A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The S Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Sunset Motel – Belle Fourche, South Dakota

Great little place in the geographic center of the continental US!
Always like places with these old keys!

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Sandwich, New Hampshire

WARNING: They do not have a place to get a sandwich in Sandwich. No Joke!

Sandwich, New Hampshire – Cool little village as long as you don’t want to find a sandwich
Signposts in Sandwich, NH. No restaurants!

Story Inn – Story, Indiana

Sumoflam at the Story Inn in Story, IN
The nice old wooden floors of the Story Inn dining area
Antique Checkerboard on the Story Inn front porch. Checkers are actually old pop bottle caps

San Xavier del Bac – Tucson, Arizona

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Success, Missouri

Finding Success in Missouri

Shoshoni, Wyoming

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota

Space Aliens Grill & Bar – Waite Park, MN
Sumoflam with an Alienized Smile at Space Aliens
Space Aliens Grill & Bar, Fargo, ND

Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Screaming Heads. Canadian secondary school teacher Peter Camani created these spooky yet fascinating landscape artwork. Since the mid-1970s besides being a teacher, he has built these massive structures and amazing castle.
Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Screaming Heads – Burk’s Falls, Ontario

Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In – Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud sign – Teton Valley, ID

Sandhill Cranes – Barren River Lake, Kentucky; Cecilia, Kentucky; Dell, Montana

Sandhill Cranes take flight
1000s of sandhill cranes converge on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Dell, Montana
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Stone Mountain – Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain, GA in 2015

Scary Creek, West Virginia

Scary Creek Church of God sign
Scary Creek Paintball billboard

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, Colorado

Silver Saddle Motel – Manitou Springs, CO

Sapp Brothers – Nebraska City, Nebraska; Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City
Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs, IA

Solomon, Kansas

US Post Office, Solomon, Kansas
Solomon Water Tower

Shipwrecked Brew Pub – Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Ahoy matey…how about some lunch at the Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor, WI

Suizenji Park – Kumamoto, Japan

Enjoying a visit to the famed Suizenji Park in Kumamoto

Spar Cafe – Olympia, Washington

Spar Cafe – Olympia, WA
Inside the Spar Cafe in Olympia

Salida, Colorado

Salida, Colorado
Odd metal buffalo in Salida, Colorado

Seth, West Virginia

Seth, West Virginia

Sam Houston Statue – Huntsville, Texas

77 Foot Tall Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, Texas
Sumoflam with Big Sam Houston towering behind him in Huntsville, TX

Star Trek Places – Vulcan, Alberta; Riverside, Iowa

Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Live Long and Prosper – Sumoflam and the Starship Riverside

Shiner, Texas

Shiner, Texas
Shiner Barbeque Company, Shiner, Texas

Sarris Candies – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Sarris Candy in Canonsburg. One of the world’s largest candy stores
Sarris Candy Castle weighs 1500 pounds

Sisters, Oregon

Welcome to Sisters, Oregon
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sisters Oregon

South Congress Cafe – Austin, Texas

South Congress Cafe in Austin
I had breakfast at the South Congress Cafe. It was truly an upscale cafe, if there is such a thing

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, May 2015
Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco
At Golden Gate Bridge in in San Francisco, CA May 2015

Skykomish, Washington

Welcome to Skykomish

Springfield, Illinois

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois

Seagulls – Port Orchard, Washington; Puget Sound, Washington; Galveston, Texas; Ashland, Wisconsin

Seagull with clam in Port Orchard
A flock of seagulls on the deck of the Hyak in Puget Sound, WA
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over a lake in Ashland, Wisconsin
Seagull in flight in Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington

Chief Standing Brave – Big Cabin, Oklahoma

Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK

Spindle (Cars on a Spike) – Cermak Plaza – Berwyn, Illinois

As seen in the movie Wayne’s World – sadly, no longer around

The famed “Spindle” sculpture as seen in the movie Wayne’s World. Apparently, it wasn’t worthy. This was taken in 2007 and in 2008 it was torn down…meh

Smiley Water Towers – Adair, Iowa; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Cedar Creek, Texas; Smiley, Texas

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Beloit, WI Smiley Water Tower
Smiley Water Tower – Cedar Creek, Texas

And finally…one without a Smiley Face….

A Smiley Water Tower without a Smiley Face…Smiley, Texas

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho

Stardust Motel – Wallace, Idaho
Stardust Motel Neon sign – Wallace, Idaho

Seattle, Washington

Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Welcome to the Seattle Waterfront
Seattle’s famed “Great Wheel”

Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia

Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter Sunday 2017
Easter Sunrise as seen from Shenandoah National Park
Hills of Shenandoah Valley in presunrise hours on Easter 2017

Skeletons on the Highways – Port Orchard, Washington; San Francisco, California; Montrose, South Dakota; Murdo, South Dakota

Closeup of the Biker Skeleton at Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
A skeleton pirate guards the entrance to a shop in Fisherman’s Wharf
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Closeup of Murdo Skeleton

Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

The Sorehead Cafe – Rudyard, Montana

Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, MT taken in June 2005
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food
Canned Delicacies at Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana

Saketumi Restaurant – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Japanese food at the Saketumi Asian Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, DE

Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug

Sawtooth Mountains – Stanley, Idaho

Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Sawtooth Range as seen from Galena Overlook

Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Barbed Wire Indian Chief and Horse – Sod House Museum – Gothenburg, Nebraska

A bit of Superman – Metropolis, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Ashland, Wisconsin

Superman Mural in Metropolis, IL
At the house that used to be the home of Jerry Siegel, the Creator of the Superman stories. This is in Cleveland, Ohio
Superman is hung forever on the side of Boudreau’s antiques…saving a little doll?
Sumoflam and the 12 foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis (not fiberglass, but a neighbor to Big John)

Sheep Capital of America – Newell, South Dakota

Livestock Sign – Newell, SD
Sign at the door of TJ’s Cafe in Newell, SD. Bear in mind this is sheep country.

Shelby, Montana

Shelby, MT Amtrak Station
Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana

Shelby, Mississippi

Welcome to Shelby, MS
Colorful buildings of Shelby, MS
Daniel’s Snack Shack, Shelby, MS

Sedona, Arizona

Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek runs by the famed Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ

Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Stinky’s Sign – Gilboa, Ohio
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio

Showmen’s Rest Cemetery – Hugo, Oklahoma

Showmen’s Rest in Hugo’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Sumoflam with an Elephant Headstone at Showmen’s Rest
A final view of Showmen’s Rest

Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Welcome Sign
A Santa Selfie at Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Police

Scandinavian Heritage Museum – Minot, North Dakota

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Sparta House – Sparta, Ontario

Sparta House Tearoom – Sparta, Ontario

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Severed Head Trading Post – Perryville, Kentucky

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway – Nebraska

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey
Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

Seabrook, New Hampshire

Sign Post in Seabrook, NH
Welcome to New Hampshire! US State #48 for me.

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Shakespeare, Ontario

Welcome to Shakespeare
Antique Shops in Shakespeare

Steubenville, Ohio

Welcome to Steubenville, OH
Market Street by Michael Wojczuk. This was the first mural painted in Steubenville
Sumoflam and Dino in Steubenville

Swedesburg, Iowa

Welcome to Swedesburg
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg.
Caution – Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA

Sam Black Church, West Virginia

Sam Black Church in Sam Black Church, WV
Sam Black Church historical Marker

Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona

Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993

Silver Dollar Saloon – Leadville, Colorado

Silver Dollar Saloon storefront – Leadville, Colorado

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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A Grab Bag from America’s Back Roads – The D Things #AtoZChallenge

In 2018 I  will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada.  I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.

 

Dupuyer, Montana

Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana

Dinosaur National Monument – Vernal, Utah

Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT

Dolphin Swimming in the Atlantic – Ocean City, Maryland

Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.

DISH, Texas

DISH, Texas

Dutch Haven Cafe – Ronks, Pennsylvania

Shoo Fly Pie – YUM!

Dutch Haven Restaurant, Home of the famed Amish Shoo Fly Pie, located in Ronks, PA just down the road from Intercourse

Do Drop Inn Juke Joint – Shelby, Mississippi

Famed Do Drop Inn Juke joint in Shelby, MS

Daffin’s Candies Chocolate Kingdom – Sharon, Pennsylvania

Giant chocolate animals

Chocolate Kingdom entrance at Daffin’s
Sumoflam at the Chocolate Kingdom in Daffin’s

Deer Photos – Shenandoah National Park, VA; Mt. Rainier National Park, WA; Lewistown, Montana

Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park on Easter Morning 2017
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana

Duck Commander, home of Duck Dynasty – West Monroe, Louisiana

Duck Commander HQ, home of Duck Dynasty in West Monroe, LA
Duck Dynasty Headquarters in West Monroe, LA

Delaware Seashore Bridge – Sussex County, Delaware

Delaware Seashore Bridge

DFW Elite Toy Museum – Haltom City, Texas

Visiting the DFW Elite Toy Museum
The main display room of the Elite Toy Museum. Hundreds and hundreds of various cars

Diamondville, Wyoming

Diamondville Town Hall sign, Wyoming

Dragon Murals – Oak Creek, Colorado & Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

Discovery Bay, Washington

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA

Texas Country Restaurant – Dundas, Ontario

Texas Country Restaurant – Dundas, Ontario

Douglas, Wyoming

White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY

Dutch Letters at Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa

Famous “Dutch Letters” from Jaarsma Bakery – S shaped pastry filled with almond cream and sprinkled with sugar. Delectable!

Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana

Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana

Drain, Oregon

I guess this post is going down the drain! Drain, OR

Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers – LeClaire, Iowa

Sumoflam with Danielle Colby Cushman – June 20, 2012

Driggs, Idaho

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho

Big Spider – Denver, North Carolina

Big Spider, Denver, North Carolina

Dean Martin Mural – Steubenville, Ohio

Dean Martin mural in Steubenville, OH painted by Robert Dever in 1998

Disaster Memorial Statue – Galveston, Texas

The Disaster Memorial by David. W. Moore in Galveston, TX

Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas

Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas

Deer Crossing on Enchanted Highway – near Regent, North Dakota

Sumoflam at Enchanted Highway Stop #2 – ‘Deer Crossing”

Dave Thomas Statue – Wendy’s in Dublin, OH

Sumoflam with Dave Thomas statue in Dublin, OH

Duck Lake, Montana

Heading to the mountains on Montana Hwy 464 near Duck Lake

Watertower in the middle of the road – Dallas, South Dakota

Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road
Welcome to Dallas, SD

Donkey, Virginia

A place called Donkey in Virginia

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

 

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Highway 61 Visited: The Blues Highway of Mississippi – Day 1

Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn have all sang about it. And now, Sumoflam has driven it. US Highway 61 cuts down the middle of Mississippi, all the way from Memphis to Natchez and more.

Map of the Blues Highway (US 61) through Mississippi
Map of the Blues Highway (US 61) through Mississippi

Highway 61 is better known as “The Blues Highway” as many of the famed Blues musicians grew up along this swath of the state just east of the Mississippi River.

Sumoflam at the Blues Highway in Mississippi
Sumoflam at the Blues Highway in Mississippi

In July 2014 I had the opportunity to travel this famed highway from North to South, visit many of the small towns and learn more about Blues History. It was an amazing drive through rural Mississippi!

Alligator, Mississippi
Alligator, Mississippi

The highway, Route 61, actually extends 1407 miles north to south all the way from Wyoming, Minnesota to New Orleans. The highway generally follows the course of the Mississippi River, and is designated the Great River Road for much of its route. This route goes through St. Louis, Hannibal, MO, Davenport, IA, Memphis, Vicksburg and eventually to New Orleans. It’s “Blues Highway” designation really begins at the Mississippi/Tennessee in border in Memphis.

Mississippi Welcomes Me with Open Arms - Big Muffler man statue at the border
Mississippi Welcomes Me with Open Arms – Big Muffler man statue at the border

As you leave Memphis and cross into Mississippi on US 61, you are greeted immediately be a big Muffler Man statue and then the Blues Highway sign (as seen above) is in the same location.  The Blues Highway has become so popular that it even has its own website and they have developed a Blues Trail app (or for Android) for travelers too.

The Blues Highway Marker at the Gateway to the Blues.  One of dozens of markers along the US 61 and neighboring towns.
The Blues Highway Marker at the Gateway to the Blues. One of dozens of markers along the US 61 and neighboring towns.

The Blues Trail features dozens of historical markers along the way and their site features a comprehensive list with maps to each.  Due to my typically tight schedule, I was only able to hit a few of these.  Some that I missed include: B.B. King’s Birthplace, the historical “Birthplace of the Blues,” the Elvis Presley marker in Tupelo, the John Lee Hooker marker, the Johnny Winter marker (which I unfortunately overlooked when I visited Leland to see the birthplace of Kermit the Frog — see below), the birthplace of Muddy Waters and more. But, I did hit a few along the way.

Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi
Gateway to the Blues, Tunica, Mississippi

My first stop, however, was at the “Gateway to the Blues” Visitors Center just north of Tunica on old US 61.  The Visitors Center is built in a rustic train depot, circa 1895.  It is filled with guitars, maps, souvenirs, etc.

Old Benches outside the Gateway to the Blues
Old Benches outside the Gateway to the Blues

Tunica is a big resort town along the Mississippi River, dotted with casinos, hotels and other resorts.  But, there is still some good old history.  On Magnolia Street near downtown Tunica is the “Tate Log House” which the locals claim has the distinction of being the “oldest and most traveled structure” in Tunica County.

The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS
The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS

The cabin was built in the 1840s near Robinsonville, Miss., and later purchased by Samuel Kerr in the 1860s. When Robert F. and Simpson Tate purchased the land in 1890, the cabin was converted to a plantation commissary.  In 1952, the Tate family sold the land to the another family and the cabin was moved south to Elsie, Miss., and then later to a place  near Austin, Miss., in the early 1990s.  Finally, in 2000, the house was donated to the Tunica Museum and moved again to its current location in Tunica.

The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS

The Tate Log House in Tunica, MS

The drive along this stretch of US 61 is flat as can be as it shadows the giant Mississippi River not too far to the west…

Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
Sumoflam at US 61 south just south of Tunica, MS
US 61 South of Tunica, MS
US 61 South of Tunica, MS

I could have stopped at some of the real small towns along the way, but it was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to get to Vicksburg before dark, so I kept pushing on…into Clarksdale, Mississippi, which probably has one of the most renown Blues Highway markers and monuments.

Clarksdale Monument, Clarksdale, MS
Clarksdale Monument, Clarksdale, MS

Known as “The Crossroads”, where US 49 and US 61 meet, it is believed to be the legendary crossroads where famed blues guitarist Robert Johnson made his pact with the devil.  Robert Johnson was born in 1911 and only lived until 1938. He was a dirt-poor, African-American who would grow up, learn to sing and play the blues, and went on to become known the world over.  Since his death, his music has been picked up by some of the most well know rock stars of the 60s, 70s and on, including the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers – have recorded his songs.  In fact, Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” Someone has made a video with his famed “Cross Roads Blues.”

And of course, Eric Clapton has made this song immortal with a number of versions of this song.  In this video he pays homage to Johnson.

So, a visit to the Crossroads is a must on this trip.  I went down to the Crossroads!!

Sumoflam at the Crossroads in Clarksville, MS
Sumoflam at the Crossroads in Clarksdale, MS

Some say that new evidence suggests this is NOT the Crossroads where the famous pact was made.  I guess I should have made a visit down to Rosedale, but I didn’t have my rider by my side….

The Crossroads in Clarksdale, MS
The Crossroads in Clarksdale, MS

And of course, what is a visit to Mississippi without Bar-B-Q (which I didn’t get to try either).  Abe’s was right there at the Crossroads.

Abe's Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale, MS at the Crossroads
Abe’s Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale, MS at the Crossroads
Retro Greyhound Sign in Clarkdale, MS
Retro Greyhound Sign in Clarkdale, MS

Not far from the Greyhound Station is the “New Roxy” Theatre in the Historic New World District on Issaquena Road in Clarksdale. This old movie theater has been converted into a live event venue, with some very unique characteristics. What remains of the old theater is basically is a shell of the former theater with a sloping concrete floor, a masonry stage, lots of distressed brick walls, and a view of the night sky (as there is no longer a roof remaining. This rustic setting is home to many local blues shows and festivals.

New Roxy in Clarksdale, MS
New Roxy in Clarksdale, MS

Not too far from the New Roxy is a Blues Road marker for Sam Cooke (famous for songs such as “You Send Me, ” “Chain Gang,” and “A Change is Gonna Come,” which was sung by Bettye Lavette and Jon Bon Jovi at the inauguration celebration President Barack Obama.

Blues Road Marker for Sam Cooke in Clarksdale, MS
Blues Road Marker for Sam Cooke in Clarksdale, MS

Practically next to Sam Cooke’s marker is one for W.C. Handy, who lived on Issaquena Road.  Known by many as “Father of the Blues,” Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.  I recall playing his compositions in Jazz Band in high school…tunes such as “St. Louis Blues,”, “Beale St. Blues,” and more.

Historical Marker for W.C. Handy on Issaquena Rd. in Clarksdale, MS
Historical Marker for W.C. Handy on Issaquena Rd. in Clarksdale, MS

Another icon of Clarksdale is the historic Paramount Theater.  Originally known as the Marion Theatre, the facility opened in 1918 on Yazoo Avenue in Clarksdale. The theatre one of the first in the area to be built mainly for showing movies. During the 1930’s, the Marion Theatre was acquired by the Saenger Amusements chain, which went on to rename it to the current Paramount Theatre. The theater was in operation until 1986, but is apparently being renovated by the Mississippi Arts Council.

Paramount Theater in Clarksdale, MS
Paramount Theater in Clarksdale, MS

Of course, in a town borne of the blues, what better design for benches around town?

Musical Benches around Clarksdale, MS
Musical Benches around Clarksdale, MS

Continuing south on US 61 about 12 miles, I came to one of my “sought after destinations” in the town of Alligator, Mississippi (population abt. 200).  My original intent was to visit just because of the name, but this town is, in my mind, all about the blues and how I imagined it.

Sumoflam in Alligator, MS
Sumoflam in Alligator, MS
Welcome to Alligator, MS
Welcome to Alligator, MS

I didn’t see any real alligators in Alligator, but I did see lots of history.  The town is home to the “Alligator Blues,” as the Blue Highway Marker below indicates.  Alligator has a blues history that rivals that of many a larger town. Once a bustling business center, Alligator has had entertainment spots in town in addition to outlying country juke joints, plantation house parties and storefronts where musicians played as they traversed the surrounding communities.  Robert Johnson apparently lived in the area in 1930.

Alligator Blues Marker in Alligator, MS
Alligator Blues Marker in Alligator, MS

Alligator also had some wonderful wall murals including the one at the top of this post and the one below.

Alligator Wall Mural, Alligator, MS
Alligator Wall Mural, Alligator, MS
Wall Mural at Blues Tourist in Alligator, MS
Wall Mural at Blues Tourist in Alligator, MS

A few more scenes from Alligator, Mississippi

Alligator, MS Town Hall
Alligator, MS Town Hall
Alligator Water Tower, Alligator, MS
Alligator Water Tower, Alligator, MS
Keep Alligator Clean!
Keep Alligator Clean!

Solidly entrenched in the heart of Delta Blues country, I continue my journey, next to Shelby, MS. This town of about 2000 is home to a couple of Juke Joints including the Do Drop Inn (not to be confused with the famed Dew Drop Inn of New Orleans).

Welcome to Shelby, MS
Welcome to Shelby, MS
Colorful buildings of Shelby, MS
Colorful buildings of Shelby, MS
Colorful yellow abandoned building in Shelby, MS
Colorful yellow, seemingly abandoned building in Shelby, MS

Juke joint is a term used by locals for the informal establishments that featured music, dancing, gambling, and drinking.  These were mainly operated by African American people in the southeastern United States. The term “juke” is believed to derive from the Gullah word joog, meaning rowdy or disorderly.  A juke joint may also be called a “barrelhouse”. Juke Joints catered to the rural work force that began to emerge after the emancipation. Primarily African-American establishments, juke joints were opened in the southeastern United States during the era of the Jim Crow Laws. Since black sharecroppers and plantation workers were barred from white establishments, juke joints provided a space for these people to kick back after a long week of work.  Places like the Do Drop Inn are slowly disappearing as a result of large casinos in many of the areas along the Mississippi.

Famed Do Drop Inn Juke joint in Shelby, MS
Famed Do Drop Inn Juke Joint in Shelby, MS
Wall mural depicting a river baptism in Shelby, MS. Its not all about the blues
Wall mural depicting a river baptism in Shelby, MS. Its not all about the blues
Daniel's Snack Shack, Shelby, MS
Daniel’s Snack Shack, Shelby, MS

Next stop on US 61 was Mound Bayou.  This town was an all black town in the Yazoo Delta in Northwest Mississippi. It was founded during the spring of 1887 by twelve former slaves led by Isaiah Montgomery.  This fledgling black colony continued to remain predominantly African America, and, by percentage, its 98.6 percent African-American majority population is one of the largest of any community in the United States.

Welcome to Mound Bayou, MS
Welcome to Mound Bayou, MS
Much of US 61 in the Delta is falling to ruins, such as this place. Sad....
Much of US 61 in the Delta is falling to ruins, such as this place. Sad….
US 61 north of Cleveland, MS
US 61 north of Cleveland, MS

Cleveland, MS is one of 11 towns named Cleveland in the United States. I was born in Cleveland, OH so visiting any Cleveland has meaning.  (I have also been to Cleveland, TN and Cleveland, IN).

Cleveland, MS
Cleveland, MS

Cleveland is one of the great places to experience the heritage and culture that is the blues, Just outside of town is Dockery Plantation . Often called the “Birthplace of the Blues.”  This was home to Delta blues musician, Charley Patton, and was recently honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail. He is considered by many to be the “Father of the Delta Blues”, and is credited with creating an enduring body of American music and personally inspiring just about every Delta blues man.  Indeed, it is said that Patton inspired Blues greats John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and even Robert Johnson at Dockery Farms.

Dockery Farms Plantation near Cleveland, MS
Dockery Farms Plantation near Cleveland, MS – considered by many to be birthplace of the Delta Blues

Cleveland is also noted as the place where W.C. Handy was inspired after hearing a blues band in 1905.

Historical marker about W.C. Handy being inspired in Cleveland, MS
Historical marker about W.C. Handy being inspired in Cleveland, MS

Downtown Cleveland has a beautiful tree-lined walkway in downtown, near the old railroad station.

Cleveland Railroad Station
Cleveland Railroad Station
Tree-lined Walkway in Cleveland, MS
Tree-lined Walkway in Cleveland, MS

As evening closed in on me after the long drive from Lexington, KY, I scooted southward into Leland, MS.  I had hoped to see more of the historic town, but light was running out and I definitely wanted to get to Leland to see the “Birthplace of Kermit the Frog.” Though closed, there was enough light to get a couple of photos.

Sumoflam at the "Birthplace of Kermit the Frog" in Leland, MS
Sumoflam at the “Birthplace of Kermit the Frog” in Leland, MS

Famed puppeteer and mastermind of “The Muppets” Jim Henson grew up around Leland, MS, played along Deer Creek and became word famous.  This is where he got his start.

Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, Leland, MS
Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, Leland, MS
Oh Kermie...
Oh Kermie…
Walkway over Deer Creek in Leland, MS
Walkway over Deer Creek in Leland, MS
Frog Parking only in Leland, MS
Frog Parking only in Leland, MS

So, the day finally ended and darkened as I left Leland and headed for my overnight stay in Vicksburg. End of Day 1 on the Blues Highway – nearly 670 miles of driving from home to here. My next post will complete the trip from Vicksburg to Natchez and into Louisiana.

Sunset in the Delta of Mississippi
Sunset in the Delta of Mississippi

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