Posts Tagged ‘La Quinta’

Leg 3 of our Year Long Adventure has us touring the Southeast U.S. in hopes of avoiding snow and ice.  As usual, we took MUCH longer than we intended to load the van on Tuesday morning, resulting in our estimated departure time of 10 A.M. looking a lot more like 3 P.M..  As we pulled out of the driveway, we felt like we must have forgotten something big because there was so much more room in the van than on the first two trips.  The truth is that we have become a mean, lean, packing-machine.  If only we were faster…

We drove from Richardson through Louisiana to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  (We are touring Louisiana on our way home).  Nothing like a seven hour drive to get the family back into the traveling groove.  We checked into our room at the La Quinta in Vicksburg, and we were quite pleased with the accommodations.

Early the next morning, the adventure began with a visit to Vicksburg National Military Park.

We used our National Park Pass for free admission (a must if you plan on going to a lot of the National Parks), and headed into the Visitor Center to do some learning.  The adults of the group needed some of this education since neither one of us could answer with 100% conviction which side won the Battle at Vicksburg.  (Please don’t tell Mom’s AP History teacher!)

After viewing the standard NPS Visitor Center movie and obtaining our Jr. Ranger booklets, we headed out on the Audio Driving Tour of the park.  Each of the states that had troops fight in the battle have placed a monument in the park, and some of them are quite impressive.

This area of Mississippi is surprisingly hilly, making this site high above the Mississippi River very desirable to both sides.

The Union desperately wanted to capture Vicksburg to gain control of the river, but found it virtually impossible to invade.  In the end, it was keeping new supplies out of the city that won the battle.  After 47 days of brutal fighting and incredible numbers of casualties, the Siege of Vicksburg ended when Confederate General Pemberton surrendered the city to Union General Grant on July 4th, 1863.  The 5,000 Confederate soldiers who died are buried in a city cemetery in the city of Vicksburg, while 17,000 Union soldiers are buried here in the park.  Graves of unidentified soldiers, 13,000 in all, are marked with smaller concrete posts instead of headstones.  It is quite sobering to see the cemetery stretching out in front of you.

One of the coolest things in the park is the U.S.S. Cairo Museum.  The Cairo was a Union ironclad gunship that was sunk in the Yazoo River by the Confederacy.  One hundred years after the sinking, the ship was raised and restored.  The restored ship is in the park, and you can actually walk onto the deck.

The entire driving tour took about two hours including stops, and is totally worth it if you find yourself in the greater Vicksburg Area.  (You can read about another great Civil War site we visited here.)

Our next stop after lunch was to head to downtown for lunch and then head to the Biedenharn Candy Store which houses a Coca-Cola Museum.  It was at this location in 1894 where Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time.  It was only sold in soda fountains before this.

The museum mainly shows Coca-Cola memorabilia from over the years, but it was pretty entertaining to show the kids some of the items that reminded us of our youth.  They were interested to hear about returning empty bottles to the store and getting the deposit money back.  We thought it was cool to get that quarter back in the late 1970’s for returning a 32 oz. bottle, but they had those same bottles on sale at the museum as collectibles for $20 each.  If only we had known at the time.

After leaving Vicksburg, we headed on eastward toward our destination of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (home of The University of Alabama – “Roll Tide”).  On our way in, we used the iPhone to search for good Bar-B-Q places.  We found that there were quite a few, and decided to visit Mike & Ed’s Bar-B-Q.

It was REALLY good.  Mom liked it so much that as we were driving to the hotel later she said, “Man, that was so good, I don’t even know what to do”.  Take that as a strong recommendation.

Feel free to check out our Facebook page for more timely reports on where we just ate or see pictures from State Welcome Centers…


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The 2nd leg of the Year Long Adventure started off slowly, but surely.  Mom and the girls had been Girl Scout camping over the weekend, so the final packing and preparations for this trip did not begin until late Sunday afternoon (really not until Monday morning – Mom was pooped!).  We were planning a 2:00 departure, but we finally hit the road around 5:00 – just in time to hit Dallas rush hour traffic.  Opting for an easier first day, we stopped for the night around 10:00 and stayed in a lovely La Quinta in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

Despite our long track record of 11:15 check outs, we knew we had to leave early the next morning to make up for lost time.  Miracle of miracles, we were showered, fed, and back in the car by 8:30!  Even the pouring rain wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.  On our way out of town, we drove past the Arkansas State Capitol Building, Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library, and Central High School.  We promised to come back someday when we had more time and headed northeast toward Memphis.

Our goal was to arrive at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis in time to see the famous “March of the Ducks” at 11:00.  Cutting it close as usual, we pulled up to the hotel entrance at 10:58.  Luckily, there is a long introduction before the event!   As if on cue, a concierge spotted us and led the kids to front row seats along the red carpet.  Before the March, the Duck Master explained the history of this tradition which began as a practical joke.

The Duck Master explains the story of the Peabody ducks.

Every day for 70 years, a Duck Master has escorted the five ducks who reside on the roof of the hotel down to the lobby in the elevator.  The ducks then march down a red carpet and climb three steps into an ornate fountain.  Here they happily swim until 5:00, at which time the entire process is reversed.  People come from all over to play papparazzi, snapping pictures of this unusual spectacle.  The kids loved it, and we were happy to have made it just in time.  Five more minutes and we would have missed it.  You can check out our video here.

The ducks go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah...

Up close view of the ducks in the fountain

From the Peabody Hotel, we ventured down Beale Street in search of some authentic Memphis BBQ.  We found it at a little place called Pig: Pork With An Attitude.

Junior Feast at Pig

VERY stuffed and VERY happy, it was time to pose for pictures on the safety barriers disguised as oversize sports balls surrounding the Fed-Ex Forum before hitting the road again.

An unexpected traffic jam outside of Nashville forced us to hit the back roads  in an attempt to avoid more delays.  Thanks again, iPhone maps!  Not only did we bypass the accident, but we were rewarded with views of gorgeous fall leaves in amazing colors.  Unfortunately, it did add more time to our journey, so for a second night we decided to stop short of our intended destination.  We spent the evening relaxing and watching the Texas Rangers playoff game in the brand-new La Quinta in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

On this leg of the Year Long Adventure, we (mostly Mom) are trying to be more flexible and less stressed.  Even our itinerary is more fluid, allowing for stops to experience the unexpected.  This is uncharted territory – hitting the road without every moment planned – so we’ll see where it takes us.  We are looking forward to tomorrow and just enjoying the ride.

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