From Alan –
Population = 18,572 latitude 30º 23’, longitude 88º36’, elevation 7 feet, average January low temperature = 41.8, Average July high temperature = 90, average sunny days = 221, annual snowfall = 0, annual rainfall = 61.6”
From Panama City Beach, we roll North and West toward Mississippi. The palms give way to tall, tall pines, bare except for a little poof of branches at the top, squatting in a tangle of winter bare jungle. It is a long day on the road and not much is going on for scenics. We stop at a Cracker Barrel for a little country kitsch and sweet tea. Finally, we cross the border and stop in the tourist info center for maps and pamphlets. The tourist info center here has done a great job of showing travelers where there are things to do and places to eat. We were given a map of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula that shows Highway 90 running along the beach. There are numbers on the highway that show the hot spots, with the names of everything near those hot spots listed on the back of the map. As we drove around, we found that the intersections also have those numbers on them. Pick a place, get the number, drive to the intersection with that number, look around, and there it is. Simple and effective.
What we love best about this area is the great food. While we may occasionally enjoy the fancy-schmancy restaurants with table clothes and exorbitant prices, what we really love are the “joints”; no-frills little neighborhood places where the food is cheap, plentiful, and good. The Shed is a cobbled together bunch of sheds that serves the best BBQ ever with sides like Granny made, only better! Bozo’s is a seaside shack that serves the best fried shrimp I have ever eaten, piled deep in a paper box with hush puppies and fries! The Cast Iron Cafe serves excellent chicken fried steak and – get this – chicken fried thick sliced bacon! With thick white sausage gravy to dunk it in!!! Sure, you can feel your arteries clap shut, but it is worth it.
And don’t forget the seafood. Seafood restaurants are everywhere. Oysters, raw or cooked. Shrimp? Remember in the movie where Forrest Gump’s buddy tells him every way they can be prepared? They do that and more. In the cafes or right off the boat. Every kind of fish, fixed in every way. And don’t forget the po boys. Restaurants, bars, marinas, food stores, gas stations, everybody sells po boys. Shrimp, oyster, crawfish, grouper, tilapia, sausage, chicken, or roast beef po boys, among others, with or without sauces or gravies, “dressed” or naked.
Since we have such a good map of the area, we are making more of an effort to do some sightseeing. We walk long strands of white powder sand beaches, explore ancient cemeteries, marvel at the gigantic cranes in the shipyard, stroll through oceanside parks with wizened old oaks spreading massive mossy branches, draped in Spanish moss. In Biloxi, we tour Jefferson Davis’s home and library, then do the walking tour of the historic city center. There is kind of a tragic feeling to the city, I thought. Parts are old and stately, parts are missing completely, wiped away by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city has beautiful old classic Victorian houses and shops, next to barren spots of ruin. It breaks your heart, imagining what could have been, had nature been kinder.
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