On the way from Jacksonville to Dallas, Biloxi was a great place to stop for a good night’s rest. And the only place I could park a rig on the beach was at the pier on Veterans Ave.
I parked my truck at the Treasure Bay casino pier – a pirate-themed casino boat was docked here 15 years ago, until the Cat 3 hurricane force winds from Katrina tore its moorings, and the good ole Jolly Roger came to rest 100 yards away. Gone were nearly a thousand slot machines, 50 table games and a 40,000 sq. foot iconic barge, forever altering the coastline of Biloxi Beach.
The storm surge rose 30 feet with waves reaching 34 feet. Everyone talks about Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans because of the levees, but Mississippi actually bore the brunt of the hurricane causing total devastation.
High insurance cost prevented Treasure Bay from rebuilding so they moved the casino across the Hwy 90 thoroughfare. Today there are plans to refurbish the pier and build an entertainment center and boat launch. The city has approved it as long as it’s not used for a casino. For now, the pier stayed empty save for a few fisherman, and I reckon it would be ok to park here for the night.
It’s taken 15 years for Biloxi to fully recover from the destruction of Katrina, and now the tourist industry here has taken a beating from the pandemic. I’m so glad that the Gulf Coast casinos are back and clientele, local and from afar are flocking back in droves. This is fantastic news especially since the state’s casino business with over 10,000 employees generates more than $1 billion annually, making it one of Mississippi’s top economic generator.
In the Coronavirus era, they take your temperature when you enter. There’s slot machines and table games with plexiglass panels installed at baccarat tables. (with slots for cards and chips). Must be a good time to be in the plexiglass business. Almost everyone are wearing face masks and there’s gallons of hand sanitizers everywhere.
Treasure Bay serves free beer and drinks as long as you’re actively gaming. So I made a beeline for the casino.
I found a spot behind a boisterous crowd playing Blackjack. A couple of friends and other strangers also converged around the table. And there was light conversation which made Blackjack quite a social game.
I was cheering on some newbies and applauded when they actually beat the house. On the other side of the table, I was watching the guy lose hand after hand. Every hand he would go into a large hissy fit and complain about how unfair it was.
Blackjack has the best odds in gambling and very little skill is required. Beginners stand the same chance of winning as experts. They just have to know a few basic rules and adopt a good strategy to beat the house. Now that I had worked up an appetite, I was ready to feast.
The king crab legs at Infinity Buffet were amazing and with the garlic butter, just melted in my mouth. I have a deep appreciation for King crab – fishermen risked their lives to make this catch, so it’s really special.
It’s good to know that COVID-19 didn’t killed the buffet. There’s still all the wonderful choices of the old buffet without the self service. And quite frankly, I’m totally fine having my food served to me – I never was a big fan of touching serving utensils after tons of people licked their hands eating fried chicken.
What was actually more mouth watering than the Snow Crab legs and Dungeness crabs was the dirty rice with andouille sausage and chicken liver- so flavorful and spicy, and the red beans and rice – so full of zest.
I also enjoyed the collard greens, the mac & cheese and the carrot souffle and the crawfish boulette – fatty crawfish tails minced up with Creole seasoning and cornbread and deep fried until golden brown.
And yes I loved eating crawfish the down and dirty way – pinching their tails and chewing on the tiny morsels of meat. But my favorite is sucking the juice out of the head – that’s the true essence of eating mud bugs.
I would rest well tonight under a full moon with gentle waves from the Biloxi Bay lapping the crystal white shores. Until, a rude rap tap tap on the side of my truck, not even 5 in the morning.
It was security. “The casino doesn’t mind you parking here as long as you’re actively gaming!”
No worries, I got up and headed straight to the casino for more fun. It’s too early for a beer and definitely too early for gaming. Heck the casino wouldn’t know if I’m gambling as long as I’m a customer in their restaurant. So I indulged in meal of andouille sausage, rice skillet with celery, green pepper and scrambled eggs. As if I didn’t have enough to eat the night before. By now, they weren’t keeping tabs of me, so I was sure I could add a light predawn beach exercise to my pretrip. What a treat to be able to park on the pier, enjoy the casino, sleep by the beach and then go for a quick run and water exercise before I head out. Since, there were swimming advisories of high bacteria in Gulfport, I decided just to tread water, making sure my head stayed dry.
After drying up, and shaking all the sand off my feet, I was ready to roll. When I turned the ignition on, she tried to roll over but wouldn’t start. I kept on trying, but no longer than 15 seconds to not overheat the starter.
Oh my goodness. I checked the fuel water separator and noticed that there was no fuel. Thankfully I carried just enough fuel in my jerrican which I poured into an empty Gatorade bottle and poured it into my fuel water separator. I felt a sense of achievement, but the truck still refused to start. I called around for a wrecker service and local Mom & Pop shops. Everyone told me that they were booked for at least two weeks. By now I had started to accept the fact that I would be in Biloxi Beach for an extended period of time. Well I could think of worse places to get stuck – like the GW Bridge in NYC last July. I then walked over to Treasure Bay and took a dip in their cool, blue swimming pool, this time submerging my head underwater. If I can’t get on the road, might as well, enjoy my stay.
But I wouldn’t stay long. I decided to call one more mechanic, expecting him to tell me the same thing.
“Hey did you prime the pump? You need to get air out of the system.”
All of a sudden the light bulb came on. “That’s exactly what I need to do!” So I returned to my truck and said a little prayer.
It took me 15 minutes to find the pump – it was well hidden and all the way back where I had difficulty reaching. I pumped that darn thing 20 times and would have pumped it 20 more.
It took over 10 seconds and me stepping on the fuel pedal, but I was finally able to get her to start. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe it! The first person I called was my broker. She wanted to know if I could deliver in Dallas tomorrow. I definitely had the time in my clock, but should I head straight there or should I play it safe?
I drove to the nearest truck stop, the Flying J in Gulfport, Miss to fuel up and to add more diesel into my trusty jerrican, just in case I needed to do this again. Thankfully, this Pilot had a shop, Goodyear Tires that also did repairs. I stopped in and told them my problem.
“Bring her into Door 3,” said the knowledgeable mechanic.
They checked my fuel water separator and didn’t see any issues. They told me that since I was able to drive it here, I was probably good to get back on the road.
“So what caused the fuel water separator to lose all the fuel?” I asked.
“Dunno, it could be a bad seal with the O Ring.”
“Well I don’t want this to happen again.”
“Ok, then let’s play it safe and change out both filters.”
“Remember, when you tighten the fuel filter, don’t over tighten it. You could break the O Ring.”
The total cost for the two filter and labor was only $116. I became an immediate fan of Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers.