Friday, May 2, 2008

06-08 Bay St Louis Mississippi

06-08 Bay St Louis, Mississippi

This past weekend at my new campsite in Bay St. Louis, it was wet and soggy. It has rained most of the weekend. In between rain showers, I did start to tour the area a bit. My campsite is about 3 miles from the Gulf, so I drove down to see where the Silver Slipper Casino is located and to drive into the Old Town section of Bay St Louis.

I’m not planning on doing much this week, but here are a few things I did do and see along the way.

I passed many home sites, that have mostly been cleared, only a few remaining stilt frames remaining. Impressive walled and gated yards, curved driveways, with not a home in sight. This is where the hurricane came on land and even the big homes raised high on their 12 foot moorings where destroyed. The homes that still remain had to be completely gutted and rebuilt. The process is ongoing and will be for many years to come. Some new homes are being constructed and a few traditional mobile homes have been put in. But what I really like are the “shotgun” homes and “Katrina homes” that are being manufactured by places like Lowes and a couple other manufactures in the area. They have the traditional small porch out front and are typically as long as 80 feet X 16 feet. They appear to be really well built and have colorful siding you’d expect to see in the tropics. Turquoise blue, Butter yellow, pink and even red. They fit the coastal area and feel like they belong. I was told that these homes are actually considered temporary and that many locals hope to see them gone in the future. I can’t understand why, they looked great to me.

I ventured into the Silver Slipper Casino which sits right on the bay today to take advantage of all their deals. For signing up with their Players Club, I got $25 in credits to play the slots, half off on my lunch buffet and a free T-shirt. What a deal. After having fun playing the slots for about an hour and a half, I left with $25 in cash, had a great lunch for all of $5.00 and of course picked up my T-shirt. Now that’s my kind of gaming. Yippee!

The beaches are clean and almost deserted this time of year as they curve around the bay like a crescent moon. The road hugs the beach separated only by a low concrete barrier with slots in it to let the sea water and sand wash through during storms and high tide. Much of the roadway had sand along one side of the road. There are two main parking areas, one near Old Town and the other being at the Silver Slipper all the way at the other end of the bay. No parallel parking along the beach. Many docks line the beaches, only their posts remain to testify to the popularity of fishing and boating that once took place here. The grand old water oaks all look like they’ve just been trimmed by a man hatter trying to make them look like huge bonsai trees. I drove over 40 miles along the gulf and didn’t see a single restaurant or place to eat. No convenience stores, gas stations, hotels. Everything was gone.

Oh, the Silver Slipper has a campground right on the bay. Basically a clean parking lot with individual concrete pads for each campsite. $35 with Bay view and $25 for the Inland view. Seems a bit pricey for my taste.

I went into “Old Town” Bay St Louis and had a great lunch at the Buttercup. I sat out on their porch, a wonderful breeze and a sparkling sunny day. The owner of the shop talked to me about the area. The downtown area still looks devastated from the hurricane, but many shops are opening up and they are really busy on weekends. He told me not only the locals but so many of the volunteers and workers re-building the area come downtown on their days off. Good to see them supporting the local business’s.

Since I was so close, I toured the John C Stennis Space Center. This is where they test all of the rocket engines for the space shuttle. There are over 30 agencies that work on this 135,000 acre base. The base is so large as to provide a buffer for the sound created by testing those huge engines. Trent Lott was able to get many agencies moved to this remote location and to bring jobs to Mississippi. When I worked for the Navy, our personnel department and all personnel actions for the Navy ended up going to Stennis. Created a heck of a mess as I recall. For years while I worked for the Navy, I thought Stennis was a person, not an entire base. Dahhhh.

The exhibits are mainly for the kids. I was hoping to see a mock-up of the space station, but it turned out to be a tube made out of nylon tenting material, with a few flat displays inside. Not very realistic. They did have an Apollo capsule on display and a story board showing the new space vehicles that will one day fly into space. Looks to me more like the first Apollo missions, except there will be two rockets, the Ares I and Ares V. Ares I will transport humans into space, where as the Ares V will be an unmanned vehicle, transporting larger payloads into space for the astronauts to use once in space. They also had displays from NOA, The Naval Oceanographic Administration. An interesting computer generated film showed the current influences (updated constantly) on the planet, like volcanoes, earth quakes and weather changes. When looked at from a global perspective, our planet is in constant change. Well worth the time it took to watch the film/presentation.

Back in Old Town (Bay St Louis) I had to visit the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum.

Wow, what an inspiring story! A brilliant young Lady, who was destined to graduate from college with honors, has her life put on hold after her father commits suicide and leaves a note to her to drop out of college and take care of the family. After years of doing just that, marrying at age 26, finishing college, becoming a teacher for most of her life, she begins to paint at the age of 65, as a way to stop from going crazy after taking care of a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s.

Her wit and charming personality along with some of the best folk art paintings in the country can all be experienced here in Bay St Louis. A bonus is a collection of art pottery, art glass and Americana that is also on display. Originally collected by her son and thought to be lost in the hurricane after it hit New Orleans where his collection resided. His home was destroyed, but most of his collection survived. By the way, each one of her paintings tells a story. Charming, inspiring. A reporter asked her for some great wisdom at her ripe old age of 92 and she said she didn’t have any great wisdom. She had accepted the good and the adversity in her life and had learned from it. And the only thing she knew for sure, was to be true to yourself. Be true to yourself. Not what you think others want you to be, or what you think they want you to be. But to be true…. To…. You.

The finally was my attending the New Orleans Jazz Festival on Thursday. It was the first time they had Thursday on the agenda since Hurricane Katrina. Glad I went that day, ($40 one day) the rest of the weekend is expected to be rainy. It was partly cloudy with a great breeze most of the day. Besides, the crowds were just manageable on what was supposed to be a slow day. For me, it got pretty crowded. If you’ve never gone, it’s held at the race track downtown and there are about 10 stages set up maybe more… lots of booths and food vendors. Lots of walking between venues. I enjoyed about a half dozen of the stage acts with everything from Zydeco, Jazz, Blues, some black heritage music. I missed the Gospel music, but I did get to the main grandstand for one of the acts. There weren’t any famous people singing while I was there, but it didn’t matter. All the musicians were seasoned performers, as in gumbo and crawdads. And what fun people watching. Cajuns love to dance at a drop of a hat. And I saw a lot of fun old and young couples throwing off their shoes and hats and dancing on the grass. Talk about rhythm. These people can dance! The wild hats, fun clothes, good Cajun food and of course the music that went on way into the evening. Whew, I’m exhausted.

Ok, so I guess my week was busier than I thought it was.

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