Friday, March 30, 2012

gulfport, mississippi...

Gulfport is the second largest city in the state...and lies right on the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico.  It was also situated right in the path of two of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the USA.  In 1969 it bore the brunt of Hurricane Camille...which flattened most everything along the coast. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Gulfport...and nearly all structures within half a mile of the coastline were destroyed and downtown streets were under water.   What is Gulfport like today? 

We arrived in Gulfport on a March afternoon some seven years post Katrina...and forty-three years after Camille. 

The white sand beaches stretch for miles in either direction.  All the buildings along the coastline are new. 

The birds frolicked and played...and had not a care in the world. 

As we drove along the beach highway...we noticed many vacant lots for sale.  Often the old foundation was still there.   Homes that had been rebuilt...were up on stilts!

One of the reasons we were quite eager to visit Gulfport was that hubby spent several months here helping with the re-building process after Hurricane Camille back in 1969.  He recalled exactly how it had all looked at that time...but as we drove through the town on our arrival he never recognized any landmarks.  Gulfport was a new city!  A much larger one now.

In the morning...we did a little more exploring.  He suddenly found a neighbourhood that looked familiar.  One more block...

...and there was the school that served as a dorm for all the 'relief workers' during his stay.  We parked and walked about...though the building was now behind a fence that warned against trespassing.  As we stood outside the fence and looked...a voice came over a loudspeaker asking if we needed help.  It seemed we were under surveillance! 

A nice lady came out to chat with us.  We learned that the building now belongs to the federal government.  It was originally known as the 33rd Avenue School and was apparently the last all-black school in America.  With the end of  segregation the school closed in 1969...just before Camille pulled through town.  It was renovated and used by Job Corps ( a federal government program) ever since...until Hurricane Katrina did irreparable damage.  The plan was to demolish the building and start over...until the 'historic preservation' committee got wind of that plan.  They would like to see it rebuilt and preserved as an historic African American high school.  While the fate of the old school is still in limbo...we stood outside it's gates and viewed the building that looked just as it did some four decades ago. 

Across the street were the homes that he that all had to be placed back on their foundations in 1969.  It was definitely a trip down memory lane for him!

We returned to the beach...a short distance away.

It's always fun to talk to the locals.  You learn a lot!  We learned that although the winds were stronger with Camille (category 5)...Katrina did more damage because of the storm surge.  Many locals left for higher ground after Katrina...and have not returned.

At the beach it doesn't look like much has changed after all!  The tide comes and goes just as it always has.  The children run and play in the white sand.  The birds take their roll call. 

This is the Gulfport I will remember.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

spell it ~ Mississippi

We have arrived in Mississippi...but let me leave our Gulfport experience for tomorrow...and talk about spelling and misspelling today. 

Mississippi. That is one word that is impossible to spell wrong. Right? We all learned the chant 'em-eye-ess-ess-eye-ess-ess-eye-pea-pea-eye' in our early years...and it stays with us forever.

We Canadians spell things a little differently than our American cousins...simply because we take our authority from the Queen.  What she says goes!  And so we have 'authours' and 'neighbours' and 'humour' (on occasion).  In the USA they 'favor' dropping the u in many words ending in -our.  But I noticed other discrepancies while we were travelling.

In Canada we don't spell elevator like this...

...especially not in our hotels.  Am I the only one that questioned that sign?

I noticed that Alaska Air had official decals on the backs of all the seats with instructions regarding 'flotation devices'. I thought it must be one of those words that Americans spelled differently.  So I did my research and found out it could be spelled either way...flotation or floatation. The latter spelling is the archaic version.  That explains why it looked right to me!

I like things spelled correctly. It's just that I am not always sure what is correct anymore!

Tomorrow....come with me to Gulfport for a spell.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

bellingrath gardens

We are heading to Alabama today...doing our road trip in reverse.  Not far from Mobile, Alabama...we toured Bellingrath Gardens.    The gardens and home were the creation of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath...and have been open to the public since 1932.  Walter owned the Mobile Coca-Cola Bottling Company...and was the original founder of the Waterman Steamship Company.  I'm thinking he liked gardening in his spare time!  The gardens are open year-round...since there is always something in bloom. 

The azaleas on the 65-acre estate were in full bloom...

...and made a delightful backdrop for the southern belles that strolled the paths!

The Bellingrath home was also open for tours...though we opted to spend our time in the gardens.

It will be a few weeks before our azaleas are in full I enjoyed the sneak pre-view!

Bellingrath Gardens is worth a visit...if you are ever in the deep south!  Next stop...Gulfport, Mississippi.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

florida ~ then and now

This wasn't our first road trip through Florida.  We did this once a long time ago...before we had a family!

We went on a missions trip to Haiti, Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe.  When the rest of the team flew home from Miami...we decided to stay in Florida and do some sight-seeing.  Our rental car was a Ford Pinto that was none too reliable.  It's one rental car that we never forget about!  Our rental car this time was a Chevy Cruz...most dependable and comfortable.  By this time next year I will have long forgotten what kind of a car we drove.

Way back then...we spent some time at Disney World.   Though we flew home out of Orlando last week...we had no time for Mickey and Minnie this time around.  And had we gone...I know we would not have arrived by 9:07 AM (as shown on the clock in the photo above)!

All those many years ago, we spent some time with Uncle Neil, Aunt Fran and my three cousins in the Clearwater area.  They were most gracious hosts...and it was so good to meet the cousins who lived in this far away place.

It was the one and only time I ever met Philip (centre front).  Later that year...he passed away quite suddenly after a short battle with Leukemia.  He was twelve years old.  What a blow that was to his family...and what it privilege it was to have met him. 

Though most of our road trip looked quite different than the one in 1973...we again passed through the Clearwater area.  Did I mention toll highways and bridges galore?

We met my uncle and aunt for lunch...along with Cousin John.  And after lunch, we drove out to see where Uncle Neil and Aunt Fran now lived. 

Their lovely new home is right next door to where they lived last time we were there.  They have switched up their car since then as well.

I laughed when I saw the photo of hubby in an orange grove in 1973.  We had to stop beside the road while he checked out citrus farming way back then.

Some things never change.  This time we stopped by a papaya farm...a tomato farm...and a field where corn was being harvested.  A farmer is still a farmer...even on vacation!

It was likely our last road trip through Florida.  I can say with confidence that we won't be going again in four decades time!  Our good memories will have to do.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Key West

 Key West...where the road ends in Florida.  This is not just any old road...

...but one that is called the 'overseas highway' for good reason.

This section of US Route 1 is 127 miles long and connects the Florida Keys with eighteen being seven miles long!  It was a most interesting drive...surrounded by the turquoise waters of the gulf.  When we arrived at Key West...

...we were as far south as we could go.  A tropical shower downpour swept through just before this photo was taken. It dispersed the crowd in a hurry...and we quickly took the opportunity to take a photo...before the rain stopped completely.

Several years ago we visited Southpoint...on the Big Island of Hawaii.  That is in reality the most southerly point in USA...a remote spot on the windblown cliffs of Ka Lae.  There were no tourists lining up there to take photos!

Key West is a most colourful and interesting place to visit...a popular tourist destination where one needs to make reservations well in advance...especially if it happens to be spring break on the east coast!

We took the advice of a fellow Canadian tourist that we met earlier on our road trip...and booked into the Douglas House Guest House. From there we could walk wherever we wished to go. 

Key West is mostly about tourism and fishing!

Oh...and chickens!  Apparently the locals were not thrilled with the new law that banned cock fighting in Key West several decades ago...and so they set their birds free in protest.  The roosters now roam the town...and the will.  They crow...morning, noon and night! 

We were told to be sure to have breakfast at Blue Heaven while we were there.  So we did.  It was a true Key West experience!  Roosters ran about beneath the tables...and one sat on the umbrella above our heads.  The lobster benedict and banana pancakes were great!

We also visited 'The Little White House'...which was used by President Truman as a vacation home and functioning White House between the years of 1946-1952.  He was Key West's #1 tourist...and did wonders for the tourist industry on the island.

Built in 1890 as quarters for Naval officers...the Little White House at Key West was later used by US Presidents Taft, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton.  The Presidential gates pictured in the lower right remain closed unless a President is on site.

Key West is full of 'characters'! 

Some flog their key lime pie...

...some blow their conch shell horn on the street corner

...and most get around with bicycles or scooters. 

One of Key West's more notorious characters was Ernest Hemingway.  His home is now a museum of sorts...where one must pay $12 to take a tour.  A walk-by' tour was good enough for us!

Towards evening we made our way to the did most all the visitors to Key West it seemed.

We watched the tarpons milling around just below the surface...

...and pelicans that were looking for any tasty tidbit they could find.

As the day came to a close....everyone gathered to watch the sunset.

We actually found a nice quiet spot...far away from this crowd!

The sunset alone was worth the drive to the most southerly point of continental USA!

Friday, March 23, 2012

farming in florida...

Let me start with the last days our road trip...while the memories are still fresh.  We spent a few days in the Homestead/Florida City area...the last stop before heading south along the Keys.  We were in farming country...and hubby quite liked that.  Immediately next to our hotel...a crew was busy planting papaya seedlings.  He went to investigate...and learned how things are done in southern Florida. 

This is what that papaya crop should look like within a year's time...ten to fifteen feet tall and bearing lots of fruit.  The soil is basically coral in this area...and irrigation is a simple matter since the water table lies just a few feet below the surface (everywhere).  Papayas do best in soil that is high in organic matter (coral is good, it seems)...and thrive in tropical climates.  There are obviously no papayas growing where we come from!

The corn harvest was in full March!  Corn is something we are quite familiar we grew corn for the fresh market for many years.  We planted in April or May and harvested late summer.  In Florida, most annual crops are planted immediately after Thanksgiving and harvested before Easter.  After that...too hot!  It was surprising to see that such short stalks could produce fair-sized cobs.

We watched trucks of fresh green beans coming from the fields...

...and large fields of tomatoes ripening in the sun. 

And then we stopped by 'Robert is Here'...a fruit stand which has become a well known tourist attraction.  It seems Robert grows much of his own produce...some bearing names I had never heard of before.  Mamey Sapote looked most interesting...'tastes like a fruity pumpkin pie.'

Just down the road from Robert's farm...and at the entrance to Everglades National Park...we visited a farm of an entirely different sort.  Everglades Alligator Farm is a real working to the public.

Beneath those murky waters lurk many alligators.

We strolled the paths...and watched the alligators being fed.  And I wished my grands were there to see it all.  I myself was not endeared to them!

We took an airboat ride through the swamp...of course!  I managed to keep my camera dry...for the most part.  As for me...I was drenched and my white T-shirt was no longer white when the ride was over.

Though it was mostly about alligators out there in the swamps...there were many birds keeping them company out there.  The birds were more photogenic! 

And that ends my farm tour in southern Florida for today.