Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meridian, Mississippi

This past weekend I went out to Meridian, Mississippi so that I could say I’ve been to Mississippi.

Apparently it was the largest city in Mississippi between 1890 and 1930 (population 10k to 30k). For such a small city it has an impressive number of buildings.

I hate to say it, but Meridian has a better collection of historic buildings than Montgomery. From old pictures of Montgomery it's clear that the city had its share of early 20th century brick and stone buildings, but most have been torn down.

What really stood out to me was the Threefoot Building.

Built in 1929, standing 16 stories tall, it visually dominates the city. No other building is anywhere near as tall as it. It’s strange that such a large building was built in such a small city (the timing of its construction obviously sucked). Even today it is out of place. But I guess the economy in Meridian during the 1920s was so robust that the building owners thought they could fill it. It’s been abandon for a while and plans to restore it have fallen apart.

The city must have been represented by a powerful Democratic Congressman or Senator in the '30s -- it has some impressive WPA buildings that are as out of place as the Threefoot Building (look at the pictures of the Post Office and City Hall).

Other pictures of Meridian:

(City Hall)

Monday, May 17, 2010


A few weeks ago I had to change my cycling route because I kept getting chased by dogs.

This weekend I had to deal with cows on the road.

I came across a pack of them that managed to wonder off of someone's farm. As you can see from the video, they totally freaked out when they saw me.

When I came upon them I slowed down and stayed behind them because I was nervous about riding alongside them -- I was thinking about the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-rex is running along side the Jeep and head-buts it. As a result, two cows ran ahead of me for half a mile until they moved far enough to the side of the road so that I could quickly pass them. To be clear, my forward motion was causing them to continue running forward -- all the other cows just ran off to the side of the road. I wonder how long it took for the owner to track those cows down.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gulf Coast

On Saturday I went down to the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches to see them before they were destroyed by the oil spill. It's a good thing I didn't wait any longer. I heard on NPR tonight that the oil has already reached Alabama.

The first stop on the trip was Flora-Bama (which is on the Florida-Alabama border). It's a beach bar that’s proclaimed to be the “Last Great American Road House.” It’s a collection of shacks with bars, stages for live music and port-a-potties. It attracts a wide variety of locals, tourists and even celebrities.

Take a look at the pictures; there’s also a wiki article about it.

Electrical Code be damned!

That's a Phillies t-shirt. I said to the guy, "what's going on with the Phils?" He responded by saying, "I don't know. This was just the shirt I had with me today."

I don't know what this is about.

Views from the beach:

There must be other Phillies fans at Flora-Bama.

It looks like the tourist/vacation industry on the Alabama beaches is relatively new. The length of the Alabama coast east of Mobile Bay is 32 miles. Running along it is (Perdido) Beach Blvd.
Beach Blvd.

On one side of Beach Blvd. there is the beach and monster condos/hotels, all of which look no older than 20 years. On the other side of Beach Blvd. there is virtually nothing. There are a few houses, motels, stores and patches of land where real estate developers are planning on building vacation communities (a few sample houses have been constructed), but there are no commercial corridors with retail and restaurants (except for Gulf Shores Parkway). It’s just the beach and the condo towers on one side, and wide open land on the other. Further, despite there being a state park that weaves its way through the beeches, except for a state owned fishing pier, there were no public bathrooms.

New Construction.

A major difference between the gulf coast beaches and beaches in the Northeast, is that alcohol is permitted. I was pretty much the only person on the beach who was not walking around with a drink in my hand. And so many people were drinking that few people were actually in the water.

To give you an idea of how few rules there are, these are the rules for Belmar Beach in NJ, none of which apply to the Alabama beaches:
  • No Smoking
  • No Admission to Beach Without a Beach Fee
  • No Alcohol or Glass Containers
  • No Pets
  • Ball-playing and Frisbee Only in Designated Areas
What I really found surprising about permitting alcohol, was that there were no concession stands on the beach to buy food or drink. It seems like a missed opportunity to make a ton of money. Everyone at the beach had a cooler and brought their own alcohol from home.

The Gulf water was already as warm as it gets in the Northeast at the height of summer. I did go swimming and I have to say that I was brilliant enough to bring shampoo and soap with me so that I could take a shower afterwards at a condo tower’s outdoor shower. People gave me looks, but I didn't want to walk around with the residue of salt water all over my skin for the rest of the day.

I also went parasailing. The boat operator told me that I got over 600ft up in the air. From up there I could see just how much of the area north of Beach Blvd. was undeveloped. I could also spot oil rigs westward out in the Gulf.

Final picture:

Looking towards the coast line on a fishing pier 1,200 feet out in the Gulf.