From Oxford we made the short drive back east for our first non-literary pilgrimage of the trip, to Tupelo, and the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Being Sunday morning, it seemed the whole town was at church, and the visitor centre was closed. We strolled around the little cabin in which Elvis was born, we sat in his porch swing, then we drove on, back to the Natchez Trace.
The Trace is a slow road. Though it's almost empty of traffic, the speed limit is just 50mph, so it took longer than expected to make progress south. The road is also, after several hours driving, a little dull. For most of it, nothing can be seen beyond the trees. By early evening, we were ready to see something more than trees.
The Cedar Grove Inn in Vicksburg was that something. And what a place it is! A mid-nineteenth century mansion, complete with fountains, four-poster beds, and even cannonball holes, made during the Civil War. This is a place that embodies some of the strangeness and contradictions of the south. The high walls of the inn's garden divide it from the poor, black neighbourhood beyond, and it feels like another world. In the evening we sat outside on the porch, watching fireflies and lightning split the Mississippi darkness.
I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake extraordinary journeys across the Americas in spring and summer 2017.
I travelled through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I was accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh.
You can follow my progress on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up-to-date with all the travellers using the hashtag #Outriders.