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The beauty of GOD's creation, a blown out tire, four feet of storm surge, and all.

- And did we mention the sting ray? Not to mention the Deputy Sheriff? -

©05 The Media Desk

[NOTE: No disrespect of anything mentioned is intended. If anything or anybody mentioned below wants their name and identifying information removed, please contact the Desk and it will be deleted immediately. thank you ]

      The Desk loves a good adventure.
      It's as game for a good turn of weirdness as anybody.
      A vacation to the end of civilization, out on a Bayou just off Grand Bay on the Mississippi Coast isn't really weird.
      OK, your Cel Phone is basically useless out there. There is no regular Telephone, no cable TV, no Internet, three TV stations on the old black and white with the aluminum wire stuck up the antenna, electric service with a mind of its own, and so on. That's not weird, even with the millions of little sugar ants that get on and into everything. It's like camping, but with a real shower and bed. A real shower and a bed eleven feet in the air on pilings, but still.
      Something else it was: The Desk's first Real Vacation in something on the order of six or seven years. Weird or not, we were going, and we were going to do it up righteously as well.
      Catching a small stingray while fishing off the dock might be bordering on weird, but hey, it was fun. The eighteen inch flounder wasn't weird at all, it was, in fact, delicious when the Desk's wife's dad cooked it on the grill the next day. And yes, the Desk is a serious fisherman. Well, no, it isn't really serious when it is fishing but... Nevermind.
      Taking a lettingboxing trip to the old POW camp in the DeSoto National Forest might be leaning toward weird. But again. It was fun, and we found the letterbox. And about sixteen million lonely gnats and mosquitoes. Add in a detour to a Biloxi casino or three for the sights and lunch. Then back to the Bayou to listen to the weather radio, and it made a good day out.

      And then came Cindy.

      Out on the road to the bayou house, if you have a good high tide, there can be water right up to the road. And sometimes, like with a Spring Tide, it'll be over the road.
      Tropical Storm Cindy was going to come a-callin' right about the time of High Tide, and bring her four to six foot of storm surge with her. The spot where the Desk parked its van was about a foot above the normal high water mark.
      We bugged out and took up digs at a motel in town.
      A member of the Desk's extended family and a friend of theirs stayed out there. Afterward, they wished they hadn't. They lost two cars to the storm and another was damaged possibly beyond salvage. They have video of waves rolling in unimpeded from the Gulf and breaking over the windshield of one of them.
      The Desk and its wife watched the wind beat the trees behind the motel nearly flat, the truck parking lot turn into a wetland, and the power blink on and off, five miles from the coast. An island just offshore and visible from the porch of the bayou house reported seventy mile an hour gusts.
      The next day the Desk helped its father in law put the porch back together. It had been shifted about four inches cockeyed and some of the boards were broken. And that was just a tropical storm.

      "Oh, Dennis!"

      A simple Bug Out won't cover it this time. Friday morning somebody official in the political structure of the State of Mississippi called for voluntary evacuations. The Desk's hand was in the air before they finished the announcement on the TV in the motel.
      By ten that morning we were heading north with good speed.
      We had had plans to do an in depth photo essay about Brother Jimmy and the Nephews and their race cars and all like that way. So go the best laid plans of Mice and Men.
      Dennis was heading north with direction and purpose. So did we.

      Knoxville, Tennessee. A hotel full of other refugees from the storm.
      Time for a Time Out. The next day we took a side trip to see a Natural Wonder. We were not quite ready to surrender our vacation just yet.
      The Breaks Interstate Park. Near Grundy, Virginia. It is something you simply have to see. There is no other way to describe it. But don't go the way the Desk did to get to it.
      You see, there's this sign on the highway West of Grundy that says 'Breaks Park' with an arrow. It doesn't mean to turn at the next intersection after the sign. No, it doesn't. That road immediately after the sign doesn't have a name. Or at least it didn't have one the Desk could find. Somewhere on that road is a 'Regular Old Baptist Church', or something like that. It's appropriate.
      The road now has a name.
      The "Oh Jesus" Road.
      That is what you exclaim, repeatedly, as the road turns back on itself like one of those Roller Coasters you stand in line for an hour and a half to get on. It is what you hiss through clinched teeth while this lane and a half road goes through acute angles, while climbing or descending a double digit grade, on shaky blacktop, with a rock cliff straight up on one side and only He knows what's on the other, while mashing your foot to the floor on the brake pedal and doing things to the steering wheel best left to guys in fire suits that pass the F1 series driver's test. It is what you pray to your navigator who is gripping the armrests in white knuckle terror while trying desperately not to scream and tell you she just saw your Guardian Angel frown and shake his head and punch out to go on his own vacation.
      When we got into the park and paid the dollar admission we stumbled upon a lucky coincidence. The park on top of the mountain was hosting a craft show. Of course the Desk immediately told its wife that it had planned it that way.
      It was a small show of only a dozen or so booths. But there were some interesting things to look at and she got a few ideas for some new projects.
      Then after a quick lunch we went to the Clinchfield Overlook for a view of the Grand Canyon of the South. After a short hike down some steep steps you are treated to a sight unparalleled anywhere within a thousand miles.
      What you see is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. A thousand feet below the railings the Russell Fork River roars over some Class Four rapids that grow to Class Six depending on the time of year. The scenery is simply awesome.
      After a trip to a couple of other vantage points there was a slightly less exhilarating, but still rather entertaining drive down the hill back toward Grundy.

      It was that afternoon outside Blacksburg that one of the old tires on the van decided it had had enough as it blew out a sidewall. Fortunately that stretch of highway 460 near the Virginia - West Virginia border isn't a super high speed stretch of road, so the Desk was able to get it off to the side of the road with no further damage. And yes, after years of driving vehicles nobody else wants it carries around all sorts of things. Jumper cables, canned flat fixer, a small compressor, full ratchet set and other assorted implements and tools ride around under the back seat, just in case.
      Now was one of those times of 'just in case'. The spare was a donut, and although it wasn't totally flat it needed some air. The Desk plugged in the compressor as it removed the old nearly shredded tire. In a few minutes we were back on the road.
      Something on the order of twelve miles later we were repeating the scene. The Goodyear Temporary Spare had failed. The bead between the tire and the rim had simply failed. The desk tried the flat fixer can, but the donut wouldn't seat and take pressure. It was useless. The Desk's wife got on the cel phones and called the #77 highway assistance number, which didn't work. Then she called the toll free number and talked to somebody in Virginia Beach who didn't even know where Blacksburg was and told her to call #77.
      In the meantime one Sheriff's Deputy, Officer Landry just happened to be going by on his way to work. The Desk flagged him down and thus he became part of our vacation.
      Deputy Landry drove us and the original flat tire to a nearby department store where it was shortly replaced by a tire that was round all the way around. Then began the drama of a ride back to the van.
      The Desk's wife called Christiansburg Cab and we waited.
      And waited.
      The Desk called them back. "Yeah, he's on his way. Five minutes."
      We're still waiting on that cab.

      While waiting, we had exchanged stories of flat tires with Ms. Lori and her kids.
      They'd gotten their tire fixed and then gone into the store to do some shopping. When they came out there was still no sign of a taxi cab. She offered a ride and we gladly accepted. The new tire found its way into their SUV with her two large bags of catfood and we're off.
      On the way back to the van Ms. Lori tells a story about Virginia Tech and coffee shops and the priest that had watched her change a tire one time in Florida.
      While the Desk is putting the new tire on the van its wife chats with Ms. Lori. Then Deputy Landry stops by. He was on his way by and saw that progress had been made. The Desk thanks him once again with a firm handshake and he went about his duties.
      The tire is on, Ms Lori and her kids are on their way, as we are.

      By the time we find a hotel with a room available it's getting late.
      Refugees from Dennis have come all the way to the Shenandoah Valley. But they have a room, and we take it. Grateful for the cool room, hot shower, and somebody that delivers a late dinner we almost collapse once the door it shut behind us.
      But the TV reminded us of why we had fled Pascagoula early in the first place.
      The Desk's wife calls home and checks in. They'd had some wind and rain. But there wasn't too much damage. The Hurricane had moved ashore far enough east of them that they were on the backside of it. Not like Cindy the week before which had come ashore to the west so the Pascagoula and Moss Point areas were on that leading edge the TV Weather people like to talk about. Which explained why there was grass and debris halfway up the stairs to the bayou house.

      The next day we stopped by the Natural Bridge and Caverns for a break from all the excitement. It too is something you really have to see to appreciate. Yeah, the tickets are priced a bit steeply. But it is worth it. There is quite a bit to see and do besides visit the Bridge itself, which really IS a natural bridge as highway 11 still uses it to cross Cedar Creek.
      OK, it is a bit of overkill to use a million year old natural stone arch that is about fifty feet thick to cross two hundred and some feet above a creek that would fit through a good sized driveway culvert. But hey, it works.
      And in the Caverns you get the chance to walk around inside and photograph part of a seismically active fault. It is the same fault that is part of the Appalachian system that has caused recent Earthquakes in the Carolinas and down into Alabama. The Desk, after having done an exhaustive amount of research into caves and faults for Serious Cave, and having read about the Southern Appalachian Mountains for Sand Mountain was all for crouching almost into a duck walk and scampering up and down slick and narrow stairs several hundred feet under a mountain.
      Yeah, later, it paid for it as its arthritic knee told it all about every step it had taken in the cold and damp cave. But it was worth it.
      Yes it was.

      Then it was about four hours of heavy traffic through the mountains and then the DC Beltway's own brand of road rage. But we made it home.
      And we brought back piles of dirty laundry, hundreds of digital pictures, and a few souvenirs. And there were even still ants in the van from the bayou.
      It was over.

      And now the question- all things considered, did it pass muster as a suitable vacation for the Desk and its most patient, most loving, and most lovely wife?
      It did rather nicely thank you.



[NOTE:, Crane Racing, the various Biloxi Casinos, the Parks and all other associated names and identifying marks are registered trademarks of their respective owners. The Desk is not directly affiliated in any way with any of them... well...
Thank you]

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