicate where each quake occurred. The first two huge earthquakes occurred six hours apart on December 16, 1811 ...
... with an aftershock at midnight.
Additional quakes followed in January ...
... and February, with a major aftershock on the same day (bench not pictured here). What an amazing display.
Next up was Arkansas, the Natural State.
Around 3:45, we were approaching Nashville.
We crossed the Mississippi again, this time going from Arkansas to Tennessee.
The Memphis pyramid is now covered with huge sponsor logos.
As we drove, Debbie read letters from her mom aloud. She had just finished scanning them all the previous week, so it was fascinating to read letters that spanned Debbie's life from birth until age 22, when her mother passed away at age 43. We finished reading the very last letter just as we were pulling into the parking lot ...
... at Mud Island Park in Memphis. We had one hour to visit before the sun went down, so off we went.
This amazing park contains a half-mile-long scale-model recreation of the Mississippi from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. Each horizontal mile of river was depicted in 30 inches. Vertically, one inch = 8 feet.
This display showed the states and waterways that feed into the Ohio River before it merges with the Mississippi. An information sign told us that the Ohio winds 481 miles from Pittsburgh to Cairo.
This display showed the paths taken by the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers before they join the Ohio River. During the summer months, water flows from the two spouts, simulating the rivers. This display was unusual in that it showed the southern states upside down, since the rivers travel north. The Tennessee River travels from Knoxville to Paducah where it joins the Ohio. The Cumberland River travels from southern Kentucky to 12 miles east of Paducah.
This was Debbie's favorite display: her homelands of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the source of the mighty Mississippi.
The river starts at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. Not far away, it travels through Lake Andrusia, the lake on which Debbie's late father used to live and just a mile from where he is buried.
Then it winds its way through the Twin Cities to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border where we had spent lots of time this year already: in Red Wing, MN, watching bald eagles, and in La Crosse and Trempealeau, WI.
The same display also showed the Missouri River, which flows from southwest Montana, through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas before joining the Mississippi in St. Louis.
Major towns along the river were depicted. Here's the confluence of the Ohio (right) and Mississippi Rivers (left) at Cairo, where we had just been earlier in the day. Fallen leaves now filled the model river in place of flowing water in the summer months.
Here's Tom standing just north of Wolf Island near Mile 936.
Here's New Madrid looking south, where we had been earlier. You can really see the tiny section of Kentucky that juts out and is nearly completely surrounded by Missouri.
We reached the large city of Memphis, faithfully reproduced in correct scale.
Here was Mud Island where we were standing this very minute. You can see the bridges across the river in the upper part of this photo.
Oooh, pretty. We had the huge park almost completely to ourselves, encountering only two other couples briefly.
This display depicted the Arkansas and White Rivers. The Arkansas flows from Leadville, CO, while the White River originates in the Ozarks in Arkansas. Both meet the Mississippi 15 miles apart near Rosedale, MS.
Here's Natchez, MS.
After 25 minutes, we made it down to New Orleans.
Here's Tom standing like a giant on top of the city, with the French Quarter in front of him. We would be there the next day.
From here, the river continued through the Mississippi Delta following the same path that our cruise ship would be taking two days later.
Having reached the end, we had to get an artsy shot of the Memphis sign, ...
... and the late afternoon sun over the Mississippi.
Here's the Memphis skyline, ...
... and some riverboats parked for the season.
We returned to our van after 40 minutes, ...
... and were on our way again while the sun was still up.
We passed a Great River Road Tennessee sign and were happy to get a photo, even if it is blurry.
Ditto for the Welcome to Mississippi sign we passed a half hour later.
Our next stop was the Hollywood Cafe in Robinsonville, MS, immortalized in Marc Cohn's 1991 hit, "Walking in Memphis."
It's a large, open room with simple furnishings.
We were here for the Southern food, of course - especially fried okra. But ribs and beets are delicious too.
"They got catfish on the table." So, yeah, Tom had to order catfish.
A sign contained pins from visitors across the US.
There was already a pin in Carmel, so we didn't add one.
While Debbie was in the rest room, Tom spotted something near the front of the cafe: ...
... the Marc Cohn shrine and the famous piano. "Muriel plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood." It was Friday night, but Muriel passed away in 1991, so that lyric is no longer true.
After dinner, we continued south while keeping an eye out for Great River Road signs.
Since it was dark out, we pulled over to get this photo.
We passed several casinos near Tunica, MS, ...
... on our way back to Arkansas.
We crossed the Mississippi again, ...
... and found a Great River Road Arkansas sign to photograph.
We headed to Helena, AR, to visit their Merci Train boxcar.
It is in beautiful condition ...
... on both sides.
We passed a Conway Twitty mural on the wall of an abandoned building.
A couple of deer darted out ahead of us on the very dark road to ...
... Helena River Park River Walk. It was jet black out and Tom was certain we'd be killed, ...
... but he used his phone as a flashlight and we had a pleasant walk along the beautiful wooden walkway.
Here's the mighty river again, looking from Arkansas back to Mississippi. The Helena Bridge was barely visible in the distance.
This sign tells readers that the narrowest part of the Mississippi is at the river's source at Lake Itasca, MN, where it is between 20 and 30 feet wide.
We crossed back into Mississippi as we continued our journey.
The not-quite-full moon started to rise.
Tom loves to see interesting mileage numbers on his van. Hard to believe we're at 56,789 miles already when the van is only three years old, but then again, we do love to take road trips.
It was 9:00 PM when we pulled into the Hampton Inn parking lot in Greenwood, MS.
We were ready for a good night's sleep.

Day 2 >


Western Caribbean 2019: [Day 1 - Great River Road] [Day 2 - New Orleans] [Day 3 - New Orleans Sailout] [Day 4 - At Sea] [Day 5 - Chichén Itzá, Mexico] [Day 6 - Roatán, Honduras] [Day 7 - Harvest Caye, Belize] [Day 8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Costa Maya, Mexico] [Day 10 - Drive Home]

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