After a completely charming visit to Rayville, we turned east to Mississippi and headed to Vicksburg about an hour away. We pulled over at the welcome center and went in to get the best routes to see the Civil War Monuments in town. The lady was so lovely and pointed us in all the right directions. Then as we were getting ready to go, she mentioned that Vicksburg’s Mardi Gras parade started in about 15 minutes if we wanted to go check it out. So we did.
We drove the two miles to downtown, found a parking, and arrived there about five minutes before the festivities began. This was like a Spud Day parade in Shelley, Idaho. It was a small town personable parade and introduced us to our first bead throwing experience!
I had no idea what to expect when we arrived, and we were pretty impressed that a hometown parade could produce so many beads!! We all left with heavy necks and happy smiles!
From the parade we drove to the Vicksburg National Military Park. This is a park set up with over a thousand Civil War monuments. We drove the 16-mile loop taking us through the battleground filled with bunkers and barriers. We stopped at the U.S.S. Cairo which is a Civil War ironclad that sank after being attacked by Confederates with one of the first electronically detonated mines.
From the Military Park we continued east to Jackson where we turned southeast for Hattiesburg. It was getting dark as we pulled into Jackson, and I was too tired to keep driving. We couldn’t find an RV park anywhere around, but we did spy a small school that worked great to park for the night. With no school the following morning, we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.
I don’t really like just dry docking anywhere for the night. Don’t get me wrong, the price fits nicely with my current travel budget, but I certainly feel safer parked between two other RVs in a campground and plugged into the park’s electricity. Driving into a town as it is getting dark, casts a shadow on an otherwise friendly looking city, and parking behind the school that night felt a little uneasy. As I went to turn the lights out for the night, I got out a kitchen knife and set it near the bed. All of a sudden, I burst out laughing…if someone did break in, what WAS I going to do with a kitchen knife anyway!!? I put it back, and made sure the frying pan and cellphone were handy!
The night went by uneventful, and we awoke to a sunny day in Jackson, Mississippi. We didn’t have anything in particular we wanted to see in Jackson, so we continued south to Hattiesburg, a fun little town full of old-time everything. After a drive through the town, we ended up in the Paul B. Johnson State Park for the afternoon.
The park was built on a big lake, and in order to get to our campsite, we had to drive through this:
It is disconcerting to drive even with the top of a dam, but once the fear passed it was pretty cool, and we did it a few times, just to wash off the Louisiana mud we’d picked up along our way.
We swam for the afternoon, stayed close to the camper, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset among the tall gangly trees.
The next morning, we got an early start and continued south to Biloxi, Mississippi. It was Fat Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras. Instead of heading into the chaos of New Orleans, we decided to skirt the millions, and celebrate Mardi Gras in Biloxi, which boasts the biggest family friendly Mardi Gras parades in the south.
We did not have the same good fortune as in Vicksburg to just pull up to the parade here. It WAS a big deal and everyone and their children had come to participate! We parked about a half of mile away and made our way to the parade route. As we got closer and closer, I pulled my kids closer and closer! There was A LOT of people lined up along the street, and I wondered how everyone would be able to catch something with so many people everywhere.
A nice man name Roy was at the parade with his wife and a couple of friends, and they invited us to join them. He taught my boys all the proper (and appropriate) things to say to the ladies throwing beads if they wanted the good stuff! He was a comical guy who added character to an already brimming-with-character-parade. Before the parade had even started, a fight broke out about thirty feet down from us. The police had it under control and the people carted off just in time for the parade to start.
All those thoughts about wondering how everyone would get some beads…well, that was a foolish waste of thoughts. If you can imagine 200,000 people lining a street, and each of them ending up with 150 sets of beads, stuffed animals, moon pies and bouncy balls you will have a good idea of how much stuff was thrown off those floats. A LOT. 🙂
Successful bead catching at a Mardi Gras parade requires excellent peripheral vision. Beads were coming at us from every direction. Christian and I both got pelted pretty good with incoming beads. Nathan apparently has the best peripheral vision of the family!
After two and a half hours of continuous bead catching, the parade was over, and we said good-bye to our new Mardi Gras friends as we carted our treasure chest of goodies away. We decided to get out-of-town for the night of celebration, so we headed east again toward Mobile, Alabama.
We were barely out of town, when I saw a sign for Pascagoula. I thought, “Hmmm…. Pascagoula? Where do I know that from?” Almost instantly, my mind raced back to Ray Stevens and The First Self Righteous Church. This weird joyful rush overcame me, and I felt so happy to drive through a town that I knew a song about! I never really imagined it being a real town…I was completely delighted to stumble upon it! My boys were wildly impressed I knew a song about a squirrel. Of course, I had to show them the youtube video of it….and even now…we can’t seem to stop singing it!
So, after an afternoon at catching beads at Mardi Gras, I was left feeling like maybe I needed to go to church 😉 …in the sleepy little town of Pascagoula…with a half-crazed Mississippi squirrel! 🙂