Day Eight, Part Two: Two to Tupelo

About a half hour northeast of New Orleans, we took the Slidell exit and took Rigolets Road to Route 90.  It was here, right before the Rigolets Bridge, that Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash in 1967.  It was after midnight and she was heading to a TV engagement in New Orleans following a performance in Biloxi, Miss., when the car she was in ran into the back of and under a slow-moving truck that had been obscured by mosquito fogger being spread by another truck.  All three people in the front seat were killed.  Miraculously, Mansfield’s three children were sleeping in the back seat and survived with only minor injuries.  One of those children is Mariska Hargitay, star of “Law and Order: SVU,” who was 3 at the time.  Contrary to popular belief, Mansfield was not beheaded in the crash – that is the stuff of dark lore.  She did sustain traumatic head injuries and the force of the crash caused her blonde wig to fly off and rest on the dashboard, which most likely led to the myth.

Several hours later we made our next stop in Meridian, Miss., where we went to Rose Hill Cemetary to see the graves of the former king and queen of the American gypsies.  Thousands of gypsies from around the country converged on this small town when queen Kelly Mitchell died in 1915.  Her grave is decorated with beads, a photograph, and other trinkets that pilgrims have left.  Beads also decorate the graves of her husband, the king Emil, and other family members; the cemetary is the final resting place for the Gypsy Royal Family. 

Our final destination for the night was Tupelo, Miss.  We had wanted to get in by 6 p.m. and, in fact, did make it to the city by then, but finding our hotel was another story.  The Courtyard Marriott had provided very poor directions on its Web site; we were supposed to exit onto Route 178 east and then take Route 145 north.  However, there was no Route 178 east and Route 145 north was not marked.  To add insult to injury, the hotel’s logo on the “lodging this exit” sign was located at the wrong exit.  After circling the area twice for 45 minutes, we finally arrived tired and irritated.  It didn’t help matters that we had just missed the free drinks and appetizers served at a manager’s cocktail hour.  We headed to the Outback Steakhouse next door for an attitude adjustment and called it a night.


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