Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Family trip to the MS Gulf Coast

I love my family. They are so much fun to spend time with, to have adventures with, to spend our "family days" toodling about doing much or nothing. Each member is chock full of personality, Alexe is super excited/forward planning/tickled with what we're doing; Caspian is happy to be along, chortles when he snags the center of attention, and periodically likes to step away from tagging along and copying his sister to do his own thing; Annaliese is a party animal, up for anything and everything, insistent about doing doing doing, and then wants nothing more than to sit quietly, have a book read to her, or watch some cartoons, preferably with everyone else sitting around her to cuddle while she curls into a ball with her blanket.

So we took this troop, packed them into our old merc wagon, rolled all the windows down that still work, and headed 5.5 hours south to a rented house on the beach. That rented house turned out to be a re-purposed fema trailer (or mema trailer? the larger ones that were produced after the fema formaldehyde issues were uncovered,) in a collection of 10, about 200 yards off the beach. It was clean and well organized, convenient, and all things considered, served us very well. (Also, 119 per night.) (Another side note, boatie the little merc wagon did great, though it was pretty toasty without AC, and we got well over 30 miles to the gallon. Tank and a half there and back, 600+ miles.)

The afternoon we arrived we walked over to the beach, and first impressions were great. The sand was great, the water was clear, and it was ankle to knee deep for a hundred yards out. Little waves, very children friendly. 2 seconds after arriving Annaliese spotted something moving, and we caught a little crab in our fishing net. At the time this was awesome, but it turned out that Caspian registered "fish, bite!" from that little crab, and he wasn't happy getting back in the water until the morning we were leaving.

Annaliese is a fearless water child, jumping and splashing and "swimming" as best she could in such shallow water, or riding on our backs as we belly crawled through the shallows. Caspian was more of a watcher, staying just back of the surf line, and mumbling about phantom fish.

We purchased the requisite beach toys, and dug moats and built sand volcanoes and buried each other. The little ones made friends with some locals, played catch with us, etc. All around a very nice beach time. We tended to arrive at the beach around 8:30, after a very early morning, breakfast, and lounge time, and be done by 10:30, back for a leisurely lunch and nap, then back to the beach in the afternoon until dinner time. The kids shared a room and bed, which was adorable, they loved hiding in their closet, and were better behaved all around than they generally are, even at home.

May have something to do with age. Caspian will be 2 on Friday, is talking and seems much happier now that he can generally make himself understood. Annaliese can be reasoned with, and is usually very reasonable. She has developed a very strong southern drawl, it appeared a couple days ago, and I am hoping it passes like her week long stuttering phase did.

Alexe and the BTC treated us to some wonderful meals, we took a little drive through biloxi over to Ocean Springs, got some fresh custard, and then headed back to the beach; the whole adventure was relaxed, rejuvenating, and fun.

Home, laundry mostly done, house cleaned, car cleaned and the sand vacuumed out, and we're back into our routines.

Now, I have a little something to say about the Gulf, and the impact of the oil spill. The sand was lovely, if littered with particles of roof shingles etc. left over from Katrina. However, if you dig down at the water's edge, like you do when building a sand castle, you have about 3 to 6 inches before the sand turns black. This may be normal, perhaps iron content, so I took this in stride. The other result of digging into the sand is that it smells very strongly of sulfur right below the surface. Again, this may be normal, and I think it might be since the tap water also smelled slightly. But, if you leave a hole dug into the sand, the water that fills it has an oily sheen, and the water itself feels greasy.

There are tar balls scattered around, hard little small-fist sized nuggets of tar. They stuck to the bottom, and honestly didn't seem that offensive.

Walking in the surf, there were sections where the bottom was super greasy, a gray sludge that stuck to your toes.

Each morning the dead catfish population was very high. Every 5 feet or so dead fish ranging from 6 inches to 18 inches would be spread all the way down the beach. Again, this may be normal, but it wasn't pleasant, and seemed unusual.

After the first day at the beach the wind picked up, and the small waves turned into medium waves, which results in a rolling wave-break of black leaf particles, sticks, and the periodic piece of garbage. Again, this may be normal, but it was not pleasant.

So. We had a lovely time, the setting was pleasant, the company was unbeatable, and for a holiday weekend, the beaches were mostly empty, which we liked. (though I'd never gone to the beach so early each morning, which might have contributed.) The distance from home was very doable, no airports and a 6 hour drive was pretty easy on the kids.

The oil spill in the gulf was far more catastrophic, and merits far more mind space and action now and in the future, than any of us have given it.

Alexe will have pictures up soon, I'll either steal some for here, or reference them. Despite the adorable swim suits Alexe got for Annaliese and Caspian, nude-y-butts were plentiful.