Mississippi marks my 49th state. South Dakota will be the big 50! I’ll get around to that one in a few weeks. The road to Mississippi began in North Carolina. I booked a roomette on Amtrak’s Crescent train. It runs from New York City to New Orleans. I hopped aboard in Greensboro. With no direct connection to Biloxi, I spent the night in the Big Easy and then took a Greyhound to Biloxi the following day.
For the trip, I booked the Hilton Garden Inn. It’s next door to a Waffle House and a ten minute walk to the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel. Midway between the Hard Rock and the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, there’s a bus stop, for the Casino Hopper. The cost is $1.50 for a single ride or $6.00 for a day pass. You need to pay in cash and you must have the correct change. The Hopper drops off at many of the major casinos. It also stops at the transit center for local buses and Greyhound.
Having served as a Red Cross disaster services volunteer, during Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to visit the Biloxi memorial. It’s located on the Town Green, a large open space, (2100 square feet) that includes the Hurricane Katrina Memorial, along with painted tree carvings from a storm damaged tree. The wall of the memorial is the same height as the storm surge of the hurricane. The memorial also has a glass case containing items found after the storm. These were donated by locals. Finally, at the end of the memorial, there’s a wall listing the names of those who lost their lives and those who are still missing.
After spending two years in Sitka, Alaska, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was happy to be surrounded by fishing boats in Mississippi. The sea food in Biloxi is said to be amazing. Still, true to my (short) Sitka stay, sea food is what you catch and keep frozen, in your upright freezer. It not something you pay tourist prices for in restaurants. Food wise, I opted for grits. I mean, there was Waffle House, right next door to my hotel. How could I not head over for some sweet tea and cheese grits?
I could see the Waffle House, from the lobby of my hotel. I just couldn’t see a sidewalk to get there. It took me a minute to realize that both the hotel lobby and the restaurant were raised. When the hurricane hit the gulf coast, the surge level was 22 feet above sea level. As I traveled around, on the Casino Hopper, I began to notice homes and business on stilts.
Mississippi was always one of those states that I figured I wouldn’t visit. Being born and raised in Detroit, I never really believed that I would ever travel to the south. Then, at seventeen, I had my mother sign me into the Air Force. During my service, I was sent to work, in southern states, on temporary assignments. Later, I would attend archives and library conferences, in the south. I’m not sure how Mississippi was missed. I’m just really happy that I finally made it here.
The road to South Dakota is going to be a long one. I’ve purchased a rail pass and will begin the first leg in a few days. The plan is to crisscross the US, taking the longest routes possible. I’ll leave Biloxi and head back to New Orleans. From there, I’ll hop aboard The City of New Orleans and make my way to Chicago.
Forty nine down and one to go! Damn Mississippi. You were great! —GGT