QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Okay, I’ll just admit right now that I have been a very, very bad blogger. When we arrived back at the barn, I took a break. That was back in NOVEMBER, and unfortunately, it was BEFORE I finished up The Last Frontier trip. Thankfully, I do keep good notes and take hundreds of pics, so it is now time to pull my head out of my hieney and get you folks back to the barn!

On Monday, October 23, we hit the road about 8 AM anticipating a long driving day. For a change, I was behind the wheel getting in some practice. Let me tell you, driving through those curvy, s-turn roads was taxing! I have a great appreciation for all that Mr. Wonderful (MW) goes through since he is behind the wheel most of the time. It was a grey day, but thankfully, wasn’t raining. We headed to Piedmont, Missouri, and caught MO-49 over to US-67 south to Poplar Bluff. MW had been jonesing for breakfast vittles, so we stopped in at Huddle House before continuing east on US-60. Past Sikeston, we hit I-55 south (yuck!), then I-155 south of Caruthersville. We crossed back into Tennessee **whoot, whoot** and traded seats at the Welcome Center. At Dyersburg, we turned south on US-412, hit I-40 for a brief bit at Jackson, then were back on US-412 to Lexington TN-114 and on up to Pin Oak Campground at Natchez Trace State Park.

Tuesday started with a little time outside enjoying the morning. MW almost always beats me up and out, and on this morning he had a nice little campsite visitor…an armadillo. The little fellow shuffled around pretty close to where MW was sitting, then scurried off into the woods when he realized he was being watched. Later we headed into town where MW dropped me off at Zaxby’s to catch up on some writing while he took the opportunity to check out the nearby Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield, a Civil War park. The weather was really warm for almost November, so we were able to enjoy the evening outside, too.

In December 1862, the Confederates were desperately trying to slow Grant and Sherman’s assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi. To that end, General Earl Van Dorn’s troops destroyed the supply depot at Holly Springs, Mississippi, and General Nathan B. Forrest swung across West Tennessee effectively severing the Union’s rail communications. By December 29th, Forrest’s troops were encamped just south of Parker’s Crossroads, an area settled by a group including the Parkers who came over from North Carolina and founded the town of Red Mound. Seeing an opportunity to capture the successful Confederate officer that Sherman labeled “that devil Forrest”, General Jeremiah Sullivan departed Jackson, Mississippi, headed north, while he sent other brigades to the northeast to surround Forrest. When the Confederates once again began their march, they were met just north of Parker’s Crossroads by the firm line of Colonel Cyrus Dunham’s brigade. Not to be taken easily, Forrest ordered his troops into action and forced the retreat of the northerners. He then flanked their new position and continued pushing them south. Surrounded and suffering severe casualties, it looked like the battle was over. However, Colonel John W. Fuller’s brigade showed up from the north, sandwiching Forrest’s troops in the middle. Forrest would not be out-maneuvered, though, and caught them all off guard by thundering “Charge them both ways!” The move was a success, and Forrest made it to the ferry across the Tennessee River at Clifton. It is a great battle story made even better by the fact that Forrest was not a trained military officer. His tactical smarts were innate. General William T. Sherman admitted later that he could never get a handle on Forrest’s tactics . After the war, he said , “I think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side.” The park is well done with lots of signage and pull-off areas to check out. The only negative is that I-40 now runs right through the middle of the battlefield, detracting from MW’s typical visualizations. The Visitor Center has a nice movie and lots of information, too, and he said it is definitely worth the stop.

Wednesday I rode my bike over to the lodge at the park and finally caught up on writing. Yay!! (Didn’t last long, though, did it?!) Later, we headed into Lexington to hunt down firewood and get a little supper at Grecian Family Restaurant where the star was MW’s grilled pork chop. Back at the campground we had another beautiful night for enjoying the outdoors.

Thursday I switched it up and headed to town to do the laundry. Our friends Lori and Jimmy Grimm were headed down from Paducah, Kentucky, to meet us, and I didn’t want to have to do the chore on Friday. It was a peaceful morning with absolutely no one but me at the laundromat. That almost never happens! I made quick work of that, then went over to Wendy’s for a sandwich and to pay bills, answer emails…you know, all that stuff I normally do on my phone when I have a cell signal. Before heading back to Petunia, I popped in at the grocery store. By the time I made it back, the Grimms were just about set up. It is always terrific to spend time with them. We visit, play board games, cook, eat, cook, eat, (yes, I did that twice on purpose), check out the area, sit around the campfire, etc. A few interesting things happened during this visit: 1) We were heading into town and ended up behind a school bus. This kid got off, I’m guessing maybe 13 years old, and was clearly angry. He threw down his book bag, stormed into the carport, and kicked the back of an SUV TWICE so hard that it put two huge dents in the back. Wow! Wonder how long it took the driver to find it and if he/she ever knew the cause of the dents? That young man clearly had some anger issues!! 2) Because the weather warmed up drastically, the Asian Beetles (look like Ladybugs) were out in force. They apparently found a way into the Grimm’s camper and were showing up as fast as Jimmy could toss them out. He was NOT happy, especially when we talked about them crawling on him while he slept! LOL 3) Saturday was a huge Fall Festival celebration at the park complete with costumes and trick or treating. MW and Jimmy have a thing about giving out full-sized candy bars, so we coordinated and had a good variety. MW, Jimmy, and I were all about the chocolate…Three Musketeers, Milky Way, Butterfinger, and Snickers. Lori, however, stuck to her guns and got Skittles. The rest of us just knew there would be a whole bowl of Skittles left and were shocked when they went like hotcakes. MW said these kids today just aren’t being raised right!! LOL. Most of the kids thanked us and went on their way, and more than one commented about the full-size offerings. There was one standout, though. He was REALLY excited, yelled thank you, then ran all the way back to his parents shouting loudly. Too cute. 4) We attended Sunday service at the tiny Muirs Chapel Missionary Baptist Church just outside of the park where we heard a good sermon about Ahab and the prophets he chose to listen to instead of Micaiah. The moral: “The truth is not always fun to hear, but will set you free.”

Natchez Trace State Park is a pretty nice place located in southeast Tennessee. Named for the historic Natchez Trace that ran from Natchez to Nashville, the land was once home to a portion of the western spur. The almost 10,000-acre park sits in the much larger state forest and houses four lakes. Facilities include an inn, conference center, meeting rooms, and restaurant on Pin Oak Lake, 27 cabins/villas, picnic pavilions, a small laundry, and a museum in the Park Headquarters. Activities include hiking/biking/horseback riding on over 23 miles of trails, any kind of water activity, birding, and attending a multitude of events and programs available. If you want to get out of the park, Jackson, Tennessee, is close enough to check out. Camping options include 77 50-amp, full-hookup sites with tables and grills in the Pin Oak RV Campground, 23 smaller 20/30-amp electric and water sites in Campground 1, and 46 more primitive sites with water (a few of those with 20-amp electric) in Campground 2. They also have an equestrian campground and a group lodge. The RV campground has two bathhouses that are fairly new and well-kept. There are also a playground, swimming area, fishing dock, and boat rentals. We would definitely stop here again. In October 2023, rates ran a little under $42 per night for full hookup, 50-amp.

On Monday, October 30, it was time for us to point Brutus towards East Tennessee and move on down the road. We headed south to Chesterfield where we caught US-412 east through Parsons, Linden, Hohenwald, and Columbia. After crossing over I-65, we zig-zagged a bit on state and county roads over to McMinnville, then caught US-70S up to our last campground for this trip, Rock Island State Park. It had been a long, gray drive, and we were happy to get set up and relax.

On Tuesday we took a ride over to Renae’s Kitchen at Midway for lunch, then did a little exploring at the park and surrounding area. There are some pretty spectacular waterfalls along the Caney Fork River looking across to the park.

Rock Island State Park is a pretty amazing TVA property that accesses the Caney Fork River Gorge and a variety of waterfalls, as well as the historic Falls City Cotton Mill. Very wooded and well maintained, it provides a variety of hiking and/or mountain biking opportunities and plenty of spectacular views of the Caney Fork and Collins Rivers and Center Hill Lake. Additional activities include swimming, boating, paddling, fishing, picnicking, and birding. There is a Visitor Center/gift shop plus an amphitheater, tennis and basketball courts, sports fields, playgrounds, boat ramp, and beach. The main campground is open year-round and offers 50 sites that have 20/30/50-amp electric and water, grills, fire rings, and picnic tables. Eight of those sites also have sewer hookup, and two are accessible. It also has two bathhouses, a dump station, and unusual for a state park, available wifi. There are also 10 seasonal, tent-only sites with 20-amp electric, water, fire rings, grills, and picnic tables. If you like camping in the woods, and you know we do, this was a NICE campground. It is definitely getting added to our favorites list. In October 2023, rates ran just over $38 per night for 50-amp electric and water.

After a relaxing start to the morning, we hit the road about 10 AM, taking US-70S north to US-70 east. We avoided Knoxville and passed through Oak Ridge and Clinton on our way up to Tazewell and, finally, Sneedville. After almost 7 months, we rolled back up to the barn on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 1. I think we were both happy to see our little valley and sit still for a bit.

There wasn’t too much relaxing at first as we prepared for our cousins to roll in for the weekend. (Well, in all fairness, I should say that we immediately went to The Diner for some fried chicken. Honestly, you just can’t find anything like it on the road!) Heidi Busot is the niece of our beloved Buddy Gilbert, and she and husband Frank were our FIRST EVER visitors to the extra RV site at the barn! I think after driving their fancy Newmar in, they questioned the sanity of the choice, though. (For their next visit, the close trees will be gone, though.) We had a great visit, and the weather even allowed a terrific night around the fire pit. They got the two-bit Sneedville tour, and we watched a little football. Not a bad weekend! They headed out on Sunday morning on the final legs of their trip back to Florida.

Well, that’s enough for one post. There were changes afoot, but we’ll get to that next time. Stay tuned and we will see you on the path!!


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