Thursday, May 27, 2010


Joy and Greg at Dewey's Pizza Cincinnati’s humidity was a light, warm fog as we set off on our loop around the lake this morning.  Just 7:30 when we joined the neighborhood walkers and joggers that take advantage the amenities at Winton Woods, the huge county park where we camped for four nights (click here to read our campground review).  Though it is part of the urban Cincinnati area, the park has a rural feel – an excellent base camp for our visit.

Greg and Joy put Cincinnati on the map for us – we specifically came to visit with them, see their home and community.  It turned out to be a good stop for other reasons, too – the best of all worlds.  :)

Before we left Memphis, I visited the AAA office and stocked up on maps and tour books for all the states we plan to visit this summer.  Researching Cincinnati, one “attraction” stood out: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  

Odel and Greg at the Freedom Center Until we arrived in Cincinnati, I didn’t realize that it was just across the Ohio River north of Kentucky.  The river is the boundary between Kentucky and Ohio, and also was the boundary between slave states and free states.  Cincinnati, on the northern bank, was a beacon for slaves fleeing from the southern states to freedom, and a center of Underground Railroad activity – a natural location for the Freedom Center.

Greg had a day off on Wednesday, so we met him at the Freedom Center (his first visit, too) at 11 am, when it opens.  We were there for three hours, leaving not because we had seen everything, but because we couldn’t absorb any more.

The history of slavery is a grim, sad story.  On top of the pain inherent in the permanent displays, the Freedom Center gallery had a special exhibit, Without Sanctuary, Lynching Photography in America.  It is impossible for me to understand the horror and brutality humans willingly inflict on one another, and the history of lynching in the U.S is beyond belief.  I won’t go into further details; suffice to say that none of the three of us was able to study the entire exhibit.  Mobs – the very worst of humanity, magnified, unleashed, uncontrollable and unrepentant.

The permanent exhibits of the Freedom Center present the whole terrible history of slavery unflinchingly.  A two story “slave pen”, a warehouse to hold slaves for awaiting transportation south and sale, has been moved from its original location in Kentucky and rebuilt inside the center.  Chains, shackles, photographs, written records – it is all there, and it is heavy and fatiguing to view, indeed. 

Inside the slave pen Chain and Shackles

Greg inspects the slave pen.

Shackles and chains

So, what saves this from being nothing but a totally oppressive experience?  Two things: the story of the underground railroad, and ART!

Whoever planned the Freedom Center understood the inspirational power of art, and it is used liberally throughout, a break from the relentless inhumanity of the story of enslavement.  Artistic standouts are the animated film that provides the orientation to the exhibits, and the “RagGonNon” fabric art piece (click here to read about the artist) that dominated one wall of the second floor (the center is three stories).  I also appreciated the symbolism and hope of the eternal flame burning on a south-facing, third floor outdoor deck, mirroring the lighted lanterns used by “conductors” of the underground railroad to signal slaves attempting to cross the Ohio River.

Raganon Detail of Raganon

Odel contemplates “RagGonNons” (click to enlarge)

Detail of “RagGonNons” (click to enlarge).

The compassion and heroics of the “conductors” provide another antidote to the exhibits.  A second film dramatizes the fear and courage of both the escaping slaves and their helpers, helping to mitigate all we had seen, read, and heard (free audio PDAs are provided to narrate your tour).  It is an impressive place, a valuable history lesson, and we recommend it – but be prepared to get up close and personal with humankind’s terrible capacity for brutality and indifference.

On a completely different note:  we had two nice visits with Joy and Greg.  Both nights that they were free, we drove to their house (a 25 minute drive), then Joy drove us all to dinner in her new Prius.  On Tuesday night, we had outstanding pizza at Dewey’s Pizza at Oakley Square, then walked out into the balmy darkness and down the block to a historic local ice cream parlor (over 100 years old) for dessert. 

Entrees at Green Papaya Wednesday night, the menu was Thai, at the OUTSTANDING Green Papaya.  We shared delicious, unusual sushi rolls for an appetizer, then tasted each others’ entrees, each very different from the others, and each very, very good. 

Joy took us on a short driving tour of the highlights of the Hyde Park neighborhood – a huge, green park, several streets of huge, old, beautifully maintained homes, and Hyde Park Square, a tiny park in the center of a boulevard, lined on both sides with independent shops and restaurants.  It was a lovely slice of Cincinnati that we would not have seen as anonymous visitors, and we were glad for both the company and the local knowledge.  Thanks, Joy and Greg!

As I write, we are on the road east, passing through a tiny slice of West Virginia, another state to add to our map.  :)  Safe travels, all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


View from my lounge chair at our campground in Cincinnati Just back from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (tomorrow’s blog), we have a little break before meeting Joy and Greg for dinner - so I took a few minutes to whip up a fresh batch of hummus to savor during our next two days of travel.  That reminded me that Elaine had asked me to post the hummus recipe to the blog, so here it is, 5 Minute Hummus.  It took as long to type it as to make it!

The only ingredient I didn’t have on hand the first time I made the recipe was tahini (sesame seed paste – like peanut butter, but made with sesame seeds), which I bought at Whole Foods.  There is enough in the jar to make many batches of fresh hummus.  The original recipe labeled tahini as “optional”, and I suppose it could be left out (it isn’t cheap, and isn’t something most people have on hand), but it does add a smooth richness and additional layer of complexity.  If you don’t have it and don’t want to buy it, I would substitute smooth peanut butter.  I doubled the garlic AND the lemon juice (and wrote those changes into the recipe) – cut either if you wish.

Hummus is a wonderful dish to keep in the refrigerator during the heat of summer.  It’s a great light snack with cold, crisp carrots, celery, cucumber or jicama sticks; it’s good on toast, or in a wrap.  It is a pretty dish to take to a party or potluck, and it’s healthy.  It would be good looking and good tasting stuffed in those popular little Peppadew peppers. 

The same day I mentioned making hummus, an interesting link appeared on one of the food blogs I follow, Casual Kitchen.  If you are interested in more recipes for hummus, check this out -  The Hummus Blogroll: 17 Easy to Make Hummus Recipes.  I’m looking forward to trying Thai Basil Hummus and Curry Pumpkin Hummus.

Enjoy, Elaine – and all you other cooking readers.  If any of you try a recipe (or several) from the Hummus Blogroll, I hope you’ll let me know how it turned out.  I can feel a hummus obsession coming on… :)

Note: a couple of hours after I posted this, a reader pointed out an error in the recipe (forgot the lemon juice).  It’s fixed now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Watching the jumpers in the new arena.Our first visit to the Kentucky Horse Park (read our campground review here) in Lexington was in 2003, in October.  Described as “an equine themed park and competition facility dedicated to man's relationship with the horse”, we found it to be pretty quiet, with most of the activities shut down after Labor Day.   On this visit, it was a different story.

For two weeks in the fall, the World Equestrian Games will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park, the first time this event has been held outside of Europe.  This is a Big Deal here in Lexington, whose city motto is “Horse Capital of the World” – and particularly here at the Horse Park, where a new arena has been constructed, older buildings remodeled, and more new buildings underway.  

Besides the construction, horses and riders are everywhere, competing, practicing, or grazing (horses) and relaxing (riders).  Trainers, riders, owners and their dogs all zipped to and fro in the park, and to the adjacent campground, in golf carts or on scooters.  Never have I seen so many knee high boots and tight pants in one place!  Busy, busy, busy.

levitatingThe campground is actually part of the horse park, and we remembered from our prior visit that we could walk from the campground to the horse park through a back gate.  Until late this afternoon, when we finally read the campground brochure, we didn’t realize we were supposed to pay admission (discounted for campers).  Oh, well!  :)  We enjoyed the park as our exercise venue both days of our stay, and spent more than a couple of hours watching the jumpers in the big new arena  

Today we decided to see a different face of Lexington, and headed off downtown to take a walking tour of some of the historic sites.   To a visitor, the city was not very easily navigated – even though it isn’t large – partly because so many of the roads were being remodeled (for the Games, I imagine).  Walking through the downtown area was awkward when sidewalks were under construction, graveled, or fenced off, so we didn’t see as much of the historic downtown core as we had intended.

We DID, however, find the Saturday Farmer’s Market, in a permanent, roofed downtown location – always a great amenity in a city.  Though we hadn’t planned any food shopping, we couldn’t resist Vito’s Italian Sausage after a couple of delicious samples, and a head of beautiful Red Oak Leaf lettuce, too fragile to be sold commercially. 

Farmer's Market Live plants

Above: Farmer’s Market Pavilion, Downtown.

Above: Herb plants for sale at the market.

Below: Historic Downtown Buildings

Below: Horse Sculptures at Thoroughbred Park

Broadway and Main Thoroughbred Park

Back at our campsite, we took another (free) walk to the arena to watch a couple horses attempt to qualify for the games (both did), when headed home to a dinner of Jambalaya, made with the last bits of sausage and smoked ham from Poche’s in Louisiana, found in the freezer during the refrigerator crisis in Memphis.  I relaxed outside with a book after dinner, until a big mosquito landed on my hand – one of the very first I’ve seen this year!

We are leaving many sights unseen in Lexington, but we knew it would be just a quick stop.  Tomorrow, off to Cincinnati to FINALLY visit Joy and Greg.  Goodbye, Kentucky!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Rumbling thunder resulted in a hasty change of plans this morning, but we didn’t care – we’re on the road again! 

As promised, Barry Smith of Town and Country Mobile RV Repair was at our campsite in Memphis on Tuesday morning to replace the tiny little thermometer (that controls the exterior exhaust fans) that was no longer functioning.  It is the size of a nickel, but required major labor to reach it – the refrigerator had to be disconnected from the propane and electricity, then pulled from it’s cubbyhole into the middle of our room.  Of course, we had to empty it before this could be done, so had spent all morning emptying and scrubbing (don’t ever empty your refrigerator completely unless you want to be horrified). Because the refrigerator is so large and heavy, Barry had a helper with him.  You can imagine the parts-to-labor cost ratio on that repair!

Twenty-four hours later, the refrigerator temperature was “in the zone” and holding, but we had no food.  We made a quick trip to Kroeger,  filled it up and we were on the road before noon.  As nice as our stay was in Memphis, 16 days were enough and we were joking and grinning as we hit I-40 eastbound. Our target was Piney Campground in the Land Between the Lakes Recreation area, shared by Tennessee and Kentucky.  Our ride was uneventful, and we were settled in a level, lakeside campsite by 3 pm. 

Site C21 Piney Campground Piney is a HUGE campground, with several campground loops plus cabins.  Sites can be rented for a “season”, which means many of the sites are semi-permanently occupied by trailers and 5th wheels used as weekend vacation getaways.  Consequently, though the campground looked half full, we saw very few actual campers, as most of the RV’s were deserted on a Wednesday.  It felt very odd!

Returning from our long walk, I spent a couple of hours cooking, trying out two new recipes to fill our refrigerator with ready-to-eat lunches and snacks.  Dinner, reading, off to bed – it was a simple and pleasurable evening.

We planned an early departure (for us) this morning, facing a drive of 280 miles to Lexington, Kentucky – and we would lose an hour when we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone.  I woke up early and was out of bed by 6 am.  Tea while we read email and blogs, then smoothies for breakfast - and I had one more recipe I wanted to make: hummus. 

I am old enough to remember the days before mass produced hummus (in half a dozen variations) was commercially available in every grocery store - when we used to make it fresh.  I ran across a hummus recipe recently, which reminded me of how simple and cheap it is to make, and how much fresher it tastes – so I spent 10 minutes on that.  Lots of garlic, lots of lemon… yummmmmm!

A long walk was on the agenda before we departed.  We stepped out the door just as the thunder rumbled.  We picked up our pace but, a minute later, dashed back inside as the big raindrops began in earnest.  A quick computer check of the radar for the area showed a huge thunderstorm to our west.  We flew into our departure routine, but it was too late to save us from a thorough soaking as we hooked up the jeep.  We’ve been in rain (with occasional lightening and thunder) since, mostly running along just ahead of the storm.

The heater is on, music on the radio, lunch and snacks in our working refrigerator, and an ever changing view… all is right in our little world.

Monday, May 17, 2010


How could we visit Memphis without a night on Beale Street?  A dig through our “fancy clothes” storage box for our clubbin’ clothes – a little dated, but we’ve been on the road for several years – and off we went.  Lookin’ good, no?  Wish you’d been there!

(Turn up your sound and click on the arrow button to play.)

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

(My thanks to my wonderful friend Becky, who I’m sure could hear my laughter all the way to Sacramento!)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Yes, we are still in Memphis (click here to read our campground review).  The weather report when we awoke this morning: rain, fog, and mist.  Peeking out the window, that looked to be right on target.  It poured again last night (same as the night before); the atmosphere holds as much humidity as is possible without it actually falling as drops.   We westerners are oh, so ready for a change!

Waterlogged Yesterday was the sort of day I usually DON’T report, the perfect illustration of why we have a love/hate relationship with campground reservations.  Although we try to avoid making reservations, when we want to be in a specific location on specific “in season” dates, we do it – which guarantees that we will either a) regret that we are “on a schedule” when we have to pass up interesting places and events or b) have a mechanical problem/breakdown.

Enter option b. 

A couple months ago, still winter, we made a reservation at a campground in Maryland, for a visit to Odel’s daughter, Kim.  Thinking ahead – far, far, ahead - we planned to stay over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, one of the dreaded Major Camping Holidays.  We would be settled two days before the busy weekend began, and stay for a week.  Hurray for us – smart planning!

From there, the remainder of our winter travel plans flowed, including our current stop in Memphis and a visit to Cincinnati to visit Rosanna’s daughter, Joy and her husband Greg.  Since I was flying to Sacramento from Memphis, and since we had specific plans in Cincinnati, we made reservations for both stops.  Memphis early May, Cincinnati mid-May, Maryland late May – and all in-between stops would be on our whim and a spontaneous schedule, our vastly preferred travel mode.

Our refrigerator put a stop to all that.  As the temperature rose in Memphis, it also rose inside our refrigerator.  When even the highest temperature setting resulted in slippery ice cubes and alarmingly high internal temperatures, we called a mobile RV service.  Long story short, we will be in Memphis until at least Wednesday morning, perhaps longer. 

After absorbing the discouraging diagnosis, we fired up the phones to adjust our reservations – which is why we HATE making ‘em!  Both campgrounds (county campgrounds that give credits rather than refunds) were willing to push our reservations by a few days, so we soon had our schedule adjusted.

And then the big OOPS!  Forgetting about Memorial Day, we moved our reservation in Maryland from Thursday (for one week), to Sunday (for one week).  As we looked for a campground along our route for Friday and Saturday, it hit us: we were talking about Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff to the summer camping season.  The resulting flurry of phone calls emphasized our beginner’s mistake – not a space to be found.

So much for our smart planning!  After two hours of phone calls and a thorough, panicky review of ALL our numerous directories, favorite websites, and handwritten notes tucked away in files – to NO avail – we had our AHA moment.  If we drove 250 miles a day (instead of our usual 150 +/- miles), we could cover the ground from Cincinnati to our Maryland campground in two days, arriving on Friday… and if our karma was perfect and our stars aligned, a quick phone call could retrieve the space we had so recently given up before it was reserved by someone else.

Odel was on the phone in a heartbeat and re-reserved our site for both Friday and Saturday.  Whew! 

Now we’re in a holding pattern, here in Memphis until at least Wednesday morning (if the part arrives and can be installed on Tuesday).  There are far worse places to be “stuck”, and far worse challenges to solve – after all, our ice maker is still working, able to keep up with our copious consumption of iced tea. :) 

All this shuffling of travel plans motivated me to begin researching our summer travels.  Today I (gasp) MADE ANOTHER RESERVATION!  Duluth, Minnesota, holds a giant Blues Festival mid-August – 2010 is the 22nd annual event.  Since our first trip to Duluth in 2003, I’ve wanted to stay at the downtown marina “campground” there (asphalt parking facing the boats, right on the water), and the music festival site is just 10 blocks away.  When I called, I snagged the last RV site available.   The good news?  No pre-payment required, so a change in plans isn’t a financial blow. 

It’s the new “anchor” to our summer plans: Duluth, Minnesota, mid-August.  Average high temperature?  75 degrees.  Three days of blues bands, water views, sunshine.  Sometimes it pays to make a reservation.  :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


After I posted the earlier blog, I began to explore Tom Sawyer’s website, new since the last time I looked.  They have a useful page of information about the location of the park and why/when it periodically floods.  Using links and information they provided, I see that the weather service forecast calls for the Mississippi River to rise sufficiently to flood the RV park beginning on 5/7/2010 – no surprise given the copious, record breaking rainfall in eastern Arkansas and western and central Tennessee this past weekend.  Since I know many of our blog readers enjoy Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV park as we do, thought I’d pass this information along. 



Along MS Hwy 278, just before we hopped on I-55 heading north to Memphis. After a one-day weather delay in Oxford, we hit the road Monday morning.  Listening to the radio before departure, we ditched our previously planned route along back roads – the first small town we would pass through had tornado damage, and the list of flooded roads was too extensive for us to research.  We’d seen the flooding on I-40 between Memphis and Nashville on TV, but I-55 seemed to be open and dry.  We changed our plans, picked up I-55, and had a happily uneventful drive up to Memphis.

On previous visits here (Odel’s birthplace), we’ve stayed across the Mississippi in West Memphis, Arkansas, in one of our favorite RV parks, Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park.  It fronts on the Mississippi and we’ve spent many peaceful hours watching the big barges and cruise ships pass by in front of us.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful place with friendly owners. The downsides?  The neighborhood is far from appealing, the walking is limited, and it is a 45 minute drive to visit Odel’s family on the other side of Memphis.  Also, very fresh in our minds since the big storms of the weekend: there is no safe tornado shelter there, or nearby. 

Our "neighborhood" at Agricenter International This visit, we decided to try the Agricenter International, a huge fairgrounds-type complex on the east side of Memphis (click here to read our review).  The Memphis NOAA radar site is located here, with a huge, tornado-safe shelter a short distance from our campsite. 

While the sites are nothing to rave about (fairgrounds style parking), the area is great: miles of walking/biking trails right out of the campground and in an adjacent county park, with convenient shopping and restaurants very nearby.  Best of all, it is a 10 minute drive to visit Odel’s family. 

When the choice is “mediocre campground, convenient area” vs.. “wonderful campground, inconvenient/questionable area”, we’ll usually put up with the mediocre campground.  In this case, we got lucky with our campsite – we’re in a less-congested part of the 200+ site campground, with open space (no RV sites) on the passenger side.  We were so pleased with our site, the friendly host, and the convenience of the location, we upped our reservation from 10 days to 2 weeks.

As soon as we were set up, we went to the on-site Farmer’s Market, open May through October 6 days a week.  Hard to beat fresh produce available for purchase a short walk away!  Next, we were off for our customary walk, this time on another part of this HUGE complex.  Quick showers, and we headed over to Audrey’s (Odel’s niece) house for a family get-together before we all headed off to the Bonefish Grill for a celebratory dinner.

Flooded trail near the Wolf River, 1/4 mile south of the campground. Farmers Market building

Today: chores (we picked up our mail and the Boomer mail yesterday) and errands.  We discovered that one of the trails we planned to walk is underwater; the Wolf River on the southern boundary of the Agricenter is flooded from the weekend’s storms. 

Tomorrow I catch an early flight out to Sacramento - while Odel visits with his family here in Memphis, I’ll visit my parents, sister and girlfriends in Sacramento for 5 days.  No blog posting from there – too busy having fun!  Back in a week…

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Brick City Hall on the right, facing the center of Oxford Square.(All of today’s photos are from Oxford and Taylor, Mississippi.  Hover your cursor over each for a caption, or click a photo to enlarge it.) 

Yesterday I described the skies as “leaden”.  Since then, we have seen every permutation of skies other than “blue”.  As I write this, rain is POURING, POURING down, accompanied by the occasional boom of thunder as mighty storms roll over us, one after another.  The temperature outside is 72 degrees (the lowest it has been in 24 hours); the temperature inside is 78, (time to turn on the A/C again).  “Humid” doesn’t begin to describe it!

The night seemed endless.  I took the early weather watch, while Odel caught some ZZZZ’s between the alarms from the weather radio.  Around 11 pm, things were looking better in Oxford, so I went to bed, too – fully dressed except for shoes.  The weather radio awoke us three or four times between midnight and 5 am as huge, powerful, thunderstorms “with tornado potential” (and tornados, for all we know) skirted Oxford  five or ten miles to the north.   After each alert, we turned on the local news – which had been showing nothing but weather since Saturday evening – and watched as intense red and orange radar echoes slowly moved past us to the northeast. 

Odel hanging with the locals on the square. Odel took over around dawn, while I slept until 10 am, awakened by the weather radio another three or four times for “watches” – flood, severe thunderstorm and tornado.  Slowly but surely, the front is moving beyond Oxford, taking the most severe weather with it. 

We are so grateful we are here on campus!  All three of the campgrounds in the Oxford area – two state parks and a COE park – were mentioned by name last night as storms edged past us.  We’ve been in that situation before, in South Dakota.  It is a sinking feeling to hear your campground mentioned in the litany of towns in the path of a tornado.

On the lighter (and dryer) side:  three times during the day Saturday, the rain stopped long enough for us to exit the motorhome and have some fun.  We took a bagful of used books to Square Books – they were interested in half of them and I was able to pick up a new book (Cornbread Nation 5, The Best of Southern Food Writing) in exchange.  We had enough dry time to sit on a bench with a huge ice cream sandwich (comfort food), mingling with the locals.

Taylor, MS, Main Street and the Taylor Grocery Restaurant - yep, really! During another break, we drove south eight miles to the tiny village (population 289) of Taylor, Mississippi, a bit reminiscent of Luckenbach, Texas.  Taylor Grocery Restaurant is famous in Oxford and across the south for their catfish, with wait times in excess of an hour during game weekends.  Too bad for us, the mid-afternoon weather window didn’t coincide with lunch or dinner time.

Most of the rest of the town’s buildings are occupied by artists – this little village is a magnet for the creative arts.  Half a mile south of the village, a small, new neighborhood is taking shape, Plein Air – described as an “old-fashioned, traditional neighborhood with a with a vibrant town square”… and “its own sewer system, buried utility lines, master planned and maintained landscape system, and an active home owners association. Plans call for the entire site to have wireless high-speed internet access. A community shuttle will offer transportation to and from the Ole Miss campus and downtown Oxford several times per day.”  Plein Air is less than half completed now (but does have its own fire department and one-room Montessori school), but was quite appealing and intriguing to me, and I was glad we had the opportunity to visit.  You just never know what interesting spots travels will reveal!

The "commercial district" of the Plein Air community. A home in the Plein Air community.

Hey – another break in the rain!  (Oops, gone.) Things are looking up here in soggy, battered, northern Mississippi, and we have escaped unscathed, not even a leak.  Tomorrow?  Memphis.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


“Leaden” is the perfect word to describe the sky as I write this morning.  Our county and the surrounding counties are under a tornado watch (conditions suitable for the formation of a tornado).  The counties north of us, around Memphis (our next stop), are under a tornado warning (a tornado has been sighted on the ground or on radar). 

Until we began fulltiming, we did not know the definitions of “watch” and “warning”, particularly in relationship to “tornado”.  Now we feel like old hands.

We had planned to move from Trace State Park to Oxford, MS, for two nights, then on to Memphis, TN, arriving there on Sunday.  Beginning on Thursday, the forecast deteriorated… severe weather on the way for the entire area.  We felt confident that our site in Oxford, on the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus (click here to read our review), would be the safest place for us to wait out the weather.

Scoopy at home in a campus parking lot.Here we are, parked across from the baseball stadium on campus.  It is a good spot for bad weather.  We are on pavement - nice when steady, heavy rain is falling.  The parking lot slopes away from us – good drainage.  We are on a hill – no worries about the flash flood watches and warnings that have been issued for our county.

We have 50 amps of electricity – needed to run our A/C, because it is warm, humid, and close inside when you have to keep the windows closed.  We have cable TV (!) – great for keeping track of local weather.  We have strong Verizon service here – we can watch NOAA radar on the internet in real time.  And of course, we have plenty of food on hand.  :) 

I took the above photo yesterday afternoon after we arrived, the pavement still dry and the sky a light gray.  After we arrived, we had two things on the agenda before the rain began: visit the Oxford Square, and figure out where we should go in the event of a tornado.  We accomplished both things.

The historic Oxford Courthouse On the Oxford Square
The historic Oxford Courthouse in the center of Oxford Square.  This courthouse was built immediately following the Civil War, after the original was burned to the ground. These buildings line one side of Oxford Square (the courthouse is to the left of this photo).  All are over 100 years old, rebuilt after the burning of Oxford during the Civil War.

The Oxford Square is a mile from here, and we set off on foot.  As soon as we arrived, we realized it was lunchtime, so we headed straight back to the Ajax Diner for another delicious meal.  Afterwards, I explored the square and its shops while Odel walked back to the campus.  We both had “tornado shelter” news to share when we reunited.

Solid concrete tornado shelter has a heavy metal door. My source, an Ole Miss student staffing the downtown visitor center, suggested going to the campus hotel to shelter in the lobby.  Odel’s source, a campus policeman, told Odel how to find the on-campus shelters.  By the time I returned, Odel had already visited the small, solid concrete bunkers – and ruled them out for his claustrophobic wife! 

So we set off to research the on-campus hotel.  Walking through the campus was so pleasant – beautiful green trees and lawns, with lovely buildings, both historic and new.  In the hotel’s lobby, a young woman at a desk greeted us, thinking that we might be there as part of the 50-year class reunion – although Odel would not have been allowed to register at Ole Miss 50 years ago.

When we explained why we were visiting, a long and friendly conversation ensued.  She is from Yazoo City, the Mississippi town south of here that was hit by a major tornado a week ago when we were in Huntsville, Alabama.  Fortunately, her family, family home, and family business were safe and undamaged, but her hometown is facing serious consequences.  “Yes,” she encouraged us, “absolutely, come here to the hotel.”  They shelter guests in the basement and she said there was plenty of room for everyone.

Lyceum on the Ole Miss Campus Good!  Plans in place, we set off to walk the most historic part of the campus, the Circle and the buildings surrounding it.  The Lyceum, shown here, opened in 1848 for the first class of Ole Miss students.  During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers.  In 1962, Ole Miss was integrated when James Meredith registered at the Lyceum after a night-long riot that left two people dead and dozens injured.  We examined the bullet damage still visible on a few of the columns. 

Several times during our walk through campus, Odel and I recalled southern segregation and the struggle for civil rights.  Odel grew up in segregated Memphis.  He was a couple of years younger than 14-year old Emmet Till, when Till was beaten and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, within a couple hundred miles of Memphis.  He was one of only 13 black students enrolled at Memphis State when he began classes in 1961.  Certainly, in 1962, Odel and I could not have walked through the Ole Miss campus together safely.

Now, 48 years after Ole Miss was forcibly segregated, we’re parked on campus with our biggest worries caused by the weather.  Definitely an improvement!