Stage 5: Oxford MS - Jackson, MS - New Orleans, LA

We crawled out of bed at The Ranch with a hankering for some breakfast, so we made our way for the Bottletree Bakery, an Oxford staple right off the downtown square. Bottletree was closed all day for kitchen maintenance, so we went on to BBB, Big Bad Breakfast. The portions were indeed big, but much more delicious than the name suggested. We lingered over our cups of coffee a little longer than we should have and had to high-tail it out of Oxford to get to Jackson for lunch with the Lane gentlemen, so we aimed Simon straight south down I-55 toward Jackson and New Orleans and pushed the go button. We arrived in Jackson town a little behind schedule, saw Sam, his mom, dog Zooey, cat Two before heading to lunch with Big Sam at a new restaurant in a renovated school auditorium, aptly named The Auditorium. The fried oyster sandwich was delicious and it was great to enjoy time with Sam and his dad, who I hadn’t seen in many months. We took a driving tour of Jackson historical sites with Sam after lunch, saw houses that he, Andrew, and their respective families and friends lived in over the years, and even a certain oak tree that had an unfortunate encounter with a certain Chevy Blazer some years back. After the driving tour it was back to the Lane family estate, where we admired the groovy patio, let the shamrock plant get some fresh air, and hung out with Sam and Zooey.

The Shamrock plant (left, with flowers) enjoyed Jackson very much, though it much prefers the air-conditioned areas.

Then it was on to New Orleans. Again, onward South, all the way down the last few shirt buttons of the state of Mississippi to buggy wetlands of the Louisiana border. We had both driven across the state before, but never straight up and down, and the sheer mileage was slightly staggering. We made it through the Louisiana marshlands with no great difficulty and few obstacles, across Lake Pontchartrain and into the Big Easy. We were welcomed by longtime restaurant table-jockey, lacrosse defenseman, expert bar hustler, party animal, lady-killer, soon-to-be Episcopal school gym teacher and would-have-been best man, Mr. Aaron Burns.

We pulled our bikes off the roof, threw our bags inside and discussed plans for the evening. The Revival Brass Band was playing their weekly Tuesday date at The Maple Leaf Bar, and we had been gifted (indirectly, that is) a free pass from the bar owner, Hank. He apparently has a habit of making friends and meeting people at bars and restaurants across town and giving out free passes to the Maple Leaf in the form of “Hankies,” which are scrawled on bar napkins signed by Hank himself. With our Hankie good for two free admissions tucked safely in my wallet, we started out on the walk to the bar. We saw some sights on the way, like the schoolyard where Burns will be teaching P.E. in a couple of weeks, lots of beautiful old houses, and a nearly-full moon. We were in desperate need of sustenance after our march across town, so we stopped at the Dough Bowl, a window in a wall that doled out delicious slices of pizza right next door to a store that doled out delicious 6-packs of beer. We enjoyed the lack of laws against open containers while we ate our slices and drank our beers on the sidewalk. Around the corner at the Maple Leaf, our Hankie allowed us to bypass the $12 charge at the door and invest that money in cold, delicious beverages while we waited for the band to start up. The house was packed with a lively crowd, and India and I sipped gin and tonics while Burns caught up with some of his New Orleans crew while we waited for the band to get tuned up.

Anyone who has been to New Orleans and hasn’t seen a brass band has been hanging out in all the wrong places. Had we not been exhausted from early mornings after poor sleep and an entire day of interstate driving, I think we could have stayed out all night imbibing and dancing to the sounds of the drums and horns. Revival was a fairly young band with a lot of jazz influence, but with a fresh flavor to their sound that sounded to me like the driving beat and rhythm of hip-hop or dance music, combined with the instrumental flow and improvisations of the players. Unfortunately, the three of us were lacking the energy for a big night out, so we stayed around for the band’s first set and dragged our eyelids back home. Hit the sack early (for New Orleans) and fell quickly into a peaceful sleep.

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