If you mention Mississippi to me, I am more likely to think of the river that flows by this town, rather than of the state to which the river lent its name. The wide Mississippi, slavery, steamships, tugboats, Huck and Jim on a raft.
Derived from the Ojibway language’s term for “great river,” the name “Mississippi” is a traditional schoolroom bugbear. Difficult to spell correctly due to its repeating letters (I can still hear my niece triumphantly singing “M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I!”), as kids we would appropriate the Magnolia State as a means of marking off time in seconds (“One, Mississippi, two, Mississippi, three, Mississippi, four, Mississippi…”). Back in New York in the 1960s, this was an essential element of the neighborhood kids’ spirited games of hide ‘n seek and ringolevio (while I, disdaining anything physical, could be found indoors with a book).
But being in Mississippi “for real” is another story entirely. In addition to being fried catfish capital of the world (bottom feeders, yuck!), Mississippi is now known for its gambling casinos. The primary enclaves of slot machines and of dice tumbling upon felt tables are at Gulfport on the coast and here in the far northwest, in the exurbs of Memphis, Tennessee, in an area known as “Tunica Resorts.”
Everyone calls this place Tunica, although the casinos here are about ten miles away from the town of that name, in the unincorporated community of Robinsonville, on the Mississippi River. Although the hotels are on the shore, apparently the casinos themselves must float in the Mississippi (à la riverboat gambling) to comply with state law.
The 90 degree temperature and the oppressive humidity of early summer are all but unbearable. We made a reservation from the road, fully expecting everything to be sold out for the Memorial Day weekend. While the hotel websites seemed to confirm this suspicion, we have found that calling directly will often yield good news of a cancellation. Our expectation proved correct, despite the fact that Clint Black is performing here this evening.
As we rolled into town, however, our primary concern was finding a place to do laundry. Video poker would have to wait. And I don’t mean maybe.
When you’re on the road for a month, you either have to bring A LOT of clothes or plan to do laundry regularly. When wandering from one state (or country) to another, however, you never know exactly what you will or will not find. Lesson learned: Do not wait until the last possible moment to do laundry. If you do, fate will laugh in your face and no washer/dryer combo with public access will be available anywhere near your location.
Somehow, we managed to violate this rule more than once during our travels across the USA, with the disgusting results you would pretty much expect. I have been chastened. I now understand that when my wife pronounces “we have to do laundry TODAY,” well, she ain’t kidding, amigo.
Our motto has been “have detergent pods and dryer sheets, will travel,” and we make every effort to keep our change purse fully stocked with quarters. It is such a nice convenience when your hotel happens to have guest laundry facilities. Unfortunately, many hotels don’t. Then you get the pleasure of searching for a laundromat in an unfamiliar town. This may take the form of Googling “laundromats near me,” asking for advice at the front desk or cruising the main drag to see what you can spy with your little eye.
As we had decided to pack only four days’ worth of clothes in light of our already jam-packed little car and our desire to avoid the necessity of removing suitcase after suitcase from the car when we stopped each night, we knew that our immediate future would be filled with many washers and dryers. The scenario ended up playing out something like this:
Nashville – To pull a load of clothes out of the hotel’s washer after an hour, only to find them dripping, sopping wet, is far from encouraging. We had to rewash them in the only other machine and then endure the griping of crotchety employees who only grudgingly refunded our lost quarters. Their attitude may have been a product of their inability to convince a tech come out and work on the broken washer. Post an “out of order” sign? Nah!
Alexandria, Virginia – The hotel’s tiny laundry room on the top floor was locked. We had to obtain a key from the front desk. One washer, once dryer. We tag teamed: My wife would take the elevator up and put in a load, I’d set the timer on my phone, then head upstairs to switch the load. Repeat. Repeat. The lint trap, which may not have been cleaned since the Vietnam War, looked like a breeding ground for mutant bacteria intent on taking over the earth.
Nanuet, New York – The typical situation: Hotel contains no guest laundry facilities and our suitcases contain no clean clothes. After dinner, we drive around hunting for a laundromat that’s open late. Google shows us the location of a fluff ‘n fold in downtown Pearl River by the railroad tracks. Only the laundress with the heavy Spanish accent informs us that we won’t get our clothes back until tomorrow. And how are we supposed to get dressed in the morning? Black Hefty trash bags? My wife ended up doing a load at another hotel in a blazingly hot laundry room without even a place to sit down.
Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod – Found a little laundromat out by the local supermarket. Since there was no change machine, of course we ran out of quarters. Bought a bunch of snacks at the Stop ‘n Shop to get change.
Florence, South Carolina – On the way to Florida, we are are running behind schedule, my wife needs a wifi connection so she can get some work done and, of course, we are out of clean clothes. We pull into town eight o’clock at night and find an all-night laundromat with wifi. After loading our clothes in two washers (one whites, one colors), we discover that no one on site has the wifi password. My wife uses up data to connect to her personal hot spot and I sit out in the car to avoid the megadecibel blaring of the laundromat TV that is rattling my brains inside my head.
Which brings us here to Mississippi. Dressing on our last morning in south Florida, I find that I have no clean socks. I have to wear the same pair for a second day. After a long day of driving, we end up in the panhandle, where we check into a hotel and collapse. In the morning, I have no clean clothes at all. Then we run into traffic and get into Jackson late. My wife washes out some clothes in the hotel room sink and sprays everything with deodorant. She lays them out on the air conditioner to dry, but I get cold in the night and turn off the A/C. You guessed: Damp clothes. I don’t even want to think about what I must smell like. Is this what it’s like for the homeless?
After registering at the front desk and confirming that the hotel has no guest laundry, we learn that one of the local RV parks has laundry facilities. We head across the road to the Sam’s Town RV Park and find the little laundry room. It is 90 degrees and incredibly humid. We lug out all our clothes, load them into the washers and sit outside on a bench. The combination of the heat and humidity makes me feel as if I am about to puke up my guts. We take refuge in the car and crank the A/C to the max. When the laundry is dry, we repair to our room on the third floor of the casino hotel, overlooking the slot machines floating on the Mississippi River. We immediately fall asleep and don’t wake up until 5 am, when we take off out of town. The property’s total take from our gambling revenue? Zero.
Video poker will have to wait until another trip. After all, we need our quarters for laundry.
The Hollywood Casino gambling floor, floating in the Mississippi River.