Monday, May 5, 2014

Coasting through Gulfport and Biloxi, MS

With the chaos of buying our motorhome and getting back on the road, we almost forgot about that pesky four-letter word: work. The majority of folks living the full-time RV lifestyle are retired, so sometimes when you're sipping a bellini with your neighbors on lawn chairs, exchanging stories about your (nonexistent) grandchildren, you remember "Crap. It's Tuesday." And you forgot to put cover sheets on those damn TPS reports

In fact, work is bringing us back to San Francisco to manage a few things that we can't do from the road -- not TPS reports -- those are all digitized now. Instead of driving along the East Coast this summer as we planned, we're traveling through the south and heading west toward California. You can't be mad at work though, because she gives us the opportunity to participate in this crazy RV adventure. Even though she's insanely Type-A, she just wants us to be responsible, law-abiding, voting members of society who eat a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables each day. Without her, we would become vagabonds and degenerates, and also, poor. Picture us as Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in his pre-golden ticket days. Although through the greatness of gambling and sugar, he was able to inherit a chocolate factory, so maybe quitting wouldn't be so terrible...

After Googling the likelihood of winning a contest that would leave me the sole owner of a chocolate factory, I think I have better odds of buying the Clippers one day, so I'm sticking with the day job.

Despite having to hustle back to San Francisco faster than we normally travel, we wanted to make a stop along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. We stopped in Gulfport and Biloxi, two neighboring cities that were badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The beaches along the coast have the same soft, white, sugary sand that the Gulf beaches have in Florida. The best part? They were practically empty on a sunny weekend. 
Empty beaches are a good thing for us, but a bad thing for Mississippi tourism. We also saw plenty of vacant lots for sale, but locals told us that the high cost of insurance post-Katrina prevents people from buying and building. 

Gambling in the Gulf is also a big draw for the tourists who still flock here. From small gambling halls to mega-casinos that look as if they were plucked out of Las Vegas, there is no shortage of places for people to push their luck. (The odds were not in my favor. Thanks for nothing, Elizabeth Banks.)

We also found ourselves visiting Beauvoir, an estate that served as a home to Confederate President Jefferson Davis following the Civil War. It also houses his presidential library and museum. 
Jefferson Davis's Presidential Library and museum
Beauvoir, established in 1852
After touring this estate, I've come to the realization that Spencer and I spend a lot of time visiting old dead people's houses. We've ooh-ed and ah-ed at mansions like the Biltmore estate in Asheville, North Carolina and imagined cowboy life at the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch in rural Montana, and everything in between. For people who don't even live in a house, I'm wondering if we have some sort of "sticks and bricks" envy. I should probably talk to someone about that. 

Although I doubt many Americans today are envious of Jefferson Davis and his role in defending slavery in the Civil War, his house is something to be admired. Davis, seeking a quiet retreat to write his memoirs after the war, inherited Beauvoir following the death of a widowed friend in 1879. (Note to self: Find more widowed friends.) Running along the beach, it's no surprise "beauvoir" literally translates to "beautiful view" in French. 
The Gulf waters in front of the estate
 The interior of the house is no less impressive, especially considering it was built as a summer retreat. 
The entryway of the house
Though not large by today's standards, Beauvoir has features that reflected the wealth of its owners. For instance, no wallpaper was used in the house; all the details on the walls and ceiling were hand-painted. 
The living room leading into the sitting area
The floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms were opulent. At the time, a property owner was taxed based on the number of windows and rooms in his house. The high taxes actually cost the widow of Beauvoir's original owner to sell the house at public auction. Talk about embarrassing. 
The bedroom for one of Jefferson Davis's daughters
Beauvoir was significantly damaged by Hurrican Katrina. 

The sturdy foundation, which was built several feet off the ground as a way to cool the house in the 1800s, actually helped keep water and wind damage to a minimum. Restoration efforts to the property are still ongoing. 

The overhaul to Beauvoir is a testament to the spirit of the South. Mississippi's past, both bright and bleak at times, is full of historical significance to our country. Oh, and did I mention the gambling? Check out the Gulf Coast and don't forget to put $50 on black at the Beau Rivage. If you win, be sure to capture the moment like this:

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