Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee)

After almost a week in Alabama and Louisiana–including a day in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a night spent on a houseboat Airbnb on the Vermillion River, none of which I seem not to have photographed–a we rounded off our amazing 2016 Southern Road Trip with a two day drive up the Natchez Trace Parkway, starting in Jackson Mississippi, spending the night in Tupelo (birthplace of Elvis Presley), crossing through a corner of Alabama, and finishing up only 30 minutes from Nashville. 

What was so neat about driving through 400 miles of this pristine strip of parkland was how drastically the landscape changed from start to finish. I’d love to spend more time on the Parkway one day and go all the way to its end in Natchez, Mississippi.

 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

Mississippi: RUST + Shack Up Inn


Sunday morning in Clarksdale, my friend took me to the unbelievably cool Shack Up Inn, where we ate at their restaurant RUST. Shack Up Inn is located on the former Hopson Plantation and features minimally modernized sharecropper cabins (“the ritz we ain’t”) as well as rooms in the cotton gin and other outbuildings. The Inn is a music venue, featuring regular performances as well as being a large venue for the annual Juke Joint Festival. Our food was fantastic and despite being unsure of a cocktail menu featuring only beer- and cider- based drinks, my “Hillbilly Cocktail” of orange juice and cider was pretty great. rustinn3




[35mm shot with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more posts about Mississippi.]

Tallahatchie County, Mississippi


In Tallahatchie County, Mississipi, there is a tiny historically African American town called Glendora (population 285). When I drove to down to visit a friend in Clarksdale, we made the trip down to Glendora to visit the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC), where the Mayor of Glendora runs a small museum dedicated to understanding and healing through knowledge of the horrible events surround Emmett’s brutal murder in 1955.

It was a somber and rainy as we drove past flat fields and cyprus swamps on our way to ETHIC. When we arrived at the old cotton gin where the center is housed (the same place Emmett’s murders went to get a large fan to sink his body), the center was closed. There was a number on the door and a note asking visitors to please call for admission. The mayor answered the phone and informed us he was at a funeral. Of course, we said it was no problem and we’d just come back another time, but he insisted on coming over from the tiny church visible across a field, and showing us around. It was moving evidence of how dedicated he was to sharing the painful story of Emmett Till and the center’s message of healing and reconciliation.

In case you don’t know, Emmett Till was a 14 year old Black boy who, after coming from Chicago to visit extended family in Mississippi, was brutally tortured and murdered by two white men after he reportedly flirted with a white woman. His body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River with a industrial fan tied to his neck. The men were acquitted, and protected from further prosecution, then told the story of how they tortured him in detail to Look magazine.

After his body was sent back to Chicago, Emmett’s mother insisted on an open casket so that the world could see what had been done to her child. The images of his mutilated face were published all over the country, starkly showing white Americans the cost of Jim Crow and racism. Emmett’s death, the acquittal of his murderers, and the press coverage of his funeral were a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend taking a visit to ETHIC to learn more about Emmett Till and his legacy.


[35mm shot with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more pictures of my travels in the US.]

Clarksdale, Mississippi: Home of the Devil’s Crossroads


About this time last year, I was feeling a bit cooped up and landlocked in Nashville, where I had just moved in September. It was a big change to go from two years in Iceland and Denmark to life in Tennessee. While feeling a bit sorry for myself, I happened to see on Facebook that an old friend from undergrad in Maryland was living in Clarksdale, Mississippi. After some quick calculations, I realized it was only a four or five hour drive away. I asked if I could come stay for the weekend, and all of a sudden my eyes were opened to all the interesting places you can get to from Nashville in under six hours.


Clarksdale, Mississippi is a small city in the northwestern part of the state. It’s the seat of a country bordering the Mississippi River, and you can reach Memphis in about an hour and a half. It’s great claim to fame is as the hometown of many great names from the Delta Blues tradition. In fact, it is at a crossroads in Clarksdale where legend says Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for the Blues. If you aren’t up to snuff with your blues history, you may still be familiar with a version of this story told in O Brother Where Art Thou, where they pick up “Tommy Johnson” at a crossroads in Mississippi.


I arrived late on Friday night, and we headed down to the main street where there was a cool place to pizza and some local beer. Saturday, we drove down to Glendora, where Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. There we visited the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC), where the Mayor of Glendora (population 285) runs a small museum dedicated to understanding and healing through knowledge of the horrible events surround the young boy’s death. It was rainy and somber that day we drove down to the Center then back up to Memphis to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel. More on that when I post the pictures of the site. But on Sunday, it was sunny and bright. The streets were completely empty as we wandered around the downtown area. The only exception was singing coming from the little town churches.


The beautiful Americana downtown had clearly seen better days, but there was still some life left and hopeful pockets of renovation. Every year, Clarksdale hosts the Juke Joint Festival, bringing crowd of blues fans to the city to enjoy the music and culture of the Mississippi Delta. This and some blues tourism seems enough to keep the doors open on music shops and other creative small businesses.


If you like celebrity happenings, you may be interested to know that Morgan Freeman, Memphis native and current resident of nearby Charleston, Mississippi, co-owns a blues club in Clarksdale called Ground Zero (as in ground zero for blues). It’s pictured below.





[35mm shot with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more pictures of my travels in the US.]

And don’t forget to check out my podcast about museums and travel, Museums in Strange Places, available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcast fix.