Friday, November 7, 2014

Day 66 & 67: Mississippi - "The Hospitality State"

Who knew that Mississippi was known as "The Hospitality State"? Not us!! When I thought of Mississippi I thought of swamp land and mosquitos! I knew they had some casinos and were a gulf coast state, but I hadn't really thought about the beaches. I certainly hadn't thought about the people...I honestly didn't think there would be many because it would be just a bunch of swamps on both sides of the road. WOW, I was wrong! -Katie (the mom)

Day 66 - Wednesday 11/5/14 - We rode from Ridge Memorial Baptist Church in The Rigolets of Louisiana up Hwy 90 toward the Mississippi state line. Even before we reached the boarder we were joined by Jason Windham, a cyclist from Long Beach, MS who had been following us all the way across the USA.
He was awesome and let us know that another cyclists, Eddie Homes, would be joining us in just a few miles. We reached the Mississippi state line and of course had to take a picture.

Within just a few miles, sure enough Mr. Eddie joined us too! They both informed us that their cycling club The Gulf Coast Bicycle Club was going to be riding with us the next day and there were lots of cool things planned. We IMMEDIATELY felt welcome and were GLAD to be in Mississippi: The Hospitality State!
When we got to Waveland, MS the fire department some folks from town had let them know that CJ had crossed the 2000 mile mark and they were all out in front with signs, balloons, and all the fire trucks cheering! We stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and they let CJ get in the trucks and even climb up on the ladder of the ladder truck! It was very cool!

As we came into Bay St. Louis, Eddie and Jason started to tell us about the devastation this area had felt from hurricane Katrina (2005). It was amazing that so many things are STILL ruined. CJ was not even a year old when that storm happened! We saw the foundations from MANY houses that have never been rebuilt, many places that are newer constructions that have been built since Katrina, and many places that had to be completely gutted out and redone because of the damage.
We crossed over the Bay St. Louis bridge and could see both the bay AND the Gulf of Mexico! It was AWESOME to finally see water that we COULDN"T see past!

On our right we began to ride past beaches with GORGEOUS white sand. On the other side of the road were beautiful old trees and homes that looked like they should be in a magazine! It was hard to decided which way to look. We did not expect this type of beauty in Mississippi!

When we arrived at the Walmart parking lot in Pass Christian, MS where we were stopping for the night we literally laughed because the Walmart sat DIRECTLY across the street for the beach, with NOTHING blocking the view! THIS was a Walmart with a VIEW!!
We put the bike away and went to a local burger and poboy joint called Pirate's Cove to eat. Jason, Mr. Eddie, his wife, and grandbaby ate with us! They had Barq's Root Beer in GLASS bottles! Of course CJ had to have one! The food was good and the company was even better! We were SO glad to have other cyclists along for the ride AND to have other adults to have a conversation with!
After supper we rode over to a Laundromat in Long Beach (about 3 miles away) to wash clothes. We had been needing to do this task for several days so it was a little overwhelming.
While Katie and Kenadi did laundry, CJ and Corban worked on school work and Craig, Caleb, and Caedmon watched a movie in the bus. After about 3 hours we were finally done and could drive back to the Walmart to sleep. 

Day 67: Thursday 11/6/14
Writing this we can barely believe yesterday was all ONE day! Soooooo much happened it's hard to even think about, much less WRITE about. We woke up EARLY in the "Walmart with a View" parking lot and Kenadi, Katie, & CJ  were picked up by a local cyclist named Tonda to go to a radio interview. The sunrise on the way was awesome!! 

The boys started doing school work after breakfast. They REALLY wanted to walk across the street to the beach, but Katie (mom & teacher) was not going to let them go until AFTER school was complete. We had planned to ride later in the day, so we had almost all morning to get some school done and still had time to go to the beach. CJ had a bit of reading to do so he sat outside of the bus to concentrate better. He went outside and saw another RV in the parking lot near us. Turns out they were ALSO riding bikes across the USA! This dad and daughter team was riding from Washington State to Key West to raise funds for "Hope for the Warriors". We got to meet the whole family (Dad, Mom, college aged daughter, and grandpa) traveling in their RV. It was awesome because it was very obvious from the beginning that we had a lot of things in common. Other than cycling across the USA, they were also followers of Jesus, homeschoolers, AND had a "thing" for road kill and license plates!!! We shared stories, dead animal parts, and laughs!
After CJ finished his reading that whole gang was able to go across and play at the beach for a while. The water was COLD but that didn't stop the boys from getting wet! They played in the water and the sand for about an hour before we had to go back across the street to get ready to ride for the day.

When Mr. Eddie pulled in around 12:00, Katie was still washing sand off little naked boys in the parking lot and CJ was still in the shower inside the bus. We knew that he, Jason, and Allison (the president of the cycling club) had worked hard to get the word out to local cyclists to come ride with CJ at 1:00. They also had a meet&greet, and dinner planned in Ocean Springs, MS the town we were supposed to finish in for the night. We were SO excited that FINALLY local cyclists were going to come and ride, BUT we had NO idea they would turn out like they did! By 12:30, our side of the parking lot was starting to fill up. There was media (both print and TV), TWO local mayors, and about 45 cyclists!! There was also a boy named Evan who was a cancer survivor and CJ got to meet him!

Taryn, from the other family who is riding across the USA, decided that she wanted to join us to ride today as well! Her dad went on ahead and she stayed back to ride with CJ! It was really neat!!
Her mom went ahead to take some pictures and then picked her up at the end of our ride to go meet up with the dad.
After a sort little speech by Mr. Eddie, the mayors of Pass Christian and Long Beach gave CJ certificates and tokens from the towns, then the group took a group picture!

Police were there to escort us down hwy 90 so we lined up and pedaled out of the parking lot!
Along the way SEVERAL local businesses had folks gathered outside to cheer for us, which was so cool! The Beau Rivage Casino really went all out and put "Way to Go, CJ!" on their huge lighted marque and they had probably 50 people out front with signs cheering! It was a shock and a real treat for CJ! The Biloxi Fire Department had a ladder truck pulled out to the road with ladders lifted and a large American flag hanging over us as we rode by. It was truly as amazing 23 miles!! 

As we rode folks dropped in and out so for the day there were probably OVER 60 cyclists that came out! ONE of the groups that joined us after we were riding was the  "Hurricane Hunters" from Kessler AFB nearby! They gave CJ some great goodies!
We finished in Ocean Spring at the Tri-Hard Sports store around 2:30. After ANOTHER Mayor (this time from Ocean Springs) did a little speech and a few cyclists asked questions, Allison from Gulf Coast Cycling also talked for a minute about what CJ is doing and why then presented CJ with some more goodies!  We are so appreciative of all she did to make things special for CJ!!  The club donated $500 and even had a REAL plaque made to commemorate CJ's 2000 miles mark! Kenadi began setting up the loveFAR info & t-shirts table and CJ went into the shop to meet everyone and look around. At 5:30 the tri-shop had a large group of runners coming for a club run and we were supposed to be there for a meet & greet, so the shop owner allowed us to just set up outside and stay until then.
Around 5:15 runners started showing up. Several of them were folks who had JUST rode with CJ that morning. Many of them got t-shirts and info! CJ was also able to meet another little athlete names Caiden. He is a 9 year old tri-athlete from this area! The boys quickly hit it off!
After the meet and greet was over, we were invited to eat at Murkey Waters BBQ just down a block with all of the cyclists. Because there were several local boys we had a kids table in the midst of all of the adults! The boys had a blast together!

As a family we were SO impressed and humbled by all the Gulf Coast Cycling Club and surrounding community folks did to make the day special! I'm sure I missed something important, but there were just SO many things that they did! We will truly miss you guys and hope to ride with you again soon!!

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