art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

I’d read about this little beach town/artist community, and knew I was interested, even before a mountain biker I met the other day recommended it to me. The first place I stopped when I rolled into town, however, was not an art sight.

Thus begins a new chapter: I’m going to be visiting a series of civil rights monuments in the next weeks, I think. I was glad to see this, even if the park was just pocket-sized.

Then I did a partial art walk, guided by a handout from the visitor’s center, and poked my head in a few shops.

I bought some beautiful postcards, but otherwise enjoyed the free version of Ocean Springs.

Moving right along, I visited Whole Foods in Mobile…

Goin’ Coastal pineapple IPA, Sweetwater Brewing

(I missed the Welcome-to-Alabama sign, y’all. The trials of travelin’ alone [Hops does not count in this instance because he doesn’t use cameras].)

And onward…

quietly in the forest

When we arrived in the national forest, my left knee looked like a cantaloupe. This is the formerly good knee that has been plaguing me for some months now. I did some nursing it: ibuprofen, ice, and intermittent walks with Hops (he LIVES for a walk in the woods). It’s clear that moving around is good for it, and sitting behind Foxy’s wheel is not. Meanwhile, I was parked at a mountain bike trailhead, watching all the locals come and go, congregate and share beers and talk shit… it was pretty torturous, and made me nostalgic for a community of mtbers to which I used to belong.

We also saw a beautiful bat! just lying trailside – I was afraid it was dead, but it wasn’t; I was afraid it was hurt, but as I examined it and tried to figure out how I might could help, it eventually grew tired of me and just rolled over and flew away. This was a special treat.

thanks for your help with the mosquitoes, friend

Lacking any other place to be immediately, and having found a lovely, free place to camp and cook my meals, I’ve stayed. Tonight, the second evening, I felt good enough about the knee to take a short ride; and it was fine. The worst day on a bike beats the best day off one, and I am grateful for every pedal stroke I get to make. Tomorrow, knee permitting, I’ll make a few more.

entering Mississippi

I have a confession to make: I thought Mississippi might be just a state I was passing through. I stopped at the Welcome Center at the state line, and learned that Jim Henson was from Mississippi, and saw this lunar lander

and thought, huh, okay. I kept driving. I had not expected that the Mississippi Gulf Coast would so steal my heart. Turns out I spent six hours covering what could have been a straight shot of 87 miles, so enchanted was I. I spent a good bit of that time up and down between Bay St. Louis (where I found a 10-mile running race in progress) and Gulfport-Biloxi, enjoying as well the towns of Pass Christian and Long Beach. I see now that I didn’t take enough pictures. Hops and I walked on beaches and watched birds; we stopped at a bookstore (the very nice independent Pass Christian Books, which are not, you understand, Christian books) and two college campuses, and had a fine lunch of raw oysters, assorted fried things, and Dixie beer. [I was horrified to see the enormous and celebrated grandeur of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis home.] The fog was so thick it was like driving or walking in a cloud. Sometimes, a cloud that smelled of seafood. I would love to spend a little more time on this part of the coast.

But there was nowhere to sleep. So we drove just a bit north into the De Soto National Forest of pine trees, where we set up for the night at a mountain bike trailhead. I owe Mississippi an apology for underestimating its loveliness.