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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Day 6 Summary

Day Six – August 8, 2004
Dallas, TX to Jackson, MS

Unfortunately for me on the beginning of day six of my vacation, I was forced to say goodbye to my fabulous view of Dallas I had had for the past three nights. I knew I’d miss being able to peer down at the entire downtown area of Dallas; the only thing I can do to try to emulate the experience would be to play Sim City for awhile. Oh well, every good thing must come to an end eventually, I guess.

Next to the first day of my vacation – which was the longest single-day drive at 500 miles – day six of my vacation was the second longest single-day drive. Dallas, TX to Jackson, MS is over 400 miles, meaning we had quite a lot of ground to cover if we wanted to get to Jackson before it got dark at 8 PM.

We left Dallas at about 10 AM on what would, until the evening hours, be a largely uneventful day of traveling.

The first stop we made was at a rest area east of Tyler, Texas. This was probably the strangest rest area I’d ever been to, mostly because it was built along a hillside, and had quite an interesting parking arrangement. Instead of separating semi trucks from automobiles, this rest area had semis and RVs parking on one side of a narrow, single-lane road, and all other vehicles on the other. When semis drove down the road to get back on the interstate, they narrowly missed hitting either side of parked traffic by mere inches. It was a little unnerving seeing how very close the semis and RVs came to hitting cars and other semis parked at the rest area.

For obvious reasons, we didn’t stay at that rest area very long. We soon got back on the road, and finally approached the city of Tyler, Texas, some 80 miles away from the Dallas Metroplex. Although Tyler is located about 8 miles off of I-20, we decided to get off the interstate to find a place to eat in the city. We quickly found a Whataburger (the last one I got to eat at during this trip – oh how I want to bring one to Minnesota!) and picked up some food.

We soon got back on the interstate after taking some back roads out of Tyler. I really noticed how much the landscape had changed in this area of Texas. There were large forests full of trees all over the place. A lot of the trees were pine, but there was also a large assortment of deciduous trees as well. I guess I couldn’t have expected much else, though, since this area of Texas is called the “Piney Woods” Region.

The cities of Longview and Marshall are located along the 70 miles of Texas between Tyler and the Louisiana border, but since the interstate more or less bypasses them, I didn’t get to see much.

We eventually made it to the border of Louisiana, and shortly after doing so were brought into the city of Shreveport – the third largest in Louisiana. Traffic picked up a little bit – and the interstate became 6-lanes – but that is about all I can say about Shreveport. I would have liked to have gotten off the interstate and seen some of the community, but we just didn’t have enough time to do that. I really would have liked to have gone to a Cajun restaurant, to be honest.

The stretch of interstate from Shreveport to Monroe was unlike any I think I have ever been on before. Basically, all I can say is the landscape is completely flat and filled with nothing but trees, trees, and more trees…and an occasional river or bayou. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have very dense, flat forests here in Minnesota, but definitely not as continuous as what I saw in Louisiana. I really can’t say I’ve ever been in such flat, tree-filled land. Maybe another reason why I thought it was so unusual was because of the lack of many pine trees. Probably because I’m so accustomed to seeing Minnesota forests…but when I picture a forest, it almost always has pine trees in it. There were some tall pine trees at the rest areas in the state, however. There were also many times when the opposite two lanes of the interstate could not be seen from the one we were traveling in because there were so many large trees growing in the median.

I think it would be hard for me to live in such a place like this, because all the trees and flat land really felt confining; I’ve made it perfectly clear I like wide, open spaces, such as the kind that can be found in North Dakota.

We stopped to get some gas in Minden, LA, which, to say the least, was quite an experience. We had clearly crossed another accent line by entering Louisiana, for the people here did not speak the same southern accent in Texas or Oklahoma. I’ve got a hilarious story of an experience we had at this gas station, but you’ll have to hear it in person, because I’m afraid it just doesn’t translate into words very well.

There were a few small towns along the way that we passed through, but it wasn’t until Monroe that we came to a larger-sized city. We didn’t stop here, though, so I can’t really tell you what I thought of the city.

The next stop we made was in the lovely city of Tallulah, LA. I was getting hungry again, and ready to splurge by going to another exotic (because we don’t have it in Minnesota*) fast food restaurant: Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. The visit to the drive thru at this place did not come off without a hitch, however. The fact that we clearly didn’t come from around the area, combined with a very horrible speaker and microphone system, meant it took about 5 minutes to place an order that could have easily been done in less than 1 minute. I’m very surprised that I ended up getting what I wanted, because we had such difficulty understanding and being understood. I’m thinking it could have been easier to just try to speak with a Louisiana accent when ordering, but then the people running the drive thru probably would have figured out it wasn’t genuine Louisianan.

Shortly after that experience, we crossed the truly-mighty-in-this-part-of-the-country Mississippi River into the state of Mississippi. Vicksburg is the city right along the border, and I-20, in this part of the state.

Fortunately for us, even though it was 6 PM Sunday evening, Vicksburg National Military Park was still open. We got our pass at the ticket office, and were informed that even though the gate to the park closes at 7, we could stay in until 8, when it got dark.

Even though I had 2 hours to explore the area, it really wasn’t as much as I would have liked to have had. It’d be pretty easy to spend an entire day at Vicksburg, which, if you take out your America: Past and Present that you dusted off for day 2’s report, was the site of one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War. Still, I’m happy that I got to see the entire park, even though the tour was a little rushed at times. Check out the pictures and videos below to see what I saw at Vicksburg.

We left Vicksburg at about a quarter to eight and drove the 40 miles east to Jackson, where our hotel room was waiting for us. The amount of trees got even thicker on this part of the trip, and, although the sun set at 8, it got dark much earlier because no light was able to get through the flat land and dense forests. When we finally got to our hotel, I was shocked at the type of vegetation they had there: palm trees and many other warm-climate shrubs and trees! I had definitely crossed into a much different part of the United States.

*Although I said Popeye’s has not yet come to Minnesota, that is not entirely true. Indeed, there is a Popeye’s restaurant near downtown Minneapolis, the closest Popeye’s for over 230 miles (the next closest being in Madison, WI).

My final picture from the Dallas hotel, this one shows the colors of the sunrise
My final photo of the Dallas skyscrapers
Here are some Texas road signs for you
While Oklahoma may have had teepee-looking picnic shelters at one of their rest areas, Texas had these cute oil well-looking ones at a rest area
There are pine trees in Louisiana, and they're at the I-20 east welcome center
Here's a nice Louisiana sign at the I-20 east welcome center
Some Louisiana wilderness
Cannons at the first tour stop of Vicksburg
A very nice backlit shot of a soldier aiming a gun while kneeling next to his horse
The other side of the monument described in the previous link
The tour road going through Vicksburg (steam in the air is visible in this picture - the humidity in this part of Mississippi when we were there was very stifling)
We missed the big monument dedicated to Minnesota soldiers who fought at Vicksburg, but here is a small monument dedicated to the Minnesota 5th Infantry
Closeup of the plaque on the Minnesota monument described in the previous link (now you know who provided Hubbard County its name)
The Union Army's Thayer's Approach hill
Closeup of the sign for Thayer's Approach described in the previous link
The tunnel that the Union soldiers built to transport goods and men to Thayer's Hill
Deeper inside the tunnel, about halfway to the end (it was pretty neat inside)
The fabulous view of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy's Fort Hill (although the Confederacy had a great view of the south and west from here, the Union Army was smarter than that, and built their camps to the north, which is completely blocked from view at this site)
Some of the factories along the Mississippi in Vicksburg
A monument for Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman
A picture of the still-used railroad tracks that were originally built to carry supplies and troops during the Civil War (the steam in the air is very visible here)
The primary monument to the Iowa soldiers who fought at Vicksburg
Texas had some interesting reflectors on the side of I-20 in the eastern part of the state
The official Louisiana State Line sign
Bienvenue en Louisiane signe
The state of Louisiana is shaped perfectly for it to work on the sign to state highways
Using negative image mode, I was able to make the scenery red, white, and blue
The scenery near Minden, LA
Crossing the Mississippi River at the Mississippi border
Here is the Mississippi River - and the Louisiana/Mississippi border
Mississippi Welcomes You
The scenery east of Vicksburg, MS

Note: to see full-sized versions of any of the photos above, select the download feature above the picture. The photo will then be downloaded to your computer, and you can view the full resolution version of the picture (800 pixels in width).

The view from Fort Hill at Vicksburg


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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001