FGN Road Trip: The Boys in Biloxi

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The boys in Biloxi

The boys in Biloxi

If there is a better way to make a lasting memory than taking a golf road trip with your son, I haven’t found it.

Meet my buddy, my boy, my hero, my namesake. Technically, he goes by William but because I went to Michigan during the era of Coach Schembechler, we call him Bo.

Together, we set out for quite an adventure to a part of the country I’ve been blessed to visit three times in the last year. Each of those trips provided a great deal of fun, fantastic golf, and wonderful memories. But I think you’ll understand the heart of this proud dad when I tell you that no trip I have ever taken has been as special as this adventure with my son.

I’ll let him take you on the journey through one of his great gifts – the written word…

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My family has a cabin on a lake called Piatt that has been my home during the summer since I was born. There are very few places I willingly leave it for, right during the middle of summer, when boating, tubing, skiing, fellowship with good friends, bonfires, and sunsets are all at their peak. This is why, when I remembered that my dad and I had planned a trip to Mississippi in July to showcase father-son related activities in the state, my excitement was hampered somewhat by the reality that I would have to leave my summer paradise. I didn’t realize, however, that not only was I about to enjoy myself immensely through a never ending barrage of golf, food, and fun, but that I was going to fall in love with a place and its people, and have an incredible desire to return someday.

Photo Jul 27, 8 18 27 AMDay 1: Beau Rivage Resort and Casino

If you know anything about the Southern part of our country in midsummer, you know that it’s hot. Mississippi is no exception. When my dad and I stepped out of Gulfport International Airport, we were greeted by heat that was intense, even at 9 pm. In all reality, the actual temperature wasn’t that much higher than in Michigan, but the humidity was very intense, and we knew it would take some adjusting. The resort was only a short distance away, somewhere around 20 minutes, and we soon arrived. Our car was picked up by the valet, and we entered Beau Rivage Casino and Resort.

When we first entered the main lobby, I was slightly confused. I was quite certain we had just come from outside, and had clearly gone through a doorway into what I assumed was the interior of a building. What greeted me instead were full size trees, bushes, and a ceiling that was so high that I could scarcely make it out. The only reason I believed we were in fact inside was the check in desk to our right, and the casino bells and whistles and lights seen and heard in the distance. Apart from these two landmarks, my mind was fairly sure we were still outside. I had never been in a main lobby that extravagant and massive.

We checked in, got our room keys, and headed to the room. We were greeted by a beautiful two bedroom space, a massive bathroom with a jacuzzi and a large shower, and a view that still drops my jaw just thinking about it, overlooking the huge pool, and also the Gulf. We had a completely unobstructed view of the ocean, and that view alone made me start to feel a little more relaxed about saying goodbye to my beloved Michigan home. We were both fairly worn out from the journey, so we went to bed, because we had an early wake up call the next day to play a golf course that would, by itself, eliminate almost entirely any feelings of regret I still had about leaving Piatt Lake.

Day 2: Fallen Oak Golf Club, WUT SUP, and The Dock

The second day of our adventure dawned sunny, bright, and of course, very warm. Our tee time at Fallen Oak Golf Club was set for 8:45, so we set out at about 7:45 for the course. I knew it was a tour caliber course, and the site of the recently played Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. I was beyond excited to play the course, and also not prepared for the incredible welcome we were about to receive.

Photo Jul 27, 1 34 22 PMThe property was simply jaw dropping from the moment we arrived. Everything was incredibly well kept up, and the clubhouse was simply gorgeous. Upon walking inside the clubhouse, my dad and I were directed to the locker room, where an incredibly nice and courteous attendant took both pairs of our golf shoes and cleaned and polished them, while we took a look around the locker room.

Names such as Jason Dufner, George W. Bush, Bo Jackson, and Pete Rose surrounded us from all sides. This was undoubtedly one of the coolest settings I had ever been in and I could hardly keep my mouth shut. I managed to close it for long enough to notice the locker which had our name, “Hobson Party”, engraved on it, and then my mouth promptly dropped open once more. I was in constant awe, and we hadn’t even played the course yet.

Fallen Oak Golf Club is quite simply the most fun, challenging, and well-kept course I have played up to this point in my life. I felt like a tour pro, knowing that they had played the very same holes that I was. Every putt I made, I felt the need to tip my hat to an invisible crowd. Every good drive, I felt the need to spin the club and pick up the tee as quickly as possible. The views were spectacular, the attendance staff was incredibly friendly, and the golf was amazing. Fallen Oak Golf Club was an experience I will never forget.

After golfing at this magnificent destination (and also having our shoes re-cleaned and polished by the locker room attendant, and having one last look at the beautiful clubhouse), we headed to WUT SUP Paddling, a company that rents out stand up paddle boards and other water equipment for a day out on the water. Simon Vasquez showed us around the shop, and let us hop on a couple stand up paddle boards ourselves. They were incredibly fun to operate, and Simon did a great job of showing us what to do to avoid falling over, and to have a good time doing it. They were very easy to manage and accessible to almost anyone.

After our adventure in the water, we went to eat at The Dock, the restaurant located right next to WUT SUP. I knew this would be the first opportunity for me to truly get my hands on some down-south-Mississippi cooking, and to say it didn’t disappoint would be a massive understatement. My dad and I are both big fans of eating, so when a feast was laid before us, we were pretty excited. All manner of fresh seafood was set out. Shrimp, crab, and flounder was every I could look and it all tasted unbelievable. I will remember The Dock for a long time as my first true taste of Mississippi cooking.

Our day ended in amazement. The wonderful folks at the Beau Rivage were kind enough to invite us to attend a show that still has my mind reeling. The aerial artistry and perfection of the troupe from Yaye! provided a jaw-dropping presentation that I have yet to accurately describe. Dad and I just kept saying “oh my goodness” over and over. The show has since departed the Beau, but hasn’t left our memories. Wow.

Day 3: The Preserve, The Blow Fly Inn, and The Shuckers

The following morning we had another tee time at an amazing, championship course. This time that course was The Preserve. Today was the busiest of our three days, so we made the best of the early wake up call (early to us, anyway, we tend to like to sleep) and departed the hotel around 7:30.

Upon arriving at The Preserve, we were greeted by massive, ornate gates that made my jar drop for about the 1000th time on the trip already. I knew we were in for a treat that day. And once again, I was not disappointed whatsoever. The staff at The Preserve was incredibly friendly and accommodating, and very understanding of our struggle to acclimate to the heat, and provided us with ice towels to take out on the course. These were a life saver, and whoever came up with the idea of soaking a towel in ice deserves many awards.

Golf at The Preserve was absolutely fantastic, and we were definitely spoiled. The thing that stuck out to me the most on the course was the lush greens everywhere I looked. The fairways looked almost artificial, in fact, everything looked like a painting. It was simply unlike I had ever seen in Michigan, and that’s coming from one of the biggest fans of the state of Michigan and its golf that you will ever meet!

After golf we were treated to a delicious lunch at The Preserve’s fantastic restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious, but we were careful to pace ourselves, because we knew that in the evening we would be eating at one of Mississippi’s finest restaurants: The Blow Fly Inn.

Blow Fly Inn has some wild life nearby

Blow Fly Inn has some wild life nearby

We left the property and returned to our hotel and had some down time before heading over to the Blow Fly Inn. It was a bit of a drive, and my anticipation actually built every second. This place had been featured on the Food Network and was nationally known. As I mentioned earlier, my dad and I are both big fans of food, and the Blow Fly’s selections of steak, seafood, soups, and Mississippi cooking had my mouth watering.

There are few words in my vocabulary to accurately describe and give justice to the meal I consumed that night. That is not a stylistic exaggeration. I truly cannot tell you just how incredible the food I ate was, so I will merely describe to you the dish I ordered and was served, and let you consider for yourself how unmatched the flavor must have been.

I ordered a 20 oz. Ribeye steak, grilled to perfection at a medium well temperature. A 20 oz. steak is large, and most meals would end right there. But the Blow Fly was not about to let me be done. The steak was piled with fresh crab meat, caught from the channel that flows right next to the restaurant. I do not embellish when I say that this crab meat was perhaps the single best thing I have ever put in my mouth.

But again, we are not done there! A massive side of cajun-cooked fries was paired, and along with those, a platter of some of the most well-made hush puppies I had ever had. Oh, and did I mention the she-crab bisque as an appetizer?

All this unapologetic food description is to say that we did not walk away hungry. I walked away in bliss, completely smitten with the food that Mississippi has to offer. The feast left me somewhat tired, and I wouldn’t have said no to bed at that point, but the fun wasn’t over yet! After the Blow Fly, we had one more event on our agenda for that day, and that was the Biloxi Shuckers game.

I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that one aspect of Mississippi that I fell in love with was the people there. The Shuckers game was one of the things that made me realize what an amazing atmosphere the gulf coast has. The Shuckers are a minor league baseball team, and Biloxi’s only professional sports team. The support for the team that the town had was actually rather shocking. The crowd had cheers for specific players, and were completely invested in the game at all times. The stadium was beautiful and situated directly behind the Beau Rivage, where we were staying. The people in the stands were friendly at all times, respectful to the other team, and I was surprised to see just how supportive the fans were of the team. It was a great night for a ball game, and we had a great time seeing a big part of Biloxi’s culture and pride. After the game, we were tired from the long day, and returned to the hotel with full stomachs and a head full of baseball, which, if a better combination exists, I am not aware of it.

Day 4: Grand Bear and Departure

The last day of our exciting adventure dawned, and it was a short one. We would play the Grand Bear golf course and then head for the airport, back to Michigan, and back to the lake, which by now I was hardly missing at all. Our tee time was at 9, so we got to sleep in a little bit more than usual, as we had packed up the night before.

Photo Jul 27, 11 15 08 AMGrand Bear had a very interesting feature that I will remember for a long time. It has its own road. The road is something like a driveway I suppose, except that it’s a winding, 5 mile long driveway of complete isolation, and just when you think there’s no way this could lead to a beautiful golf course like the Grand Bear, you emerge from the trees and are greeted by an incredible log clubhouse that will leave you stunned. Grand Bear makes an incredible first impression.

The clubhouse truly is one of the most beautiful clubhouses I have ever been in. The all wood design was astounding, and it was absolutely huge which only added to the effect. After meeting the head pro and grabbing a couple granola bars, we headed out to play our last round in Mississippi. The course was in excellent shape and extremely fun to play. It was absolutely the perfect way to end the trip, with the mix of the gorgeous clubhouse and gorgeous golf course leaving me with great memories.

Another reason I grew to admire the people in the gulf coast happened at the Grand Bear. My dad and I were playing fairly fast paced golf, because we had a plane to catch later in the afternoon, and we were held up by a foursome. We had already played about halfway through the hole, but knew we were short on time, so we asked if they minded if we jumped them and moved on to the next hole. As I have said many times already, I am a big fan of Michigan and wouldn’t change very many things about it, but if you were to ask this back home, you would be greeted with sneers, eye rolls, and grunts of begrudging permission. Not so in Mississippi. Not only did they smile and say that was no problem, but the foursome offered to let us go back and play the hole uninterrupted, while they would wait for us to finish it out, and then they would finish it out themselves. This gesture blew me away, because it was unlike anything I had seen in Michigan.

It was then that I decided that Mississippi, and more specifically, Biloxi, was doing something right.

Photo Jul 29, 12 37 34 PMAfter that encouraging scene we finished our round of golf, headed in for a quick, and of course, delicious lunch, then returned to the hotel to grab our luggage and head to the airport. On the drive to airport, I went over the trip in my head, and began laying the groundwork for this piece which you are now reading.

I wanted to write about the delicious food, the fun times, the gorgeous (if sometimes very hot) weather, the amazing Beau Rivage hotel, and all the other sights, sounds, and physical attractions that the gulf coast has to offer.

But more importantly, I realized, I wanted to weave throughout the story that the time I experienced here ended up going deeper than I had planned on. Visiting the south had never really been on my radar, and when I heard I was going, as I said in the beginning of the piece, I was excited, but somewhat indifferent and didn’t expect much except the physical, “wow” aspects of the golf and food.

I hope I have succeeded in my goal of showing off both sides of what Mississippi was to me. The atmosphere there was so different than in my home region, and it was truly an amazing experience and one that I hope to experience again someday. And as I eventually did return to our summer home at the lake in Michigan, I realized that I didn’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would, and I had experienced more in Mississippi than I ever thought possible.

You gotta get yourself down there.

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Amen.

Signed,

A Proud, Thankful Dad

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