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Author Topic: Deep South Road Trip  (Read 3357 times)

PITCHS

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Deep South Road Trip
« on: January 02, 2015, 01:10:56 PM »

Hello all, I have been reading this forum for a few months and aside from wishing there were more frequent updates (maybe once we get some federal highway funding?), I'm very pleased with the amount of information and the dedication of the posters. Hopefully I can beat some of you to the punch with some future news and updates and prove my worth in the world of roadgeekdom.

For the time being though, I would appreciate any advice anyone could offer on a road trip I am planning for sometime this Spring or Summer. I will be starting/ending at Charleston, SC and plan on taking a week or so to explore an area of the country my 28 years on this earth has not given me the chance to explore yet: the Deep South. I'm planning New Orleans as my turnaround point, and will probably need to take two days to fully appreciate the city. I need your help with deciding the best routes between the two. I'll list a few of my necessities and then describe the route I have in mind, looking for any recommendations along it or any places I should reroute for better scenery or more interesting towns/cities.

Musts:
Travel through Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana to clinch those 4 states as well as the Southeastern quadrant of the US
Drive along the gulf coast, focusing on small towns with good local cooking and avoiding the congested resort type areas (Destin, Panama City) that may or may not be crowded when I take my trip-must also visit Bayou La Batre, home of Forrest Gump, even if the movie wasn't filmed there and even if there's no tangible place to visit a la Chippewa Sq. in Savannah
Drive through some Mississippi River delta/bayou towns. Not sure if driving to Venice or Grand Isle, LA will be worth the trip or should I stick to areas around Houma and Morgan City?
Drive through Talladega, AL to "clinch" the NASCAR track

My route I have planned so far is to take US 17/I-95 from Charleston to Jacksonville/St. Augustine which is a part of Florida I have not visited. Skipping Savannah as I have been there a few times already. Planning on early morning departure from Charleston so hoping to get there by late morning and leave sometime early afternoon and take I-10 to Live Oak before breaking south towards 98 passing through Perry and Apalachicola. From there I will drive along the coast until I get sick of stop lights and then make my way back north towards I-10 to find a place to sleep for the night. (I will be alone so I do not mind long days and will likely sleep in my car some of the nights to save on hotels).

Second day I hope to pass through Mobile (worth stopping)? Then head down through Bayou La Batre and follow US 90 into New Orleans. Hoping to get to NO around noon on that second day, giving me almost a full day to explore and a night of partying. I will spend the next morning there and probably leave early afternoon to check out the delta towns and start my drive north and end up staying somewhere near or north of Baton Rouge.

The third day I would like to take US 61 up to Natchez and Vicksburg then hop across the river and take US 65 north on my way to Greenville, Mississippi, clinching a corner of Arkansas along the way. I have pretty good direction up until this point. From here on, I have 3 or 4 days (depending on if I choose to stay an extra day in New Orleans) to get back to Charleston. There are plenty of towns and cities that look interesting to me but I have no basis on which to decide what would be the better routing.

Memphis-I've clinched TN but never been to Memphis, it's farther north than I really want to go though so unless I get some strong push it's probably not going to happen.
Tupelo-everyone knows of Tupelo, do people visit though?
Philadelphia, MS-I'm intrigued by it's isolation from any major routes and I saw it mentioned on another road trip thread on another site, worth skipping Starkville and Tuscaloosa?
Selma, AL-Important in Civil Rights, anything worth seeing there?
Birmingham/Montgomery-which is better?


Aside from New Orleans I don't plan on spending more than an hour in the smaller towns (likely for a meal) and a few hours in some of the bigger cities (one or two scenic or cultural attractions). Not very interested in nature that I can't see from my car (ie I don't want to hike in the woods for hours somewhere). I mostly enjoy peaceful drives and the kinds of towns "that time forgot", especially when it comes to local food. I have flexibility with time but I will be renting a car and paying for lodging on at least a few of the nights so I am trying to keep it to around a week. Don't want to have to rush back but I also want to get the most out of the trip.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to any pointers!




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froggie

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2015, 01:28:31 PM »

Philadelphia is a county seat (Neshoba County) but the only thing around there is the casino (Indian reservation).  I don't think it's worth skipping Starkville, but depending on your time, you might be able to swing both.  Plus it would give you a chance to catch some additional "towns that time forgot".  One option is, from Greenville, US 82 east to Indianola, down US 49W to Belzoni, east on MS 12 to Kosciusko, then down MS 19 to Philadelphia.  You can then pick up MS 15 to Louisville and MS 25 to Starkville.
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Alex

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2015, 02:54:23 PM »

My route I have planned so far is to take US 17/I-95 from Charleston to Jacksonville/St. Augustine which is a part of Florida I have not visited. Skipping Savannah as I have been there a few times already. Planning on early morning departure from Charleston so hoping to get there by late morning and leave sometime early afternoon and take I-10 to Live Oak before breaking south towards 98 passing through Perry and Apalachicola. From there I will drive along the coast until I get sick of stop lights and then make my way back north towards I-10 to find a place to sleep for the night. (I will be alone so I do not mind long days and will likely sleep in my car some of the nights to save on hotels).

Second day I hope to pass through Mobile (worth stopping)? Then head down through Bayou La Batre and follow US 90 into New Orleans. Hoping to get to NO around noon on that second day, giving me almost a full day to explore and a night of partying. I will spend the next morning there and probably leave early afternoon to check out the delta towns and start my drive north and end up staying somewhere near or north of Baton Rouge.

The traffic lights along U.S. 98 start west of Tyndall AFB in Bay County and litter the route west through to Pensacola, with an exception of the in-land stretch through southeast Walton County.

As for Mobile, it depends upon what you want to see. Roadwise, US 45 ends there, and US 43 ends just to the north in Prichard. Outside of the freeways, Mobile is mostly slow moving arterials.

cjk374

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2015, 08:50:19 PM »


As for Mobile, it depends upon what you want to see. Roadwise, US 45 ends there, and US 43 ends just to the north in Prichard. Outside of the freeways, Mobile is mostly slow moving arterials.

Mobile also has tunnels on I-10 and US 98.  That was the 1st place I ever saw a speed limit lower than 50 mph on an interstate (I think it is 45 through the tunnel.)
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Charles2

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2015, 10:16:15 PM »

Given a choice between Birmingham and Montgomery, try to do both.  They're only 90 miles apart.  Just east of Montgomery you can see the new I-85/I-685 interchange that is under construction; just north of Birmingham you can see the new I-65/I-22 interchange, which will be extremely impressive once it is completed.  From a historical standpoint there are tons to see in both cities.  Montgomery is where the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is located.  Martin Luther King was at one time the pastor of this church.  If you are any kind of a history buff, the first capitol of the Confederacy was Montgomery.  Jefferson Davis was inaugurated on the steps of the Alabama state capitol building.

Birmingham offers quite a few sightseeing opportunities.  The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the site of the bombing that killed four girls in 1963.  Across the street from the church is the Civil Rights Institute.  It's quite impressive.  Also, the Vulcan Statue, the largest cast iron statue in the world, overlooks the city, and the park around it is very nice.  There are numerous outstanding independent restaurants on the city's Southside as well in nearby Avondale.  And the barbecue here can't be beat!
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PITCHS

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2015, 08:29:17 AM »

Lots of great info so far, thanks for the replies. I hadno idea Mobile had tunnels, that's exciting! (Interstate 70 near Belle Vernon, PA is 45 mph as well I believe, not due to tunnels but rather a very outdated section of interstate)

I will also likely take the advice to visit Montgomery and Birmingham. I am interested in the Civil Rights movement moreso than the Civil War, and I would love to see the places MLK marched and preached, I'd like to see any preserved history of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, as well as to pay my respects at the site of the church bombing in Birmingham, which is one of the history lessons I have never forgotten due to the tragedy of it.
 
So it looks like I have plenty to do in Alabama, anything worth seeing in Mississippi aside from the already-planned pass throughs of Vicksburg and Natchez? Anything in Jackson? Is Tupelo worth a visit? I can envision a Greenville-Oxford-Starkville-Philadelphia-Meridian trip that would take me the better part of a day and allow me to see a lot more than I had planned, but I wonder if I would see anything I wouldn't see otherwise.

I see places along the gulf coast on street view where the road basically runs on the beach, that's new to me and will be a fun part of the ride. Any roads along the Mississippi or other rivers/waterways that would have a nice view? Looks like the levees will block most of my contact with the Mississippi.

Also any rustic rural bridges anyone can think of? I am picturing the one in Arkansas used in the Slingblade movie (also on the cover). I will do my own research on covered bridges but there is less info out there on old iron and steel ones. The older/more rickety the better.

I realize I am asking for a lot and appreciate anyone truly interested enough to take the time to read and think on this. My area of expertise is SW PA and increasingly the Charleston, SC area. I will now browse similar threads in those areas to try to offer some of my own advice. I will update this thread after my trip with my observations.
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froggie

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2015, 09:53:56 AM »

Quote
Also any rustic rural bridges anyone can think of? I am picturing the one in Arkansas used in the Slingblade movie (also on the cover). I will do my own research on covered bridges but there is less info out there on old iron and steel ones. The older/more rickety the better.

If you wind up going through Meridian, go here.  This old bridge dates to the late 1840s, and local legend says it's haunted.  Here's a writeup and photos I did back in 2000 when I was stationed at the nearby Naval Air Station.

A word of caution:  a news article from 3 years ago suggests the bridge is closed to traffic, but you should still be able to get to the bridge...it'll just be a long detour around to get there.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 09:56:36 AM by froggie »
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cjk374

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2015, 12:38:39 PM »

Quote
Also any rustic rural bridges anyone can think of? I am picturing the one in Arkansas used in the Slingblade movie (also on the cover). I will do my own research on covered bridges but there is less info out there on old iron and steel ones. The older/more rickety the better.

If you wind up going through Meridian, go here.  This old bridge dates to the late 1840s, and local legend says it's haunted.  Here's a writeup and photos I did back in 2000 when I was stationed at the nearby Naval Air Station.

A word of caution:  a news article from 3 years ago suggests the bridge is closed to traffic, but you should still be able to get to the bridge...it'll just be a long detour around to get there.

At Vicksburg, you can go to the Mississippi Welcome center and get a great view of the river and some cannons from the Civil War that were set up to protect the city.

From there, follow US 80 from the Clay St. exit (exit 4 I believe) eastbound out of town.  It still has the 9' wide travel lanes and becomes county maintained, despite seeing US 80/MS 822 route markers along the way.  Go out of Vicksburg, through the town of Bovina.  You will encounter some old bridges over the Big Black River.  I apologize for not knowing the names of the types of bridges, but there are 2 or three over of them in this area.

You can continue eastward on old 80 through Edwards (where the closing scene of "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" was shot.  The wooden overpass over the KCS mainline has since been replace with a concrete structure), and Bolton (old downtown buildings where you feel like you have driven back in time...kinda Route 66esque).

You can continue eastward to Jackson, needing to make a big "zig-zag" at Norrell Rd. as you enter Clinton, MS.
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1995hoo

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2015, 12:51:37 PM »

Given a choice between Birmingham and Montgomery, try to do both.  They're only 90 miles apart.  Just east of Montgomery you can see the new I-85/I-685 interchange that is under construction; just north of Birmingham you can see the new I-65/I-22 interchange, which will be extremely impressive once it is completed.  From a historical standpoint there are tons to see in both cities.  Montgomery is where the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is located.  Martin Luther King was at one time the pastor of this church.  If you are any kind of a history buff, the first capitol of the Confederacy was Montgomery.  Jefferson Davis was inaugurated on the steps of the Alabama state capitol building.

....

There is a marker noting the spot where Davis stood. It's well worth going up there. The view of the area is pretty good since the capitol sits on top of a hill. Visit the Confederate memorial while you're up there, located around the corner of the building to the north. Martin Luther King's church is a block or two down Dexter Avenue directly below the capitol on the south side. The First White House of the Confederacy is a few blocks away and the civil rights monument is down the street from there. Hank Williams is buried in one of the local cemeteries (I don't remember which one, but the info is easy to find online). F. Scott Fitzgerald had a connection to Montgomery because he was assigned there during World War I and met his wife, Zelda, who was the daughter of a state supreme court justice, but I don't recall any kind of monuments or the like other than a street named Zelda Road (I used it as part of my commute when I worked in Montgomery during law school).

Metered parking in Montgomery used to be insanely inexpensive. Bring loose change if you go there. The parking tickets were also very cheap. But it's been a while since I was there, so this comment might not be valid any longer.

I think it's also worth going west on US-80 to Selma, Alabama. You cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge entering town. Anyone who has seen any photos or videos of the civil rights movement will recognize that bridge. Since you mention an interest in the civil rights movement, this is a must-visit that dovetails nicely with seeing the roads. When I was in college, I took a course taught by Julian Bond about the history of the civil rights movement and I got goosebumps the times I drove over that bridge.

If you are a golfer, bring your clubs. Alabama has some outstanding golf courses at quite reasonable prices. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is probably the best-known set and you can't really go wrong with any of them. The municipal course in Montgomery, Lagoon Park, is a nice layout as well (slightly northeast of town).
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Charles2

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Re: Deep South Road Trip
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2015, 09:04:53 PM »

Re: rustic bridges

Blount County, which is immediately northeast of Birmingham, is the self-proclaimed Covered Bridge Capitol.  One is near the town of Locust Fork, located off of SR-79 and about 30 miles NE of downtown Birmingham.  Another is located just north of Oneonta off of SR-75, and about 40 miles NE of downtown Birmingham.  Both of them are drivable, and both of them are very cool.
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