Northwest of Jackson, Mississippi, about 20 miles, is the town of Flora. And Flora is the home of the Mississippi Petrified Forest. We hit the road at 8:40, got some breakfast, and were at the Park by 9:30. (In Jackson this morning, we saw a car sporting a Joe & Buffy (Eskimo Joe’s) license plate.)
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is privately owned park, and it is the only Petrified Forest East of the Mississippi River. They offer a walking tour of their forested trail, which walks you past a number of tree trunks and various pieces of wood, with a brief written explanation about each item.
The trees which we saw today were 36 to 38 million years old. The trees were swept away in an ancient river as driftwood, and deposited in rapidly accumulating silt. The trees were quickly covered up, which allowed them to be protected from decay, and ultimately resulted in them being petrified. (This is the very quick & dirty, and definitely unscientific, explanation.) From what we learned about the Mississippi Petrified Forest, it would be more accurate to say it is the only “discovered” Petrified Forest East of the Mississippi River. Of note, some of the petrified trees that we saw included Sequoia (which I typically only think of being on the west coast) and other species which are currently extinct, such as the Floraoxylon.
What is even better than the walking trail at the Mississippi Petrified Forest? The Official Gift Shop at the Mississippi Petrified Forest! I am pretty certain that by the time our kids were through with them at 11:00, they had already hit their daily sales quota, and were likely closing up early for the day.
After the park, we drove back to Jackson to fill up with gas. With that accomplished, we set off for our next stop, Mobile, Alabama. It is a little over 200 miles between Jackson, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. Due to this & that, we did not pull out of Jackson until about 12:45. We had extremely good roads and good traffic on our trip. We had a lone stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As a matter of fact, on the road between Hattiesburg and Mobile (about 100 miles), we rarely saw a town. The roads were straight to drive on, and easy to navigate, unlike yesterday. The straight roads also helped the kids get some rest, as all three of them took a nap in the afternoon.
Mobile sits right on the Gulf. We drove through some of the older part of Mobile, on city streets. It is obvious that there used to be some big money in this town. To really add to the experience, were these large trees with huge trunks that were growing all along the sidewalks of this street, and the large branches reached over the street and came down to rest in the median. The branches were covered with vines and other “hanging” plant life. The trees were very unusual and everybody got a kick out of looking at them.
Our destination in Mobile was the USS Alabama, a Battleship that served in World War II. Also part of the experience was the USS Drum, a Submarine that also served in World War II. The Battleship actually sits in the Gulf waters, and the Submarine is on blocks. We first toured the submarine. We were able to climb down through the hatches, and see how the crew would have slept, eaten, and managed the submarine. The crew on a submarine had no privacy at all, which you might imagine. What you may not know is that the Navy made up for it by feeding their submarine crews extremely well. The crews on the submarine didn’t use the showers because they used the shower stalls to store food. (The crew did find other ways to keep themselves clean.) And the Navy also placed an emphasis on their cooks. To support this statement, we learned that 62% of White House chefs were at one time submarine cooks.
Next it was over to the USS Alabama, which was really the main reason we were in Mobile. We spent about 90 minutes on the Battleship, and we really didn’t do it justice. You could legitimately spend twice that amount of time. What we did see, we enjoyed. As a matter of fact, there are some areas that have been made available to see on the tours, that are not able to be viewed on any other Battleship by civilians. (I also learned that the movie “Under Siege”, that timeless Steven Segal classic, was filmed on the USS Alabama.)
Walking through the Battleship, there would be a descriptive note next to practically every room, on every level. It was quite impressive. We moved up and down the same stairs that the sailors would have used 60 years ago. We figured out very quickly that those sailors were in good shape.
The place shut down at 7:00, so we wandered out to the parking lot to make our plans for dinner. As you might suspect, there were flocks of seagulls swarming around the parking lot looking for a cheap meal. We just so happened to have a loaf of bread with us that we were only too happy to share with them. The kids would take a small piece of bread and toss it up in the air, and those seagulls would catch it in their beaks in mid-air. Okay, if you live near a beach, this might be old hat for you, but it sure entertained us Okies! I couldn’t get enough of watching those birds catch the bread in mid-air. They were pretty talented.
After dinner in Foley, Alabama, we drove east to Pensacola, Florida, where we are staying tonight. I have been disappointed in how difficult it has been to get off & on the road, and how easy it is to get lost, in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and now Florida. Our motel was right at the intersection of two Interstates. Should be easy to get to, right? Heck NO. Our repeating theme continued, as we had to drive another mile down the interstate just to get to an off ramp, then we had to navigate through winding side streets, hotels and restaurants just to find our way back to our motel. It is easy to forget that the grid system that Oklahoma is laid out in, is not followed in all other states, particularly every state we’ve traveled in this week.
Tomorrow is an extremely light travel day, as we plan to spend pretty much the entire day at the beach in Destin, Florida. Everybody is looking forward to a day of R&R after the two hard travel days we’ve had so far.
Traveler’s Note: Being from Tulsa, we are used to having cheaper gas than the national average. It is not unusual that every so often, Tulsa will be mentioned as having the cheapest gas in the country. So, I have been very surprised that the highest price I have paid for gas on this trip, was in Tulsa, before we left. Not only has the price been cheaper elsewhere, it has sometimes been substantially cheaper – up to 20 cents cheaper per gallon than in Tulsa. That’s bad news for Tulsans, but good news for our vacation gas budget!