US Road Trip Travelog: 3rd March 2005

Jackson has an interesting approach to managing speed on the roads in the city. Rather than impose limits or fines they simply let the roads deteriorate to the point where anything over 20 MPH is likely to tear the suspension off the underside of the car. The roads have sudden sharp dips, ridges and potholes everywhere. Maybe the city fathers get backhanders from Monroe or Koni. It's an effort to keep the car on a straight course, and even the interstates aren't exempt. Once on the I-20 west the road gets smoother. Another side to the oddness of Jackson.

My next stop, some 35 miles west on I-20, is Vicksburg. I'm not expecting a lot from Vicksburg music-wise as its main attraction for tourists is the role it played in the American Civil War, when the town held-out against the Union forces from the north in a siege lasting almost 2 months. The main road - Washington Street - is certainly very pretty but unfortunately has dreadful piped music all along it. I know not why. Is it some kind of Disney thing?

Washington Street
Washington Street, Vicksburg. Be thankful you can't hear the musak.

As you can see from the photo above, downtown Vicksburg is heaving. There's some sort of Coca-Cola museum here, and when I go in the cafe opposite (all decorated with Coke memorabilia) for a burger I think it may well make the paper as a major moment in local tourism. All three of the eating places / bars / possible music venues recommended in The Blues Highway are either closed or have changed use. The visitors centre give me a recent map of local attractions, which includes a blues museum not mentioned in the book. That too has gone, and is now home to some sort of religious organisation.

Floating casino in Vicksburg
A floating casino in Vicksburg. They probably ought to change the road sign to read 'Stop While You're Ahead'.

Since I have more than enough vices without adding gambling to the list I avoid the casinos and head out to the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum. The museum itself is rubbish - unless you like lots of toy soldiers, model boats and crap paintings - but there's a half hour film on the siege which is very good at describing what the conditions were like for the soldiers and people of the town at the time.

One thing that had never really occurred to me is that the American Civil War, certainly in European terms, happened relatively recently (the 1860's). Vicksburg certainly seems to take pride in its history as the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Most shops around have varying degrees of Confederate merchandise, most of it funny and some of it a bit scary - a few of the bumper stickers on sale made me wish my car didn't have a Yankee licence plate.

The good news is that at last I manage to find a decent place to buy CD's, The Be-Bop Record Shop, and so can add some Otis Redding (that Stax museum has a lot to answer for), Dusty Springfield and Drive-By Truckers - loud Southern country-punk - to my ever-increasing on-road collection. Better still, I can avoid TV for another evening.

US Road Trip Travelog: 4th March 2005 >