Shortly after leaving for the day we arrived in downtown Texarkana, at the state line of the city where the US Post Office straddles the state line between Texas and Arkansas. A nice old lady who had come to pick up her mail from her post office box took our photo at the state line marker in front of the post office.
Scott Joplin, the great Ragtime artist, was from Texarkana.
Our route for the day took us past Shreveport, Louisiana, and across the northern portion of the state – completing my tour of the lower 48.
It had been a couple of weeks since we crossed that small stream that was the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, but now we were back. This far south it was far more than a stream.
The Vicksburg visitor center, overlooking the Mississippi River, provided us information on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Outside on the property at the Visitor Center were cannons from the Civil War and a train crossing an old bridge passing a riverboat casino.
We paused for lunch in Vicksburg at Rouxater, a small cafe and bakery. We ate chicken salad sandwiches with some sweet tea. The chicken salad was not tasty and it was on stale white bread. Ugh! We went to the Coke a Cola museum next door after lunch.
It featured a soda fountain that used coke syrup to make the cola at the fountain. The museum had all the equipment from long ago to mix the ingredients. One bottle was made at a time to fill a case and then sent for delivery for purchase. Lots of other Coke items were seen as we wandered through the store as well as hundreds of old bottles of Coke lining the shelved walls. I have often heard of Vicksburg being beautiful but that day, and the places we went it seemed an old tired river town.
Leaving Vicksburg heading north on the legendary Route 61, aka – Blues Highway, we passed cotton fields on our way north and listened to blues music by B.B King, Muddy Waters and others making our way through Mississippi, home of the Delta blues. Interestingly while it used to take throngs of people to pick the cotton, as we drove we would see one lonely, huge, John Deer combine picking the entire field with one guy sitting in the air conditioned cab (likely NOT listening to the blues).
The Blues Trail led us to Rolling Fork where McKinley Morganfield, aka, Muddy Waters lived as a child. There was a bold blue marker with a small record at its peak designating it part of the Blues Trail along with a tribute guitar with Muddy’s signature and noting the town of Rolling Fork in one of his song lyrics. We saw the shotgun cabin where he lived. The term shotgun cabin came to be known from the way that a gunshot could run through all the rooms in a straight line since the rooms are stacked behind each other without a hallway and one had to walk through one room to get to the next room. The cabin was incredibly small. In fact, it was really only half the size of an actual sharecropper’s home.
Rolling Fork also had a carved statue of Teddy Roosevelt and a bear. We saw bear crossing signs in the city limits.
The cotton fields are bright white for acres in all directions as we drove on the Blues Trail Highway. A crop duster sprayed fields; it was truly amazing to see how low he flew over the crops. Huge machines picked cotton as we continued through Mississippi. Bits of cotton lined the edge of the road so I suddenly stopped the car and ordered to go pick cotton.
US Highway 61 is the famed route from the south to Chicago – making it the Blues Highway. Nearly every town along the route had some tribute to the blues.
We got to Leland, Mississippi mid afternoon to see the B. B. King Museum. The museum had a theater and a lot of history about B.B. King’s life and stages of his success. King’s real name is Riley King but he changed it when he went to Tennessee to start his career in music. He named his guitar Lucille when he went back into a burning building to save his guitar from the fire that was started by a woman named Lucille who caused a brawl between the men and tipped over the heater fuel that started the fire.
The museum noted that King began with gospel music but when his gospel band didn’t want to go to Tennessee with him, King moved there on his own. He needed a catchy name for his new radio show in Memphis: “Beale Street Blues Boy” was shortened to “Blues Boy King” and finally to B.B. King. The museum also exhibited the hard times that King and his band encountered because of prejudice and Jim Crow Laws in the south. B. B. King passed away in 2015 and is buried on the museum property.
Late afternoon found us at our hotel, a Holiday Inn Express in Greenville, Mississippi. As we checked in the desk clerk said ‘have you heard about our water here in the Delta?’. Why no – what about the water. It seems it has a brown haze to it (think Marty McFly in Back to the Future III when he is in the cabin), but they assured us it was safe, but if liked we could get some bottles of water for free – which we took them up on. And yes the water is a dirty color.
The desk manager recommended a BBQ diner called Tabb’s for us and we took off to find some good eats. We drove for a while but could not find the restaurant. We asked a man in the parking lot where we thought it should be and he said it closed down a while ago. I guess the Holiday Express needs a concierge. We drove to the end of town and decided on Revel’s Steakhouse, we both had shrimp. Our plates were piled high with so much food that neither of us could finish our meals. The rice had a distinct flavor that I did not recognize so Allison our waitress brought a sample for us to take with us. The flavoring is called Cavender Greek Seasoning and comes from the Ozark region in Arkansas.
We drove across town to see the mighty Mississippi River. The road led us to the top of the levee. The river here is stronger and wider than where we saw the trickling stream of the headwaters in Minnesota. I read a marker that noted the river rose 64.2 feet at this point in 2011 as we sat and watched the sun set on the river.