Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tracing the Trace to Vicksburg

As I noted yesterday, travel brings unexpected joys and excitement. Wednesday illustrated the sometimes mixed nature of travel.

The Peabody Hotel in Memphis was delightful. We’d stay there again, anytime. But getting out of there proved a logistical challenge. It took forty minutes. Sharon subsequently complained to the hotel and received what seemed like a sincere apology.

One last shot of the Peabody ducks

And if you own a car with GPS and have become reliant on that double-edged sword, you will not be surprised to hear that getting from Memphis onto the Natchez Trace Parkway without a real (i.e. paper) map was a time consuming challenge. It was 1:00 before we hit the parkway.

Fortunately, as you can see, the Natchez Trace is all that guidebooks and its reputation promised it would be. For those who don’t know it, the Natchez Trace, created at the start of the 19th century, was the main road linking the north and south in what was then the extreme west of the newly emerging United States. It traversed streams, rivers, bayous and swamps, connecting them with the Gulf of Mexico and the world. It was the land route along the Mississippi River, a post road and it linked together settlements, both European and indigenous, and missions to the Indians. As an historian, I know how much more fluid ethnic relations were in early America. The rich variety of the Trace illustrates that point.

The modern roadway

What it's about

A mound. They were excavated in 1935.
The original roadway

This was the original "road." Imagine horses, carriages, sleds.
Not quite sure what this settlement is about, whether it is a recreation or not, but it commemorates a native American leader who interacted successfully with the European settlers and a later plantation

This may have been the most interesting stop of the day

I used several different settings to try to capture the feel of the place. Apparently there are alligators, though we did not see them. We did see and feel some mosquitoes. But it was worth it.

The black and white image may be the most successful.

The problem was that we had less time to enjoy it than we might have liked, and so when we hit open countryside I tried to cover some miles quickly. Can’t do that on the parkway, at least not when a National Park Service cop is coming toward you with his VASCAR on. 82/50. Very expensive. Yikes.

We finally got to Vicksburg around 7:00, got settled in the hotel and went out in search of dinner. Up to that point we had eaten in roadside stops and Memphis establishments. So Wednesday night dinner at The Beechwood in Vicksburg was, in some ways, our first real southern, Mississippi Delta meal. Yum! That renaissance you have heard and read about in southern cooking is real. The crab stuffed blackened redfish was to die for. Gulf oysters were a good starter, too. Waylon Halen (I’m not making this up), in the juke joint out back was . . . beyond words. I assume his mother loves him. I assume she also must own The Beechwood. Otherwise there was no excuse.

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