We’ve continued our journey along Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast, relaxing for the most part and visiting with family, but also taking a little time to explore a little further. We stopped at Biloxi this morning. Most people come here for the casinos but that’s not my thing. I’d heard that the Biloxi Lighthouse had reopened less than a month ago after several hundred thousand dollars worth of renovations. That was my destination.
The lighthouse stood tall through the massive storm surge of Hurricane Katrina four-and-a-half years ago. Watch the short video I took and you’ll see the waterline that’s been drawn on the lighthouse interior. The lighthouse became a symbol of resilience, so much so that it now appears on the Mississippi automobile license plate. It suffered tremendously though, and it took all these years to get it back into shape.
It’s easy to view the lighthouse from the exterior because it sits directly on the median strip between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Beach Boulevard. Visiting the interior becomes a little more problematic. It’s open to the public only an hour per day and maybe a half-dozen people can fit within the tower comfortably at a given time.
SOURCE: Mississippi Tax Commission
I enjoy fine beers and I’ve grown used to doing without when I travel to Mississippi. Some of the counties are completely dry. Fortunately those don’t include the three counties along the Gulf Coast. This time I also noticed a remarkable improvement of availability, though. Even the little grocery store down the road in the neighborhood where we’re staying has a selection of decent micros and imports. It’s not like home but it’s still lightyears ahead of where it once stood in the very recent past. Change happens slowly down here but trends adopted elsewhere eventually arrive.
Some of my family live right along a bayou and we can do our own version of the Redneck Yacht Club on a party barge. On shore we feast on oysters, crab and boudin as the sun begins to set. I can’t eat like this every day as much as I wish I could. I’ll need to undergo a serious food detox when I return home.
One still cannot escape Katrina although she seems to lessen her grip on the collective psyche a little more each time I visit. Renovation and rebuilding has been completed in many places. Still, it doesn’t take much effort to spot empty lots where homes ones stood, or notice the abandoned house that hasn’t been touched since the storm passed. Dozens of For Sale signs line the frontage road along the Gulf, each offering bargain prices on empty lots. My wife remarked that she used to be jealous of all the beautiful beachfront homes. Most of them no longer exist.
The same bayou where the family’s party barge now floats served as a fine sluice across Interstate 10 when the wall of water surged, even though it’s located several miles inland. Debris, even large debris like this boat, still litter the woods. Many people here feel overlooked in the shadow of the disaster that befell nearby New Orleans. It was bad enough here to make homes disappear, leaving behind concrete pads and brick steps to nowhere. The cleanup will continue for years.