Our Drive to the Coast

Monday, June 14, 2010
We left Tupelo at 6:30 in the morning – we were so excited to be going to the coast! I had only been to Biloxi once (in 1962, I believe) and Marian had been once decades ago as well, so we were really looking forward to seeing the forty-mile or so stretch of Mississippi coast. We decided to go in June (something we wouldn’t ordinarily do) because we felt there was an immediate need for tourists and we're tourists, so….We allotted forty-eight hours to see all we could, not enough time to take in everything, of course, but we don’t worry about that. We don’t hurry; if we find something we like, or someplace that really interests us, we stay as long as we want. If we run out of time and don’t get to see/do everything, we go back, but more than two or three days in a row of the sort of sightseeing we do is exhausting and we don’t want to just go through it as zombies, we want to enjoy every minute. Also, it gets really, really expensive to drag out a trip. We had found a super deal online: a room at the IP Casino and Resort for $48 a night, so we felt pretty good about that…and far less guilty about going out for nice dinners. Since we saw so much on this trip, we've divided it into "the drive down" and "the coast," and we’re blogging this by the individual places we visited rather than dividing it into Day 1, 2, 3.

The drive to the coast – which, I seem to recall, took a full 17,000 hours when I was twelve – is now a mere five hours away! It’s good news/bad news though; it is possibly the dullest drive in the world.

We opted for the Highway 45 South route out of town, and found it to be an incredibly easy four-lane drive, but dull, dull, dull. There is really nothing to look at but trees (although they’re lovely) until Macon, which is some 100 miles down the road. It's not a difficult drive, and the area itself isn't particularly unattractive; it's more like nondescript. It is simply boring. There's just nothing there. Nothing.

The thing that finally caught our attention – and this is indicative of how dull the drive really is – were rolls of hay. We don’t know anything about varieties of hay (and, really, we don’t care), but some clever farmer obviously considered this variety valuable enough to cover the hay-rolls in white plastic. They are scattered all over a huge field, making it look like a giant marshmallow crop. It’s on the east side of 45, just north of Scooba, should you happen to be heading that way, and take our word for it, by the time you get that far down 45, you’ll find it as interesting as we did.

Scooba greets passers-by with a living sign beside the highway that spells out “Scooba” in small evergreens of some sort. There is a sign right next to that announcing the town as the “Birthplace of World Champion Turkey Caller Jack Lewis Dudley.” Dudley, alas, has called his last turkey, having passed away in November of 2008, but it’s nice to think that his hometown holds him in such high regard.

Scooba is also home to East Mississippi Community College, a place we had never been...or even thought about going. What a surprise – it’s beautiful! Lovely buildings, clean, well-kept campus, friendly people. The sign over the front gate declares that it dates to 1927, and, even more important to us, the school has a cafeteria. Sadly, it was closed when we drove through – a real shame for people who love cafeteria dining as much as Marian and I do. Also, in all seriousness, that cafeteria may be the nicest restaurant in town. The other restaurant is in a gas station. Honest.

While it seems impossible in this day and age, I’m afraid it’s true: Scooba is a town without restaurants. We drove through downtown Scooba, a strip of dilapidated buildings, virtually all of which are empty, so we’re quite sure we didn’t overlook any diners, restaurants, or fast food outlets there. We saw two storefronts that might possibly still be in business, but we weren’t positive, and neither was food-related anyway. Conversely, the residential areas we drove through are rather nice, full of well kept homes and more than enough churches to go around. Scooba’s not at all shabby, except for its downtown (which is in astoundingly bad shape, but could be made quite charming). The very idea of a college town with NO FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS WHATSOEVER puts me in awe of EMCC’s ability to draw students. Any students. Even one. What a recruiting staff they must have!

Now, to be fair, Scooba has only slightly more than 600 people, and covers only 2.5 square miles, and I don’t imagine a lot of fast food HQs search out such demographics. Still, it seems like someone has missed a huge opportunity there. Or perhaps they just don’t want such things. I don’t know.

In Meridian we left 45 for I-59, another fine, albeit boring, stretch of road. Meridian appears to be a pretty big town. Generally speaking, big towns don’t excite either of us, but we are planning an upcoming trip to Meridian to see their carousel, their Opera House, and quite a few other things. We’ve read that there is a religious order called German Baptists (similar to Mennonites) in that part of the state, and we noticed exits for towns named Vossburg, Paulding, and Heidelburg, so we thought we might check out those places too.

SOSO (and environs)
We left I-59 just outside Laurel for Highway 84 and then turned onto Highway 28; we’re using the term highway for 28 loosely here, but it is a nice road. Destination: Soso, one of the cutest-named towns in the state. The first thing we noticed about Soso, and indeed, the entire greater Soso area, was kudzu. We had never seen so much kudzu, and that’s saying a lot for two people raised in Mississippi. It wasn’t just taking over the trees along the sides of the road either (although most certainly, it was), it was actually creeping toward the road. Even the road shoulders were kudzu-covered, and I imagine they frequently find sprigs snaking right up onto the pavement.

Not surprisingly, there isn’t much to Soso, but we really liked the place. They have a stone community center, as you can see. It’s charming really, although there is more mortar than stone in many places.

But our favorite thing was the small trailer that houses a "seafood restaurant," or more specifically, the sign advertising it. Is that a hoot, or what?

From Soso, we drove through Gitano (invisible) and Taylorsville (cute – needs work, but cute) and on to our real goal, Hot Coffee.


Ah, how long we have wanted to visit Hot Coffee, Mississippi! We plan on seeing all of Mississippi’s Coffees – Coffeeville, Coffee, Coffee County – and any other Coffee we can find because we just love coffee. There isn’t much to Hot Coffee, as you can see from their “downtown,” (the store's closed, by the way) but we hadn’t expected a metropolis.

In fact, we had only known about one place to go, and that was McDonald’s Store. As you can see from the sign, it’s a family-friendly kind of a place. Although the term "mini mall" is stretching things a (good) bit, the store stocks just about everything, food to clothes, including school uniforms. We each picked up a (hot pink!) tee shirt there to prove we had actually been to Hot Coffee. Also, we wanted to contribute a little something to the local economy.

What's wrong with this picture?
As we were leaving McDonald's Store we noticed this warning sign on one of the entry doors. It immediately put us in mind of the famous line, "What we have here, is a failure to communicate." Surely they don't mean this.

Another sign we noted alongside the road right by the store says “Summer Feeding Program Two Meals a day” followed by info. We assumed it’s for the kids who get free lunches during the school year. What a scary, sad sign.

There’s not much you can say about Hot Coffee, but there is something we found interesting about the general area. Apparently, if you own land, you're expected to name any street (okay, road) that happens to cross that land after yourself. It makes for an amusing assortment of roads that tee into Highway 29:
Vester Pickering Road

Addie Booker Drive

Melvin Mauldin Road

Mitchell Riggins Road

Tabis Crosby Lane
and our very favorites,
Dick Owens Road
followed by
Oscar Owens Road
followed by
Robert Owens Road
Guess Grandpa Owens was quite the landowner.

Mount Olive, Mississippi, was the hometown of the late, great Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans quarterback and much beloved Nashvillian. You may
recall that he was killed by a “ladyfriend” last July, and it was a truly heartbreaking loss for Nashville. I don’t know if his lovely wife
and their sons have moved back to Mississippi or not, but I can see why they might want to go back to Mount Olive. It’s such a nice town!

The horse tied up in the carport was especially charming. Not because it was tied up in a carport, but because it was obviously used as transportation. The street where we saw this was a boulevard with many, many large, absolutely beautiful old houses. We were quite taken with Mount Olive. It has a lot of its original buildings; some need to be refurbished, but others have been well-loved.

There’s an old drugstore, Powell Drugs, that occupies one corner of their downtown and it’s just beautiful; it has its original mosaic floor and a marble soda fountain counter that couldn’t be duplicated today. And again,
such nice people.

Collins is lovely, a small, attractive town surrounded by a conflux of four-lane highways the likes of which can only mean that Collins is home to some world-class politicians – or their biggest donors. It’s a dream come true for anyone who admires boondoggles of any sort. Gerald McRaney – oh, you know, he was on “Simon and Simon” and some other shows and he’s married to Delta Burke – is from Collins, but we can’t find anyone else from there, certainly no one to explain all the fine roads juxtaposing at what is essentially a map dot. We had a good barbeque lunch there, at The Mercantile, and learned that there is such a thing as pecan oil – virgin pecan oil, at that. We’d never heard of such.

We got back on Highway 49 South in Collins (one of our many highway options in Collins) and took it down through Hattiesburg to the coast highway. The town (possibly community) of Bond is off – as in just a few yards off – Highway 49 South, just beyond the big northern block of Desoto National Forrest, yet it was surprisingly difficult to find. Still, we managed. We weren’t looking for a downtown or anything; our destination was Bond Cemetery. You see, Dizzy Dean is buried there.

Wiggins, Mississippi, being close to and somewhat bigger than Bond, tries to take credit for hosting his remains by kind of co-opting
the cemetery, but they're only fooling themselves. He's not in Wiggins. He’s in Bond. Dizzy was actually from Arkansas originally, but he retired to the area and so…here he is!

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