Difference between revisions of "Mississippi"
Revision as of 12:28, 28 November 2010
Mississippi  is a state in the South of the United States of America. Most of its western border (with Arkansas and Louisiana) is the mighty Mississippi River. Tennessee lies to the north and Alabama to the east, and it has a small coastline on the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
Mississipi is often overlooked by travelers, yet those who seek out the many things the state has to offer will not regret it. Mississippi is the home to the blues, an unrivaled literary tradition, and incredible food. Visit Mississippi to experience rich history and warm hospitality.
Much of the state was affected to some extent by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, particularly the Gulf Coast. While most areas have returned to normal or near-normal tourism, there are still parts of the coast where tourism is still limited.
Interstate 20 (east-west route along the lower middle half of the state), I-10 (again, an east-west route along the Gulf Coast), I-55 (north-south route passing through the middle of the state), and I-59 (southeastern corner of the state). Highway 61 in known as the river highway. It goes through cities like Port Gibson, Vicksburg, and Natchez.
Jackson has the largest airport in the state, Jackson-Evers International Airport (JAN). The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is also of adequate size. Smaller airports are found in Columbus (Golden Triangle Regional Airport), Greenville, Hattiesburg (Pine Belt Regional), Natchez, and Tupelo.
See Amtrak for the most current and active routes (several routes have permanently closed due to either the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina, or waning customer interest).
Greyhound Bus Lines (or the Delta Bus Lines for most routes within Mississippi) offers service to several cities in Mississippi; however, check Greyhound Bus Lines' webpage  to see which cities currently are serviced in the state. Be aware, that there are several cities in Mississippi that has very limited service, meaning there is typically not a ticketing agent, service center, or even a enclosed bus stop at the side of a highway of such a city. At the time of writing this entry, the following cities that have limited bus service in Mississippi are: Batesville, Belzoni, Itta Bena, Lorman, Mount Olive, Pascagoula, Tunica, and Winona.
The easiest method of getting around Mississippi is by automobile (and in most cases, it’s the only method of getting around the state). You can travel around Mississippi by using the Greyhound Bus lines , but it is a very inconvenient method of traveling around the state. If you do decide to travel by bus, be prepared for long waits, uncomfortable rides to remote locations (typically the bus stops are at a gas station on the outskirts of the city), and unannounced bus route cancellations. The hassle of visiting the state by bus isn't worth the you money may save when compared to renting a car; sometimes, you may have to rent a car anyway due to the limited bus routes.
Visitors to Mississippi should seriously consider renting a car (usually, most auto rental locations are at airports - just be sure to make reservations far in advance), as there is not a well established public transportation system in this state. Be prepared to seek alternate transportation if you do not have the following: a valid driver's license accepted by the United States, be at least 25 years in age (some rental companies may allow 21 year old adults to rent their vehicles), and a major credit card issued by such companies as: Visa, Diner's Club, American Express, Discover Card, or MasterCard. The lack of such items and being the required age to rent, will make renting a car very difficult if not impossible.
Note - It may be very difficult, but it is not impossible to rent a car with a debit card (with the Visa or MasterCard logo) if you lack a credit card. Rental companies such as: Enterprise, Alamo (Enterprise's & Alamo's rental restrictions to non-credit card payers typically makes it much more of a hassle to rent from than from other rental agencies), Thrifty, Rent-a-wreck (typically RAW is the easiest company to rent from without a credit card), and Budget car rental will usually rent to customers without a major credit card; however, expect far more restrictions (and hassles) with their rental terms. Do your research first before exploring this option, and expect to have to speak with a manager rather than the front-line customer service representative you encounter to make any progress.
Mississippi has four major interstate highways. I-55 runs North-South from New Orleans, McComb, to Memphis and runs through the state capitol of Jackson. I-20 runs East-West from Vicksburg to Meridian and crosses I-55 in Jackson. I-59 cuts across the southeast corner of the state connecting New Orleans to I-20 just west of Meridian. I-59 and I-20 merge into one interstate at that point and head east until they split in Birmingham, AL. I-10 runs the length of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There are several interstate spurs and loops in Mississippi, the two of note are I-220 connecting I-20 to I-55 around the northwest perimeter of Jackson and I-110 connecting I-10 to US-90 (aka Beach Blvd) in Biloxi.
Interstate speed limits are mostly 70 miles per hour in rural areas, and 60 mph in urban areas. State highways with 4 or more lanes are usually 65 miles per hour and slow down by 10 mph increments when they enter developed areas (usually no lower than 45 mph). Typically, two-lane highways have a speed limit of 55 mph in rural areas.
Like any other state, Mississippi has a mixture of four-lane divided highways and two-lane rural highways and state routes. However, Mississippi does provide a respectable number of multi-lane highways. Highway 49 is a 4-lane highway that connects the Gulf Coast to Jackson and crosses the Mississippi River at Helena. Highway 98 connects I-55 and I-59 across the lower half of the state. Highway 25 (state route) connects Jackson to Starkville (Mississippi State University). Highway 82 runs east-west in the upper half of the state. Pay attention to your maps and ask the workers on duty at the state welcome centers for help. You might find a shorter route than if you stay on the interstates. Most on-line mapping services assume the worst about state highways when compared to interstates.
Get of the road and enjoy slower pace. Highway 51 runs parallel to I-55 through the state. Except in urban areas, US 51 is a fairly scenic route. The Natchez Trace Parkway is also a scenic option and is operated by the National Park Service. (just obey the speed limits... you've been warned!) US 80 parallels I-20 across the state, but makes for a more interesting drive by taking you through towns that were bypassed. US 90, also known as Beach Blvd, is about as far south you can get in MS. US 90 along the coast line between St Louis Bay and the Back Bay of Biloxi.
Be aware that when refueling your car, that if you intend to use your credit card (particularly credit card accounts issued from banks outside of the US) you may experience problems using the self-serve stations. Most self-serve gas stations may require the purchaser to input their home ZIP code (a five digit mail routing address used in the US) as a means of identifying the purchaser, as smart credit cards are not widely used in the US. Also be aware, there are very few full-service gas stations in America (where a gas station attendant fuels the car for you), but you may find a few in the much smaller cities in Mississippi. Expect fuel charges to be higher, and be aware that some unscrupulous merchants may attempt to add a credit card surcharge to your purchase for the convenience of using a credit card (which is a violation of Visa's and MasterCard's merchant agreement).
You can travel by Amtrak on along the following routes: the center of the state (north / south route), southeastern corner of the state, and along the Gulf coast. If you have plenty of time and you are not in a hurry to get to your final destination, this might be an interesting way to visit the state. The main disadvantages of rail travel in Mississippi are that there are only a few stations that are still in use, sometimes travel times may be long, and the routes are limited so you cannot explore the state very well.
The stations that are still in service are:
Outdoor activities are a favorite of Mississippians, given the state's low population density and natural resources. Hunting, fishing, water sports, camping, and hiking all have their devotees. Take tours through antebellum mansions. There are horse drawn carriage tours in Natchez.
The larger cities and towns in Mississippi provide your typical big box and retail stores. Some major malls in Mississippi include Barnes Crossing Mall in Tupelo, Northpark Mall in Ridgeland (Jackson Metro area), Dogwood Festival Market in Flowood (Jackson Metro area), Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg, and Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. Other great shopping malls that you would find very interesting and good clothes is the Edgewood Mall in McComb, and the Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian.
Most smaller towns still offer your typical nationwide and regional stores, but local antique and furniture stores abound. If you go looking for antiques, you will likely find one near the old town centers. Natchez has Franklin st., which is known as "antiques row". Canton, located north of Jackson on I-55, is well known for its biannual flea market, and antique stores surrounding its historic town square. Canton is also the county seat of Madison County. The flea market is held each May and October.
The state is largely rural. Outside of large towns and away from major interstates and state highways, dining options are fairly limited, but even the smallest of towns will have a local diner. However, if you enjoy country cooking, there is no shortage of good to excellent places to eat. Fried chicken, country-fried steak, fresh vegetables, and cornbread are favorites, although barbecue is also fairly widely available. Mississippi barbecue tends to pork ribs and pulled pork or chopped beef sandwiches with tomato-based sauces, usually slightly sweet. Of particular note is Leatha's , in Hattiesburg, which enjoys a tremendous (and well-deserved) reputation.
Fried catfish is one meal that Mississippians pride themselves on. If you want to visit the world catfish festival  go to Belzoni (pronounced by the locals as: bell-zone-uh). There's not much to see there, but it's interesting if you're in that area. One treat often served with catfish is fried dill pickles, a strange sounding but delicious side dish.
Generally, one can't go wrong with Mississippi staples of biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken or steak, collards and other greens, and fresh vegetables.
In Indianola, you can visit the Indianola Pecan House  where you won't find a shortage of ways to consume pecans, which are found in abundance in the local area.
If during your visit to Mississippi State University in Starkville, pay a visit to the MAFES (Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station) store on campus to purchase either the muscadine wine or their edam cheeses (which is sold over-the-counter year round, but they only ship their products from November to April - domestic US only).
Laws regarding alcohol are a frequent source of confusion to outsiders. Mississippi continues to practice "local option" with regard to sale of alcohol. Under this system, local jurisdictions may choose whether or not to allow the sale or consumption of alcohol. Beer, where sold, may be purchased from convenience stores or supermarkets, while wine and spirits may only be purchased from licensed liquor stores. Alcohol-by-the-drink is yet another area of local option; some permit purchase of alcoholic beverages at restaurants but do not permit liquor stores. Where they are allowed, liquor stores are limited to the hours of 10am-10pm; hours during which beer sales are permitted are at the discretion of the county or municipality. The only reliable way to determine the regulations is to ask a local. Do note that there are still numerous counties where alcohol is forbidden; enforcement is typically lax regarding alcohol purchased elsewhere for personal consumption, but may not be if an officer of the law decides to make it an issue.
Try Lazy Magnolia beer,  brewed in Kiln, MS. Its most popular brew is Southern Pecan Ale. Lazy Magnlia beers can be found on tap in many bars and restaurants throughout the state.
In terms of race relations, much has changed for the better since the 1950's and 60s; however, that is not to say that there aren't still remnants of racism within the state. People of non-white origin particularly those who are of Latino are advised to take caution when travelling through certain areas (especially rural) late at night as open racist and bigotry attitudes still exist.
Unfortunately interracial relationships are still a big taboo in the state and are therefore very scarce, so don’t be surprised if you attract any unwanted attention from locals if travelling with someone from another ethnic group. Despite the end of segregation in 1965, some business such as small Bed & Breakfasts, Cafés and Gas station services may be denied to those of “colored” backgrounds – *noting on my previous visit I was informed by a black man who claimed that he on several occasions had been told that the restraint he wanted to eat at was “full” despite half of the seating area being visibly empty. Other institutions such as churches remain almost entirely voluntarily segregated throughout the state. Some rural Mississippi towns as alike with towns in other southern states still carry the status as “sun-downs” which basically means that blacks are not safe walking around downtown after sun-set; however Mississippi government authorities claim this to be false. Black and Latinos travelling in the state may find themselves targets of the state police who are noted for often “jokingly” using the phrase “DWB” (Driving Whilst Black). The Southern Poverty Law Centre publishes a yearly “Hate Map” which is available to all visitors to the state – which highlights all of the 24 Ku Klux Klan chapters which exist in the state and the areas which they exist. On this matter when driving through Mississippi it is imperative to watch out for the Klan, which are to many people surprising still alive and well in many rural towns such as Petal, Philadelphia and Brookhaven. Many white folks in Mississippi use the N-word quite frequently and without much discretion. However having said this the days where travelling to Mississippi unless escorted by somebody wielding a shotgun are far gone.
Cell phone coverage in Mississippi is generally better (especially with Sprint's & T-Mobile's networks) along the major Interstate routes. Coverage in the southern Mississippi region is sometimes spotty (particularly west of Hattiesburg). 3G coverage though growing sporadically throughout the state near the college cities, generally is located in the Jackson metropolitan area; however, outside of the Jackson area, EDGE service is typically available. Check with your cell phone provider for coverage maps. The regional cell phone provider Cellular South has a large network established throughout Mississippi, and you might be able to roam on their towers if you are not a customer.
Consider purchasing a disposable cell phone from any major electronic department store in Mississippi during your visit. There are not as many pay telephones as there used to be, and disposable phone are becoming more common. The cost is about $25 a month is the average price for approximately 100 minutes of talk time with no / or limited SMS capabilities (in other words, its expensive for what you purchase). You don't need a phone with all of the latest features, just one that you can use during emergencies and for short conversations.
Any phone that's pre-3G technology (TDMA) will work fine in nearly all parts of the state. Be aware, that pretty much any cell phone from either South Korea or Japan will typically not work anywhere in Mississippi (or the USA for that matter), but some of the older European model cell phones (operating in the 3G UTMS frequencies of 850/1900/2100MHz) should work fine in the larger cities within the state.
The following foreign consulates are located in Mississippi (please note - you most likely will have to go visit a larger neighboring state (IE: Texas, Florida, Tennessee, or Georgia) if you need passport support or legal assistance):