New shuttle service provides tours to and around NatchezPublished 12:17am Sunday, September 22, 2013
NATCHEZ — Twelve years ago, Karla Brown was walking across America when her boots brought her to Natchez.
After driving a tractor-trailer for years, Brown decided she wanted to see the country on foot and started walking from Seattle to Washington, D.C. That trek included a three-day stop in Natchez, where she made a few friends and saw the community through the eyes of an out-of-town visitor.
Fast forward to last year. After spending seven years in Alaska, Brown decided it was time to move south. She picked Natchez, which she had visited several more times since her initial, on-foot stay.
When she got to town, it was the same Natchez — history and Southern heritage on tour year round in a town where “on tour” can often be used to reference what time of year it is.
But something was missing, something she thought a tourist town would surely have — shuttle service.
“I lived in Alaska for seven years, and in Alaska it is easy to understand that I am 100 miles from the airport because it is so vast, but then I moved to populated Mississippi, and I am still 100 miles from the airport,” she said.
“One of the things I have heard repeated over and over from people is that there is no shuttle service. We have one taxi, but as far as even getting to the airports, people are really surprised that there is no shuttle service in town.”
The more she thought about it, the more Brown wanted to be the person who changed that. She started running the idea past her friends, who told her that before she committed to being a shuttle service operator, she should at least try out being a shuttle driver.
Brown got a job as the parking lot shuttle operator at Magnolia Bluffs Casino, but she also bought a minivan to serve as the base of her own shuttle service.
“I walked across America in 2001, and last year I walked from Alaska to California, so I had had my adventures on my feet — now I wanted to have another adventure on wheels,” she said. “I always knew this would be the area where I wanted to do the driving around.
“It was almost a comical joke among my friend trying to imagine me in a minivan since I have a class A license because I drove the 18-wheeler.”
After getting a business permit and a chauffeur’s license, Brown was ready to start the shuttle service.
But beyond just taking people from one place to another, Brown said she wants to help them see the best of Natchez.
“On the journey that I have been on, I have been the tourist through quite a few areas and quite a few places, and I know I really enjoy that,” she said. “I cannot think of few things more enjoyable than being taken around a town and being shown the secrets, this is the best picnic spot on the creek. I have had people do that for me, and I wanted to do that for others.”
To do that, Brown offers package tours to those who want to use the service.
The service offers two Natchez history tours — one three hours and one six hours — and an eight-hour Civil War tour that includes a visit to the Vicksburg battlefield.
One of the history packages includes a home tour, lunch and a choice between visiting the Old South Winery, a horse and carriage ride or a visit to the Old South Trading Post; the longer tour includes two homes, lunch, a horse and carriage ride or the Old South Winery and a visit to the Old South Trading Post.
The Civil War tour includes a visit to Emerald Mound, Windsor Ruins, lunch in Vicksburg and a three-hour guided tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park. The tour guide is hired from the park, Brown said.
“When I was putting these together, I was trying to imagine myself as a tourist, what are the things I want to see when I come here?” she said.
Food is included in the package price for all packages. Possible choices for lunch in Natchez include Pig Out Inn, Magnolia Grill, the Eola Hotel, Carriage House, Planet Thai, Fat Mama’s Tamales, Mammy’s Cupboard, Cotton Alley, Cock of the Walk, South China Buffet, Slick Rick’s, Natchez Coffee Company or Pearl Street Pasta.
Brown also offers a two-hour Natchez ghost tour and a two-hour tour of the area highlighting 36 places mentioned in Greg Iles novels.
The ghost tour has 11 stops, including two that aren’t technically ghost haunts.
“It includes the Rhythm Night Club site and the William Johnson House,” she said. “I am not aware of any ghosts there, but one was the site of a terrible fire and the other was the site of a murder, and it was awful.”
The ghost tour goes Under-the-Hill and ends at the Eola Hotel, and at one point those who take the tour will enter a basement locally reputed to be the site of ghost activity, Brown said.
But beyond ghosts and fictional showdowns and even history, Brown said the shuttle service is about showing out-of-towners the city she first saw on foot more than a decade ago.
“I would love to help the tourists who come to Natchez to enjoy what we have, to show them all the neat characteristics of Natchez, Mississippi,” she said.
For more information, Downtown Karla Brown shuttle service can be reached at (907) 540-0001 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.