Friday, April 22, 2011

Delta Blues

We made it to Clarksdale, Mississippi - the heart of the Delta, birthplace of the Blues and what we suspect may be the final resting place of the police car from the Blues Brothers movie.

We came for the Juke Joint Festival, which celebrates the origins of American Music. The festival itself combines an international blues festival with a community-minded small-town fair, creating a strong and memorable event like no other. It is promoted  to fans of the Blues and is beginning to draw tourists from all over the world. We saw guest books where people signed in this week from the UK, Australia, Spain, Brazil, Italy, as well as from all over the US and Canada

Clarksdale lays claim to being the "Crossroads" of the Blues where Highway 61 and 49 intersect. Robert Johnson is said to have gone down to the Crossroads and made a deal with the Devil that enabled him to be such an amazing guitarist. 

The original juke joints were small, often one room, establishments where people came to socialize, drink, gamble and of course listen to music.

One of the most famous juke joints is Ground Zero Blues Club, and is partially owned by Morgan Freeman. Many famous artists as well as not so famous artists have played there. Pretty funky and cool place.

The main part of the festival took place on Saturday. There were different Blues groups playing all over town, often only  a block or so away from each other. It was impossible to see everyone but we went to as many as we could and heard some great music. 

The man on the far right is in his 80s and what a musician he is.

This guy's harmomica was wireless to the sound system so he roamed around while he played. We saw him with several groups and he got totally going with the music, dancing and playing.
Mary Ann 'Action' Jackson in action - pretty down and dirty and definitely entertaining.

Our discovery of the festival was Selwyn Cooper from Lafayette, LA.  He played with Buckwheat Zydeco at one time. He has to be one of the best guitarists we have ever seen and we have seen Clapton and Derek Trucks in recent years. Brian spoke with him and he is very modest and unassuming, almost shy. But man can he play. He has some of the fastest fingers we have ever seen and he picks the right notes at the right time and plays them just right every time. He plays in clubs around Lafayette and Beau Bridge, and at times in NOLA. He has toured the world but seems to stay close to home. An amazing player.

Here are some links to learn more about Clarksdale and the Mississippi Blues Trail.......

Juke Joint Festival  

Mississippi Blues Trail 

Find a Blues Festival near you    

Our next stop will be in Red Bay, Alabama. This is where Tiffin Motorhomes is located and we like to stop there to have things taken care of on the Bus. Not the most exciting place but a good place to get caught up and do what needs to be done to keep us safely on the road.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Headed East

Spring is here and it's time to get moving again. We are working our way to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to attend the  Juke Joint Festival. We hope to hear some great blues as well as check out the Mississippi Blues Trail. One band we're particularly looking forward to seeing is Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. If you have a few minutes to check out their video I think you'll be very entertained. Big Damn Band

Our first stop along the way was the Las Cruces, New Mexico area. We crossed into Palomas, Mexico to see our dentist at the Fierro Dental Clinic. We parked the car, crossed the border, walked about 3 blocks, and were there. This time around I got a complete exam, panorama x-ray, bitewing x-ray, cleaning and 1 crown. Total price $190. I also got new glasses with no-line bifocals, transition lenses, scratch coating and all the other bells and whistles. With the optical exam it was $180. Can't beat it.

White Sands National Monument

We took a day trip up to White Sands and were amazed once again. The 'sands' are actually gypsum but look like snow.  Plows clear the roads of sand, and people bring their saucers up to go sledding.
It's a bit surreal to be in a landscape that looks like snow when it's 80+ degrees but we enjoy it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter Season

Hard to believe it's been almost four months since my last post. It was just one of those things I kept meaning to do but obviously didn't get done.
For a variety of reasons we decided to spend most of the winter in Fountain Hills this year. Between doctor's appointments, projects on the Bus, and getting together with friends we managed to stay pretty busy. The weather was a bit colder than we like, but certainly warmer than most parts of the country. It was nice to relax and get caught up on things, and we managed to have a few adventures as well.

Death Valley National Park
One of our travel goals is to visit as many national parks as possible and Death Valley is on the list.  It seemed as though every time we were near it the weather was way too hot to stop there.Temperatures average 120 F in the summer and that's usually around the time we were in the area. January weather is pleasant and we thought it would be a good time to check it out.

Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states in terms of area with 3 million acres of wilderness. It is the hottest, driest and lowest park in the U.S. The highest land temperature recorded there was 201F in 1972, and it holds the record for the second highest air temperature ever recorded in the world, 134F in 1913.
The landscape varies from sand dunes to salt water pools to snow capped mountains.We expected it to be all bleak desert and were surprised at the amount of life that has adapted to such harsh conditions.
One of the attractions in the park is Scotty's Castle, which I thought was kind of like a mini Hearst Castle. Scotty was basically a con man who sold shares to a nonexistent gold mine to wealthy businessmen. When he never produced any gold, all but one of his investors backed out. His remaining investor, Albert Johnson, knew that he was being conned but took a liking to Scotty and continued to give him money. Johnson found that he loved the desert and his wife felt the same way. He purchased property and eventually built what is known as Scotty's Castle.
When I was a kid I watched a TV show called Death Valley Days. It was sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax and that was what I always associated with Death Valley. The Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley. When in full operation, the company employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method had to be devised. The Harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons which hauled borax 165 miles over the long overland route to Mojave. The "20-mule team" actually consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses and took about 30 days to complete the round trip. 

The Shelby Cobra Museum 

Las Vegas was on our Death Valley route, and what trip to Vegas is complete without going to the Shelby Cobra Museum? If we ever win the lottery Brian will have a Cobra but until that time he'll have to be content just looking (and listening). The museum was actually pretty interesting and the cars were very cool. The most interesting fact that I remember from the tour is that Carroll Shelby was offered 23 million dollars for his first Cobra and he turned the offer down. Yikes.

Wedding Bells
One consideration in deciding where to winter this year was the wedding of my niece Shelby. Only for her would we go to Minnesota in February, and we're happy we did.
The wedding was wonderful and of course I enjoyed being with my family. The weather even cooperated for the first 2 days, and then we experienced one of Minnesota's famous blizzards. Guests at the wedding were getting texts about cancelled flights the night before we were scheduled to fly out, but not us. The airport was pretty well shut down when we got there but our plane flew in, unloaded, loaded, de-iced and we were on our way. I think we were the last flight out before the airport shut down. Good karma?