April 23, 2006

The Long Drive

Remnants of the Biloxi - Ocean Springs Bridge

The long drive really started in Xalapa. I already wrote about the drive from Xalapa to Matamoros, which took two days. Tuesday, the 18th of April, we crossed the border into the USA and the city of Brownsville, Texas. We drove across the entire state of Texas passing by the fields and brush land of southern Texas. We passed by Corpus Christi and drove through the heart of Houston. We were in east Texas, then in Louisiana, stopping in Lafayette. The driving was starting to get to me, having driven about ten hours a day for the previous three days. On Wednesday we drove the last 200 miles to my father's home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. We drove though the Atchafalaya basin, and Baton Rouge, and north of Lake Pontchartrain, avoiding New Orleans. We arrived before noon and the four of us went out for a very late breakfast.

After lunch, Dad drove us around us around Ocean Springs and the gulf coast to the west, where so much had been destroyed by hurricane Katrina last September. Having been here many times before the storm, and - despite all the clean up - I was shocked by the level of destruction. Business after business was just gone, or in total ruins. Especially significant was the destruction of the gigantic floating casinos of Biloxi. These multistory edifices were built on floating barges that were hundred of feet long and wide. One floated more than a kilometer from where it was moored to land on top of a very large hotel, which it flattened. Where there had been block after block of homes along the coast, there is nothing. We did not drive all the way to Pass Christian, but over 80% of the homes were wiped out by the storm. Thousands of homes were flood on the back bays when the storm surge raised the ocean water level by as much as 20 feet. The result was that thousands of homes we despoiled. Clean up of those homes required gutting the insides to bare studs, then letting them dry out. This is where most of the reconstruction is at now with the removal of most debris and the gutting of most buildings.

What surprised me was the willingness to rebuild, even within one-hundred meters of the shoreline. I saw a wood-frame new building going up less than 100 feet from the shore. I could only shake my head and ask why the city would permit the redevelopment so close to the shore and with no new zoning and building codes? It is certain that in the next ten to thirty years the people of the United States will be called on again to spend billions - so that a few can enjoy living on the water.

Press HERE to see a slideshow
from Saint Louis.

Here We Are at the Top of the Arch
The Mighty Mississippi from the Top
Downtown St. Louis from the Top

Not as surprising, has been the tremendous outpouring of support to the people of the gulf coast. My dad has played a significant role in organizing the clean up and reconstruction through his church. His stories of the thousands of people who came to volunteer and who will continue to come, brought tears to my eyes. And beyond the real on the ground support, the people of America gave and gave and gave, sending thousands of truckloads of food and clothing and supplies to rebuild. One might call it miraculous, but then again - we can pull together when we need to.

St. Louis Arch
Link to Arch Movie

On Thursday we just hung out and talked. Dad had me help him finish a couple of repairs to his house and we hung two light fixtures. My dad's house was high enough and far enough from both the shoreline and the back bay, so that his home only suffered minor damage. It was a great day with them.

Friday, we headed north driving more than 600 miles or about 1000 kilometers. We passed through the pine forests of mid-Mississippi. Memphis went by in a flash, then we were in Arkansas for an hour or so. Missouri is beautiful this time of the year. So verdant, so green, that it felt like heaven to me. We stopped just a half-an-hour shy of Saint Louis, Missouri.
We started yesterday, Saturday, with a visit to Saint Louis. Betty had never been to Saint Louis before. We started with a close-up look at the Saint Louis Gateway Arch. We took a number of photos and a short movie of the arch, but there are some great pictures at the official arch web site. After visiting the Gateway Arch we drove through the downtown Saint Louis, which a really beautiful city. All the buildings along its central mall were stunning. The mall must be more than a mile long.
Before noon we were headed toward Hannibal, Missouri. We did not stop at Mark Twain's house; we just kept on heading north. By mid-afternoon we were passing by the freshly plowed, rich, black and loamy fields of rural Iowa. We passed through Iowa City, then Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, and Mason City. Turning north on I-35 we were in Minnesota one-half an hour later. Finally we arrived at the house in Bloomington that we left four months ago, and more than 12,000 miles or 19,500 kilometers.

That wraps up this trip. We will be going on several short trips this summer and a very long one in the fall. I will try to write some comments on Mexico in the next few days.

Posted by bill at April 23, 2006 06:14 PM

Bill & Family, Thank you so much for your very interesting accounts of your trips in Mexico and US. I have really enjoyed them. Keep them coming.
Carol Beadle is still in Honolulu tending her bedridden Mother,
Allethea, who is in a very weak condition. If you wish to send a note of incouragement their address is 1621 Dole St #506, Honolulu, HI 96822.
Aloha and Mahalo, Helen von Tempsky on Molokai

Posted by: Helen von Tempsky at April 24, 2006 08:45 PM

Hi Mate
Sounds like a nice trip! Are you heading back to BA soon? Isabela and raquel will head to Brasil in early June. I will follow via Calif in August when my contract runs out. Hope to catch up to you guys again soon.
Regards from New Zealand

Posted by: Jeff Roberts at April 25, 2006 09:19 PM