Hello Friends and Family (as I’ve written before, these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
As many/most of you know, I spent an enjoyable 5 months in Florida this past winter at an RV park unofficially affiliated with Loners On Wheels and currently am on a great road trip with my friend Barb. We are following the Mississippi Blues Trail, learning as we go.
I also have what is sure to be a good summer as a volunteer with the Tallac Historical Society (THS). THS is the organization responsible for tours and teas at the Pope and Baldwin estates in Emerald Bay (South Lake) and the annual Gatsby Festival. After Tahoe I have arrangements, comp’ed by my brother, Gary, and sister-in-law, Faith, to go to London for my nephew Seth’s wedding in September. Following my time in London I’ve been able to plan a 10-day walking trip (luggage delivered to the next inn), in the Cotswolds.
When I started this adventure I estimated I would be on the road from 3 to 5 years. This June will mark Year 4. My current plans are to sell my RV and rent an apartment starting in October, when I return from England. Although I didn’t get everywhere and see everything I wanted to fit in, I certainly saw and learned more than I had ever expected.
I looked seriously at small towns along the State of Mississippi’s Gulf of Mexico, where one-bedroom apartments close the the beach rent for $499/month (plus $2,000/month in air conditioning bills during the summer). This area, about 100 miles southeast of New Orleans and overshadowed by The Big Easy’s failing levees, was absolutely devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Several of its cities experienced record level storm surges. Mansions located directly across from the Gulf, typically owned by the wealthy from New Orleans, were washed away. Twelve years later, “for sale” signs dot the land adjacent to the white-sand beaches. It’s both a beautiful and an affordable area.
However, my time in Florida following the election made it apparent I need to be on the West Coast, preferably California, ideally (as in it ain’t gonna happen) in the Bay Area. My travels took me to other areas in Northern California, where I hope to find suitable accommodations. I also plan to scope out possibilities when I’m in Tahoe. A caretakers cottage, for example, would be perfect.
The Mississippi Delta
The Mississippi Delta looks much as it did in photos from 100 years ago. The only difference is that many of the dilapidated buildings are now empty. The Blues legacy is actually quite sad in that the music was born of abject poverty and systematic, institutionalized oppression. The book, “The Most Southern Place on Earth,” points out that the rich and extraordinaryly arrogant Delta plant rats were disliked by many in other parts of Mississippi, although the racism was more violent (think KKK) outside the Delta. The Delta planters knew they needed the “negroes” to plant and harvest their cotton and didn’t want them to leave. The poverty that continues to exist is eye-opening. I have no idea how the people in this region will survive with reduced or even curtailed public assistance. There simply are no jobs.
Barb, who is from Southern California, has long contended that there’s no reason that people can’t eat in a healthy manner. She has revised her opinion after traveling through Mississippi, where fresh fruits or vegetables are rarely available in local grocery stores.
Should you decide to follow the Blues Trail, we recommend you stay in the Delta, being sure to visit each and every site. Once you leave the Delta the topography and history of the Blues change. Gone are the rows of the corn and cotton fields, and some of the markers commemorate people who died recently (i.e., within the last 20 years! ). Of the many many new things I learned, the one I can’t get over is that “Love in Vain” was not written by The Rolling Stones. Perhaps I should have read the liner notes more carefully. The song was written by Robert Johnson, a seminal Blues figure who has no less than three markers claiming to be the site of his grave. A popular story is that Johnson sold his soul to the devil to learn to play his guitar. The exchange was said to have happened at midnight at The Crossroads — the same crossroads made famous by Cream/Eric Clapton, who adapted the song from Robert Johnson.
Not to brag or anything, but Barbara and I now say things like, ” oh this is Son House singing this song.” Of course the fact that the same Son House song is on all the Blues compilation CDs I’ve purchased may have a little something to do with it.