On this rainy and windy morning, we send greetings from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Florida, made one last stop in Alabama for some minor RV maintenance, moving just a little more westward, crossing the Mississippi line in the late afternoon. We were impressed by the endless and beautiful swamps on either side of the highway, as well as the Mississippi Welcome Center on Interstate 10, complete with fancy furniture, chandeliers, a map of blues musicians around the state, a history of the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and a talking life-size cut-out of Elvis.
For those of you who read our blog on a regular basis, you may remember that a very kind older gentleman in Robertsdale, Alabama (whom we met for a few minutes in a local restaurant) invited us to park on his land here in Mississippi. Many of the homes on this coast were destroyed by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and we are parked on a concrete slab that is the only remnant of what was once his proud beach-front home. Our host apologized for the state of the neighborhood, the condition of which still demonstrates clearly how the legacy of the devastation of those storms lives on, but we can see past the ruined piers and homes to the underlying beauty of this area that received much less attention than the Louisiana coast, even though Mississippi was hit the hardest by Hurricane Katrina.
After finding our parking place on the Gulf (not without some dramatic challenges which shall remain unrecounted), we made our way to an award-winning barbecue joint highly recommended by our host, stopping twice to ask for directions from helpful locals who knew of its reputation for being the best barbecue in the US. Although we only eat chicken and fish occasionally, this was an opportunity for a local experience that could not be missed, and Tina was certainly up for the adventure, especially since her very own serving of pulled pork was in the offing!
Arriving to the gate of "The Shed", the large bearded parking attendant said, "Where y'all from, Massatooshits? That sure is a long way to come for bah-be-cue! Make sure you have the Sample Platter, y'hear?"
The Shed is a bustling local joint boasting visitors from around the world, live local music, an outdoor stage with fire pit and picnic tables, a dock alongside a swamp most likely populated by alligators and many varieties of snakes, and a generous helping of noisy and welcoming southern hospitality. Tina was invited to eat in the enclosed porch which was such a rare treat. We sat next to a bridal party, the bride herself, still in her wedding dress and veil, was chowing down on ribs as she told stories of drunken (vomit-laden) car rides and trips to the local strip clubs with her pals. Tina inhaled her pulled pork and we enjoyed barbecue chicken sandwiches, a rare occurrence for us (especially since we usually only eat free-range organic chicken once a season or so!) The Shed is a special place, but we were very disconcerted that they serve all of their food in styrofoam containers, coupled with shrink-wrapped plastic utensils and plastic throw-away cups---part of the dark side of a lack of environmental consciousness that we have observed throughout our trip.
As for us, we will push on into Louisiana today, preparing to rendezvous with Mary's cousins in Lafayette on Sunday and Monday. Lamentably, we will most likely bypass New Orleans on this visit for logistical reasons, but we will return to Louisiana in the future and pay our respects to the Big Easy at another time. However, there are stirrings of a plan for us to do some Laughter Yoga for Katrina relief volunteers at the end of this week, so we may return to NOLA for a brief overnight after all.
Lately, we have been connecting with a great deal of joy related to life on the road, but also to the challenges therein. We both experience waves of road weariness from time to time, and the stress of travel and constant movement can take their toll. These feelings are frequently assuaged by our love and support for each other, connections with friends and family, and the healing powers of nature, especially sublimely beautiful oases like Santa Rosa and St. George Islands in Florida.
Although we don't blog about it much here, we both are still struggling with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and between exposures to diesel fumes, the fragrances and chemicals in people's homes, stores and other places along the way, our health is frequently challenged. Keith still struggles with chronic back pain, and the cold weather we have experienced over the last few months has certainly not helped him in that regard.
Still, we are incredibly grateful for the privilege and luxury of taking this incredible journey, and despite the challenges, it is still for all intents and purposes an excellent adventure. Thanks for being here, and we'll be posting soon from the heart of Louisiana!
~Mary and Keith