Early in this road-trip, I mentioned how some of my motivations for choosing places I wanted to at least drive through, were towns or cities mentioned in lyrics of some of my favorite songwriters. Lucinda Williams, who is originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is one of my favorites. Lucinda often includes references to Louisiana, the South and Texas in her lyrics.
One of my favorite songs of hers is “Lake Charles”, which includes a lyric about Nacogdoches, Texas. At the time, I had to look up Nacogdoches to figure out where it was. Turns out, it is in the heart of what is known as the “Piney Woods”, or “Tall Pines” region of East Texas, north of Houston. I had never been to this area of Texas, so guess what?
Nacogdoches also happens to be the oldest town in Texas, for all of you history buffs.
I had a nearly twelve-hour driving day ahead of me, so I didn’t have time to actually stop in Nacogdoches. But I at least wanted to drive through that area of the Piney Woods region. In most of what I’ve seen of Texas, so far, the trees are of shorter varieties. But, the Piney Woods region appears to be mostly very tall, dense, pine forests. It was very pretty to drive through and reminded me of my native New England…without the maple trees.
I will have to return at some point, and spend more time there. Nacogdoches is supposed to be a cool town. I believe it is also a college town.
From Nacogdoches, I continued northwest, to Shreveport, Louisiana, and across northern Louisiana. Because I was not taking the most direct route to Oxford, MS, my actual destination for that night, I had to periodically “fool” my GPS, by giving it general city names, as in Nacogdoches and Shreveport…gradually working indirectly toward my one planned stop before Oxford, which was a Tamale stand in Greenville, MS.
Unfortunately, in Louisiana, I mistakenly forgot to set my GPS to Vicksburg, MS, from where I had planned to pick up Highway-61…the famous “Blues Highway”…that runs north/south through the Mississippi Delta region. So, instead, my GPS took me through some very pretty farm land in the southeast corner of Arkansas. For a while, I had no idea where I was, but trusted that my GPS knew what it was doing.
I’m mentioning all of this because of the continued “Bourdain Effect” on the later part of this trip. If you are at all interested, I suggest that you check out the “Mississippi” episode of Parts Unknown. I found it fascinating. I really knew very little about Mississippi until I bumped into that episode on NetFlix, while planning this trip. I didn’t even know that the Mississippi Delta was in Mississippi. I thought it was where the Mississippi River entered the Gulf of Mexico, in Louisiana, but that is the Mississippi River Delta. I’m glad we cleared that up.
You would be better off getting a brief history of the Mississippi Delta region from Parts Unknown, than from me. But, suffice it to say, that after watching that episode, I decided to include the Delta…at least driving through a portion of it…on this trip.
One of the southern/soul food restaurants featured on Parts Unknown, is Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville. The problem for me was that Doe’s does not open until 5:00pm. So, in my planning, I looked for, and found, a Plan-B eatery, in the event that I got to Greenville too early to eat at Doe’s…which is exactly what happened.
And if you watch the Parts Unknown episode, you will also find out (as I did), that after the Great African-American migration to northern cities from Mississippi, Mexicans began migrating into Mississippi to help fill the void. As a result, in Mississippi, tamales, in particular, have become as much a part of Southern soul food as bar-be-que. So, my Greenville Plan-B became this place…Hot Tamale Heaven, a roadside, take-out stop, run by African-American women, serving the best tamales you’ve ever eaten:
As you can see…I am beginning to learn some history…through soul food.
After filling up on tamales, I was finally able to pick up a long stretch of Highway-61 (which, by the way, was Bob Dylan’s inspiration for the title and title-song of his ground-breaking album, “Highway 61 Revisited”. I had no idea. I’m learning as I go.).
During this stretch, I shot a few minutes of my drive with my dash-cam. This is not an amazing video, but it will give you a little idea of what driving through the Delta feels like:
From Greenville, I headed to Oxford, Mississippi, my destination for that night.