Archive for Mississippi

Biloxi and Pascagoula, MS and Mobile and Fairhope, Alabama

June 7, 2008

 

Saturday morning I had bfast and hung out all morning with my new best friends.  They were headed to Jefferson Davis’ presidential library [in Biloxi].

 

I stopped at Beau Rivage, with is a fancy casino in Biloxi.  When I lived in Houston, I saw ads for Beau Rivage all the time.  So, I thought I would check it out. 

 

It is really nice.  I was hungry so thought I would check out the buffet. I thought it was $12, which I didn’t think was too bad, so I thought I would stay.  However, there were several lines, and I was trying to figure out which line to stand in, and more importantly, how long to wait.  I usually don’t wait for food.  I tried to ask someone who worked there, but she was busy, so I asked this guy who was in the front of one of the lines.

 

He asked if I was paying for the lunch or was it a comp.  I said paying.  He looked at me like I was crazy and said “you are paying cash for lunch?”  Well, not cash-cash…visa.  “You don’t want to do that” and took out a comp ticket and gave it to the woman working.  Not only did he give me a free lunch, but he also told me to go in front of him [and the line].  So…that worked out nicely!

 

I then decided to give Beau Rivage a buck, since I had a free lunch and all.  So, I found the non smoking penny slots.  And I lost this money faster than thisfast.  Not once did I win any credits. 

 

I stopped in Pascagoula.  The 2 block downtown was deserted, except for an older man with a mic who was preaching.  Now…who’s he preaching to??  I went to the library, where it was cool to read up on what I was going to do in Mobile.  While I was there I decided to use the computer, which there were several available.  However, I needed to show my driver’s license and proof that I lived at that address – utility bill.  Ahem.

 

I stopped at the AL tourist office and this really nice little old lady helped me.  She told me the best way into Mobile since it seems the tunnel is backed up [thus I 10 is backed up].

 

Kevin and Sylvia had told me that I needed to check out Fairhope, which is around Mobile Bay.  So, the tourist woman booked me a room there…on the water.

 

I got into Mobile, and parked in the visitor center lot.  There is a fort right there.  But the one guard who guards the fort didn’t show up for work, so it was closed.  Then I was going to take the trolley around town, but was told that the trolley guy didn’t feel like working that day…he really doesn’t like working the weekends.

 

So, I decided I had had my fill of Mobile and head to Fairhope. 

 

It was 96’.  I must say that driving with the sun beating down on me has already gotten old.  I can’t wait to get up north.

 

Fairhope is nice and quaint.  Nice downtown area, no chains.  Lots of flowers, cycling trails, beaches, duck pond.  There are benches for people to sit all along the water, and they were filled with people enjoying the sunset.  There is a pier that goes out a ¼ mile into Mobile Bay.  LOTS of activity at nite on the pier… people fishing, or just strolling.  Near the pier is a huge fountain, surrounded by a rose garden.  And people all around.  Very nice.

 

Oh…when I was at the laundry mat, I was talking to the woman who was the attendant.  We started talking about how expensive [from her point of view] it is to live in Fairhope.  I commented that isn’t Mobile less expensive?  “Some places yes, some no.  But they will drag you out of your own car while you are stopped at a street light.”  And just shook her head as though no way is she living there.

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New Orleans, LA and Bay St Louis and Biloxi, Mississippi

June 6, 2008

 

On Friday morning I headed into New Orleans.  It was 8.30 am and 92’.  And of course humid.

 

My main goal of the day was to go to the D Day Museum in New Orleans.  Actually, they have re-named it the National World War II Museum.  I will write this up later, since it will take me a little time, and I want to get this out.

 

After the Museum, I headed east along I-10 then onto hiway 90, to go along the coast of MS and view the hurricane damage. 

 

I must say, that coming into and out of New Orleans, I drove over more bridges than I ever have.  I guess it is all swamp, so the interstate is up over the swamp and officially a bridge.  I guess that is what they would be called.  No matter what, it’s quite some infrastructure they had to build.  East of New Orleans toward Slidell they are building new roads/bridges [apparently to replace existing ones] and it was quite an impressive sight with hundreds of …can’t think of what they are called besides “legs”…in place for as far as I could see.  It just went on and on and on.

 

Just after this, I-10 is called the Stephen Ambrose Memorial Highway.

 

I stopped in Bay St Louis, MS.  I pulled over so I could check the water out.  It was what most people would consider way too warm, but I thought it was just right.  So, I put my bathing suit on and went it.  I then got my low lawn chair and rosemary triscuits [sp?] out and sat under a huge old tree that took a pounding and just watched the world go by while eating my triscuits.

 

Along the water, about half the houses have been fixed back up.  Same for their little downtown area.  I saw one house, which was, let’s say, 10 blocks from the water…so no water view.  It was a big house and zero has been done to it – it needs to be demolished. For sale for $395k.

 

Then I drove along 90 towards Biloxi.  I saw one corner lot across the road from 90 [unobstructive view of the water], for sale for $595k.

 

It looks like 75% the area along the coast has been rebuilt.  And when they rebuild, they are building the big, fancy homes and condos.  So, it is the 2 extremes…fancy vs nothing done yet.  The trees def look weather beaten, but unsure if that is due to the hurricanes vs constant, daily pounding by the wind.  The trees all seem “short”…probably 30’ tall.  I don’t know my trees, so can’t tell you what kind they are.  They are also planting a lot of palm trees along 90.

 

There seems to be a Waffle House every 2 miles.

 

I decided to stay in Biloxi, in a hotel on the water.  At dusk I went out to the beach.  There was only one other woman there.  It’s Friday nite, finding a room was tough, and NO ONE is on the beach.  So, I went over to ask her …what’s the deal?  Am I missing something?

 

She was wondering the same thing.  We got to talking and really hit it off.  Her name is Sylvia, and her hubby Kevin, and daughters Caroline and Laura were in the water.  I look out, and about 200m out, there is a man walking with water up to mid calf.  And there are 2 little heads coming out of the water.  They are walking in, and he looks like a giant walking on water.  I asked her what in the world is he standing on.  She said he’s not, the water is that shallow.  Then how old – and tall – are your daughters?  Come to find out, there were on boogey boards lying down, which is why I could only see their heads.  When they stood, they too looked like they were walking on water.

 

So, we all hit is off and I spent the evening talking and hanging out with them.  They were very delightful. 

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Jackson, Mississippi and Laplace, Louisiana

June 5, 2008

 

Thursday was a travel day for me…I needed to make the long drive [for me] from oxford to outside of New Orleans.  Per mapquest it’s 5+ hours, which means all day to me.  The only highlight of the day was that I stopped in Jackson for a late lunch, and I couldn’t get anyone to serve me.  I think I was the wrong color.

 

MS rest stops have a sign on the hiway so you know if there is security at the rest stop or not.

 

I stayed in a dumpy place in Laplace, just outside of New Orleans.  The next morning I could hear the desk person turn away person after person who was calling/coming in to find a room – they were sold out.  I asked her if they were always that busy, or was something going on.  She said that Brad Pitt is shooting a film down the way.

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Clarksdale and Oxford, Mississippi

June 4, 2008

I left Clarksdale after I had lunch at Ground Zero, which is the blue venue and restaurant owned by Morgan Freeman and a wealthy Clarksdale man.  I had a fried green tomato sandwich.  It was just ok.  I had heard of fried green tomatoes, but hadn’t eaten one before.  I’ve noticed on the menu in the past few days, there is something called “comeback” sauce.  I’m sure there are readers here who know what this is, but I’ve asked 2 waitresses and both couldn’t really tell me…kind of like 1,000 island…it’s mayo with something in it that makes it red. People seem to eat it on salads and a dressing for salads.  I had it “on the side” and wasn’t keen on it.

 

At Ground Zero I met Abraham, who is security and a carpenter/maintenance man for GZ.  He said they have 8 hotel rooms above the venue.  He took me up there to see, and they are NICE.  Most are 2 bedroom suites that go for $100.  The one bedroom suite is $75.  The eclectic dump I stayed in was $70.

 

I headed towards oxford.

 

I loved oxford.  Loved it so much that I tried to find a place to come back and stay for a few months…before the students come back.  But there doesn’t seem to be any place that will rent to me for 2 or 3 months.  I need to call the university to see if they rent out dorm rooms for the summer.

 

Oxford has a lively square with a courthouse in the middle.  There were no chain stores. 

 

Oxford, too, has what I would call really nice houses, and nice yards.  Lots of flowers.  Very green. Hilly.

 

At dusk, there were lots of people out and about…very lively. I rode my bike around the square and residential neighborhoods for about an hour and saw people in their yards with their kids/dogs, parents strolling their kids, teenagers walking, people on their front porches…people living.  THIS is what was missing from Natchez.

 

Between that hour and an hour of cycling the next day, I saw probably less than 10 houses for sale.  I didn’t find the poorer part of town [which I did in Natchez].

 

Oxford is non smoking.

 

Oxford is the home of William Faulkner.  There is a walking tour of his homes.  I am not familiar with his work, but I gather he used Oxford [under a diff name] as the setting for some of his work.

 

At nite I walked to Proud Larry’s to listen to some blues.  Of course there were kids in the crowd, but the adults were people that I would like to talk to/get to know.  I met a guy who’s working on a screenplay.  He was just exhausted [and needed to sit down] from his tough day of typing all day and then bowling 5 games with a friend.  Ahem. 

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Clarksdale, Jackson, Greenwood and Yazoo City, Mississippi

June 3, 2008

It is Tuesday nite and I am in Clarksdale, which is in the NW part of the state – home of the blues.  This is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the mastery of the guitar, in the crossroads.

 

Today I was going to leave Jackson and head to Oxford, which is the home of ole’ miss, and William Faulkner, and about 3 hours from Jackson.  I think John Grisham grew up there also.  I’ve heard good things about Oxford…small university town.  Where I slept tonite would depend upon how much I liked Oxford.  If I wasn’t keen on it, then I would drive another hour and spend the nite in Tupelo.

 

I started the day going to the state capitol…which was highly recommended to me.  This was correct.  The capitol is really pretty, quite impressive.  The people there were really nice and let me wander wherever I wanted, even though there were all these signs stating that only people with proper ID could go beyond a certain point.  Some people even wanted to join me.  At first I thought it was the ol’ “yes you can go there, but I’ll just go with you to keep an eye on you”, but the people who accompanied me seemed to want to answer any questions I had.  They were unusually nice and helpful.

 

I went into the area of the old library and Supreme Court…another area that was off limits per the signage.  I got to talking to a woman who is from the delta area.  Now, showing my ignorance, I thought the delta blues came from down south….near New Orleans.  But apparently the delta part of MS is up NW.  So, she was telling me places to explore.  Then this really attractive, friendly man with a VERY strong southern accent came up, and he’s from the delta also, and they both educated me.  He’s a state rep.

 

So….my plans changed.  I was now headed northwest and going to go to Greenwood and then to Clarksdale [and possibly some other cities].

 

I didn’t make it to Greenwood because they didn’t have a sign telling me to get off the 2 lane highway to go downtown.  I figure if a town isn’t smart enough to inform me where their downtown is, I’ll take my money elsewhere.

 

I did stop in Yazoo City, which was smart enough to have a sign.  It has a lot of really nice houses, but also a lot of poverty.  They have a pretty big downtown area [for a small town], which had several blocks of these really cool 2 story buildings.  From a distance [of a block or 2] it looks really neat.  However, like most of these downtowns, half the buildings were vacant/abandoned.  For some reason, it seemed like the outside of the buildings were taken care of, but nothing inside.  I see great potential for this little town.

 

I arrived in Clarksdale.  I had asked 5 different people where I should eat [including the state rep], and everyone said Abe’s BBQ…which is located at the crossroads [intersection of 61 and 49]. So…I went to Abe’s.  I was hoping they had a bunch of “sides”, including a baked potato, but no.  So, I had baked beans and fries.  The only veggie items on the menu.  It was good.

 

At dusk I got my bike out to ride around town to check it out in better detail, and figure out where I want to go to eat dinner and listen to the blues.  A couple years ago I had read [or maybe it was on “60 Minutes”] that Morgan Freeman opened a music venue here and had quite the draw, but it is closed [except for lunch] early in the week.

 

The town is 100% dead.  It’s a bigger downtown area for a town of this size, and nothing is open.  Nothing that I could tell.  There would be 5 – 7 cars/trucks clustered together, but I couldn’t tell what establishment was open.  And, they were either all trucks, or “beater” trucks/cars.  So, even if I could figure out what was open, there was no way that I was going in. 

 

About half the buildings in town are empty.  Of the other half, there are about 8 – 10 music/restaurants, and the rest sell “junk”.  Thrift stores, or stores called “hidden treasures” and have a whole bunch of pillows in the window.

 

So, between nothing open, and getting a lot of “hey baby” cat calls from guys in cars just driving around, I decided that it’s best if I grab some fruit at the grocery store [Fred’s] and hang out in my room.

 

Fred’s is closed [at 8].  Ahem.

 

I am staying at a very eclectic place.  The state rep highly recommended it.  It’s called the Shack Up Inn, and they are stand alone log sharecropper’s shacks.  There are about 6 of them.  And they are decorated…well, with lots of junk from a downtown store. 

 

Oh, and the 2 guys who run the place have never heard of the state rep.  hmmmm.

 

Tomorrow I head for Oxford.

 

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Jackson, Vicksburg, Port Gibson and Grand Gulf, Mississippi

 

 

June 2, 2008

 

I am in Jackson, Mississippi.  I left Natchez this morning to drive the 2 hours to Vicksburg.  On the way a local told me I had to stop in Port Gibson, which was a town so beautiful Grant wouldn’t burn it.  He was right.

 

Near Port Gibson is Grand Gulf, the sight of a civil war battle – connected to the Vicksburg siege.  So, I decided to check out the Grand Gulf civil war site.  On the way to the sight, which was around 10 miles from Pt Gibson, I drove along an area that was just spectacularly beautiful.  There were these really tall trees with vines growing from the top on the ground.  So, there were these really tall, very green “walls” of greenery on both sides of the road.

 

Right after I got out of the car to take some photos, I drove approx 200m and saw a sign for Entergy’s Nuke plant.  A nuke plant amongst all this beauty!

 

Got to Grand Gulf, and I was the only visitor there.  There is a “drive” tour around the park.  As the lady is explaining this to me, I interrupted her to ask how long the drive is.  1.5 miles.  I told her that I’ll just get my bike out and cycle around it. 

 

“Sweetheart, there ain’t no way you’re going to be able to make it up these hills. No way.”  And she was right.  Ha.  And on top of all that, it was 94’ and humid as h*ll.

 

Made my way to Vicksburg.  Checked out the little town and then headed over to the military park.  At the museum I watched a video on the siege, and also the narration/light show of the battle and siege.  I should have been good to go, but decided to go on the 16 mile drive tour around the park.  Big mistake.  2.5 miles into it and I had had my fill.

 

Part of the problem is that back in the 1860’s there were no trees.  A few decades ago they planted all these trees, which are normally a good thing, but here, you can’t see anything…how far away was the river?  How far apart are the 2 sides?

 

I then made my way to Jackson and am spending the nite.

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Natchez, Mississippi – Day 2

June 1, 2008

 

Today has been a low key day.  I decided to stay another day in Natchez.  Unsure if that was the right decision now, but seemed so at the time.  Natchez seems to close up shop on Sundays.   A week ago, I thought I wanted to visit antebellum homes, but now, when it really comes down to it…I’m not keen on the idea on giving $12 to someone who made their fortune on cotton plantations back in the 1800’s.  I found that I am just as pleased to go trolling around the grounds and looking at the outside of the house.

 

I did want to see one home…auburn…to see the engineering feat of an unsupported spiral staircase.  But that home wasn’t open today.

 

This morning while I was sitting out on my balcony.  I heard a lot of talking down below in the courtyard.  Come to find out, there was group wedding that took place.  13 couples getting married.  Before it started, 10 couples were holding each other/hugging.  3 couples the man was standing with distance between him and his future wife, and each man was holding his hands behind his back.  How’s that for body language?

 

Natchez is very beautiful. Green.  Hilly.  Most every house and yard is taken care of.  Lots of flowers. Lots of crepe myrtles.  The town has over 500 antebellum/historic homes.  Great front porches.  Seems like a lot of the houses are built up high from the street….so you look up at them.  Natchez is on the river, but it’s up on a bluff, very high from the water.  [The Louisiana side is even with the river.]   So, I don’t think there is a chance for flooding.  I think the more wealthy families built up higher so they could look down at others.  But I have no idea.  It is really cool looking, though.

 

It does feel very “stepford” here.  I wonder what is below the surface if one scratches it.

 

At dusk I got my bike out to cycle around for a couple hours. I found it interesting that I hardly saw any locals.  I saw 2 guys mowing their lawn, and another guy running. But other than that, no one.  No one walking, no one on their porch.  No one.

 

Since there was literally nothing but Under the Hill open [with less than 10 people in there], I went to the casino/steamboat and dropped $2 thisfast.

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Lake Charles and Alexandria, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi

May 31, 2008

 

As of a few days ago, I had planned on visiting Louisiana and Mississippi during this next week.  Even though I have been to Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, I can always come back to those places and check them out again.    I decided to drive to Alexandria, LA, which is located directly in the middle of the state, to see what that city is like.  And then I wing it from there…stay in LA or go over to Natchez, and start exploring MS.  If I have my fill of MS, then I will go and check out Lafayette and Baton Rouge again.

 

I left Lake Charles, LA this morning.  I did go and check out their downtown, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!  If Lucinda Williams can write songs about it…how bad can it be? Ha.  They have a boardwalk along the lake, and this really cool “fountain” that kids can run and play in.

 

I got to Alexandria, and I should have skipped it. Nothing is going on here.  I did want to check out the Bentley Hotel, which is supposed to be where Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley… pow-wowed back in ?? 41-42 while army troops trained at the nearby army base.  But alas, it is now closed.  However, I looked in the windows, and all the furniture and everything is still there.  It would have been a splendid fancy hotel, with a majestic lobby with chandeliers, nice tile flooring, murals on the ceiling, fountains…

 

There is a Dollar General store [with a bunch of cars in front] in every little town that I go thru. 

 

I then made my way to Natchez.  When you cross the MS River and arrive in Natchez, the visitor center is right there.  I got there exactly at 5 pm and they were locking the doors.  I grabbed some info but found the curse of my travels…Saturday nites and finding a place to stay. 

 

I’m ended up staying at this historic hotel downtown – Eola [which claims that the flag in the lobby is the first flag draped over Grant’s casket].  I paid up for a balcony room and enjoyed sitting outside on the balcony listening to the fountain in the courtyard.

 

Natchez IS really pretty, however, they lack nite time activities.  They were actually putting on Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which started at 8pm.  I really like that opera, and would have loved to see it, but I chose to ride around and explore the town on my bike.

 

I had forgotten how much I love to ride my bike around town.  It is so much fun and I cover a lot of ground.

 

There were 2 music options for the evening.  One was a guy with his guitar, but he was smoking a pipe.  Sheesh. The venue was named “biscuits and blues”.  Now, I can dig that name.  However, they only had one type of biscuit…mushroom biscuits.  Yuck…even though I didn’t try any.

 

The other place for music is the saloon, “Under the Hill”, which is in an historic area.  Natchez is on the river, but it’s up on a bluff, very high from the water.  The Louisiana side is even with the river.  When Natchez was a booming town and lots of river activity, down by the water front is where all the illicit activities took place.  And the building where Under the Hill is, apparently has been around for a long time.  Unsure as to how long, since most or maybe all of the places have eroded away.

 

Inside, the place was packed and it seemed that everyone smoked.  A local couple tells me to go in and look in the back room.  This is a cool room with lots of “memorabilia”, and had plants growing out of the walls.

 

There were 2 guys and a woman [probably in their early 20’s] playing darts.  The woman asked if I wanted to join them.  I said sure.  So, we’re playing darts, and I start getting this “weird” vibe from the woman, but didn’t think too much about it.  Then she starts playing songs on the jukebox…and starts singing and dancing.  Do you remember the Jodie Foster character in the film “Accused”, and how she looks and how she’s dancing at the bar?  Well, that is her.  She’s dancing with the 2 guys, and dancing for me.  Ding, ding, ding in my head.

 

Back outside…I asked a woman working there what kind of music the band plays.  She replied “good music”.  Getting more specifics was difficult.  I spoke with a local couple outside for a bit when a guy walked up carrying a guitar.  I asked him what type of music his band plays, and he replied “good music”.  Ahem.

 

When they did start up, it was a not so good cover band that was incredibly loud.  So loud that I couldn’t talk to the couple anymore… we were outside and the front door was closed.

 

They rent out 3 guest rooms, located above the saloon.  On the brochure it is written: “weekend entertainment in the saloon is not overpowering, but one demanding complete silence before 2 am should probably stay elsewhere”.  I would say this is NOT accurate.

 

I then meandered to the casino/steamboat which was docked nearby.  I don’t gamble, but thought I would check it out.  The place was packed.  I ended up deciding I would give the casino a buck.  So, I found the penny slots…there were lots of them.  And bet on five lines at a time…so I was betting 5 cents a shot.  Yes…big spender.  After a bit I won something and then had 101 “credits”.  So, since I was ahead by a penny, I decided to take my winnings and cash out.

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Port Arthur, Texas

May 30, 2008

 

I am leaving Houston and will be making my way to Baltimore.  I plan on exploring Louisiana and Mississippi on the way.  My only constraint is that I need to be in Baltimore by June 11th, so I can fly out of BWI on June 12th to go to my niece’s wedding celebration.

 

I started off later than expected yesterday, and planned on spending the nite in Port Arthur, home of Janis Joplin.  With apologies to anyone with family and friends in Port Arthur, but ahhh, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  You know how there is a section of town that you don’t want to stop in?  Well, the whole town seemed like that.  

 

Pretty much, the downtown area is abandoned, except for gov’t buildings, which seemed new or newly refurbished.  It was 5.30 and not a car in sight. I could have stopped in the middle of the street and left my car to look around.

 

They have received money somehow since there seems to be a new performing arts center, a new multi purpose building, and as I mentioned above, the gov’t/city buildings look new.

 

I needed directions and decided on a certain gas station to ask.  Inside there was an older woman, younger woman and an older man scratching off Lotto tickets.  I asked how to get to 82 and there was a conference amongst them and the younger woman started rattling off directions a mile a minute…talking so fast and with an accent, I couldn’t understand a word she said except Valero this and Valero that.  And then there was more discussion between them cuz they decided that I would get lost that way.  I did manage to understand and they actually got me where I needed to go.  I am going along hiway 82 which hugs the coast/Gulf of Mexico.

 

Port Arthur goes on my worst cities list, right next to Manchester, NH.

 

So….being in the oil and gas business, especially production offshore [Gulf of Mexico], I have heard for years of various places where the gas/oil hit the beach.  So, I drove along this 2 lane road near the coast and went by places like Johnson’s Bayou, Sabine Pass, Holly Beach… and saw all these plants, compressor stations…that I have heard of for years.  I had a nerdy blast!

 

It seemed the only people on this road was myself and guys in big white trucks [going to/from work].  There are just 2 lanes coming up out of the bayou/water.  There is NOTHING along this highway.  Nothing, besides oil/gas infrastructure.  No gas stations, no bait and tackle, no 7/11’s, no grocery stores…nothing.  Now and again there would be housing, which means it was either trailers/trailer park or these really expensive, huge houses built up on 15’+ stilts.  Johnson’s Bayou had a school, and a health clinic.  That’s it.  Nothing was at Holly Beach.  I was so glad that I stopped to get gas before Port Arthur, cuz without a doubt, I would have run out of gas.  I drove for 2 hours in this area, which they call Cameron.  I would have kept thinking there has got to be a gas station sooner or later.  Yes…in Lake Charles!  I didn’t see anyone on any of the beaches, no one anywhere [except the white trucks].  Pretty much deserted.

 

The area smelled like how a new shower curtain smells.

 

In the middle of all these plants/refineries….is a pelican sanctuary.

 

At times I thought it was raining, but it was really just bugs splatting on my windshield.  

 

I saw a sign that mentioned “ferry”, I turned the bend…and the road stops.  So, the ferry took me over to Cameron.  The ferry lady told me…duh…that hurricane Rita took out everything.  That is why there are no stores/businesses.  She said it was pretty dumpy before Rita, so it was nice that Rita came and wiped everything out, but now they are rebuilding with expensive homes…which is quite the opposite of what was there before…so the whole feel of the place is slowly changing.

 

I then headed to Lake Charles to spend the nite. It was much later than I had planned…I checked into a hotel and it was 9.30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

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