We wanted to stay near Jackson since it is the State Capitol and it is a daytrip from Vicksburg, both places we wanted to see on our trip through Mississippi. Since we were detached from the modern convenience of google.com at our last stop, finding a place in the area was a bit of a challenge. We have a checklist of items we like to have at each campsite and all parks do not always check each box. I really like 50 amp power and a sewer connection. Mike prefers we pick camgrounds with water and fishing available. The size of the coach dictates we need long and level pads with not too many low hanging tree branches above us, and plenty of room on each side for slide-outs. A giant perk is a strong wifi signal and some retail establishments nearby for running errands. Things like tennis courts; golf, or disc golf are extra exciting. Our budget is about $25 per day, so we tend to select state and national parks because they are always less expensive. Although I do lots of research reading reviews on various RVing websites, we don’t always know what we are going to get until we arrive. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is marginal, but it is always completely different from any other place we’ve stayed before.
Our best option that checked the most boxes near Jackson was a campground operated by the Lower Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The park is on the shore of the giant Barnett Reservoir near Brandon and just across the dam from an entrance into the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. The campsites were extremely close together, and it was spring break so it was totally full. The upside was that there was a Kroger literally across the street, a walking path out our front door, and two enormous parks adjacent and across from us. The park next to us had soccer fields, a YMCA, tennis courts, play grounds, a fishing pier, a pavilion, tons of tables and cooking grills, and tons of space for friends and families to spread out for picnics or games of touch football. The park down the path and across the street from us had a boat launch, more picnic pads, a frisbee golf course, another pavilion and more wide open spaces. Our immediate area around the coach was nothing to look at, but our surroundings would keep us busy for the week.
The first day was the usual: scope out the neighborhood, find the nearest Petsmart, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Kroger, Liquor Store (in Mississippi you can buy beer in the grocery store, but the winos and boozers have to go across the nearest county line to stock up). On our first day exploration we found some very nice tennis courts in the town park of Flowood. Since it was spring break with beautiful warm clear bright weather, the park was full of happy and energetic children when we went back to play tennis. When Mike and I find a place to hit the tennis ball, we take the dogs onto the court with us and shut the gate so they can run crazy while we are hitting. Somehow they manage to run and chase each other without getting pelted by any of the balls flying through the air. These two golden retriever rescues did not get the tennis ball gene, so they could care less about chasing them down for us. They do their thing, we do our thing, and we all leave when we get tired and thirsty.
As we were hitting with Piper/Cessna releasing energy around us, we were kinda getting some spectators. Piper is loud like me, so you can hear his bark from anywhere around. A couple of little kids stopped at the fence and wanted to pet them – it was kind of like we were a zoo exhibit. Then a couple of older kiddos asked us if they could come inside the fence to our courts with their skateboards. There was another set of courts behind us that was empty, but I guess we looked more fun. So since Mike loves kids so much, I said sure! Now we were hitting the tennis ball, one kid skateboarding, and one kid getting Piper to chase him while he is retreiving our stray balls pretending to be a ball boy in a tournament (but returning them to us during the middle of every good rally). Maybe I should have saved the zoo comment until after I told you this part too. We lasted about an hour, exhausted the dogs and kiddos, and left to go find somewhere on the water where we could take the dogs and have an afternoon cocktail in the sun. No such place exists, so we went back to the Monaco and made our own spring break happy hour at our picnic table on our square of grass near the street light and electrical boxes.
Since our campground was located right by the dam, there was a spillway just a short drive from us. Everytime we crossed the spillway there were hundreds of people down there fishing. We drove down to investigate further and found out they catch brim and catfish down there. I talked to a kid who knew everything about fishing in and around the Barnett Reservoir. He said in order to catch crappie (Mike’s preference), we should go to the Palahatchie Shore Park and fish on the rocks. They were spawning at the moment and he said to throw out a line about 10′ from the shore and that is where they were. Mike and I drove down to the rocks and did more recon to find the best fishing spot. He bought a 3-day license while we were there and fed us dinner of fresh fried catfish one night. No crappie, but fried fish is fried fish if you ask me. Always yummy.
Another day we drove into downtown Jackson and explored the historic Capitol and the current Capitol buildings. I learned the origins of the Teddy Bear and Memorial Day, and made a note to download some books by William Faulkner and Richard Wright to my Kindle. The House and Senate were in session, but had called it a day at noon and gone home for the weekend. The stained-glass windows in the ceiling of each chamber’s domes were spectacular – and the desks on the floor were incredibly messy. I just kept looking up because I had to fight the urge to go straighten all the paperwork everywhere.
For lunch we ate at a magnificent historic cafe called the Mayflower. It was opened in 1935 by greek immigrants specializing in FRESH seafood. It was a long and narrow space with traditional booths along one wall, tables in the middle, and a counter along the other wall. The waitress was our age but called us ‘hon’, and was very patient as we inquired about almost every specialty dish on the menu. We sat in the very back booth that is usually reserved for a local judge – has his plaque on the wall and everything. We enjoyed a scrumptous lunch of greek salad topped with lump crabmeat, a cup of gumbo, and broiled redfish topped with shrimp and oysters – served with home made fries. The owner was there of course. I asked if I could have a side order of just one broiled soft shell crab. He came to my table to apologize and tell me that he could not do that because the crabs were too small and not even from the gulf and he wasn’t going to serve me something that wasn’t quality. I love it! No problem, I appreciate you looking out for me and not ripping me off!
Since the Natchez Trace Parkway was so close, we drove along it a little way for both directions. We took it to Vicksburg on our last day to explore the Civil War Battlefield Museum and the downtown area. The drive down the Trace was beautiful and peaceful, the Battlefield was incredibly interesting and educational (we took the dogs, so they got to read all the markers and hear all the stories too), and the City of Vicksburg was a huge disappointment. I was all excited to head downtown after our morning explorations and find a great little restaurant, look around the shops, and admire the historic architecture. There were about 3 stores, no restaurants, the place was dirty, but they did have music piped outside on the sidewalks. After searching for somewhere authentic to eat we settled for the buffet at the Lucky Lady Casino. Mike got the 1/2 price discount since he is over 50 – so that made it taste a little better.
On to Tupelo to channel Elvis, explore more of the Natchez Trace Parkway, and see more Civil War History.