25/12/16. The night under the house (it’s on stilts in case you were wondering – to prevent flooding when a hurricane hits) passed quietly and it felt a little warmer. There was another long bridge to cross to the mainland but thankfully this one was much quieter than Three Mile Bridge into Pensacola.
We then followed an even quieter road through the countryside until we came to our old friend US90 which was quite a lot busier than last time we were together. However, at least there was a reasonable shoulder. For a while.
This changed as soon as we hit the Alabama/Mississippi border where the shoulder changed to concrete with many cracks, most of which had grass and other vegetation growing out of them. It became quite unpleasant for a while but did start to improve a little when we reached the reasonable sized town of Pascagoula.
In our short two day stay in Alabama we had been impressed with the provision of bike lanes – wide and well surfaced for the most part. They were definitely better, on average, than Florida but our initial experience of Mississippi did not auger well.
We stayed on the main road through Pascagoula and beyond onto a long causeway over a river and through marshy/swampy land. To make matters worse it started to get a little misty. However, by this point we were almost at the turnoff to the State Park where we were going to camp for the night. The only provision for tents at this park was in the so-called “primitive camping” area which generally means no “hook ups” (to water, electricity and sewage) which RVs and caravans need/expect. This was not a problem as we were the only campers in a large area under the trees where there was a covered pavilion with benches and tables and a power point. Water was available at the reasonable toilet block. The one omission that would have been welcomed would have been showers but at $13 for the night we were not complaining.
In the morning we set off reasonably early even though we only had about 30 km to go to Ocean Springs. We had decided that we would hole up in a hotel for Christmas for three nights (those of 23rd, 24th & 25th) and wanted to get there reasonably early to stand the best chance of finding “room at the inn”! We had chosen Ocean Springs based on the description in the Lonely Planet Guide – “a peaceful getaway, with a lineup of shrimp boats in the harbor alongside recreational sailing yachts, a historic downtown core, and a powdery fringe of white sand on the Gulf.” And Biloxi, the next town along was full of casinos and seemingly expensive hotels!
We can confirm that the Lonely Planet Guide got it right! Ocean Springs is very pleasant indeed, although Stephen was not especially impressed with his Christmas Eve bike ride to the north of the town because the few roads seemed generally too busy for good cycling. We have been for a couple of walks through the old town to the beach on the Gulf and Stephen even went for a paddle in his undercrackers which was a sight for sore eyes!
Unfortunately the Christmas Day service brought home to Stephen the experience which Christine has had at most of the church services which she has attended in the US – a few people said “Merry Christmas” and smiled but no more. This included the minister as we were leaving who seemed intent on “processing” the queue of people lined up to shake his hand as quickly as possible. This is a complete contrast to what was happened at services elsewhere in other countries on our travels.
For Christmas lunch we have treated ourselves to a rotisserie chicken, caesar salad, baguette and key lime pie from the local Winn Dixie supermarket as a change from pasta and tomato sauce!