March 14, 2017
I was excited on our drive south when we first saw “it” again. I had been waiting quite some time to see that sight after being stuck in cold Minnesota due to the surgery. The ultimate sign of warm weather, palm trees with their long branches soaking up the bright sun. I looked forward to the week ahead for when we could just kick back and soak up some warmth and ocean breezes. After Alabama, we stayed in Pass Christian, a town outside of Gulfport, Mississippi. While we still wanted to take in some of the sights, we also wanted to relax on the miles of beachfront that stretched from there to Biloxi.
The first night in the area was spent in the Walmart parking lot because it was getting late and we could not get ahold of our next desired RV park for availability. We were settled in, but I quickly realized we were in for a long night. Right across the street, trains were coming and going all night long from the nearby port. We also had the “joy” of listening to military helicopters in the lull between the train horns and rumbling.
The family made its way the next morning to the RV park. The GPS always has us guessing as to the accuracy of the destination. This was one of those times. Not far down the road was an even smaller street that looked like it could end. No RV park sign signaled us to turn on the alley-sized road. Joel and I looked down the road and decided to try it anyway. We were committed. If this was wrong, he would be backing the trailer down a block of road. Joel drove in the on-coming traffic lane and swung the truck around to the on-coming lane of the tiny road. The trailer tires barely made the right hand turn. The gamble paid off and soon we found ourselves getting settled in.
We used this time to catch up on some schooling, take life a little slower, and use this place as a home base for the day trips. Among these, we travelled to Hattiesburg Military Museum, the Infinity Space Center, Busted Wreck Car Museum and the Model Railroad Club. The Infinity Space Center was notable as it included a remarkable bus tour of the engine testing facility. This place also had “Homeschool Monday” for half price admissions to sweeten the pot. I was also impressed with the Model Railroad Club. While they only asked for donations, they did an incredible job at creating the place to be a destination for young children. They had many different exhibits and hands-on activities.
For a Valentine’s Day date night, Joel was very kind to take me to a place that offered local dishes that made him venture outside of his “meat and potatoes” safety net. Shaggy’s had a casual, beachy, while still trendy appeal. Unfortunately it was rainy and cold that night to sit outside overlooking the ocean, but we still enjoyed ourselves. While there, we found some work travelers who recommended the Half Shell Oyster House to us, but we did not have that much courage to try it out.
When the family was not on an adventure, we were found at the beach. This coastline was all beautiful sandy beaches for many, many miles. The cities even had a tractor with a sifter attachment to remove all of the oyster shells, seaweed and debris that washed ashore. This left nicely raked, packed sand where most of it was left untouched due to the space between beach-goers. We also made use of the sidewalk that stretched the distance of the beachfront. Along one walk, we found a place at the port that sold 9” long shrimp fresh off the boat. No wonder seafood boils are so popular around here.
While we were going to spend a week there, we realized we were close to New Orleans, LA, so we decided to stay longer to make the trip into the city. We wisely waited until a weekday before heading that way. It was not only Mari Gras week, but also a major sports tournament blockaded several roads off during the weekend. That day, we made our way to see the French Quarter. We walked through the French Market, ate an alligator meat stick and powdered sugary beignets, strolled along the Mississippi River and finished on Bourbon Street. Jazz and cajun musicians played on various corners as we looked at the Mari Gras decorated balconies. We wanted to look at the above ground cemeteries but due to the muggings, only guided groups were permitted. It was not worth the price to have bored boys walk on a tour, so we passed that up. Instead, we went to the Chalmette Battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans was fought during the War of 1812. After the congestion and tight roads of the French Quarter, we found the park relaxing and informative.
The last battlefield we visited in Mississippi was from the Civil War. While we stayed in West Monroe, Louisiana, we popped back into Mississippi to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park. The visitor’s center used several media forms to clearly depict the series of battles and the resulting siege that made the Confederates surrender to the Union Army. Afterwards, we drove around the driving tour loop that contains over 1000 monuments, structures, and interpretive signs. The military park also contains a veteran’s graveyard from several war periods and the USS Cairo, a wooden ship that the Confederates sunk, Museum. We spent an afternoon at the park, but could have easily spent more than an entire day to sort through the information.
We were comfortable in Pass Christian with all of the activities, friendly people, and relaxing beach time, but so much more of America was waiting to be discovered. So, on we went to Louisiana.
Until we meet again,