Mississippi State University, Starkville – home of the Bulldogs!
We left Little Rock and made our way towards Jackson, MS, about a 250-mile trip. I routed us through some back roads, and it was probably not the best way to go, but we did eventually arrive in Jackson, at the Springridge Mobile Estates and RV Park. In doing my research for places to stay here, we did not have a lot to choose from, so settled on this place. The park is a functioning mobile home park, with the center section renovated for RV’s. The sites were tight and not level, the park just needed a serious cash infusion. We felt safe here for two nights, but glad that was all we were planning on staying.
We spent a good part of one day driving around in Jackson. This is the capital of Mississippi, and we have spent time in many state capitals along our journey. Both of us agreed this is probably the most depressed capital city we have visited yet. The streets here are horrible, reminding us of NY/NJ streets, with potholes and ruts that make your fillings come loose. The city itself was very quiet, nobody out wandering the streets, very little activity. We tried for a couple of hours to find a cool/hip district, but it just was not there to be found. I guess we might have understood this when we checked into our place. We asked the staff at the park if they had a map of the area, or any tourism info, and they looked at Traci like she was crazy. Jackson is a capital city, not a tourist destination.
We left Jackson, and headed to Starkville, MS; yes another college football town. We had made a reservation at another mobile home park that rented to RV’ers, but I was not excited about where we were going to stay after our last experience. About 90 minutes out of town, I asked Traci to look up the Miss. St. Univ. parking for home football games to see if we might be able to find a place at the stadium to park. We were only going for the football game, arriving mid-day on a Friday, and leaving on Sunday AM, so why not find a site at the stadium if they had one? After about 30 minute of research, we pulled over and were actually able to book a site online (so awesome they had this service!) at the Mississippi Horse Park. Traci was a bit nervous, making a complete change on the fly, but when we arrived, we were so thankful for adjusting our plans. The park was perfect; a huge gravel parking lot with water and power at each site (dump station on the grounds) and plenty of space for every RV to set up their outdoor tailgate party. The park allowed people that are not huge donors to the University to stay there starting on Thursday evening, and out by Sunday AM. Many of the sites were rented for the entire season, and a few like ours were open for anyone to come for just one weekend.
Mississippi Horse Park, our home for 2 nights
Mississippi State is famous for the cowbells
After getting set up, we headed into campus, about 3 miles as the crow flies, but a 7-mile drive. We turned in towards the stadium (we could actually see the stadium from our MoHo park) and as we got closer there were a lot of people out and about, on a Friday at 3:00PM in the afternoon, strange? We started to look a bit closer, and the grassy areas around the stadium were lined with white paint, and everywhere there were pop-up tents just lying on the ground (see pictures). They allow people to come in and set up for the game and tailgating at 5:00PM on Friday prior to the game. But, people come in early and leave much of their gear, and return to erect their tents and tables after the specified time. There was also an area set up across from a couple of the fraternities that was more elaborate. One or two companies set up all the tents and tables, and people could rent these spaces, with a TV attached to the tent for use! This is how a tailgating party is set up, truly impressive to see, and this was only Friday afternoon.
Friday afternoon on campus. They aren’t allowed to set up the tents until 5pm, but they can stake their claim.
Saturday I awoke and it brought me back to home. I was amped up for the day, just like I would be at home for a Husky home game. Even though we did not know anyone, or have a designated tailgate to go to, it just felt like a typical Fall Saturday morning for me, I had a little extra spring in my step. We started our day off with Mimosas, and about 11:00AM we drove into the stadium area we were at the day before, wanting to get a feel for how things were gearing up for the game. The tents were all now fully set up, and people were bringing in their food and getting their BBQ’s started. We hung out for about 30 minutes driving all over and taking a bunch of pictures. We returned to the Horse Park, and just after noon headed outside to watch games on the TV. We mingled with the neighbors, had our Brats, and made our way to the shuttle about 4:00PM; game time was set for 6:15PM. (The Univ. provided a shuttle to and from the game using a back road directly to the stadium – awesome service!) We stepped off the shuttle, and the party was now in full overdrive, everyone having a great time, and no police to clamp down on the fun. We finished off our travelers, and bummed a couple of cold BL’s off some folks, and eventually made it in to the game. Our seats were up high, but fortunately the wind had died down, it was only about 50 degrees at game time and any more wind would have made it super cold. (Both Traci and I had a hard time finding warm clothes in the MoHo to wear; we really did not pack for those types of conditions.) The #1 team in the land pulled off a very hard fought victory vs. Arkansas, we headed back to the shuttle and returned to a very nice peaceful campground for some much needed sleep, a very fun day for sure! SEC in-conference game, bucket list item checked!
Campus was buzzing before the game. This was one of our favor tailgating experiences so far!
A bit chilly for the game, but worth it!
Traci getting in the spirit with the cowbell! It was loud in there.
Sunday we headed out for Montgomery, AL, about a 5-hour drive. The roads were better along this journey, and we arrived at the Capital City RV Park on the NE side of town. We checked in about 2:00PM and the manager escorted us to our site. This was a very nice surprise, the park was very well laid out with huge pull through sites on level gravel, with a lot of space between sites, just the way we like it. We got set up, and by 3:00PM headed out to find a place to watch the Seahawks game at 3:30PM. We found a sports bar, full of guys smoking with no food on the menu, and then headed to another place, Baumhower’s much like a Red Robin or Buffalo Wild Wings with tons of TV’s and a great atmosphere. We settled back and watch the Hawks pull out a victory, and then made it back to the MoHo.
The next day we headed into downtown Montgomery, another capital city. The vibe here was much better, many people out around the capital buildings, and a very nicely done riverfront park area with outdoor concert venue over looking the river. This area also had a strong Civil Rights history, so we drove the historic trail and saw a few interesting spots like the Confederate White House and the bus station where the Freedom Riders staged their protest. Afterwards, we stopped into the local brewery for a snack, and then the grocery store for dinner makings.
First White House of the Confederacy
Capitol Building, Montgomery
The one thing we have really noticed, especially here in the south, is that the economy has not yet returned. Many of the towns, both large and small, have a significant number of abandoned homes and empty buildings with windows broken out, not easy to get used to seeing. At home in Seattle, there is a thriving economy with land and space at a premium near the downtown area. But, just a few blocks out of these larger cities we have seen lately, it has really hit us how many depressed areas in the country there still are, and how many structures are just left deserted. Hopefully somehow these areas will find a way to return to using these neighborhoods, but I think it is going to take a long time to see that happen.
Our last day in Montgomery we spent doing chores. I spent the morning finalizing our itinerary and then cleaning the windshield and front of the MoHo – we sure do hit a lot of bugs. Traci spent the day deep cleaning the inside, washing windows, etc. Just like at home, we need some of these days to get stuff done, and this was a great day to do so, not too hot out, and we felt like we were not missing much in town, as we already did a full day of exploration. Next stop is Gulf Shores, AL, and then the start of our almost four-month stay in Florida!