Thursday, October 27, 2011

Songs of the South

Fellow intrepid travelers, I have just returned from a twelve-day RV adventure through the deep south. Thanks to Maureen, Scott, Ruffles, Lucy and I were able to borrow Pal, her RV, and head off to find fall color and cooler weather. 

Our first stop was not a camping night, but a visit with my friend Leah in Baton Rouge. Another friend, Linda, joined us for dinner and we had a delightful time. During our conversation, Linda and I again talked about how we share the characteristic of having a soundtrack constantly running through our minds. I roll through life accompanied by the music that has brought me there and it was certainly true during this trip.

As we left Baton Rouge the next morning, my brain tuned in "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight."
Just an ordinary story 'bout the way things go,
Round and around nobody knows,
But the highway goes on forever.

As we turned north on I-55 and headed through Mississippi, every road sign pointed to Jackson and so did I.
We got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper sprout.
We've been talkin' 'bout Jackson
Ever since the fire went out.

Just outside of Jackson, we picked up the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a beautiful, historic road that winds over 444 miles through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, from the Mississippi River at Nachez to Nashville. The parkway is part of the National Park system, so it is beautifully maintained, with numerous pull-outs, parks, historical markers and rest stations along the way. It a perfect ride for an RV because the speed limit is lower (50mph) and no commercial vehicles are allowed. There is no development on the parkway either, which means you don't have gas stations, restaurants or anything else for that matter. You have to exit for the individual towns along the way if you have needs. 

I was surprised to see cotton fields along the Parkway, especially with cotton still unharvested. I thought it was picked earlier than October. You know what song is coming, except I couldn't help but sing it the way we did when we were little.
Oh when those cotton bolls get rotten
You got a lot of rotten cotton
In those old cotton fields back home. 
We camped at Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi one night and, being in Tupelo, Elvis was "always on my mind." The predominant song wasn't one of his though, it was the Alannah Myles tribute, "Black Velvet" that I sang all night, thinking of that sweet boy. 
Black velvet and that little boy smile.
Black velvet and that slow southern style.
A new religion that will bring you to your knees.
Black velvet if you please.

The Natchez Trace Parkway ends in Nashville, where it merges into Tennessee highway 100. Right there, where it merges, sits the Loveless Cafe. It used to be a cafe and Motor Court, but now it's just a cafe, and what a cafe. Those of you who watch Food Network have no doubt seen the Loveless on there several times. Diners, Drive-in and Dives filmed an episode and Bobby Flay challenged their "Biscuit Lady" to a Throw Down

The food is simple, down-home food cooked perfectly. We ate there twice, on the way up and again on the way back down. Both times I thought of the singer Patty Loveless. I don't have a clue about whether she is related to the Cafe owners, but I love her voice. 
If my heart had windows
You'd see a heart full of love just for you. 

The next leg of the trip took us up into Kentucky, where we really began to see some fall color. We visited Mammoth Cave and did the Historical Cave Tour and then headed east to the mountains and Cumberland Falls State Park. What a beautiful park. Kentucky has it designated a Resort Park for good reason. There are cabins, a main lodge (built by the DuPonts,) swimming pools, riding trails for horses and hiking trails for humans. I bet is wonderful spot for a family summer vacation. But in the fall it is quieter and the color is spectacular. Take a look.

The whole time we were in Kentucky I was either singing "Coal Miner's Daughter"
Well I was born a coal miner's daughter.
In a cabin on a hill called Butcher Holler.

or "Kentucky Rain."
Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead's another town that I'll go walking through
With the rain in my shoes
Searching for you
In the cold Kentucky ra a a a a a ain
In the cold Kentucky rain.

It also rained several times while we were there, something my soul needed, but it didn't help get that rain song out of my head. 

Our last day in Kentucky was spent on the Bluegrass Parkway, which takes you through the "horse country" near Lexington and along the Historic Distillery Trail. We stopped at the Four Roses Distillery and bought some bourbon for the poker guys, but Jim Beam was just down the road. Every time I saw the sign I thought of Hank Williams, Jr. This was before I knew about his recent, stupid remarks about the President. But, even if I had known, I probably would still have sung - 
Lordy I have loved some ladies
And I have loved Jim Beam
And they both tried to kill me in 1973.
When my doctor asked me
"Son, how'd you get in this condition?"
I said, "Hey sawbones, I'm just carrying on 
An old family tradition.

 By this time we are getting tired of being on the road and are ready to be home in our own bed. The problem was that we were still a long way from there. We spent the last few days driving on interstates, later into the night that we had been to make up some time. Here my mind scanned through all the trucker songs I knew, particularly Eddie Rabbit's "Driving My Life Away" and Kathy Mattea's "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses." Here are some shots from the road.

Sunset, near Oxford, MS

Some of that Kentucky rain

Fall color on the interstate

Along the Bluegrass Parkway
Our last tourist stop was in Vicksburg, MS where we visited the Civil War Battleground and National Cemetery. I wasn't singing "Dixie," "Yankee Doodle" or anything else here. I guess the death and tragedy took up all the bandwidth and there was no room for song.

It was a good trip and we had a wonderful time. Sometime later I'll discuss the pros and cons of RV travel, but for now I'm just happy to be home. Thanks for stopping by.