Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dauphin Island

We stopped in Mobile for several days to visit the forts which at one time protected Mobile's harbor. The first fort we headed to was on Dauphin Island, on the west side of Mobile Bay.

Out front was this large piece of rotting wood, which is actually a piece of ship built in the 1800s. It washed ashore during Hurricane George in 1998. In the process of washing ashore it also wiped out a house. No other information is known about this ship, its crew or when it perished.

Fort Gaines. Built in 1821, it guarded Mobile Bay. During the Civil War it kept the Union from taking Mobile Bay until 1864. But the Union navy blockaded the bay, keeping much needed supplies from Mobile. Admiral Farragut made his famous statement, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" , when he took Mobile Bay and Fort Gaines in 1864.

The fort continued to guard Mobile Bay until the early 1900s.

Their latreen system, used in many of these forts, was a series of holes which emptied into the moat below. High tide would wash the area clean daily. Sometimes it worked and in some instances, such as Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, the design was flawed. When it didn't work mosquitoes caused many diseases and soldiers died, not from the war, but from illness.

Now these cannons look out over the many oil dericks and platforms in and around Mobile Bay.

The ferry, which runs daily, carrying both cars and passengers, from Dauphin Island across the bay to Fort Morgan.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ship Island

The Gulf Islands National Seashore reaches from Gulfport, MS, to Pensacola, FL. But we took the Pan American Clipper out to Ship Island. A barrier island 11 miles south of Gulfport/Biloxi.
This boat was built in 1933 and rebuilt, updating it, in 1965. It is a wooden boat. I was told a ship is made to travel across the ocean, whereas a boat is made only to travel in a closer in area. This is a 60 foot boat.

But we were lucky to get this boat. It creates a wake which the dolphins enjoy. We had them surfing next to us both going out and coming back.

Fort Massachusettes was built in the mid 1800s. Although initially occupied by confederates, they withdrew and the union took over. Never really seeing action, it became a supply depot and later in the civil war, a P.O.W. camp. At the time of the civil war it was not even completed, but there were an additional 22 buildings built during the war. All remains of them are now gone. There were barracks and even a hospital.

Until they created the dredged channel into Gulfport, large ships had to anchor off this island and take smaller ships into shore. That is where the island got its name back in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It was also a staging location for the British when they were headed towards New Orleans for the famous 'Battle of New Orleans'. Off to the east is a natural, deep harbour and off to the west is a deep channel. Now it is part of the National Park system and you can tour the fort, then spend time on the beach.

There has been lots of rain in the last few days. You can see it standing in the fort. For the tour, you got to wade in the water. And the mosquitos were terrible. Really, really terrible.

But the beach was nice and the water was warm. It was a beautiful day.

Gulfport, MS

I wanted to stop in Gulfport/Biloxi area, to see the changes since Hurricane Katrina. It was the week after Christmas, 2003, when I was through here last. I had heard about all the homes along the coast being destroyed, but could not imagine the sight. Now that I am here, I can't even begin to describe the difference. All those antebellum and large, older homes are gone. You see a few slabs, sometimes a fence or a gate, but mostly just big empty lots, all grown over. Many with for sale signs. You see large parking lots, with no stores. Buildings still boarded over. You also see the new casinos and the new Walmarts and the other new businesses, too.

This was in my GPS locations for 'offbeat tourist attractions'. It's offbeat alright. This is the world's largest rocking chair. Built by the Roy E. DeDeaux clan, the family actually does build furniture, including rocking chairs like this, only smaller.

One place I had to see though, was the Friendship Oak. It was the one place I remembered from my trip back in 2003. This is the sign in front today.

The tree today.

This was the sign in 2003.

The tree in 2003. Notice the stairs and platform? They were destroyed by Katrina. The tree survived, but man's additions did not.

This is the building next to the tree, Hardy Hall, of the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulfport Campus, 2003. Notice the Christmas lights in the windows?

This is the hall today. Not so Hardy anymore. Boarded up, instead of lit up. The administration building from 2003 is also abandoned and boarded up, but the university is still going and they have built a new building.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grand Isle, LA

It was a long trip just to dip our toes into the gulf, but neither of us had been down to Grand Isle, so we went. Along the way we followed Hwy 380 and Hwy 1 along a canal until the canal opened up into the bayous fronting the Gulf of Mexico.

There were many boats along the canal, including several dry docks and these tug boats.

Looking down the canal. All those tall masts you see are actually fishing boats. All up and down the highway you could stop and buy fresh shrimp and crabs, even oysters.

Once we were down to the end we ran into the gulf. As far as you could see were these offshore oil well rigs.

I just had to put my toes in the water, even though this was not the beach we were going to swim at.

A bayou like this on one side and on the other, the gulf.

Finally Grand Isle and Grand Isle State Park and the beach.

But the beach was closed due to construction. I guess they were repairing damage from Katrina. They were building up artificial sand dunes to keep the erosion down.

But the park ranger told us where we could find a beach for swimming.

And out beyond the breakers was one of those fishing ships with their nets down.

About 20 miles from Grand Isle we came across this long new bridge they were building. We never could figure out why they were spending all this money to build a bridge down to an oil tanker plant and a very small fishing village.

Here was the end where they were still building.

This is part of the bridge they have completed.

Here is where it stopped.

This was beyond the stop sign. The bridge being worked on will eventually meet up with this piece.

New Orleans and the French Quarter

You can't come to New Orleans without going down to the French Quarter. Although it is known for its crazy Mardi Gras and the famous Bourbon Street, there really is much more.

Since we were staying on the south side of the Mississippi, we chose to take the Algiers Ferry across. A pedestrian ferry, it leaves every 30 minutes back and forth between Canal Street and Algiers.

Looking across to the Riverfront.

We got off and this was sitting at the curb.

Andrew Jackson's statue in front of the St. Louis Cathedral.

In front of the cathedral park on St. Peter's street (or maybe it's Decatur St.).

The police patrol on horseback.

There are other statues besides Andrew Jackson's though. Here a young creole sits and listens to the music behind her.

Did you know New Orleans once had a mint?

Here is a sample of some of the coins minted here between 1838 and 1909. This mint is the only mint which can boast it minted coins under 3 different governments; the Independent Nation of Louisiana, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America.

Another famous site is Jean Lefitte's Blacksmith Shop, now a bar. The legend says Jean Lefitte and his brother ran a blacksmith shop on this corner. Historical information does not back this up. Across the street was the property of the girlfriend of the brother, but that is all. Jean Lefitte was a pirate and also a New Orleans businessman. He did not consider himself a pirate but a privateer, which was just a legal pirate. He had papers from a country in South America, which did not last, and which the U.S. did not recognize. But during the revolutionary war he offered his services to Andrew Jackson in exchange for a pardon for himself and his crew. It was given and Jean Lefitte and his men fought along side Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans.

More statues. New Orleans claims to be the birthplace of jazz. Louis Armstrong was originally from Algiers, LA, on the south side of the river, but played his music in the jazz venues of New Orleans until he went to Chicago.

Representing the Mardi Gras spirit, another statue.

Now, this one is a real person. There were several mimes in the French Quarter, but this one had a sign, calling himself Robotron. It said, "Coins make him move, dollars make him groove."

Being the tourist venue that it is, most restaurants are quite expensive. But Pat O'Briens created the original hurricane drink. Since we just had to stop and try one, we checked on dinner. Their special of the day was fresh grilled tuna, steamed veggies and rice, with a salad for $12.95. That was the price of most sandwiches and burgers. Wow, was it good.

In Pat O'Briens courtyard, their flaming fountain.

Another view.

There were even murals like this in the ferry terminal, giving you the history of Mardi Gras in vivid color. This was only one of about 6 murals.

Bourbon Street even has a cowboy bar.

We heard a lot of music on Bourbon Street, but no cajun or zydeco. There were a 1-2 jazz bands, but most were rock. Surprisingly, there were even several karaoke bars too.

Street musicians like these play during the day on the street.

We took the trolley on St. Charles, over to Carrollton, through the Garden District and in front of Tulane University and Loyola University. I belive this is Loyola.

Next door was Tulane.

All up and down St. Charles you see older homes like these. Many date back to the early 1800s where the Garden District was where the bankers and merchants lived, especially the non-creole, or white Americans from the east.