Bob Mitchell: Search for warmth leads to cold beach
Continuing on with our attempt to find some warm weather during February, we instead found a cold Gulf of Mexico, just across Highway 90 from our townhouse in Long Beach, Miss.
The afternoons weren't all that bad, but the weather didn't permit short sleeves, except for one afternoon during the month-long stay.
So, the white sand beach -- which was worked and graded at least three times during our stay -- wasn't as inviting as it could have been. The folks in this particular area are obviously proud of their beaches, since along the several-mile strip between where we were and Biloxi, they frequently had equipment on it, smoothing and filling.
The casinos, about as frequent as they are in Oklahoma, were one place to stay warm. One of the features in most of the casinos was a special day when the buffet was half price. Since we took full advantage of most of them, the waistline began to feel the experience, so we backed off some.
Food layouts at the buffets did not reflect price reductions. The lines always featured seafood -- especially shrimp -- prepared a number of ways. They were always provided in large beds of ice. Some of the servings on trays, which we noticed on most trips, were something to behold and made us wonder if some of the folks were taking at least part of the food they took home with them.
The only requirement for this service was to have the casino's card, which was free on presentation of proper identification, which meant a driver's license.
VA, Air Force Hospital
There were a couple of places where we noticed what had happened after Hurricane Katrina hit the area in 2008, which devastated many old homes and other facilities along that strip of the Gulf.
Especially amazing were the Veteran's Administration facilities and the Air Force Hospital. Both amazing facilities had been built back and their expansive buildings and departments were amazing.
We had visited the hospital the last year, but this time, depleted medicine took us to the VA, where we once again found a facility that was outside the realm of those causing difficulties in the system.
All that was required to get a "short prescription" was my VA card, which permitted them access to my records and a short wait at the service window.
We also made a couple of runs to the Base Exchange with Ron, where, once again, the service was outstanding.
Stationed there are C-130 aircrafts that are used for weather scouts and sea rescue.
There is an abundance of real estate available all along the coast, where old-time estates and homes once existed. The only one we noticed that was priced was asking $150,000.
While the homes had been destroyed, the old live oaks had made it through the devastating winds. Their replacements, which there were some, would be standing on stilts and not nearly as attractive to the area as had been the mansions. Some were even in colors that did little for the scenery of the area.
Along the highway, trees that had been damaged along the medium had been carved quite expertly to represent sea life, birds and animals. One that was most attractive was an eagle. After the carving it appeared the results had been varnished for protection.
Fortunately, some of the old mansions had been restored or rebuilt, at least presenting what the area had featured before the storm seven years ago.
There were some cost differences on gasoline. Not far from us was one station that we visited frequently that posted $1.71 per gallon. On one trip, this station had sacks on pumps, but a station across the highway was posting $1.72, where they had previously offered $1.82. These were in an area with offshore wells and refineries not too distant.
One casino's cigarette machine offered $11 per pack and recommended using $1 or $5 to make a purchase. That's about what the price of a carton of cigarettes was when I decided to quit some 30 years ago.
One afternoon, from the front patio of our unit, we got to watch an apparent sea rescue rehearsal of what appeared to be a burning boat operation. It was directly south of us, about 1-1/2 miles offshore.
There was considerable smoke in the area and several C-130 aircraft and surface vessels in the smoky area for about two hours. It must have been a training operation, since there was no news coverage that evening.
We missed a connection with the Navy to watch the Super Bowl at the Navy Construction Battalion Base (CB's) at the Chief's Club since we were getting ready to leave the next morning, but we didn't miss one minute of that fantastic game.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.