I am also cross-posting this to the South board. Thanks to all of you who gave me SUCH great advice about my trip. This is my plan so far:
Leave New Orleans and drive to St. Louis, either through the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks, where I've never been, or possibly following the Mississippi River or taking the Natchez Trace part of the way. I like meandering drives.
I will eat at one of the places suggested by "wekick" here for St. Louis. From St. Louis I will drive east to Effingham, IL because wekick's suggestion of the Firefly Grill looks too good to pass up. [I will not go to Chicago on this trip since I've been there many times already.]
On my way home in mid-August I may stop in Knoxville, TN for a concert (long story) so I may go through KY, go to some more Bourbon distilleries, may also check out parts of TN I have not seen. If I decide not to go to Knoxville I will possibly check out some parts of KY bluegrass country I've never been to. Any other suggestions in KY bluegrass country or Knoxville (please see this same post on the South board for any Southern suggestions) are welcome.
Thanks for the recommendations for eating in Ludington, MI -- actually I am going on an annual camping trip in a tent in the middle of nowhere near Ludington, but sometimes we do go to Ludington for food so I will remember those recs too. If any of you have never been to Butts and Bones BarbQ in Ludington I recommend it, by the way.
I will report back after mid-August upon my return.