Around Vicksburg, MS

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Downtown Vicksburg The Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum

Wednesday March 21 was the day I drove to Jackson, MS to get a new sewer hose. That was all I did. No sightseeing. I covered that in a previous blog. At least I had found a place to get a good cup of coffee at Caffe Paradiso. That and flushing my tanks were the highlights of the day.

Thursday March 22– I drove to downtown Vicksburg along Business U.S. 61 past the four or five casinos, to downtown Washington Street. If you wish to gamble the casinos will cater to your desires. The Ameristar even offers an RV park for the RV crowd. I drove past the casinos with barely a notice. Throughout my stay many fellow tourists reminded me that the casino buffets are cheap and good. That was not enough enticement for me.

I arrived downtown and parked in front of the Highway 61 Coffee House 1101 Washington. The old storefront houses a small sitting area where locals were hanging out discussing business, working on their laptops, or just chilling. I ordered a cup of Dancing Goats coffee and a piece of coffee cake then took a seat toward the front window. The cake was very moist. The cinnamon flavor was perfect. The coffee was equally as good. Old style blues were playing on a small stereo. The personnel were very nice and didn’t seem to mind me asking questions about the shop. That’s how I learned the type of coffee they were using. When in downtown Vicksburg grab a cup of joe at Highway 61 Coffee House and just relax. There are two small tables outdoors too. The sidewalk is narrow and sitting at the curbside tables puts you next to the parking spaces and the traffic on the narrow street.

Next door to the coffee shop is Lorelei Books. I spent some time there browsing through the selections. They offer some used books, but they are mostly new titles. I asked the clerk about a few older books but they did not have them in stock. I left without making a purchase.

A few doors from Lorelei continuing south is the Biedenharn Coca Cola Museum. Coke is an Atlanta product, right? Yes it is, but Coke was first bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Thus, the museum. The museum has huge displays of early Coke advertisements and paraphernalia. There is a back room that was being reworked showing an old soda fountain set up to resemble where people would have bought their Cokes in the late 1800’s. One of the nicest things I saw was a huge hanging lamp dating to the 1920’s emblazoned with the Coke logo. It Hangs in front of the Christmas display case in a back area. There is also a bottling machine on display that shows how the carbonation process was used to mix the syrup and water before bottling. The admission price was only $3.50. I took my time at the museum and read the displays. There is so much packed into those display cases, I am sure I missed something. The two elderly women who were running the museum were sisters. One was visiting the other and the only way they would have any time together would be for her to go to work with her sister. So there they were, visiting together at the museum.

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Approaching the Old Courthouse From Monroe Street
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The Cherry Street Entrance of The Old Courthouse
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The Courtroom

I left Washington Street driving east on Clay Street where I parked on the back side of The Old Courthouse Museum on Monroe Street. The Old Courthouse has been preserved through the efforts of a historical society. It was slated for demolition but it stands as a testament to the will of the historical preservationists. It is situated high on the hillside overlooking the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers. It served as a hospital during the Civil War and was probably spared because it served both Confederate soldiers and Union captured soldiers. I walked from the low side around to the front. The new Art Deco style courthouse sits across the street from the Old Courthouse on Cherry Street. It has simple sweeping lines typical of the style. In contrast the Old Courthouse is strictly an old style southern courthouse through and through. The outside resembles a large wood framed house with a copula. The interior does not boast any large atrium with marble columns. Instead it is a simple foyer with large rooms that reminded me of a mansion. A narrow steep stairway leads to the second floor. The large courtroom is located in the northern half of the second floor. It has been well preserved. To the left of the judge’s bench a judges study has been converted to a Jefferson Davis Museum. It tells the story of the statesman whose plantation was only six miles south of Vicksburg. It was a nice tribute. The rest of the museum is full of belongings of prominent families and historical items from the area. There are some regional Indian artifacts too. I was able to have the curators look up courthouse records regarding Union soldier burials. That was the final word in determining that my great great grandfather was more than likely among the unknowns at the National Cemetery. The copula was inaccessible but once served as a lookout for the Confederate army.

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The Teddy Bear

Among the collections is a tribute to President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous bear hunting expedition in the region. Vicksburg is where the president was presented with the bear toy that led to the coinage of the name Teddy Bear.

I walked from the courthouse north along Cherry street to Main Street. Several historical buildings sit at the intersection of Cherry and Main. The George Washington Ball House is one of the oldest homes in town, built in 1822. There are historical buildings and markers at nearly every turn of the downtown area. I found that all of the houses were not opened to tourists. They do cater to group tours so maybe that is the way to go.

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Old Town Main Street Market Cafe

I had lunch at a small cafe at the corner of Main and Cherry at the Old Town Main Street Market Cafe. The food was very good but a bit pricey. I had asparagus soup with two small biscuits and a crispy chicken pita wrap. The chicken was breaded and fried then cut into strips and served with lettuce and sliced small tomatoes with a dressing all wrapped in pita bread. It was semi-healthy. With tip it was just over $20.00.

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Christ Episcopal Church

After eating I walked east on Main Street to find Christ Episcopal Church. The church cornerstone was laid in 1839. It received light shelling during the battle for Vicksburg. It is noted for remaining open throughout the siege and offering daily services during that time. It was closed to the public so I did not get to see the Tiffany windows. The church is still in use and offers regular services.

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Pemberton’s Confederate Headquarters
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Plaque in Front of the Confederate Headquarters

I was hoping to see the Confederate Headquarters on Crawford Street and I did, from the street level looking up. The front of the house has an upper and lower porch. The porch was propped up to stem the collapse of the upper area. I had to be satisfied with peering through the wrought iron fence at my eye level and reading the plaque that assured me I had found the right place. The home is noted for the strategic meetings that held Vicksburg against Grant’s forces, and the place where General Pemberton and his officers made the decision to surrender the city to General Grant.

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Bethel AME Church

I also visited the Bethel AME Church on Monroe Street at First East Street. It is noted as the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mississippi.

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Riverfront Murals

I made my way back to my car and drove to the downtown area, parking on Mulberry Street along a small park. 70’s rock’n roll music blared from speakers around the area. I crossed the street to the riverfront of the Yazoo River. I walked along checking out the aptly named Riverfront Murals. A cement wall faces away from the river. It has been decorated with hand painted murals depicting historical life in Vicksburg as well as some more surreal paintings. I took my time strolling along the two blocks reading the descriptive plaques that accompanied the murals.

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Riverboat Cruise Docked for the Day

A large riverboat was docked at the north end of the murals. A crew member stood guard of the gangplank. He told me they had come down the Mississippi a few days ago and after spending the day in Vicksburg would be heading north again that afternoon. They were carrying a full compliment of 186 guests. A bus shuttled the tourists around town to “see” the sites. I imagine it was some quick viewing with lots of pictures taken in rapid sequence. The trip down the Mississippi would be worthwhile but I don’t call the bus tours sightseeing.

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The Old Depot Museum

Next to the ship was the Old Depot Museum. The exterior is a large two story red brick edifice with lots of windows. I paid the $5.00 entry fee and walked though the gift shop into a room with model train displays. There were no particular meanings to the displays. They showcased various gauge trains with street scenes and rail yards. There are plenty of model ships on display too. In the front room to the right as you enter there is a 250 square foot diorama depicting the Vicksburg battlefield. A short movie accompanies the model. Take time for both. There are upstairs displays too. The museum closes at five but the doors lock at 4:30. It was getting late so I rushed through the second floor displays of model ships.

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I-20 (left) and a Railroad Bridge (right) Crossing the Mississippi

I had spent the day walking up and down the streets of Vicksburg. On my way out of town I took time to visit the Mississippi Visitors Center and look out over the Mississippi River where I-20 crosses. A railroad bridge parallels the highway. A train was crossing giving me a distraction as I watched the river flow south.

I decided to go back downtown to try a restaurant north of downtown on Washington Street. Rusty’s Riverfront Grill is located at 901 Washington Street across the street from the Mississippi River Commission display vessel “The M/V Mississippi IV” (the big dry docked museum ship).

I had ten minutes before the doors would open at 5:00PM. As I stood outside a man drove up riding a new black Indian Chieftain motorcycle. This is a bike I admire and have considered buying. He was going to eat at Rusty’s too. We introduced ourselves and spoke outside for a while before Paul (that was his name) suggested that we try the side entrance. The main entrance was locked. We walked in and asked if we could sit anywhere. The server said they weren’t open yet. Paul pointed out that they would be open in three minutes. After a blank stare the server said I guess you can sit anywhere. Paul and I continued our conversation as we sat at a central table. Paul was a sales executive for a company and had retired two weeks ago. He bought the motorcycle, picked it up and was hitting the road for a few weeks. His girlfriend did not want to go so he left and told her see you in a few weeks.

The meal at Rusty’s was excellent. I had a trio seafood platter of broiled haddock, grilled shrimp, and a crab cake with green beans, and hush puppies. I managed to eat it all. Normally I eat alone but it was a nice change of pace to sit and talk with a fellow diner. After the meal I headed straight back to the RV park. By the time I got back I was still full and sluggish. Thankfully I had plenty of time to digest the meal before bedtime. My day was over.

Friday March 22 started with an adventure to try yet another coffee house. I drove east on I-20 and exited onto U.S. 61 north exit 5B (to the left). Following Goggle maps I was instructed to turn left as I passed a crossover on the four lane highway. I proceeded north until I could turn around. I was instructed to turn right onto a side road. As I turned I could see the parking lot for the cafe below to my left. I could also see that there was no access to the parking lot from my current location. Google Maps had struck again. I returned to U.S. 61 and drove south about 150 yards to a road that lead to a shopping center that lead to the access road that lead to the parking lot I wanted.

The coffee shop is located at the northern end of a small shopping center. Next door the space is gutted and looks like a work in progress. The coffee shop is modeled after modern coffee shop with the types of signs and coffee cup cut outs typical to so many new shops. I ordered a coffee and a egg and bacon breakfast burrito. The burrito was bland. I assume they depend on the salsa for flavor. I did not use any salsa. The coffee was good but a little bitter. I added two creams. I sat looking over my phone listening to the background music. It was contemporary Christian music. Before leaving I asked if they were affiliated with any church or ministry. I was told it was a private business but the owner and the worker I spoke with both attended the same church that happened to be near where I was staying. “Nice place.” I told her as I turned to leave.

I headed downtown and stopped at the Highway 61 Coffee House. I ordered a mocha and walked down the street then returned to sit at a curbside table. I finished the mocha while watching the locals and the tourists hustle by. I then walked north toward the Mississippi River Commission. The American Queen river boat was docked below. I met a woman from the boat. We talked about the river cruises. She said that the American Queen has over 400 passengers. The vessel from the day before must have been puny by comparison.

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The Lower Mississippi River Museum

The Lower Mississippi River Museum is free to the public. It highlights the purpose of the Mississippi River Commission in managing the river waterways. There are exhibits on natural resources, wildlife and the history of the Mississippi River. A brief film reviews the purpose of the commission. You can also exit onto a connecting walkway to the retired dry docked work vessel, “The M/V Mississippi IV”. I toured the ship. It sits in stasis looking ship shape and ready for duty.

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The American Queen River Boat

After visiting the museum I heard loud calliope music coming from the river below. The American Queen was putting on a show as the crew prepared for departure. It played one familiar tune after another “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, Give My Regards to Broadway, etc.. The music stopped abruptly. I walked down the steps to the water along the length of the American Queen around the backside of the Depot museum. I then walked back up the hill and decided to get a better vantage of the American Queen’s departure from the walkway between the museum and the Mississippi IV.

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The Departure of The American Queen

As the crew prepared the ship for departure the music started up again. Soon it was steaming (dieseling) it’s way south toward the Mississippi on to the next stop with the music trailing away with it.

It was early afternoon and I had walked around downtown looking for things to photograph long enough. I hopped in my car and headed back to the RV site where I relaxed awhile and pondered what to do for dinner.

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10 South Entrance

Several people had recommended a place called 10 South Rooftop Bar and Grill for the atmosphere and view of the city. It is on the rooftop of one of the tallest buildings in Vicksburg. I checked the map and headed toward the downtown again. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bank at the southeast corner of Clay and Washington. I had difficulty finding the entrance until I saw the sandwich board sidewalk sign in front of the bank lobby entrance. The lobby has two elevators. Press R and you are whisked upward to the rooftop where you step out into the bar area. I was asked how many. since it was just me they asked if I would like to sit at the bar. I did. The sides of the restaurant are opened to the air. Plastic curtains were drawn back that I assume they close during inclement weather. A protective rail prevents people from falling over the edge.

The three bartenders were all very nice I reviewed the menu and ordered a southern dish I had been wanting to try, battered deep fried chicken on a waffle I also ordered maple glazed Brussel sprouts as a side, and a local brown ale but the name escapes me. I had arrived early but soon the place began to fill up and a waiting line developed. A bartender leaned toward me and said “Looks like you beat the crowd”. I nodded in agreement. It was getting hard to hear. The waiting area was immediately behind me and everyone was talking over each other.

The food was very good. I couldn’t eat all the chicken or sprouts but finished off with a piece of key lime pie. Priorities are important. A blues band took a corner area and began playing. I stuck around awhile to enjoy the music. When people started to try rearranging me to fit their needs for a group at the bar I figured it was time to leave. I walked around checking the view from various places within the restaurant then descended the ten floors via the elevator to the lobby, out the door, across the street to my car, and homeward.

Saturday March 23 was a laundry and cleaning day. The only venturing I did was for coffee at Caffe Paradiso and a stop at Kroger for groceries. I also fueled up the car. I was disappointed that the gas station where I had previously filled for 2.09/ gallon was now $2.21/ gallon. I had heard that gas prices had risen sharply but really.

The rest of my day was relaxation and a walk around the RV park. The winds had blown relentlessly all day, and chair covers and other small loose items were blown about. I hope everyone found all their stuff.

The laundry facilities at the RV camp is very nice and reasonably priced at $1.50 per load in both the washer and the dryer. I spent $6.00 on two loads. The machines all looked new and well cared for. They did an excellent job on my clothes.

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River Town Campground Office

I was very pleased with River Town Campground. It is managed well by Joanne and Dave. I did not try the showers but they looked clean and others told me they were good. Although, one person complained about the pressure in the men’s shower being weak. If you come to Vicksburg park your RV at River Town. I think you’ll like it. I did.

I picked out my next destination near Hohenwald, Tennessee along the Natchez Trace south of Nashville. Sunday would be a travel day.

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