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Not That Lovely of a Day at the Beach « Upsidedown and Backwards

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Not That Lovely of a Day at the Beach

By | April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 27
Buccaneer State Park to Biloxi, MS
35 miles
Not That Lovely of a Day at the Beach

I had planned to ride another twenty miles to Gautier today, but the wind kept getting stronger and the sky kept getting darker. The wind wasn’t that bad. It was blowing across the road from the Gulf, and sometimes a little behind me, even. Since it was coming across the beach, though, it was sending a constant barrage of stinging sand. The right side of my body, my bike and my water bottles ended up covered with a fine layer of fine Gulf sand.

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Up to Biloxi, I followed highway 90 right along the beach through a well populated area with many hotels and campgrounds. After Biloxi, there’s a big bridge, then Ocean Park, and then nothing for the last twenty miles to Gautier. (Which, by the way, is pronounced go-sher or go-shee-ay, depending on who you talk to.) Not wanting to get stuck in lightning during that last 20 miles, I stopped. Unfortunately, the wind is not making it a fun day to go play at the beach. The few hardy souls I did see out there today looked like they were making the best of it, because they are on vacation! Then their kids would bolt for the car, leaving towel and inflatable toys blowing about on the sand.

The weather is supposed to be quite clear starting tomorrow. We’ll see.

I met more locals today, and what I wanted to say about them at first was that they tended to be not as smart as people I have met til now. At the risk of still sounding rude, I am taking that back, but I will go on record as saying that, so far, Mississippians have given me really poor directions. Time and space do feel different when you’re in a car, as opposed to being on a bike, but this feels like a pattern.

Yesterday, a convenient store clerk was sure it was “a really long way,” at least 30 miles to the state park I wanted to go to from her store. She said it took at least 25 minutes to drive there and I had to go all the way to Bay St. Louis first. The drive time may have been accurate, but it was only 15 miles (Yay!) and came well before Bay St. Louis.

This morning, I asked at the ranger station on the way out if the road along the coast was passable. I could see some construction when I rode in last night. I specifically asked if it was surfaced. The ranger told me it might be difficult in a car, but I could certainly get through on a bike, and that there was a wide, concrete bike path. I found the bike path about five miles later after I wound my way back to the coast road. Note to rangers everywhere: deep, wet sand is not actually passable by bike.

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Later today, I met John at the cafe where I was having red beans and rice (since I missed it in New Orleans). He told me how he had been in Utah during Katrina, but came back about a month later with a trailer full of toys and bikes. His mother and sisters and everyone he knew had lost their house. Buildings were just gone. Boats and jet skis were all over on the inland side of the road, and the trees were full of people’s belongings. It was like a bomb had gone off. He’s worried now about developers coming in now, buying up land, and building condos and homes no locals can afford. We had a great conversation. But he also told me about a great beach rest station a mile down the road he had just noticed. I found it five miles later.

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Oh, here it is!

But that’s why I have my iPad and maps and I ask lots of different people about where places are. I met Fred, retired military and current all-around community volunteer, at a Shell station just after I had checked out hotel prices online as the weather seemed to worsen. He asked me if I was local, and, when I said I was not, he set about convincing me to stop for the night here where the hotels were, before I got into the middle of nowhere. He wouldn’t really accept that I had already come to that same conclusion, and he also spent quite a bit of time singing the praises of his gps. It was pocket-sized, and only cost $99. He wasn’t sure how I would charge it daily, but if I went to the marine store to get stainless steel parts, he explained, I could build an all-weather lanyard to wear it around my neck so I could still hear it tell me the turns.

I passed a sign very early today that said, “Serious Bread.” I had to stop. It was serious. They gave me samples, and, when they heard I was riding coast to coast, a hunk of cheese to go with the loaf of bread I had bought. The husband had been an oceanographer, and the wife an occupational therapist, and they both became bakers when they retired.

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As he wrestled with dough rising out of a storage bin, the husband told how his brother always said, “Why would anyone want to live in Mississippi?” I mentioned how people in Mississippi kept giving me poor directions. He gave me accurate directions to the highway 90 bridge and mumbled, “Well, most of us have PTSD.” Which gave me something to think about.

At the mention of the bridge, his wife explained how it was only three years since they had rebuilt it, since the hurricane, and showed me the poster for the upcoming Bay Festival. It was only the third year of the festival, held since they rebuilt the bridge, and this one was bound to be the biggest and most exciting yet. They had so many great community events, she said, there was always something going on. A Fur Ball for the animal society was coming soon, too.

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The Bay St. Louis Bridge is great. It is two miles long and has a bike/pedestrian lane separated from traffic by a short wall!

I also met another cyclist today. Levi, a Marine, is riding for fallen soldiers. You can see his blog at leviaho.blogspot.com. He has a link at the bottom where you can donate to care packages for soldiers, if you are so inclined. He started on March 14th out of San Diego, and will be in DC by Memorial Day. Then he figures he will go up the coast and all the way around. He is mostly staying with people he knows or has contacted through a network of Marines. I have a hard time imagining how someone who is only 22 is already out of the Marines, especially with what they are doing these days. That is a lot of baggage to carry for a long time. I wish him well!

Though it wasn’t a good day to take breaks by hopping off the bike and taking a dip in the Gulf, it was again interesting to see all of the construction. At some points along the bike path, between the beach and the road, there was about an eight foot open ditch between the bike path and the beach. I could see the stepped seawall that they were reinforcing with what I can best describe as woven rebar boxes. Later, the whole thing gets covered with sand and becomes part of the beach.

What I couldn’t understand was, if they were going to all this trouble to reinforce the beach at the sidewalk, why didn’t they plan to do something to the sidewalk, like the beach walls in Pacific Beach, to keep the sand on the beach? Because of a few days of wind, traffic was blocked in some areas while they were plowing sand off the road.

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Perhaps that was already looked in to, and it just isn’t possible. The other thing that made me wonder, was that there was almost no street parking for miles and miles of public beach. There could be parking one block over that I couldn’t see. Or, maybe Mississippi is encouraging visitors to walk or bike to the beach. They do have a great walkway running the whole length! (except for the part outside of Buccaneer State Park)

I fell over with my bike today. I came to a stop and unclipped my right foot to rest it on the curb, which is the opposite of what I normally do. So I lost my balance and toppled to the left, unable to unclip my left foot until I was lying on the ground under the bike! I hopped up as soon as I got my foot out with only a scraped knee. Adventure! Also, I am still seeing Mardi Gras beads on the side of the road.

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The wind has gotten even stronger since I’ve been sitting in my hotel room typing, but no thunderstorm yet. It is good that I’ve got the time to catch on my blogging, though, as well as a power source, a good internet connection, and a wall to lean on while I’m typing.

P.S.

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Can you see it? My first Waffle House sighting! I really am in the south!


1 Comment

Everett Melnick on April 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm.

Mmmm! A Waffle House. My favorite breakfast is their scrambled cheese eggs, bacon and of course, a waffle. It’s a real heart stopper. It’s a shame they usually don’t have large enough parking lots to park a crew-cab dually pulling a 30′ 5th-wheel.

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