Oct 042017

It’s been said that once you leave, you can never go home again. And I think there’s some truth to that. Maybe it’s because we romanticize a place that meant a lot to us, or maybe things just change, and the change is not always an improvement. Sometimes the memories are better.

One place that has always meant a lot to Miss Terry and me is the Mississippi Gulf Coast. For 32 miles, US Highway 90 from Waveland to Biloxi parallels the Gulf of Mexico, with snow white beaches leading to the water on one side of the road.

 And on the other side the beautiful old homes that were built by wealthy planters in the old days that served as their summer getaways. It was believed that it was a healthier place to be during the hot weather, when the breezes off the water kept the mosquitoes at bay.

The route passes through some charming small towns, there were a number of little hole in the wall places to eat where we could get delicious food at reasonable prices, and the place just had a special feel to it that drew us back again and again.

On our trip back from Texas we diverted off of Interstate 10 to take that old route again. It was the first time we’ve done it since Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of the coast back in 2005. We both kind of wish we would have stayed on the interstate and kept the memories.

We knew the hurricane had caused a lot of destruction, but we were surprised at just how much had changed. Many of those old homes we loved are gone, and in their place are condos or recent construction. And we were surprised how many for sale signs there were along the way, both on the few surviving old homes, and the new ones, as well.

And those little mom-and-pop eateries we used to enjoy? They are all gone, replaced by fast food franchises. I doubt the kids working in any of those places even know what a real Po Boy is.

Don’t get me wrong, if you have never been there before it’s well worth the trip. The sand still looks like sugar, there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the views of the water, even if you’re driving a 40 foot motorhome.

There is still a lot of history to see here, plenty of birds,  and you’ll never change the personalities and friendliness of the natives who have lived there for generations. So it’s not that it’s bad, it was just disappointing compared to what we remembered.

When we left the coast we got back on the interstate and took it east into Alabama, getting through Mobile ahead of the rush hour traffic. Once we crossed Mobile Bay we took US Highway 98 south and then followed it when it turned to the east and eventually crossed into Florida. We wanted to take it all the way across the bottom of the Panhandle, another route we remembered and enjoyed from back in our first couple of years of fulltiming.

Terry lived in Fort Walton Beach for a while when she was a kid, when her father was stationed at nearby Eglin Air Force Base. I was through there a few times when I was a youngster, too, and I remembered quaint small towns with interesting little shops along the way. Instead it was one long bumper-to-bumper traffic jam from Pensacola all the way to Panama City. By the time we eventually got there and checked into a hotel, we were frazzled from a long day on the road and not seeing most of what we had hoped to.

The one bright spot was dinner at Granny Cantrell’s, a fabulous down-home buffet we had eaten at last year when we went to Panama City to buy Terry’s first Glimakra loom. This is not one of those buffets where you’re eating yesterday’s leftovers that have been sitting under a heat lamp all day. No, everything was hot and fresh, the selections were amazing, and we stuffed ourselves. If we lived anywhere near Panama City, we would eat there at least once a week.

The owners must be train enthusiasts, because an elevated model train runs around the restaurant, and in the entry there are several trains of different sizes on display.

We had talked about taking US 98 down through the Big Bend, through interesting small towns with names like Mexico Beach, Apalachicola, and Sopchoppy, and then shooting across the state to the East Coast and home. But experience has taught us in earlier travels along that route that it can be a slow trip, and by then we were tired of playing tourist and we just wanted to get home. So instead, the next morning we went north to Interstate10, followed it east to Jacksonville and then south on Interstate 95 to Edgewater.

And guess what? You really can go home again! Our house was waiting for us and it seemed like it smiled at us as much as we did at it when we pulled in the driveway. It’s good to be home again.

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Thought For The Day – Set your goals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  3 Responses to “The Memories Are Better”

  1. If one has never traveled along the coast from Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle, I would suggest that one doe it at least once. The sand and water are so beautiful. Even with the old homes gone, the people have taken the old trees that were so damaged and with chain saws carved many into lovely sculptures.
    Also one of the last places Jefferson Davis lived has been renovated due to Katrina damage.
    Visit a beautiful part of nature.

  2. Feel exactly the same about our trip back to Sedona this year. . .wish I had just kept the memories. . .

  3. Nick, Mexico Beach has been populated with Condos! If you want to see “old” Florida in that area you have to travel state highway 20 but no view of the condos lining the beaches, just tall pines.

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