Driving into Vicksburg from our overnighter in Texas, we could see the bridges spanning the Mississippi River from quite some distance, but actually didnt know what they were until we drew closer. The magnitude and majesty took us totally by surprise, and it was an awe inspiring travel moment we will never forget.
Our arrival was late afternoon, shadows long and the sun just starting to set, which made for striking colours and terrific opportunities for photography.
It was here that we did run into some trouble in locating our hotel, and that is a lesson to us all, if the GPS is doing something strange, it may indeed be the GPS. After a full hour of travelling down dead end roads, we belatedly cross referenced the search to Google Maps on the phone and discovered the hotel to be only a minute from the river. So tired, grumpy and hungry, we walked in. A Comfort Inn, we found a room with 2 doubles and a sleeper sofa. Fortunately, the standard and service was high, and we had a room adjacent to both the foyer (convenient for the baggage), and the breakfast room (convenient for the coffee). The warm and friendly greeting from the cook was second to none, an introduction to the Southern Hospitality that was new to us, that followed us throughout our trip, and made this one of our most special destinations. My husband reported that he received a number of blessings while having his morning coffee, myself a friendly Good Morning. The bacon and eggs, biscuits, cereals and coffee set us in good stead for a big days travels.
Our destination after checkout was Vicksburg Military Park. I had googled it, and it came up as a must see. As a typical Australian, our knowledge of American History is both general and superficial. The Military Park had a small admission fee, which enabled us to drive our car through the Park for a self guided visit, followed by a visit to the Visitors Centre.
We quickly learnt the central role of Vicksburg in the battle between Union and Confederate Soldiers, and the brutality of what occured both here and in the war in general. To see the landscape, with the marks of war still evident, one felt humbled and overwhelmed.
I was very glad to have visited, and never imagined to be so emotionally touched. Certainly, we do plan to return both to the South (and Vicksburg), as sadly during this vacation a death back home in Australia forced us to cut short the trip after 10 days and return home
A rather excited discovery of this visit was the Gunboat on display, recovered from the river and restored, the USS Cairo. We spent a lot of time here, and promptly rewatched the movie Sahara, with Matthew McConaughey. (my personal favourite!)
The roads we found on this portion allowed for easy travel and allowed us to cover the miles very quickly. Stopping in Louisiana at a Burger King, we discovered ordering to be tricky with our Aussie Accents making us somewhat intelligible, but again there was that outstanding customer service with a smile. For the majority of the trip, we realised that we had the novelty factor of being very much out of towners. With excellent highways, very quickly, we were in Alabama, stopping for a quick break (and observing some odd scraggly fellow carefully selecting his knife of choice at the local corner store before speeding off into the distance).
Our goal was Pensacola by nightfall, and 5 hours of drive time and approx 500kms later, we did it!, ready to catch the Blue Angels the next day. Our Quality Inn reservation were made on the fly (or phone), and conveniently we obtained a 2 bedroom suite with 2 tvs and 3 queen beds total, to the delight (or subdued approval) of the teenage sons!