Road Trip: Day Four -- More Mississippi
So, Mississippi is really great, and you could easily spend a couple of weeks there. For real. (Note: I would recommend not doing this in the summer months.)
Monday morning I drove from Jackson to Natchez on the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace was a really old road, originally used by native americans, and then by frontierspeople that went from Natchez to Nashville. Those of you who read "Undaunted Courage" may recall that Meriwether Lewis died -- possibly of suicide -- while traveling on the road in Tennessee. It's now a national parkway. I have this bizarre fascination with roads, and with old roads in particular, so this was pretty cool for me. Also, it was just a really pretty drive, with stops every few miles to look at historical sites like Indian mounds, old houses, etc.
Natchez sits on some bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. It has a bunch of well-preserved old houses and apparently there are times in the spring and fall when you can go around and tour the houses. I read somewhere that the reason the houses are so well-preserved is that the economy was devastated by the boll weevil epidemic and so the houses did not get renovated.
I drove from Natchez up highway 61 to Vicksburg. Vicksburg featured more old houses and more bluffs -- it was seriously so hilly that I was sort of nervous driving on some of the streets, lest I have to stop at a stoplight (my car's a stick shift). Of course, it was also the site of an important civil war battle in which the city was under siege for six weeks, and fell on July 4, 1863 (the same day that Lee lost at Gettysburg). Blame it on highway hypnosis, but they were selling this U.S. Grant counted cross-stitch pattern at the visitor center, and I seriously thought about going back to the car to get my credit card so I could buy it. WTF?
From Vicksburg, I drove to Clarksdale, where -- legend has it -- Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of highways 49 and 61 to learn to play the guitar. The town has a certain seedy charm and still has an active blues music scene, including a club owned by Morgan Freeman. The place I stayed was so great. It's called the Shack Up Inn, and it's a bunch of shot gun shacks (basically sharecroppers' cabins) furnished with a random collection of junk, mardi gras beads, and thrift store finds. I was a little wary, because it sounds like the ultimate in slumming, but it was really comfortable and had this random charm.
Bottom line: Go to Clarksdale and stay at the Shack Up Inn.