May 31, 2007

Old Man River and The Fountain Motel

Mr. Sweetheart ended up getting an extra day off of work, mid vacation, so we decided to take a leisurely route home, stopping anywhere that looked interesting. We were very shortly enticed to drive five miles down a winding back road in Lucedale, Mississippi to tour Palestine Gardens, a miniature replica of the Holy Land set in the beautiful piney woods. This place was my childhood dream come true with tiny buildings tucked into shady corners all along a winding walk near pretty ponds and a towering bamboo thicket. An older gentleman who lives there in an RV appeared shortly after we drove up. He said he was really too busy to give a guided tour, but invited us to walk around the garden and visit the gift shop which contained mostly homemade plastic canvas crafts and religious tracts, plus a large box turtle that followed us around the tiny store, its shell scraping across the cool cement floor. Should you find something you wanted, you were trusted to leave the money for it in a donation box. If you ever find yourself in the Lucedale area, I highly recommend a stop.

We crossed the state of Mississippi along mostly empty Highway 84 until we reached historic Natchez, on the banks of the Mississippi, where we spent the night. I amused Mr. Sweetheart by reciting every nickname for the river I could think of each time we crossed it or came near it on the trip, ala Clark Griswold. "Old Man River, Big Muddy, The Mighty Mississip...." It never stopped being funny. Here is a picture of kudzu, the plant that ate the South, growing in full force on the banks of Old Blue.

Natchez is home to several antebellum homes, a few of which we saw from the outside. We also had some delicious barbecue at a place called The Pig Out Inn. Unfortunately, because the stop was unplanned and unresearched, as we prefer flying by the seat of our pants on road trips, we missed Mammy's Cupboard. I think Natchez and the surrounding area is worthy of a future road trip of its own, though.

As we crossed The Great River into Louisiana, we stopped in Ferriday, home of Jerry Lee Lewis and others, at the Delta Music Museum, which was, sadly, closed. We did take a picture of the slab of fame out front, though.

As we drove north up Highway 65, we were amused by tiny town names such as Waterproof (somehow a water tower emblazoned with that word struck me as hilarious) and Transylvania, Louisiana, whose water tower depicts its name in a scary font over a black bat.
We continued across the farmland of southeastern Arkansas, where Mr. Sweetheart decided more CCR was in order. We were headed to Hot Springs, where I had never been but have always wanted to see. Mr. Sweetheart played a gig there once and wanted to take me there. We have some old friends who live there now, but we rolled into town much too late to take Sugar Pea out to meet anyone new, and we were coming up against the deadline to make it home, so we'll have to visit them another time. We stayed at the rundown Fountain Motel, not recommended, but a cool little place that must have been something to see in its heyday.

I found this postcard circa 1964 for sale on eBay. There are two rooms in each little streamlined deco building, still with the original tiled bathrooms which haven't been scrubbed since this postcard was made, I believe. Seriously, we wore flip flops in the shower. The design of the buildings and some of the hardware inside led me to believe it must date from the 1930's, but I can't be sure as I am unable to find any history of the place anywhere on the internet. I fantasized about someday buying a place like this and thoroughly restoring it to its former glory, decking out each room in vintage style. Then I could charge big bucks to rent out rooms to hipsters the way Kate Pierson of the B52s has done with her fabulous Lazy Meadow Motel in the Catskills.

At one time The Fountain Cafe was attached, but the building is now vacant. Here is my pathetic attempt at nighttime neon photography without the necessary tripod.

Across the street was the El Rancho, which was for sale. If only I was el richo.

Next door was the Capri.

Don't laugh. I think the blurriness makes it seem very artistic, as if I meant to do it, don't you? I'm kidding. I did want to capture the colors of the neon, though, despite my limited photography skills.

Beautiful downtown Hot Springs is full of Victorian bathhouses and classic hotels that sprung up to take advantage of the 147 degree thermal water that flows naturally from underground.

Lest you think it's all quaintness and class, we paid to take one of those cheesy duck boat tours, which I would never have done had I found this before just now. Holy crap. My paranoid mind imagined this very scenario as I clutched the sleeping Sugar Pea tightly and wondered how one would ever grab the life jackets above our heads in time, especially with three babies aboard. Guess that was my first and last duck boat ride.
Okay, shaking that off and moving right along, the duck tour tickets were a package deal that also gained us entry to a rundown wax museum, where we saw these two vignettes in the Chamber of Horrors.

Here are some poorly done, over lit likenesses of Hot Springs' favorite native son and his missus, the Clintons.

Tawdry Marie Antoinette is about to have a wardrobe malfunction while a lecherous bewigged gentleman looks on.

Here are the likenesses of my ancestors Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Mmmm. Waxy Popey goodness.

The King.

Are you ready to enter the world of make believe? Step right this way.

Also known as "The World of Ladies' Rooms That Haven't Been Updated Since the 1960s". I love this wallpaper and the vintage Kotex dispenser (only 10 cents!). You should have seen the look on Mr. Sweetheart's face when I told him I wanted to take a picture of an old maxi pad dispenser. A look that was somewhere between,"that's my quirky but infinitely charming wife" and pity.

The Red King and Queen from Alice in Wonderland were by far creepier than anything in the Chamber of Horrors.

This bear might possibly have drained my living essence as I stared into its hypnotic eyes.

Either that or I'm worn out from vacation. Not sure which.


fancy said...

Great pictures. The kudzu is freakishly beautiful. Your road trip commentary made me feel like I was in your back pocket, just along for the ride.

Stephen said...

I spent a couple of days in Natchez, and strangely enough have eaten at the Pig Out In.

Anonymous said...

I came across your site by looking for the Palestine Gardens. So I stoped by and had a look thank you so much,you made me laugh. Glad you had fun.