The New Orleans airport has always been a bit hectic during 4th of July weekend because of Essence Fest, and I wanted to avoid it. Instead of flying somewhere for the holiday, I decided to take a spontaneous road trip with a friend. We decided at the last minute to take the scenic route to Biloxi, Mississippi.

Now, I hadn’t been there since the summer before 7th grade. I only remember because I had just gotten my braces, and I have a picture of my brace face with my parents at a pizza place in Biloxi. The last time my friend had been there was immediately after Katrina destroyed it. Needless to say, things had changed a lot. Poor Mississippi suffered through Katrina and the BP oil spill and it took a gargantuan hit on the economy.

I honestly never held a positive opinion of Mississippi. That state is always competing with Louisiana to take the crown on the “worst states” list, and usually wins. I know that it isn’t a bunch of racist hillbillies stuck in the antebellum, but I just never felt that it had anything to offer me. I’ve met a lot of men from Jackson. Apparently, the dating scene there is horrendous and there are lots of black gays with and abnormally high rate of HIV.

We stopped at a couple of markets on the side of the road in Louisiana as we made our way to Mississippi. Can I just mention how much Louisiana makes me smile sometimes? Where else can one see a sign on the side of the road that says “FRESH GATOR JERKY?” How can one not stop on the side of the road and buy some? It was good, too. We bought gator jerky, cracklins, liquor, and chocolate covered strawberries.

At the Mississippi state line, we stopped at the Infinity Science Center for a break. We accidentally snuck into the museum when we should have paid $15 each. For what it’s worth, we didn’t know until I noticed that everyone but us was wearing blue wristbands. We still viewed everything and no one asked to see our wristbands. It was cool, but not $15 cool. Most of it was about the space center, and showed off rocket engines. It also spent a bit of time discussing the weather and hurricane predictions.

We continued on to Bay St. Louis, and my friend was amazed by how much it had changed  since he had last saw it. Where there was once business after business on the waterfront was not a lot of open space. Many businesses just never rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina or moved deeper in the city, which was understandable.

​When we finally arrived in Biloxi, we couldn’t find a place to stay. Everything within a 50 mile radius was sold out for the weekend, but we ended up finding a below average hotel in D’Iberville for a couple of nights until we could move to something better in Biloxi. I think I would rather have slept in the car and taken a “hoe bath” at a gas station bathroom, but when spontaneity happens, one just has to go with the flow.

My friend and I live the washed life, and are proud of it. The entire weekend was just a bunch of storytelling about his time living in pre-Katrina Biloxi, cruising down Beach Boulevard, taking naps, and hanging out at the pool. A lot of Mississippi’s revenue comes from gambling, but gambling didn’t interest either of us. We went to Beau Rivage, Hard Rock, and Golden Nugget to scope out the pools and decided that we liked Hard Rock’s the best. We hung out at a bar at Beau Rivage and listened to live music, but spent most of our leisure time in a pool because it was so hot.

One cannot experience 4th of July weekend without bbq. We drove over to Ocean Springs to a place called The Shed for lunch. The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint was quite famous, unbeknownst to me. They have a line of bbq sauces in grocery stores nationwide. The place was just a bunch of pieces of wood nailed together that the owner called a restaurant, but there were cars in the gravel parking lot with license plates from various states, so it seems like people enjoy it. I was skeptical, but we ordered the sampler platter and it was really good.

Overall, my extended weekend in Biloxi was a relaxing time spent with a good friend. Despite the heat and the dirty gulf water, it was a beautiful area in Mississippi with a lot of room for development. There was some construction happening all over the city, so I hope to visit again in a few years to see the economy even stronger than now.

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