23 September 2009

From Elvis to Fat Mama

Thursday, 17 September 2009

We got off to a fairly early start, at least for us, in Tupelo.  Not finding any mention of good breakfast places in any of our books, we went looking on our own and arrived at Shockley’s, which looked pretty grim, outside and in, but had decent enough breakfast.  Kim liked her hash browns and said her ham was mighty tasty.  I had a cheese omelet, which was fine.  Since the atmosphere was depressing (think school cafeteria, or worse), we didn’t linger.  Besides, we were off to see where Elvis grew up.

We’ve learned that no matter where we travel, Elvis finds us – hunts us down and pretty much haunts us – and begs us to have something to do with him.  So here we were in his birthplace, Tupelo, Mississippi.  Did we have a choice?  It was not difficult to find the two room shotgun shack that Vernon Presley built for his wife and what was to have been twins, but instead was the larger than life Elvis.  Sadly, two tour busloads of people, some from England, had beat us to the punch, so we opted not to pay money to stand in a single file line to go through the house.  We got photos of the actual Assembly of God church where Elvis and his parents attended (it had been moved to the site, complete with an outhouse, which I’m not sure belonged with the church or the house) and where Elvis first discovered gospel music.  We saw a modern chapel with brilliant stained glass windows that was built and dedicated to Elvis’s memory after his death, and then we stood around the Fountain of Life, which marked the years Elvis lived in Tupelo.  I thought the most interesting exhibit was an outdoor wall which was lined with memories about Elvis from the now-grown children that he went to school with and played with as a boy in Tupelo.  They painted a picture of a poor but proud boy who always knew he would be somebody and who had a God-given gift for music.  The house looked much better than it probably ever did when Elvis lived in it, and it was encircled by a sidewalk of squares commemorating every year of Elvis’s life (but only telling things about the Tupelo years).  Did you know Vernon had been imprisoned when Elvis was young?  The family moved to Memphis when Elvis was entering his teen years in hopes of finding a better job for Vernon and a better life for the family.  Check it out at http://elvispresley886.corecommerce.com/cart.html if you have a thing for Elvis.

After a quick Sonic stop for our morning tea, we were back on the Trace, headed for Natchez.  The sky was not promising, and the weather reports were grim – RAIN, and lots of it, was predicted for the whole southeast.  We were not sure we would be able to avoid it today.  The first interesting thing we saw along the parkway was another Indian burial mound site, but we just did a drive-by and didn’t stop to see them.  We did stop at French Camp, which turned out to be most interesting.  French Camp was established by Louis LeFleur as a stand (inn) in 1812, and it became a school for boys in 1822.  It later had a sister school for girls that served as a finishing school, which burned down long ago.  Today French Camp Academy is a private Christian boarding and day school serving area youth.  There was a house that’s been restored, a blacksmith shop, an old school building that now serves as a museum, and several other outbuildings, and they make sorgham here in the fall.  We spent about an hour just poking around and talking to the museum lady (don’t think she gets much business) who showed us her senior picture (class of 1947) from FCA.  The sun was shining brightly and it felt like you would expect a summer day in Mississippi to feel – a little sticky!  While looking at the house, we came across a mother cat and three little kittens – that was about the extent of our excitement.

Our next stop was the town of Kosciusko, which you may have heard of since it is Oprah’s birthplace.  It was named for a Polish general who served with Washington in the Revolutionary War.   He was an amazing engineer who designed many forts all over the eastern US and who fortified West Point.  Learn more about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tadeusz_Ko%C5%9Bciuszko if you are so inclined.  We had a little picnic at the welcome center here, where the nice folks manning the desk allowed me to charge my laptop while we ate.  We sat our on the slightly damp picnic benches and had the pimiento cheese from Glasgow on our leftover rolls from Nashville, the tomatoes we bought in Danville, and some almonds that Kim had brought.  It was all good!

The crazy weather continued after we got back on the Parkway – it rained on us while the sun was shining.  We were getting so frustrated because we couldn’t find the rainbow that we KNEW had to be there!!  This ended up being a theme for the afternoon, as this action was repeated about six times!  At one point, we pulled off at a turnoff just to try to find the rainbow, and instead we happened upon the most lovely sight – the Pearl River, covered with lily pads and with several beautiful birds wading in the water.  We finally found a couple of rainbows, too!

We pulled into the parking lot of the Cypress Swamp and got out for a little nature hike just as the thunder started in earnest.  We didn’t let it scare us and we had a really nice, albeit wet, walk through the swamp.  Lots of fungi and other cool nature all around us!  It is hard to believe that at one time, ALL of the cypress trees in Louisiana had been harvested.  They are so pretty!

We made one other stop before it got too dark, and that was at the “waterfall” at Owens Creek.  My oh my, worse than the other waterfall we stopped for, but at least this time we didn’t end up hiking down (and back up) 900 feet to see it!  It started raining again, and this time it was getting dark, too, so no rainbows.  We did see lots of deer lining the parkway, so Kim did well to avoid hitting them and to drive in the rain with no streetlights.  By the time we arrived in Natchez, the rain had stopped.

On the way to our hotel, we passed Fat Mama’s Tamales, which I knew to be the home of “Fat Mama’s Knock You Naked Margarita’s”, so we were thrilled to find it was within walking distance of the hotel.  No need to tell you where we ate dinner!!  And boy, were those margaritas good!

Keeping my clothes on despite the margaritas,


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