We enjoyed our stay at Okatoma Resort and RV Park, but we were anxious to keep moving. Today we would finally reach the Gulf Coast. I found a casino RV park right on the Gulf. Well sort of. There is a road between us and the beach, but it's close enough. Many times casino parks are an economical place to stay. On the face of it, this one not so much, at $35 a night. But by signing up for the Players Card, we would get a coupon for one free night. So two nights here would actually cost us $17.50 a night.
Of course, that does not factor in the "donation" we might make in the casino. We also got a coupon for one free buffet dinner. The food wasn't very good, so the $17.95 it cost the two of us was about all it was worth in our opinion. We each got $5 free play so naturally we had to do some
gambling. I played my $5 at the blackjack table and Fred played his in the slots. I sat down with $40 of my own money and left with $51. Besides coming out ahead, I enjoyed the two hours of blackjack. Fred even joined me at the table. He got quite adventurous in his wagers and at one point had quite a stack of chips in front of him. In retrospect, I wish I had suggested calling it a night at that point, but alas, we didn't leave until his stack had disappeared. At least he had only started with $20.
Since we would only be here two nights, that meant only one day to see the area. After the morning rain let up, it was gray and gloomy, but we ventured out anyway. We drove Beach Boulevard which ran right along the water until it met up with Highway 90. There is still a lot of hurricane destruction evident, I think still from Katrina. Lots of empty concrete slabs where homes once stood. Many homes are now built up on tall pilings. But even some of those were gone, leaving only the pilings behind.
The road also took a beating, and parts of it were either dirt or being worked on. I was especially touched by a church that had disappeared, St. Clare's parish. Where the church once stood, there is now a Quonset hut that serves as the church with a very homemade sign out front indicated mass times. And next to that is a trailer, perhaps the priest's quarters with another sign that reads "Katrina was big, but God is bigger", and a shrine with a statue of Mary. An empty foundation can be glimpsed behind the trailer.
In Bay St. Louis, I had read about a little church, St. Rose de Lima that has an extraordinary mural of an African Christ figure rising before a live oak tree. I decided that was worth a visit and I was very glad I did. It was a cozy little church. This beautiful mural was painted on the wall behind the altar, where most other churches usually have a crucifix figure. Luckily the church was open, but no one was around. It was rather dark inside and I could not find any light switches. But hopefully, the camera flash illuminated it enough for you to appreciate it. The church itself was built in 1926, but I don't know when the mural dates to.
We drove along the coast as far as Pass Christian, another community hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. I understand the Highway 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis connecting Pass Christian to Bay St. Louis was heavily damaged by the hurricane and it took almost two years to rebuild. Today it is fresh and new and we drove over it to "the Pass" as the town is called.
I wish I had taken pictures of some of the big beautiful houses on Scenic Drive. We weren't sure if they had survived unscathed, or had been rebuilt. They were quite handsome. Then I found this website (pictures after Katrina
with pictures taken in the town three days after the hurricane. Browse through them if you have some time. The devastation is heartbreaking.
As I did a little research to tell you about the town, here is what I learned:"On August 29, 2005, Pass Christian was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Of the approximately 8,000 homes in Pass Christian, all but 500 were damaged or destroyed. In spite of the fact that the beachfront Scenic Drive follows the crest of a small bluff, affording it some elevation, most of the historic mansions along the road were severely damaged, and many also were destroyed.
The storm surge from Hurricane Katrina that hit Pass Christian was estimated at 27.8 feet leveling Pass Christian up to half a mile inland from the shore; estimation of highest storm surges was complicated because high-water markers were also destroyed."
Two years later, although a rebuilding effort was underway, there were still many empty deserted homes and broken structures, and many residents were still living in FEMA trailers. So sad. I also read that in 1969, Hurricane Camille caused a similar amount of destruction.
And speaking of FEMA trailers, on Sunday while driving here from Hattiesburg, we passed an area just south of there with open grassy fields along the interstate containing old FEMA trailers. Row upon row, there must have been 1,000's of discarded trailers. The sobering thought was that every one of those trailers represented a displaced person or family. We enjoy our life in our little 360 square foot "trailer". But for those folks, it meant the loss of their homes and life as they knew it.
Not wanting to end this blog on a down note, I'll tell you that we have continued our enjoyment of Southern cuisine. Or as our friend Linda Davey put it ,we are still on our "culinary bender." In Pass Christian, we found a casual bar/grill called Shaggy's. We were hoping to find some fresh shrimp or other seafood. Shaggy's is located right next to the harbor, which is full of commercial fishing vessels, so we thought it was a good bet.
And boy were we right. It wasn't a large or elaborate menu, but the food was outstanding. When I walked around the harbor checking out the boats, I noticed many were coming in with not only shrimp, but also oysters. So I encouraged Fred to order the oysters on the half shell. Holy cow. They were ginormous! I opted for the fresh catch of the day which was a blackened redfish in an incredible sauce, accompanied by something they called "seafood mashed potatoes", another winner. Fred added fried catfish fingers to his meal. About as fresh and crunchy as any we've ever had, with a tasty spicy remoulade. WOW! This is exactly what we were looking for.
We were so stuffed by our late lunch there was no way we could even consider dinner this evening. However several hours later, a box of Ghiardelli brownie mix in the pantry, was whispering my name and I couldn't resist. So we capped the evening with warm from the oven brownies, ala mode with mint chocolate chip ice cream. Can you say YUMM?
Tomorrow we'll move along the coast to the Davis Bayou campground at the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs MS. I'm hoping we'll have some luck there finding a decent sized campsite with satellite access. At $8 a night with the Golden Age Pass, I wouldn't mind staying there a week to explore the Biloxi area and visit the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge.