July 19. After a scrumptious filling breakfast with Mary and Annie we toddled on down the road westward to make our way slowly to San Antonio for the next sit. A few hours later Bill was hungry so we pulled into the side area of a gas station, parked in the shade, and had sandwiches, chips, and an orange from our food supply. As we went through some towns I was taken with all the front porches with rocking chairs, so typical of the Deep South.
Adoring Jimmy Carter and being not much of a detour, we drove to Plains, GA to see what there was. With a population of under 1000, there are few public buildings. We did get out of the car, despite the intense heat, and wandered along the short stretch of businesses. One store was advertising peanut butter ice cream which I decided we had to try. As we made our way to the back of the store we passed a display of Billy Beer! Sure was pricey! The clerk gave us a sample of the ice cream and it was mighty tasty. We could have had it mixed with chocolate but decided the take the creamy soft serve style peanut butter ice cream just as it was. A small cup was $2.25 and worth every penny. We sat outside the store on a bench but gnats were beginning to show interest so I got up to walk around. By the time our cups were empty and the bottoms scraped clean, we had approached the old depot which was used as Carter’s campaign headquarters. The building was chosen as it was the only one with a bathroom! Inside there is a display with his history. Diagonally from there is Billy’s Service Station, long out of business.
From there we drove to his childhood home a couple of miles further. We parked in the lot behind the farm buildings and were greeted immediately with a Siamese cat who came trotting over to say hello. As we walked toward the house the gnats were quite bothersome as they looked for moisture on my arms. We meandered to the front of the house and as we were taking it all in an older gentleman came along on his riding cart to greet us, tell us the building was closed but we could wander around the outside, and tell us Jimmy always asks him about his mother. With the gnats and heat taking away the fun we returned to the car and drove back to town to try to find Jimmy’s current house as we had the street name and a picture. It turns out that his house is way down a driveway and hidden behind trees. The gated white one-story building by the road must be for the secret service, we decided.
By the end of the afternoon we had crossed the border into Alabama, a new state for me, and erected the popup tent on our selected site. There were maybe six places all in a row but as no one else had made a reservation we were told we could choose whichever one we wanted. Rather than site 2, we chose 3 which had a better electrical hookup and shadier spot for the tent. It was hotter than Hades so were quickly covered with sweat as we established ourselves. Later an employee told us we could go in the main building and sit in the AC for as long as we wanted.
We returned to Eufaula to get something for supper and were quite taken with the mansions and huge porches along the tree-shaded Main Street. After we finished a simple supper of sausages and raw spinach, with annoying flies clamoring for their share causing us to walk around while we ate and I even went in the building, we took our camping chairs and tried to cool off a bit inside before heading to bed.
With a portable fan to help cool us a tiny bit and to at least move the air, we actually slept pretty well. Cars started leaving about 5 AM so I was awake early. I took a shower and was very thankful that the bathroom was so well air-conditioned I didn’t really want to leave it! Flies were a problem again for breakfast, the rest of the sausage and scrambled eggs, which turned out to be because the dumpsters were nearby and filled to the brim. The smell as I neared them was overpowering and as Bill said, like there was a dead animal. We packed up, Bill took his refreshing shower, and off we continued.
The rural drive was rather boring and we stopped for another picnic lunch of PB and J in the shade of the parking lot of a Baptist church. Later that afternoon we arrived at Coffeeville Lake where we had a remote camping site along a wide river. Again we had both water and electricity so were able to plug in the cooler. Not being in any hurry to put up the tent in the heat, we drove to Choctaw Nature Preserve only to find out the rustic road was washed out and impassable. We turned around, got groceries at Dollar General, and returned to camp. Soon I decided we both needed a fan so I went back there and could only buy an electric one. I also got another bucket for my toiletries as the one I had bought at Goodwill was beginning to split. Back at camp with chairs set up to enjoy the river view and being cooled by our personal fans, Bill told me that while I was gone he thinks he saw an alligator way out in the water! Later we saw a very long barge come down river with a heavy load of coal.
Just after 9 PM and being ready for bed in the tent, the radar showed an approaching electrical storm. Not knowing if the tent was waterproof we were a bit nervous. As I peered out through the small half-domed window I was suddenly presented with a huge lightning bolt across the river a ways. It wasn’t just a simple bolt but was surrounded with a very bright glow. I decided we needed to move to the car so packed all the supplies on the table into the car, took our sleeping bags and mattresses as well, and settled into the front seats. Soon another closer lightning bolt showed off immediately followed by a lightning ball. Cool! There wasn’t much thunder so they were further away than they appeared. We never did get more than a quick rain shower despite the radar showing differently. Eventually we returned to the tent, watched another barge pass by with lights, and yes, starboard is green!, and slept through the night without further fuss.
We were up early the next morning and after a quick bite started to decamp before the sun rose high enough to zap us with its heat. Of course, it didn’t take long before that did happen and we were not anywhere near done. After a quick stop at the restroom to freshen up we continued on our way across Mississippi. Not far away is Laurel, MS, where the HGTV show Home Town is filmed and the hosts live. Erin always mentions what a great town it is and as we were going that way we checked it out. We could see why they love it so with the charm of a small town. The center of town is a crazy maze of confusing lanes, though! Erin and Ben are part owners of the mercantile and it is where Ben has his vast word working shop. The store was closed but the door to the workshop was open. No entrance was allowed but I was able to peer in and see two young men working on a project and Ben partially hidden behind a desk working hard on something. When he looked up and saw me waving, he flashed his hand and went back to work.
While we were in town we opted to replace the cardboard boxes we were using with plastic tubs so when it rained, especially unexpectedly while we were at a campground, we wouldn’t have to load them in the car. Dollar General didn’t have anything of quality so off to Wal-Mart we went where we found two Hefty containers, we bought another battery-operated fan for when we don’t have electrical hookup at camp, and more batteries. After loading the plastic bins I deconstructed the boxes and trashed them.
The next two nights we spent at Fullerton Lake Campground in Louisiana, another state new to me. Being a National Park, no reservations were taken. When we arrived we found no else staying there! After checking out the advantages and disadvantages of the 8 campsites, we chose number 7 for the amount of shade as well as the pea gravel base vs. larger gravel for the tent placement. As we have a Golden Passport we paid half price which came to $15. Not bad! There was a bathroom with sturdy boxy toilets, perhaps composting. Well around the loop by the water was a larger complex with four bathrooms, each with running water for the toilet, sink, and shower. Our site has no water nor electricity. That made it a challenge to keep the cooler at a temperature cool enough without running down the car battery.
Once again we waited until almost dusk to erect the tent. Meanwhile I cut through the grassy weedy center part of the loop to check out the lake. Leaf cutter ants had made a wide well-trodden path through that area. Over by the water is a sign warning that due to being a wildlife area visitors needed to beware of alligators and rattlesnakes. Lovely.
Bill went to a nearby convenience type store to get something for him to eat as I had canned fish. While he was gone there were several drops of rain but not enough to be a problem. After supper I did a cardio walk around the camping loop. Almost four laps took me a half hour. As I was walking I noticed a water spigot on the other side of the next tent site and on the way back through the grass noticed poison ivy. Yikes, and we had been short-cutting through the grassy area and feared I would have it all over my ankles and sneakers. In the midst of my walk I was alerted to impending rain and before I could get back to the car it started coming down harder than before. Fortunately it lasted only a few minutes and the tent was dry inside. I continued with my walk and kept passing an elderly woman with a walker and perhaps her granddaughter. She stopped me at one point to see if I was local or just passing through. Later I showered without AC, I ended up still covered with sweat, but at least it was clean sweat. Once we got in bed there were a few more drops of rain but that was all for the night. There were some day users of the park, one or two to fish, but some seemed just to drive the loop, wave, and head out.
The next morning we attempted to hike on the one trail by the lake but once we crossed the bridge and went a bit further, the overgrowth didn’t interest me. Between more poison ivy and rattlesnakes possibilities I decided to turn back and wait for Bill on the metal bench. He said the trail cleared a bit, he soon reached the remaining foundations of an old building but then the overgrowth continued on so he returned. It was way too hot anyway. On my way back from the closer restroom I noticed another water spigot closer to us on the other side. There was no information anywhere these existed!
We decided to go into Leesville to get more batteries for our non-electric fans which were slowing down and food. When we returned we were visited by a volunteer taking a survey of any park users. He seemed like an interesting guy. He has a PhD in physics but said he can’t seem to remember to keep his tablet charged! Later Bill found a huge spider web attached to two trees about twelve feet apart with enormous spiders. When I went to get something out of the zippered food bag, which was placed on the gravel, I noticed ants were swarming all over it. Placing it on the picnic table we got them off and found lots more had made their way inside. They seemed to have been after Bill’s fig newtons which went in the hanging trash bag. That night there were more storms to the west and we were quite thankful they didn’t come our way. There was a dramatic expansive orange sunset through the trees, though. I got up about 11:40 to pee and a motorcyclist was just entering the loop. By the time I exited the restroom it was leaving and a truck came, did the loop, and left. Why?
The next morning Bill noticed the hanging trash bag had been clawed but we don’t know what animal did it. I did another cardio walk, packed our gear, and showered. Being earlier in the morning there wasn’t as much humidity in the restroom, thankfully. The survey man was already set up and told me he had dropped his dentures in the hotel bathroom and they shattered. He was not having a good day. I told him about the drive-through late at night. He suspects they are locals out for a drive and drinking as they go.
Off we went, stopping at a picnic area for a quick sandwich, and made our way into Texas. Soon we saw a road sign saying the speed limit was 75 yet this was just a two-lane highway! Shortly after that there was a huge yellow sign warning not to pick up hitchhikers as they could be escaped prisoners! Yikes!
The Huntsville State Park has a vast campground. After checking in and finding our site we opted for another one that was flatter with a wider area covered with pine needles and I didn’t have to walk in the grass with possible poison ivy. The water spigot was really close but again we did not have electricity. Dozens of tent sites were vacant so we had plenty of space and privacy. There were numerous RV’s in other sections. Across the water from us is a swimming area with dock, canoes, etc. As we needed cash and supper we drove into Huntsville and found an Allpoint ATM at Kroger. That night the frog and toads started making an awful racket which I feared would keep us up all night. Right after we got in bed I heard something knocked over on the picnic table and some rustling. I shined my headlight through my tiny window and my eyes rested on a cute raccoon going after the food scraps left in a container. I unzipped the tent and yelled at it to go away. Off it scampered and we hung the trash from the hook on the site pole. Despite the interruptions and chorus we both slept well.
Always awake early, we ate and packed up before the heat came. Being shady I never did break a sweat. Bill showered just before we left to head off to our next pet sit, two pit bulls in San Antonio.
Bill decided he enjoyed the Coffeeville camp site best, all storm shenanigans not included. It had the river view, water, and electricity. The restroom was quite far but with our seclusion we could just use the woods. I liked camping amongst the tall trees at Fullerton but did miss the electricity. I was relieved I apparently had not inadvertently brushed against a poison ivy plant as no rash occurred.