Road trip down the Natchez Trace Parkway


open road

Right now I don’t have a whole lot of vacation time built up.  I do however, need, crave, desire, and necessitate getting my head out of the day-to-day and into a completely different zone.  Don’t we all?  I am a firm believer in the European model of vacation time.  What is it again? 1 month off?  3 months off?  I’ve heard varying accounts but at any rate this 5 vacation days a year that I get is malarkey.  Unfortunately though, I’m stuck with it until I can come up with a better plan.

But…In keeping with my ever-positive attitude of making the best of things I decided to take a road trip down the Natchez Trace.  The vacation time I took was just a Friday and Monday, coupled with the weekend.  It was enough for me to come damn close to having my head in a different place.  I ignored 98% of emails, took it easy on the drive and most importantly I stopped and made photographs whenever I felt like it.  I even busted out my lovely Hasselblad and photographed with a light meter and real slide film.  It was divine.

Loveless cafe

The trip for the 444-mile journey started in Nashville, TN and ended in Natchez, MS. The obvious first stop along the route was a tasty breakfast at the famous Loveless Cafe.  Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits.  There was some other stuff in there too.  Coffee, definitely. But oh, those biscuits.
Loveless Cafe Biscuits

The Lewis County Museum of Natural History in Hohenwald, TN was the next stop.  It might be my favorite one of this trip. They were funny about me photographing in there – security reasons, or something like that.  I wasn’t able to make any images of that experience and that bummed me out, but Wow!  What a hidden treasure of natural history goodness this place holds.  Way back in the day, a husband and wife team by the name of Maddox donated their animal trophy collection to the museum so that the people of the area could see what these rare animals look like.  In the collection there is a leopard, polar bears, rare big game animals from Africa, all sorts of mountain sheep, exotic birds, even a tiger.  I was surprised at the magnitude and exceptional condition of the collection.  Besides being in need of a little dusting, they looked amazing.  Interestingly enough, this museum also has a wealth of information about Meriwether Lewis from the Lewis and Clark expedition.  He lived and died in the area, thus the name of the county, and this museum does a fine job of preserving his memory.

The last stop for the evening was a hotel in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Hotel quality – not so great.  Hotel potential for photographs – off the charts!  I was super excited to see that they had an empty swimming pool there with the gate unlocked.  It was just begging to be photographed.  To add further delight and amazement, after I had to switch rooms and go up to the second floor, because the first room seemed to be in the middle of a maintenance project or something, I saw an abandoned CRT television sitting in the hallway with just the right amount of open shade light that I knew, if I came back in the morning, it would be near perfect, and it was.

Day Two started out with a Museum Excursion to Helen Keller’s Birthplace.  What an amazing story.  Here I learned more about this blind and deaf woman who did so much for people with disabilities.  The house she was born in sits behind the main house she grew up in and the entire place is surrounded with beautiful gardens.

As I headed out of Alabama and on down to Mississippi, the next stop was obvious:  It had to be The Apron Museum in Iuka, Mississippi. This one-of-a-kind museum was started by Carolyn Terry in 2006 and consists of over 2,200 aprons, ranging from vintage aprons, delicately embroidered aprons that look too fancy to actually use, work aprons worn by men and colorful aprons that traverse every holiday, occasion and possible purpose for needing an apron.  Carolyn and her husband were kind enough to talk to me for over an hour about the collection, her passion and her plans for what she will do next for the museum.

Right outside of the museum, a few doors down, I saw another unexpected photographic treat: the second abandoned television of this trip.  I didn’t think I would find one on this trip, certainly not two.  After photographing in the museum for Museum Excursion, I switched gears and photographed the TV for my obsolete technology project.

Apron Museum  


Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley, was my next stop on the Trace.  Here I had lunch at Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen in downtown Tupelo before I headed over to see where the King of Rock-n-Roll spent the first years of his life.

Elvis’ Birthplace was another highlight of this weekend.  On the site you can see the two-room house, built by Elvis’ father, grandfather and uncle, where Elvis was born.  The modest church where Elvis spent many a Sunday has been moved to the site as well.  There is an extra charge to go into this church but multi-media experience you can see in there is a real treat and well worth the extra money.  There is also a museum with items and stories from the life of Elvis Presley.

After Tupelo I headed on down to Jackson, MS where I had dinner at a tasty sushi restaurant and packed it in for the night. 


Day three, Sunday morning started out with a great brunch at Char Restaurant (I recommend the grits).  I then trekked on down to see the Civil War Battle field at Vicksburg.  It was a little further off the Trace but this has been on my must-see list for a while.

The historic events that transpired during the summer of 1863 can be seen through a museum, a 16-mile driving tour, a really cool interactive app for your phone and a tour of the Cairo – the only remaining iron-clad battleship that was used by the Union Army to help defeat the confederates.  There might even be a reenactment/demonstration of a real cannon being fired if you get there at the right time.

There were a few other photographic stops along the way but I made it to Natchez, Mississippi around dinnertime and just a little after the US started to play Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Fat Mama's Tamales was where I perched myself for the remainder of the game, enjoying a cold beer and nachos.  Ahhh…the last few seconds of that game were painful but at least the US team advanced.

So, 444 miles on the Natchez Trace. Done.  Happy I took a long weekend to get my head in another place, see some beautiful scenery, and putter at a whopping 50 miles an hour on a road with no billboards, trash or speeding semi trucks blowing you into the median.

Civil War Canon Demo  

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