Day 2: December 24, 2006
Beside the Mississippi
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Alligator Sign Here's a sign that I've never seen in Ohio. It could be a warning to me and other travelers or instructions to large reptiles heading down the highway. Or it could identify a nearby town.

Leland, MS Leland, MS Leland, MS Leland, MS US-61 remains four lane and isn't particularly exciting. I know that this is some of the most fertile soil in the world but I'm from Ohio. I've seen farm land and even world class farmland fails to thrill. At Leland, I headed downtown to check out the Highway 61 Blues Museum. As expected, it was closed but Leland has other attractions. The most exciting (IMHO), is the birthplace of Kermit the Frog. This is Jim Henson's childhood home and there is a Muppet museum somewhere in the town. Guessing that one closed Leland museum looked much like another, I didn't seek it out. A readable version of the Kermit sign is here.

Leland uses Deer Creek to float a static "parade" of Christmas decorations. One of the floats (It may not be a real parade, but they're real floats!) comes from the local blues museum.

Indianola, MS Indianola, MS I didn't return immediately to US-61 but took US-82 east out of Leland. This is the corner of Church & Second in Indianola where B. B. King started playing for tips. He was actually born a little further east, near Itta Bena, but, after some moving around, he bicycled into Indianola to live with relatives and has called it home ever since. I've got a readable version of this sign, too. It's here.

Indianola, MS Indianola, MS Like Leland, Indianola floats some Christmas decorations, too. But it's not a creek they use here. I guess it's a sort of cypress swamp and it's covered in green algae. Looks quite Christmasy, don't you think? Especially when paired with the bright red NOEL.

Moorhead, MS Moorhead, MS The most eastern point I reached on US-82 was the town of Moorhead. In 1903, W. C. Handy was in the Tutwiler train station when he first heard the music style that eventually became the blues. What he heard was a fellow playing guitar and singing a song with the line "I'm going where the Southern cross the Dog". The Yazoo Delta Railroad ran to Tutwiler and was sometimes called the Yellow Dog. In Moorhead, the Yellow Dog crossed the Southern Railroad making it a good place to make connections for parts unknown or to just get a job. Handy "borrowed" a lot of stuff and he "borrowed" that line for 1914's "Yellow Dog Rag". This sign is available in large print here.

Margaret's Grocery, MS Margaret's Grocery, MS Margaret's Grocery, MS When I returned to US-61, I was pleasantly surprised to see it go to two lanes almost immediately. While on the ramp connecting US-82 and US-61, I caught a glimpse of a "4 LANE ENDS" on the south bound road and the extra lanes were soon gone. But, even as a two-lane, the road stayed straight and flat. It was near Panther Burn, about twenty miles later, that the first drops of water hit the windshield. It wasn't really rain. Just a drizzle and sometimes not even that. At the Yazoo River, the road again became divided four-lane. I had, of course, planned on following old Sixty-One through Vicksburg but I knew I wouldn't be walking around any battlefields in the rain and decided to stick with the main route. At the last possible moment I changed plans again. Driving through Vicksburg would be better than missing it completely. It's a good thing I did, too. Missing Margaret's Grocery would have been a true disaster. There was only a light mist when I took these pictures but I believe I would have braved anything short of a major downpour. This place is an incredible piece of roadside art. Only at the end of the day, when I went to the internet, did I learn that there's a good chance that Margaret and her husband were home and would probably have welcomed me inside. Margaret's husband is Reverend H. D. Dennis and he is the one responsible for this not to be missed roadside attraction.

Natchez Under the Hill, MS Natchez Under the Hill, MS Natchez Under the Hill, MS The mist turned into a drizzle and then to rain. It never got real heavy but it did, as predicted, keep me inside my car all the way to Natchez. I did, however, see enough of Vicksburg to know that I need to return someday.

My home for the next two nights is at the Mark Twain Guest House above the Under the Hill Saloon. I figure that getting your room key from a bartender is a good thing but I'm sure not everyone sees it that way. In fact, I know there are things about this place that would keep some from even thinking about staying here. There are no in room phones or televisions, all three rooms share a bath, and it's over a bar that frequently has live music. The bath thing is just the slightest bit inconvenient but I see the other things I've listed as positives. I lucked out and was able to reserve room #1. It's the biggest and has a couple of big windows and a narrow balcony across the front and that front is barely twenty yards from the banks of the Mississippi. Add the four poster bed and the wood burning fireplace and you've got one very romantic setup. I would have felt really guilty taking this room if I thought I was displacing some couple who would have made better use of the place but there doesn't seem to be much demand over Christmas. Only one other room is occupied and its resident is a friend of the owner who I suspect gets a favorable rate when he visits from New Orleans.

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