The goal was to strike the gulf at or near Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This was a town we'd been to before; but, that was before Katrina.
It is always a risk to plan a driving trip late in December. You might be able to leave; but, then you might not make it back. As it turned out, we did just fine. We hit some very strong rain in Arkansas and Mississippi, and it was fairly cold throughout the trip, but overall the weather was fine.
There's a rest stop east of Wichita that is high (a relative term in Kansas) in the Flint Hills. Looking to the east, the hills drop away and the horizon seems a long way off. This morning it was quite cold and windy, and there was a haze in the air.
The main highway (US-400) now avoids Fredonia altogether. Even the lesser road avoids downtown. You have to want to drive through the center of town.
There is a simple park off main street well-suited for having lunch.
Bentonville, Arkansas is, of course, the home of Wal-Mart. The town square is very tidy and very clean. The original Walton's five and dime is a museum. The corner cafe was open, but we had breakfast at the hotel.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a fairly new art museum, but must now be considered one of the more important ones in the country.
We took time this brisk morning to walk some of the trails around the museum (before it opened).
Some walks are paved, but most are like this.
It might appear that this would be an entrance; and, it is a grand view of the museum as it crosses over the creek. But, you cannot actually enter from here.
Instead, you must climb the stairs and go around to the real entrance.
Lots of paintings, many of them well known. I concentrated on the heads.
We finished walking the galleries in time for lunch. The glass walls look over the water.
The museum is built on and around Crystal Creek.
It's Christmas morning!
Greenville, Mississippi was once very prosperous. It's right on the river, although the levy keeps you from noticing.
Leland, Mississippi. We're here looking for a Kermit-the-Frog center, but were not immediately successful trying to follow the instructions in the AAA guide. At times the rain was quiet heavy.
Anchored Rafts with a biblical and Christmas theme.
Jim Henson's Delta Boyhood Exhibit. We were quite intrepid, and eventually did find the place. Of course, it was not open, but at least we did see Kermit. The key was that the road on either side of the channel shared the same name.
Rain? Goodness, yes. It was so heavy, that it was prudent to pull off the highway to a side street and wait it out. The radar image on the phone was not encouraging. But, we did get far enough to avoid the very worst of it.
Mize, Mississippi. We're mostly out of the heaviest rain, although we were not done with it.
A beautiful sunset.
Wiggins, Mississippi. In Kansas, the main street will almost always be perpendicular to the railroad tracks. But, in this region, it seems that there are two main streets: each parallel to the tracks, but on either side.
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art is in Biloxi, Mississippi. The museum presents the work of a potter who lived in this area at the turn of the century.
The styles of the buildings were decidedly varied. Perhaps too much so? It's hard to imagine how devastating hurricane Katrina was to this area. Not only would this have all been under water, we found out that a large floating casino came to rest here. What a mess.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art was damaged by the hurricane, but there wasn't any evidence of that. The community center is actually not part of the museum, although it is accessible through it, and it does contain some very impressive murals by Walter Anderson.
These large letters were made from wood blocks that Anderson made. They were intended for his children.
His style is very distinctive and easy to identify.
Shepard State Park is not many miles east of Ocean Springs. There are a number of trails that seem all to be part of a Frisbee golf course. Anyway, we did manage to not get lost.
The bridge was stronger than it looked. I think.
I rather like these marshes.
Biloxi, Mississippi. We're now driving back west along the coastline. The damage from the hurricane has all been removed, but you do notice that block after block, for miles and miles the coast is empty of houses and other buildings.
Picayune, Mississippi. We stopped for the night. Picayune is the home of Paul's bakery, a large maker of King Cakes for Mardi Gras.
Abita Springs, Louisiana.
We walked up and down the entire town.
The tourist map we had indicated that there would be another trail leading back to the town. We never found it.
Not all the town streets are paved.
Driving to New Orleans? There's a lot of water to be crossed. It's like crossing an ocean on the longest bridge imaginable.
The causeway humps up on occasion to allow enough clearance for boats to pass beneath. There are also a number of turn-around points, which emergency vehicles could use.
Near Garyville, Louisiana is the San Francisco Plantation. All along the river were a number of plantation houses offering tours. We stopped at this one.
Seems a curious floor plan. There's a central room within the ground floor that is surrounded by a broad hallway. Think of it as an enclosed porch. Bedrooms are upstairs. Airflow cooling is important. That thing on the right? It collects rainwater from the roof. The Mississippi River is just beyond the house, over the levy.
Our guide (in the hoop) did a very nice job. Our tour was especially better when a particularly insufferable guest left early.
Thibodaux is the site of one of several connected Cajun museums that are all part of the National Park System.
New Iberia, Louisiana.
St. Martinville, Louisiana.
The St. Martin de Tours (Catholic) Church has been here a very long time (built 1836) and is called the "mother church" of the Acadians. It was open.
Notice that the pews are "gated." In the past, I suppose each family would pay to keep their reserved pew.
The maintenance man pointed out some features.
Name these saints?
I thought I knew what a Kolachie was; but, I'm not so sure it doesn't mean something different in Cajun country.
First, Evangeline was a fictional character from a Longfellow poem. Then somebody else piggybacked on the fame of that poem to write another book based somewhat on real people. It all gets confusing. This is not the grave of Evangeline, but it is the grave of somebody whose story was similar and was part of that later book.
Vermillionville Historic Village is a creation of a river village.
Many of the houses had locals doing craft-type things.
The Acadian Cultural Center is another part of the same complex of museums run by the National Park Service. This one seemed mainly to be devoted to a surprisingly large theater showing a movie on the Cajun history (actually, I wish it had more history and less melodrama).
Near Bell City, Louisiana. What a place to put a house!
Bell City, Louisiana. I wanted to get a shot of a swamp, so pushed through the brush to get this one.
Natchitoches, Louisiana had really gone all out with their Christmas displays.
Near Allen, Louisiana.
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana is the home of the Eighth Air Force Museum.
Near Doddridge, Arkansas we stopped at this isolated cemetery for lunch.
Idabel, Oklahoma is the home of the Museum of the Red River.
Fort Towson, Oklahoma. Actually, we only stopped here to check online for a hotel. The gate to the park was closed.
The Thomas Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The view of Oklahoma from the museum.