Where my Mississippi Bicentennial Road Trip didn't take me

Published 9:14 am Monday, December 4, 2017

Back in May I announced my plans for a Mississippi Bicentennial Road Trip and invited readers to tell me where to go.
They showed remarkable restraint. No one gave the obvious retort. But they did nominate many more possibilities than I could accommodate in my allotted 10 days.
You can find out where I went by (shameless plug here) reading the December issue of Oxford Magazine.
Meanwhile, I will tell you that though recommended I did not visit Rodney, Taylor, Holly Springs, Hattiesburg, Greenwood, Corinth, Vancleave, Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, the Grammy Music Museum in Cleveland, or the Onward Store in Belzoni.
Or Cherry Creek Orchards in Pontotoc County, the Jim Henson Museum in Leland, “any Chinese grocery in the Delta,” or “Darwell’s in Long Beach for anything with Yum Yum sauce on it!”
My apologies if you were counting on reading my accounts from any of those no-doubt charming places. Lots of others didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, either.
“I would float the Okatoma,” one fellow suggested. “The three- or four- hour float. … Put in at Seminary, wear a life jacket, and bring some alcohol for you but not your skipper. It is breathtaking.”
That sounded wonderful, except for the wet part. I’m assuming a raft or inner tube or some other buoyant contraption is involved, but I myself am not buoyant, do not trust life preservers, and tend to avoid a close association with a potential watery grave.
That’s not why I didn’t go to Horn Island, Ship Island, or any of the other offshore possibilities. I trust boats pretty well. There just wasn’t time.
I also got a delightful invitation to the 48th annual Watermelon Carnival in Water Valley, “‘a Don’t Miss It, or You’ll Regret It’ combination of continuous music, arts & craft booths, car show, and FREE trolley rides to downtown shops and galleries.”
Alas, when I inverted the direction of my trip to include a must-see elsewhere, Water Valley fell off the list. Other complications prevented me from sitting on a front porch with a grandma and shelling purplehull or crowder peas, “picking fruit from Aunt Allie’s fig trees on her farm out from Tylertown,” or buying boiled peanuts off a “rattletrap pickup parked off Highway 49 below Hattiesburg.”
A Southern heresy: I don’t like boiled peanuts.
Some of the things that didn’t quite make the list are things that I’ve happily done before. Dinner at Crechale’s in Jackson, for instance.
“Lots of character and can’t beat the onion rings!!” one person wrote. True. And I used to be a stuffed-flounder guy.
“I would suggest that you travel the entire Natchez Trace Parkway; most of it is in Mississippi,” said another fellow. “While you travel it, take a look around at the changing scenery, take the side trips on the actual Trace, and do the historical things along the route. Think of people walking from Natchez to Nashville, and what a feat that was.”
As it happened, I was only briefly on the Natchez Trace. But I have done it before, many times, and highly commend it.
Of course, with all the things left undone, another road trip is definitely in order. But probably not in July-August. Meanwhile: Happy birthday, Mississippi!
Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com or on Twitter @jrogink.

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