19. Mississippi

It was with heavy hearts that we departed Louisiana;  wanting more swamps, music, and Cajun cooking. It felt like we barely scratched the surface of this colorful culture. But, we were also really looking forward to traveling The Blues Highway up through Mississippi and let us tell you: it did not disappoint.

To set the mood as you read further, blues, blues, and more blues from one of the Delta’s favorite sons.

 

“Son, I hope you are ready to bring it this afternoon; this is some good chicken you are about to eat.”

Maybe we thought the whole fried chicken in the south thing was just hype. However, after tasting Mr. D’s “Heavenly fried chicken” at the The Old Country Store, we realized the South’s reputation is well-deserved.

How to describe it? Well, it was as if we’d never really eaten fried chicken before that first crispy yet juicy, flavorful bite– and don’t even get us started on the side dishes of mac & cheese, collard greens, corn bread, and cobbler, washing it all down with that sweet, sweet tea. What we also found out later is that people drive from far away (Canada, even!) for a taste of Mr. D’s poultry goodness, right off of US 61, in Lorman, Mississippi, in the middle of nowhere.

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Jason knew he was in for a treat when Mr. D (pictured, smiling down on us) walked up to him before he entered the buffet line and said, “Son, I hope you are ready to bring it this afternoon; this is some good chicken you are about to eat.”

Natchez

Drawn to the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, we opted to spend a few nights at  Natchez State Park . Usually, we stay at state and national parks to get in a few hikes. However, that once we read that we needed to don an orange vest while hiking to identify ourselves to hunters in the park, and the sign telling hunters to stay 100 yards from the trail (last time we checked, a bullet can travel more than 100 yards!) we decided to give this activity a miss.

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“Call me after deer season”. One of the many signs we found advertising hunting services in Natchez.

Each year thousands of people descend on this town to make the “pilgrimage” to view historic antebellum homes in the surrounding neighborhoods, where owners don traditional dress and give the home’s revisionist history.

As exciting as that sounded to us (yawn…), we opted instead for a different kind of culture in the form of a satirical play depicting this annual event at the Natchez Little Theater, Mississippi’s oldest community theater. Afterwards, while the Windusts gave the play “Southern Exposure” 3 stars, the overall experience brought this night up to a solid rating of 5 out of 5.

Southern Exposure Play at Natchez Little Theatre MS

And a bottomless glass of wine to go with our $10 ticket, that’s what we call southern hospitality

Vicksburg National Military Park

Vicksburg National Historic Park is worth a visit as it is the very site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863. You can drive the 16 mile road to see the 1,340 monuments, markers and plaques, the U.S. Cairo, museums, and a national cemetery.

 

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Cleveland

On our way from Natchez to Clarksdale, we made sure to stop at Dockery Farms, a former cotton plantation established in 1895 and home to  Charley Patton, father of the delta blues.

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Clarksdale

While on the road to our next stop in Clarksdale, Wendy and Jason debated whether to stay at the super cool Shack Up Inn or the super cheap county fairgrounds. Those of you who know us even a little already know who was voting for what.

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Hey ,it isn’t that bad.

But marriage is all about compromises, so after setting up camp we stopped by the Shack Up Inn for a tour and drink at probably the coolest bar we’ve visited.

The next time we come through Mississippi, we will stay here to fully enjoy the live music on offer every night, just paces from where you sleep. Paradise.

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90 minutes south of Memphis and touted as the birthplace of the blues, we chose Clarksdale as a destination to check out juke joints and to experience this history, firsthand.  We hit up Levon’s Drugstore Diner for dinner and live music from Deak Harp. As we were just sitting down, an altercation broke out between the musician and a spectator, asking said musician if he could please turn down the music. Well, you can imagine how well that went over.

Next stop was a visit to the Delta Blues Museum. We got lucky and visited on Muddy Water’s birthday celebration. This meant we got to scarf down delicious cupcakes as we walked room to room, soaking in the history of the artifacts from the musical lives of the legendary musical artists, who were born and raised in and around this area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, and Sam Cooke–to name just a few.

Must return–soon

We didn’t know what to really expect of Mississippi, but ended up spending 3 great days driving up the Delta. Some other observations.

  • We know this is the “Bible Belt” but were still surprised by how many packed churches we drove by on Sunday.
  • They take their music very, very seriously.
  • For what the south lacks in variety with their cuisine, they make up for (in a big way) in quality.
  • Southern hospitality is legit! We encountered too many examples of super friendly locals to list here.

All in all, though our time was short, we found Mississippi a pleasant surprise, especially in the shadow of lovely Louisiana.

Next up: Tennessee!

 

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