Day 20 – New Orleans

I’m goin’ to Louisiana, get myself a mojo hand ’Cause these backbitin’ women, are tryin’ to take my man. —Ida Cox, “Mojo Hand Blues,” 1927

Today is our last road trip. Leland to New Orleans. We must be excited as we are on the road at 7:35. We have to head back toward Indianola before heading to New Orleans. Skye and her group are tracking one day behind us. We are on U.S. 49 South aiming at Yazoo City (45 miles). Bernie explains that there is a method to the highway system. You know you are traveling North or South if the numbers are odd i.e. I49 and you would be traveling East or West with even an even-numbered highway. I think you can find a museum for everything in the U.S., we just passed the Catfish Museum. We are now crossing the impressive Yazoo River and we decided to stop and have morning tea at Kudzu Coffee. Oh, how good was the cinnamon bun? We turn right onto I220 (remember the numbering system)? Hoff takes over the driving duties.

The difference in the landscape between Monument Valley and what we are seeing now is virtually world’s apart. We are on the Bo Diddley Memorial highway and a bit further along we are traveling past a Lynyrd Skynyrd monument.

As we approached the small town of Silver City there was a Sherriff’s van on the grass median strip with lights flashing. A sign warned of a major incident ahead. Once we reached the town itself we noticed that a tornado had been through the area. Trees are stripped bare and one house was completely destroyed.

It is 11:32 and we pass the Welcome to Louisiana road sign. Stopping off in Hammond we hit Lee’s Diner for an early lunch. The waitress was worried about Australia being such a dangerous country, what with our spiders. snakes and fighting kangaroos. Back on the road and our last leg into NOLA. WWOZ is playing on the radio. We could have taken a more direct route (slightly shorter) but instead decide to cross the Lake Pontchartrain causeway, which is a mere 23 miles long.

The traffic is heavy once we reach NOLA. New Orleans drivers are aggressive with regard to their speed and lane changing. The potholes have not gotten any smaller since my last visit. We reached our home which will be our base for two weeks. It is only a block from a great foodies street (Freret St) which is in the area known as Uptown. We have a fantastic two-story apartment. Cara and her friend Tayla will join us here for the second week of Jazz Fest.

Our beautiful friend Pat has organized a welcome to NOLA crawfish boil at her neighbor’s home. It is going to be great to catch up with Pat and Bob ‘Gentily Jnr.’ two very dear friends. I now hand over to my Junior Correspondent Hoff to tell you how the night went:

First night in New Orleans

We’ve made haste today, We are goin’ to a crawfish boil at Rob and Wendy’s longtime NOLA friends,
Bob and Pat. Charlie, their neighbor is playing host for us tonight, Ronnie, another local, is doing the
boil. Clearly, we are the guests of honor as the Australian flag is hanging in pride of place on Charlie’s
Ronnie, an expert at boiling crawfish, is currently cleaning them and has two big boilers on the
go. The first already has potatoes cooking and in time will add other vegetables added such as
mushrooms, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, onions, corn, and garlic. Crawfish cleaned, and drained are
added straight to the boiler.It’s a quick process, we hear no squeals and, hopefully, they feel no pain.

There are other guests coming tonight and they include Claudette and her sister Kathleen, Dorothy, and Huey. Huey, a retired butcher, still makes his own snags and he has brought a small selection to
barbecue for us… and they are delicious. Meanwhile, Ronnie cooks the crawfish for 5 or so minutes,
then it’s time to add the flavor to both the veggies and the Crawfish and just let them soak it up.
Spices include a whole bottle of a Cajun Crawfish boil additive, the usual suspects of freshly ground
spices, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, thyme, oregano, dry mustard,
dill weed, bay leaves. and a fair bit more of that cayenne pepper. You can smell the flavors in
the air.
We are each given a full tray of crawfish and asked to take a selection of the prepared vegetables.
These vegetables are called fixin’s – almost like you would refer to condiments or accessories to the
meal. Everybody is digging in. It takes a lot of twisting and peeling and the locals are keen to first suck
out the head and then attack the tail.

Photo 2. Homemade Sausage Photo 3. Size of Crawfish plate for each of us!

The conversation is cordial as we stay away from politics, religion, and the contentious second
amendment gun rights. Although Bernie does throw out the “Joe Biden” and Rob the “gun” words!
There are some cracker homemade brownies on offer for dessert and a cup of vanilla ice cream.
After a little bit of cleaning up and some reminiscing by our party of visits to America and some of their
party on visits to Australia, we have all loosened up and got to know each other. It’s been a
long day and we make a gracious and thankful exit. Southern hospitality lives up to its reputation
here in New Orleans.

Day 19 – Ode to Billie Joe

Sun gonna shine in my back door someday An’ the wind gonna change gonna blow my blues away. —Tommy Johnson, “Maggie Campbell Blues,” 1928

We are on the road at 7:30 in search of coffee. The first stop before the caffeine rush is to pull up at the Riverside Hotel. The hotel was used as a stopping-off point for Blues performers on their way to Chicago. It is also the hotel in which the famed blues singer Bessie Smith died after a car accident. We were pointed in the direction of Yazoo Pass coffee, and we are now ready for the road.

We are on U.S. 49 East/South and we are very surprised the see that there is a road sign saying the Emmett Till Memorial Highway. Wow, that is a change of heart for the state of Mississippi. We found Bryant’s Grocery, now in ruins. There is a Civil Rights memorial marker explaining the history of what happened here. I am sure many of you have recently viewed the Emmet Till movie.

Now on to Greenwood. We stopped off at Robert Johnson’s grave site at the First Little Zion M.B. church. There is some conjecture about the documented site of Johnson’s grave but it does not stop us from paying homage to the legendary Bluesman.

The next stop is the Tallahatchie Bridge, made famous in the 1967 release of Ode To Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry. The original wooden bridge collapsed in 1972 after being set alight by vandals. The boulevard into the town is picturesque, tree-lined with many impressive homes.

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y’all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Today is a sort of get-in and get-out sort of day as we visit historical sites one after another on our way to our overnight stop in Leland, Mississippi.

Indianola was the birthplace and is now the resting place of the one and only B.B. King (died 14/05/2015, aged 89). He returned every year for his Indianola homecoming. There has been a museum and interpretive center in the town since 2008. The last time I was here Mr. King was still alive. There are now more exhibits to view, including his personal studio, Rolls Royce, ute, and tour bus. When you exit the museum you are directed to a very tasteful memorial to the great man at his final resting place.

We stopped off for lunch at another roadside Mexican diner (when will we learn?) called Los Molcuajettes. Average food, good service, and unlimited Dr. Pepper. At 2:07 we are on our way to Greenville. Bernie is after a couple of long-sleeved t-shirts for bike riding and he wants to find a T J Maxx outlet. We pulled into a Mall and there was the outlet. I tell you without a lie we were nearly the only people in the whole complex. I had to find a rest room which took me to another department store. An older employee looked a little suspiciously at me and asked what I was looking for. I am looking a little unkempt, I know. Anyway, I did what I had to do and, as I exited, I saw a security man waiting for me just to make sure, I guess, that I was legit.

We then stopped off at the Cypress Preserve Trust, a sixteen-acre cypress break in what is known as a slough. A slough is a wetland depression or swamp in which cypress trees grow. the cypress likes slow-moving water. There is a warning sign to be aware of. ‘Leaves of three let be’. It will be poison ivy.

We make our final stop at Leland. Leland was the childhood home of the Muppets creator Jim Henson and also a young Johnny Winter. The Air BnB is a little older than most of the accommodations we have stayed in but it is clean. The owner left a stack of snacks as well as bacon and eggs. Very nice gesture. She also left little pamphlets around the place about why Jesus is the man! Just to finish up a comment on the billboards we have seen while traveling through Mississippi. They are mostly ads for accident lawyers or religious musings. The most ridiculous one I noted said something like ‘ and God Created the World’ accompanied by a drawing of the classic evolution chain with a big X to cross it out.

Evolution ape to man silhouette illustration concept.