Shortly after arriving in Biloxi, MS, we set out for a drive along the Gulf on Highway 90 or Beach Boulevard.
I was focused on the beach and the Gulf, hoping not to see any signs of the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Since it had been nearly nine years since the massive destruction along the Gulf Coast, I hoped that any such signs would no longer be visible.
Before Katrina, the 26-mile stretch of 90 running from the St. Louis Bay Bridge at the west end to the Biloxi Bay Bridge at the east was one of the most scenic roadways in the South, offering beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico on its south side and lovely mansions--some antebellum--on its north.
I admit to making quick glances only to the south (toward the Gulf) as we headed east on Highway 90 through Biloxi. The sparkling white sand of the beach presented a reassuring sight. Maybe things were well on the way to full recovery.
For the great majority of the drive, we had a clear view of the Gulf; the highway ran parallel to the beach, so we did not have to settle for glimpses of the Gulf between hotels, condos, and businesses.
There was evidence of activity along the coast, but it was less than expected in the days leading up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The median featured many old, stately oak trees, a good number of which survived the blow (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_90_map.png).
Given the scenes of devastation resulting from Katrina, seeing that this many of those beautiful trees survived the hurricane was nothing short of amazing.
However, looking at the north side of Beach Blvd., we saw several vacant Gulf-view lots. The reason was obvious. Although the lots offered unobstructed views of the Gulf, it was that very quality of "unobstructed-ness" that offered no protection from the same Gulf when its waters and winds became angry.
This sense of vacancy signified loss. And this quality was driven home by this scene below. The marker in the photo identifies this site as what had been the Father Ryan House, one of the oldest structures on the Gulf Coast and the one time home of Father Abram Ryan, Poet Laureate of the Confederacy.
The beautiful mansion had become the Father Ryan House Bed and Breakfast Inn before succumbing to Katrina. Its distinctive feature had been the large palm tree growing through the wide stairway leading to the entrance (see the photo at fatherryanhouse.com/index).
In contrast, we found results of the spirit of renewal as we drove along Beach Boulevard. More to come.
We are two retirees--Chuck, 64, and Kate, 63--who decided to travel the U.S. On June 13, 2008, we began our long-talked-about travels by heading south from our home in Pennsylvania in our Ford 550 and 38’ New Horizons fifth wheel.
Our travel aim is to meet people and go at least "knee-deep" into the culture of several communities. To learn what is important in the lives of the residents of the towns, villages, and farms of America is our primary interest.
When not learning about what people do, we will be (1) sampling the foods that help people do what needs to be done and (2) listening to the music of their culture.
A neighborhood joint or local hall serving liquid refreshment and featuring a jam session with local musicians . . . well, it just doesn't get any better.
We welcome comments, questions, or suggestions of people to meet, places to visit, and "don't miss" neighborhood joints for food and/or music. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org