US Road Trip Travelog: 4th March 2005

Searching the internet late - very late - last night I realise I may have made a few mistakes when trying to find music in Jackson and Vicksburg:

More online research is obviously the answer. Won't help me much regarding tonight's stop, where there really doesn't seem to be anything going on, but may well make a difference in the future.

The Riviera is strangely reluctant to start, which I guess is either due to the amount of miles we've covered (I forgot to mention the 76,000 mile mark being passed on the way up to Jackson) or the fact that yesterday afternoon involved a lot of starting and stopping with few miles in between. I think a proper service, looking at plugs and leads and tuning the carb, could well be in order. Another lube job probably wouldn't do any harm either.

Once started, the drive down Highway 61 to Natchez is an absolute breeze - sun out, traffic light and all is well with the world. This part of Highway 61 is being changed to dual carriageway, and the way they're doing it is simply to build another two lanes about 10 yards from the existing road. So there are a lot of roadworks, but also a lot of straight bits between them where I can try an Italian de-coke on the engine. The car may not need it but it sure is fun.

My motel in Natchez is the Ramada Hilltop. I thought that Ramada were an up-market motel chain but this place is a dump. It has one redeeming feature - great views over the Mississippi - but the rooms are dank and smelly and the restaurant and bar are both closed for refurbishment (strangely not mentioned on their website). Maybe they ought to have thought about refurbishing the rooms before doing the lounge.

Even more annoying is that their internet access is nonexistent. US motel chains, in general, use the term 'dataport' to denote an RJ-45 socket and an ethernet connection. Ramada, however, uses the term dataport to mean a socket in the side of the phone for a dial-up connection. In my books that's lying, and it's certainly no use to me.

Having parked-up and unloaded the thing to do is to head for the centre of town. I was fairly sure, looking at the map, that this would mean driving. After a mile or so into town I realised I could walk it, so returned he car to the motel and set off on foot. Obviously I'm the only person to have ever done this, as there's no sidewalk down from the motel or easy way over Highway 84, but then I'm used to that by now.

Floating casino in Natchez
Floating riverboat casino in Natchez. The "Big wheels keep on turning" are roulette and the only "Rolling down the river" would be the dice.

On the walk in I decide to head off left to Natchez Under-The-Hill. It's dominated by the riverboat casino - all casinos in Mississippi have to be floating - but further along is the saloon.

Natchez Under-The-Hill Saloon
Natchez Under-The-Hill Saloon. It has a door that creaks when you open it, just like in the best Westerns.

This place is a real find - built in the 1830's and it seems to have just accumulated junk as decor in the meantime. Probably the most atmospheric bar I've found so far, and it poses more questions than it can answer. I'm particularly interested in the corner near the piano given over to Jerry Lee Lewis. Did he play here once? Is it just the personal preference of some previous owner? Who knows.

Saloon interior
The inside of the saloon.

There's no live music in the Under-The-Hill Saloon tonight, but I'm told there may be some later at a few places in town tonight. When I get to the centre I find that all the restaurants are just closing for the afternoon so retreat back to my motel room.

Antebellum house in Natchez
An antebellum house in Natchez. Many are open to the public and walking round these is the reason most people visit here. No, I have no idea what 'antebellum' means.

Derelict house in Natchez
These boarded-up houses are probably not 'antebellum' and are definitely not on any of the guided tours around Natchez.

Later that evening and the crazy Brit is off walking again. After a dinner of grilled catfish I find that Dimples Lounge appears to have a live band playing tonight. I've given up any hope of finding any blues music in Mississippi, so anything will do. The band - I couldn't work out from the barmaid's accent if they're called Bliss or Bless - are a fairly average lot (though they do manage halfway decent cover of the Georgia Satellite's 'Keep Your Hands To Yourself'). The real interest for me, though, is in dealing with the locals. Many are keen that I have a good time "Whatever you may have heard about the Deep South / Mississippi". Well, I hadn't heard anything so that shouldn't be an issue.

Around midnight I'm fairly sure that the band are just playing the same song over and over. Things are also getting 'lively' in Dimples, especially in the group out with the Army lad on leave back from Irag (pronounced "Eye-Rack"), and I get the feeling that there are others in Dimples jealous of the free drinks and attention from the ladies that he's getting. That'll be the right time for me to waddle off back to my motel then.

US Road Trip Travelog: 5th March 2005 >