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Joe Rogers: What Makes Mississippi, Mississippi?

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to celebrate Mississippi’s approaching bicentennial, and think I’ve hit upon the answer: Road trip!

You can help.

My only previous bicentennial experience is America’s, in 1976, and Tennessee’s, in 1996. The former I marked by going to a Fourth of July fireworks display at, as I recall, the beach in Pascagoula. For the latter I occasionally wore a commemorative T-shirt provided by my employer at the time, The Tennessean newspaper.

Not extraordinarily festive acts.

My home state’s 200th birthday seemed to call for more than a short-lived aerial display or an item of casual clothing destined to become gym wear. Obviously, I hope to write about whatever I do, and neither of those delivers much in the way of journalistic inspiration.

Plus, as it happens I have some time on my hands, no longer burdened with a life of daily toil. A week or so seemed reasonable to devote to the pursuit.

But what pursuit?

In the end, I was inspired by two things: a Facebook page called “Only in Mississippi,” and a book I’ve been reading by Bill Bryson titled “The Road to Little Dribbling.”

Only in Mississippi exists to capture attention with posts like “The Timeless Mississippi Restaurant Everyone Needs to Visit at Least Once,” “The 12 Best Small-Town Mississippi Festivals You’ve Never Heard Of,” and “The Enchanting Treehouse in Mississippi That’s Straight From a Fairy Tale.”

It’s not unique; there’s a page for every state, two for California. And I’m not really tempted to seek out the Mississippi gas station that it promises “serves up the best biscuits in the South.”

But I’ve often scrolled through the offerings and thought, Dang, that’d be fun to see.

Bryson is an American writer who has long lived in England. His repertoire is wide (“A Short History of Nearly Everything” is one work) but he’s perhaps best known for his wonderfully droll travel memoirs. (His other books are wonderfully droll, as well.) “The Road to Little Dribbling” is a sequel, of sorts, to his “Notes From a Small Island,” both accounts of his treks to assorted spots around Britain.

Not every spot is a gem. But every tale is. Bryson is the kind of writer who can make literary hay out of getting plunked on the head by a descending parking barrier (as he once was, in Normandy, France).

So, put Only in Mississippi and Bryson together, and you get an irresistible urge to visit Mississippi places and write about the experience.

Here’s where you come in: Tell me where you think I should go.

I’m looking for suggestions about places that evoke the very essence of Mississippi. They could include historic sites, a particularly fetching view, a wonder of nature, a restaurant – you name it.

Email your suggestions – as many as you’d like – to me: jrogink@gmail.com.

I’ll collect the nominations, judge what seems the most promising, and then work out an itinerary that gets me to them.

I’m curious to see what people nominate. And looking forward to the journey.

Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com or on Twitter @jrogink.

About Joe Rogers

I'm a retired newspaper journalist and a Mississippi native who found himself living and working in New York.

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