Eagles, an Eiffel, & for Honey Boo Boo, No Trifle

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Clarksville, TN to Springfield, MO
Our focus again today was trying to move as far west as we could and still get into our hotel at a reasonable hour.  Leaving Clarksville a little before 8:00, we drove west on US-79, soon spying some tobacco curing in a roadside field (pictured above).  Since we seem to have a fascination with all types of harvesting, we had to stop for a few photos.  We thought it might be a sign of more tobacco fields to come, but saw no more.
Our next stop was Fort Donelson National Battlefield near Dover, TN (pop. 1,404).  The fall of Confederate Fort Donelson, guardian of the Cumberland River, in February 1862 was the Union's first major victory of the Civil War.  Under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, ground forces encircled the fort while the Confederates were distracted by a Northern ironclad attack from the river.  Failing in their effort to find an escape route, the Confederates surrendered the fort, opening the way for Union forces to enter the heartland of the South.
Confederate battery on the Cumberland River
The National Park Service staff at Fort Donelson were particularly friendly and helpful.  After we asked one of the rangers about a pair of bald eagles we had heard were nesting in the park, he later tracked us down on a nearby trail to let us know that one of the eagles had perched in a riverside tree.
These eagles have been nesting in the park for seven years and have raised some little ones there.  The ranger told us that the birds like to sit and watch the river, looking for signs of an attractive meal.  When we left, this majestic guy had been sitting in that same position on the tree limb for more than half an hour.  On our way out of the park, we checked out their gigantic nest, built in a tall pine tree 300 yards from the river.  And we hid a letterbox in the park for them to watch over.
Pressing westward on US-79, we paused long enough to locate a few letterboxes in the interesting burg of Paris, TN (pop. 10, 156, one of whom is Hank Williams, Jr.)Like so many of its sister cities with the same name, this Paris has embraced an iconic French structure as its city symbol.  And it seems every Paris needs its own Eiffel Tower, or a replica.  At 60 feet tall, this one is a 1:20 scale model, a bit smaller than the one in Paris, Texas, and without the cowboy hat on top.
Are we in Tennessee or France?
Like other namesakes of the famed City of Light, Tennessee's Paris plays up the connection with all kinds of naming references, such as Eiffel Gardens, an assisted living property.

Unable to linger for the "Eye Full of Paris" celebration, we finally parted ways with the old US-79, which was meandering south.  Our sights were set on a more northwesterly route, so we picked up a couple of state roads into Martin, where we caught US-45 to the Kentucky line and to US-51/60, which took us up past Wickliffe to the only bridge crossing the river from Kentucky into Missouri.

In an interesting geographical fluke, we drove 0.6 miles through the extreme southern tip of Illinois to get to Missouri.  Finally in our launchpad state to the West, we laid down miles across southern Missouri on US-60, a road which we haven't traveled before and which took us all the way to Springfield, tonight's destination.

A jarring feature of this 260-mile stretch of four-lane highway was the overabundance of roadkill.  Every mile we saw another 3 or 4 victims or more, and that was just on the westbound lanes.  There's no scrimping on variety, either.  The highway and shoulders were littered with raccoons, skunks, squirrels, armadillos, foxes, hawks, deer, some unidentified small brown weaselish mammal, and of course the hapless possums.

If Honey Boo Boo's family really does make this complimentary carnivorous delicacy part of their diet, as her mother has claimed, they could fill a freezer the size of their house with the veritable feast along this stretch of US-60.  With their earnings from the TLC show, they could probably just fly to Missouri and take the roadkill back to Georgia for free.  After all, there's no baggage charge for carrion.

Two animals we did not see were the faithful highway crews that effectively clean roads in the South—crows and vultures.  Though vultures inhabit Missouri only in the summer, crows are permanent residents.  Maybe they heard about their competitors in McIntyre, Georgia, and have convened there to reclaim their rightful territory.

Tomorrow our goal is Kansas, the first state on this trip that we haven't already visited this year.


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  • Miles driven: 430
  • Letterboxes: F 4, P 1 
  • Weather: Sunny, 58° to 79° 
  • States: 4 (TN, KY, IL, MO) 
  • Gas (premium): $3.58/gallon (Clarksville, TN); $3.53 (Rogersville, MO) 
  • Eagles at Fort Donelson:  2
  • Cannons at Fort Donelson:  43
  • U.S. Grant's successful battles before Fort Donelson:  0
  • What we avoided near Dover:  Land Between the Lakes
  • Roadkill on US-60:  1,367 (westbound only)
  • Crows and vultures working US-60:  0
  • Miles driven: 1,257
  • Letterboxes: F 9, P 3
  • States: 7 (GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, IL, MO)
  • Temperature range: 50° to 80° 
  • Gas prices (premium): $3.51 to $3.95 
  • National battlefields: 2
  • State parks: 1 
Smart phones have given new meaning to jotting things down.