John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

Brenda and Katie abandon their sandals to dip their toes in the...

Hurricane devastation near Biloxi - beach homes missing on the left and...

Katie schmoozes a baby gator

Katie and cousin Ron on Fly Creek cruise

Brenda with Cousin Darryl and his wife Phyllis on Fly Creek cruise

May 22

Our packing to leave New Orleans was a little more strenuous than usual because of the need to re-mount the roof top carrier and bikes, made more fun because the higher heat and returning humidity. While I sweated through the routine (outside the gate of course) I noticed a black woman sitting in an SUV across the street. She said something to me and I crossed the street to hear her better. As I bent down to talk to her, I couldn't help but see the 9mm Glock semi-automatic she had on the seat beside her. She told me she was an off-duty police officer and that the car across the street near me was hers, stolen by a neighbour. She didn't look or sound like any police officer I'd seen, so I kept one eye on her and the other on potential escape routes as I finished loading.

We headed out of town on I-10 east, only to see more horrendous hurricane devastation. This is the direction of the notorious Ninth Ward, where so many black families lost everything they had, many their very lives. We continued east to find the swamp tour we had taken several years ago and hoped to show Katie was completely gone from the effects of Katrina. We entered Mississippi along the scenic coastal route along the Gulf of Mexico, only to find complete towns wiped out. The residential areas of Waveland and Bay St. Louis are gone and will likely not recover.

Further along where we reached the beautiful white sand beaches toward Biloxi, we saw that the long (12 miles?) of gorgeous, expensive beach houses we had seen in our last trip along here were gone, as was the long boardwalk along the highway beside the beach. While New Orleans got the publicity, the gulf shore in Mississippi suffered similar if not greater destruction. This is very low land and the 12-foot storm surge simply swept over the beach and road heading inland taking out everything in its path. Of course, when the surge receded, the water roared back out to sea taking everything that it didn't get the first time. Several casinos in the Biloxi area were built on barges or pilings in the water where the surge picked them up and deposited them inland to settle on other buildings, crushing them.

We were able to get here only because a bridge over the coastal bay at Bay St. Louis had re-opened the Thursday before. The one from Biloxi to Ocean Springs is still closed and my never be re-built. This area is known as the "Redneck Riviera" and Brenda and Katie took the opportunity to shuck their sandals for a running toe-dip in the warm gulf water.

Lacking our swamp tour, we found a brochure for an alligator farm near Pascagoula and pulled in there for a look. Katie got to hold a baby alligator and we followed a boardwalk trail thorough the swamp to see the real big boys. Brenda was curious about who had the guts to build the walkway; we never did find out. Apparently the Katrina surge had swept over this farm and they had fun with a massive gator roundup to re-corral their gators. Even today, the occasional gator will escape to crawl up to the highway to warm themselves on the warm asphalt, while the traffic backs up for miles.

We continued east into Alabama, through Mobile to Fairhope on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, arriving around 4:00pm. Fairhope is home to Brenda's cousin Darryl Horne, his wife Phyllis and sons Ron and Jason. We would be staying with them until Saturday. We had a huggy reunion at their door, all talking at once before we could settle down and move our stuff in.

Darryl and Phyllis have a lovely house in a gorgeous setting on Fly Creek, a salt-water estuary navigable by smaller powerboats. After our lovely reunion, we walked down to their 22-foot boat at their dock for an early evening cruise down the creek to Mobile Bay. Captain Ron guided us out the scenic creek with its beautiful, often uniquely styled homes, along or hanging over the banks. We took a cruise on the bay down to Point Clear, an historic resort area, passing by the former home of Steven Seagal (big deal?).

Dinner was a brief trip to Big Daddy's Grill on the Fish River inland from the bay. Here we got to try fried pickles, which tasted surprisingly good, even for a guy who doesn't like pickles. Returning to the house, we sat on the back porch to enjoy the peaceful and warm night air having had a day of powerful as well as very pleasant memories.

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