Holly Springs, MS to Memphis, TN


Day 13 – March 30

It rained during the night and was still raining when we got up, but it gradually lightened and by the time we left Strawberry Plains the sky was clearing and it was 63F.

Before hitting the road we met with Bubba Hubbard, the Director of the Audubon Center, Andrea Schuhmann their Outreach person and Chad Pope, the center ecologist. We talked about how we might connect with them on the bike trip. They recommended a number of people and groups – either bike related or river.  We appreciate these local resources and the networks they can link us up with. Andrea is an avid biker, originally from Kentucky and she said she has found the ethic in Mississippi Very different than what she was used to.  She didn’t want to scare us, but she just wanted us to know that there isn’t a lot of respect on the road for people riding bikes. 

A couple features of Strawberry Plains that we really liked were the rain chains and the chimney swift houses.  On the pack porch, from each of the downspouts there was a metal rain chain. Each was different and all were works of art – literally – made by a local metal worker.  My favorite looked like a string of dreamcatchers, but when I looked closer I saw that each one had a realistic looking spider (its body a stone wrapped in metal). They got smaller (both the webs and the spiders) as you moved closer to the ground.  I always loved singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the grandkids and here was a perfect illustration.   There were several of the chimney swift ‘houses’ like we’d seen at the Pascagoula River Center.  The chimney swifts are just starting to return to this area and soon they will be streaming into these fake chimneys each evening.  We saw one or two flying overhead as we loaded our car. 

We decided to backtrack to Greenville, MS to get back on the bike Trail.  Plus there were a couple places listed in the Feasting On Asphalt book that we wanted to try. 

I noticed on this drive that the Spanish moss no longer draped from the trees.  Instead we saw acres of dead kudzu draped over shrubs and plants like a vast brown netting. It appears to have engulfed parts of the landscape.

Black vultures hunched on branches of dead looking trees or clustered on the road around unidentifiable carcasses.

As we entered the community of Leland, MS we saw a sign announcing the birthplace of Kermit the Frog!  Then there was the sign pointing to the Museum.  How could we pass it by?  Turning at the next corner we circled around the block and came up in front of a small wooden building perched above Dream Creek, Kermit’s birthplace according to Jim Henson.  We went inside and were met by a friendly elderly lady by the name of Dot who was a font of information when it came to Jim Henson’s history.  We videotaped many stories she so happily shared, many we’d never heard about his childhood.  Display cases held various Muppets and Kermit was in a place of prominence. Jane Henson, Jim’s widow provided many of the photos and artifacts and some financial support over the years.  We couldn’t leave without visiting the little store and contributing by buying a DVD and book.  Dot would have been happy to entertain us with stories for another hour, but we needed to be on our way. 

In Greenville, MS we were looking for honest to goodness Mississippi Hot Tamles, but also excellent steaks (according to Feasting on Asphalt).  It was called Doe’s Eat Place.  Mike’s mouth was watering for steak when we stepped through the door of a tiny white sided building and into one room where an African American woman was standing at a stove hovering over some very large saucepans.  A couple other ladies had come in before us and were picking up tamales to go, which we found out was all we could buy at this time of day.  We ordered a dozen and the owner put them into a foam container and then used a scissors to cut the string that held each bundle of 3 together.  Then she grabbed a handful of saltine cracker packages and stuck them in the container. 

I asked how they’re supposed to accompany the tamales.  She said she had no idea, that’s just what people want.  So I started to wonder. Is this the way white people eat their tamales?  And if so, is this were the perjorative ‘cracker’ came from? Personally, I didn’t find the crackers improving the taste or texture of the tamales.  We took them with us and found a picnic table at Winterville Mounds State Park.  This is a place believed to have been a ceremonial site in 1000 A.D. for early Indian cultures – known as the mound builders.

Our next stop was the town of Rosedale – also on the bike route – at the White Front Café, where we hoped to find Koolickles.  Also from Feasting on Asphalt, they were described as pickles made with Kool-Aid.  We were hoping to bring a jar back to our neighbor Dick Glattly.  It was another small white sided building on the Main St., but inside it had a few tables and looked more like a little café.  We were disappointed again when the owner, Miss Barbara said she had no koolickles available. She did have tamales though – so we bought 6 more. These were better than the ones from Doe’s in our opinion, plus they were wrapped in corn husks.  Doe’s had been wrapped in a paper of some sort.

As we continued up Hwy 1, we could see the levee off to our left across and past flat farm fields.  Crossing a bridge into Arkansas from Mississippi the road took us onto CROWLEY’S Ridge Parkway! Mike saw the sign and stopped so we could walk back and take a photo with me beneath it.  The bridge itself is very busy and there is no bike lane, so we will require a ride across when the time comes. 

Arriving in Helena, Arkansas we stopped to look at signage on the levee that talked about the Memorial to the Trail of Tears – another sad chapter in American history when the Indian tribes of the southeast were take from their homes and land and marched (and loaded onto flatboats towed behind paddlewheels) through Arkansas and over to Oklahoma.   Thousands died along the way. 

We followed the Great River Road out of town.  It took us past an old cemetery – the sign said Confederate Cemetery and next to it were two fenced in cemeteries – one for the Catholics and the next for the Jews.  We could not find the MRT route and suddenly the asphalt ran out and we were on a dirt road.  This didn’t seem right, but continued to follow it.  This was part of a National Forest and Wildlife Refuge and we weren’t sure where we’d come out, but the GPS showed us some other roads entering up ahead. In the forest tufted titmice and blue jays called out. After this unexpected ‘shortcut’ our poor little Prius is very much in need of a bath. 

We made it to Memphis and our hotel on the far Eastern side of town. 
 

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