Not even the Mini-Mart clerk in Possum Trot has heard of Doug’s, so it’s on past dams and lakes to Paducah, KY, a bit hungry and one of us, at least, sorely in need of a hairdresser.
And out of the blue comes a big tin beanie called Hair Impressions, right across Route 62 (Irwin Cobb Boulevard) from a restaurant called Skin Heads.
Hair Impressions will take Polly in an hour, time for breakfast at Skin Heads, a local and national landmark, delicious and generous. Actually, breakfast took 45 minutes. We spent the other 15 coughing second-hand smoke back into the cool morning air of Paducah.
Polly and the Hair Impressionist hit it off like long-lost cousins and now, “civilized,” as she calls it, Polly plunges into Paducah’s plethora of antique shops while Doug explores a city that seems to succeed. More murals enhance its riverwall.
Again, it is almost 2 p.m. before they hit the road, named Alben Barkley Drive, for President Truman’s second-in-command, the Paducahn who coined the slang “veep.” At the edge of Wickliffe, KY, a huge cross stands on a distant hilltop. It seems significant yet remote. We pause for tea at cozy Christy’s, which this day is featuring quail, a delicacy which never has passed Doug’s lips. Tea time becomes dinner time.
In the style of the region, Christy’s offers “three sides” with dinner, including black-eyed peas and butter beans. The quail is a honey bird on the order of Cornish game hen and the whole tab comes in at barely $12, including Polly’s casserole and the next morning’s muffins, fresh from from the shelf.
We wonder about the cross, look at our watches and reluctantly move on. Within a few miles Route 62 plunges into construction designed to modernize the ancient arches bearing it first across the Ohio River, and then the Mississippi.
Route 62 paves less than a mile of Illinois, avoiding dreary Cairo which, at the confluence of two mighty rivers, seems ever on the verge of being swept away downstream. Missouri greets us with a cluster of route signs including “62,” and, separately, “B,” and “RB,” designation for local roads.
In sweet little Charleston, storefronts extend shingle roofs over the sidewalk. We buy out the drugstore’s supply of postcards, a watercolor sketch of the Congregational Church.
Near Sikeston, Routes 60, 61 and 62 all come together and then, a bit to The south, it looks like snow on the berrn. We’re seeing a cotton crop for the first time. We pluck a few bolls and stuff them into the glove compartment.
Route 62 bypasses New Madrid, a Mark Twain hangout, and so do we. We’re tired, it’s darkening and Piggott, Route 62’s Arkansas gateway, shows blue on the AAA map. It has neither approved accommodations nor attractions.
On Grand Avenue in Campbell, Missouri, a gas-station attendant assures us hospitality of Piggott, some 20 miles away. The next 16 hours will fulfill his prophecy.