Driving Into the Heart of the Blues: A Mississippi Delta Road Trip
What: 2015 Audi A3 Quattro
Destination: Deep into the heart of the Mississippi Delta.
The Route: From Memphis, take Highway 61 (the “Blues Highway”) to Tunica, Mississippi. Then it’s another 30 miles south to Clarksdale and 30 minutes to Merigold. After a jog through Cleveland, it’s east on Highway 8 to the final destination: Dockery Farms, one-time home to the father of the Delta Blues.
The 2015 Audi A3 Quattro and my friend Jackie. (Photo: Matt Dellinger)
His story: I first visited the Mississippi Delta back in the spring of 2001, when The Oxford American hired me to survey whatever was left of the blues bars there. Not a bad assignment! Memphis and the Delta may be the home of (in no particular order) saucy pork barbecue, blues music, and Elvis Presley — all true, and God bless it — but there’s more there if you don’t mind digging. I fell in love with the rural quirkiness, the hard-to-reach wonders, even the sometimes-manufactured authenticity, and have come back more than a dozen times over the years. Recently I had the chance to return for a few days, and I spent the time cruising around in a 2015 Audi A3 Quattro, visiting old favorites, and meeting new friends.
Clarksdale, Mississippi (Photo: Pigdowndog/Flickr)
Driving south from Memphis into Mississippi on Highway 61, the “Blues Highway,” I saw the familiar barrage of billboards advertising the seafood buffets and past-prime casino entertainment. Once among the poorest counties in America, Tunica is now awash in gambling and tourism money, fed by the famous two-lane podunk road turned four-lane highway, on which you can cruise to blackjack tables, golf courses, and more.