Along the Mississippi - September 2001

The Mississippi headwaters at Lake Itasca

Bob Frazee and Bart Wold have always wanted to travel the Mississippi from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. This was their year. Here they pose at Lake Itasca, in September, 2001, preparing for their lenghty journey south.

Across from the Univ of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota sits on the eastern bank of the river in Minnesota

Outside our motel in New Hampton

We started our journey by traveling on the west side of the river south into Iowa. We stopped off at the Davis Rally in New Hampton. Originally we planned to ride down the Mississippi on the west side and back north on the east. It was suggested that an alternative was to cross the river at every bridge and do the same thing on the way back. So this is the course we followed.

Wisconsin River flows into the Mississippi

At McGregor, IA, we made our first crossing of the river. High on the bluffs south of Prairie Du Chien, WI, we looked at the convergence of the Wisconsin River into the Mississippi. Rain and fog was to follow us the remainder of the day.

Bart at the John Deere plant

The dream of every green bike owner is to make a pilgramage to the John Deere plant in Moline, IL. Bart is in heaven.

Oquawka, IL

We found that every river city, regardless of size, has a claim to fame. In Oquawka, IL, the circus was visiting town and Norma Jean, the elephant was chained to a tree. That night, during a thunder storm, the tree was hit by lightening.

Shrine to Norma Jean

What do you do with a dead 12 ton elephant chained to a tree? Call in a backhoe and bury it immediately. The spot where Norma Jean is buryed is now a memorial.

Lock & Dam #18

On the "upper Mississippi", everything north of St. Louis, the only way barge traffic can be sustained is by the building of dams and locks. In this way the Corps of Engineers can guarantee a 12 foot channel for barge traffic. One tow boat can push 15 barges up or down the river. This is the equivilent of 900 semitrailers moving grain, coal, sand or other cargo.

Steam boat in Hannibal, MO

South of St. Louis the Mississippi is able to maintain its depth and flow because of the major rivers flowing into it: Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and a host of others. Barges may be able to hold more cargo but they do not have the same grace and elequence of the old paddleboats.

Hannibal, MO

Mark Twain grew up in this sleepy little river town, Hannibal, MO.

Mark Twain's home in Hannibal

The childhood home of Samual Clemens gave birth to Tom Sawyer, Beckie Thatcher, and Huck Finn. Here is the fence next to the Clemens home which was the scene of painting escapade.

River valley south of Hannibal

In our entire journey up and down the river there is no question that the best scenery is from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to St.Louis, MO. The river road often runs along bluffs high above the river giving these panaramic views.

Bridge crossing the river

High expansive bridges connecting the Eisenhower Interstate Freeway carries the traffic east and west.

A ferry crossing

We soon learned that there are still many places where the river can be crossed by ferry. So our plan changed again; cross the river when ever we found a bridge or ferry crossing.

Crossing the river by ferry

The cost of the ferry varied from $3.00 to $5.50. In Louisiana the ferries were free - I think this is because they were considered part of the state highway system. Outside of Louisiana we were traveling from one state to the next. We are lucky we decided to cross the river every time we came to a ferry or bridge because this was freqently the only time we saw the river. South of St Louis the river view was mostly blocked by the levy - take a look at the bridge picture above.

Kentucky boarder

Every time we crossed into another state we had a photo opportunity.

Tennessee boarder

The weather had turned sunny and very warm. By now the temperatures were hovering between 90 and 100 degrees.

Bo's Landing at Tiptonville, TN

Tiptonville, TN, is the home of country singer Carl Perkins. We met one of his boyhood friends at a local gas station and he filled us in on local lore. He suggested we ride out see the lake. We stopped at Bo's Landing. Now we knew we were in the south.

Cedar trees in lake.

The lake is only 12 to 15 feet deep but these cedar trees make a great photograph.

Vicksburg civil war battlefild

We were in Hannibal on September 11th when the World Trade Center was destroyed. The flag flying at half mast, however, is for the civil war dead at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Cannon at Vicksburg

Cannon stand silent today but Vickburg was essential to controling the Mississippi river during the civil. General Grant conducted a 6 month seige of the city before its surrender.

The battle lines of the northern and southern armies, along with monuments commemorating the units which fought and men who died on this spot.

Statues to battlefield heros are everywhere.

Natchez Trace Highway

Prior to the invention of steam to propell boats up, as well as down, the river, everything was transported merely by floating a flat raft or barge downsteam relying upon the river current. When the cargo was unloaded the crew would return home by walking up river. The Natchez Trace Highway was a short cut from the Mississippi to the Ohio. Today it is a scenic roadway. This photo shows the path as it would have been used by men just walking home.

Mount Locust on the Natches Trace Highway

The hardships along the Old Trace were many: heat, mosquitoes, poor food, hard beds (if any), disease, swollen rivers and sucking swamps. Being able to spend the night at a local farm which afforded some home cooking provided some comfort in an otherwise dangerous journey.

The Windsor Ruins at Port Gibson

Grant was unsuccessful in his seige of Vicksburg from the river so he moved his army south and crossed the river near Port Gibson. He described the city as "Too beautiful to burn." He obviously was refering to the Windsor Plantation. The Plantation survived the ravages of the civil war only to burn to the ground during a party in the 1880's. Rumor has it that a cigarette carelessly thrown in a waste can started the fire.

Finding the ruins was not easy but our perseverance paid off. The plantation home was three stories high and you can still see the balcony on parts of the third story. We naturally took the opportunity to have our bikes photographed at this historical site.

cotton fields

The lower delta, as everything south of St. Louis, MO, is called, is farming country. In Mississippi there are thousands of acres of cotton fields. We saw them all. This was harvest time and we were surprised to learn that in order to get the cotton bolls to blossom the fields are sprayed with a defoliant. The spraying is done by airplane and we were able to understand the hardship on the local farmers when all airial spraying was prohibited following the World Trade Center bombing.

Madewood Plantation

We visited our first plantation, Madewood, south of Baton Rouge, LA, on Hwy 1 heading for Cajan Country and Thibadeux. This Greek Revival mansion was begun in 1846 using materials from the land. The plantation was 3,000 acres of sugar cane and had 300 slaves to plant, maintain, and harvest the crop.

Madewood family cemetary

The family cemetary sits under a large oak tree covered with Spanish Moss.

Crayfish - Cajun Food

We traveled to Lafayette in the heart of Cajun country. Crawfish served in a hot spice over rice, known as Etouffee became my favorate. I had it for lunch and dinner. Bartie, not being as adventourous stuck to grilled Alligator when we went out to Prejean's for Cajun music and dining.

Evangline Oak in St Martinville.

A history lesson: The Cajun's are people of French background who originally settled in Acadia, as Nova Scotia was called in 1604. When France deeded Acadia to England the French were told to swear allegience to Britian and "forsake your Catholic faith." When the Arcadians refused the British herded them on to ships - separating the men from the women and children - and then dopped them off along the eastern shores of the British colonies. Slowly they made their way to French Louisianna. Two lovers, Gabriel and Evangeline were separated and by the time Evangeline found Gabriel under this large oak tree Gabrial had married. Evangeline died of a broken heart.

New Orleans

We finally made it to New Oleans where we stayed in a reconstructed town home on the edge of the French Quarter.

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Have a good day and come back again.

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