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Chasing the Blues

Taking a devilish Lexus GS 350 into the heart of the Delta

Author Michael Kaplan

IT’S 8 IN THE MORNING on a Friday in New Orleans, and I’m in a bind. In my hand is a sloppy breakfast po’boy quickly greasing up a paper bag. At the curb is a brand-new platinum-colored 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport with eminently stainable light-gray leather upholstery. These two things do not go together. So, before hitting the road, I hunt down a newspaper and spread it all over the passenger seat, then across my own lap. Po’boys can be highly unpredictable.

Being awake this early in the Crescent City is an objectionable state of affairs, but I’ve got a long drive ahead of me, six hours north to Clarksdale, Miss., the town with the crossroads where blues legend Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to play guitar like a man possessed.

I wouldn’t quite call it a hellhound, but there is something faintly devilish about the look of my car for the weekend, particularly around the front end—no surprise the styling was inspired by Lexus’ LFA supercar. A sleekly designed four-door sedan, the GS 350 F Sport is roomy enough for a family and aggressive enough to tear up miles of blacktop. Taking advantage of its link-in with the music streaming service Pandora, I play Delta blues all the way to Mississippi.

Three hours into my trip, I notice a sign for Vicksburg. Something about it rings a bell. I pull over and use the car’s Enform computer system to do a Bing search. Sure enough, the town has been name-checked in songs by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams. Vicksburg it is.

I cruise through the pleasant town, with its Civil War battlefield and rows of beautiful old antebellum homes, and happen upon a seafood and chop house called Rusty’s Riverfront Grill. It’s friendly and unpretentious, with home-baked pies cooling up front. I order a gargantuan fried shrimp sandwich that I swear to the waitress I won’t be able to finish, but do so anyway. “Good luck,” she says, as I waddle out afterward.

In no time I’m again motoring up Highway 61, a road lined with verdant fields punctuated with beaten-down shacks and heaps of disused farm equipment. Grain silos slide in and out of view. Zipping past a picturesque little post office with a single mailbox in front, I suddenly remember a postcard that needs to be sent. Oversize brakes and the Lexus Dynamic Handling System, which calculates optimal wheel angles, help me execute a flashy 180-degree turn that would have done Jason Bourne proud.

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