the world's smartest travel social network
As I prepare for my inevitable Never-Ending Tour and the inescapable expatriation that that will likely involve, I find myself standing at the crossroads (again) and taking inventory of my life and environs—particularly the USA—to see what's left to do here and what's here worth keeping. And even though I've been to some 150-odd (as you know, some very odd!) countries, there are still some gaping gaps in my knowledge of people and places that I've often been very close to, but never actually experienced. So when a friend asked if I wanted to meet up at the family digs on the Mississippi gulf coast, I checked my calendar and my frequent flyer accounts. Yeah, that works. Even though I grew up in central Mississippi, I'd never been to the coast. Can you believe that?
So for almost a week I've prowled the Gulf of Mexico coast in and around Mississippi—Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport, and all the rest. In general “all the rest” are nicer—than the Big Three, that is. Growing up north of here, those three are all I ever heard much about. I didn't miss much. Even with the casinos now here, there isn't that much to see or do, their traditional centers now in decay with the gravity now shifted beach-ward toward the slots and tables, just sparsely occupied commercial strips and even sparser shopping centers and malls. I only wish I could have seen it before Hurricane Katrina, to have a better comparison of life and its living before and after that singular catastrophic event.
Strangely enough, much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast—the actual sandy strand—is single-family residential, many stately mansions and temporary beach homes separated from pure white sand only by the perambulations and peregrinations of US Highway 90 in its making a mockery of county lines and state borders east to west. Apparently there were many more before the deluge, the beach now left with a gap-tooth sorta-happy smile and many 'Land for Sale' signs. Except in the gambling centers, there isn't much commercial development or amenities, either, just miles of beach. Admittedly, in the Mississippi Sound and intra-coastal waterway the water isn't quite as azure as your true gulf beaches, much less your Caribbean, but still it's nice... and relatively cheap.
Some of the smaller communities have kept their traditional centers and communities intact much better than the Big Three. In fact both Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis are picturesque little gems by any standards, the former the traditional home of renowned artist Walter Anderson, the latter no more than an hour from Sin City—New Orleans. Then there are dozens of little ragtag settlements comprising not much more than a few churches, a few gas stations, and a mall if they're lucky, like Waveland and Gautier (pronounced 'Gotye'), but they're not of much interest IMHO, unless they're blessed with a beach or barbecue (got tofu?).
So after a week of cruising and carousing, I feel as if I've come to know the coast almost like a local, but the epiphany (aka “aha moment”) only came when we took a side trip to New Orleans. More at author's blog...