DeSoto Magazine April 2018

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April CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 4

features 46 Surf’s Up! The South’s Best Surfing

60 Drive Time RV Road Trips

52 Alaska Cool Off in a Hot Destination

departments 14 Living Well Staying Healthy on the Road

42 On the Road Again Eureka Springs, Arkansas

18 Notables Ashley Clark of Southern Travel

44 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown Bound-to-be-Creative Journals

22 Exploring Art Mary Scott’s Unusual Style

70 Southern Gentleman Ready, Set, Clay!

26 Exploring Books A Year in Space, Lifetime of Discovery

74 Southern Harmony Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band

30 Into the Wild Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Park

76 In Good Spirits Ship Island Cocktail

34 Table Talk Oxford’s Saint Leo

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Return to Mayberry


80 Reflections Keys to Happy Travel



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editor’s note } april Traveling South DeSoto contributors attending, from left, Chere’ Coen, Mira Temkin, Jill Gleason (standing), Jan Schroder, Mary Ann DeSantis, Karon Warren, Debi Lander, and Jason Frye.

APRIL 2018 • Vol. 15 No.4

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell EDITOR-AT-LARGE Mary Ann DeSantis ASSISTANT EDITOR Andrea Brown Ross Being on an airplane while I wrote this month’s editor’s note was serendipitous for our annual travel issue. And even more inspirational was joining a group of travel writers for the 36th annual Travel South Showcase, the oldest and largest regional travel promotion organization in the U.S. This year’s event at Biloxi’s Beau Rivage attracted more than 700 destination marketing representations, tour group operators, and journalists, including seven talented DeSoto Magazine contributors (pictured above). We Southerners are blessed to have so many amazing places to visit and explore. This year’s showcase certainly proved, especially to the DeSoto writers, that journeys close to home can be just as rewarding as those to far-away places. If you do want to get away, though, read Ann Yungmeyer’s story about Alaska, which offers great advice about land

packages and cruises to America’s last frontier. The one thing I don’t like about air travel is not having my favorite pillow at my destination. James Richardson has the perfect solution – rent a recreational vehicle and take your pillow on the road! He describes the nuts and bolts of RV travel including whether to buy or rent. Summer is the best time to learn to surf. Writer Jason Frye tells us where to find the South’s best surfing schools that cater to all ages. No matter where your journeys take you – even if you are an armchair traveler – we hope you find this issue entertaining and inspiring with stories to help you travel healthier, feel a bit of nostalgia, or visit a resort for a new experience. Happy trails,

Mary Ann on the cover Surfing restores the joyful fearlessness that adults have often lost. There’s no better place to recapture your youthful confidence than on a surfboard, and a multitude of surfing schools around the South will help you find the perfect balance.

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Debi Lander Karen Ott Mayer Julia Miller Charlene Oldham James Richardson Andrea Brown Ross Jan Schroder Karen Warren Pam Windsor Ann Yungmeyer PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Get social with us!

©2018 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well } heathly traveling

Staying Healthy on the Road

By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of and

Whether for business or pleasure, traveling offers people a wonderful opportunity to see and experience new places and cultures. However, along the way, travelers may pick up something unexpected: illness. To help combat sickness while traveling, there are several precautions you can take to ward off ailments and make sure your trip is an enjoyable one. In the Car Road trips are one of life’s greatest pleasures and can provide an in-depth look at the countryside and the people who live there. But riding in a car is not for everyone; twisty roads, going over mountains or just riding in the backseat can result in motion sickness for many people. To help combat this ailment, there are several tactics you can try. These include sitting still and watching the horizon or listening to music. Staying hydrated also could help, as can sipping on ginger ale. For those who suffer severe motion sickness, consult with your 16 DeSoto

doctor regarding medications that may alleviate symptoms. Whether using the air conditioner or heater, the air in the car can dry you out, so keep bottled water on hand to stay hydrated. Bring along healthy snacks such as carrot sticks, apples and peanut butter crackers, which go a long way in keeping travelers from indulging in unhealthy junk food that could lead to indigestion, heartburn and digestive issues. In addition, take time to stop for a brief walk to stretch your legs, arms and body. This increases circulation and helps relax muscles that may tense up due to long hours behind the wheel or sitting in a confined space. Along with any regular medications, be sure to tuck a first aid kit in with the suitcases. Stock it with bandages, antibiotic cream, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gauze, pain/ fever reducer, a cold compress, latex gloves, hydrocortisone cream, and a thermometer.

On the Plane Nothing can be more daunting to one’s health than getting on an airplane with 200 strangers with no clue to their individual health status. Therefore, it’s crucial to do everything you can to avoid incurring sickness along the way. Once you take your seat, use antiseptic wipes to clean the arm rests and tray table, recommends Tullia Marcolongo, executive director of the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Also, adjust your individual air vent so it is blowing away from you to help keep harmful germs at bay. That air also can be dehydrating, so drink plenty of water throughout the flight. Marcolongo also recommends wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing to improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. In addition, “book an aisle seat so you can stand up and walk around the cabin at regular intervals,” she says. “Do foot and hand exercises every 15 minutes.” International Travel Traveling to other countries and continents can be very exciting, but it also can mean exposure to new foods, harsher environments and unsavory diseases. It’s important to embark on these adventures with care. When planning your trip, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if there are any travel health notices pertaining to your destination. These may include warnings to avoid specific areas due to prevalent illness and disease, as well as information on vaccines or preventive medications travelers are required to have before visiting the destination.

“We recommend getting immunized at least six weeks before your trip to build up your immunity,” Marcolongo says. “Visit your doctor to set up an appointment since many vaccines come in a series.” A key tip from Marcolongo is preparing in advance for encounters with mosquitoes. When packing sunscreen, throw in plenty of insect repellant as well. She recommends products containing 20 to 30 percent DEET or 20 percent Picaridin. When applying insect repellent, she says to apply sunscreen first, wait 20 minutes (if possible), and then apply the repellent. Also, pack neutral-colored clothing. “Dark colors attract mosquitoes,” Marcolongo says. “If possible, wear longsleeved, breathable garments.” When dining out, Marcolongo recommends eating food that is thoroughly cooked and served while hot, and sticking with pasteurized dairy products. When choosing drinks, she suggests bottled water or water that has been treated, carbonated beverages in sealed bottles, and hot drinks like coffee and hot tea. As you travel, you’re going to be touching lots of door handles, souvenirs in stores, restaurant menus and other items that hundreds of other people have also handled. Therefore, wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds as often as you can. For those times you’re not near a bathroom, keep hand sanitizer within close reach to use often. Traveling can be a great experience resulting in wonderful memories and fun souvenirs. However, no one wants to bring home unexpected and unpleasant ailments, so take some preventative care to make sure illness doesn’t hijack your trip. DeSoto 17

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notables } ashley clark

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Hernando’s Hometown Travel Agency By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Southern Travel Company

Travel agent Ashley Clark specializes in personalized travel experiences. In today’s busy world, it may be difficult for travelers to find the time to go on vacation, much less plan a vacation. Enter Ashley Clark, owner of the Southern Travel Company in Hernando, Mississippi. Since 2013, Clark has been assisting her clients before, during, and even after their travels. Clark’s passion for travel began as a teenager. She explained,” I started to have an interest in travel around the age of 16 when I took my first job at a local storefront travel agency. I kept up with the brochure orders for the agency and would take brochures home and look over them in my spare time. This really sparked my interest in the travel industry.” As an adult, Clark found she enjoyed doing research for her personal and eventually for her family trips. Once she became a busy mother, she realized the value of having a travel agent. In 2013, Clark became a travel agent and opened her company in 2017. And while the internet has made it possible for travelers to book their own trips, Clark believes there are several advantages to using a travel agent. “One of the biggest advantages is the customer service

that you receive when working with a travel agent, as we get to know our clients’ vacation style and can help customize just the right vacation for them.” Agents also get to know what type of travel repeat clients enjoy and can help them create customized travel plans including details like specific kinds of resorts and room types. Possibly one of the biggest advantages is organizing the details. “We help our clients with the entire planning process from flights, ground transfers, accommodations, rental car, travel insurance, and even dining reservations for some locations. We want our clients’ travel planning experience to be as customized and stress-free as possible all without charging a fee for our concierge booking services, as we are paid directly from the tour company,” explains Clark. She also advises her clients on pertinent travel information such as dress codes, suggested gratuities, and travel alerts. Travel agents can also be a huge asset when travel plans go awry. Flight delays, for example, can turn a sweet trip DeSoto 21

Island of Maui

sour very quickly. “I’ve been up into the wee hours of the night helping a newly married couple’s honeymoon plans get back on track,” said Clark. “When those unexpected events arise, like bad weather causing flight delays, I work behind the scenes so my clients can have a stress free experience. Rebooking flights, checking them into their hotel remotely are a few things we offer.” When necessary, Clark can assist her clients with travel insurance issues after a trip. “We always recommend purchasing travel insurance when traveling to protect your vacation investment. We also recommend that our clients look on the webpage concerning health information such as recommended, or required, vaccinations when traveling internationally. Check the webpage concerning required citizenship documentation when traveling internationally as well,” she suggests. So, where in the world does a travel agent like to vacation? “My hands-down favorite place so far is Maui. The Island of Maui is absolutely beautiful and there are so many things to do and see! The leeward side of Maui is sunny and warm, and the windward side has the lush rainforest and beautiful waterfalls of Ohe’o Gulch, accessed via scenic Hana Highway. Then there is Upcountry Maui and Haleakala National Park where the elevation reaches 10,023 feet above sea level on top of Haleakala Crater,” shared Clark. Based on her personal travel and research, whether travelers want to relax or learn and explore, she can assist them in making those plans. 22 DeSoto

According to Clark, her recent trips to Alaska to hike and fish the Kenai Peninsula would be second. She has recently helped women book Alaskan fishing and adventure trips for the men in their lives. Also high on her list would be Disney World and Disney Cruise Line vacations. They offer nonstop fun and excitement for the entire family, according to Clark. Her travels have taken her to several islands in the Caribbean. “Each island has its own beauty and uniqueness. It is always fun to help a client narrow down just the right Caribbean island to visit,” she shared. “Trips to the Caribbean are quite popular right now, because they tend to be all-inclusive trips. In fact, St. Lucia is a popular honeymoon retreat and is referred to as the ‘Hawaii of the Caribbean’.” Clark plans to expand her travel options to Europe and other parts of the world as her travel and expertise allow. “I really like to have that firsthand knowledge and experience before I advise a client. My personal bucket list trip is staying in an overwater bungalow in French Polynesia.” For Clark, helping her clients have memorable experiences brings her satisfaction. “I’ve had repeat customers since 2013. It’s been a treat to watch their kids grow up and fine tune their family travel plans from year to year. We can help build on their interests and past experiences. Referrals and repeat clients are testimony to a job well done.”

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exploring art } mary scott

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The Bright Colors of Mary Scott By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Paula Mitchell

Horn Lake artist Mary Scott’s vivid nail polish paintings landed her space in Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museums. Today, it’s her ‘memory paintings’ that are creating quite a clamor. Mary Scott, a well-known Horn Lake, Mississippi, artist, constantly looks for and finds unusual ways to be artistic, grow professionally, and explore new avenues of creativity. She also uses some unusual mediums. Undoubtedly Scott, is best known for her nail polish paintings. A portrait of Elvis Presley in that shiny, intense medium is among her 15 works that hang in various Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museums worldwide. Others include portraits of Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson. Scott started painting with nail polish quite naturally after getting a brainstorm in a store. “I had been looking for a specific intensity and sheen for a painting of my mother and was in the pharmacy when I saw nail polish,” she remembers. Scott acknowledges that nail polish is more expensive than regular acrylic paint. The trick, she says, is to go to flea markets where one gets more vials for the money. Her paintings and murals can also be found in public libraries and homes. When Scott lived in Atlanta several decades ago, she painted a mural for Ludacris, the Grammywinning rap performer. Scott remembers it depicted a swamp “with alligators and weird things.” She met the rapper during the assignment, which was featured in an MTV special on celebrity homes, and found him to be “very gracious.” Helping her on these and other large projects over the years were her sons, Joey and Chris Seale, who became accomplished artists themselves.

Scott described her current projects, called memory paintings, that she is creating for her extended family. Her first was a collage of Aspen trees in red, yellow, green, and blue requested by her step-daughter, Denise Lunsford. The large painting contains significant family mementos. Scott’s husband and Lunsford’s father, Jon Scott, is a salesman at Steepleton Tire in Memphis. “The base of the picture has bits of rubber,” Lunsford says. “Jon also loves tea, and a close look at the painting shows foil tea wrappers imbedded in the canvas.” Word and photos of the Aspen work quickly circulated among family members. “Just about everybody is clamoring for me to do one for them as well,” Mary says with a laugh. “I’m swamped!” Scott’s creativity impressed longtime friend Frances Follis, a semi-retired Southaven, Mississippi, real estate broker. Follis loves the oversized tuxedo Scott painted on and repurposed for her several years ago. A winsome, welcoming bungalow and prominent “for sale sign” containing Follis’s name and her Southaven affiliation decorate the back. The rolled sleeves feature roses, while the lapels sport a flower bouquet and mockingbird. When Follis wore the tux, she received smiles in her business meetings and friendly exchanges while on trips to the grocery store. “I wore my own advertising,” she jokes. Another of Scott’s creative ventures currently sells at Side Alley, a gift shop and café on the square in Hernando. The DeSoto 25

art pieces combine Scott’s painting skills with her husband’s tin-framing abilities. The couple travels Mississippi’s back roads, and when they spot a barn with a falling tin roof, they ask the owner for permission to take the tin. She paints hunting images like ducks or deer on wood, and he mounts the wood on a larger tin frame. “The art is masculine and looks good in a man cave,” Scott says. After Hurricane Katrina, Scott, a Jehovah’s Witness, volunteered with church teams throughout Mississippi for repainting and repairing Kingdom halls, as JW churches are called. Her specialty was faux marble walls. DeSoto Arts Council director Margaret Yates agrees that Scott’s work is unusual and attractive. “Mary does beautiful work,” Yates says. “Her colors are intense and upbeat. Her paintings have a nice feeling of shadows and sunlight.” In looking back on her life, Scott recalls early artistic moments when she started painting as a child. “My first-grade teacher saw how upset I was when it was time to put away the coloring,” Scott recalls. “She allowed me and another little boy to do the bulletin board, and that was heaven to me.” Once her parents saw her talent and prolonged interest, they also encouraged her by paying for a correspondence course. The wider family likewise soon recognized the child’s keen talent. Her aunt bought her the three basic colors (red, yellow, and blue) plus black and white and taught her how to mix them. Scott painted a huge magnolia for her. “That’s what everybody did back then in Mississippi,” she smiled. “My aunt paid me $15 and told me, ‘Now you are a professional. When people pay you money for your art, you are a professional.’” From that date forward, Mary Scott became a professional—always seeking challenges, always pushing herself to grow professionally, and always appreciating beauty. Mary Scott, 901-289-6359

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exploring books} endurance: a year in space, a lifetime of discovery

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A Year in Space,

A Lifetime of Discovery By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Penguin Random House and NASA

Space travel is the ultimate journey that few mortals have taken. Scott Kelly, however, defied the odds as he tells in his new memoir, “Endurance.” As a consistently disinterested pupil who graduated in the bottom half of his high school class in West Orange, New Jersey, Scott Kelly never seemed to have the right stuff to succeed in school. “I wasn’t much of a student, actually, from kindergarten to my first year in college,” he said in a book trailer for his new memoir. “It was impossible for me to pay attention and do my homework.” That all began to change when Kelly picked up “The Right Stuff” as a faltering freshman on a trip to buy snacks from the bookstore at the University of Maryland, Baltimore

County. Tom Wolfe’s book told the true story of the pilots who tested risky rocket-powered experimental aircraft and the first class of astronauts that followed. “The way Tom described the pilots and test pilots, you know, I felt like I had some of the traits that they had. I felt I had things in common with them even though I was this 18-year-old kid that couldn’t do his homework,” he said in the trailer. “But that book made me decide then and there I was going to try to be like these guys. At the time it seemed like a giant leap.” It wouldn’t be the only one Kelly would make. DeSoto 29

From there, the trajectory that took both he and his twin brother Mark from blue-collar beginnings in northern New Jersey, where both parents were in law enforcement, to NASA and, then, to space, was fueled by hard work, perseverance and plenty of personal sacrifice, which Kelly chronicles in his memoir. The book focuses on his 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station, which gave Scott Kelly the record for time in orbit for a U.S. astronaut. All told, he’s spent more than 520 days in space. “Being in a place that is isolated, remote, risky, challenging – is something that requires endurance, so the title of this book is ‘Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery,’” he said. “This was the longest space flight by an American, so it seemed like an apt title. But it also applies to my life in a lot of ways.” Indeed, over the course of his career, Kelly endured missed birthdays and holidays with friends and family, including his two children, a strained marriage that eventually ended in divorce, being away from Earth when his sister-in-law, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and seriously injured in 2011 and a bout with prostate cancer, which Mark, an identical twin, also battled. And that was all before his record-setting mission in 2015 and 2016. During that space-bound stint, he left behind his life on Earth and his long-time partner, Amiko Kauderer, now his fiancée. He also said goodbye to showers, sheets and pretty much every other creature comfort most Earthlings take for granted. Considering that – and the fact he’s lost upwards of 40 friends and colleagues in aircraft crashes – it might come as a surprise that he cites the same feelings he got from “The Right Stuff” when explaining his motivation. “The adrenaline rush is pretty addictive. You’re riding on a rocket with seven million pounds of thrust and it could blow up. I mean, that’s what excited me about this job.” But, once aboard the ISS, his duties encompassed everything from fixing toilets and carbon monoxide filters to growing lettuce and zinnias, a project he took personal interest in when some of his Twitter followers questioned his gardening skills – with one even giving him a ‘green thumbs down’ compared to Mark Watney, the fictional protagonist of the book and movie “The Martian.” These tasks might seem mundane compared with Kelly’s earlier experience landing jets on an aircraft carrier as a Navy pilot or as a space shuttle pilot and mission commander before NASA retired the vehicles. But Kelly views the work as vital if humans hope to ever make it to Mars in real life – what he sees at the next giant leap for space travel. His year in space did require some incredibly dangerous duties, including three spacewalks, in addition to dozens of daily tasks and experiments that give readers a glimpse into exactly how much effort and international collaboration keeping the ISS in orbit requires. “In a world of compromise and uncertainty, this space station is a triumph of engineering and cooperation,” he wrote. “Putting it into orbit – making it work and keeping it working – is the hardest thing that humans have ever done, and it stands as proof that when we set our minds to something hard, when we work together, we can do anything, including solving our problems here on Earth.” Solving the world’s problems might seem an impossible dream. But what else would you expect from a subpar student who became an astronaut? “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said in his book trailer. “I’m a guy that had this very lofty goal that came from humble beginnings and had some pretty large mountains to climb. But I feel very strongly that if you can dream it, you can do it.”

“The adrenaline rush is pretty addictive. You’re riding on a rocket with seven million pounds of thrust and it could blow up.

I mean, that’s what excited me about this job.”

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into the wild } uncle sandy’s macaw bird park

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Reed Raulston with Andy

Uncle Sandy’s to the Rescue By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography by Tony & Mary Ann DeSantis

One man’s love for exotic Macaws developed into a labor of love for a team of dedicated volunteers who keep Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park open as a tropical bird rescue and sanctuary. Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park is a well-kept secret, even for north Florida locals. It’s only the loud calls and squawks of the exotic birds that provide a clue something wild is going on behind those colorful signs and fences near a residential section in north Pensacola, just off Highway 90. The open-air aviary provides a safe haven for more than 150 macaws, smaller parrots, cockatoos, peacocks, and other rare birds that – for one reason or another – have been brought to the sanctuary. Some species of parrots can live 80-to-100 years, often outlasting their original owners. Large macaws – one of the most popular parrot species for pets – can live 50 years or longer. Birds tend to have a one-person bond so it can be hard for them to accept a new owner. Uncle Sandy’s was established in 1998 to provide a place for the tropical birds that people no longer wanted. “If you get a bird at age 40, it’s probably going

to outlive you and your kids,” says Reed Raulston, a dedicated volunteer since 2009 and Uncle Sandy’s board member. “For some people, the novelty of owning a bird wears off; for others, lifestyle changes are the most common reason people have to give up their birds.” For instance, Pensacola is a Navy town and when personnel are deployed overseas, they often find they can’t take a pet, especially a rare bird because of customs regulations. Other reasons include a marriage or the birth of a child. Birds become protective of their “favorite person” and sometimes will not accept a new spouse or small toddler. The best decision may be to find another home for the feathered friend. As Raulston walked along the pathways that meander between the large round cages, he stopped and talked to many of the feathered residents who have individual names. He stresses that social interaction is very important to these DeSoto 33

The Holt Family from Tenn

beautiful creatures. All the volunteers say that the birds each have their own personalities… some are outgoing and talkative – like the scarlet macaw named Paula Dean – while others are shy and introverted. Visitors find the extroverts quite quickly… and volunteers often bring them out of the cages to let guests hold and feed them. In fact, the $5 entry fee ($2, children) includes a small bag of peanuts and some fruit that guests feed the birds as they walk through the compact, 1.16-acre park. “When you spend time with them, it’s like being with your kids,” Raulston says. “They are glad to see us.” At one particular cage, he spent a little extra time with “Andy,” a blue and gold Macaw that clearly had an affection for Raulston. But it wasn’t love at first sight. “Andy’s owner was killed in a motorcycle crash, and the bird went into mourning,” he remembers. “He wouldn’t eat, was lethargic, and started pulling out his feathers.” Raulston worked with the bird for more than six years, gaining his trust enough that the macaw now lets him roughhouse a bit and rub his feathered belly. Most likely, Andy will be a permanent resident at Uncle Sandy’s because he has not bonded with anyone other than Raulston. Visiting the all-volunteer park can be tricky. For now, it’s only open on weekends when volunteers are available or by appointment during the week. Uncle Sandy’s relies solely on donations and a small team of volunteers to keep the place running. Most volunteers, especially Raulston, are happy to show off the aviary to guests. After all, the tours and public displays are the best way to educate the public about the unique needs that bird ownership requires. Uncle Sandy’s gets about 60 to 100 visitors a day 34 DeSoto

during the summer months, but Raulston says there is still not a lot of local traffic. As a non-profit, budgets are tight and don’t allow for much advertising. However, thanks to the Facebook page and sites like TripAdvisor, out-of-town tourists like Miles and Kendra Holt of Clifton, Tennessee, have discovered the park. “We bring our twins and our 3-year-old whenever we vacation in Ft. Walton Beach,” says Kendra. “My children love it. We have parrots at home, so I think it’s fun for them to see other birds in a different environment. The staff is always so nice, and I feel like it’s a good kid trip and the donation is for a great cause.” Uncle Sandy’s began when Sandy “Carl” Kirkconnell, a native of a small island near Honduras, built a free-flight aviary for his macaws and shared his affection for the tropical birds with his neighbors. Soon after, unwanted birds started showing up at his door. Unable to say no to an animal in need, Kirkconnell created the sanctuary for them. After his death from cancer in early 2013, a group of volunteers helped establish the park into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to continue his legacy of saving birds and educating the public. The park’s main mission is to provide a safe haven for unwanted exotic birds, but Uncle Sandy’s periodically tries to help find new homes for healthy birds. In the meantime, though, Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park has plenty of colorful and personable birds that give visitors a unique opportunity to handle the exotic creatures one-on-one.

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table talk } oxford’s saint leo

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Crafting a culinary culture By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography by Karen Ott Mayer and

Eighteen months ago, native Californian Emily Blount dived into Mississippi’s culinary world when she opened Saint Leo in Oxford, Mississippi. And now she and her team will soon cook for the James Beard Foundation in New York City. On a Saturday late afternoon, Saint Leo – located on the northwest corner of Oxford Square – hums with anticipation of the approaching dinner hour. The crisp, clean tables in the slim space will fill quickly in the brief space of an hour. Even with young children at home, Saint Leo, and a new building renovation poised to start, owner Emily Blount appears unflappable. With a wide smile and infectious enthusiasm, she manages an interview while giving brief polite direction to her team, bustling back and forth. A former actress, Blount landed in Mississippi after a circuitous route from California, to Boston and New York-where she performed just off Broadway for five years. With a Southern husband from Jackson, the former actress agreed to consider Mississippi as her next home.

“I had never even been to the South or to Mississippi,” she says. In fact, she has traveled the world and never once thought about the state as an option. “I love New York City. I love the hustle and bustle.” So how does she find Oxford? “I knew it was small, but I didn’t realize how small until now!” But for all things foreign like too much quiet, Blount has truly found her place, her new stage, at Saint Leo where she’s been shaking up the Oxford scene. “I want to serve simple, good food, but the hospitality aspect is just as important,” she says. Even before she arrived in Mississippi, she spent time researching ideas and brainstorming different entrepreneurial ventures, including everything from a bed-and-breakfast to DeSoto 37

a bakery. She sought out former Oxford restauranteur Dan Latham, who owned L&M, for initial advice, finally deciding on northern Italian cuisine, particularly wood-fired pizza made in a Pavesi oven. “It’s similar to Neapolitan with a slightly longer cook time at a slightly lower temp,” she explains. For her, those beloved restaurants back North didn’t just fill an appetite; they became a part of her life. “Gramercy Tavern is where I fell in love with my husband. Il Buco in New York City is another of place that is a part of my life.” Naming the restaurant became another intense process. Saint Leo is the patron saint of Rome, and Rome is Emily’s middle name. An intimate, lively space filled with only 27 tables, the sophisticated, urban design nonetheless isn’t stuffy. Today, the menu changes every few months and she’s determined to support local growers and producers. “We work with Native Son and Home Place Pastures as well as source local honey.” So, what’s everyone raving about on the menu? The house cocktail, the Starting Pistol, ranks as a popular choice while the marinated house olives made from Sicilian green olives, rosemary, garlic and chili flakes can’t be beat. The farinata chickpea crepes with rosemary and sea salt may tie closely with the prosciutto and apple slaw. And how are Southerners digesting all of this new Italian lingo? “The critiques have been so positive and we’ve had so much support,” says Blount. Through an ironic meeting, Blount connected with her head pizzaiolo Marco D’Emilio. With his wide friendly smile and distinct accent, D’Emilio can often be found near the pizza oven located near the back of the restaurant. A native of the Abruzzi region in Italy, D’Emilio brings both practical experience and research experience to Saint Leo -- besides his infectious enthusiasm. 38 DeSoto

Saint Leo’s pizzas can be as exotic or ordinary as a customer wants. Meat lovers may gravitate to the pepperoni, sausage and pork belly while the more adventurous may choose the sweet potato and Kale topped with goat cheese, tomme cheese, and pumpkin seeds. All the pastries are made in-house, including a handmade pudding, an apple and dried cherry crostata, and dark chocolate pots de creme. “We want to be innovative and push the envelope, but our bigger mission and first priority are always people.” Blount views her work as more than serving food, but rather, building a community. Dynamic and vibrant, Blount’s breezy approach is without pretension and driven from her deep beliefs in creating something of great value. Considering Saint Leo is open six days of the week and employs more than 60 people, her larger contribution to the Oxford community can’t be denied. Orchestrating the entire operation from the visual to the books, Blount hopes to grow a specific positive company culture and to cultivate the culinary repertoires of those in her kitchen. With 18 months behind her, this mother of two young boys shows no signs of slowing down. She is currently renovating the former Oxford Eagle building where she will seat overflow and manage a growing catering business. And there’s the one exciting recognition that happened in 2017: Out of 25,000 restaurants nationwide, Saint Leo was named a 2017 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant.” Her entire team will head to New York in April to create and serve a five-course meal--and perhaps carry a little of Mississippi with them.

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exploring destinations } mayberry

Andy and Opie Statue in front of Museum

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Wally’s Service Station

Return to Mayberry By Debi Lander | Photography by Debi Lander

For anyone looking for a little 1960s nostalgia, the town of Mount Airy is just the place to relive memories created by its hometown hero, Andy Griffith. North Carolinians call it Mount Airy, but to visitors it will always be “Mayberry,” the idyllic, fictional setting for the popular “Andy Griffith Show,” which aired from 1960 to 1968. Griffith grew up in the small town, located in the north central part of the state, and residents pay homage to their favorite son with scenes that transport visitors back to simpler times. Cruising down Main Street in a vintage 1962 Ford Galaxie squad car with the siren blaring was a highlight of my trip. I hopped inside with driver, Allen Burton, a life-long Mount Airy resident. We passed white-granite buildings, the old Earle Movie Theater, a hardware store, Floyd’s barbershop, and Snappy Lunch. The town offers nostalgic scenes — manicured neighborhoods with picture postcard homes, where children can still bike safely to a friend’s house. Why I bet neighbors can still borrow a cup of sugar for a batch of homemade cookies

served up like Aunt Bea’s. Burton relays bits of history about the town and its famous landmark, the world’s largest open-face granite quarry, still operating today. We also pass the childhood home of Griffith, a small, one-story bungalow available as an overnight rental. His parents lived there until Andy moved them to Hollywood. Griffith kept a lifelong friendship with childhood pal Emmett Forrest. Forrest returned the favor with the town’s highlight, the Andy Griffith Museum on Main Street. His daughter now carries on as proudly as Barney Fife was of his badge. A bronze statue of Andy and Opie heading for the fishing hole stands outside the museum. The interior features original cast costumes, set props, and plenty of photos. Iconic signs from the show’s courthouse doors read “Sheriff” and “Justice of the Peace.” The original items from Sheriff Taylor’s office remain on display, with video clips playing in DeSoto 41

Costumes Displays Andy Griffith Museum

the background. The museum also memorializes Andy’s career from his early radio days to his role as Matlock in the 19861995 television series by the same name. Hundreds of Rerun Fan Club members descend upon Mt. Airy each September for the weeklong Mayberry Days celebrating the down-home town and show. They spend hours in the museum; the less dedicated can do it in an hour. The squad car tour ends at photo-worthy Wally’s Service Station, built in 1937. Wally’s stands next to a replica of the courthouse. Here, tourists can sit behind Andy’s desk, peck at the vintage typewriter, and pretend to place phone calls through the operator, which most of today’s kids would never understand. Two memorable jail cells (town drunk Otis’s home away from home) still stand across from the office. And just like Otis, you can lock yourself into the jail. Baby boomers, like me, grew up with Andy and Opie — Andy’s son on the show, played by Ron Howard, who left Mayberry behind and became an acclaimed movie director and producer in his own right. Who can forget the nervous, ineffective antics of Don Knots as Barney Fife, girlfriend Thelma Lou, Floyd the barber, and, of course, Goober and Gomer Pyle, the mechanics? When you get hungry, drop into Snappy Lunch, a small restaurant operating in the town since 1950. Andy mentioned it once during the series’ first season. Mary Dowell, the current owner, and daughter of Charles, the original owner, says her dad recalled Andy as a boy, often dropping by after a movie. For a nickel he would get a hot dog and pop. Today, the special is a pork chop sandwich made from slice pork tenderloin dipped in batter and fried on the grill. Sandwich toppers of mustard, chili, onion, and tomato would make Andy say, “It’s mighty good.” 42 DeSoto

Head to Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies for dessert featuring Sonker, a local favorite, or for the Moonshine pie. Sonker is similar to a potpie or cobbler, made by blending fruit and unshaped dough, often sweetened with sugar or sorghum cane molasses. Owner Angela Shur, a native of Long Island, New York, brought a tad of the North with her when she moved to Mount Airy. She calls her version “zonker,” claiming that when you eat hers, you go zonkers. Other notable sites include the Mayberry Distillery, run by Van McCoy, a retired monk and another hometown boy, whose tours are a hoot – and not just for the generous moonshine tastings. The Mayberry Motor Inn dedicates a room to the late Frances Bavier, also known as “Aunt Bee,” A window inside the inn provides the portal to the “warm and fuzzy” she brought to every situation. The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History offers yet another attraction. Remember Mt. Pilot? Nearby, Pilot Mountain State Park offers an inviting drive to the top and a hike around “the Knob” for spectacular views of the Yadkin Valley, a booming wine region. The Valley became North Carolina’s first federally designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2003 thanks to the efforts of owners Charlie and Ed Shelton of Shelton Vineyards. A getaway to the area featuring mountains, bluegrass music, Mayberry, and Merlot makes a budget-friendly and memorable escape. And chances are you’ll be whistling the show’s opening theme song before you leave.

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on the road again } eureka springs, arkansas

, s g n i r p S a k e r u E s a s n a k Ar

9:00 Breakfast at Mud Street Cafe on South Main. Sip a cup of their award-winning coffee or espresso while enjoying traditional breakfast favorites like pancakes and eggs. Other menu items include the popular veggie hash browns and fresh-baked muffins or scones. 10:00 After breakfast head down South Main to the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and Information Center. Explore the main floor exhibits to learn about the town’s history and people, then head upstairs to the second-floor gallery which features local artists. 11:00 Stroll the boutiques and galleries in the charming downtown district. Pick up a unique gift, gourmet kitchen item or home accessory at one of the many locally owned stores. 1:00 Local Flavor Cafe is the perfect stop for lunch. The eclectic and quaint interior or outdoor patio are both inviting options. The large menu offers everything from salads and burgers to sandwiches and vegetarian options. House specialties include the meatball sub, shrimp diablo or quiche of the day. 2:00 After lunch, hit the 25 miles of trails and paths in the heart of Eureka Springs. Take in the beauty of the area on foot or bike. For more information and maps, visit 4:00 Time to unwind at 1905 Spa. Located on the second floor of the Basin Park Hotel, the spa offers many different treatments like hot stone or chakra balancing massage, facials, body wraps and a couple’s massage. For ultimate relaxation, enjoy the hot tub and sun deck afterward. 6:00 Dinner at Ermilio’s for delicious Italian home cooking. The causal, comfortable atmosphere and great food make this a favorite spot for locals and visitors. Order a traditional dish like mom’s homemade meatballs in red sauce, create your own pasta dish, or choose a dinner specialty like pan roasted pork chop or chicken marsala. Save room for a decadent homemade dessert!

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The Great Passion Play: 50 Year Anniversary Eureka Springs, Arkansas, offers many wonderful attractions and events, but the Great Passion Play is a must see during the summer. The play is a 1.45-minute reenactment of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. The 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater comes to life with special lighting and sound effects, live animals, and a cast of 150 Biblically costumed actors. This Christian attraction has been performed since 1968 in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. See the Easter story from the first weekend in May through the last weekend in October. The Passion Play is not the only thing to see and do on the grounds. Guests can also enjoy these attractions all year long: • The Christ of the Ozarks - Standing at 67 feet tall, it’s one of the largest Christ memorial statues in the world. • The Holy Land Tour - The 3-hour tour takes visitors back in time as they walk through a full-sized replica of the East Jerusalem Gate and Marketplace. • The Bible Museum - A collection of over 6,000 Bible manuscripts in over 625 languages • The Sacred Arts Museum - Showcases hundreds of pieces of religious art dating as early as ninth century • God with Us: New Testament Movie

For more information about tours, group trips and tickets visit or call 479-253-9200.

To plan your visit: DeSoto 45

greater goods } april showers








1. Reversible UbU Raincoat, Upstairs Closet, 136 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS 2. Shane Lee rain jackets, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Vera Bradley Mini Umbrellas, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 4. Mycra Pac rain jackets, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 5. Charles River rain jackets, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 6. XTRATUF Boots, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 7. Anorak in stone, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Kids Umbrellas & Rain Boots, Aiden + Ollie, 5627 Getwell Road, Southaven, MS

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greater goods } traveling













1. Patagonia backpacks, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 2. Slim Sonic electric toothbrushes, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 3. MBGreene Bags, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 4. Lauren James backpacks, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 5. MudPie Tote, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 6. Accent bags, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. The Royal Standard bags, The Square Cupboard, 328 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 8. Melissa & Doug Travel Games, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 9. Manicure sets, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 10. Cinda B Train Cases, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 11. Jon Hart Burleson Bag, The Other Side Gifts, 122 Norfleet Dr, Senatobia, MS

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Surf’s Up! By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Ryan Osmond and Surfers Healing

Finding the right wave can be easy when you learn to hang 10 at one of the South’s many surfing schools.

REAL Watersports Surfer

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The quintessential ingredients for a beach day are sun, sand and surf. Sun’s easy – spread out your blanket, apply little sunscreen and lie down. Sand’s easy too – it’s all around you. Surf is a different story. Most of us wade and play, splash a little, maybe try our hand at riding a wave on a boogie board we bought three seasons ago or on a raft that requires 20 minutes of hyperventilation to inflate. We’re doing it all wrong, and that means we’re leaving a lot – maybe a lifetime – of beach fun on the table, but that’s an easy thing to change. Picture the beach. An expanse of sand dotted with umbrellas and blankets, gulls cry overhead, waves crash just a few yards away. Of all the people there, who’s having the most fun? Could be the toddler in slack jawed awe, finding wonder in each shell. Could be the kid finally old enough and bold enough to dive under the breakers and scream with delight as another wave crashes over him. But kids aside, the next group has to be surfers. And since there’s no way to restore adults to the joyful fearlessness of youth, surfing is where we must turn. Surfers stand on the shore in a certain way, read the waves, make silent decisions. Their confident entry into the water and calm paddle out is the epitome of cool. Their nonchalance about harnessing the swell and thrust of the wave is as enviable today as it was when The Beach Boys exposed so many of us to the sport and lifestyle. Think it’s out of reach to learn to surf ? Don’t be a bummer – there’s time for adults to learn and time for kids to find a lifelong passion. After a few lessons with a qualified instructor, you’ll be ready to try a few waves on your own. Along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are surf camps, intense day-long lessons, and clinics designed to get you on the water for the first time or build on intermediate knowledge or prepare experienced surfers for competitions. There are camps for kids, women-only camps, one-on-one lessons with former pros, multiboard camps and too many to name. And they all have a few things in common as they prepare you to ride your first wave. You’ll start your lessons on the sand, learning the parts of the board, and the basics of paddling out and standing up on your board. After some practice and DeSoto 51

review, you’ll talk waves – how to read them, how to catch them, what to do when you’re standing up – and get in the water. From here, techniques vary by instructor. Their own surf styles, the way they teach and other factors determine the direction of your lessons. You may paddle out and ride in on your belly or knees to get the feel of the wave’s motion and energy, or you may start off attempting to get to your feet and ride right away. Gene Gore, who, along with his wife, Rachel, runs South Padre Surf Company on South Padre Island, Texas, (which just happens to be the first surf school in the Lone Star State) has surfing in his blood. He and Rachel started teaching in 1995, were married on surfboards and have had their two kids – now teens – in the water their entire lives. At South Padre Surf Company, they teach year-round, and Gore says, “We see people from all over the country and the world. We teach toddlers on tiny waves; we teach grandmothers and entire families.” He adds, “[You’ll] learn to surf quickly, safely and easily here” thanks to waves in the 3-to-6-foot range and with water temperatures in the 80s. Trip For man of REAL Watersports in (aptly named) Waves, North Carolina, on Cape Hatteras in the famed Outer Banks, says they keep classes small, typically one-on-one or a very small group, so instructors can deliver personalized direction that helps beginners get up sooner and allows experienced surfers to focus on honing their skills for competition and personal satisfaction. “There’s a lot to learn in surfing,” says Forman. “Reading waves, understanding how wind and weather affect 52 DeSoto

the day, knowing proper etiquette in the lineup. We find that our individualized approach is very effective.” The lineup, he explains, is the group of surfers bobbing on their boards waiting for a wave. REAL started small but now includes a whole watersports campus where visitors will find a retail store and rental shop, a restaurant and accommodations – an entire watersports paradise. With their multi-board approach – they offer lessons and rentals for surfing, standup paddleboarding, the new sport of foiling (picture a surfboard-hydrofoil hybrid) and kiteboarding – they’re in the water no matter the conditions. Cape Hatteras, incidentally, is one of the best spots on earth to try kiteboarding. On the Outer Banks there’re one of many places to learn to surf. Kitty Hawk Kites provides innumerable lessons throughout summer. OBX Surf School has expert instructors in the water daily. And a half dozen more camps and instructors line the shores. Further down the North Carolina Coast, WB Surf School serves Wrightsville Beach visitors and locals who want to learn. Indo-Jax Surf School holds classes and camps at a number of area beaches. Tony Silvangi Surf School brings in Tony’s pro-circuit knowledge and skill sets to the waters off Carolina Beach. Then groups like Ocean Cure and Surfers Healing help get kids with physical and mental limitations into the sport at least for a day or two. In South Carolina, Warrior Surf Foundation continues the theme of good work by helping veterans heal and learn to love the ocean in one fell swoop. Continue south to Georgia where Tybee Surf School

gets scores of surfers on their first waves every year. Surf schools are a dime a dozen in Florida, a state that is almost all coast. Surfin’ NSB (as in New Smyrna Beach) carries on the town’s long tradition of wave riding. In Panama City, Mr. Surf hold Mr. Surf ’s Surf and Paddle Camp. The Florida Surf Association has a one-day event – the Super Grom Surf Fest – that inspires the youngest kids to get on a board. They also work with Special Olympians and Silent Surfers, a clinic for deaf and blind youth. In addition to these clinics, they hold weeklong camps throughout summer. Director Paul West says of their charity work, “How blessed are we to get to be in the ocean and do what we do? Of course we give back.” Blessed indeed. And when you’re out in the lineup, bobbing in the waves, watching for the perfect one to come along – all because you decided this was the summer to learn to surf – you’ll feel that sense of awe too.

“Reading waves, understanding how wind and weather affect the day, knowing proper etiquette in the lineup. We find that our individualized approach is very effective.”

Trip Forman of REAL Watersports DeSoto 53

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ALASKA By Ann Yungmeyer | Photography courtey of Ann Yungmeyer and Susan Warner

Spectacular scenery, wildlife and adventure are at the heart of “the last frontier� state. A land of massive mountains, glaciers and wilderness, Alaska is attracting record-breaking numbers of visitors. Nature lovers and adventure seekers, alike, come to experience authentic Alaska and delve into its rich heritage. Travel companies creatively deliver, offering a variety of tours, cruises and themed itineraries – from bear watching expeditions to discovering the national parks and gold-mining history. Tours are generally led by seasoned professionals and may include opportunities to engage with locals, such as visiting the sled dog kennels of a champion musher. Cruise companies arrange for national park rangers and onboard experts to enhance glacier and wildlife viewing.

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Binkleys Discovery riverboat tour, Fairbanks


Traveling solo, I chose a small group, “grand slam” tour with the family-run company, John Hall’s Alaska. The seven-day itinerary combines travel by motor coach on Alaska Scenic Byways, Alaska Rail, and day cruises. Beginning in Anchorage, the tour loops southeast and then north, with overnights at iconic attractions including Prince William Sound, Fairbanks and Denali National Park. In addition to experiencing the natural environment, the tour affords opportunities to learn about the pioneering spirit of Alaska’s early settlers, with visits to Anchorage Museum’s Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and the Native Heritage Center. Veteran tour-guide John Gailey shares stories of the hard-working nature of Alaskans, from the early days of gold mining and sled dog mushing to construction of the 800-mile-long manmade wonder – the trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline, completed in 1988. A favorite overnight stop is the remote Denali Backcountry Lodge, offering a mix of nature and nurture. Lodge activities include yoga, gold panning, mountain biking, hiking, and fishing at nearby Wonder Lake. Combo Cruise and Land tour Deb and Paul Reynolds from Kingsport, Tennessee, chose an 11-day land/cruise package with Princess Cruises for the ease and variety of travel. From Anchorage, they toured 56 DeSoto

by motor coach and train and enjoyed flightseeing and rafting excursions from the Princess Wilderness Lodge. Aboard the Star Princess, their Gulf of Alaska cruise included stops in the gold rush-era town of Skagway, Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, and Ketchikan (self-proclaimed “salmon capital of the world”), ending in Vancouver, British Columbia. “The ship stays fairly close to shore to be able to cruise the inlets,” explains Deb. “The calving glaciers in Glacier Bay are magnificent, and the ship maneuvers nicely so every vantage point has good views. Daily excursions are offered for a fee, so we took small boat outings to see dolphins, sea lions, and other marine wildlife. “Best thing about the cruise is no packing and unpacking, and wonderful amenities – excellent service, dining choices and entertainment. “The land and cruise weeks were like two separate vacations,” she adds. “Some of the port cities seem a bit touristy, geared for summer cruise season, but our land tour allowed us to see more of the real Alaska.” Self-driving tour Opting to explore on their own, Susan and Wendell Warner, from Marion, Arkansas, rented a car for a nine-day trip last September, when rates were generally lower and crowds were fewer. “It was a longtime bucket-list trip for my husband;

Grizzly bear in the road, Denali.

he watches all the Alaska television shows,” Susan says, jokingly. “We like to have flexibility that you wouldn’t find on a tour, and the area tourism offices helped me plan the whole trip.” The Warners first drove south from Anchorage for a few nights on the Kenai Peninsula. “We had beautiful driving days and stayed in a wonderful cabin in Homer, facing Augustine volcano,” recalls Susan. “One of our favorite outings was a six-hour cruise and glacier tour from Seward that included a fresh salmon dinner.” After heading north toward Denali, they found another favorite spot – the quaint town of Talkeetna. “The general store, Nagley’s, is like something out of The Waltons,” she says. “And Twister Creek, home of Denali Brewing, is the best restaurant; their reindeer chili is to die for.” Like many Alaska travelers, the Warners say their first visit whet their appetite for more. They’re already planning a return trip – this time for a fishing DeSoto 57

Nagley’s Store, a Talkeetna landmark. Photo by Susan Warner

Moose spotting in Denali

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expedition and exploring farther north, to Fairbanks and the town of North Pole.

Top Alaska Attractions

With such vast territory, Alaska boasts untold “must-see” attractions, but most tours beginning in Anchorage will include some of the following favorite destinations:

Denali National Park and Preserve Formerly called Mt. McKinley, Denali is one of Alaska’s true gems, but only an estimated 30 percent of Alaska visitors see the peak, which is often enshrouded in clouds. Meaning “the great one,” Denali is the name given by the native Athabascan Indians to North America’s highest peak, at 20,310 ft. The surrounding parkland was established for the conservation of wildlife in 1917, and was later renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Access is by park bus, a bumpy ride along the 92-milelong dirt road. Lodging is available at the end of the road in the historic mining district of Kantishna.

Fairbanks – A Glimpse into Alaskan History Once the hunting and fishing grounds of the Athabascans, Fairbanks was established in 1901 with the discovery of gold. The area history is presented on a captivating tour aboard Binkley’s Discovery Boat on the Chena River. The boat stops at a living history fur-trapping village and the famous Trailbreaker Kennels – home of sled-dog mushers David Monson and his late wife, Susan Butcher, four-time Iditarod champion.

Glacier Bay National Park With epic ice giants included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay is a favorite cruise ship stop, and for those arriving by plane or boat, the timbered Glacier Bay Lodge offers an immersive experience with catamaran tours, hiking and sea kayaking. The park’s pristine natural environment is prime for spotting DeSoto 59

Riding the glass-domed Denali Star to Talkeetna

Meares Glacier, Prince William Sound

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wildlife – including humpback whales, otters, porpoises, seals, bears, mountain goats, eagles and various seabirds.

Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound are both idyllic destinations for glacier and wildlife viewing, kayaking and boat tours. From the port of Whittier, Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise offers a narrated day trip aboard the Valdez Spirit, with an up-close look at the blue ice glaciers, commercial salmon fishing boats, and marine wildlife.

Talkeetna by Train Alaska Rail offers a wonderful option for relaxing journeys with numerous themed excursions. The “rail belt” is known for outstanding scenery, and the stretch from Denali Visitor Center to Talkeetna in the double decker, glass-domed Denali Star offers some of the best. Talkeetna hails back to its frontier spirit with a historic depot and century-old log cabins, a roadhouse and mining-era structures.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park America’s largest national park (13.2 million acres) deserves a few days to explore. The Wrangell St. Elias National Park, often called the “crown of the continent,” is home to gigantic icefields, as well as the historic Kennecott Copper Mine (tours available) and the quaint town of McCarthy, once holding the richest copper ore concentration in the world. An impressive new visitor center offers walking trails for short outings and viewpoints along the scenic Cliff Trail.

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Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

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Blue Bonnets in Llano County, TX

Drive Time By James Richardson Photography by James Richardson and courtesy of Southaven RV

Hitting the road has never been more comfortable as recreational vehicles – known as RVs – get more and more luxurious. Finding the right one for your family’s lifestyle takes a little investigation and planning. DeSoto 63

Winnebago Revel courtesy of Southaven RV

With summer fast approaching, thoughts are turning to vacations and travel. Many families are thinking about recreational vehicles, or RVs, as their means of traveling. For the RV newbie, there are a lot of questions. What type RV is better? Is it better to buy or rent? What are the costs of renting versus buying? With so many types of RVs available to rent or buy, it would make sense to investigate prior to doing either. Motorhomes come in three classes: Class A motorhomes are the largest and have an appearance of a bus; Class Bs are elaborate conversion vans; and Class C motorhomes are built on truck frames and have sleepers over the cab area. Smaller and often more affordable options include pop-up campers and travel trailers. Pop-up campers are towable units that can be folded or collapsed for easier towing and storing. Travel trailers are towable units that cannot be collapsed. Each type is available in various sizes, amenities, and prices. Motorhomes are driveable and are completely selfcontained, while pop-ups and travel trailers must be towed by a suitable vehicle. The best place to start is at a showroom where you can talk to a knowledgeable, impartial salesperson. Jeff Turnbow, a Southaven RV and Marine sales 64 DeSoto

representative has a few suggestions for anyone considering an RV vacation or purchase. “Think about usage. Are you more of a weekender around a nearby lake or park? Or, are you ready to travel the great USA? This will help you determine size, budget, functionality, and durability,” Turnbow explains. “Things like engine power, wind resistance, and tow weight are very important considerations.” Renting or buying is often the next question. Most authorities agree it is wise to rent a similar unit before purchasing. A potential buyer can rent a similar RV for a lot of vacations or weekends for the same purchase price. Things to consider when buying are not only the initial cost, but also storage needs, insurance and maintenance. As Turnbow put it, “If it has a motor, it will need service.” Alternately, renting an RV has considerations, as well. First, find out if the rental agency or individual is reliable by reading reviews from former customers. Then look closely at the costs. In addition to the per day or per week costs, motorhomes usually have mileage fees and possibly generator fees. Rental agencies often charge generator usage fees if you go over a certain number of hours.

Washington County, TX

For travel trailers the only fees incurred are daily or weekly rental fees. Traveling with an RV, whether renting and buying, will cost in fuel. Most motorhomes get less than 10 miles per gallon of gasoline or diesel. A travel trailer or popup camper will decrease the gas mileage of a tow vehicle. Also consider the expenses at RV parks and campgrounds. Nightly rentals vary greatly – from $20 to $75 – depending on whether the campground is public or private and if there are campground amenities. Many public campgrounds do not have hookups for services like water, electricity, and sewer. Most private campgrounds do have hookups, and therefore charge more for an overnight stay. Since all RV rental agencies or individuals allow a certain number of free miles per day and charge for any overages, one option would be to rent the RV close to the final destination. For instance, I have DeSoto 65

Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska

rented a Class C motorhome from Chattanooga Camper Rentals for a trip to the Smoky Mountains successfully and at less cost. FUTURE RV TRENDS “The RV trend is hotter than ever! RVs have taken on a new life full of innovations in size, shapes, features, and customized for each type of adventurer,” says Turnbow. Larger RV dealers can have many types of floor plans from the same model in stock so that customers can look through them on site. “Now, more than ever, people are looking for ways to enhance their quality of life. Gas prices are down and weekend getaways are up. People are appreciating nature more than ever. Kids who grew up with the RV lifestyle always smile as they recall their time with family and friends,” Turnbow says. “Today, people are looking to escape the mundane. Hotels and urban settings are great, but RVing gets you up close and personal with nature. According to RV Industry Association, more than half of RV buyers are now under 45. So, the generation who grew up during the tech revolution are buying more RVs.” After deciding whether to buy or rent an RV, planning the trip is the next fun part. America is filled with many beautiful places to be discovered in an RV. Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas state parks have great spots for weekend getaways or longer vacations. Also, national parks celebrate the uniqueness of America and are scattered across the nation. The most visited national park is the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, and is a perfect destination for novice RVers. The parks in the Western U.S. are just as welcoming and accommodating to RVers. One of my favorites is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Although it is about 1,400 miles away, the route is mostly interstate highway, which is easy traveling with an RV. Driving an RV, or with one in tow, may sound difficult, and Turnbow recommends taking an RV driving course. “It is always best to familiarize yourself before making a large investment. Most shoppers are finding that handling an RV is much easier than expected,” he says. There are a few things to remember when traveling with an RV. 66 DeSoto

A motorhome is wider and longer than the family sedan or van. Be aware of that with turns and in a parking lot. Same for a popup or travel trailer. Fortunately, there are pullthrough sites at many campgrounds. As Cousin Eddie said to Clark W. Griswald in Christmas Vacation, “It’s part of the experience, Clark!” Same with RVing. There is nothing like waking up in a campground surrounded by nature, cooking breakfast and drinking coffee over a campfire with no traffic, no noise except the occasional chirping birds or rippling water. That makes all the decisions of renting or buying the RV seem very distant.

Cruisin’ By The Numbers 11 million Americans own an RV, the highest number ever according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). More than 355,000 travel trailers, motorhomes, and folding camping trailers are being sold each year, or a record $15.4 billion worth. The RV rental market is a $350 million annual business and continues to grow. Prices for new RVs are typically $5,000-$22,000 for folding camping trailers; $6,000-$55,000 for truck campers; $8,000-$95,000 for conventional travel trailers; $43,000$200,000 for Type C motorhomes and $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes. More than 60 percent of recreation vehicles are made in Elkhart Country, Indiana. More RVs are now owned by those ages 35-to-54 than any other group; the typical RV owner is 48 years old and married. Source: Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)

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homegrown } bound to be creative custom journals

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Binding Travel Memories By Julia Miller | Photography by Julian Harper

Keeping a travel journal is the best way to remember a trip, and the custom journals from Aimee Gundlach keep the memories in style. Sometimes artists spend years perfecting their craft before opening shop to the public. Other times, the perfect marketable project falls right into their lap. For Aimee Gundlach, making Bound To Be Creative custom journals came from a simple frustration. She was tired of buying sketchbooks, a necessity for any graphic design student. She started making rudimentary books for herself by binding paper and cardboard. Then, four years ago in January, she had to complete a design project for class to make a book. “I really wanted to work with leather,” she said. “So, I got on YouTube.”

Shortly after, her mother told her about the art fair at Christ Methodist Day School in Memphis, and they both saw the potential opportunity. “I worked my butt off to create 60 journals,” she said, “and I fell in love with it. It’s like therapy for me.” Since then, Gundlach has managed to juggle her burgeoning craft shop with her full-time graphic designer job. A trip to remember The idea to make travel journals came from her own overseas excursion. DeSoto 69

“For three months, I wanted to learn Italian,” she said. “I made a booklet [of phrases] and a notebook to take with me.” That journal was a simple cardboard and paper construction, but after working with leather, she quickly saw the potential of keepsake travel journals. “It helps you keep the memories,” she said. “You can go back and relive the moment.” Unfortunately, Gundlach lost hers, but her mother also kept a travel journal for the trip. While they were traveling by train or waiting somewhere, she would sit down and write about what they did that day. Gundlach loves being able to look back at those memories through her mother’s eyes. “It’s just a very special thing to have when you’re traveling anywhere,” she said. Many of Gundlach’s travel journals have been commissioned for specific trips, which allows her to have unique impact on her customer’s special moments. “My parents’ friends were getting married, and she really wanted a journal to be able to take on her honeymoon,” she said, of her first-ever, leather-bound travel journal. Creating the perfect travel journal for those honeymooners allowed Gundlach to provide them with a beautiful lifetime keepsake. Recently, she had man reach out to her to create a special project. He regularly stays at a condo in Miami that is owned by a friend of his. He wanted to give the owners a custom guestbook to keep at the condo. “In a way, that’s a travel journal,” she said. When she first sat down with him, they didn’t really understand how much she could do. She began by showing them images and the papers she could use. Much of the order was normal to Gundlach, but then they added a nautical theme. “It wasn’t an obstacle, but it was something new,” she said. “I hadn’t had someone request a specific theme before.” 70 DeSoto

Once completed, the new challenge was a hit with both the man who commissioned it and the couple that owned the condo, a goal she strives for with each journal. “The greatest outcome that I’ve experienced is the pure joy and happiness on peoples’ faces when they receive a journal,” she said. A second life For the past year, Gundlach has taken some time to rethink her craft and work to create a new look. “It’s still leather, but it’s more detailed,” she said. “Each one is its own work of art.” Gundlach’s process has been to revisit the basics and begin reteaching herself. “Learning how to work with leather has been incredible,” she said. “Every time I sit down in my studio, I learn something new.” These products have consumed her day-to-day life, but she has been holding them closely. The new journals were revealed with the launch of her website in February. “When you have this thing that’s really important you just want to hold it close before you let it out,” she said. For Gundlach, the most important aspect of the work is to insure quality. She relies on a bead shop in midtown that provides wholesale beads made of natural stone, including her favorite — African terracotta beads. Her journals include high quality multimedia paper, so that the user can use it for everything from writing to sketches and watercolors. And each cover is made from a carefully selected piece of hide from a Cordova leather shop. She never gets the same hide, which helps contribute to each book’s unique quality. “I try to put everything I can into making that book,” she said. “No two books have the same look.”

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southern gentleman } clay shooting

Ready, Set, Clay! By Jan Schroder | Photography courtesy of Barnsley Resort

Have a blast learning and enjoying one of the fastest growing sports in the South: clay shooting. Even if the only things you’ve ever shot are a camera or Jell-O in a cup at a tailgate, you can easily enjoy the sport of clay shooting. When those first small orange discs fly through the sky or skitter across the ground, you may think it’ll be impossible to actually hit one. But with the right guide, the second you hear – and feel – the blast of your shotgun and see the clay shatter in the sky, you’ll be hooked. In addition to the immediate gratification of destroying a clay, enthusiasts wax eloquent about spending time outdoors, making all the noise they want, engaging in friendly competitions all while building comradery with their friends. Charles Gay of Marietta, Georgia, says, “It’s like golf with guns, and cheaper than seeing a therapist.” The sport is often likened to golf because no two courses are the same, terrain governs the design of the course and the level of challenge, and participants travel between stations in a golf cart. A typical course – with the path of the clays designed to simulate the movement of hunting rabbits,

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ducks or pheasants – will feature 10-15 stations and can be played in 1-3 hours. Families can enjoy the sport: children as young as 10 can take part on some courses, as long as they can hold the shotgun and demonstrate they can safely handle it. Here we set our sights on two resorts where you can put on those safety glasses, plug up your ears, heft a shotgun to your shoulder and yell, “Pull!” You can also improve your game under the tutelage of patient instructors. Day visitors are welcome at these courses.

Barnsley Resort Adairsville, Georgia Novices can learn to load their first shells and more serious shooters can improve their skills by enrolling in a twoday session at the Caesar Guerini Wings & Clays School at

Orvis at Pursell Farms 5-Stand Course

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Orvis at Pursell Farms 12-Station Sporting Clays Course

SpringBank Sporting Club instructor with student

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SpringBank Sporting Club at Barnsley Resort. Set on 1,800 acres, SpringBank offers the Mine Course with 14 stations, the Rock Course with 12, as well as two 5-station stands at which several shooters can fire at once. Skip Smith is the Director of SpringBank Sporting Club at Barnsley Resort and an NSCA Level III instructor who has been teaching for more than 20 years. When he works with novices he teaches them the basics and fundamentals that include safety, how to load a gun, how to stand and how to place the gun so there is little recoil. “The best part of my job is teaching someone with little or no experience and see them successfully hit targets,” he says. “I love seeing their surprise and the smile on their face. Once you break a target, the world opens up.” Another benefit of shooting clays is that people of varying skill levels can play a course together. “Women and children can enjoy the sport too, as it’s not about strength but about hand-eye coordination,” Skip says. SpringBank hosts 13 competitions a year with people at all levels competing within their class. Shooting clays can be affordable as well. Guests can rent a gun for $30 and shoot a round at the 5-stand for just $16.25 plus the cost of ammo. Barnsley Resort is set on 3,000 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Accommodations include cottages and rooms in the new Inn at Barnsley Resort. Corporate and leisure groups are welcome and shooting packages are available.

Pursell Farms Sylacauga, Alabama This former farm turned resort is located in the southernmost foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on 3,500 acres. Pursell Farms has been welcoming shooters since opening Orvis Shooting Grounds in 2015 and features a 12-station course and a five-stand. Blake Garrett, general manager of Orvis Shooting Grounds, has witnessed the growth of the sport with dozens of shooting facilities opening all around the Southeast in the past 10 years. “People love being outside in a picturesque venue, breaking clays and enjoying the day with friends and family,” he says of the sport’s growing popularity. While some people may be intimidated by clay shooting initially, Garrett explains, “It’s easy for beginners. We show them aspects of what is enjoyable about it and they get past feeling intimidated and really latch onto it. Once you fall in love with clay shooting it’s like golf or any other sport – you may start thinking about it all the time.” He remembers a Birmingham golf group with one guy who’d never shot a gun in his life. After a round of golf in the morning, they drove to Orvis to shoot. “He didn’t grow up hunting and couldn’t believe how much he enjoyed shooting, breaking up the clays and cutting up with the guys,” Blake said. “He bought a gun and starting taking lessons.” You can shoot a round at the five-stand at Pursell for as little as $15 if you bring your own gun; gun rental is $50. Guests at Pursell Farms can stay in a cottage, cabin, lodge or a room at the new Inn at Pursell Farms. Shooting packages are available.

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southern harmony } reverend peyton’s big damn band

Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band By Pam Windsor | Photography Courtesy of Tyler Zoller

Reverend Peyton may be from Indiana, but he and his “Big Damn Band” will rock Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival on April 14 – just as they have for years with their country-style blues.

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Reverend Peyton’s rousing, high-energy approach to the blues often catches first-timers by surprise. When his “Big Damn Band” takes the stage and Peyton starts singing and playing slide guitar, it’s clear everybody’s going to have a good time, and those who might have been expecting something a little different are quickly clapping and moving with the rest of the crowd. It’s easy to see why Peyton and his band have been one of the hottest acts at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi for years. “We love Reverend Peyton and the gang,” says Roger Stolle, who co-founded the April festival 15 years ago. “Their brand of music is a different presentation of the blues. I usually tell people they’re a blues act that rocks, but they’re not a blues rock act.” Peyton describes his music as “country blues.” It blends his love of the blues with his deep appreciation of rural America, something close to his heart. He grew up in Southern Indiana, not far from the Kentucky border. “I live in Brown County, Indiana,” he says. “It’s the most rural county in Indiana. I’ll have someone say to me, ‘Hey man, you sound like you’re from Kentucky.’ And I’ll nod and say, ‘Have you ever looked at a map?’” He got his love of music from his father. “My dad brought home a guitar one day when I was a kid. I didn’t even know he could play because I’d never seen him with a guitar. I watched him play a few old songs and it floored me. I became obsessed with it.” It was his father’s devotion to musician Johnny Winter that got Peyton interested in the blues. “Johnny Winter was a blues legend. He’s the guy who helped Muddy Waters make the best record of his career. So, I began studying Winter, then Waters and his influences, and I just kept going back and back and back until I got to the beginnings of that rural American country blues.” The rootsy, country style of blues resonated more than the urban styles of the genre. “People played songs that talked about the rural aspects of life which made more sense to me. Also fingerstyle country blues is absolutely astounding. When I first saw somebody do that it blew my mind because essentially, you’re playing two things at once. I thought, ‘This is it.’” He dedicated himself to becoming a master finger picker and has been doing it ever since. His band, which despite the name, isn’t that big at all, includes Peyton, his wife, Breezy, who plays the washboard and sings, and drummer, Max Senteney. “When I named the band, I had this tendency to call things ‘big damn,’” he says. “Like, ‘that’s a big damn car.’ I said it too much. It’s actually too long for a band name.” He laughs.

“If I’d had a marketing mind I’d have come up with something shorter.” With no major record label behind them, Peyton and the band have worked hard to cultivate a grassroots following, one show at a time. They also use music videos to reach new fans. Growing up in the 80’s, Peyton watched a lot of videos on MTV and believes they’re a great way to showcase music. “I like that I can take a song and I can visually describe for people kind of a feeling I want them to have from hearing it.” Their videos, produced with the help of family and friends, are creative and entertaining. For example, the one for the song, “We Deserve a Happy Ending,” features Peyton and Breezy on their front porch, as a steady stream of questionable characters exit the house behind them. There’s everything from a cop with suspect to a kid with a pig to an unhappy bride to a guy on fire. “We have so many interesting friends,” Peyton says. “And I’m not kidding, if we had a barbecue or cookout at our house on Sunday almost every single one of those people would be there. I even had a friend who let me set him on fire (for the video). I can’t ever repay that.” Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has performed in 48 states and 37 countries, but the Juke Joint Festival, remains their favorite show of the year. “We have a lot of fans in Mississippi. We love it there.” Stolle says, while Peyton’s approach might be different, it’s still the best of the blues. “It’s really high energy, but if you’re into Charley Patton, Bukka White, even Robert Belfour, and traditional blues men like that, it’s all in there. And Rev Peyton, of course, is a great guitar player.” For Peyton, who’s turned out more than half a dozen albums including the most recent “Front Porch Sessions” it’s all about sharing his special brand of the blues with others. “I’ve worked to develop my own voice in it. A true artist creates their own path, their own way, and I’ve worked hard to do that.”

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in good spirits} ship island cocktail

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A Taste of the Past By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of International House, New Orleans

The city of New Orleans turns 300 this year, so naturally this landmark date calls for new libations in the city that arguably invented the cocktail. Alan Walter, the “spirit handler” at the eclectic International House hotel bar loa in New Orleans, has developed several cocktails in honor of the tricentennial, enhancing them with local flavors, native flora and Walter’s proprietary syrups, tinctures and bitters. Cocktails created for the year include a Haitian Sazerac, Terramare for the Delta’s rich soil, and La La Louisiane. “Our cocktail list celebrates the converging lines of flavor over this city’s history, so you could almost say the 300th anniversary might incorporate us,” Walter says. “The formula changes as new influences join the mix, so new cocktails keep arriving as well.” Ingredients run the gamut. There’s white pepper and sugarcane in “Don’t Overlook Alice,” a cocktail dedicated to Storyville, the city’s red light district. “Marguerite,” Walter’s version of a margarita, incorporates longleaf pine needles, sassafras and bay leaf with thyme-infused Cointreau. Spanish moss gathered at night from City Park helps complete the “Jean Lafitte.” “I especially like local ingredients that paint the canvas that the mind’s eye sees in memory,” Walter says. “That is why Spanish moss is so interesting to taste; your palate craves mystique. Pine needles, flowers like Ligustrum and sweet olive, they all are rich additions to the picture.” Before the founding of New Orleans, the LeMoyne brothers of Canada traveled down the Mississippi River and claimed the territory for France, using settlements at Mobile and Biloxi as capital cities. New Orleans and its strategic location on the river came later. Mississippi’s connection to the city is why the “Ship Island” cocktail is on the menu. “There’s a tiny island off of Mississippi nicknamed the ‘Plymouth Rock of the Gulf Coast’ and called Ship Island, as

it was a point of embarkment for early French arrivals to the region,” Walter explains. “Ship Island is still there, but for most of us it inhabits a place in our hearts connected with childhood or coming of age. It has a notable factual history, but the resonance for me is that it evokes my experience of the entire Gulf Coast.” “Sassafras and strawberry are the perfect odd couple,” the bartender says. “They complement each other in a way that only the taste buds can identify as enthralling. They, of course, also have their own places in our foodways and history among our people going back to Native Americans, but here they are telling their own tale together.” As lagniappe, or as they say in Louisiana a little something extra, the loa cocktails arrive in antique glasses. “Vintage glassware puts people in the mindset that old things are coming to life; the present is always the past with a strange new slant,” Walter says. “These glasses are worth gathering and breaking my heart over when they crack, because they tug along stories with them.”

Ship Island

1.25 ounces Barbancourt 8 Year Rum 1 ounce El Dorado 8 Year Rum .66 ounces sassafrass syrup .66 ounces strawberry syrup 1/2 ounces Mastiha .75 ounce lime juice 2 dashes Angostura Bitters Directions: Combine ingredients and shake. Serve on rocks. Garnish with chocolate mint leaf.

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exploring events } april Beneath the Surface: Life, Death & Gold in Ancient Panama Through May 6 Pink Palace Museum Memphis, TN For ticket information call 901-636-2362 or visit Legends of Motown: Celebrating The Supremes Through September 3 GRAMMY Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS For more information visit or call 662-441-0100. Natchez Spring Pilgrimage Through April 17 Natchez, MS For more information visit or call 601-446-6631. 78th Annual Columbus Spring Pilgrimage April 5 - 14 Columbus, MS For tickets and tour information visit www. or call 800-920-3533. Panola Playhouse Presents Cheaper By The Dozen April 6 - 15 Sardis, MS Directed by Sarah Thompson. For more information visit Ballet Memphis’ Peter Pan April 6 - 8 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN For more information visit or call 901-525-3000. Art in the Loop April 6 - 8 Ridgeway Loop Road Memphis, TN The Midsouth’s newest Art Festival features talented artists working in metal, glass, wood, clay, & fiber; plus, jewelry, paintings, photography, and more! For more information visit 49th Annual Crosstie Arts & Jazz Festival April 7 Downtown Cleveland, MS 9:00am - 4:00pm For more information visit

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Marion Countryside Ride April 7 Courthouse Square Marion, AR For more information about route maps and registration visit Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival April 7 - 8 Renaissance at Colony Park Ridgeland, MS Featuring artists from across America with live music and children’s arts activities. For more information visit Author event with Eadie Wolfe Camp: Wolfe’s Howl April 12 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 5:30pm For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit Juke Joint Festival April 12 - 15 Clarksdale, MS Half blues festival, half small-town festival, and all about the Delta. For more information visit Delta Cultural Center Commemorates the 155th Anniversary of the Battle of Helena April 13 - 15 Downtown Helena, AR For more information call 870-338-4350 or visit Kudzu Playhouse Presents A Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre Experience: You Have the Right To Remain Dead April 13 - 14 Sweet Pea’s Table Olive Branch, MS Directed by Emily Chateau. For more information visit Aprilfest April 14 Main Street Sardis, MS Car show and food & craft vendors. For more information visit or call 662-473-7681.

14th Annual Mudbug Bash April 14 Panola Street Hernando, MS 6:00pm - 10:00pm Benefitting the Palmer Home for Children. Live music and crawfish. For tickets visit Behind The Big House April 20 - 22 Holly Springs, MS Experience Holly Springs’ slave dwelling history first-hand. For more information call 901-336-4090 or visit DeSoto Family Theatre Presents Camelot April 20 - 29 Landers Center Southaven, MS For more information call 662-280-6546 or visit 3rd Annual Sultana Heritage Festival April 21 Marion, AR Speakers series with national and local historians. For more information visit Renaissance Day April 21 Old Tishomingo County Courthouse Iuka, MS For more information call 662-423-3500 or visit 26th Annual Tunica Rivergate Festival April 20 - 21 Tunica, MS Live music, shopping, crawfish, arts & crafts vendors. For more information call 662-363-2865.

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reflections} keys to happy travel

Keys to Happy Travel: Patience & Flexibility By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography courtesy of

A few years ago, a National Geographic article explained why some people have an uncontrollable urge to explore the world. Specifically, they have a “restless gene,” known as DRD4-7R, and about 20 percent of all humans have it. I believe I got a double whammy of DRD4-7R from my parents. My mom worked for Eastern Airlines before her marriage and used her bennies to travel the country. My dad, too, had a bit wanderlust and was known to pull into the driveway on a Friday night and, without warning, say, “Load up, we’re going away for the weekend.” It was no surprise that my freelance career has been dominated by travel writing. From French vineyards to Pacific coastlines, from five-star resorts to outdoor huts, I’ve written about a wide spectrum of locations and attractions. And I’ve enjoyed every adventure along the way, but don’t let anyone fool you: travel is not always easy – even if you do have the restless gene. I’ve learned this repeatedly with uncomfortable hotels, canceled flights, and lost luggage. Patience and flexibility, however, are the keys to surviving travel glitches and making happy memories. I still remember an anniversary trip to South Beach near Miami on a muggy June night. My husband and I had heard about the colorful district for years. I booked a fairly reasonable (by South Beach standards) Art Deco hotel, and we planned to spend the evening walking and photographing before catching an international flight the next morning. When we stepped inside our room, it was an oven. The front desk told us the air was centrally controlled and had been broken all day. 82 DeSoto

Unfortunately, all South Beach hotels were booked because of a festival. After waiting for over two hours, Expedia told us they had located a vacancy – at an airport hotel. Our initial disappointment was offset when we walked into an upgraded suite where champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries were waiting for us. Expedia had told the hotel about our sad anniversary tale. This experience reinforced several important lessons travelers need to remember. First, be patient. It was hard to maintain my cool in more ways than one during the two hours on the phone with Expedia. Knowing there were few hotel rooms available kept me hanging on. Secondly, travel rarely goes according to plan so flexibility is crucial. Not staying in South Beach was a disappointment, but I reminded myself that being near the airport would be more convenient. The luxury suite was also much quieter than a street-level room where revelers would most likely extend their parties into the night. An unfortunate piece of luck turned out to be quite fortuitous in the long run. Finally, remember the journey can be as interesting as the destination. My husband and I made a memory as we’ll never forget that particular anniversary. And the best part is that we can still look forward to visiting South Beach… when the weather is cooler. Mary Ann is Editor-at-Large for DeSoto and recently received her third Excellence in Journalism Award for Travel Writing from the Florida Press Club.