Monday, January 7, 2019.
Ten-Tom Waterway, Fulton Pool, mile 394.0. Fulton, MS.
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it! The 80s Pointer Sisters hit song described my anticipation perfectly.
I pulled into Midway Marina yesterday about 3 pm and hopped on my bike to explore Fulton, Mississippi, a town of about 4,000. Sundays are a part of the culture in this part of the country, so I wasn’t surprised that everything was closed.
I found a coffee shop! I haven’t had a vanilla latte since I launched L.T. at Land Between the Lakes two weeks ago. I immediately started an hourly countdown to 7 am Monday morning when The Caffeinated Indian was due to open.
My good friends at The Coffee Depot in Breckenridge gave me an expresso kit, two bags of beans and a bottle of vanilla as a going away present. With great anticipation, I pulled that out my second day on the water, but they had not ground the beans! I blame me, not them. Although we had talked of my plans (or at least I talked, they mostly listened) I didn’t give much notice of my departure day and I very much appreciated Jamie running around at the last minute to find such an appropriate gift.
Fulton is not the emptied out shell of a town that I’ve come to expect along the Ten-Tom. It has a 2½ mile bike path on top of the bank along the waterway formed by the dredging of the waterway in the 80s. It’s dedicated as part of the ‘Underground Railroad Bicycle Route’ which struck me as culturally significant, especially since the signage wasn’t defaced.
It is the county seat of Itawamba County, settled in the early 1800s and incorporated in 1837. It has the obligatory county courthouse which is greatly enhanced by a small park with benches, picnic tables and children’s play area behind it. Itawamba Community College is a prominent part of the town and if Goggle reviews is any indication, students love it and the community.
And it’s on the Ten-Tom Waterway. During late summer and fall, loopers and snow birds (traveling by boat instead of RV) travel through going south. Most loopers continue counter clockwise up the east coast but the snow birds come back through in spring on their way home.
There are still numerous empty storefronts, but Fulton has done better than most, probably due to the community college and being the county seat. The boating guidebook Quimby’s talks about ‘quaint towns with good places to eat’ along this stretch of the Loop. I’ve found that to be a bit overblown, but Fulton, with its proximity to the waterway and traditional downtown layout has the potential.
The Caffeinated Indian is a delightful example of what could happen. Beth Stovall opened in March 9, 2018. She remembers the exact day like most small business owners do. Her husband Dave cuts hair and owns the barbershop next door. They have fixed up both small spaces and easily meet the expectations that Quimby’s raise. People like Beth and Dave are the future of small towns like Fulton.
Friendliness and service are the trademarks of owner run businesses. No matter how hard they try – and I give them credit for trying – the Walmart and McDonalds of the world can’t duplicate an owner’s love for what they’re doing, much less provide me my first, and now second, vanilla latte – don’t waste space with foam - of my trip.
I suggested to Beth that she and Dave put up a sign at the marina promoting free coffee with a haircut – or maybe the other way around. Add the popular R.J.’s Eatery lunch place next door and the possibilities are endless…