“I had the blues so bad, they put my face in a permanent frown.
Now I’m feeling so much better I could cakewalk into town.”
A visit to Clarksdale, Mississippi, center of the region known as the Mississippi Delta, has been on my bucket list for a long time because for blues lovers the Delta is like Mecca.
Clarksdale is an anomaly. Once, decades ago its downtown must have been bustling. Today, seventy percent of its shops stand empty. Its broad streets are nearly devoid of traffic, and parking is certainly not a problem.
Even if we are not or never were big fans of Elvis Presley, we have to acknowledge that he occupies a unique place in American Culture. More than Marilyn, James, or Humphrey, whose legends grow and whose images continue to surround us (Yes, even in Turkey), Elvis is revered in a special way. It’s almost like he never really died and only left the Earth and went to another place where his presence can still be felt. (Have you seen the film True Romance?)
I don’t want to make too much of Elvis’s demigod status, and yet, becoming conscious of just how many people in this country and abroad venerate him, I’ve wondered how and how come the apotheosis of Presley took place.
Oklahoma City – Tulsa – Bartlesville, OK – Bentonville, AR
As I stepped out of the Beast to go to the wash house before dawn, I felt the change immediately. Yesterday’s comfortably warm temperatures had plummeted. I was reminded that winter is not far off.
By the time Kay and I had showered, eaten, washed the dishes, unhooked the RV, and emptied the waste tanks, the sun was up and it was even colder. The wind, our companion for the last three days, was still with us.
Our principal destination was Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the northeast of the state. On our way we made a stop in Tulsa whose downtown blocks, according to what Kay had read, contain some fine Art Deco buildings.
This being Black Friday and still a holiday of sorts, driving in and around Tulsa was easy. As we approached downtown, we encountered a striking building.
At 6 a.m. I stepped out of the Beast into cool air and the fresh smell of evergreens. We hadn’t realized it last night but we are camped in the midst of redwood trees that seem a mile high.
The unheated wash house was bone-chillingly cold and it took a long time for the heated water to flow in the shower. I write, “heated” because the water never became hot. We are camping after all.
Today has been a driving day, 350 miles, from the redwoods of Big Sur, along the California Coast to San Luis Obispo, then on Route 101 through the Central California hills, and onto to the traffic-clogged freeways around Los Angeles.
Along the way we made a couple of memorable stops:
This is Election Day. Finally, the long and acrimonious campaign has ended.
The Mt Shasta KOA is only a short walk from the pretty town of the same name. After registering and hooking up the Beast in an almost empty kampground, we took the walk into town to see what we could see.
Walking along Mt Shasta’s Main Street, we passed the usual array of professional services, gift shops, bookstores, and cafes. A sidewalk kitchen, improbably named Pancho and Lefkowitz, caught our eye. Behind the counter a sign read, “We do not solicit the patronage of hippies.” It was ironic as the owner who served us was himself an aging hippie. Although we weren’t terribly hungry, Kay ordered a dish of beans and rice while I ate one of the best hot dogs west of Chicago.
As we sat at an outdoor table in the warm sunshine, we watched the parade of locals come and go. They were a mixed lot: a working man shopping for a used truck on his smartphone, a bearded and tattooed hipster with a guitar slung over his shoulder, and various, oddly-dressed oldsters stopping for lunch or a snack.
Today’s drive was really long, not only because of the distance (over 400 miles) but because it rained most of the way. This is not the best time of year to visit the Pacific Northwest. Crossing the entire State of Oregon through the Wallowa Mountains, then the Cascade Range and along the mighty Columbia River is to pass through some of the most splendid scenery in our country. The irony is that today we couldn’t admire much of it because of the weather conditions.
Stopping next to some gas pumps in the town of Pendleton, Oregon, we were surprised when a young girl with crooked teeth and a friendly manner appeared and wanted to pump our gas. This is first time we’ve experienced this service during this entire trip.