Pam took me back to the spot where I stopped last night (This is Pam speaking in red.....on the way to the spot, the Jeep heated up and my check gauges buzzer went off, we think it is the thermostat. Drove back to the campground to hookup with the heater going full blast to force the thermostat open! Hope to get it fixed in New Orleans), and today's ride started where it left off. A nice ride in the sun over the long bridge from Pascagoula into Gautier. As I rode over the bridge, I saw some things that looked like it might be damage left over from Hurricane Katrina. It was a fast 20 miles with a tail wind to Biloxi. The skies became darker and darker as I went, and that just added to the ominous path of destruction that was still obvious in the next two towns of Biloxi and Gulfport. It started with a great new bridge into Biloxi, compliments of Katrina, then new casinos and new hotels, parking garages, businesses and other buildings that had been rebuilt or refurbished since 2005, compliments of Katrina. Driving across the bridge into Biloxi, you can see a spit of land that has the remains of a few palm trees, the rest were the trunks of the trees with no branches. Our pictures will never be able to describe the destruction. There were steps and driveways leading nowhere, but you knew that they were for a home. There was a beautiful rusted iron gate and fence that circled nothing, but you knew that it had once been a huge, stately Southern mansion. As I was driving along viewing this, my stomach was in knots and I had tears in my eyes. But kudos to the brave, strong people of Biloxi and Gulfport who are rising out of the ashes and rebuilding and redoing their homes! The other thing that I noticed is that there are NO tall palm trees, they are all small, new palms. And block after block of empty lots, but the huge, old Live Oaks are still standing! The next 20 miles of shoreline had beautiful white sand, wide beaches, and a mostly new concrete boardwalk along the beach. Across US90, which ran right along the beach, was 20 miles of empty lots, concrete pads with no buildings, and damaged live oak trees, with bark gouged out where Katrina had pounded floating debris off them. Every once in a while, a business or home had rebuilt, but a majority sat empty for at least 400 or 500 yards back from the Gulf. I rode on some streets that wound through former neighborhoods with no homes, just fields and concrete pads. There was even a sign that said "realtors please call me if you think you can sell this property" . Then there was a name and a number. One thing I did notice, was that there was absolutely no signs, or plaques, or any thing that mentioned Katrina, anywhere. I thought that was weird. There was an entire abandoned college campus, and I understand that Jefferson Davis's estate and mansions were there, but entirely rebuilt. I rode some on the concrete boardwalk, but the wide and deep expansion joints every 20 feet were beating on my butt and wrists, so I spent a lot of time riding on the old sidewalk, which was sand filled usually, and US90, which had no shoulder at all. Fortunately traffic was thin, and it wasn't a problem, and I was careful in the sandy areas, which can be deadly when a biker is clipped in. I don't know if this area will ever recover, but if you have ever dreamed about owning property on the Gulf, with a great view, I know where land is cheaper than you might expect to pay. By the way, US 90 drives right along the Gulf and it is a beautiful view! I highly recommend this route - going into Biloxi, it was a little congested, but all in all, it is not a tough trip in the motor home.
|Blimp flying over Biloxi - maybe it was returning from Super Bowl?|
|Brand new hotels, restaurants and casinos in Biloxi|
|One of the new piers that you can walk out on|
|There is an artist that has been carving on the damaged Live Oak trees. Word has it that he is also making sculptures using Katrina scraps. Someone told us you can google this, but we haven't yet.|
|Beach, dolphin sculpture and SMALL palm trees.|
|No comment needed......|
|This reflects the spirit of the people of Biloxi and Gulfport. It was in front of a rebuilt home in the middle of an empty block.|
|The foundation is all that remains.|
|Katrina damage to a Live Oak tree. But like the people of Biloxi and Gulfport, it is still standing and thriving!|
After Gulfport, and Long Beach, another beautiful, long, new bridge, compliments of Katrina, led into Bay St Louis, an area where damage was less obvious, but the locals say it was also destroyed. Pam found a campground at a casino, of all places. Someone turned her on to the casino camping circuit, and she has bought a thick book, showing where you can camp, sometimes for free at casinos across the country. Crazy. The casino was off the beaten path, surrounded by golf courses and bayou. We decided to go over and eat at the buffet and gamble $20. The buffet was not the best( people were killing the crawdads though), it wasn't crowded at all, and there were no lounges or entertainment, like there is at the Meadows in Washington, Pa, one mile from our (former) home. We did, however, eat like pigs, and we blew 20 on the slots, and came home to watch the fog set in over the campground. One thing we haven't touched on is Mardi Gras - it's not like back home, and it's not just New Orleans! It's a way of life here on the Gulf coast. People's homes and businesses are decorated like Christmas, only the decorations are all purple, green and yellow (Mardis Gras colors), you see signs advertising the sale of masks, gowns and tux for the balls. The schools are CLOSED for Feb. 11 & 12 for Monday Gras (that's what they call it) and Mardis Gras or Fat Tuesday. This is a MAJOR holiday down here.
|Decoration on the casino Mardi Gras tree|
|Mardi Gras tree|
|Another Mardi Gras tree in the casino. I had to get permission to take it cause you can't take pictures around the slot machines!|