We now have Mississippi scratched off of our map, but we didn’t see much of it. With our plan to follow along the coastal line, there was only 77 miles of the state to go through. Slidell, LA, where we started, was almost on the state border so we had barely begun our drive when we pulled off at the visitor center.
The one good part about traveling on the interstates is that you always hit a nice large visitor center right across the border where you can get free maps and lots of pamphlets and booklets on what to do in the area. But as soon as we got all that, we left the interstate to take the more scenic highway 90 across the state, which follows along the coastline.
We were leaving the swamp area, but everything was still as flat as far as you could see. We haven’t seen a hill in a while. As we drove along the divided highway, we were impressed by the well manicured white sand beaches right along the road. The other side looked like a huge long park with grand oak trees, but there were new houses every so often, and for sale signs on empty large lots. We wondered why there was so much new development along there, and I theorized that maybe some zoning law was recently changed and they could now build residences in what was formerly a park. Wrong. They are just now rebuilding those homes from Hurricane Katrina. We found out this flat stretch of coastline was completely decimated from that hurricane, and now, thirteen years later, they are still rebuilding.
At the turn of the century Biloxi was famous for its seafood and that was the entire industry of the town. When that went away the town was dying until the casino industry came in. Then it became known as the Riviera of the Gulf. They had the gambling “off shore” on casinos built on huge barges. Well, Katrina picked up one of those city block sized barges and carried it across the highway. So now the casinos can be built on land. I imagine if it wasn’t for the casinos, Biloxi wouldn’t have gotten back on it’s feet so well after the hurricane.
We stayed at the Golden Nugget casino (parking lot) and had a nice bay view. We also ran into some new friends there that we had met previously at a casino. They can be very nice places to stay while you explore an area. And there is a lot to do in this area.
However, there wasn’t much on our list for our short stay in Biloxi, although in my younger days I would have loved to “lay out” on the miles of beaches. Turns out they hold the record for the longest man made beach at twenty-six miles of it – all dredged in.
We toured the lighthouse – located between the lanes of divided highway – and learned how it used to be at the waters edge. An early last-century storm washed out the base and left it leaning, so when they built it up, they also created a seawall. Then they decided to build out the beach and widen the highway, so now it looks like the lighthouse has been moved, but it’s in its original spot. Inside there is a watermark line at 21.5 feet showing the waterline after Katrina (the waves surges were even higher at thirty feet or more).
At the visitor center and museum across the street from the lighthouse, we watched a movie on Katrina and the people of Biloxi. They have been quite resilient, and the people we spoke to that lived through it seemed to take it in stride. It amazed us. I was also amazed at the amount of destruction this town took – on the west coast, all we heard about was the damage in New Orleans. Another example of how educational traveling can be.
Wanting to take in as much local flavor as we could on our one full day in the area, Tom had found us a local hangout to go to: The Shed.
Built by a young dumpster diver because he needed to do something with his piles of junk. Then he and his sister perfected a BBQ recipe and opened up a food stand. An instant hit, the customers then started to bring more junk and help expand the place so they had a place to sit eat, and the junk heap kept growing.
There is obviously no building code they had to adhere to! We thoroughly enjoyed their “junkadelic atmosphere” and the food was as delicious as promised. Luckily we were there on Friday to enjoy a live band as well – a young blues band (called Roadside Glorious) with original music and some great covers.
We got home around dark and walked over to the Margaritaville – which I incorrectly assumed was a casino. More like a family resort park. But we did find a piano bar on the 10th floor, and had a margarita while listening to a great singer. A great way to top off our day in Mississippi.
Now we are heading on to Alabama – where we have reservations(!) at an Escapees Rainbow park for the next nine(!) days.
Peace & Love Joy