This week was different. I was off work. Mrs. Holmes did not have any appointments. My son is out of school for the summer. We have planned a summer VACATION! The HOLMES FAMILY VACATION; B & B TOUR. Not bed and breakfast. No, something better; BLUES AND BBQ!
Monday (6-14-04), We loaded the car with a weeks worth of provisions and recreational supplies. I had my nature gear (hooks, nets, bags, vials, etc), My wife had her photography equipment; my son had a guitar. We left SC on I-26. Drove to Ashville, NC where we took I-40 west. We crossed the Smokies and passed Knoxville quickly. We stopped in Crab Orchard, TN for a break. I caught a Tiger Beetle, Cicindela punctulata. We had lunch at a local place called the TOP DOG RESTAURANT near Crossville/Cookville. Not bad. We drove on into Nashville, got a room, and called my brother Jeff. Jeff arrived in minutes with a clean car to drive us around and show us some sites. He took us to eat at JACKS BBQ where we enjoyed a great meal! Then on to the Nashville GIBSON Store. They have a Mandolin factory, a retail store, and a listening room. They were having an open-stage Bluegrass jam that was pretty neat, but we wandered back into the store where we bumped into the master of the Rockin-Bluegrass Mandolin, Mr. SAM BUSH! We spoke with him briefly of shows we had attended in SC etc. Of all the people to run into in Nashville, Sam is around the top of our list. First day and the vacation is off to a great start!
Tuesday (6-15-04), Jeff picked us up for another day of Nashville (it is great to have a local to drive us around). We saw downtown and other neat sights. The Parthenon, Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, Gruhn Guitars, and had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant called LAS PALMAS. We did not make it to the parking lot where Bufford Pusser once beat up (a drunken) Jimmy Buffett. That was alright, I had seen that years ago. Jeff had to work that evening. He had a rehearsal for an upcoming recording session, but he invited my son to come along. Off they went. my wife and I returned to our room, took a nap, had supper, and went to the movies, STEPPFORD WIVES. Not a bad movie. My son and Jeff came back to the hotel. My son reported having a great time at the session in a Nashville sound studio. Not every kid gets to do that on vacation. Another memorable day.
Wednesday (6-16-04), We got up early, threw our stuff into the car and took off on I-40 heading west to Memphis. Saw a couple of DOR Coyotes and Armadillos along the way but little else. In Memphis we toured the (very touristy) BEALE STREET, where we grabbed a burger, and went to the GIBSON GUITAR FACTORY for a tour. We saw hundreds of the worlds finest guitars being made. Every step of the process! We also went to the legendary SUN STUDIO where Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash got their start. A few more guitar/music stores and we were done with Memphis. Time to head south. A stop in Tunica, MS at an old farmhouse gave me the chance to catch my first ever snake in the state of Mississippi. It was a Western Ribbon Snake, under a scrap of plywood. We took the legendary US 61 south to CLARKSDALE, MS. Home of the Delta Blues. We got a room. We had a great BBQ supper at Abe’s BBQ (at THE crossroads) and went to a club called GROUND ZERO to hear some music. Local kids had the stage and they were very good! I expect to hear more from them in the years to come.
Thursday (6-17-04), We toured Clarksdale. We visited the Delta Blues Museum and downtown shops/stores. We checked into our “resort,” the SHACK-UP INN. It is a unique place where sharecropper shacks have been fixed up and equipped with TV-VCR, heat/air, fridge/microwave, and full bathroom. All rustic furniture, decorated with a Blues theme, and very clean. I went out back, and caught a dragonfly, just so I could say I had caught dragonflies in Mississippi. It was a Blue Dasher, something I can easily catch here, so it was no big deal. That afternoon, my son went to a Blues Guitar lesson a local fellow was giving at the museum. Sue and I rambled. Caught a Western Ribbon Snake under one bridge and a Gray Ratsnake at another. There was no live music in town, other than Bird-Voiced Treefrogs, singing by the river, so after dark I rambled. I found Fowlers Toads, Green Treefrogs, and under a small bridge, a Western Cottonmouth. Dark with a big head, just like in the field guide! I was thrilled!
Friday (6-18-04), My son and I rambled a bit in the morning, but it was very hot, and we found no snakes. He went back to the “resort” and I went out in search of Tiger Beetles. I found C.punctulata and collected a few, but nothing else. That evening we went back into town for more music. On a public-outdoor stage in town various local Blues artists played. Inside a small bar/restaurant the local kids were jamming. We got a lot of pictures and video. Later, I made one quick tour of the local bridges found nothing but a Bullfrog and Tiger Beetle, Megacephala carolina. That was enough for one day. We needed an early start in the morning.
Saturday (6-19-04), We got up, threw EVERYTHING into the car, and hit the road. 80 miles to Memphis. Memphis to Nashville is 200 miles. We hit a traffic jam and lost about 2 hours. Another 150 miles and another traffic jam (not as bad this time). We had supper in Knoxville at Sonny’s BBQ, then crossed the Smokies, and cruised on home. We made a lot of stops (as a family is likely to do) and got here after a 15 hour, 650 mile day on the road. Safe and secure at home again.
Sunday (6-20-04), Much to do to recover from a trip like that, and return to life as usual. I am going to relax now, enjoy FATHERS DAY, and may go to the pond when it gets dark.