Arlene Jones and Emma Mitts.

Roadtrip: The eight-letter word that will either prove friendships or end relationships. I tested it out over the Labor Day weekend by driving with my best friend, Myra, to Mississippi and Louisiana. 

First stop on the road? BoomLand in Charleston, Missouri. The first time I went there, years ago in 2000, I spent several hundred dollars and came home with a trunk filled with goodies. This year when we stopped and I perused my favorite section, guess who was A) either stalking me and followed me out of state to see what I was up to or B) the only way I can find my alderman was to be out of state. LOL. Yup, while in BoomLand I ran into Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and I got the picture to prove it! 

To get to Natchez, we took a route my friend Myra had always taken with her mom. It was scenic, backwoods and allowed me to see road signs for towns like Mound Bayou, a black town established after the Civil War. As much as I would have loved to stop and visit, we were on a tight schedule to get down south and back. 

It was after 9 p.m. and I was driving down the dark and lonely highway at a mere 85 mph when I got the brilliant idea to turn on the vehicle’s fog lights. Unfortunately, what I did was turn off the headlights and for about five seconds we were flying down the road in pitch blackness. Needless to say after I did that, I can attest to the strength of the muscles of our lower extremities as well as acknowledge that if either one of us had been sleepy beforehand, it worked to make us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. 

Being hardheaded, we hadn’t planned on a motel room in advance. So when we got into Natchez, Mississippi, we had to find a place to stay. My friend Myra used her smartphone to locate a five-star room on YELP at the Red Carpet Inn. We paid for one night and went to our room, which belonged in the “Bates Motel” from the movie Psycho

We walked in and the first thing we saw were black cobwebs hanging about 2 feet from the ceiling by the door. The bathroom’s knob for the cold water faucet lay on the side of the sink. 

Well, I’ve seen enough scary movies to know that that kind of room meant trouble. We had them change our room and the new one was only slightly better. No cobwebs, but there was a half-inch hole in the wall that I knew had to be the peephole for some pervert or a snake camera. At age 60, all the good stuff is now hidden by lumps and bumps. So just like in the scary movies, we stupidly stayed the night because we were too tired to try and find a less germ-infested venue. After stuffing the hole with toilet paper and making sure bedbugs wouldn’t be joining me, I went to sleep for the night. 

The purpose of my roadtrip was research. I visited the Natchez library, historical society, and the African-American museum there. All three places were fabulous, with very helpful people. When we went to the Concordia, Louisiana side, the white lady at the Information Bureau told me that nobody is buried on that side of the Mississippi River because it floods. So why is it, as we were driving on the levy, that I looked down and saw a huge green park-like area with lots of headstones and burial vaults sticking out of the ground? Perhaps that rule applied to the white community, but black folks must not have heard about it for they are buried there. 

In the end, the trip was good in that I got to experience the Mississippi River, I met some wonderful people who gave me leads to follow as I do more research, and best of all, my friend Myra and I are still speaking.