Mobile, Alabama is a working city. Eschewing the highway the whole way, I took Route 90 through Mobile and journey's end. The road wound through Mobile's industrial area, a place of many mysterious odors. I couldn't place many of them but I would describe most as "chemical."
There are three tall buildings in Mobile. One of them is nondescript, but the other two are topped with airy, buttressed domes and spires. The tallest of the three is a masterpiece of modern deco. It dominates the skyline. Wikipedia doesn't say what this building is called, unfortunately, because I'd like to know more about it. I'm used to admiring skyscrapers but this one was a stand out example of architectural excellence, especially in its setting. It was breathtaking, imposing and inspiring.
I thought Chattanooga was a burly, masculine city. Mobile is a city of callouses and sweat and curse words spit through clenched jaws as men's bodies strain to make some piece of machinery work as designed. This is a place I would like to visit again. My route took me through it's grittiest territory down by the port and through genteel, antebellum, leafy neighborhoods. What a town.
Biloxi, Mississippi, on the other hand, is a casino city. They dominate the waterfront. I rode along the beaches for miles and miles, the Gulf of Mexico on my left and various cityscapes on my right. I spent ten years living in New London, Conn. between Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. Biloxi's remind me more of Foxwoods without the scale. I'm no gambler, so this city didn't appeal to me.
I went through downtown Gulfport and there wasn't much to see. Perhaps Katrina decimated it because it was very small and full of empty lots. I don't know, but it was Dullsville.
In Pass Christian I stopped for a bottle of water at a shrimp boat dock and watched the fishermen doing whatever they were doing on their boats. A truck was parked in the lot selling fresh fried shrimp. It was noon so I figured, why not? I ate a dozen fresh Gulf shrimp out of a piece of foil. Delicious.
I missed my turn and ended up at a NASA rocket testing facility at the end of the road. The guards at the gate gave me a shortcut to get back to my route. Nice guys, even before they noticed my license plate. After they verified that I am in fact from Massachusetts, they drew me a map on a piece of scrap paper.
The NASA guys' shortcut brought me through empty pine forest. There wasn't a sign of civilization for miles except for the well maintained road. Truth be told, I haven't hit a bad road since I left Boston. New Orleans also has its share of potholes, though. A bumpy ride in the beginning and at the end with smooth sailing for 2000 miles in between.
From Mississippi, I entered St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. From here until way into New Orleans, the road cut through swamp, flat and fecund. The houses are all on tall stilts. New Orleans is bigger than most people realize. It's shaped sort of like a fish tail. I entered through the upper fin and passed through the 23,000 acre Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge which is within city limits.
I'm in New Orleans three days early. No reason to complain about that. The place where I'm staying made room for me. Making my way there, I relied on instinct. I knew the address and I've daydreamed over my map of the city enough to have a rough idea where things are even if I don't remember all the street names. From the Chef Menteur Highway I leaned left from time to time until I landed at an intersection I remembered walking on my last visit. After that, I was home free.
It is good to be in New Orleans.
From Atmore, I traveled 64 miles to Mobile (98 since my last gasoline purchase); I filled the tank with 1.44 gallons for $4.10 ($2.84/gal). In Pass Christian I had gone 89 miles so I bought 1.67 gallons for $4.67 ($2.77/gal). In New Orleans, at the Corner of Broad and Canal Streets, the odometer read 78 miles; I topped off with 1.05 gallons for $2.84 ($2.69/gal). I'll have to tally up how much gasoline I bought and what my average milage was.
The real work begins tomorrow: looking for work and for an apartment. The official move date is a few days over a month away, but there's no time like the present. I just did the math and I traveled 2054 miles, mostly on the back roads. My lady companion keeps telling me the distance is 1360 miles according to AAA. It is that far on the highway and we'll be traversing that distance in June with all our belongings in tow. The extra 600-odd miles I logged on my zig zagging route were worth it. It is good to be in New Orleans but I made a journey I'll never forget.