Monday 27 August, 2012

Day 73 – The Gulf Coast


Fleeing the strip mall purgatory of south side Mobile, I vowed to stay off the interstate and see some of the gulf coast. I take 90 west through Pascagoula and see some bits of rural Alabama and Mississippi. The land is even more wild, the swamp in some cases coming right up to the road. [...]


Fleeing the strip mall purgatory of south side Mobile, I vowed to stay off the interstate and see some of the gulf coast. I take 90 west through Pascagoula and see some bits of rural Alabama and Mississippi. The land is even more wild, the swamp in some cases coming right up to the road. I notice houses up on stilts, a good idea here in hurricane country.

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Biloxi MS is the halfway point on my journey this day so I was planning in stopping for a break. I pass through the waterfront area and see nothing but casinos and large hotels. Nothing looks inviting until I spot some large metal pods by the side of the road. My first thought is “that looks like a Frank Gehry building”. I stop to investigate.
The group of unusual buildings turns out to be a small museum, the Orr – OKeefe Museum featuring the pottery of George Orr but mostly featuring the building itself. A wonderful series of aluminum and brick structures designed by Frank Gehry. I have a nice chat with the docent on duty who gives me an exhaustive history. Apparently it was designed so that none of the beautiful oak trees would have to be cut down. The buildings all flow around the shading trees, making it look like they’ve been there for years. On temporary exhibit is the work of another artist, Eugene Martin, whose art was a delightful surprise. I spent over an hour in that gallery alone drinking in the paintings and drawings.

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I reluctantly leave the oasis of the museum for Baton Rouge, my destination this evening. I’m finally getting to meet Donna’s brother David, his wife Maureen and their kids Faith and Seth. For twenty years any time Donna mentions her brother, she adds the phrase “you guys would really
Ike each other, you have a lot in common”. He is also an artist and has a passion for music and vintage stereo equipment.
I hit the worst traffic of my trip entering town. A big rig has exploded and the freeway is closed. I am pinned in, concrete barriers on both sides and traffic all around, crawling at one mile an hour in 95 degree heat. My bike and brain are both overheating after an hour of this. The shoulder opens up and becomes grass and in desperation I take the 600 lb. bike off road for a bit. It gets me a half mile closer to the exit. Somehow I avoid a ticket and manage to exit the freeway. The city streets are no better, but with the help of google maps I can at least find the best back roads to take. I arrive at chez Robinson a broken man. I have little memory of that evening save for a nice steak and the general well being that comes from experiencing genuine hospitality.

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The next morning I wake up refreshed and hungry. The house is deserted, everyone has left for the day. Maureen has left a nice note, I respond, thanking them and have a bit of cereal to get me on my way. Hopefully I can return someday for a longer visit.
I stop for some breakfast in the town of Lafayette. I yelp for a good place and discover the French Press, a fabulous restaurant in a cool part of downtown. I have a great meal of grillades and grits and some good coffee, buy a neat dirt at a nifty store next door and get back on the road.

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