During September and October last year Christie and I spend just under four weeks completing a fascinating motoring trip following the great Mississippi River from its beginnings near Minneapolis in the very north of the USA to where it flows into the sea at New Orleans in the deep south.
This was an organised tour with nine couples. It was organised by Sam Murray who owns and operates Gilligans Tours Limited. He is based out of Waimate in the South Island of New Zealand. This was the same tour company that did the Route 66 tour we did three years ago. As with the Route 66 tour, this was well organised and we had a lot of fun. Sam is a great tour leader, and everybody on the tour was from various parts of New Zealand.
Why the Mississippi? Before the railways the Mississippi was a vital arterial route in opening up America. Even today the river is important for the transportation of goods, and is full of American history. You are following in the footsteps of Mark Twain’s fictional characters, “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn”. You travel through nine states, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Each state is different and shows the diversity of the USA. As you head further south, Civil War history becomes evident, and the climate changes as well.
The tour is a self drive trip, we rented a Mitsubishi Outlander which was ideal. We were provided with a detailed GPS system but we still got lost but not for long. All of us had done Route 66 prior to this trip so we were experienced with driving in the USA.
We started in Minneapolis, in the North of the USA on 26 September 2022, and were all surprised at just how cold it was there. During the night temperatures just about dropped to zero degrees. For the next seven days we drove through a number of small towns and cities until we reached St Louis, the second largest city in Missouri behind Chicago. Towns such as La Grosse, which was a French fur trading settlement, Galena, an old lead mining town, where General Ulysses S Grant called home and where he become the 18th President of the USA, Savanna which had a strong Indian presence and Hannibal, the home town of Mark Twain, where a lot of his two famous novels were based. All the time we crisscrossed the Mississippi River.
We followed the Mississippi through Cairo, virtually a ghost town now, left the Mississippi and detoured to Nashville. This was to look at the current music scene and to go to a concert. I enjoyed Nashville. Following this we travelled to Memphis, a declining city, the main purpose was to see the Elvis Presley Museum and his house at Gracelands.
By this time, we were in Tennessee which is a former Confederate State and part of the American South. We now cross over and go to Clarksdale which is in the State of Mississippi. Here we start to see numerous plantations and cotton growing for the first time. We stayed at Vicksburg, scene of a famous battle in the Civil War. Our next place to stay was Natchez, a trading town firstly developed by the French, and it later became an important slave trading town. Along the Mississippi, a lot of the early development was done by French traders and settlers. As a result, there are a lot of French named towns and geographical features. Our next stop was Baton Rouge in Louisiana.
The last city of our Tour was New Orleans. This is an interesting city on the Bayous of the Mississippi. It is one American town that you can get good food, has its own cuisine and a thriving music scene. It is also a very old city with a strong French influence which can still be seen today.
Each day began with a meeting after breakfast about the forthcoming day. We would generally meet at a few of places of interest, like museums or points of historical interest and for lunch. The rest of the time you could drive at your leisure. You were free to stop and explore various places that interested you. The tour takes 23 days which means the distance travelled each day is not onerous. We drove 3,515 kms which equates to 153 Kms per day. A few days we rested but we seldom did more than 200 kms in a day, we were on both main highways but a lot of our travelling was on secondary roads.
The cost was $NZ 28,495 per couple. This included all accommodation with breakfast, car hire, car insurance and economy plane fares from Auckland to the USA. Additional costs for you include personal health insurance, fuel (less than half in price compared to NZ), museum admissions, meals etc. Since travelling to the USA three years previously prices have gone up by about 60%. Previously our exchange rate was at 70 cents, during this trip it was around 55 cents, which made things more expensive, although our exchange rate has recovered to 64 cents since then. Prices may look expensive but what you see and do, is good value and it is a trip of a lifetime. We had a fantastic time and all the couples on the tour were a most relaxing and enjoyable group. We really enjoyed all their company, and there were a great many conversations over drinks.
The highlights of the trip for me were many and varied. I enjoyed driving from north to south seeing the changing geography and climate of the USA. Minneapolis was cold autumnal weather, New Orleans was warm and humid. It was great to gain an understanding of how important the Mississippi River was and is to the transportation in the USA. It is historically and culturally important, is the soul of the country and it had a huge influence on the opening up of America. I enjoyed seeing the differences of each state, the south being quite different to their northern counterparts. I have an interest in the Civil War so it was interesting to travel to various places that you knew as names, but now they were places. I really enjoyed the musical aspect of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. This is a bucket list trip.
Please welcome the following new members next time you see them on a club run
Hello everyone, this is Wayne Sullivan with a short story of this years Beachhop.
Beachhop always delivers, even when the weather does not. Waihi and Thames coped a bit of the rain but for most of the day the skies were blue with fluffy white clouds. At Onemana on Friday it was fine but a bit windy and on Saturday at Whangamata it was fine all day and perfect for the night cruising on the evenings which I did on Thurs, Friday and Saturday nights.
So good to be a part of it.
The array of vehicles is mind blowing from original to the highly modified and all worthy of respect for the effort put into them. I was able to catch up with some fellow club members at the various venues and must say they represented our club very well. And a special mention for all the bands, they really do make Beachhop the festival that it is, well done Mr. Roper.
Also I managed to consume vast quantities of fossil fuel, ha ha.
My only senior moment came on my way to Beachhop on Tuesday afternoon , as I rounded a corner on SH25A I came across a SUV that had stopped in my lane. What the driver was doing I don't know, but they weren't thinking road sense, that's for sure. They did not appear to have spun out. As soon as they saw me , the SUV moved at a slow pace to the edge of the road where it should have been. I had already made the decision to go around him rather than trying to brake too hard as I was going downhill. And with my luck a car was coming from the opposite direction but the gap was big enough .
From my first sighting of the SUV to when I passed by was only about 3 seconds from watching it on my camera later on. I have posted a video of it on YouTube .
As the saying goes, expect the unexpected.
Had some great accommodation , a lovely B&B in Whangamata at a good price so will be back next March.
Please enjoy these photos.
Saturday the 8th of Oct dawned overcast and still. I knew from an earlier discussionwith one of the show organisers that they were all on tenterhooks regarding rain as the grounds at the Mid Northern Rugby Club in Domain Rd, the venue, had suffered badly from recent deluges.
However, by the time our group had departed the gathering point at 8:45 am the sun was out and it was a lovely day and so it remained. Led off by our intrepid President in his very tidy Fairmont we processed up SH1 for a relatively short drive to the site just past the Hukerenui pub. Thankfully given current petrol prices.
Today was the 1st “run” for our latest “toy,” a pretty much immaculate 1988 Pontiac Fiero. And what a joy it is to drive. On arrival a well organised team took our entrance fee, a gold coin for the local Volunteer Fire Brigade I believe, and directed us to DRY parking. And what a turn out. I had expected....well, not much, but so help me there was oodles and oodles of all sorts. There were 3 full rows of side by side vehicles the entire length of the footy field & a 4th row filling up fast already at our arrival.
We all checked in for the prize giving and raffles and began to wander around the fairly limited displays for the swap meet part of proceedings and on to the car displays. There would have been several examples of just about anything to satisfy the tastes of anyone I’m sure. We strolled and nattered and photographed and critiqued as one does at such events eventually making our way to the food and drink. The footy club’s bar was in operation for those inclined to imbibe.
A bacon & egg roll with chips & a coffee hit the spot. Val & I then got out the folding chairs, joined some of our group gathered at the rear of the Fairmont and proceeded to swap yarns etc as one does in such circumstances. All the while more and more vehicles continued to stream into the venue. I have no idea how many in the end but I’d hazard a guess around the 300 or so at least.
A really great turnout for what I had thought might be a modest, rustic affair. How wrong I was!
What were the chances, too? It had not even occurred to me to look. However, my eagle-eyed PA, she who must be obeyed, tapped me on the shoulder while browsing another display of otherwise rusty junk pointing to a box of manuals. And lo! Amongst them she had spotted a mint copy of Haynes “1994 – 1998 Pontiac Fiero”. Really! Best of all after that it was only $10. That put the icing on the cake for the trip. Val insists we don’t actually need it, it’s just a good luck talisman.
All in all it was a good day and one we look forward to reprising many times.
The upcoming show at Kerikeri in Feb next year is next on the list for us.