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Volume 68, Issue 158, Monday, July 21, 2003


Wild world

'Gator' snacks and wild horses make for a memorable summer

By Tom Carpenter
The Daily Cougar

The Mississippi Delta -- Millions of Americans clog the nation's highways in July as they begin their summer vacations, that unique period when the whimsical rules and the best-laid plans become instant casualties of the quixotic notion. 

Who wants to be the bored sophisticate dining at a sidewalk cafe in the French Quarter of New Orleans when there are plenty of plump chickens to feed the corralled alligators at the "Gator" farm outside Biloxi, Miss.?

"Not me," said Chris Rios, 13, of Tulare, CA. as he scratched an itch with his new alligator claw back-scratcher.

Tourists traveling the back roads along the Mississippi border can pay to feed live chickens to alligators in their swampy haven at the "gator" farm outside Biloxi, Miss.
Tom Carpenter/The Daily Cougar

"Wow! This is so cool," Rios exclaimed as he stood on the wooden walkway that extended 100-feet into the swamp and watched a ten-foot alligator nibble at the wire mesh barrier that prevented the reptile from enjoying a tasty snack of tourist toes. 

Famous attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and the St. Louis Arch, are easily viewed from an Interstate highway while driving through a major city, but many breathtaking wonders and exciting places, like the alligator farm near Biloxi, can be reached only by traveling down the back roads of America.

The most boring vacation can be amended by something as innocent as a stop for gasoline along the freeway.

The store clerk at the lone gas station in Pax, West Virginia invites every customer to the Pax Reunion, held every even-numbered year and attended by "anyone who's ever lived in Pax, got a friend or relative in Pax or who's ever heard of Pax, and you're invited."

Every once in a while a trip goes exactly as planned, like the picturesque drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and down the Delmarva Peninsula, which separates the Atlantic Ocean from Chesapeake Bay. 

US 13 South takes the intrepid vacationer to Assateague Island National Seashore, where a herd of about 150 wild horses live free on the barrier-island.

Even more impressive than the herd of wild horses were the long-dead mules that hauled the Confederate artillery up Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tenn. during the Civil War.

The road to the top of Lookout Mountain was so steep my fuel tank indicator was stuck on "full" until a bumpy railroad track freed it two days later in Memphis, Tenn. 

Memphis, known worldwide as the home of Elvis Presley and B.B. King, is also the home of the nation's first Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Hotel where the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

The greatest thing about being on vacation is that a person can be an utter goofball, if they choose, and people don't think twice about it.

The most memorable excursion during my 28-state jaunt was also the most ridiculous, a ride around Washington, DC on the DC Duck, armed with a duck-billed horn provided by our guide to honk at everybody who crossed our path. 

But, that's what summer vacation is all about; 'gator snacks and a whistle that drives people "quackers."

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