My USA on the road are being enriched of a new itinerary in detail to relive the atmospheres, the history and the cult places of the old and charming South.
An intense route, slow and measured on purpose, both the legs (actually really many) and the kilometres.
Sincerely I avoided to exceed 350 km by day (at most) considering also some day of stop in the most interesting locations (to leave greater space to the exploration of places, most of them still less known and which deserve deepened visits) to enjoy in the greatest calm the discovery of 3 states usually less widely-known: Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana enjoying the unique atmospheres and the surprising off-track that only a so unique route is able to give.
18 days route and 2500 km covered (with a total amount of about 150$ gasoline) using GPS and road maps found in the welcome center of the different states (you find them on the main highways immediately after have passed the geographical border of the state), always very useful to find alternative and unusual routes.
As I was writing before, three states and four important historic crossed ways: The Selma to Montgomery Historic Route, the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Blues Highway 61 and the Great River Road.
The official websites I looked in during planning the journey were the Visit Usa Italy Association (it is essential in planning any on the road journey to the USA, thanks to its practical information always precise and updated) and the American one Travel South USA (the board which runs the tourist promotion of 12 American South East States).
Here you can find all the web references – and consequently all the necessary cues and tips – concerning the tourist offices of any single state.
USA on the road: 18 days in the South. The itinerary
With a Lufthansa intercontinental flight to Houston and a following United stop at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, I reached the capital of Mississippi in the late afternoon. Just after landed I collected the car I had booked previously on the web thanks to the favourable fairs of Alamo Rent a Car and I stayed overnight in the near Best Western Plus Flowood Inn & Suites.
A short pause about the hotels.
Whether you book them by yourselves on the web or whether you do it by an agency, remember that in an on the road journey is always better to opt for chains as Best Western, Hampton Inn, Quality Inn and similar which include in the price (usually contained) a very plentiful American breakfast, a good free WI-FI connection and – almost always – free parking. Of course, when it is possible and compatibly with the choice to stay at least in an historic Inn.
As regards the restaurants and the tips about the best places where to stop for a quick lunch or a typical dinner, please refer to the posts about the single places, which you’ll find early on the blog.
Day 2 (350 km)
Taking advantage of the jet leg I left at dawn towards Alabama, leaving temporary the state of Mississippi.
I drove along the US 80 and first I reached Selma to visit the National Voting Right Museum, the Brown Chapel Ame Church and the crosswalk (strictly on foot) of the Edmund Pettus Bridge: they are all places which refer to the Martin Luther King bloody march in 1965 to Montgomery to get the effective voting right for the Afro-American citizens.
As a tribute to the King march I drove along part of the Selma to Montgomery Historic Route (which merges with a good part of the US 80) as far as the Alabama capital where I arrived late in the afternoon.
I stayed overnight in the downtown at the Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery Downtown, an ideal starting position for the tour of the town on foot.
My full day is dedicated to the visit of Montgomery, the town where the Movement for the Civil Rights was born (here you cannot miss the visit at the Rosa Parks Museum, the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Alabama States Capitol). This town has a surprisingly great and wide tourist offer.
Like The Hank Williams Museum (the museum dedicated to the most famous country singer of the state), the House of the writer Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, the ancient dwelling houses of the Old Alabama Town and a not to miss tour by steamboat on the Alabama River.
Day 4 ( 150 km)
Following the I-65 northwards it took to me a couple of hours to reach Birmingham in the morning. The town is an anchorage on the itinerary of the Civil Rights and of Jazz. In the 16th Street Church (still active today) the Ku Klux Clan made explode a bomb killing 4 little girls.
To visit: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Vulcan Park where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the town.
I stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn & Suites Birmingham, a handy central position to explore the town on foot.
Day 5 (300 km)
Through the I 22 I came back to Mississippi.
First leg Tupelo, to visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace, have a round in the downtown and driving along a stretch of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. The next stage is the delicious Oxford academic little town which is the headquarters of the prestigious Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, and of the Rowan Oak, the wonderful Nobel prize for literature William Faulkner’s house museum: it’s an idyllic dwelling house of other times in a thick woods.
I stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites immediately next to the downtown.
Day 6 (120 km)
Through the US 278 and a stretch of the Blues Hwy 61 I entered the Mississippi Delta and I reached Clarksdale, the legendary place where the Blues was born.
Not to miss: the Delta Blues Museum, the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art (a vintage shop which is the soul of the town), a lunch with live blues session in the Morgan Freeman Juke Joint, the Ground Zero and The Crossroad’s, which was made famous by an old legend like The Devil’s Crossroad.
One tip: the surroundings are full of old and unhinged Juke Joint (places where to listen to a good blues) where fabulous music comes from. Don’t be afraid to enter, above all if you are in group, sit down, order a good beer and enjoy the show.
I stayed overnight in one of the sharecroppers’ shacks of the Shack Up Inn, an old cotton plantation designed to Bed & Beer. Without doubt an experience to do in the most pure ability to adapt to the Mississippi Delta.
Day 7 (250 km)
Southwards, following the Mississippi flow and in stops and starts intersecting with the Blues Hwy 61 and the Great River Road.
Stop in Cleveland to visit the real new Grammy Museum, then to Greenwood to discover some locations of “The Help” movie. After that I went to Indianola for the B.B. King Museum and to Leland for the Hwy 61 Blues Museum.
I stayed overnight in Greenville (the location of the most famous American Blues festival which takes places every year in September) on the Mississippi at the Greenville Inn & Suites.
Day 8 ( 170 km)
Towards Vicksburg, the historic little town on the Mississippi River.
Tour of the town and of the Vicksburg National Military Park, the most bloody battlefield of the American Civil War.
I stayed overnight at the Best Western Vicksburg near the entrance of the Military Park.
Day 9 ( 180 km)
Keep going southwards following the Natchez Trace Parkway I reached near Port Gibson the wonderful and suggestive Windsor Ruins: they are the ruins of an ancient plantation on the Mississippi River which was completely destroyed by a fire. Successively I reached Emerald Mound, the second biggest pre-Colombian mound of the USA which belongs to the Plaquemine Indians Reservation.
Early in the afternoon I reached Natchez just in time to attend an event of Pilgrimage Season, the tour series of the plantations and the historic South houses which starts just with the beginning of Spring and goes on until September.
I stayed overnight at the Natchez Grand Hotel, a very beautiful historical building directly on the Mississippi River.
Day 10 (250 km)
After have visited the suggestive Longwood Plantation which is famous to have been one of TV series “True Blood” set, I still drove along a stretch of the Blues Hwy 61, then I crossed the border of Louisiana and I reached the old little town of St. Francisville ( a stop-motion of what should have been the area between 1700 and 1800). Then I reached the near Myrtles Plantation, less known to Italian tourists, which is considered among the most ancient and “possessed” of the state.
After the visit I kept going as far as Lafayette, the capital of the Cajun culture.
I stayed overnight at the Double Tree by Hilton, immediately outside the old town.
Day 11 ( 120 km)
After have visited Vermilionville, the old Cajun town near Lafayette, I explored the little near centres of the Cajun Country. I advise to stop (maybe for lunch: gumbo and crawfish here are particularly savoury) in the little Breaux Bridge.
I reached Baton Rouge in the afternoon and I stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn & Suites directly on the Mississippi River.
Full day spent between Baton Rouge (not to miss the visit of the Old State Capitol and the wonderful view of the town and of the river from the Louisiana State Capitol) and the Nottoway Plantation, another very beautiful and less known plantation.
Day 13 (140 km)
Crossing the final part of the Great River Road, the picturesque plantations road (with a stop at the Oak Alley Plantation and at Laura Plantations) I arrived to New Orleans, just in time to enjoy the sunset and the night in the French Quarter.
This time I stayed overnight at Le Richelieu, historical building in the French Quarter.
Full day in New Orleans. Since I already know the town very well (clicking here you find all the posts which refer to it), I deepened the knowing of the Creole Quarter, the Bayou of St. John (where people thought the witch Marie Leveau practiced voodoo ) and of the Garden District using the old St. Charles tram. Then you cannot miss a tour on the Steamboat Natchez, one of the last steamboat on the Mississippi River, and a café au lait at Cafè du Monde.
Day 15 ( 340 km)
Through the suggestive Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a 50 km bridge crossing the Pontchartrain lake taking to the border of Louisiana, I reached my last stage, Jackson, the capital of Mississippi.
I stayed overnight for the last nights at the central and handy Holiday Inn Express and Suites Jackson Downtown.
Deepened visit of Jackson:
Tour locations of “The Help” in the near Woodland Hills, Itinerary of the Civil Rights, Mississippi Old Capitol, Mississippi Museum of Art, Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, literary and gastronomic itinerary.
Giving back the car at the Alamo Rent a Car of the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport and departure to Europe with United and Lufthansa flights.
(Unfortunately) return to Italy.