Making memories on Highway 61

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The opportunity to take a ride up to my “old stomping grounds” came up a couple weeks ago when I took a daylong road trip to the Mississippi Delta.

It was a chance to take a good friend of mine to experience an area of Mississippi she had never been.

At first, she just wanted to stop somewhere not far from Vicksburg and pick some cotton for herself — something she has never done. But it turned out to be so much more.

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The drive up Highway 61 has been something I’ve wanted to do since moving to Vicksburg just over a year ago, but just haven’t been able to find the time. So it took very little encouragement for me to get on board with a road trip to a region of Mississippi I am very familiar with and one I consider another home.

We drove up to Redwood and saw a few rows of cotton, but decided to drive a little further north. That’s when we stopped at the Onward Store. She was amazed that this was the area where former President Teddy Roosevelt made his famous hunt that gave birth to the Teddy Bear.

Since there was still very little cotton to be seen, we decided to continue northward and stopped in Leland where there was a tremendous amount of cotton right along the roadway.

She got a few cotton bolls and I decided that since we were this close, why not head further north and head into the heart of the Mississippi Delta — Cleveland, Mississippi.

This town has a very special meaning to me. It’s where I was born, although I only spent the first few months of my life in Cleveland before my parents moved to northern California.

Cleveland is where I went to college at Delta State University. Time on the Cleveland campus had a huge impact on my early adult years.

Cleveland is where many of my extended family still live. My roots are in Cleveland.

Going to Cleveland was exciting, since I haven’t been in three or four years. But it was the drive that I enjoyed most, and I think she did too.

Making side stops in places like Rolling Fork, checking out the Jim Henson Museum in Leland and passing through those little Delta towns like Panther Burn and Nitta Yuma — places she’s never heard of and places she’s never been — made the trip as wonderful as the destination.

We did get to Cleveland and as soon as I crossed the city limits, my excitement grew because I was taking her to a place that means so much to me.

I pointed out all the places I used to hang out during my college years and drove through the vibrant downtown that was anything but in the late 80s. We continued further down Highway 8 and took the main entrance onto the Delta State campus, not far from the still new Grammy Museum. Driving around the quad brought back so many memories and she was amazed at the beauty of the campus.

The campus has changed a great deal, in particular the housing where I used to reside. But so much of it has remained the same.

We drove across Highway 8 where the football and baseball stadiums are located. The facilities compared to when I was at Delta State are incredible.

No road trip to the Delta is complete with out some barbecue and the best in Cleveland is J&W Smokehouse. I highly recommend this little restaurant if you’re in Cleveland.

As day turned to dusk, the road trip back to Vicksburg and that beautiful Delta sunset was something to behold. I’m already eager for another trek up Highway 61 and hopefully create more memories.

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at