One of the great things about vacation photos is you can refer to them whenever you’re in the midst of oppressive dreariness and remember a time when everything was better . I’m writing this in January at the end of a weekend whose temperatures plummeted by half within a 36-hour span and saw snow and ice cover our roads dangerously enough to warrant at least sixty-six police runs to handle traffic accidents this morning. Worse still, it wasn’t enough to blanket all the greenery and make everything look like a Christmas postcard. Slick and ugly snowfall is the worst.
Thanks to the magic of blogging, tonight we’re traveling back to that bygone era of July 2015, on a quiet Sunday morning when my wife and I ran amok on a brightly burning beach that was the dehydrating yet delightful opposite of the chilly here-and-now.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…
Staying on I-10 out of New Orleans would’ve gotten us to our later stops much earlier, but we detoured south onto Highway 90 into Gulfport and through Biloxi because the Mississippi Sound/Gulf of Mexico area has a bevy of stops that sounded noteworthy by our standards. It just so happened that along the way to said stops, the terrain metamorphosed into beaches and natural beachfront accessories.
The right side of the road looks vaguely Florida-ish, at least. On your left are the homesteads of hundreds of residents who repaired and rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the coast in 2005. Several new homes now stand on thick columns dozens of feet above the ground in case of future cataclysmic floods. They’re surrounded by numerous flat parcels of land with FOR SALE signs as the only evidence of those neighbors no longer in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the trees get on with life, same as it ever was.
By and large, you’d never know any of this had been thoroughly devastated. Today it’s just beach and more beach. A wooden sign installed by the “Harrison County Sand Beach Authority” confirms there are rules in effect to ensure the safety and seaside enjoyment of all visitors. It’s not been abandoned or left to mob rule.
This was the week after Fourth of July. If the partygoers left any trash or wreckage behind, the authorities had already arranged cleanup before we showed up eleven days later. Mostly.
If you arrive around 8 or 9 a.m., you can have the whole beach to yourself. Make sand castles, tan without anyone watching, set up a volleyball net, pretend you’re a dune buggy and run around making loud VROOOOOOM noises, whatever comes to mind. Just don’t tick off the Beach Sand Authority.
Anne and I aren’t avid beach fans. Our beach experiences to date have fallen short of expectations. Neither of us is the bathing-suit type except around the occasional hotel pool. Our only tanning settings are lily-white and fire-engine red. The first time I ever saw the Atlantic Ocean was on our 2007 road trip to Florida, where I got to step foot on Cocoa Beach for all of ten minutes before the mother of all Floridian thunderstorms chased us back to Orlando. The following year we tried again with Virginia Beach, only to have the most miserable vacation of our entire lives for reasons that weren’t entirely the beach’s fault.
This was a far better beach. The weather was perfect and the animals were polite. Mississippi 1, Florida 0.
Anne and I had no equipment, no proper attire, no agenda, and no plans to stay here all day and fricassee. We kicked around a bit, she stuck her foot in the water, we savored the ethereal sensations of sunlight and ocean breeze. We tried to imagine what it would be like to live in this atmosphere more than ten minutes every ten years. We dared not imagine how it looked or felt in the worst of times. For this one moment, we walked and lived simply in the now, taking in aspects of nature we never see back home, appreciating the welcome of one of its better, more merciful days.
And then we sped back toward the car the best we could, because after so many minutes the sun was trying to murder us. Anne couldn’t put her socks and shoes back on till her feet dried off, so her barefoot running speed suffered as her dainty toes tried their mightiest to push off against the sifting, searing sands. Eventually we got in, I cranked up the air conditioning, we drank all the water we had, and we remembered one of the most basic reasons we don’t live on a coast.
But the memory serves well as a meditative focus to distract from harsh winters and harsher histories.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]