Thursday, 7 November 2013

Little Rock, Arkansas

Our journey towards Memphis, began with a detour to Mt Vernon.  A lovely, unexpected interlude, despite why we were there.  Not long after leaving Dallas, travelling on the freeway, Robert had to swerve to avoid a ladder.  Luckily it just grazed the left hand back wheel hub.  We continued on but a short way down the track the tyre light came on in the dash board.  Fearing we may have a slow leak, we pulled off the freeway at the next exit, Mt. Vernon.  A small town, that boasted an historical square.  We pulled up in front of a huge second hand store. Robert inquired of the proprietor (who turned out to be the former mayor) where the nearest garage was.  He immediately said he had a tyre pressure guage in his truck.  Tyre pressure measure indicated everything was fine.  We stopped for lunch and a walk through the town square.  Came upon a lovely women's clothing shop where a lovely pair of jeans and a necklace with matching earrings had to accompany me home (lucky for Robert as they became my birthday present!).  On her sales bench, she had this gorgeous Halloween decoration, made from mason jar lids, cinnamon sticks and autumn leaves.  
All up it was a lovely diversion and no serious damage to the car apart from a small scratch.  However  the tyre light on the dashboard was still glowing.  Contact with the hire company took us to the next big town, Texarkana.  A repair man there took about I minute to right the tyre pressure and we continued on our way. 

We stayed overnight in Little Rock, Arkansas (Arkansaw for you Aussies). It was very pretty town set on the south bank of the Arkansas River. It has a lovely sculpture park and walk/bike track.  We enjoyed an hour or so wandering here.

    There was lovely architecture in the city as well.

President Bill Clinton Library. This is Bills home city and state. Our program did not allow for a tour of this impressive modern building in a beautiful setting, may be next time.

We had dinner in a great restaurant that served fabulous Southern food (South on Main). Hush Puppies, deep fried corn balls. Turnip greens.  Fried green tomatoes. Corn bread.  Cat fish.  And a delicious Mint Julep.  The chef came and chatted with us.  When he heard we were heading to Memphis & Nashville, he gave us a list of five or six restaurants in both cities.  (These ended up living up to his recommendation).

   One disturbing sign we saw in town was this one.  

   Our journey to Clarksdale, took us through cotton country.

    These barns are such an American icon.

Bye for now.  More from Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Robyn & Robert,
The Tourin'Travellers 

Clarksdale, Mississippi

First impressions of this town, were of how tired it is now after once being the centre of Blues Music. The great Muddy Waters was regularly playing here. The draw card to town was the Blues Museum, which houses so much history of musicians of a bygone era.  

First place to visit was the "Ground Zero" club.  Owned by Morgan Freeman.
Yes! it looks very run down.  It is meant to be that way to echo how things looked when cotton picking was labour intensive and music was an escape from the drudgery. Inside was pretty much the same.
     The walls and surfaces were coved in graffiti, purposely.
     No expense spared for the table accoutrements!

    This entry caught our eye!

Following the visit to the museum we wandered the streets of Clarksdale.
   Needing lunch we entered this place. Great sandwiches and funky old decor.
 Inside we met Charlie Musselwhite (famed blues harmonica player) doing the same as us.  We last saw him at the Jazz festival in Wangaratta (earlier this year).  We didn't get to chat with him there though.  He was very gracious and told us not to miss Robert Belfour at "Little Red's" that night. Charlie, originally from Memphis is building a new home on the edge of Clarksdale. He is planning to be at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2014.
   The other sites in town.

    Scene of Blues Cafe, a very small music venue, operating on an occasional basis.

Walked into this shop, Cat Head, to be serenaded by a guitarist who was practising for the International Blues Challenge. It was great to be serenaded while we browsed. 
We entered this shop thinking it was a second hand shop.  We still aren't sure what they were selling, however the proprietor, a man about 40yrs old, started chatting.  After hearing where we were staying, he said, "Don't walk around at night without one of these" and pulled a small hand gun from his pocket!!!!!
A small clothing shop caught our eye, because it was a sale (50% off) of second hand things.  Robert bought a fabulous hat for $12. The proprietress, Madge, has another interest, urban redevelopment and had just spent 3 weeks in Fitzroy. Ballarat was part of her study tour. Small world eh!!  We forgot to take a photo of the shop front.

That afternoon we travelled to Oxford a university town one hour from Clarksdale.  It's a very English town.  The town hall with the double decker buses that roam the city.  Named after it's sister in UK.

   Some of the dwellings.

    Halloween was imminent.

Back in Clarksdale.........So this is the outside of "Little Red's".  I'm sure we could be forgiven for thinking the place we'd heard about was not a working concern. However we came along later that night and were admitted.  Robert Belfour is 73 yrs old.  He started playing at 9.00pm. Went non-stop until 11.00pm. Stopped briefly and started again.  We had to give up around midnight.  Goodness knows what time he eventually stopped. We bought one of his CD's though and will remember the night each time we play it. (I can see where the White Stripes got their inspiration from).

    The front door!
   Inside was very small and only beer was sold!

     Further shots of the town.
    The Sunflower River.
    I'm not sure whether the Greyhound buses still come here, but the lights still flash!

The crossroads mentioned in the song by Robert Johnson.  Although it is disputed as to it's authenticity.  Several other crossroads vie for the honour.  Still we liked this one.  The guitar sculpture is great.

At a small settlement called Shackup Inn, about 2-3 miles out of town.  There is a music venue, surrounded by shacks that are reminiscent of the cotton workers huts, where people can stay. In its hey day it was a huge settlement with a commissary that had its own currency.

Outside the pub is the police vehicle used n the Blues Brothers movie.
    We think this firetruck was from the movie too.

So that's Clarksdale.  We were drawn here because it's where Robert Johnson wrote "Cross roads".  It seems like a pretty sad run down place now, however closer study revealed quite a few gems. Amazing to think of all the great music that evolved from this area.

Next entry from Memphis.
Cheers for now,
Robert & Robert
The Tourin'Travellers