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Tupelo and Oxford

December 12, 2012

Mississippi – Friday, December 7

Once again, one of the things I like about camping is being able to go for a long walk as soon as I get up. The state park was pretty and Tula and I quickly got in 3 1/2 miles of walking. No one was out on the lake – I know I’m being spoiled by lack of crowds at campgrounds this time of year – next spring and summer will be a different story! I hadn’t registered last night because it was dark, and hard to read the different camping rates. So I stopped by the office this morning, and there were people there, and I explained I had arrived late, and wasn’t sure what the rates were (and I couldn’t find the tent camping sites in the dark, so just stayed at an RV one). The person working there said the tent sites are hard to find anyway. I told her I had arrived late because I was doing a little Christmas shopping and she wondered why I would come down from Michigan to shop in Mississippi! I explained a little about what I was doing, and she told me a local TV station was sponsoring a big food drive in Tupelo in front of city hall, and to go talk with them to see what they might need. I was going back there anyway to walk, and to find a food pantry, so this made it easy! I found them, and avoided the news people, and went around to talk to some of the guys by the pick-up trucks that they were hoping to fill. I told them what I was doing and asked if there were items that they needed. There were cases of soup in one of the trucks, so it was obvious they didn’t need soup. Turns out one of the guys I was talking to was the host of a morning radio show, and he wondered how long I would be in town because he would like me to come on his show. But I told him I was leaving as soon as I shopped and walked. He then told the news person about my journey, and they asked some questions. In the meantime, I went and shopped for some of the things they wanted – they really needed baby food, tuna, mac and cheese and boxed dinners – they were in good shape with soup and vegetables. I brought everything back, and someone helped me carry the bags to the pickup truck, and then the news lady asked if I would do a one-minute live shot for their news station. I didn’t know what that involved, but she made it seem so easy, the next thing I knew they were counting down the seconds, and she was gave me a nice introduction on-air and then I was apparently on live TV – on WTVA which is Tupelo’s local NBC affiliate. And I was in the usual t-shirt and jeans and hadn’t showered because I had camped – oh well – that’s me! I talked with her afterwards and she said she was going to have to call for another pickup truck – they had 2 of them pretty full, and were hoping to fill at least 2 more. She let me take a picture of her.

Tula and I walked almost 3 more miles around Tupelo (named for the tupelo gum trees that early settlers built their houses out of.) Tupelo is also Elvis Presley’s hometown, and there were metal guitar cut-outs all over town, but I didn’t go out to see Elvis’ house this time around. I was planning the rest of my day – since I’d gotten such an early start with the walking, I knew I’d be able to finish today’s, and the mile and a half from yesterday. And since I’d walked extra miles occasionally during the week, I only needed an additional 3 1/2 to get my full 56 miles for Mississippi. And since my donations were done, if I could finish all my walking before dark, I would be able to drive through Tennessee in the dark on my way to Kentucky, which will be State #14 (there’s a reason for that!) and not “waste” good daylight hours tomorrow driving through Tennessee. So that motivated me to keep hoofing along.

It was a pretty short drive to Oxford – a beautiful town and home to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Tula and I walked a couple miles all through town and out into one of the neighborhoods, admiring some of the grand old homes. William Faulkner lived in Oxford, and John Grisham also does, so it’s a town with some literary connections. Then we went and parked near the campus, and walked about 3 1/2 miles more – all around the beautiful campus and even along “dorm row” and past all the administrative and lecture halls. It has an air of Southern hospitality and charm – old brick buidlings with arches and columns, gardens that still had flowers, brick-trimmed curving sidewalks, and a fountain. The settlers had named the town Oxford in hopes of getting a university established there, and they did – Ole Miss opened her doors in the mid-1800s. During the Civil War, the main building was used as a hospital. And it was also the site of a contentious moment in time when the first black student tried to enroll, but in the end he was successful. It amuses me to see almost every student walking around talking on their cell phone, or looking down at it while texting. I don’t think I could have even imagined something like that when I went to college many, many moons ago! It makes me wonder how my grandkids will be communicating when they’re in college. We were done by dusk – and had tallied up 13 1/2 miles for the day! My feet were tired, and I was looking forward to a few hours of quiet driving.

So Mississippi is complete – 7 donations (Vicksburg National Military Park, Storehouse, Stewpot, St. Andrews Ministries, Mississippi Animal Rescue League, Our Daily Bread Ministries, and WTVA Food Drive), and 56 miles walked – in Greenville, Vicksburg, Natchez, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Tupelo and Oxford, and a state park, national parks, river trails and rail trails. And I met a lot of good people!
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