[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on January 31, 2005]
I was all set to go to church Sunday morning in Gulfport, but I underestimated how long it would take to find the place. Rather than arrive late, I decided to head on down the road. By the time the service ended, I was already in Biloxi!
It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The clouds were gone by 11 and stayed gone all day, and there was no wind, so although the temperature was cool it wasn't chilly. Biloxi is a big casino town, with lots of tourist attractions along the beach. I saw two of a species I had thought long extinct: cement waterslides! I guess the liability laws must be different in Mississippi. I also saw something I haven't seen since ... Indiana? ... a farm stand selling fresh produce! I'm close enough to Florida now that vine-ripened tomatoes and other goodies can be trucked in overnight.
I stopped at Gulf Islands National Seashore and enjoyed the visitor center but decided not to camp there. Instead I rode on to Sheppard State Park, a few miles west of Pascagoula. On the highway I saw a familiar sight: a bicyclist pulling a two-wheeled trailer of camping gear with a big orange flag on the back! We called "hey" to each other, but the highway median prevented us from having a conversation.
I continue to be amazed that every campground does things differently from every other. Sheppard State Park locks its shower rooms and only gives keys to those who ask to pay a deposit. I didn't ask, so I didn't get a shower! Fortunately the day had been cool enough that I didn't need one very badly.
I rode into Pascagoula first thing this morning (Monday) and went straight to the First Baptist Church. A member of the office staff patiently confirmed that yes, it is the church featured [as the "First Self-Righteous Church!"] in the Ray Stevens song and video, "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival," but no, the event did not actually occur. She said that it's not just tourists; some of the residents also think that song is the only memorable thing about the town!
I spent nearly an hour at the Pascagoula library getting phone numbers for campgrounds, but when I stepped outside and called them, only one allowed tents, and it was in Mobile, another 30 miles away. I decided to give it a shot. Outside Pascagoula, I saw another trailer with another orange flag. This one was a Burley trailer designed to carry a child, but its owner was using it to pick up aluminum cans from the roadside. I told him the story about how my trailer is made from recycled aluminum collected on trailers just like it.
I had been warned that a big stretch of US-90 was under construction, so I detoured to a parallel road... or would have, had the street signs not been all wonky near the state line. Instead I wound up on a less parallel road about 5 miles farther north than I would have liked, but it got me into town. The day was gray, and it began to rain on and off as I approached Mobile. I stopped for directions at a gas station, and the woman there really went the extra mile. She called ahead to the campground for directions, suggested a route for me, and gave me a free cup of coffee. The route she suggested was hair-raising at rush hour; I hate to imagine the other one that she said was less safe!
The owner of the campground gave me a key to the "office," a mobile (manufactured) home complete with kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. It didn't occur to me that the little water heater wouldn't be up to the task of filling my bath and the washing machine at the same time, so I had a cold bath, but it was better than none at all!
I enjoyed my three days in Mississippi! I'm aware that I really only saw the coast, which was a lot like Florida, having been part of Florida historically. I'm looking forward to getting to the Florida coast in a few days. See you there! --Ben