What a GREAT stay this has been! A beautiful park, good weather, and not enough tourist attractions around to crowd the agenda. Yesterday we visited the Natchez Trace National Parkway headquarters and took a hike on the Trace Scenic Trail. Odel is playing his second round of free golf at the neighboring country club course, and I’ve been working my way through the stack of books I picked up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
Oxford, Mississippi, 40 miles west of here, has been on my mental list of places to visit for a couple years, for two reasons: Its reputed beauty, and its pivotal role in the civil rights movement, when courageous James Meredith integrated Ole Miss. Our plan has included two days for visiting Oxford after we leave here, and we had set our sights on a Corps of Engineers campground north of town – the closest campground we could find to Oxford. Last Monday, we decided to go check it out.
After a quick stop at the convention center to pick up a map and some brochures, we headed to Oxford’s historic square. I immediately fell in love with Oxford. Its town square, anchored by the courthouse in the center, is lined with 100+ year old buildings housing galleries, shops and restaurants, including a highly regarded independent bookstore, Square Books. Oxford is another of the small towns that have resisted colonization by large chain stores, and the square looked vibrant and exciting.
Oxford appears to have way more than its share of enticing restaurants, but we zeroed in on the Ajax Diner. We arrived just before 1 pm, and the place was packed – a good sign. Once we scored a booth, Odel ordered Chicken and Dumplings, southern style, dumplings like dough noodles instead of like steamed biscuits. I hope they don’t mind that I took this photo off of their website, since I took NO photos all day long.
I had a 4-choice “veggie plate” because I wanted to taste several of their “sides”: macaroni and cheese, squash casserole, cheese grits, and butter beans. It came with a hunk of jalapeno cornbread. We both laughed over the misnamed “veggie plate” – while it was indeed free of meat, it seemed like “starch plate” would be more descriptive. Delicious, whatever you call it!
While there, I perused the info we’d picked up from the convention center. One small sentence, well hidden, caught my eye: RV parking with hookups available on the Ole Miss campus. Hmmmm… we had thoroughly scoured all the usual sources for information on camping in the area, and this was the ONLY mention we had seen of the Ole Miss campus. We called the number listed, left voice mail, and headed out of town 10 miles north to the COE campground.
For us, it was a disappointment – heavily forested (no views), with mostly fairly short and sloped sites. Poor Verizon reception. The place was completely deserted except for one RV and a tent camper. Back to Oxford we went, intent on discovering the campus RV parking.
When we hit town, I made another phone call and we got lucky. The RV parking would be open this weekend. During football season, the RV sites (50 amps, water, and cable TV) in this asphalt lot are leased for the season to rabid Ole Miss fans… for $1,400 per season! For us? $25/night, payable by check mailed to the Ole Miss Physical Plant.
We immediately drove to the specified lot and picked out exactly where we want to park Scoopy. From there, we can walk two of the campus walking tours detailed in the tourist brochures we picked up (one recounts the history of the riot when Meredith, protected by U.S. Federal Marshals, was finally allowed to register at Ole Miss) and can walk the mile to the square.
That’s where we’re headed tomorrow when we leave Trace State Park. The only bad news? The weather forecast warns of the possibility of more severe weather on the way, beginning Friday night and continuing into next week (when we move 60 miles or so north to Memphis). Shades of Huntsville! Spring in the Mississippi River Valley – always exciting.