Episode 1 - The Trip Begins ... An 'Old Car
Tour' ... 'Subliminal' Animal Images ... a Concrete Ark
... and the Dreamland BBQ ('ain't nothing like it, nowhere')
Well, the big day (Tuesday, Feb. 1) finally
arrived, and Doug B. and I headed out on our 2nd
annual roadtrip to the Mississippi delta. Ultimate destination
was to be Memphis and the International Blues Challenge which was to
start on Thursday. The IBC is an annual competition and is the largest
gathering of blues performers in the world.
We had invited a number of
people to join us for this adventure, but all of them had really good
excuses for declining our invitation. Jailhouse Bobby, for example, told
us that he was just too upset about the political upheaval in Egypt to
leave home at this time. Jimmy C. told me he would love to go, but he
was afraid my van would not hold up for this long trip. Raymond, another
longtime and dear friend, told me he lost my telephone number and was
unable to get back with me in time. So ... undeterred ... Doug and I
headed off into the unknown like teenagers on their first beach trip to
Panama City. Oh yeah, we almost picked up a hitchhiker in Mississippi,
but she also declined our offer.
We had decided that we
would spend Tuesday nite in Tuscaloosa Al, but instead of taking
Mapquest’s suggested route along the interstates, we elected to take the
backroads from Blairsville thru Cartersville, Cedartown, Anniston and
many small towns off the major thoroughfares.
As you ramble along you
see lots of things of interest, but I decided that I would not bore you
with little details unless either sex or violence was involved. I felt
that I should concentrate only on those things that had made a big
impression upon us.
Near Cartersville we came
upon a number of homemade signs advertising “old car tour” and what
appeared to be a junkyard of antique cars visible from the highway.
Naturally, we did not hesitate to pull off and investigate.
There we found Dean Lewis
the owner and ‘curator” of this antique car junkyard. He explained that
this was a guided tour, $20 per person per hour. Unfortunately, Doug did
not understand and he got really excited until he realized, that Dean
meant that we had to pay to take the tour, instead of us getting paid.
Dean told us that he had
34 acres and over 4,000 old cars in various stages of deterioration, all
for sale, and that we could even pack a lunch and do a self-guided tour
if we preferred. Doug and I decided to pass, but we did manage a free 15
minute walk thru of a small portion of the junkyard, and saw lots of old
cars. We knew some of these cars were really old, because the trees
growing thru the broken windshields had to be at least 30 years old.
Inside one building Dean
pointed out a beautiful Lincoln sedan, and told us that this beauty was
Elvis Presley’s last car, and it was the prize of his collection….yet he
would consider selling it for the right price. Doug was a little
suspicious, because Elvis died before this car was made ... but, anyway,
I already have two old Lincolns so, again, we passed.
Dean was a very friendly
fellow, and took an immediate liking to Doug and I. He told us, if we
had time, he would show us something like we had never seen before. Of
course we quickly accepted his offer, and spent the next hour touring
Dean’s private estate a few miles away.
There Dean gave us a free
tour of a number of buildings and structures, which he had designed and
then built by hand. Most of these objects and places were covered with
stained concrete, most with free flowing, with abstract lines. Many of
these structures contained what he called “subliminal” images of
animals, designs and even one of Jesus. He would ask us if we could see
the images, but he stopped doing that after I mistakenly guessed that
the Jesus image was the late Janis Joplin.
There were concrete
tunnels, caves, a concrete ark, a 30 foot waterfall with secret sleeping
quarters near the waterfall pool, and numerous other creations. We were
looking at years of hard work, the products of a creative…perhaps a
little twisted… mind, and many thousands of dollars invested.
Due to the time we had
spent with Dean, we opted to postpone our trip to the cowboy museum in
Cartersville (which I understand rivals any cowboy museum in Texas), and
bypass the science museum also in Cartersville, and finally to skip the
Silver Comet Trail museum in nearby Cedartown. We planned to return
perhaps on a day-trip to tour these places.
Doug and I ate lunch at
Knights in Cartersville -
a really beautiful building downtown that started out in 1889 as a
hardware store. We mused as to whether the original owners of the
hardware business would really approve of their fantastic building
emerging 125 years later as a bar with free-flowing alcohol, and late
nite loud music and dancing. The old photos of the stern-looking
original owners suggested that they might have some issues with such ...
In the afternoon, we made
our way thru rain and wind to Tuscaloosa, the home of the University of
Alabama, and where the late Coach Bear Bryant is still revered. There
are buildings, a street, and many things named after him throughout the
city, including a bar simply known as Houndstooth, which is an obvious
reference to the houndstooth hat the Coach always wore during football
games. The magnificent frat houses, the President’s Mansion and other
University structures were pretty impressive.
The nitelife was really
subdued on this Tuesday nite, perhaps because it was Tuesday, cold and
raining, but we also were told that nitelife was down overall because so
many college students chose to socialize via the internet, facebook,
twitter, etc from their dorm rooms instead of frequenting the bars
downtown. I didn’t know what to think about that. Still don’t.
But one place was packed,
and that was the original site where Dreamland BBQ started in 1958 by
Big Daddy Bishop
. Big Daddy and his wife Miss Lilly are both gone now, but their story …
and their bbq…is really impressive. Legend holds that Big Daddy-- who
was a brick mason- prayed to God to give him direction as to quitting
his masonry business, and either opening a BBQ restaurant or a mortuary.
One nite soon thereafter, he had a dream, and he dreamed that he owned a
highly successful BBQ business. He followed that dream, quit his masonry
job, and opened Dreamland BBQ. Now there are multiple locations in the
Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville and Atlanta areas and the
business is being franchised throughout the Southeast.
Doug and I enjoyed great
ribs that nite in the place where it all started, and agreed with the
business’s slogan, “Ain’t nothing like it, nowhere”.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Before
retiring for a good nite’s sleep, I decided to call Marimar, my wife,
and tell her where I was and what I was doing. I had postponed telling
her about this trip until I was safely in another state. She advised
against any future contact of any kind and hung up.
In the next report, I’ll
tell you what happened on the second day of our journey, including the
visit to Indianola, MS (home of BB King), the birthplace of Kermit the
Frog, hot tamales at the Whitefront café, gambling on the Mississippi,
our scary visit to Reds Blues club and the wonderful music on Wednesday
nite at the Ground Zero Blues club in Clarksdale.
Episode 2 - Hwy 82 ... BB King museum,
Indianola ... Hwy 61 Blues Museum and murals, Leland
... Hwy 1 ... White Front Cafe, Rosedale ... Helena's
old, classic, colorful buildings
Website © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Essay (this page) ©
Copyright 2011 Keith Murphy. All rights reserved.
For further information please email:
Check out other essays here: