TRIP 2006

Update #02 - January 22nd
Americus, Georgia - 475 miles ( 760 KM)

I had estimated that I would be in the Biloxi, Mississippi between one and four weeks but I didn't last a week. It was really bad. The church that I was going to help rebuild in my opinion was really beyond salvage. City officials were going to demolish the structure but somehow the members of the congregation convinced them that it could be saved. In the block where the church was, there was only one other structure left standing and that was a house on stilts. What saved the church and the house was a large parking structure of one of the casinos. The church was just two blocks away from the Gulf of Mexico.

I don't know how the congregation is going to come up with all of the money for the repairs. The congregation is quite small with less than three dozen members. They do not have a full time pastor either.

The brick-walled sanctuary was missing most of it's walls. There were thirty foot gaps in the east and west walls where the 14 foot high wave of water from the hurricane punched out the walls and three rows of windows. These two gaps were filled by two temporary walls made out of plywood but they didn't go clear up to the roofline. The gap between the plywood walls and the roofline was covered by plastic but it wasn't fastened right so it was flapping in a lot of places. What was left of the bricks walls didn't seem so stable. The glass wall between the narthex (entrance) and the sanctuary was missing. Up front, the stage was gone and most of the front wall had new sheetrock. I did help by painting on a coat of base paint using a roller on a long pole.

The education building connected to the sanctuary was in bad shape also. About half of the downstairs walls had new sheetrock on them and they were in the process of mudding them. Holes were punched in for the electric switches and wires. The back wall (east wall) was pushed outward at the bottom so that in some places there was a three inch gap from the concrete slab. The linoleum was mostly missing in all of the rooms. New appliances and cabinets had been put in the kitchen since the church provides a meal Friday evening for anybody who wants it. Half of the rooms downstairs had electricity and lights but the electric panels had been hotwired to make them work. All of the electric panels have to be replaced. There was no working toilet downstairs.

The second floor of the education building was by far the worst. Almost every room had some kind of damage from cracks in the floor to missing sections of the ceiling. A good portion of the windows were damaged so that they were ever covered up with boards or plastic. There was some lights in the hallways but not in the classrooms. The gas heaters were hot-wired to work using long extension cords. There was one toilet upstairs that was operational.

Most of the time, the building was cold, damp, dark, and had a musty smell of mold. In order for me to have a clean place to put my sleeping bag, I had to set up my tent inside one of the classrooms. There were no blinds to block out the light. If that wasn't bad enough, about 100 feet away from the church was a loud sewage pump that was in operation twenty-four hours a day. I had a really hard time finding a way to drown out the noise at night to try and get some sleep.

There wasn't much to do. Rebuilding was basically at a standstill since they were waiting for some church groups to come. Getting the electricity situation fixed was the first priority. Second priority was getting the other four bathrooms operational. A couple of the church members ran a social ministry in the church so I helped out with it. They had a clothes closet and a food pantry. The church for now is the only ministry that provides these services in East Biloxi.

I guess that the thing that got my back on the road was hearing gunfire early Monday morning (Jan 09th). The church was actually on the edge of a really bad part of town. There was a warning by the police not to go out at night.

I snatched a few hours of sleep and then got my things packed up. I left the church about 8 a.m. There was one way for me to get out of Biloxi and that was to cross the I-110 bridge. It had a walkway but instead of ramps there were two long sets of steps. I made it to Grand Bay, Alabama by dark. I was quite fortunate in finding some people at the First Baptist Church. They had an "Elisha Den" set up with beds and a bathroom with a shower.

Between Grand Bay, Alabama and Americus, Georgia, I made stops in Daphne, Alabama; Gulf Breeze, Destin, Panama City, and Marianna, Florida; Bainbridge and Albany, Georgia. I was hosted by the Catholic Church in Daphne, Alabama, the United Methodist Church in Gulf Breeze, Florida, Harvest House Ministries in Destin, Florida (they actually provided two nights at a motel), and the First Baptist Church in Marianna, Florida.

I got back in Americus, Georgia Wednesday (Jan 18th). I'll be staying with a friend for a little while possibly till the first week of February. I need to get the recumbent repaired before I do any more serious cycling. The rear derailleur needs to be replaced and also I need to have the Bottom Bracket repaired.

From Americus, Georgia, I'll probably be heading back to Florida. I want to see how the people are doing in Arcadia and Wauchula. I was in those towns two years ago for Hurricanes Ivan and Lili. Also, I've got some invites to stop and stay with some people. I'm not sure where I will be traveling after Florida. Some of my friends in Colorado Springs, Colorado want me to visit with them.

This year will be my 14th year on the road. I'll also be celebrating my 50th birthday this June. It's hard for me to believe that.

I'll try and post and update as often as I can if my plans change.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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