Natchez, Mississippi

Photo By Rebecca Bauer

Walk the streets of Natchez, MS and you can almost hear 300 years of splendid history whispering in your ear. You just feel it. It’s the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, and here you can come face to face with the grand water that has carried trade and travelers for the past few hundred years, and the music and stories that have flowed out from these banks mark beginnings of time in many ways. We sit in the very room with the door open to the very view Mark Twain once took in and wonder about the musings he may have felt.

Natchez you are a beautiful place.

Silver Street and Under the Hill Saloon    Photo by Rebecca Bauer

If streets could talk, Silver Street would be making more confessions than any one ear could handle.  At least when it was known as “Natchez Under the Hill.” The buildings date back to around the turn of the 19th century and this was the last stop for the river men who had sold goods along the river and then sold their flatboats before returning through the wilderness of the old Natchez Trace.  This was the crossroads of the river and road home.  Above the bluff was orderly and proper, but at this low spot was the disorderly, a bar and brothel. It was so bad that no boatmen were allowed to go above the bluff without special permission of the Spanish commandant. Those days are long gone, of course, and Under the Hill Saloon is here as a hip spot to hang especially when music is playing.

Mark Twain Room     Photo By Anthony Scarlati

The Mark Twain Guest House, aptly named for the author himself who spent a night here, is above the Under the Hill Saloon and is a nice break from hotel monotony. Open the large, antique door overlooking the balcony and you are bequeathed an unbelievable view and perfect morning with your coffee.

Across from here is a boat ramp into the river and a nice spot to roll up the jeans and cool your feet. I’ll admit, this was the first time I actually touched the Mississippi River and glad I did.

Coolin’ the Toes In the Mississippi River     Photo By Anthony Scarlati

 We see a canoe laying atop some rocks. We weren’t sure if it was abandoned or left there temporarily. Until, we meet the “Duck Guy.” His name is John Lawrence Kanazawa Jolley who travels the river (and lives on the river) in this canoe with his duck.  He’s young, though covered with old from the looks of his beard and clothes. This vagabond of sorts is inside tapping away on his laptop and once we’re introduced inside a back room of the Under Hill Saloon, he is more than enthusiastic to tell his story.

John Lawrence Kanazawa Jolley     Photo By Anthony Scarlati

He’s very articulate in his explanation of a grand quest to save the rivers and the world. “We have to undam the rivers!” he proclaims. His explanations were part sense and part nonsense, but either way, these are the people that make a trip unforgettable. If there is one thing Scarlati and I have learned from traveling, it’s never judge anyone by what you see on the outside. Make the effort to meet a stranger. A chance meeting may be just an entertaining story, but could also be so much more. You just never know.

The most awe-inspiring place in the city is the Natchez City Cemetery which sits on a bluff overlooking the river. As we make our way towards the back of the burial grounds, the markers get grander and their dates get older.  Moss covered oaks that are even larger with more years on them shade much of the grounds. The intricate ironwork and gates are mesmerizing just by their look and how they lead to these quiet, divine burials.

Natchez City Cemetery     Photo By Rebecca Bauer

Natchez City Cemetery     Photo By Rebecca Bauer

When do we not also search out the great places to eat.  We found numerous restaurants, but what stood out were the absolute best burgers  at Slick Rick’s who have their own blend of organic spices and herbs and their own way of making it taste good, as they say, you gotta “Shake it to wake it!”

The Historic Downtown, the shops, the food, the music, the romantic Antebellum architecture, the southern hospitality and all of 300 years of history along the Mississippi River… If you come for one thing, you will not doubt be amazed by the rest. Natchez speaks for itself.

Photos by Rebecca Bauer except “Coolin’ the toes in the Mississippi,”  “Mark Twain Room ” and  “John Lawrence Kanazawa Jolley” by Anthony Scarlati

Journal of 100 Miles – Nashville’s Trace

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The Natchez Trace Parkway is a treasured scenic byway running from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, a beautiful route that lies above the trail that was first entrenched thousands of years ago.  American Indians travelled this route, as did early European settlers, it was a key route to the Mississippi River for trading goods. I remember the moving ceremony that took place in Hohenwald, TN in 2009 that was the official funeral given to Meriwether Lewis, 200 hundred years after he had been denied one.  A few years ago, we did a series of articles featuring the towns and people (and animals) along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee, also known as Nashville’s Trace. My personal favorite being in Lewis County, “Where Trumpets Sound,” where we spent a couple of hours trekking across the natural habitat that has been home to rescued elephants.

Journal of 100 Miles was published as a series in Southern Exposure Magazine.

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol.1: The Journey Begins – Aug/Sept 2009

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol.2: A Friend in Franklin – Oct/Nov 2009

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol.3: Front Porch Livin’ – Dec 2009

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol.4: Happy Trails – Apr/May 2010

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol. 5: Land That We Love – Jun/Jul 2010

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol. 6: – Peace Love and The Farm – Aug/Sept 2010

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol. 7: Where Trumpets Sound – Oct/Nov 2010

Journal of 100 Miles, Vol. 8: Welcome To Collinwood – Dec 2010

#rbauer #ascarlati

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I still wonder when exactly did “pound ” become “hashtag.” A new invention of the Millennium, a clever way to track what’s trending, to share, brand, or simply express yourself down to a #. But, every time I hear that word “hashtag” something flips the recall switch in my brain and I’m reminded that I’m a Gen Xer, a child of the 70s – when “hashtag” was not a word.

The big trends around our house were phones with keypads, electric typewriters and the Ford Pinto. I don’t know just how trendy the Pinto was but we had one. Life for me growing up in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington, DC was craving the weekends when I could escape our square subdivision to the rolling hills and farm where I took riding lessons. I lived for the smell and thrill of horses. My family was very musically talented, I was too for a short period until horses and sports got the best of me. And, then I discovered record stores and hair bands.

My partner in road crime is the fabulous photographer Anthony Scarlati. He made the tail end of Baby Boomer, remembers Kennedy, protesters and was heavily impacted by the photos of Life Magazine. His first ten years were in Michigan often visiting his grandfather’s farm, before moving to the suburbs of Chicago. He’d take the farm over suburbs any day, too.

Years later we find ourselves in the same town of Franklin, TN, which is home for both of us now. On a good day, we’re on speaking terms, laughing at and with each other, blazing trails and traveling the back roads. On a not so good day, well, I’ll leave that to the private notes of a psychotherapist, whisky and wine. But, we’ve been called creative, a dream team even. I write, he shoots, I tweet, he acts like a twit…he said so himself. We’re brains and brawn, Type-B, Type-A. We work and travel well together, though, if I point right, he’s liable to turn left.

We’ve been able to meet incredible people along the way, some famous, some not. From meeting the leader of the hippy movement to rescued elephants to being in the studio with one of the top hit recording bands in music history. Famous or not, what hits us every time is how real they are, the stories they share unique unto their own.

So we embark on experiencing and documenting the Americana Music Triangle, a region in the South so steep in history, where pivotal moments defined the music we know today, and the culture that exists so exclusive to this region.

#rbauer #ascarlati #creative #write #photos #musing #amusing – that’s who we are.