Saturday, October 20, 2007

(36) Natchez Mississippi Trace Trail & Lawrenceburg Tennessee

Natchez Trace Parkway TN

Meriwether Lewis campsite

Hohenwald, 20 mile yard sale

Lawrenceburg TN

I sure did like my campsite back in Nashville, the Nashville Country Campground. The folks there were just so darn nice. But at the same time, I felt like a million bucks heading out on the road again. I had to drive into Nashville on 65 and loop around on hwy 40, drop down onto county road 100 to hit the Natchez Parkway. The traffic wasn’t bad so I was a happy camper.

If you’ve been following my travels, you’ll remember I took the Natchez Trace three years ago, starting from the southern end. I had at that time traveled ¾ of the Trace before exiting to go to Memphis. This was my chance to finish the northern end I hadn’t covered the first time.
Now as a refresher, the Natchez is a 444 mile trail that was used during the pioneer era to travel back along after the farmers and trappers traveled down the Mississippi river to New Orleans to sell their goods. They sold their flat boats and walked or road horses back north along the Natchez Trace Trail. It was originally a Chickasaw and Choctaw Indian trail. Today, it’s a wooded parkway with immaculately maintained rolling lawns on either side of the two lane parkway. Only recreational vehicles can use it. No commercial vehicles are permitted on it.

You know I love architecture so the first stop was to get a view and take a couple pictures of the double-arched bridge that spans Birdsong Hollow. It was completed in 1994 and was awarded the Presidential award for Design Excellence.

Now I’m only traveling 90 miles today, but it took me four and a half hours. I know I know. But when you travel the parkway, there are lots of wayside stops with historical markers and small walks to get you out in the countryside. At one of them which showed some of the original ruts of the old trail, I was the only one at the wayside stop. Walking along the black top loop, it was so quiet I could hear the soft footsteps of my rubber soled shoes against the pavement. Crows way off in the distance were circling high above a field, caw caw, caw caw. Letting me know they were there. The air fresh and crisp against a bright blue sky. Talk about feeling good and happy to be alive.

When I finally got to the Meriwether Lewis campsite, right on the parkway I noticed there was going to be a craft show in the park this weekend. As I drove into the campsite almost all the sites were filled. I got one of the last two available. Yippee. Not only that, after setting up, I discovered the campsite is FREE! Now that’s my favorite price to pay. Of course no hook-ups, but I have backup power with the solar panels so I’m all set. And it’s free.

Talked to my friendly neighbors and they told me that just down the street a ways, Lawrenceburg has a small city park, about 5 years old, that only costs $10 a night with all the basic hook-ups. What a deal. They built it on land by the creek which flooded real bad a couple years back. The Gov/city bought the land and tore down all the destroyed homes and built the campground. Better than rebuilding homes and having them destroyed each time a flood occurs.

And, would you believe, the small town of Hohenwald is having their Oktoberfest. About 20 miles of yard sales along hwy 20, a festival in town with live music all day and the craft fare here in the park. All within minutes of my campsite. I drove along the yard sale road and stopped at a couple of them. I love it. You meet the greatest people. Like the M&M lady. All bubbly and full of laughter. So of course I had to take her picture. Haven’t purchased a darn thing, but fun to look at everything.

On Saturday I went to the craft show here in the park. Lot’s of nice local stuff. Some artwork was really inexpensive and I was almost tempted to purchase a painting. But where would I put it? They had a country band, with a couple really big guys. The country folk around here really like to eat. Wow. After having a horrid meal from one of the food vendors, I decided to go back to the campsite and just enjoy a couple of hours of quiet time, reading a book and enjoying the perfect weather we’re having.

By the way, I’m not sure if you know this, but every time I write one of my stories, I think about each and every one of you that are on my mailing list. Many times, I’m writing specifically about something I just know you in particular will enjoy.

I headed out again along the 20 mile yard sale which was going full speed by the afternoon as I slowly crawled along county road 20 heading towards Hohenwald TN. There was to be more music on main street and I just had to go check it out. More country singers, including a young 8th grader doing his best to sing a couple good ole country tunes. Did pretty good on the guitar, but he needs a bit more practice on the vocals. Everyone cheered him on anyway. The town had more craft and food vendors and I at least got a decent hot dog and soda.

It’s been down in the 40’s at night. My gas furnace works well and the solar panels are keeping the batteries charged each day. A couple extra camp blankets on the bed and I’m all toasty warm for a good nights sleep. Today it’s going to get up to a record 85 for this time of year.

About 35 miles down the road, I’ve gotten off the parkway and drove through farm country into Lawrenceburg TN. I was able to find the city campground off of Evergreen and Hayes Ave. There are no signs to tell you your in the park/campground, but there it is, tucked away in one corner with Shoal Creek circling it on three sides. After contacting the local police officer who lives next to the park (he has the keys to unlock the water and electric boxes), I headed out to City Hall to pay for the campsite. Imagine, $10 a night. I’ve decided to stay for a week. Who wouldn’t at those prices.

Now the town is a quaint southern town with a population of about 100 Amish families just north of town. I’ve already seen two black horse drawn buggies ride into town. Right on the main street along with cars and all.

Deep southern accents are everywhere. Meat and two side vegetable specials are served at all the local restaurants here in Tennessee . Today’s special was chicken stuffing, mashed potato’s and gravy, peas, a drink and desert for $5.50. Most places give you a choice of meat and vegetables. I could get to like these prices.

Just heard one person got killed this past weekend during the miles long yard sale. A young Amish boy. Heavy congested country roads, Drivers and passengers gawking, trying to decide the next stop and find a place to park on the edge of the road. Sad. A fun event that has led to a number of deaths each year they tell me.

Oh, I just bought a small side table. It’s a salesman’s sample gate-leg table so it’s just a smaller version of what the salesman would have been trying to sell. The antique shop (one of those multi-dealer places right in the heart of town) told me that these are very rare. Could easily be worth about $300. I paid $46.00. Who knows. It’s a beautiful piece and I’ll use it well.

On the town circle are signs everywhere welcoming Fred Thompson the presidential candidate. He’s from Lawrenceburg. This is also one of the places David Crockett used to live. A statue and a small log cabin office attest to his popularity in these parts. Equally the Cherokee Indians have support in the area to tell their story as the original inhabitants of the area.

My final sort of tour was to Amish country in Ethridge TN. It’s 7 miles north of Lawrenceburg. I signed up for a wagon tour but they kept delaying it. After waiting two hours, I finally drove around on my own. I was a bit shy, didn’t stop at any of the Amish farms, as I didn’t want to say or do anything that would offend them. The Amish live a very simple life, with no electric, cars, or modern conveniences. They plow all their fields with horses and plows. I saw a team of four horses pulling a plow. Your not supposed to take pictures of them either. I saw quiet a few driving their black buggies along the sides of the roads where there was a shoulder, but most times they rode their wagons and buggies right on the main roads. Their farms are very run down and look poorly kept. Maybe they aren’t allowed to buy metal roofing or paint and supplies to keep them up. Not really sure. Sure wish I could have gotten on one of the guided tours to find out. There are like 50 farms that you can stop at and purchase things they make. Everything from furniture to candles, jellies and jams, bread, baskets to saddles and harnesses.

Postscript: A final comment on Lawrenceburg, it’s not a place I would spend a week in again. There’s not much to do here. The town itself is composed of a main square that is barely holding on. The main strip of shops along hwy 48 are mainly drugstores, car repair shops, farm feed and supply stores, discount stores a couple fast food restaurants and one Wal-Mart. All surrounded by some of the oldest derelict buildings around. No nightlife though I understand that during the summer they do have more festivals and music events. They’d have to or a person could die of boredom. One could easily visit here to go on an Amish tour and leave the next day.
And since I dropped Direct TV, having cable or at least a couple off air stations is a must. I have one Christian Tv station and a very snowy CW station. Ekk! Talk about being in the dark ages.


Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,

I just love, love, love reading about your adventures! My husband and I once had a dream of hitting the road upon our retirement. You give me hope that it's still possible. Thanks for sharing and stay safe.


Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,
Our daughter and family live close to Lawrenceburg. Our granddaughter said in the summer the Amish are out on a parking lot begging you to buy something. We traveled through the Amish community and it was all looked so run down. After our granddaughter told us about the begging I think perhaps they don't have the money to fix up their homes and farms. A man at the store that carries some Amish products told us it was getting harder for the Amish to keep themselves "separate". They were relying on tourists for their money.
Thank you for the website. Enjoyed it.
Kay from TN