Historic site, sunset and sensational Blues: Day 5 in Vicksburg
Click here to read about day four of my road trip visiting Vicksburg.
I woke to yet another beautiful day in Vicksburg and was a bit melancholy that this is my last full day in town. It was a jammed packed day starting off with breakfast and a self-guided tour of Cedar Grove Mansion and Inn. I’m only guessing, but this might be the largest home in town, it’s ginormous! After breakfast I began walking around the property and discovered a cannonball stuck in the wall, apparently it has been there for more than 150 years since the Battle of Vicksburg. The naval ships were raining fire upon Vicksburg and one of the cannonballs came roaring through the front door, penetrating one wall and sticking into another where it has rested after all these years. This was just one of the interesting stories that Cedar Grove has to tell.
My next stop of the day was back at the National Military Park. When I was there a few days earlier I was with several other people, I was looking forward to exploring on my own this time. The park is set up to drive through, with many pullouts to get out and up close to view the monuments and other displays. The park is incredibly well manicure and quite stunning. The lush green grass, dense trees and foliage make the park feel like a well deserved memorial to all of those who fought and died there. There is so much to see and do in Vicksburg, but if for some reason visitors only have a day, this is certainly one of the main attractions in town not to miss.
There is a staggering 1350 monuments within the park, 28 of which are bronze reliefs by Tiffany’s. I also learned about some of the symbolism in the park, with respect to the monuments. For example, there are 47 steps at the Illinois monument, which represents the 47 days of the Vicksburg Siege.
After a few hours in the park I was famished and headed to Rusty’s Riverfront Grill for lunch. Rusty’s seemed like a newer place with a modern and cool feel to it. I had the three-way seafood combo with blackened Mahi Mahi, shrimp and some crab cakes. Everything was so delicious, but after eating so much, I needed to go for a walk. The weather has just been fantastic, so I walked up the hill and strolled some of the shops in downtown.
I went back to my room at the AmeriStar so that I could freshen up for dinner and an evening of Blues music. My second evening in town I had dinner at ROCA and learned that the chef/co-owner Jay also had a restaurant in downtown called 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill. My meal at ROCA was so good that I knew I couldn’t go wrong with Jay’s other establishment. 10 South is situated on the roof of one of the tallest buildings in town and provides a stunning view of the city and the rivers below. The focal point of the space is an elongated bar where patrons cozy up to for a cold beer or cocktail. The space that surrounds the bar is made up of high and low-top tables, which adds a dimensional layer to the dining experience.
My server told me they had a house-made guacamole with fresh-made chips available. I sort of thought this was out of place being the South, but it sure sounded good with a cold beer, so I ordered it. I followed that up with the pulled pork tacos…sweet and sour pork with creole crema, sugar cane slaw and cilantro-corn salsa, which was so delicious with my second beer.
Just as the sun was setting the live music started back up and the revelry intensified. 10 South is a really fun place to hang out, eat some good grub, take in the views and make new friends.
Since I had a really large lunch at Rusty’s, my appetite was comfortably satisfied. As I left the bar I met three cool individuals in the elevator. We ended up chatting outside for a spell and I learned that one owns a hammock company (Sierra Madre). I frequently use hammocks during my road trips, camping and backpacking trips, so we clearly had a connection on the topic. Everywhere I went in Vicksburg I meet the most amazingly friendly people. Each encounter solidified my notion that Southern charm and hospitality is the real deal in Mississippi.
My final adventure for the evening was back at the AmeriStar Casino at their Bottleneck Blues Bar. I had listened to some Blues performances at a couple of other venues around town that were more hole-in-the-wall or juke joint in atmosphere. The Bottleneck is much more refined. An outstanding venue that can accommodate larger acts and larger crowds. This evening I got to see the highly acclaimed Vasti Jackson perform.
The club was pretty crowded and I wanted to get some photos and video footage of Vasti’s performance, so I asked the manager if he could assist me. There was a large reserved table with just a few people occupying, so the manager asked if it was okay for me to sit there. Come to find out, the table was reserved for the Vicksburg Blues Society and the President of the organization (Shirley Waring) was in attendance. During an intermission Shirley and I were chatting it up and really hit it off. She asked if I would like to meet Vasti? “Sure” I said!
Shirley grabbed Vasti’s attention and led him to our table where she made the introduction. Vasti was not only an amazing performer and musician, but he was such a friendly and hospitable individual. Even though others were vying for his attention, he made me feel like I was the only one in the room. He asked where I was from and when I said the Phoenix area, he asked if I was familiar with the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum)? “Yes,” I exclaimed…it’s a fantastic venue. He enthusiastically agreed and told me he had performed there not long ago. Shirley inquisitively inquired about this MIM venue we were discussing and we began telling her all about it.
Vasti soon took the stage once again, elevating his performance while taking a guitar solo into the crowd. Vasti was able to strum his guitar in such a way that it was as if he were making it talk…no lyrics required. It was getting late and I had a whole lot of work to do before going to bed (including writing this post), so I left just before show ended.
The next day as I was back on the road I received a call, it was from Vasti. I couldn’t believe it, here this big time Blues musician was calling me personally. He told me what a pleasure it was meeting me and that he wanted to give me one of his CD’s, but I had already left. What a class act I thought…so incredibly thoughtful.
I had such a fantastic time visiting Vicksburg! While there are so many great things to see and do, the highlight for me was meeting the amazing people of Vicksburg. In the coming weeks I will be publishing photos, videos and writing more stories from my time in Vicksburg. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Click the following link if you missed any of my previous Road Diary posts from Vicksburg.