Still here. Both in terms of web-presence and geophysical location, though I’m hoping one of those changes soon. It’s not that I’m sick of this place in particular, but I’d like to get back to my wife and pets and sushi and soba. You tend to intensify your attachment to something when you realize it will soon be gone, and I think the closer we get to leaving for Germany-- in spite of the looming European splendor of it all—the more I am reluctant to say sayonara to everything I’ve come to love about Japan. I will probably always feel like there was so much more to see and experience there, but I suppose there is only so much you can get around to in four years. The actual move is still a few months away, so let me digress and get back to what is happening here in the gulf coast.
…Which is, frankly, not much. Sure, sure-- it is Mardi Gras season, and the locals do get all nuts about that French pastime, but personally, I have not done a whole lot of anything in my off time except bike around the city and eat at different establishments. Though, in exploring the local community by bicycle, I did notice something curiously out of place:
Not the “Don’t Litter” sign, though there must be a clause excluding the thousands of mardi gras beads lining the streets, but rather the sign below it: Bike Biloxi. What?! Validation of bicycles as vehicular traffic? In theory, yes, but the more I looked into it, the less exciting it became. Firstly, there is literally no difference between the roads marked with these signs and those without. The shoulders are still nominal, if present, and the speed limits are the same as in every other part of the city. Also, the “bike route” does not connect to any other cycling thoroughfare- the signs just stop and you’re on a road indistinguishable from any other. A google search takes you to the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio website, where apparently there was a 2011 initiative to create a bike-friendly bicycling route through the city, but whatever happened to it is anyone’s guess. The Biloxi visitor center doesn’t even carry the “Bike Biloxi” t-shirts anymore, which is perhaps the biggest disappointment.
Even without the bike route, there are plenty of places to ride, if you don’t mind a little bit of unconventional navigating. Residential roads are often connected by open plots of land with long-abandoned foundations and unrepaired structures. There are parking lots with no direct street access that offer a quick way to get from one block to another.
Debris isn’t too bad, as I haven’t yet had to utilize the patch kit, but there is a lot of sand that will cling to everything on your drivetrain. (If you are curious, I zip-tied a plastic basket from the dollar store to the Dahon’s rear rack and increased the utility by roughly 1,000%).
I also have to redact my previous statement of there being no bicycles/bicyclists here in Biloxi. There are-- albeit few in numbers; the nicer the weather gets the more they can be spotted in the wild. Even the city busses are equipped with spring-loaded bike racks on the front, so local bike commuters have that going for them, which is nice, because that’s probably all the accommodation they’re ever going to get. Though, as one older gentleman at the bus station said to me, “You ride that bike? You’re a brave man… because no one here can drive.”
“I know”, I nodded in agreement. “That’s why I’m taking the bus!”