In the shadows are paintings of David Edwards and Tommy Johnson, newspaper clippings, and art. Eight guitars hang from the wall -- six-string acoustics and Stratocasters. Some wear intelligible signatures. Our host can't tell us the significance of each, but it takes every fiber of my being to not grab one and start playing or, even better, run.
The museum is the unfortunate victim of neglect. Our host explains that isn't enough local support for the building to warrant a full-time staff (or more exhibits), though demand from tourists -- especially internationally -- is huge. Another problem is Johnson's mysterious and inadequately documented life; there is barely enough information for a factual biography, let alone a full museum. I leave with a picture of Johnson's life no clearer than the one I came in with.
Rumors of a ghost town in Rodney, on the west end of Mississippi, persist on RoadsideAmerica.com, calling it a fascinating exhibit of a forgotten American town. We search fruitlessly for an hour, only to find a ghost town that's populated by people. Or as it's more commonly referred to, a town.
But not far north, above Alcorn State University, we find a three-story colonnade that outlines the remains of the Windsor mansion. We blend in with a college class that's here on a field trip and learn that the mansion was built in 1861. It survived the Civil War but burned down shortly thereafter, leaving little standing other than the stairway, chimney, and Corinthian-style columns. All of the family's photographs and drawings were lost in the fire. A found drawing by a Union soldier made in 1863 is the only way historians know how the mansion looked.
Returning to Interstate 20, we cross the Mississippi River en route to Louisiana, running parallel with Old Vicksburg Bridge. The landscape instantly changes after we cross, morphing from rolling hills and dense tree cover to wide-open green fields.
Wait, why does Louisiana sounds familiar? The break-in period! A quick glance at the odometer indicates we're rapidly approaching freedom -- 1190... 1191... 1192... The miles tick by slowly. At 1199, we pull off and drive in circles around a trucker's station, eager to hit the magic number. When 1200 finally appears, I aim for the onramp and stand on the throttle.