If you ever read my 2013 Denver Travel Blog, you can guess what is about to go down next. I hit the road only to discover the first 15 steps in my printed directions were AWOL. Not a problem I thought. I’ll just check my GPS later when I get to Exit 59 where I turn off. As I approach the destination, I then decide that the use of GPS is silly for such an easy drive and I probably don’t need to check it. As I’m going around the western outskirts of the city, traffic is so bad that I have at least two "holy shit" moments, brought on by congested lanes and bad driving. By the time I break out of the chaos, I am so relieved and happy to be on open road that I completely forget about checking my navigation.
An hour later I am in Meridian about two hours off course to the east. My life man.
But, before that, there was a particularly cool scene that I came across. It was a few miles outside the Burg. Fields opened up on both sides of the highway. To the left, a strong population of lush, green trees with dark trunks dotted the area. All save for one that had a dull, white trunk that stood alone amongst all the others, but positioned just in the middle of the other two dozen or so trees. It was a powerful scene, made even more so by the next observation: On the field floor, right near the base of the dull tree, lay another tree with the same colored trunk as its isolated brother, compromised by an entanglement of vines and moss. I have a thing for some trees, especially the tree of life, which I see in different places. I never know where it will be but I always recognize it when I see it, so this scene made a particular impression on me. I’m thinking it might make for a good painting one day. Of course, I lack in the art department, so will have to work it out with the local talent.
Back to Meridian. I’m slapping my forehead and calling myself all kinds of dumb things when I do check my GPS and see how far off course I am. Total road fail. I have a laugh, get my bearings, touch base with my connection, and take off on a new route. I’ve got the sun going down. That’s not good. I’ve got four tires that are way overdue for a change out and I need to do close to 90 to make up for lost time. That’s not good. I’m jacked on kombucha and Bing on a still relatively empty stomach...which isn't so bad.
Where it does start getting sketchy is when I realize I have only 25% battery and no back, which means I won’t have any GPS (which obviously I need because I'm incompetent) and I won’t be able to communicate with my one connection at the University. Fun fact, my friend's phone is having its own problems and we can’t actually talk, only text. When you’re speeding down the highway at 85, texting is usually not an option.
A good two hours later, the sun is down and I have switched from total silence to the chatter of a Joe Rogan Experience (#663-Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings and Lost, check it out). I turn my phone on and off at least three times to gather as much intel as I can. Phone numbers, directions, locations, names, and trying to get it memorized. The road is getting stark and lonely. Three weeks ago I refilled my empty wind shield wiper fluid. I’ve used it a handful of times since then, but when I go to clear up my line of sight, only a short stream hits the glass before dying off completely.
Okay, I think, of all that could occur, this is probably the absolute least terrible thing that could happen.
I am moving through Greenwood with no plans to stop for food or anything else. I pull onto 49E going north. The small town of Greenwood fades away almost at once as darkness consumes what appears to be miles of empty land. Within a mile of the turn off, my windshield is bombarded with one large insect after another. What are the odds of this right now? Ten minutes later, my tired eyes force me to lean forward to see through the darkness and insect goo.
Finally, I arrive at my destination and sleep soundly till 8:14am sharp. We talk about doing a cross fit class to start the day but decide for breakfast at a local coffee joint instead.
Me and our crew, three in total, take for the Mississippi Grinder, where I score a fantastic hot chai spiced tea served at the perfect temperature for immediate consumption and a half English muffin covered in a creamy blend of cheese, bacon and egg pieces. One thing that really stands out here is the decor which you can see in the pics below. It’s a cozy spot with plenty of comfy coughs sofas and easy chairs.
One of the more interesting places we stop in at, after chatting with some vendors at a small farmer's market, is Bill Perry's Pawn Shop, which had a huge selection of goods, as well as an assortment of exotic animals. Yes, exotic animals. Lemurs, chinchillas, bunnies, an anaconda, a variety of parrots, and a baby kangaroo, hanging out in a baby's crib rigged with a small, hammock like bag.
Oh ya. Shit was cute.
The lemur and I got along pretty well. He enjoyed licking and nibbling my fingers, jumping rhythmically back and forth across his cage, and chasing my hand as I slowly moved it about. I ran my index across his toes and hands to feel the dark black skin there. It felt a lot like the bottoms of my Vibram toe shoes, which are still one of the best foot investments I’ve made when it comes to active on the go throw ons. I wonder if they made those things by studying lemur feet...
A little while later, we sat down at Hey Joe's, a great restaurant where blues, rock, and pop culture memorabilia abound. Table tops have music news clippings and pictures from various sources under the glass table tops. A stage seats customers during the day and converts to a performance space for musicians at night. Double multicolored chalk boards display daily events and activities. Vinyl records from all eras are for sale on the walls. Even the menu is designed to resemble an album cover. Inside, special items are named with pop culture references like, the Kevin Bacon and the Nirvana, which is what I went with. The burger, which contends with the house’s top seller, the Joe Burger (comes with fried egg on it), is just about what I'd call a perfect burger. Loaded with sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon, cheese, pickles, fresh tomatoes and lettuce, with the special Hey Joe sauce and even a "fighting" okra, pinned with a toothpick, to the top of the bun. It even came with a generous side salad that I dressed with an Italian-Sriracha mix.
A big factor in what made this meal so enjoyable was the perfect size of the portion. Normally when I order a burger or other meat entrees at a restaurant, I get a huge portion that stuffs me but still leaves some left for a take home box, which I generally don’t want to deal with. I was able to chow down hard on this meal without hesitation (remember my lack of food from the day before?) and only felt full right at the end as I finished, but never feeling so loaded that I didn’t want to go walking around afterwards.
We were able to sit around casually and talk about the place a little more. The group told me about Terrible Tuesdays where exceptionally bad movies are played on a projector outside which is then followed by exceptionally cheap alcoholic beverages being served at the bar inside. I, of course, humbly suggested that The Room be played in rotation to really show people what a phenomenal good-bad movie is like. The word was passed along to the staff and backed up by another patron.
Once again, the décor was a big factor here. Hey Joe's has an assortment of weird but cool pieces all around the restaurant.
Now it was time for a speedy drive down to Po Monkeys, a now legendary landmark bar on the iconic blues trail that has been in operation since 1961. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a historic marker at the Po Monkey's Lounge in 2009 designating it as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail for its contribution to the development of the blues (and one of the few authentic juke joints that is still operating today). I took a few shots and read the posted signs hanging from the very, very small one room house. "NO LOUD MUSIC. NO DOPE SMOKING. NO RAP MUSIC." The sign out front reads. This is my kind of place. I make a mental note to try to come back later that night to see what kind of action takes place, being sure to bring my small guitar that I have brought for the trip.
(Post Edit: I later found out that Po Monkeys is only open one day a week. Thursdays. Maybe next time.)
The Shrimp Sultana makes for a perfect main entrée. Served with sautéed Gulf shrimp, crawfish, onions, peppers, and garlic in a Cajun cream sauce with breadsticks, this dish is a powerhouse for someone looking to chow down. I’m fairly certain I could not have picked a better combination to dine on. On top of that, our waitress was way cute and super helpful! I even scored another sweet T-shirt to remember the good times by.
Sunday morning I prepare my equipment and spare luggage for departure. We grab breakfast at the Desert Inn, which is serving up a pretty standard morning buffet of eggs, bacon, diced potatoes, and biscuits with gravy. Shortly after, I am parting ways with my company and hitting the road (the right road) back home. My mp3 on shuffle plays Eagles of Death Metal, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and a cool Portishead number with French lyrics that I’ve never heard before. Just as the landscape opens up and the country side takes on its full beauty, Stairway to Heaven begins to play. Well played rock and roll gods. Well played.
When I got to the city limits of Gulfport, I was met with a sense of irony. The whole time I was in Cleveland it was sunny and hot. Typical of mid-July. The bugs, dirt roads, and long highways took a fair toll on my vehicle, which was quiet filthy at this point. But, as I approached my hometown, a great thunderstorm pummeled the area, washing my car clean and providing a metaphorical cleansing of the mind. When I get home, I’ll check to see how my garden has been fairing with all this good rain. I’m no farmer, but I did stay in the Delta last night.