We should have after visiting New Orleans, Memphis & Nashville. But then both of us are a bit of a lost cause when it comes to music.
Our overnight bayou is not far from the big smoke – New Orleans. A helpful lady at one of the Welcome Centre has suggested we park in Algiers and catch the ferry across to the city. This was after we ignored her suggestion of a camping ground! Amazingly we find a great little parking area with a little man in a box (so we have to pay – but we have a guard), we leave GR2 and catch the ferry over the river. Great little ferry ride for $2 each, and its takes us right in to the city centre. We spend hours wandering around the city – the French Quarter with the gorgeous wrought iron railings draped with flowers, the gorgeous St Louis Cathedral, the Croissant P’Or Patisserie (we just had to stop as it had started to bucket down! And of course indulge), and the markets. Everywhere there were musicians set up on street corners playing awesome jazz. The least exciting part was the touristy section of Bourbon St with an overabundance of tacky bars. This was where most of the tourists were congregated. Lunch we tried a local meal – Muffuletta (fancy name for a sandwich with meat, cheese & olives). John didn’t want to risk something too hot!! In the afternoon we purchased a Trolley bus pass and road the trolleys. Especially enjoyed the ride through the Garden District with all its magnificent homes. We had been toying with the idea of going on the Paddle steamer, but by now feel a bit pooped & really want to check GR2. Our guard will be gone by now & this city has a terrible reputation. On the ferry we meet a local lady who shares her experiences of Katrina (very interesting as we had looked through an exhibit about Katrina in the museum) & she said “That paddle steamer is sooo boring!”. Think we got a reprieve there. Then she suggests a great place to eat back in the city. It is rather tempting to go back, but in the end we decide to move GR2 over the river embankment & camp there for the night. Awesome spot to sit and watch the city & all the ships going by. This must be the best camp spot in New Orleans – and free!!
In the morning we decide to hit the road. It is hot & muggy and we can’t be bothered going back over to the city. So after a walk along the embankment we are off. Onto the motorway system & through the city in no time at all. Then we head north on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway – 23.8miles of bridge with rain most of the way. Finally back on the back roads. We hear a siren – “What now”. The local policeman has pulled us over for a chat. He even gives us a no plate for our rather large collection. Finally in to Baton Rouge, right to the centre to see the Capitol Building. We see it through rain. It is too late to go in. This city is pretty rundown, so we drive on, finally reaching the cute town of St Francisville where we camp at the boat ramp for the night. As it is Saturday night there are lots of boaties coming & going and John chats to most of them. One guy who arrives with his boat has a gun in his holster – It is for shooting snakes. He is going to catch frogs (to eat) & play with ‘gators!!
In the morning we explore the lovely township before heading to a nearby plantation. I have picked out one of the many to visit – mainly using the criteria of how close it is to our route & its opening hours. So we head in to Rosedown Plantation. Wander the grounds (which would have been fabulous when they still had their 450 slaves!) & had a tour of the house. One stunning fact that stuck in my mind was: those poor slaves worked 18 hours a day, 6 days a week! While the owners lived in luxury.
Time to head north. We are going to follow the Natchez Trace Parkway – a road that is a National Park – 444 miles long and not much wider than the road. But first we visit Natchez itself. As I am starving we stop at the Pig Out Inn for some awesome ribs (dry rubbed & smoked) with some great smoked baked beans. Delicious. Oh and I do so love the iced sweet tea to go with it. (We did share one meal) Then to make up for that we do the walking tour of town. But it is hot, hot, hot.
Finally on to the Trace Parkway. It is like driving through a green tunnel with an archway of trees above you. We stop for the night in one of their free camping areas. Sadly too hot for a fire. In the morning we continue through our green tunnel, but decide to detour out to visit Jackson – capitol of this State. The road in is very roly poly, and shops etc are empty & rundown. First we head to the museum. It’s closed, so we continue to the Capitol Building & we are in time for a free tour. As we are the only tourists we have a great chance to chat to our guide. Anyway, back out of town & onto the Trace. But before long John is finding he is getting sleepy. Must be tunnel vision!! So we leave the Trace again to follow back roads. At Sardis Dam we stop for a swim before heading around the lake to find a spot right on the beach for the night.
This morning we arrive in Memphis. In fact we roll in near Gracelands, so that is our first stop. Naturally we do the tour of the house. Can’t believe the hordes of visitors. To start with we are all squashed up together, but it is not long before we all thin out. It turns out to be an awesome visit. Then of course all the shops where you can buy all things Elvis – we didn’t splurge! Back to GR2 we decide to head in to the city centre to explore (after picking up more cheap diesel – John does so love his Gasbuddy app). On the way in we see The Sun Studio (we have purchased tickets for this tour) so we change our plans & stop. Deserted looking, rundown area – hope GR2 will be OK. Head in for our tour – again pretty good as the girl taking the tour is soo enthusiastic. This is where Elvis, Jonny Cash, ….. and many others first started.
Well down to the river front - & no we can’t camp there like we were told. Oh well – we walk in to Beale St (the famous music hub) to explore. Again there is music playing, even though it is mid afternoon, & there are neon lights, souvenir shops & restaurant/bars everywhere. Plenty of aging tourists too. Naturally I am starving, so we stop. This will be lunch/dinner, so we don’t share. John has the catfish & of course I have the ribs. Yummo. Although John did comment that after eating all those ribs, mine can no longer be seen!
We head across the border in to Arkansas to find a lakeside spot for the night. We did try the Ski Club first, but the sign about shooting first & asking questions later deterred us. We went to our ever favorite boat ramp instead. Here John had a good chat with a local who was fishing with his bow & arrows! Now that would be hard.
Arkansas was just a quick visit. Then back in to Mississippi to pop in to Tupelo (where Elvis was born – not that we bothered with that – John went to the car museum instead. Before picking up The Trace again. Yay our camp site is in the forest and so much cooler we can even have a fire in our fire ring! The final section heads in to Nashville. Our last big music destination. And boy this is a big vibrant city. Some amazing estates/homes – and no we didn’t see either Nicole or Keith! But we did stop at the very famous diner just out of town. We lucked on it as we passed – there were long queues! & we actually waited. Again share a meal of local Southern food starting with biscuits (which we would call scones) then fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, creamed corn…..
It is getting late by the time we get to the city centre, so too late for a tour at the Capitol Building, so we do our own. Then drive around town before deciding to park & explore on foot. Of course there are heaps of bars & restaurants all with musicians playing & singing. And tourists everywhere. After a good gander & stopping to listen in a few bars we decide this isn’t really our scene and we hit the road. Find a nice quiet spot beside a river for the night. Our last side trip in Tennessee is to the Jack Daniels Distillery in a tiny town called Lynchburg. The free tour is amazing – very informative. And no we didn’t buy any! Time to head in to Alabama…
See y’all soon.