Rex and I headed east to Pensacola, Fla., for a two-day road trip seeking solace from the humdrum of post-hurricane New Orleans. We thought some walks along the largely-deserted beach would offer a nice break from the garbage piles, empty buildings and abandoned cars still filling much of the Crescent City.
Boy were we wrong.
About 15 months after Hurricane Ivan battered the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola Beach still wears oozing scars from its encounter with the terrible cyclone. The empty beachside condominium building, shown above, sat near our motel. There were dozens more like it up and down the beach.
The biggest surprise was the countless tracts of vacant property that, before Ivan, held an ever increasingly dense pack of shops, hotels and homes. The beautiful sand dunes are all gone, and vehicle access to the island's more pristine western side remains blocked.
It turned out that reminders of Katrina were lurking right under, well actually above, our noses.
The top floor of our motel was populated by Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast evacuees who had lost their homes four months ago. Some of the evacuees had even decorated for the holidays.
The motel manager told us that 30 rooms remain occupied by Katrina victims.
I spoke to another local who blamed the beach's delayed recovery on slow actions by insurance companies.
The whole experience left me feeling even more discouraged about the pace of recovery in New Orleans.
Still, a walk along Pensacola's beautiful beach did remind me that Mother Nature, and us humans for that matter, are capable of remarkable resilience.