Saturday, September 25, 2021

2020-03-29: Roadtrip Day 3: Driving Through Mississippi and Alabama on the way to Georgia

Welcome back to day #3 of our east coast roadtrip from Texas to Georgia. For today we travelled through Mississippi and Alabama. We gotta long day ahead with a lot of stops, history, cemeteries, counties, and geocaches. So let's get rolling... 

After checking out of the hotel and grabbing breakfast, we found a quick geocache (GC30XDE) right next door to start the day with a Leflore County find. The next three geocaches were quick roadside caches for Carroll County (GC4GX44, GCQ0DW). The last one (GC11P5Y) was down by this creek where supposedly a family of bobcats were living. I even brought my good camera with the zoom lens just in case, but didn't see anything.

Still traveling eastbound on US-82, we stopped at the Old Middleton Cemetery (GC5J1PN) for a Montgomery County geocache find. The Middleton Cemetery was established in 1833 and has 126 interments with the last being in 1910. Then the cemetery was abandoned and went unmaintained for nearly a century. Finally there was an interest in the cemetery once again and most of the headstones were found broken and scattered. In 1992, the Winona Lion's Club cleaned up the 2 1/2 acres, reassembled the broken pieces, and arranged them together as a memorial.

More quick roadside geocaches to pick up some new counties in Mississippi: Webster County (GC7BW83), Choctaw County (GC7BW7J, GC7BW7B), Oktibbeha County (GC3WMG1), Clay County (GC48PN6, GC2DQQ2, GC3D99T), and Lowndes County (GC3CG7V, GC7ER16).

Continuing east on US-82 and crossing over into Alabama, our next stop was the Funderburk Family Cemetery (GC1X277). Located along US-82 on the west side of a tiny community of Coal Fire in Pickens County. Originally called Fundee, it was the combination of two settling families; the Funderburks and the DeLoaches. The name was eventually changed to Coal Fire or sometimes called Cold Fire after a local creek. A post office was established in 1871 but closed in 1927. This small family cemetery was downhill closer to where US-82 is today. When the widening of the highway to 4-lanes began, the state moved the thirteen graves further up the hill into the woods as you can see from the photo below. The graves date from 1850 to 1898.

Guardian of the Cache

One more quick geocache on the other side of the Coal Fire Community (GCVMR1) and we continued down the road.

The next three geocaches were in the Corinth Church Cemetery in Tuscaloosa County (GC333MN, GC4AR5A, GC4AR4T). I found two of them but had to DNF on one. This cemetery has over 600 interments dating back to 1860. The one that caught my eye though was this more recent black headstone with the mural on it.

Our next stop was near downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the site of the State Capital Ruins for a virtual cache (GC7B7T6). In 1825, the Alabama State Senate agreed to move the capitol from Cahaba to the thriving town of Tuscaloosa. The building was completed in 1829 and had this beautiful copper dome that could be seen by all the passing vessels down the Warrior River below. The building was fashioned in the Greek Revival, and the Federal styles of Washington D.C. and Thomas Jefferson. The building was used as the capitol until 1846.

It was at this time that the state capitol was moved to Montgomery, down where more commerce was being conducted along the Alabama River with the majority of the states population. Tuscaloosa lost over half its population after the capitol was moved. The building was then given to The University of Alabama who seldom used it so they leased it to the Baptist Convention who established the Alabama Central Female College. In 1923 it burned down and was suspect to faulty wiring as the cause.

On the parameter of the square now known as Capital Park, sites a few historical buildings. This first one is the Old Tavern. Built in 1827 three blocks east on Broad Street, it was also a stage stop and inn frequently used by political leaders while Tuscaloosa was still the state capital. It was moved here to Capital Park in 1966.

When Alabama became a state in 1819, Tuscaloosa also was incorporated as a town. The following year in 1820, the McGuire-Strickland House was built. The house stands to this day as the oldest wooden framed home in Tuscaloosa. Originally located at the corner of Greensboro Avenue and 15th Street, this home was built for the county’s first probate judge, Moses McGuire. The home later served as the manse or preacher’s home for the First Presbyterian Church from 1844 to 1866. The house was bought by the Strickland family in 1866 and remained in the family for over a century until 1969 when it was given to the newly formed Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society. Around 1970 the home was moved from its original location to Capitol Park where it is currently used as part of the Capitol School.

On the southeast side of Tuscaloosa is the Veterans Memorial Park and our next geocache (GC8BFBG). Some of the displays here include the Vought A-7E Corsair II, a 5 inch / 25 caliber "Dual Purpose" secondary artillery gun from the U.S.S. Tuscaloosa, a M60A3 TTS Medium Tank, and a Bell UH-1 Iroquis (Huey) Helicopter. This memorial was built on the site of the Northington General Hospital, a U.S. Army hospital operating here during World War II.

But of course my favorite was the Willys Jeep decked out in Air Force colors. Here's my GeoJeep TB with Uncle Willy.

Leaving Tuscaloosa and getting back down US-82, our next stop was a quick parking lot find at a Walmart in Bibb County (GC1K0NY).

And finally, our last geocache of the day was an old virtual cache called Just Plain Spooky (GCB13A) located in Autauga County. All the locals who live in Prattville are aware of this display, but visitors do not know about. Mr. Rice started this display in 1987 and added more to his collection year round, until he passed away in 2003. He wanted to 'spread the word'. His collection has been documented in a book that they have at local bookstores around Prattville and Montgomery. The photo I took is just a small section of what is probably four times the length of the display.

Well that's another 300 miles behind us, another 23 caches and almost 12 hours later. Time to stretch out and relax a bit. And tomorrow we'll start all over again! See ya back here real soon...

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using you favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitter, and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

2020-03-28: Roadtrip Day 2: Driving Through Louisiana and into Mississippi on the way to Georgia

One thing I like about driving the backroads and byways on a roadtrip is that you never know what you're gonna see around the next corner. Whether it be a scenic overlook, a piece of history, or just something so crazy funny that it requires you to turn around for another look and capture it with a photo. Todays drive had something for everyone. So there's a lot to see now let's get rolling...

After waking up early in Shreveport, Louisiana and going for breakfast, I grabbed a quick urban geocache that was close by (GC7G3XD).

On the way to my next geocache, I passed this old church building. The sign out front said Antioch Baptist Church. It doesn't look like this facility has been used in many years. In preparing to write this blog post, I spent a few hours trying to research some history but kept coming up empty. I can't find anything on this old church.

So I arrive at the next geocache (GC1XVN5) which was just a simple and quick roadside cache to add a new county into the finds list. Upon arriving though and seeing the sign, I guess they take their "No Trespassing" pretty serious! I found the cache quick and got myself outta there!

After another quick roadside geocache (GC7QJ0X), I passed by these two old abandoned houses that were just slowly decaying and falling apart. I'm always curious as to what happened with these homes...

...especially this second house. It looked like it would have been a house to envy back in the day. Come to find out that it is called the Garland House. It was built in 1902 and placed on the National Register in 1994. It is a Queen Anne Revival design. This one is in great need of reviving.

Continuing eastbound on Hwy 2, the next geocache was at the Corney Creek Calaboose (GC26WWQ). A calaboose is a tiny jail. This calaboose in the town of Bernice, LA was built in 1902. The town of Bernice was established in 1899 as a sawmill town after Captain C.C. Henderson built the Arkansas Southern Railroad.

This next stop was rather sad. On the north side of Bernice is the old Mount Olive Cemetery (GC26HGV). This neglected forgotten cemetery contains between 40-50 burials dating as far back as 1860. However, I only saw less than 10 headstones in all this overgrowth. Some of the locals need to come out here and clean this cemetery up.

Still following State Highway 2 eastbound to pickup caches in these northern parishes, my next stop is an earthcache and a traditional cache at Elgin Springs (GC20PEP, GCJ4CV). It would have been a quick roadside stop, but I had trouble finding the traditional cache and had to DNF it. As for the earthcache, I got what I needed to answer the questions to log a find. No photos here since it really isn't much to see here. Not exactly what you picture in your mind when you think of natural springs.

To make up for the lack of photos at the springs, I was able to capture two great old car pics as an unexpected surprise. This one below of a 1920's sedan just rusting away among the trees along the highway. And the more humorous one I opened with at the top of the page.

These next two were just quick roadside park and grabs (GC73X26, GC23FEX).

Our next stop was a really cool piece of history in Oak Grove, LA. The Fiske Theatre (GC29ZM9) was first opened in April 1928 and at that time was the premier state of the art movie cinemas in Northeast Louisiana. It was owned and operated by the late Donald Fiske of Oak Grove. The Fiske Theatre was a two level cinema with a first floor that seated 500 people and a balcony that seats 250, as well as a cry room located on the back of the first floor for mothers with small children.

The Fiske Theatre was rebuilt in 1950 and relocated from just down main street to it's current location, and was operated continuously by the Fiske Family until 1987 as a first run cinema. It looks just about the same now as it did in the 1950's. In 1987 as Mr. Fiske's health began to fail him, the theatre was donated to the West Carroll Chamber of Commerce where it has been used mainly for gospel music concerts and other community events since then.

The theatre is in very good condition thanks to the hard work of the chamber volunteers and numerous grants for upkeep from the Louisiana State Legislature. After a two-month renovation period in the fall of 2008, the Fiske Theatre returned as a first run movie theatre on December 15, 2008 with a showing of "Fireproof". The theater is run by volunteers who share a passion for the preservation of this historic movie theater. Any proceeds go to the upkeep of this terrific piece of Americana. At the time of our visit to the Fiske Theatre was closed as the pandemic was just beginning to spread.

Next up was a geocache at the Cotton Museum (GC1CN8D). The Louisiana State Cotton Museum in Lake Providence provides a great introduction to one of Louisiana’s major agricultural crops, and certainly the one for which the Delta area is best known. Its main gallery features an extensive set of interpretive exhibits, including life-sized dioramas, farming equipment, a re-created juke joint and more, all packed into a replica gin house (where cotton fiber was ginned, or separated from the seed).

Also on the grounds of the museum is an impressive array of old plantation buildings, such as a sharecropper’s cabin, a schoolhouse, and a small chapel. And of course an old outhouse where the cache was hidden inside the business deposit area.

One more quick roadside geocache in the town of Transylvania (GC1CN8Z) along with the above museum are two caches for the East Carroll Parish completing the northern counties in Louisiana.

Now we face the Mississippi River and need to cross over. Most would go south to I-20 and cross over into Vicksburg. Been there, done that, and already have those counties. So I turn north into Arkansas. I stop for two quick geocaches along US-65 for Chicot County (GC2QTFTGC2R0NT). Then took US-278 to cross the great river.

Passing through Greenville, Mississippi, I spotted this riverboat and stopped for a quick photo.

The next few stops were part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. In the small town of Holly Ridge you'll find the final resting place of three bluesmen (GC15CJ1). Charley Patton (1891 - 1934) was the most influencing figure in the pioneering era of the Delta Blues. He helped define not only the musical genre but also the image and lifestyle of the rambling Mississippi bluesman. He roamed the Delta using Dockery as his most recent base, and lived his final year in Holly Ridge. Patton and blues singers Willie James Foster (1921 - 2000) and Asie Payton (1937 - 1997) are buried in the Holly Ridge Cemetery.

In the next town of Indianola, MS, I found the B.B. King Corner (GC4MZKG). It was on this corner, when Riley B. King was just a young man of 17, that locals first heard the musician destined to become the "King of the Blues." On June 6, 1980, BB King placed his handprints and signature here in the sidewalk to the left of the guitar.

Our last geocache of the day was at the Indianola City Cemetery (GC30XD5). This is a large well maintained cemetery with over 3,000 interments.

We ended the day in Greenwood, MS, a little more than 300 miles after we started. I picked up some new counties and parishes to fill the map. And we saw a lot of great roadside attractions, planned and a few surprises too. Tomorrow is another day and we still have a long way to go and a lot to see. I hope you come back and join us. See ya next time...

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using you favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitter, and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

2020-03-27: Roadtrip Day 1: Driving Through Texas on the Way to Georgia

ROADTRIP!! Well my part of the project in West Texas is completed and it is time to move on to the next! And that begins our roadtrip to Georgia. Now if you follow Google Maps you'll be taking I-10 all the way across for a quicker yet boring drive. Where's the fun in that? We'll be taking the backroads, the US highways and byways, finding geocaches, exploring history and discovering cool places. So as the song goes: "Eastbound and down, loaded up and...", well we're not truckin' but definitely got the GeoJeep loaded up and packed full. So let's hit the road and see where it takes us.

Day #1 of our roadtrip has us leaving McCamey, Texas on this Friday morning and first stopping in Killeen. There we unload and reload the Jeep trying to figure out what we might need to bring to the east coast. We'll be doing some work in Georgia before starting a new project in Florida. Packing the Jeep with as much as we can fit into it, we get back on the road. I'd like to at least make it out of Texas by the end of the day.

Taking I-35 north, our first geocaching stop was in Waco at the Greenwood Cemetery (GCTE6D, GC68NMY). It was an older cemetery dating back to 1875. One of those interned here is Jules Bledsoe. Born in 1899 and a native of Waco, he was a baritone singer and one of the first black performers on Broadway. He is best known for his song "Old Man River" from the musical "Showboat."

Leaving Waco, we got off the Interstate and onto the backroads of Highway 31 eastbound over to Tyler, TX. There we made a stop at the Rose Hill Cemetery for two more geocaches (GCW154, GC79EF). Two of the headstones that caught my attention were this giant sized piano for an obvious aficionado of the ivory keys. The other I found to be ironic was a simple small cross with no other words except for Big Daddy.

From there we drove up US-271 to Gladewater, TX. While there we stopped for a few geocaches, the first being a virtual at the Veterans Memorial (GCJ0XJ). On the wall next to the memorial was this mural painted on the building. I am assuming that it represents a kinda history of the town. Just not sure about the red-masked Captain America / Scarecrow looking character though.

On the way to our next cache in town, we passed by this beautiful house with a historical marker out front. The house belonged to a Dr. E.L. and Nanny Walker who came from Tennessee to visit E.L.'s brother here in Gladewater in the 1890's and decided to stay. He opened a medical practice and drugstore and purchased this site in 1895. This home was completed sometime prior to 1910.

The Walker House with it's main body constructed of concrete blocks is neoclassical in design, with a symmetrical facade, pronounced 2-story portico, ionic columns, five-bay front and pedimented dormer window. The three-story structure also has two concrete basements. Initially intended for use as an infirmary, the third floor space served as an attic with access to a rooftop widow's walk. Original features included ten fireplaces, a two-floor elevator, and fifteen rooms. Changes over the years included additional rooms and the removal of the elevator during the WWII scrap metal drive. The house remained in the family until 1969.

Another of the Gladewater's geocaches brought us to an area highlighting the areas oil discoveries (GC3NJH5). Another historical marker at this site reads: "On April 7, 1931, this wildcat well drilled by Selby Oil and Gas Co. of Tulsa, OK, came in at 1000 barrels an hour. Located in the Sabine River Bottom a mile south of town, it connected Gladewater to the vast East Texas oil field stretching from Longview to Kilgore. Royalty owners were the Snavely family of Martinsville, IL. Headed by Judge Herschel Snavely, nine relatives came to watch the drilling. L.C. Snavely acquired interest in this land when several Illinois investors underwrote the sawmill and lumber operation of James Moore who in 1906 bought 42,000 acres for $20,000 and moved his enterprise to Gladewater by train. Moore's mill was destroyed in 1913 by a boiler explosion. In 1914 he surveyed and divided the land into equal sections. Investors drew lots to determine their parcels. Oil was discovered under the entire 4200 acre tract. Texaco operated the well from 1938 until its shutdown in 1957. Texaco closed its local office in 1987 after 54 years in Gladewater, and donated this pumping unit from the Texaco-Snavely 'A' Lease #1. The original derrick was wooden."

Gladewater is also known as the Antique Capital of East Texas. One of the antique shops in town looks kinda "antique-ish" itself!

And for the last geocache in town, I went to the Rosedale Cemetery (GC2208R). After finding the cache, I did spot this rather interesting headstone. I guess after the oil dries up, so does all the easy money.

We finished the day by driving over to Shreveport, Louisiana and checking into a hotel. After just over 600 miles of driving, it was time to call it a day.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using you favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitter, and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

2020-02-23: Jeeping along the James River Road in Mason County Texas

Welcome back friends. Today's adventure is a little bit different than most of my others. There were no geocaches to be found today. I had first seen this video about a year ago of some Jeeps driving through and across the James River and it looked pretty cool. I had forgotten about it until recently. Realizing that we'll probably be leaving Texas for the east coast soon, I looked it up again to try and figure our exactly where it was to drive the trail ourselves. So hop on in the GeoJeep and let's ride some backroads, gravel roads, dirt roads and some water crossings down the James River Road.

The James River flows from the James River Spring, 4½ miles southeast of the ghost town of Noxville in southeastern Kimble County and runs northeast for 36½ miles to its mouth on the Llano River, six miles south of Mason in Mason County. In 1860, Wiles Joy and Lafe McDonald became the first White settlers on the James River. Sometime in the early 1900's the Noxville post office moved to the James River from the Little Devils River.

The James River Road closely parallels the river along the north half but then eventually splits off and separates as it goes south. But not before it crisscrosses over a couple of times. That's where it gets fun for the high clearance off highway vehicle owners who don't mind getting a bit dirty!

And the more rain you get, the more mud there is to play in!

So from the town of Mason, take US-87 south for a short way before turning south on 1723. After a few miles make another right onto 2389. Follow it down until you pass the Llano River, then look for the James River Road turnoff on the right shortly thereafter. Most of the drive is like any other dirt/gravel road, but there are some low water crossings and scenic spots too.

On this day that we drove through here, along with the water crossings, there were also some dry swales too which was kinda odd. But it just added to the various scenes and types of terrain.

Seeing these mini caves and erosion holes in the swale walls above, I thought they'd be some great hiding spots for a geocache. This would test the geocacher to see who's brave enough to reach inside and grab the container.

After an hour or so, we finally arrived at the major crossing of the James River. I've crossed some small creeks before, but none this wide. From inside the Jeep, crossing the river was pretty cool. Once on the other side, I dropped Candy off and drove back across. I wanted her to get a video of the GeoJeep crossing the river. Watching the video afterwards, it doesn't look all that spectacular. The video I had seen a while back was taken from a drone so you're looking down on all the water with the Jeeps crossing over. I guess I need to get a drone for the next time.

After the wider crossing of the river, the road got a bit rockier as we continued south which made for slower traveling. And since the road turned away from the James River, that was the last of the water crossings.

After about four hours on the river road, we eventually made it out and back to the main roads eventually reaching the highway. We still had a few hours getting back to McCamey in West Texas.

It was a fun day out exploring the backroads. Hopefully by sharing this story with you I've made it interesting enough that now it's on your bucket list of places to visit if you're ever in Mason County, Texas.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using you favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitter, and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.