Reaching out to Ross Barnett
For starts, I guess I should explain the title. Ross Barnett was a governor of Mississippi. There is a large reservoir north of Jackson named in his honor. I saw it once, I wanted to see it again. It also ties into my infatuation with the Pearl River. The Pearl feeds and exits the RBR. Some outings are ramblings, some are purposeful. Those are few. This was one. The ride would be an ambitious undertaking estimated at no less than four hundred miles. It was above I-20, my imaginary "point of no return". This would be a test.
I have learned over the last few years of wandering Mississippi that using an Interstate or major highway is blasphemy. Missing the little disappearing towns wrought with so much history and beauty cannot be forgiven.
Wishing not to be unforgiven, I planned the route the best I could with my horrendous map software. Mississippi's road map is useless. It has blue lines with no names or numbers. I did the best I could without the use of my GPS which is out there in Texas, somewhere, being fixed, I guess.
I rode east from Bogalusa and crossed the Pearl R. Almost immediately I turned north on MS 43 which is one fine road during its stay in Pearl River County. It goes flat in Marion C. I followed it until it merges with 13 south of Columbus. I chose not to merge, but crossed onto what I thought was maybe old 43. It isn't, but it is one fine road, also, which rises with the terrain swooping and twisting. It is called Wild Game Rd. or something close to that. When it finally attained the altitude it was seeking, I saw the sign to Columbia Lake. Having taken the Oath not to bypass free admittance to lakes, I checked it out. It has camping at 15 bucks a night.
Leaving the lake, I proceeded on until I reached US 98. 98 is one of the roads I use in sectioning my rides. You know when you cross it. Seemed this was the end of the line for Wild Game. I needed to find another. I took Rocky Branch road north into Sumrall. A lot of roads lead there. Dr.Fagan had just mentioned he'd been there.
Here's a Cow Sign. Hardly useful. Most people know cows are slow. I ran into a similar sign west of the Pearl up in Red Bluff country. It noted "Cows, 45 mph". Now there was something to heed.
I could, at times, be overtaken by a 45 mph cow.
Sumrall Speed Trap? No, they just park these all over town to make you think there's someone in them.
No kidding, I saw three. I didn't speed. I could be overtaken.
I took MS 589 out of Sumrall and joined 590 as it crossed 49 into Seminary. The barn below is the obligatory barn picture for this outing. I had hoped to get a better picture of Bossy in the far opening. She was posing.
It was Sunday morning and the sign was right next to an emptying church. I was pretty much a mess having left my razor at home and not really primping up too much as I knew this would be a sweaty, grueling outing. I never take off my "star wars" off-road helmet as that requires removing my glasses and teasing my two strands of hair. I sensed mothers telling their children not to stare.
I should have asked the question, "Does Seminary have a seminary"? But I didn't and opted to shoot the little clothes store that was probably another kind of store in the far past. Great to see tradition continuing and buildings recycled.
This unexplained little cabin was next to the old train station. I don't think the roof is original.
Here's the old train station in Seminary. It is now air-conditioned. Didn't use to be.
How did we survive?
I left Seminary on Willow Grove Church Rd. I never found the great old church which I knew this namesake road must lead to. I took the picture of the Willow Grove Water Tower. Dr. Fagan might ask me to prove I was there. When nothing grabs you, shoot the water tower.
I got to Ellisville Rd. (Ms.588 I think, I never saw a number) I crossed US 84, heading north. It is another marker for my rides. I was now in an unknown northern latitude. I turned north on Salem School Rd. imagining witches teaching. I never saw the school. Then I turned onto New Liberty Church Rd. Again, no church. I did come to this sign. This is where the loss of the GPS was most sorely felt. NLCR was out, I'd done it. I think I took Gilmer, SOUTH. It was the wrong way, going south. But sometimes it's great to be WRONG. I did find a good road. All right, I didn't find it. It was an accident like most of my "finds".
Gilmer Road to Pucket
Racing...., I mean riding along Gilmer Road in the wrong direction was a blast. It is not the exception. Mississippi is full of roads just like this and better. It began misting. It was cool and the humidity, I mean clouds, hung over the valley. I had to stop.
I turned onto MS 532 and what was this? I'd heard of Hot Coffee but had no idea where it was. I still didn't know where it was, but, it was in front of me. Humble Pie did a song called "Hot Coffee". It is a great one.
I saw a brown sign saying "Downtown". I immediately thought that a public or historical area was coming up due to the presence of the brown sign which usually means that something public or historical is approaching. Nothing but the old store was seen. Dr. Fagan has verified that, that's that, Hot Coffee. Sometimes a name can glorify itself. The store looked interesting and is open, but not on Sundays.
I left Hot Coffee going SOUTH, the wrong way, AGAIN. I was on Ms. 37.
Thankfully, the road sign said South. I realized that I was and had been turned around. I reversed and went past Hot Coffee and on to Center Ridge. Center Ridge is not on the map, but it was once.
I need to check out those stickers, just saw them, 5 years later.
You didn't build out of brick back then if you thought you were only staying for a while.
I thought I was in the Piny Woods, lumber country. Evidently cotton had been big here at one time. The sign says, "Continental Ginning Systems". It might have been a "high tech" cotton gin back then. I should have gotten closer but time was flying and I was really upset about losing my sense of direction, AGAIN. It's that damn GPS's fault.
I should have taken a picture of the Methodist Fellowship Hall, but I didn't .
I don't think it was anything special. Nothing grabbed me. It was hot.
I rolled into Taylorsville. Another great Southern Courthouse presented itself. The architecture of these places is just superb. They are "grand". ( "Grand" is a grand Southern word. Be proud you're a Rebel!)
Don't ask, I didn't approach the memorial, I can only guess what it was and I didn't feel like getting all emotional on a "hot sweating grueling trip through Dixie". Actually, it was pretty cool. It was shady under sporadic clouds and the humidity was a tolerable 93% and a breeze was blowing through the sweet Magnolia trees.
Heat and Humidity? We JUST DEAL WITH IT in Dixie. Find a great stream and jump in. Below, they were. This is the Strong River west of Mendenhall. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Remember the name, "Mendenhall".
From Taylorsville I continued north. I had marked 3:00 as my turnaround time. I figured I'd jump on an Interstate and do the Time Warp Boogie home. I went through Raleigh and took MS 18 west to Pucket. I headed north out of town toward Brandon, which is on I-20, and just lost momentum. I felt that I'd be entering the megalopolis of Jackson and it would be just too much. I flipped it around and went south smiling. I was within a few miles of MS 43, known as a great road by me. When it goes flat and is not entertaining it is called MS 13. When it gets good again, it's called 43. Weird but sometimes Weird works. It has always worked for me. This section of 43 would prove my thesis.
Why is it old and special? Why did you take a picture of it and why are you showing us? Look at the chimneys. OK, bad picture, but it's old. I'd consider it a country cottage.
And, I liked it. Deal with it. (Remember, this is an old write and from time to time I did get rude, especially when nearing the end when I was starting to wonder why I was writing them.)
Westville and Pinola
Heading down MS 43, I saw that I was approaching Pinola. I remembered that a reader had told me about an old historical cemetery there. Sure enough, there was another of those brown signs depicting the presence of a public or historical place. It pointed the way to Westville Historical Cemetery down the road below.
The Past in Stone. Some insightful, some funny, some extremely sad, and some, just silly.
Elizabeth O. was the wife of Green Fenn. She was 22 years his senior. I had suspected other scenarios, but will go with this one in respect for the dead. I will simply say Green liked older women and considered them synonymous with fine wine. He survived her by 10 years, that is sad, maybe. He lived until he was 82. Did he pursue another older woman? They had both seen a lot of history. She was 94 when she passed on.
The next two are very sad and you should just skip them if you aren't in the mood.
Two years later they lost their son. Did they tell how he died to warn others.
The sad part is over. You can open your eyes.
Mary's letters were big and bold, but poor Jackson's, they had to fold.
Weather's Letters would not fit, so they were bent a little bit. More?
There's Mendenhall again. Southerners took their Mason membership seriously.
After leaving Pucket, 13 changed to 43. At about that point I'd seen a sign to Mendenhall. Now I know that Mendenhall was named after a local family.
Riding into Pinola I saw there was not much to Pinola. Maybe I was on the Bypass. I did see the store below. It was my chance to shoot the obligatory Coke themed picture for my wife. It's the little things that count, huh, honey?
New Hebron to Columbia
I had thought about continuing on 43 from New Hebron down to Columbia. I decided to jog east a bit instead and see Prentiss, Great Idea. MS 42 is a fine road. It is as fine as 43, or finer. But, first I had to shoot the Methodist Church in Hebron. Done. 42 was waiting.
There is a reason there is no picture of 42. Assume what you will.
Taking a picture of the great old building below, I was approached by a 37 year old man riding a lawnmower down the main street. He wanted to talk motorcycles. I was hot and tired after riding a grueling route through sweltering Dixie. He was classic mid-life crises material He told me his age and explained that he had had a crotch rocket (If you know what that means good, if not, you're not missing anything).
He had an epiphany that it was time to move on to a more sane form of transportation, but, still wanted to ride a motorcycle. Obviously he wasn't real sincere about the sane part. He said he wanted a Triumph. I explained I'd been a wrench on the old ones. Usually people immediately bow their heads in reverence and respect, asking if they really leaked that much oil. He didn't. I guess no one remembers anymore. He did listen to a lot to my rantings on my present mount. He begged me to sell it to him, but, alas, I had miles to go and his mower trade in would not do. (There might be Cows to outrun!)
Now you know as much as I do about this building. I should have asked him.
If I had not had the friendly conversation with the fellow in his late 30's, I wouldn't have found my way out of Prentiss. He gave me exact directions, "That way".
The road had lost its number. I did not see 13 recognized as such until miles out of town. I made it to Columbia and decided to give the beautiful courthouse there its due. It is really Grand.
Time were good in 1905. Correlate that with railroads and lumbering any you will probably be right.
It was 4:20. It was time to hit the road. I went down 13 to Old River Road which veers right off of 13 about 5 miles south of Columbia. It hooks up with 43 and gets good at the Pearl River County line. Real good. I took it until I got to 26 and zipped back into Bogalusa.
Down La.21 from Bogalusa is River Lock No. 3 at Sun, Louisiana. It is a quiet day park with a landing and serenity. Nice thing, that serenity. It was a very enjoyable after a grueling, sweating trip through sweltering Dixie. I had to leave quickly or be overtaken by a nap riding astride a slow cow.
This was a great trip from northern S.E. Louisiana up into Mississippi. I thought I was really in the groove finding one great old town after another, each with its historic and interesting points of interest. After years of riding Mississippi, I have realized that the whole state is a museum of one category or another.
At the end of August all hell would break loose. The attack would not be Yankees from the north this time, but one mean witch from the south, Katrina. How much of what you have seen was destroyed or badly damaged, who knows, I never went back, but may. Lake Ross Barnett has been visited. It is huge. I probably would have found it, or maybe not being w/0 a GPS. I can imagine being lost in Jackson on a Saturday night. (If you remember that reference, you are old)