Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jean Lafitte NHP Barataria Preserve

The Barataria Preserve protects 23,000 acres of Mississippi Delta wetlands. A short series of gravel and boardwalk trails start at the park visitor center. Another group of dirt and gravel trails start at the Education Complex. The visitor center has displays about the role of the Mississippi River in building delta land and how levees are contributing to the loss of land. Other exhibits cover human activity in the preserve and the plants and animals found in the preserve.
The gravel and boardwalk trails join together to form one continuous trail about two miles long or four miles out and back. The Visitor Center Trail and the Palmetto Trail are both boardwalk in good condition. The Bayou Coquille Trail is gravel, doable but rough, with boardwalk at the wet spots. The Marsh Overlook Trail has several sections with steps. The dirt trails aren’t accessible due to mud and rough conditions. The visitor center is accessible.

Long RV/bus spaces are located in the last section of the parking lots.  Preserve
29.78475, -90.11196

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beauvoir Jefferson Davis Home

  In 1877 Sarah Dorsey invited Jefferson Davis to live in a cottage on the grounds of Beauvoir, her beach front property. Life had not been easy for Davis after the end of the Civil War and he decided to stay at Beauvoir and write his memoirs to help support his family. When Sarah died in 1879 she left all of her property to Davis. The Davis family lived in Beauvoir until Jefferson Davis’s death in 1889.

  The house and outbuildings were severely damaged by Katrina. The outbuildings have been reconstructed. The main house, although damaged, was still intact enough to be repaired. A large new library/museum has been built. Visitors can take a house tour which includes the grounds, library, and museum or just visit the grounds which includes the library and museum. We were more interested in the history than the house so we opted to the see the grounds and museum. Unfortunately the history is lacking. The displays are sparse and very little information is given. The museum is new so hopefully this will improve with time.
  The grounds includes a rose garden, a cemetery from the time that the property was a Confederate soldiers’ home, and a small menagerie of free roaming animals. The sight and sound of my wheelchair traveling across the grass made the animals think a food cart was coming and we were soon in the middle a little stampede of goats, ponies, llamas, and even a camel! All of the animals are friendly and gentle.
  The museum is accessible. The house has a lift but it was not working when we visited. The grounds are accessible with help. The paths are surfaced with loose sand and large gravel.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.   Beauvoir
30.39368, -88.96956

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Biloxi Visitor Center

  Don’t miss the little museum in the back room of the visitor center. It gives a brief history of Biloxi and includes a lot of old photographs. A documentary featuring interviews with Biloxi residents who stayed through the storm and sea surge of Katrina is shown every day at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM in the theater on the second floor.  The mayor, firemen, policemen, weathermen, and a few ordinary citizens give vivid descriptions of how it felt to be in the path of the storm and then to view the destruction that it left behind.

   The visitor center is elevated on piers and has a long ADA ramp for accessibility. The center and theater are accessible.

   Small RVs will fit in the lot backed up over the grass. Large RV can be parked in the beach parking lot on the opposite side of Beach Blvd.   Center
30.39479, -88.90072

Monday, November 24, 2014

Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum

 Shrimp and oysters from the Biloxi Bay were a local delicacy until the 1870s when canning plants and rail cars filled with ice made it possible to ship fresh and canned seafood long distances. Biloxi became known as the “Seafood Capital of the World”, processing 5,988,788 pounds of oysters and 4,424,000 pounds of shrimp by 1902.  The abundance of jobs drew Polish workers from Baltimore Maryland,  Cajuns from Louisiana, and new immigrants from Hungary. Many settled alongside the local residents to make a unique cultural mix. The exhibits in museum cover the lives of these workers; seafood and fishing methods; and small boat building and racing.

The museum is accessible. The placement of some of the signs makes them hard to read from a seated position but, since the museum just opened in August, I expect that things will improve with time. It’s also located in a low lying area so it’s built on high piers. The elevator which accesses the entry level wasn’t working when we visited but we were able to use the freight elevator. 

The area around the museum was hit hard by the storm surge from Katrina and parking is plentiful.   Museum
30.39366, -88.85913

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Biloxi Bay– Waterfront Parking

  We visited Biloxi eight months after hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and were astonished by the amount of destruction and piles of debris that still hadn’t been removed  Not only was Biloxi hit with 120 MPH winds but a 27’ storm surge swept over the low laying land reaching inland as far as 12 miles.
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  Nine years later everything has been repaired, the casinos have been rebuilt, and people have moved back into their houses but the east end of town and Beach Blvd still show scars. The storm was impartial destroying both sturdy mansions from the 1860s and working class frame houses. Building codes requiring tall piers and high insurance rates have made rebuilding almost impossible so the lots are empty. The grass is mowed and the huge live oaks have recovered. It looks like a park until you look closely and see remnants of foundations and realize that you’re seeing the ruins of somebody’s dreams.
  All of the unused land means it’s easy to stay overnight. We found a lot by Palace Casino’s parking garage that may be city property but we’ve stayed for three nights without being disturbed. Boomtown, Harrahs, Imperial Palace and Golden Nugget all have lots where RVs can park. We prefer Boomtown and the Golden Nugget because truckers do not use either lot. None of the lots are really quiet though because of highway and train traffic.   Casinos
30.39561, -88.85842
         Boomtown                                          Golden Nugget

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pearl River Casino

  For years this casino was one of our favorite stops on our way south for the winter. It’s mid way through Mississippi so it’s fairly warm. It’s in the middle of nowhere so few noisy trucks overnight in the lot. The lot is huge and flat and quiet at night.

  There are two casino buildings located on opposite sides of a busy road. The Golden Moon pictured above was converted to an entertainment venue. Getting to the other casino which was crowded and smoky involved a long trek over an elevated, covered walkway. Since our last visit the other casino has been remodeled and is much improved. The Golden Moon is in the process of being remodeled to become a casino again so it will probably be a favorite winter stop for us in the future.

  With all of the remodeling it’s not easy to get from the RV lot to the casino but once the Golden Moon is opened for business it should be fine. The RV lot is well marked. Just follow the signs. Casino
32.77359, -89.20033

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Helen Keller Birthplace

  Helen Keller was born in 1880, healthy and physically perfect, but when she was only 19 months old a high fever caused her to lose both her hearing and sight.  She could make a few signs that her family understood but until Anne Sullivan, her teacher and lifelong friend and companion, came to live in the Keller house she was often frustrated by her inability to communicate with people. Anne stayed with Helen for 49 years accompanying her to grade school, high school, and Radcliffe college. Helen Keller learned to speak, read sign language, and read and write using using braille. She traveled to over 25 countries to give lectures and speeches and wrote 12 books.

   Located on the birthplace site is a small frame house built in 1820 by Helen Keller’s grandfather. Helen and her parents lived in the house when she was a child. One room contains a small museum with artifacts and stories. A two room cottage sits next to the house. This was where Helen’s parents lived right after they were married and where Helen was born. It became the school house when Anne Sullivan arrived. The rooms are furnished with family pieces. The grounds are park like with mature trees and a memorial fountain.
  The first floor of the house is accessible through the rear entrance. Visitors can view the cottage rooms from the outside but there isn’t a ramp to access the porch. The famous water pump is accessible. The grounds are accessible.
  The parking lot is large enough for short RVs. Large RVs can be parked on the street.  Birthplace
34.73815, -87.70631

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Frist Center for the Visual Arts

   The Frist Center is housed in a beautiful, depression era, marble and aluminum art deco style building which was originally Nashville’s main post office. Exhibits in the galleries change every six to eight weeks. An interactive, creative art area is located on the second floor.

  Everything is accessible.

  A parking lot is located at the rear of the museum. Get the ticket validated at the museum for a discount on the parking rate. The lot is too small for RVs but there is metered parking on the 10th Ave. North where RVs will fit by using two spaces. The sidewalk is slightly uphill and has a few rough patches. Museum
36.15804, -86.78375

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Hermitage

  Andrew Jackson, the 7th US president, lived through an interesting and violent period of history where he played a role in events that changed the country. He lost all members of his immediate family during the American Revolution, prospered as a plantation owner after the invention of the cotton gin, became a national hero during the War of 1812 and, as president, supported the Indian Removal Act which caused enormous suffering and death. He was and still is a very controversial  figure.

  Jackson bought the 420-acre Hermitage property in 1804. At that time the main house was a two story log building. In 1821 a two story, eight room, brick house was built for Jackson and his wife, Rachel, using skilled slave labor. In 1834 a fire destroyed most of the structure and a third house, the current one, was built.  Over his lifetime Jackson expanded the plantation to 1,000 acres and had more than 100 slaves tending fields of cotton and corn, and raising crops and animals for consumption on the plantation.

  Admission to the site includes the museum (closed for renovations), a guided tour of the house and a self guided tour of the grounds. Located on the grounds are a small formal garden where the Jacksons are buried, a smokehouse, springhouse, three slave cabins, and a nature trail. A audio tour wand is included in the admission price.
  The museum and first floor of the mansion are accessible. Scooters are too big for the mansion tour but manual and power chairs are available to borrow. Photographs of the second floor rooms are available. The kitchen which is located off of the back porch is not accessible.The garden paths are mostly loose gravel. The main trail on the grounds is paved and makes a loop past all of the slave cabins. None of the slave cabins are accessible. The nature trail is not accessible.
  A parking lot with long spaces for RVs and buses is located at the far end of the car parking lot.  Hermitage
36.21431, -86.61591

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cordell Hull Lake Horse Camp

  The campground is a large grassy meadow with a gravel loop road. There are tables, trash cans, fire rings, and porti-potties but no marked sites. This is a Corp of Engineer horse camp but it’s opened to all campers. The ground is uneven and sloped with a few flat areas so large RVs may have trouble getting level.

   The campground borders the lake and a boat ramp is a short distance farther down the road. Campground
36.31333, -85.79576

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum

  What’s an Abraham Lincoln Museum doing in Tennessee?! Tennessee was the last state to secede from the US during the Civil War and while most of Tennessee was strongly Confederate, eastern Tennessee stayed pro-Union. Cumberland Gap in east Tennessee was a communication and supply line for the south and changed hands several times during the war. Many east Tennesseans engaged in guerrilla warfare or fought in the Union army. In 1897, long after the war had ended, General Oliver O. Howard, a former Union officer, and Reverend A. A. Myers established Lincoln Memorial University at Harrogate, Tennessee, just south of Cumberland Gap, to honor Lincoln who had often expressed a desire to do something for the people of east Tennessee.

  The university began receiving Lincoln memorabilia and eventually had to build a museum to house all of it. The museum has some personal artifacts such as Lincoln’s cane, a beautifully crafted cupboard built by his father, some very nice dioramas, lots of photographs and historic exhibits. It’s not very big so it doesn’t take a lot of time to see everything.
  The first floor where most of the exhibits are located is accessible. Plans are in place for installing an elevator to access the second floor gallery but for now there are only steps.

  The parking lot is large enough for RVs.  Museum
36.58044, -83.65748

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cumberland Gap NHP

  By the late 1700s all of the good farmland east of the Appalachian Mountains was taken. Western migration was blocked by the mountains, by treaties with the Indian tribes, and by the French who controlled the Ohio River valley. After the French and Indian War France ceded much of their land holdings to Britain, new treaties were made with the Indians and, with the American Revolution, the land became part of the US.

 Getting over the mountains to the western territories was still difficult as there were few passes through the mountains so Cumberland Gap became very important. It was only 300’ above the surrounding terrain and had been used by bison and native tribes for centuries. Between 1776 and 1810 200,000 to 300,000 migrants passed through the gap on their way into Kentucky and the Ohio Valley.

  The park has a visitor center, a campground, miles of trails including one through the gap, scenic drives, guided tours through a cave and guided tours of an old mountain settlement.
   The visitor center shows two films and has a small museum. All of this is accessible. A short trail to view the ruins of an iron furnace and a short trail at Pinnacle Overlook are accessible. The campground has accessible sites with paved pads, raised fire grates and extended overhangs on the tables. The guided tours are not accessible.
  The parking lot at the visitor center has long bus/RV spaces. The campground has sites long enough for any RV but some of them are very sloped. The road to Pinnacle Overlook is closed to trailers and vehicles over 20’. Park
36.60316, -83.69619

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum

  The little town of Benham, Kentucky was a company coal town founded in 1911 by Wisconsin Steel. After the coal was mined it was loaded into ovens to become coke which was then shipped north to fuel the steel mills of International Harvester. Benham was a fairly progressive company town with neat rows of houses, mine offices, a company store, hospital,  theater, clubhouse, school, church and bandstand. Most of the public buildings were built of brick and are still in use today. The museum which is housed in the company store has displays of donated articles, interesting old photographs  and a walk-through mockup of a coal mine.
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  All three floors of the museum are accessible.

 RVs can be parked behind the museum in the Coal Miner's Memorial Park. A paved walk leads to the museum. It’s slightly uphill so wheelchair users may need to have help.  Museum
36.96408, -82.95135