April 27 – May 9
On the way to the entrance to the Trace we stopped, as mentioned in the prior post, for a couple of really, really good donuts at The Donut Shop Café, a combo donut shop and small café serving breakfast items. We polished off two of those bad boys plus kept a Kolache aside (a semi-sweet donut/roll encompassing some form of meat, usually a sausage) for a snack, which would come in handy when Joanna picked me up later.
Soon I found myself back on the trace for another harder than it would seem 42-miles, this stretch being nearly flat but with a changing array of scenery to keep one’s interest during the ride.
Unlike the ride I did the first day there were few, if any, standing ruins, just signs indicating what had once existed in that location. One thing that was interesting was a changing variety of foliage on the sides of the road, from wide open fields to strands of odd-looking groves of trees.
I found Joanna waiting for me at a convenient location to put the bike on the car and change clothes and then we motored on to French Camp Historic Village, a quaint collection of log cabins including four used as bed and breakfast accommodations. They were full that night, so we had made arrangements to stay in Winona, about 30-miles west of the Trace.
The village dates back to 1812 when Louis LeFleur first traded with the Choctaw Indians at a bluff now part of Jackson, Mississippi. Because of his nationality the area was often called “French Camp”, a name retained by the present village. LeFleur married a Choctaw woman and their famous son who changed his name to Greenwood Leflore, became a Choctaw chief and a Mississippi State Senator. For him are named the city of Greenwood and the county of Leflore.
We stopped briefly to check out the buildings as it was a Sunday and everything that might have been of interest was closed. From there we moved on to Winona and our lodging for the night, the Holiday Inn Express there.
As I’ve expressed in prior posts, we like this chain for the size of its rooms, their modern layout, and perhaps best of all, the Keurig coffee maker in each room.
After enjoying a cold adult beverage in the room, we drove a couple of miles to El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant. There we were greeted by an enthusiastic server who seated us and took our initial order, two margaritas. Our only disappointment of the evening came next when he advised that it being Sunday, they could not serve them and so we opted for Doe Equis beers instead.
He asked if we wanted some cheese dip and we foolishly agreed, foolish as we all know consuming chips and salsa before the meal usually means you can’t clean your plate later, but that damn cheese dip was so good we should have just had it for dinner. Later when we asked what the recipe was for it, he replied it was simply mozzarella and some spices. WTF, Italian cheese dip in a Mexican Restaurant? None the less, we couldn’t stop ourselves from eating it.
This meant we were hard put to do justice to our large and very tasty entrees of Enchilada Suizas for Joanna and a Taquito Plate for me. Not finishing the enchilada plate worked out OK as our staying in hotels with microwaves and traveling with a ice chest generally meant we could take advantage of having leftovers.
We finished up and along with our box of enchiladas returned to the Holiday Inn for another quiet evening of video watching. The next morning, we drove to Eupora to pick up the Trace and I started out to do my last 39-miles of this unique riding experience.
Along the way there were a couple of places of interest, the first being a below grade section of the Old Trace, the original trail that had been used so very long ago. Also worth stopping for was Witch Dance, where local folklore tells of witch craft and rituals that possibly took place in this area. Legend has it that the places their feet touched in their ceremonies caused the grass to wither away and never grow again.
Our eventual destination for the day would be Tuscumbia, Alabama where we would spend two nights, but first we’d stop in Tupelo, Mississippi to check out the birthplace of the king. Yes that king, Elvis Presley.
As we entered Tupelo and located the sign for the turn to the house, hunger licking at our heels, we spotted an old school looking restaurant with a lot of cars in the parking lot. This would be Johnnie’s Drive-In, in business since 1945 and the place Elvis used to eat at after a day at his elementary school, which is nearby. He would return in later years as his fame grew to this place that was a part of his more innocent past.
The main parking lot was full, so we parked at the property next door, wondering if it was OK but reassured by the number of cars that pulled in after us. Entering the restaurant, we snagged the last open table and soon ordered from the friendly waitress a BBQ plate for Joanna and the Baked Ham sandwich for me. The food came out and we set to it, eating with relish although the ham sandwich was a little disappointing, somewhat dry and without much flavor. Joanna’s Q though was excellent (in the south BBQ refers almost exclusively to pulled pork), the meat juicy and sides (slaw and beans) excellent.
We finished up with a piece of apple pie ala mode and after settling our tab (including non-alcoholic drinks) of $30, we waddled back to the car for the short drive to the house. The main attraction here is the house Elvis lived in for just a few years after his birth as financially, times were hard on the Presley’s, and they had to move out of the house for lack of payment. His parents, Vernon and Gladys worked various jobs while in Tupelo and moved several different times during the thirteen years they resided in Mississippi.
The museum site includes the birthplace home of Elvis Presley, a museum, a chapel, and the Assembly of God Church building where the Presley family worshipped. What they have tried to do here is create a fuller experience than just the house to encourage a lengthier stay, but really all we were interested in was the house itself, a simple two room shotgun affair that makes one wonder how it could hold as many people as it did.
We left the Presley site and drove the final miles to Tuscumbia, Alabama for a two night stay at the Best Western Plus Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals Hotel & Suites, just outside of town on State Highway 20. It would be a convenient location for taking care of some routine errands, such as getting the Highlander serviced, and provide reasonable access to the things we wanted to do in the area, particularly checking out the famous recording studios in town. Still full from our big lunch, we skipped dinner and relaxed in the room and prepared for the day ahead. We were ready to rock and roll, so to speak.
The Donut Shop Café: https://www.facebook.com/DonutShopCafe/
French Camp Historic Village: https://www.frenchcamphistoricvillage.com/
Holiday Inn Express Winona: https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/winona/wnoes/hoteldetail
El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant: http://elcabritomexicanrestaurant.com/
Johnnies’ Drive-In: https://www.facebook.com/people/Johnnies-Drive-In/100057602231147/
Elvis Presley Birthplace: https://elvispresleybirthplace.com/
BW Plus Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals Hotel & Suites: https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotel-rooms.01125.html?iata=00171880&ssob=BLBWI0004G&cid=BLBWI0004G:google:gmb:01125