Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exploring the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The truth: The only reason we rented a car in New Orleans is so I could cross Mississippi and Alabama off the list of states I had yet to visit.

But so long as we were driving the 150 miles from New Orleans to Mobile, we might as well have some fun along the way.

Instead of taking the interstate to Alabama, we drove scenic Route 90, winding directly alongside the Gulf of Mexico and its sandy beaches.

We didn't pack our swimsuits, but we did wade at a beach in Biloxi. The water was shallow and surprisingly warm -- warmer, I think, than the heated pool at our hotel.

We took the drive just a few days after the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and on this beautiful, sunny day it was hard to imagine the devastation that occurred in cities like Pass Christian, which I remember once dominating the news. Paul later learned that the road we drove was indeed once lined with mansions. Now only a few are left.

Neither Paul nor I had any destination in mind in Alabama, so we simply circled Mobile and headed toward the interstate. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama: Check, check and check.

Taking advantage of our location, however, Paul researched barbecue joints in the deep south and came up with a good one near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for our return trip. My pulled pork was good, but the real stars were the outdoor picnic tables and live blues band.

My stay in the south was brief, but I loved what I saw. And heard.

Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama marked states #37, 38 and 39 for me, and they completed my tour of every state east of the Mississippi River. Eleven states to go, and I'm really looking forward to visiting a few of them (California, Oregon, Utah). But Nebraska? Oklahoma? I might need another road trip, Alabama style.

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