A quick update. I'll add pictures later.
About 1.5 hours into my drive, I thought there was no way I would ever make it to Mississippi! But as the afternoon approached, the miles sped by and I got more excited to be approaching the gulf. At the bottom of Alabama, highway 10 splits. 10-E: Florida. 10-W: Mississippi. If you look at a map, both states are very close. As nice as Florida sounded, I veered right. As I entered Mississippi for the first time in my life, I stopped in at the welcome center. In the bathroom, a woman next to me was washing her hands. She said, "I almost forgot what Mississippi water was like! I keep scrubbing because I can't tell if my hands are clean yet -- there's still crud on them!" I agree; the tap water here isn't very good, and I'm wishing I had packed more than a half gallon of my filtered water.
I made it to Biloxi at 2 pm. My hotel check-in time was 3 pm, but fortunately they let me in early. Free* breakfast (*I suppose I am paying for it) and no Internet. I can deal with that. (Correction: there is Internet. But I can't get it in my room. If I park my car on the other side of the building and sit in the driver's seat, I get a great signal.) The hotel is about five miles from Keesler AFB. Clarissa gave me some rough directions ... she has only been here one month and without a car, so she hasn't been too far off base. Before I knew it, I found myself cruising down Beach Blvd -- white sand and an expansive gulf to my left. Absolutely stunning. I resisted the urge to park my car and lay in it. :)
Clarissa met me at the gate. Until next week, she is required to wear her blues whenever she is off base. She said the weirdest part is the stares it draws and when people come up to her and thank her for serving. Her role is finance, but she says she suppose everything contributes to the bigger picture. The first place we went was Super Target. Trips to Target is something I definitely take for granted. She was pretty excited about the freedom a vehicle provides.
For dinner, we went to this place called The Shed. It screamed Southern. Have you ever seen A Goofy Movie? It's been years, but my memory clings to a scene with an outdoor party ... wooden picnic tables with Christmas lights stringed overhead. That's what it was like. If it wasn't in the lower 50s, I'm sure the place would be a real party. We ate inside, pulled pork sandwiches. There were dollar bills with people's names on them, taped all over the walls and ceiling. It certainly had a lot of character.
We thought we would catch a movie: The Blind Side. My Garmin couldn't find the theater. We called my mom twice for help with Internet directions. Traffic was dense and I was getting frustrated. Apparently there are just two theaters in this area. We were about to give up when I asked, "Should we turn around?" Clarissa said, "Um, just keep going straight." And BAM! The theater was right there. There were a lot of people but we parked and went up to get tickets. The movie was sold out. So we went to Redbox and used a coupon code to get a free movie: 21. I've seen it before, but I like it because it's not a "leave your brain at the door" movie. It's about blackjack and counting cards, and this kid from MIT who starts counting cards to win lots of money to pay for his education at Harvard Med.
I fell asleep during the movie. Clarissa woke me up when it was over to drive her back to base. She had a 12 a.m. curfew. I made it back to the hotel and took a shower. I'm 5'9. The shower head was mounted at about 5'5. I hate this because I have to bend my knees to get under the water. Ridiculous. Has anyone ever complained about a shower head being too high? Why not mount them all at 6'6 or 7'0?
We've thrown around ideas for tomorrow: for sure going to the beach just for a bit. New Orleans is just an hour away. Catch a matinee. Go kayaking on the back bay. We'll see.