Arkabutla, Tunica, Hernando, Senatobia

We finally made another Tiny Travels trip! Guest travelers Meredith Black and Kay Collins came along for the ride as we explored northwest Mississippi.


We started our trip by heading west, toward Arkabutla. The area is well known for its lake of the same name, which is reportedly the windiest lake south of Chicago, making it really popular with folks who sail or windsurf. But our interest lay in the town itself. Arkabutla is the birthplace of James Earl Jones, surely one of the most famous of the almost infinite number of famous people from our fair state. So, we cruised the main street – or what seemed like the main street – looking for a sign pointing to his birthplace or mentioning that he was from here. We didn't see anything, so Marian went into a post office and then a store and asked a few locals about his birthplace. The first person she asked was a young man in his twenties, feeling sure he could tell us exactly where “Darth Vader” was born. No such luck – with him or anyone else. We couldn't believe it!


We toured the more famous spots around Tunica and the upper Delta in 2009, but I was traveling with a broken ankle then, so we missed a lot. One of the things we missed was downtown Tunica. Someone has – many someones have – been hard at work...it's a lovely little downtown. There is a beautiful park-like median, complete with a playground, and the storefronts have been painted cheerful colors. 

Downtown Tunica -- clock centerpiece of the downtown park.

Downtown Tunica

We drove around the pretty little town, did a little shopping, and then headed out for an early lunch.

Whoa!  What is this?  Car 54?  Remember that song and television program from the old days?
Downtown Tunica right next to the police department - that is where Car 54 is!  
We discussed several possible places to eat, but there simply aren't words to express how grateful we are that we settled on the Blue and White Restaurant. Housed in an old service station on the corner of US 64 and MS 4, it's been around since 1937 and is famous for its Southern food. What is wonderful about it is that it actually lives up to its reputation. So often that's just not the case.
This is a must-stop if you are in the area. Southern cooking at its best!

We opted for the lunch buffet rather than ordering off the menu, but there's probably no way to go wrong at the Blue and White. We piled our plates full...well, more than full. No prissy Southern Belles here – we love food and we don't care who knows it. (Really we do care, but we were unlikely to see anyone we know so we all felt free to chow down.) We were beyond overjoyed to find that their mashed potatoes are made from real potatoes. That's almost never the case on a buffet. The sweet potatoes were the best ever. The mac and cheese? Heavenly. Same for the green beans, etc. The food was wonderful, just wonderful. But, it paled in comparison to the homemade rolls. First, they are huge, as big as softballs...and they're still not big enough – you want more. Seriously, all four of us come from families of great cooks, and that bread threw us all for a loop. In fact, when the waitress took dessert orders, I asked for another roll rather than cake. They're not sugary or anything, they're just that good.

We saw on the menu that they make their own doughnuts fresh every morning. It only makes sense that the bread dough and the doughnut dough are, if not one and the same, very closely related, so they must be wonderful. Our next trip to northwest Mississippi will include an early trip to Tunica's Blue and White for breakfast, then some nearby touring, and a return in time for lunch or dinner. This is a place worth the trouble of backtracking.


Hernando is a pretty little town featuring the stunning DeSoto County Court House. We passed up the opportunity to go inside and see the murals that depict Hernando de Soto's life from his voyage to America to his death and burial (in the Mississippi River). The murals date to 1902 and are worth the better part of a million dollars, so we really should have had a look. However, we were all but comatose from our giant lunches and the weather was threatening, so we took the easy way out.

The courthouse is huge!

Downtown Hernando

We also took the easy way out when it came to the Historic DeSoto Museum. We passed right by it and the old log cabin once used as a field hospital during the Civil War. They both  looked interesting, and any other time we would have been eager to explore, but we just weren't in the mood. We'll be back.

The clock tower is really very pretty.  You can see the clouds
coming at us in the background. The deluge began very soon after this picture was taken.

There is, however, no need for us to revisit the many antique stores in the area. Like the consummate antiquers we are, we bravely summoned the strength to climb out of the car and spend hours strolling through room after room after room of old interesting stuff. And yes, we do realize that sounds a lot like what we would have done had we visited the courthouse, museum, and log cabin.

What a collection of stuff...all in the hands of someone who can weld!  
The gate was a collection of metal wheels!

The welder used his fun side to create a dinosaur to pull the hearse.

We drove north out of Hernando, toward Nesbitt. Like everywhere else in Mississippi, small country lanes and old highways wind through the area's soybean fields and kudzu-covered forests. We had plenty of these roads to choose from, so we picked the one that would lead us to Jerry Lee Lewis's house! What's more, we think we may actually have seen The Killer himself!

There we were, sitting in his driveway taking pictures of the pianos on his gates and listening to his kinda frightening dogs bark, when we saw a man heading down the driveway with a couple dogs on leashes. And what did we do? We panicked and took off! But, as we were leaving, we noticed that the man with the dogs looked for all the world like Jerry Lee. Once safely away, we collected ourselves and thought, “Why did we do that? He probably just wanted to talk to us.” So, we turned around and went back, only to find he was gone. No man, no dogs. We'd been silly and probably missed a golden opportunity. This is Mississippi, after all; people speak to strangers here. We should have known better. 1595 Malone Road, Nesbitt, MS; just south of Horn Lake

Jerry Lee Lewis's ranch.  We panicked big time when we saw 
Jerry Lee and his dogs coming toward the gate.
A real junior high flashback - we jumped back into the car.  
What we would give to have waited and talked to him!  Bummer!

Speaking of country roads, ten miles northwest of Hernando is a sight that is a wonder to behold. As we drove through northeast Mississippi's rolling hills, thick with trees, we didn't realize that our whole perception of heights and depths had become skewed. When we reached our destination – a certain point on the aptly named Delta View Road – it took our breath away. We'd been driving along, thinking we were on just another Mississippi back road, when we suddenly found that we were actually on a high bluff and that, just a few feet away, the ground had dropped off into the flatest landscape imaginable.

It's the great alluvial plain, otherwise known as the  Mississippi River Delta, and from the edge of that bluff it appears to be endless, Our pictures don't do it justice because the drop off is so sudden that it photographs as though it were completely flat. But trust us, the view is stunning. It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that, although you are looking down on it, you aren't actually all that high. The Delta is just that low.
See those "little" trees?  They are 30-40' tall.  The green in the foreground is a deep, lush carpet of kudzu that covers everything that is not moving. (Check out the big leaves in the lower left corner.) The brown strip is an open field, ready for planting...the plowed rows can't be seen because the field is so far away. The dramatic transition between flat delta and rolling hills must be seen to be believed.  

When we poked around stores in Hernando and Tunica, we spotted some beautiful Joseph Eckles Stoneware. So, we decided to pay a visit to the birthplace of these beauties. It's located at 2650 Scott Road in Hernando, but the address is a little deceptive. It is – or at least, it appears to be – in the country (sometimes it's hard to tell “country” from “town”). It is set way back from the road, hidden from view down a long driveway. As we drove down the driveway (it's a little road really), we all looked at each other, as in, “Should we be here?” There was nothing threatening about the big industrial-looking buildings we found, but we had begun to feel like we might be lost and trespassing...and that can be dangerous. We finally spotted a small sign saying “Eckles Pottery” though, and were we ever glad! 
Just one of our selections from Joseph Eckles Pottery.  

Sadly, Joseph Eckles was not there; he had packed up and headed off to a show. But David, a talented potter in his own right, was home and there was still a ton of pottery on the shelves. We got a great tour of the studio, met the resident cat, and then we oohed and aahed over (and touched!) every single piece of pottery he had. He didn't seem a bit put out that we were getting it all out of order. It was all beautiful, which really made it hard to choose, but we finally managed to decide on a few pieces and everyone left happy.


What a surprise! Senatobia is a town of about 8,000 people, and we expected to find another attractive small town, albeit one with a community college. It is lovely, but we also found that it is a vibrant place – with an absolutely beautiful college.

Senatobia is home to the main campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College, which looks for all the world like a major university. Really lovely. We drove through campus and were amazed at how large the school is. Beautiful buildings and well-kept grounds. 
Northwest Mississippi Community College

The buildings on this campus are beautiful.  

We made it a point to drive through a second campus as well: The BaddourCenter. An outreach of the Methodist church, it serves as a home for adults with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities. There are fourteen group homes and four apartment units (among other buildings), and it is an absolutely stunning campus, full of activity! (It looks like an upscale gated retirement community.)

When we left, we made a detour through Como, mainly because Marian and I love Como, but also because Meredith had never been there. We drove down the main street and were sad to see that the green grocer's has closed. Nothing else seems to have changed though, so we showed Meredith the beautiful little Episcopal church and then drove through the neighborhood near downtown. Once again, we were impressed with how beautiful and well kept the homes and yards are. 

As usual, we came home through Oxford. We always try to swing by on the way to or from nearby Tiny Travels, and really, it only made sense this time. All our favorite antique places had closed by the time we got there, so there wasn't much to do other than drive over to Eli Manning's house and admire it. (It's very homey and very, very beautiful, by the way.) 

It was dinner time, but none of us could even think of eating dinner after that huge lunch. We could, however, think of eating ice cream, so we stopped at Yaya's on the Square. If you've never been, it's one of those places where you help yourself to ice cream and toppings and then pay based on the weight of your dish. Kay, Marian, and Meredith went prissy, spending three or so dollars on dainty little dishes with sprinklings of toppings. My dish came in just under $9 and I ate every bit of it.