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Monday, February 4, 2013

Entering Mississippi on I-55

If you've been keeping track, back here, I was coming up to Huntingdon, Tennessee where I planned to turn south and make my way towards Mississippi but looking at the map, I still wanted to be further west. I got on Tennessee 22 at Huntingdon but then jumped onto I-40 to drive through Memphis so I could cross into Mississippi on I-55.

The last time I was in Mississippi was 1993. I took a solo, 6-week motorcycle trip around the country (Detroit to Wyoming, down to Arizona, across to Mississippi, then back up to Detroit).

Before that was in 1977. My US Navy Seebee homeport was down in Gulfport. I had lived there, between deployments (Subic Bay in the Philippines, Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, and Diego Garcia, BIOT), for about 3 and a half years. I lived off base in an apartment building (no longer there) in Pass Christian and a year later in a trailer park off the bayou, northeast of the Seabee base.

ms coming home
On this trip I had been entering each state by getting on the Interstate then stopping at the first Welcome Center rest stop for a quick in-and-out: pick up a free state map and a booklet for discounted motels. After that, I would break off and get on a back road to do some exploring.

I had always thought of Mississippi, and especially the Gulf Coast, as a second home. And having the friendliest people in the world. While I lived there in the mid-1970s, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to be walking along and stop to talk with a perfect stranger. Like I might have known them my whole life. And talk of nothing really. Nice day today... that kinda thing.

So coming down I-55 from Memphis I hit the first Welcome Center in Mississippi to get a state map and motel booklet. But, like the sign says, it was like coming home.

This Welcome Center was not like in other states. It wasn't fluorescent bright and stark with a couple cold benches and pamphlet racks. The lights were lower. Part of the space was lit with a table lamp. I thought I had walked into a neighbor's living room. There were pamphlet racks of course but it was homey, more like the entrance lobby of a bed and breakfast.

Behind the counter stood a nice lady and an older gentleman. They were warm smiles and c'mon over for a cuppa hot coffee and a chat. So I did.

I told him I was taking the back roads (though I thought I might get to Jackson) but heading towards the Gulf Coast. We talked for a bit.  He recommended a couple of the motels and offered to call ahead for me. But I told him I really had no idea where I would end up that night and I was anxious to get back on the road. He gave me a state map, a Gulf Coast map and the motel booklet with the notes he had written and his recommendations. I waved goodbye to them both and was back out to the car to look at the map and figure out where I would turn off I-55.

And there was another oddity along I-55. I wish I would have stopped to take a picture or written down exactly where I saw this as I drove.

Driving I-55 South, somewhere south of Jackson and looking to the right at an entrance ramp, there sits what might be a US Navy, Korean War era jet plane, on the other side of a fence in the thick woods.  Now I might be wrong that it's really Air Force and more 1960's but there it is, parked in a very wooded area with nothing else around.

As I drove further down I-55, I kept seeing that isolated jet plane in my head as a memory from years ago. I didn't think I ever traveled I-55 back in the 1970's but maybe I did once.

Well, oh well. I did a quick google search on "I-55 Mississippi jet plane." Seems like I was wrong about the type of plane but not the bizarre nature of its isolation. Here's a picture of it and the story. And there's more talk about it HERE at the MS Gun Owners forum. It's at the entrance from Hazelhurst, MS.

Anyway, mystery solved.

So, back to my trip...

It's early afternoon, Day 3 of my trip south, and I'm at the rest stop looking at the map. I decide to jump off I-55 at Batesville and MS 35 West. It seems like a good place to begin a back roads run to New Orleans. I figure to hit the Gulf Coast on my swing back north.

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