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    Southern welcome

    June 29, 2016

    Yesterday morning, I awoke to one more kayak ride with Marjorie.  

     

    This time, I helped her load the kayaks into the water.  No boats disrupted our morning paddle.  

     

    Like the day before, Marjorie made a big breakfast for us to enjoy.  

     

    Dark menacing-looking clouds approached Fish River; however, they passed directly over us.  

     

    I hugged her goodbye and departed Summerdale at around 10:30 a.m.

    The route along 98-West offered some traffic.  Quite a bit of the stretch followed along commercial areas where a light greeted me after every couple of blocks.

     

    As I approached I-10, the commercialism waned.  

     

    I made a left to continue onto 98-west/90-west and crossed over several rivers and salt marsh areas before seeing signs to Mobile.  Rather than driving through the downtown area, I opted to go around the city.  

     

    I passed the USS Battleship Alabama Memorial Park and within minutes, I found myself on a very large bridge located in a heavily industrial area. After the bridge, I made another left.  

     

    Not really sure why, but it felt as if I had circled around Mobile a couple of times; thus, I wondered whether I had made a navigation error.  

     

    When I found myself on the Hank Aaron loop, I knew I was driving in the proper direction.  Not because I knew where I was going but because I knew, I had not seen that signage.  Later, I coasted through two historic districts: Oakleigh and Dauphin.  Huge southern estates surrounded by mature trees and gardens made this bumpity-bump section tolerable.    

     

    Soon after, signs saying 90-west served as a reminder that I had been traveling in the right direction.  

    Despite finding myself on the road in the noon hour, overcast skies managed to keep the heat at bay.  

     

    Just before approaching another opportunity to jump on I-10, my route became a two-lane, rural and secluded road.  

     

    Finally, I approached a welcoming sign:  my next adventure state.

     

    The speed limit jumped from 55-mph to 65-mph; however, my speedometer hovered around 57.  

    Once I began to see signs of human life, I stopped for gas and checked my cell-phone for any messages from my new airbnb host (Jessie).  

     

    She had sent a message:  text her when I was about 30-minutes from Ocean Springs.

     

    I laughed to myself because on an old-school motorcycle, one cannot check one's phone to see where one is and/or determine how far one is from the next destination.  

     

    In the commercialized portion of 90-west, lanes reached as many as three across on either side.  

     

    I passed through towns like Singing River, Pascagoula, and Gautier before reading Ocean Springs.  

     

    At this point, I decided to stop for gas and let Jessie know that I was about 30-minutes away.  Although I had entered the beginning outskirts of her city, I wanted to give myself enough time in case I suffered from any navigation complications.  

     

    During my pit-stop, I received a call from a dear friend (Jeremy).  

     

    The discussion we had lead me to a fresh realization.  

     

    Despite only being a week into my trip, I uncovered that I had created a new identity for myself.  

     

    I had transformed into a motorcycle blogger.  

     

    Indeed, this was my current occupation.  

    Jessie's home was much easier to find than anticipated.  

     

    When I arrived, I found her waiting outside in her carport.  She moved her vehicle and allowed me to park my motorcycle under coverage.  

     

    Her home?    

     

    It reminded me of an imaginary grandmother's house.   

     

    It had that kind of character.  

     

    Covered with eclectic art, her walls beckoned further observation.  

     

    I laid my backpack in the spare bedroom and began inspecting her many cool artifacts.  

     

    She made aromatic tea while I absorbed my new surroundings.  

     

    (Oh, I almost forgot about her dogs.  Three of them.  They were all completely different breeds with distinct characteristics.)    

     

    She had a bar area which faced her stove/kitchen area; hence, I sat down and began to inquire about her life.  An architect by trade, she ended up a biscuit-making, business owner.  

     

    Following small talk, she asked whether it was okay to invite some of her friends over for a small dinner party.  Apparently, they found my journey interesting and wanted to meet me.  

     

    A true southern welcome:  I agreed!  

    Because I had arrived around 3 p.m. or so and because the dinner party would not start until 7:30ish, I decided to take a walk.   

     

    Jessie drew me an easy map to follow towards the sea. Before meeting the ocean, I passed by a marsh. 

    Along the shore, I found several interesting specimens.  Dead sea creatures and docks leading nowhere.  

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Upon my return, I found Jessie slicing and dicing.  I helped with the party by stopping by the local grocery store to pick up wine along with some cheese and crackers.  

     

    When I returned, I met S-.  

     

    He was a waiter, a member of the National Guard, and as he put it, a stick and bindle kind of guy.  

     

    His commanding voice and presence attracted attention from others, including myself.  

     

    Indeed, he captivated me.    

     

    Within the hour, two more kind -- 30-something -- fellas arrived.  

     

    Hours later, another -- this time -- an older gentleman walked into her home.  

     

    In other words, Jessie and I were surrounded by a room full of men.  

     

    I could not think of a better way to spend the evening.  

     

    We swapped stories ranging on everything from food to traveling to working to living.  

     

    Of course, we discussed politics, too.  

     

    While I wish to elaborate on all the topics dissected, I would much rather focus on the one that really stuck to me like elderflower bitters .  

     

    A magazine.

     

    Garden and Gun.

     

    According to several of my new acquaintances, it represented all things Southern.  

     

    Genteel.  

    Composed.  

    Outdoorsy.  

    Literate.  

     

    Yet, for me, the nouns seemed dichotomous.  

     

    How does one envision both gardens and guns?  

     

    In Mississippi, both nouns coexist in complete harmony.    

    Until we meet again, my friend.  

     

    (Thanks to the Ocean Springs Municipal Library for giving me what seemed like unlimited time to complete this blog post.)  

     

     

     

     

             

     

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