"Action is the antidote to despair."
– Joan Baez
This week was interesting in a different way. We spent our time in Waveland, MS at Bucaneer State Park, which is right on the coast. Before I get to our activities on the coast, let me begin first by telling you about our short jaunt to New Orleans. Steve and I have been to NOLA many times so we did not feel the need to make an extended stay this trip. We did, however, feel that stopping at the Central Grocery on Decatur Street and picking up a muffuletta was a requirement. This store sells the world's best muffuletta and to be so close and not pick one up is tantamount to a venial sin. Anyone with me? We picked up our sandwiches and headed to a nice bench to sit and enjoy our feast and people watch (this was the day after the LSU/Alabama game so the city was packed). While there, we had an older woman who looked very down on her luck come up to us and tell us she was hungry. So, being good Christians, we gave her part of our muffuletta because, like she said, SHE WAS HUNGRY. What does she do with this sandwich? She promptly walks over to the garbage can and throws it away. WHAT? WASTE THE MUFFULETTA? Goodness me I cannot believe she did that. I almost went dumpster diving for that sandwich, but there were other people around and I didn't want to embarrass Steve, so I let it go. Oh well, we did the right thing and tried to help.
Now, on to the Gulf and our time in Mississippi. First, let me begin by saying we absolutely love it here. Both Steve and I could see ourselves living in this area every winter. The beaches are extraordinary, the people are unbelievably friendly, there are a ton of things to do in Gulfport and Biloxi, and both New Orleans and Mobile are an hour away in either direction. This area comes highly recommended for vacation stays for everyone, kids and adults alike. For you gamblers, there are several very nice hotel/casinos right on the beach. Please consider it when thinking about or planning for vacations this year or next.
The reason that I say that, and why I chose the quote above for this week, is because there is still a ton of devastation from Katrina that, although cleaned up, has not yet been rebuilt. Steve and I were stunned at the number of empty beachfront properties that were nothing more than a driveway and then empty lot. Sometimes the stilts of the former residence were still in place. Sometimes it was nothing more than the shell of a building or steps leading to nowhere. It was sad to see that such a beautiful area could have been so completely ravaged by this storm. But these people are truly hearty souls and have done their best to overcome the suffering they encountered in August of 2005.
If you will recall, the hurricane was headed directly for New Orleans but made a right turn just before making landfall. That right turn put Waveland right in the center of the storm. The water that came from the storm surge of this hurricane reached more than 15 miles inland. Steve and I have talked with many people this week who were here during the hurricane as well as some who evacuated only to come home to complete chaos. The woman who cut my hair told me that she lives in Kiln, MS and her house was flooded. Her sister and sister-in-law live in the apartment complex that are about 2 miles inland from where we are staying and both of them had to swim out of their apartments (both of which were on the second floor). Her sister-in-law held on to a telephone pole for 3 days before she was rescued. Can you imagine? Steve and I met a homeless man named Boudreau, or "Crazy Indian" as he called himself, who did not evacuate during the storm. He told us about clinging to the top of a tree (where he landed after a large wave catapulted him there) and watched as house after house floated passed him. He said the most remarkable thing to see was a 10-foot alligator drift passed him, drowned as a result of the flooding. In his words, an alligator that was made to live in water drowned in the storm, but Jesus kept him alive for some reason. One gentlemen, who is camping in the spot right next to ours, told us about his house. He lives about 8 miles from the shore and evacuated with his family. When he returned home, he had evidence that indicated he had 10 feet of water in his house. What was really remarkable to him, though, was a coffee table had floated from their living room, up a dog-legged stairway, and into their second story loft with all the knicknacks intact and upright. He also had a 5-gallon bucket filled with pieces of marble tile that he was saving from a project he was doing in his kitchen. That bucket of marble pieces was picked up (now imagine how heavy that would be) and drifted 1000 yards away from his house without dumping over. We all watched the news after this hurricane and were shocked to see the damage done and were saddened by the loss of life that occurred. To be here and see it first hand, even 7 years later, makes it much more personal to Steve and I. We were in New Orleans shortly after Katrina and saw the damage there as well and even that damage has still to be completely rectified and most likely will never be. Yet despite this devastation, these people pick up their lives and continue on and grew closer as a community because of it. It is truly a testimony of faith in some regards. I am not sure how I would deal with losing everything I had and my livelihood as well. Would I be as resilient? I don't know.
Anyway, as I said, we loved our time here. Steve and I went to the Gulfport Dragway and watched amateurs race their cars. Some were definitely modified for racing, but some were completely stock. I was introduced to drag racing a couple summers ago by my brother-in-law Yog and totally loved it. That was a Nationals event and much faster than what we saw in Gulfport, but it was fun nonetheless. We also walked around and talked with the drivers and learned a lot about amateur drag racing. Some of the cars also had some really cool paint schemes and I enjoyed that very much.
By now, you are all aware of my fascination with the Space program, so while we were here, we had to visit the Stennis Space Center. This NASA facility is where all the rocket engines are tested. I was disappointed that they weren't doing any testing that day, but we were able to drive out the 2 miles necessary to reach the test sites. The reason these 2 miles are required is because of the sound waves created by these engines while in test mode. These engines create such sound waves that the vibration will break windshields of cars parked any closer. Our guide told us that the surrounding areas often mistake the tests for earthquakes. NASA now publishes the testing schedule so that the communities around the base are informed prior to the scheduled events, thereby keeping the panic to a minimum. This facility has been responsible for testing all the rocket engines since the Mercury rockets that were first used for manned flight in the USA. Even though the space shuttle program is over, NASA is developing a new rocket that will be used to shuttle equipment to and from the International Space Station. Those engines are now being developed and tested at Stennis.
Steve and I love the drive down Beach Blvd. and have made that cruise several times while we have been here. It runs from Waveland all the way to Biloxi and is absolutely breathtaking as it literally runs right along the shoreline. One evening we stopped at a restaurant to have dinner and met Charlotte, our waitress, who was from Point Place in Toledo. She moved here last year because her husband took a concrete job with a construction company. She said that she loves living here but that summers were rather oppressive (which we heard from others as well). She also said that construction companies are clamoring for help so if anyone is willing to move to the Gulf shores area, work is available here as well as in Texas and Louisiana which we mentioned in previous posts.
Biloxi is really a fun town. It is packed with casinos, but also has a lot of other things going on. There are fishing and shrimping trips you can take. Lots of wildlife tours are available too. And, of course, being right on the water, the beaches are long and beautifully manicured. And the seafood, OOOOOOOOOOOOO soooo good. Steve and I had several dishes that were made with Gulf fish product and I can honestly say, they were delish. Steve had some oysters on the had shell (yuk) that he raved over. I had fried green tomatoes topped with lump crab. MMMM MMMM. The shrimp is spectacular too. Despite the BP catastrophe 18 months ago, the gulf fisherman are still producing an excellent product so I highly recommend purchasing seafood pulled from the gulf. It's "homemade" and helps out these fisherman. As we mentioned in our last post, gulf seafood is the most regulated and tested seafood in the world because of the BP oil spill so don't be concerned about it's safety.
The rest of our time was spent close to home. Bucaneer State Park is quite a nice place to stay. Being in Waveland, it suffered significant damage but is working its way back to health. This park had a water slide and wave pool which were completely destroyed yet the skeletal remains still and we pass by them every day on our way in and out of the park. What is also interesting here is many of the trees that were destroyed. They remain standing, but are completely stripped of their bark, branches and leaves. These trees are called Live Oaks and are majestic when in full bloom. To see these beauties now as nothing more than scraggly sticks is really sad. Anyway, we marveled at some beautiful sunsets and watched a lot of football here as I am sure you did too. Can you believe the Giants beat the Packers? How about that San Francisco/New Orleans game? We had several Saints fans camping near us and we could hear them whooping and hollering when their team took the lead with just over a minute left in the game. They got quiet shortly thereafter. Bummer for them. The games next week will be interesting although it appears that New England is being set up to win yet another Super Bowl. (Go Browns!!)
Ok, that's it from the Travelin Andersons for this week. We decided to skip Mobile Alabama and head for the Florida panhandle and the beautiful beaches there. The family that camped next to us told us about Fort Pickens Campground in Gulf Breeze so we're going to check that out. We intend to get some sun as the weather will be in the upper 70's while we are there. We also plan to visit Pensacola and the home of the Blue Angels. Connie, my mother-in-law, is flying down to stay with us for a week on January 30 and we are excited about that too.
Until next time, be good and stay warm. Looks like winter is finally settling in.