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Journey to Cleveland

Rain, rain, go away...

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It was a short trip to Cleveland, only about 50 miles. We took the scenic route, meandering through small towns on 2-lane blacktop. Unfortunately, we had rain this morning, as you can see from the video. We still managed to see some interesting things, including the Shackup Inn outside Clarksdale. These enterprising folks turn old sharecropper shacks into a little hotel. You can rent a shack for the night for reasonable rates. They have all the amenities, but we don't think we could convince our wives to stay there. It might be a bit too "rustic" for them! They let us look through one of the shacks and walk around, and there were lots of neat things to see, including an old gas pump frozen at 49 cents a gallon! By the way, how much are you paying for gas up there? It's about 2.50 / gallon down here - definitely cheaper.

At any rate, we are safe and sound at the Comfort Inn in Cleveland, home of Delta State University. Po' Monkey's tonight - it might be the most authentic juke joint we find on this trip. Wish us luck!

Posted by swendl 13:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Clarksdale

Birthplace of the Blues

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The road sign says it all - Clarksdale is considered birthplace of the blues - it was literally where many famous bluesmen were born and raised. The unique road sign above is at the crossroads of Highways 61 & 49, where legend says Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to be able to play as wonderfully as he did.

Clarksdale seems like a classic sleepy southern small town, much like you'd find in Iowa. The people are very friendly, but a little hard to understand to our Northern ears!

The main attraction here these days is the Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, who's home is nearby in Charleston. Too bad he wasn't in town yesterday - they say he will probably show up next week. When he's in town he likes to eat at his upscale restaurant downtown (Madidi's) and then head over to the club down the street. Ground Zero, named because of Clarksdale's role as the hub of the blues, was designed to replicate the look of the old fashioned juke joint. Run-down, ripped furniture sitting out front, plywood floors. Nothing fancy anywhere, but the place oozed atmosphere.

Outside, before walking in, we made the acquaintance of "Puddin'", a slender, 77-year old black fellow who good-naturely hustled us out of a few bucks by showing us some amazing card tricks and some dice that seemed to change magically in the blink of an eye! You knew you were being hustled, but you didn't care - it was entertaining as hell. Then, when it was over, he took us inside and showed us where "his" table was (obviously he's a regular) and showed us different photographs on the wall where he appeared, obviously very proud of his status at Ground Zero ("I work for Mr. Freeman") he said.

We ended up eating our supper there as well - Dennie had a monster ribeye, cooked on the grill outside, that was melt-in-your-mouth tender, complete with a huge baked potato, etc. I had a pulled pork barbecue sandwich and fries, which was excellent. We even got a chance to check out a couple of other southern "delicacies" today - deep fried okra, and fried green tomatoes. Both very good!

Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry and his fellow musicians form the house band that played last night. They were very good also. However, last night's late bedtime caught up to us, and we started yawning around 11:30 and decided to call it a night. Had to stop at Burger King for Dennie - the steak and potato had already worn off and he needed a little more fuel before bedtime.

Here are pictures of today. CLICK HERE TO VIEW. Click the slideshow button once you get to the photo site, sit back, and enjoy the show.

By the way, Dennie brought along his harmonica and has been practicing. He's getting pretty damned good!

Posted by swendl 09:56 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Journey to Clarksdale

Cotton, cotton, cotton...

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Let's try to show you a map of today's short trip (about 70 miles), from Memphis to Clarksdale, Mississippi. CLICK HERE to see a map.

There are a LOT of cotton fields down here - in fact, we started running into them in the Missouri bootheel, which surprised us. Here's a pic of the stuff growing in the fields.
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There are several crops growing that we have no idea what they are. Haven't seen a cow, horse, or pig in hundreds of miles! Flat and dry, roads straight as an arrow, heat shimmering up off the road. Just like you'd imagine it would be.

Hotel room in Clarksdale is the Best Western Executive Inn. Very nice room.

We'll be going out exploring soon. It's about 3:45 pm. Morgan Freeman's juke joint is about a mile or two from here. He lives down here -- maybe we'll see him!

Bye for now.

Posted by swendl 13:25 Comments (4)

Memphis - The Nightlife

Beer, Baseball, and Beale Street

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Well, we've solved some of our technical problems. Here's a few videos from our first night. We also have a bunch of still photos which you can see at this site. CLICK HERE.

After getting checked in we got into the beer (just a tad) and hit the rooftop pool with great views of the river and Downtown Memphis. Man did that pool feel good - the heat down here is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Strolled toward Autozone Park, home of the AAA Memphis Redbirds and had a sandwich along the way at Huey's which was highly recommended by the locals (OK, by one guy standing in the street). The food was good, the beer cold, and the park nearby. Got there just in time for the first pitch, with great seats behind home plate. Saw a home run! Denny and I left in the 7th with the home team leading the Iowa Cubs, 2-0. We figured they didn't need us anymore. Turns out they did (they lost 5-2). Man.

Beale Street was an easy walk away. Live music poured from every open door, and all the neon lights hurt your eyes! Tuesday Night, so it wasn't pack, and we got around great. Hit three clubs: BB Kings, Juke Joint, and the best of all, Rum Boogie's. The band, led by a buxom female with a booming voice, was terrific. Dennie got autographed CDs at two of the clubs. Had to ask directions on walking back to the hotel, but we found it OK and got a good nights sleep. Great first day!

Posted by swendl 07:53 Comments (2)

MEMPHIS

We have arrived!

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View Juke Joint Tour 2007 on swendl's travel map.

Arrived safely. Man is it hot! Had the top down on the convertible for most of the way, but then we wimped out, put the top up, and cranked up the AC! Checked into the Comfort Inn in downtown Memphis, a stone's throw from the Mississippi River. We have a great room. Gotta go - swimming pools, bars, and baseball games await!

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Posted by swendl 14:41 Comments (5)

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