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Enjoying the ride on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

By Joel McNeece

Live oaks stretched across both sides of every street, their huge branches intertwined overhead. I roll up to Sweets Lounge, The TatoNut Shop, the smell of fresh fish at the harbor, the sounds of kids playing on the white sandy beach, and the beautiful sights of colorful cottages surrounded by cast iron plants, huge palms, magnolias and more.

If you don’t enjoy riding a bicycle, you should try it in Ocean Springs. The Mississippi Gulf Coast town is frequently referred to as one of Mississippi’s most livable cities and only a brief visit will convince you why.

I rode every street in Ocean Springs over four beautiful mornings last week while in Biloxi for the annual gathering of the Mississippi Press Association (MPA). It was a busy conference with a number of responsibilities in my past president role for MPA. Most important was the induction of Dr. Will Norton into the MPA Hall of Fame.

The dean of the Meek School of Journalism at Ole Miss was long overdue for the honor. I stated in my induction speech, had my late father-in-law Gale Denley still been with us, he would have been making that presentation. It was an honor to stand in for him to recognize Will as a friend and meaningful player in the history of good journalism in our state’s past, present and future.

As with all my ventures, the week was filled with great food. I had two steaks this trip — that’s a first for me on the Coast — one at the new Doe’s at Margaritaville and another at Morton’s inside the Golden Nugget. They were both delicious, but the true treat is the seafood, which we enjoyed from Felix’s, The Chimneys and the famous Mary Mahoney’s twice.

I took pride in watching my friend Jim Prince of Philadelphia win the prestigious Emmerich award for editorial writing. I reveled in the endlessly entertaining stories of Ray Mosby from Rolling Fork — this state’s best columnist; and the renewing of numerous friendships, such as Randy Ponder of the Sea Coast Echo, Jack Ryan of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, MPA Executive Director Layne Bruce and so many more.

My favorite take away from this trip, however, was the bicycle riding. My wife Lisa and I hauled our bikes to the Coast to take advantage of their bike friendly routes. I rode once down the beach westward toward Gulfport, but every other time was drawn to the big Biloxi Bay Bridge with its wonderful bike path leading to downtown Ocean Springs.

There are many wonderful things about living in Calhoun County, but having a good place to ride a bicycle isn’t one of them. It’s hard to describe the enjoyment of riding a bike in such a heavily populated area and not having to worry about dodging traffic or giant pot holes. They actually encourage people to ride bikes on the Coast. I passed numerous every day all with smiles as big as mine.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.