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Observations From the Edge of the Road

Any description of travel through the Gulf Coast states requires commentary on the physical state of said locales.

 Texas—

 The coastal edges of Texas exhibit damage left behind from Ike’s rampage. Galveston Island continues to reel from the blow it suffered. Many of the signs are subtle ones.

 For example, the small businesses that remain boarded up and unsafe, the large Victorian homes in the historical district spray-painted with warnings to stay out because of unsafe conditions, the house on stilts that stares out to sea with its tattered and disintegrating American flag that persists in waving all tell stories worth hearing.

 These are far more telling than the large hotel at the north east and of the sea wall that’s undergoing extensive renovation and stability. These tell of personal struggles of the smaller less obvious sufferer. These tell a story of their own of pressures brought to bear that may break the bearer of that stress.

 After all, Ike blasted across the island in September, 2008. Two-plus years later, some owners of the businesses and homes requiring less to repair are still either unable to get back on their feet, or perhaps have given up on that dream of renovation.

 Louisiana—

 Everyone should remember Katrina and its destruction. Evidence of the lasting changes stand for witnessing today. Small affected towns work with tireless determination to rebuild communities. The state has what appear to be major projects of infrastructure rebuilding to do, as well.

 The report we received from residents of New Orleans tells of progress with rebuilding efforts but leaves behind much distressing news of crime rates rising to rates above acceptability. No current authority measures seem to curb these rising rates—according to some who live there.

 Those amenities most taken for granted, such as parking spaces, have come to a point of competitive prices to provide safe parking for the car owner. $28-30 per day/night is a common rate for secured parking per car. With a shrunken job market adding continuing stress, The Big Easy may need the distraction of February’s Mardi Gras this year.

 During our drive along the gulf shore only one mention was made about the Gulf Oil Spill. We were cautioned by locals about going to certain areas because of the spill. Travel to those areas was discouraged. However, Jo found only one small blob of crude on the beach and that was at Pass Christian, Mississippi.

 Mississippi—

 A small plantation reproduction greeted us at the Mississippi state line. I’ve been to many visitors’ centers but never one more entertaining, informative, and impressive as this one.

 The grounds sprouted colonnaded pavilions for picnics. The main building had more than adequate visitor appeal with a fire burning in the fireplace and rocking chairs waiting to be used. Of course, the elaborate Mardi Gras costumes with capes, headdresses and crowns on display didn’t hurt the eye, either.

The coastline, however, tugged at the heartstrings, showing less completed reconstruction from storm and oil than Louisiana.

This impression remained along Hwy. 90 that skirts the shoreline.Pristine white beaches lure the beachcomber to stretch legs and vision. Believe it or not, periodically a few yards from the highway out on the sand, a large concrete square squatted—alone and looking out of place. In the center of the square is a manhole cover.

 These, it was explained, are clean-out drains for the huge purge water pipes that remove storm water from those areas below sea level. The incongruity of their appearance confused this visitor for certain.

 

Gulfport crews work to build new sections of sea wall and boardwalk along the highway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such white sand beaches. They almost blind the unprotected eyes when the sun’s out. Unfortunately for us, only oyster shells dotted that brilliant expanse.

 

The boardwalk on the Gulf side runs from Biloxi to Ocean Springs. Eyes scanning the beach and water to the right miss the antebellum homes on the other. They don’t see the empty lots that have only foundations left. The sculptures carved on the standing remains of snapped-off palms and live oaks recede unnoticed by many, which is a pity.

 

Stationed life-saving shallow boats wait for use along areas of beach. Sand fences try to contain the blowing white powder, but sometimes only manage to diffuse the sweep of sand toward the opposite side of the road.

 

At Pass Christian on Market St. a shrimping fleet dries its nets, the boats wait for their next wave rum. Just south of Ocean Springs is Gulf Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The forests border the road in pine, palms, cypress, hickory, and heavy underbrush.

 

None of that shoreline appeared affected by the oil spill, but we didn’t take the time to wade out into the bordering vegetation.

 

Though we saw all of these reminders of destructions and rebuilding, we did have a marvelous adventure throughout the Gulf States. The differences between regions that share so much titillate the mind and demands clarification of those differences.

 

Bayous run from Texas to Florida. Cattle anchor both ends of that corridor. Rice fields share the land with alligators while pride of heritage flies on flagpoles throughout–from Goliad to the heart of the Confederacy, from military monuments to battleship masts.

 

For all the peculiarities of individual states, the south shares too much similarity to every come apart for long. Any visitor who spends time along that highway system will come away with an appreciation of that solidarity. 

When you make your visit there, or if you already live there, take the time to look for all those things that make the South itself. You might be surprised at the things you find.

 

Until next time, a bientot, 

Claudsy

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  1. January 29, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I did in fact try to see where you’re coming from, and judging by the experience that oftentimes proved you right, there is a solid dose of truthfulness in what your theory.

    • claudsy
      February 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you so much, Denise. That’s truly an honor that I wasn’t expecting.

      Claudsy

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