That was the saying on one of the many churches peppered along Route 5, also known as the backroads heading into Mississippi.
I’d decided to visit Ole Miss, or University of Mississippi in Oxford as I am planning to apply to their MFA program for next Fall. I knew this stop would take me slightly off track, but I had no idea how small the roads would be nearly my entire trip through Mississippi. Before I realized that the smaller highways were due to my desire to stop in Oxford, I wondered if maybe Mississippi just didn’t have “normal” highways. (They do.)
When I arrived in Oxford, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s no bustling city, but it was a nice town with a true downtown area. College restaurants, diners and several hotels were in the area. Apparently William Faulkner grew up there because I drove by his house, marked as a historic landmark. The campus itself was quite large but had a welcoming feel to it. Some buildings were accessible by roads while others were only by walking paths. When I visited potential MFA programs in the past, I always liked to find the exact building where the English department was housed. I had a moment of panic when I drove into Old Miss as I realized I had not bothered to look up which building it was beforehand. Amazingly, the google maps on my phone was able to locate Bondurant Hall but the road was closed for repair. We parked by the main campus “loop” which the doggies enjoyed chasing each other and pooping on. The three of us tried to get into the Hall, but all the doors were locked. A huge water fountain was nearby and as I was walking over to throw Snickers in, I realized a group of ladies were doing their wedding pictures.
By this time it was 3pm and I had still not eaten lunch. The places in town looked cute, but it was sunny and I didn’t think I could go eat for 45 minutes and leave the dogs in the car. We finally got onto a larger highway, I-55 South, when it started to rain. I didn’t know what to expect– a big storm or just a drizzle? What we got was a mist that settled all around the skinny long needle pine trees lining the road. I couldn’t believe this was Mississippi; if it weren’t for all the vines lining the telephone poles and other trees, it could have been Colorado.
The next big city was Jackson, which got Johnny Cash’s “I’m going to Jackson” stuck in my head for the whole ride. I don’t even know which Jackson he was talking about in that song. Very hungry at this point, we stopped in search of food. I ended up at Shoneys, which is in the vein of an Applebees or Fridays, but it is a Southern chain. I ordered a burger and a lemonade, later realizing that there was a buffet and that would have been much faster. At 5pm, it was cool and cloudy out, so I wasn’t as worried about the dogs (but I still ate as fast as I could). Getting back on the highway, I drove past two locals in the exact same 95 Mercedes as me! We locked eyes for a few seconds, totally having a “nice car you got there” moment. There might also have been a bit of the “Yer not from around here” look going on as well. Feeling better, I kept driving for a few hours until we reached Canton.
I found a street with 6 different hotels on it, and after stopping at 2 and being turned away, the La Quinta welcomed us for $80. (All Motel 6 and La Quinta hotels are pet friendly, with no fee!) I felt a lot safer being “inside” rather than being in a motel with an outside door. Snickers and Meeko had a great time watching TV, and then we all fell asleep together on the King bed.
The free wireless gave me a chance to figure out my route for the rest of the trip and book another La Quinta for 2 nights in New Orleans. I’m really excited to see Louisiana and go exploring!
Location: Canton, Mississippi