Today we arrived in Biloxi, Mississippi, an area hit badly by Hurricane Katrina two and a half years ago. It is still clear to see the devastation that was caused, although a lot has been rebuilt since then. But there remains many buildings torn apart by the winds along the shoreline, and many areas where buildings once were. We passed over a new bridge into Biloxi and were able to see the old bridge which had collapsed into the sea. I can only presume this was caused by hurricane Katrina, as I've seen images of many collapsed bridges in the area. The drive along the Biloxi coast line was strange. There are sandy beaches that go on for miles, with huge multi story hotels dotted about the place, but between each hotel are ghost-town type patches of destroyed buildings. The beaches themselves are desolate, and filled with tractors and construction workers who are obviously still working to rebuild the area. Pier after pier along the sea remain collapsed. We did manage to find a pier that had been rebuilt and walked out to it to watch the sun set this evening.
The RV park we are staying in has a lake and pedal boats to take out. The kids couldn't wait to try them, so not long after we got here we took them out to the lake. Jimmie wanted to be captain of his own boat, so the rest of us went into a 4 man pedal boat. Barney was a bit nervous about the whole thing but enjoyed it once he relaxed a bit. I think as he can't swim, floating on a large piece of plastic in a large expanse of water is obviously quite scary for him. There are some photos of this in the Mississippi link in the side bar. Or click here.
We have a theme tune now for Mississippi, thanks to Barney. On our journey here he made us play the song Nemo by Nightwish, over and over and over, and every one had to sing along! My 4 year old son, into symphonic metal (I am so proud!) He just loves the song. I had to laugh as he thought the chorus went "Oh how I wish, for souvenirs" (its actually soothing rain). This from the child that begs to buy souvenirs in every shop we go into.
Anyway, I didn't get to post much from Alabama as our RV parks had no wireless access. We spent two nights near the gulf shores. There we spent a day on the beach, and then took the kids go karting etc at a small outdoor place designed to bleed money out of parents. Daddy buried Jude to her neck in the sand on the beach, poor child. But she got her own back by beating the boys by three full laps in the go-karting race! Go girl! Jimmie surprised Dan whilst he was sunbathing on the beach, eyes closed, relaxed... with a huge bucket of ice cold sea water over his head! If he'd have done that to me, he'd be dead. But thankfully Dan thought it was funny and has promised to get him back when he is least expecting it.
On our last night at the Gulf Shores in Alabama we stumbled across a seafood restaurant called Hazel's, and because of it being my name we convinced ourselves to go and eat there. Amazingly I was the first known Hazel to have dined there! Dan bought me a mug in the restaurant with my name in it. Boy, I can't tell you how nice it is to drink tea out of a proper mug after almost a month of drinking out of plastic! Wow, that was one of the simple pleasures in life that I didn't even realise I enjoyed! The restaurant was having an all you can eat night, and it was buy one meal get one free. So we all eat for the cost of just one adult meal and one kids meal, as they didn't charge for Barney!
Our second two nights in Alabama were spent in a big deep south city called Mobile. We had no idea really what the RV park was like as it had no website. But it was cheap. Only $9 a night for us to stay there with our Passport America membership, and that included the cost of electricity, water and sewage. Mobile seemed to be a very industrial city. It wasn't pretty but I really enjoyed driving through it and seeing all the big ship building areas, and huge train tracks filled with trains carrying miles upon miles of cargo. We drove on an 8 mile bridge over water to get into Mobile, which was in itself an experience for us. We got totally lost trying to find the RV site (even with the sat nav) and ended up driving through an area of housing which looked a bit the worse for ware. Little run down mobile homes, on streets with pot holes. We could tell by the look on the locals faces that RV's don't generally drive through there. But they all waved politely at us. I kind of wondered for a moment if we were in some sort of dodgy gang land area! I asked one guy for directions and he seemed really uncomfortable talking to us in the street. In the end I told him not to worry, that we'd keep driving. But I half wondered from the look on his face if he was trying to work out if he could snatch our RV off us and make a run for it!
When we did eventually find Chickasabogue RV Park we were pleasantly surprised. It was as good (if not better) than many of the state parks we have stayed in (paying $28 - $40 a night) for just 9$ a night. The RV area was deep in the middle of woods, and the lots were well spaced apart. We couldn't see the other RVs from our site at all. Each lot had a table, fire ring, and access to the forest for fire wood. As well as that there was a kids park, lovely showers, a beach and creek for swimming in (although it was too cold for that while we were there). And the staff were friendly. A patrol car circled the entire park all through the day and night, and our trash was collected each morning if we left it out. All that for $9 was pretty good I think!
We spent an hour collecting so much firewood that we were able to have a fire all evening, as well as one this morning (we ate our breakfast outside in blankets by the fire!) and left some for the next visitors too. We all really enjoy sitting out in the evenings with a fire. I think I've spent more time outdoors on this trip than I have done in my entire life so far.
The highlight of our time in Alabama though, was the visit to the USS Alabama War ship and Submarine. Wow! What a day out. I can't recommend this place highly enough. It's possible to spend a full day here, and the cost is reasonable. Entry to the park costs just $2 per vehicle. In the park you can walk around the various war planes on display and view the submarine and battle ship from the outside. Steve took a photo of me sitting right underneath a B52 bomber! I sat between the huge wheels with the bomb hatch open in front of me. It was quite scary actually, to sit under such a huge aircraft! For an extra fee you can tour around the inside of the ships.
I won't write too much about our visit here as I know Dan wants to write a blog post about it. But the kids really enjoyed it, and even little Barney didn't complain once, despite walking miles around the ships. What I really enjoyed about the place was that everything could be touched, examined and tried out. Not much of the area was roped off, and that's great for kids (and nosey adults like me!) The walk through the submarine was awesome (if not a little scary!) We climbed down a hatch at one end of the Drum, walked the length of it through the various sections (torpedo room, engine room, cabins etc) and then up through the hatch at the other end. The hatches throughout the submarine were quite small and space was constricted. We were the only people in it at the time, much to my relief. If we had gone in the summer when it was busier then I wouldn't have been able to cope in the submarine at all. (You can see the rest of the Battleship photos in the Alabama Photo link).
Well, I will leave it there for now as I know Dan wants to write about the USS Alabama, and Annabelle also wants to write a blog post for her friends at school to read. Tomorrow we may be going shrimping on a real shrimp boat! But we haven't decided on that yet. Dan just wants to be Forrest Gump. He even bought the DVD in Walmart today. I am very excited about being in Mississippi. I know that Utah and Colorado have fantastic scenery, and I am really looking forward to seeing that. But the states of Alabama and Mississippi are two places I have always wanted to visit. I'm not sure why. Maybe because of some films that I watched as a child, or from the Minn of the Mississippi books that we read during home education with the kids. I don't know. But I just feel so excited to be here. We won't be seeing the Mississippi River until we are in Louisiana next week though.