Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Friends along the Gulf Coast

After staying the night at a favorite RV Park, Martin Lake Resort, the manager gave me a map and suggested I visit Ocean Springs, a small town on the east end of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  This is on the coastal highway but I’d missed it on my first drive through.  It was too cold then to enjoy anything anyway.  Today it was nearly 70 degrees and sunny.  The tiny town’s main street is lined with tall oak trees and branches that reach across at the top to form a shaded arch.  With little shops with names like “Bayou Belle”,  I had to stay.  There was easy parking off main street and I spend the afternoon just taking-in the beautiful items, people, holiday music and even hot cider and cookies. A bit of southern holiday hospitality.

I ran into two other shoppers who seemed to be on the same shopping route I was.  One had a beautiful Scottish accent.  When we were at the Lovelace Drug Store old fashioned soda counter at the same time, we naturally struck up a conversation.  They had seen the van and knew the name “Okanagan” and were delighted to tell me they were Canadians. 
Bell Ringer
Tonight I met Julie. I was spending the night parked at the 24 hour Wal-Mart near Biloxi.  She was outside the store ringing her bell and tending the Salvation Army kettle.  It occurred to me that she might know of the local Salvation Army thrift store.  I asked her and then as she considered it, I said I’d be back out after shopping and it would give her some time to think. 
In the way out, I dropped my money into the kettle and we began to chat.  She gave me some very confusing directions which she continuously corrected and we both started to laugh.  She said the Goodwill that used to be near the coast was destroyed by Katrina and she doesn’t know where they are now.  Many places had relocated.
I asked her about her home.  She lives in Bay St. Louis…along this coast but a bit further west from here.  She said it is brick but it was filled by 7 feet of mud and surf.  She and her husband lost everything.  She had worked at a local hospital but it was damaged so she had no job.  Her husband is a carpenter and is out of work too.  This bell-ringing job will help them for another month.   
She was curious about my travel adventure so we talked about that and all the while people stuffed money into her kettle.   When the wind turned chilly, we said good-bye with a hug.   
Most of the casinos…about 6… are grouped together in Biloxi.  Formerly (before the hurricane), they were built on the water.  The local or state ordinance required that.  After they were all blown away, the law was changed to allow them to build on solid land.  However, half of them are right on the beach and the others are across the road that skirts the shore.  I don't see how that afforded much change or protection in case of another one. They appear to be the tallest buildings in the area. 
After a quiet night at the Wal-Mart, I'm traveling west along the coast to Gulfport.  My thanks to McDonald's for the use of their parking lot and free Wi-Fi this morning. 


Post a Comment