Saturday, December 1, 2007 -- Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS
We extended our stay here for three more days, which will get us through the weekend. The bus leaves on Monday morning and we'll be on it. Both Dar and I like this place a lot, it's solitude, the setting, the "being in nature" aspects of the park... it's all so close to an ideal place to spend some time with your own thoughts, to get caught up on some reading, to organize some writing projects, to seek small adventures in nearby towns, to learn about the rich history of the area, to see the small shack were Elvis grew up... It's a good place for us right now.
One of the objectives of our sabbatical is to find that place we'd like to live after this vagabond stage is over. We think we'd like a small to medium sized town that's walkable for most of our needs, and one with energy and a vibrancy that comes from a college or an artistic community. For climate, we're just looking to take the edge off the traditional tough midwest winters, so a moderate climate with distinct seasons would be good. As we travel around the U.S., we're keeping an eye out for such a place. That said, this past Wednesday we drove over to Oxford, MS, the home of the University of Mississippi, or "Ole' Miss" as locals call it. Over the years I've heard good things about Oxford so we went to check it out.
It turns out to be a neat, bustling town of about 20,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the home of the writer William Faulkner for much of his life, and writer John Grisham is a current resident. It's picturesque and quaint, with a real southern feel or charm. The University of almost 20,000 students, who, I assume, are not all part of the official population of the town, produces an energy similar to other large University towns like Madison, Champaign, or Kalamazoo, but in a smaller package.
We had coffee in a small downtown cafe, walked both the campus and some of the neighborhoods, and came away with a good impression. But I don't think Oxford will end up on our short list when the time comes. The deep south, with it's summertime humidity and heat is probably too much for a boy from the north.
Thursday we drove the other direction into Tupelo which was named "Gumpond" prior to the Civil War and should, in my opinion, be called "Traffic Jam" today. Here's a town that feels larger than it's official population of 36,000. It's been growing and the infrastructure is probably not keeping pace. And that's not going to change now that a new Toyota assembly plant is being built just 8 miles up the road. After a nice stop at the Natchez Trace visitors center, we checked out another nearby state park, and then raced by the Elvis Museum, Chapel, and Interpretive Center so Dar could do a "drive-by shooting" and snap a picture of the little two room shack he grew up in. There isn't much to see or do in Tupelo.
Friday we drove about 25 miles north of Tupelo to a Civil War Battlefield known as Brices Cross Roads. The battle took place on June 10, 1864 between about 5,000 confederates and 8,000 union soldiers. The battle lasted less than 6 hours before the Union Army retreated north. About 3,000 men, mostly Northerners, were killed.
There isn't much at the site but a few stone markers that depicted the location of battle lines at various points during the day, and a larger stone monument commemorating the event. There was a mysterious path that led out into a field, but just ended... no sign, nothing of note to see... it just ended. Funds may have been short that year. Or it may have been a symbol of the Confederate effort.
Today, Saturday, we're hanging around the camper. It's another gorgeous day, sunny and a high temp in the mid 60's expected. I'm sure a long hike around the park will be on the agenda too.