Left Memphis at 7.30 am for the long drive to New Orleans, where we have a two night stay. We are driving through a huge storm and it is very dark, pouring rain and lightning.
About 15 minutes out of Memphis, we crossed the state line into Mississippi. Mississippi is known as the Magnolia State, so the state flower and state tree are the Magnolia. There are more fat people in Mississippi than anywhere else in the US. $36,000 is the median income. It is the poorest state in the USA. Mississippi means Great River.Mississippi has the worst schools in the nation. The national educational average is 45% - Mississippi's average is 3%. Hot and humid long summer; short mild winter. Highest temperature 115 degrees and lowest recorded 48 degrees. Lots of rain because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and lots of hurricanes and tornadoes. 1969 Camille, 2005 Katrina have been the worst. Mississippi produces chicken, cotton and soy beans. In 1966 it was the last state to repeal prohibition laws. Lots of famous people come from Mississippi, a majority of them singers - Tennessee Williams, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Bo Diddley, B B King and Oprah.
Had grits for breakfast this morning. They are like a gritty version of semolina or the baby porridge, farex. I asked the waitress if they had any oatmeal and she pointed me in the direction of the grits. So as I was happily eating them, she arrived at the table with a bowl oatmeal! I had to eat both so as not to hurt her feelings!
There is a huge amount of water on the road; it is almost flooded and the storm is right above us as the thunder is very loud and the lightning is almost coming in the bus window. Yipes!
After about an hour we had driven out of the storm and we stopped at a Walmart and did some shopping. Bought a towel for $2 something for the afternoon when go to the beach in Pensacola. Back on the bus and watched a video about the life of Elvis, from birth to death, and all in between. What a waste of such a talent, dying at 42, probably from too many prescription drugs. How very sad it was at the end of his career. One thing I learnt yesterday. I always thought that Elvis didn't come to Australia because he didn't like flying. Wrong! Turns out that his manager, Colonel Tom Parker was a Hungarian and hadn't entered the USA in the correct way, and if ever he left, he probably would have been denied entry back into the country.
We stopped at Brookhaven for lunch. There were lots of choices so we chose Subway. We are having extreme trouble understanding the locals. They speak so fast and with a southern drawl. And we thought we spoke quickly!
At about 2.00 pm we crossed into Louisiana. Lots of swamps, lakes and bayous. Swamps don't move and bayous are a slowly moving stream. It is a sportsmen's paradise. Lots of alligators, frogs and fish. Largest city in Louisiana is New Orleans. 5% of the population speak French; 91% speak English and the rest speak Spanish. One quarter of the city is eight to ten feet below sea level. In 1965, hurricane Betsy devastated the city, as did Katrina in 2005, when 2000 people died. This is where a lot of them sheltered from the hurricane for several days before they were evacuated. The conditions were atrocious in the heat and humidity. It was the worst natural disaster in American history.
The population is mainly catholic. New Orleans is known as the Queen of the Mississippi. The Missouri River is 190 miles longer than the Mississippi. We passed Pontchartrain Lake on the outskirts of New Orleans. It is absolutely huge.
Arrived at our hotel which is very nice. We didn't have a bath in our room so we changed rooms and now have a bath and a corner room which is huge. We have two walls of windows and a lounge suite and a desk and heaps and heaps of space.
Dinner this evening was on board the Natchez which is a paddle steamer. We paddled up and down the mighty Mississip with a jazz band entertaining us. It was a very pleasant way to spend an evening but god it was hot. It is so humid.
Most of us walked back to our hotel with our guide who took us the length of Bourbon Street and we survived! I thought it would be quite well lit with jazz sounds floating out of the doorways. Not so. It is quite dark and seedy with loud horrible music playing in the clubs for young kids. We came across only one jazz group who were playing in the jazz legends park. Lots and lots of young people wandering the streets, half stoned. Sounding old, aren't I? Anyway it was good to experience it but so nice to be back in our air conditioned hotel. Have I mentioned that it's hot here??!!
What a three days we have had. Nashville, country and western; Memphis, rock and roll; and New Orleans, jazz.
Hampton Inn, New Orleans, Room 812