The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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Greenwood, MS

My dad suggested I drive through Mississippi and visit his friend, Father Greg at St. Francis of Assisi church. I thought that was a great idea. I hadn't planned on going through Mississippi, but since I had a friendly place to stop, why not? I was also interested in the Natchez Trace Parkway, which just happened to be going in the right direction.

On the way, I stopped to see Natchez, a quaint little historic town situated on the banks of the Mississippi. It was a hot sunny day, so Riley and I couldn't venture too far from the car where Peyote was hanging out with all the windows open just enough so she couldn't jump out. There was a grassy park on the top of a bluff overlooking Miss River (as all the road signs referred to the great Mississippi). I took a quick look around, snapped a few shots and was back in the car in no time. We weren't far from Natchez State Park, where I decided to stop for the night.



From Wikipedia:
The Natchez Trace, a 440-mile-long path extending from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, linked the Cumberland, the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was used extensively by Native Americans and early European explorers as both a trade and transit route in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Today, the trail has been commemorated with the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway which follows the approximate path of the trace. The trail itself has a long and rich history, filled with brave explorers, dastardly outlaws and daring settlers. Parts of the original trail are still accessible.

What a pleasure it was driving this parkway. Smooth road, no stop signs, 50 mph. A perfect leisurely drive....until... I saw a group of dogs on the road ahead of me and slowed down. Then I saw a pickup truck coming toward me on the other side of the road. I naturally assumed he would also slow down and carefully maneuver around the dogs. Nope. He just kept moving right along and plowed through the dogs. I saw one of them go under his wheel. He didn't slow down or even stop to see if he hurt any of them. I couldn't believe it. i was so furious I rolled down my window and yelled at him to turn around! hit those dogs! He kept going. Miraculously, all the dogs were able to run away to the cover of the trees. I slowly made my way past them and noticed that they were sticking together in pairs, but behaving erratically. There was nothing I could do, but it ruined my day. I couldn't tell if the dogs were stray, wild, or had homes somewhere. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of stray dogs roaming around the South. My first instinct was to stop and check the dog for tags so that I could get it home safely...but I quickly realized that many of them had no homes. I wasn't used to seeing this in my own country and it was a bummer to see. Litter, as well. It was disheartening to drive through much of the southern backroads and see so much garbage on the side of the road. Again, I thought the country as a whole had solved this problem. That's another reason why the Parkway was such a pleasure to drive - it was beautiful, clean and fresh.


I arrived at the church and met Father Greg, a young, hip Franciscan friar. He considered the size of my rig and suggested I park in the back, where i could run a power cord from the garage and let Riley run in the field. He left me to get parked and settled and I tackled my most challenging back-up job yet: between a couple of buildings and around a corner. It was a cinch. I was getting good at backing up.

Father Greg was busy with Holy Week, but he generously took me to a favorite local restaurant for dinner. I told him about the dogs on the road and the truck, and he wasn't surprised. He told me a little about Greenwood, Emmett Till, Robert Johnson (the great grand-daddy of the Delta blues) and the work he is doing with the church and school. It was dark, but we drove through town, over the bridge, past large agricultural fields, past "one of" Robert Johnson's graves and then stopped briefly at Tallahatchie Flats. This was a cluster of sharecropper homes that had been restored and was now something like a living history B&B - where you could experience old-time genuine Mississippi living (modernized with air-conditioning). It wasn't far from here that Emmett Till, a young black boy from Chicago, was brutally murdered for flirting with a white shop owner. It had a tremendous impact on the civil rights movement, but that story haunted me the entire time I was in Greenwood.

While docked at the church, I was asked to visit the kids during class-time and share a little about my trip. The fourth grade class was a joy and seemed to enjoy hearing about where I've been and seeing pictures of moose in Maine. They sang a song for me and recited a poem by Maya Angelou that brought tears to my eyes.

I had only intended on staying a couple of nights, but was delayed by a massive storm system that was coming from the west and spanned the entire country, so I couldn't outrun it if I tried. I was in Tornado Alley and it was tornado season and that made me very nervous. Really nervous, and it was scheduled to hit Greenwood hardest at 3:00 am, with tornados likely. I did what I could to prepare and tried to get a good night's sleep. At 3:00 am I heard a freight train roaring outside and in my half-sleep state thought "Okay, here we go, please spare us...". As I listened and awoke fully, I peered through the curtains to see no rain, no wind, and no tornado. It was just a very vivid dream.


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