We decided to take a few days away from the drought conditions that had held a grip on Southeast Texas for the past month or so and decided on an excursion to Biloxi, which we had last visited before Hurricane Katrina.

And like some areas of Orange and Bridge City, Biloxi also showed scars left from a major hurricane, especially along the beach road (U.S. 90) between Gulfport and Biloxi.

Huge pieces of property across the road from the beach were vacant, with maybe just a chimney remaining on a huge empty lot. Or an elegant staircase rising up a hill to where a beautiful large home once stood was now merely an incline with weeds and some hearty huge oak trees, much like the ones in old Orange that survived Hurricane Rita.

Our hotel/casino, the Beau Rivage, rose up some 20 stories over the Gulf of Mexico beach, elegantly remodeled and expanded from what we remember it looked like before Hurricane Katrina, a storm that most people associate with hitting only the city of New Orleans.

Gone are a majority of restaurants, motels, souvenir shops and historical landmarks that once stood along that beach-front road. A few have been rebuilt, but most are just memories of the past.

We discovered rather quickly that if one elected to not eat in the hotel/casino and didn’t want fast food like tacos or a hamburger, they had to search high and low for a place to eat a meal.

The television stations from New Orleans to Mobile aired public service announcements night and day telling viewers to disregard what the national networks were claiming about the beaches having oil washing up on the shores. The beaches in this area were still clean and pristine like they have always been.
We did see quite a number of shrimp and oyster boats docked and not running, but the water appeared to be as clear as it ever was in that area.

The hotels and casinos in that vicinity were bustling with patrons, most of whom had Alabama, Florida and Louisiana license plates on their cars in the parking garages.

We did patronize a few nice restaurants in those four days, including the original Landry’s in Louisiana and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Biloxi. We drove around looking for Ruth’s and after whipping out our faithful Garmin, discovered to our chagrin that it was located in the Hard Rock Hotel/Casino right next door to the Beau Rivage.

As usual, whenever we take a little sojourn from the Orange area, the Houston Astros go on a winning streak. And as sorry as they have been so far this spring, for their benefit we should have stayed in Mississippi quite a bit longer.

While we were gone, the Astros also went on the road to play first place St. Louis and magically swept the Cardinals in a three-game series last week. However, they came back to Earth and dropped all three games to the San Francisco Giants when their road trip extended to the West Coast and we returned from our trip back to Orange.

Our first night back in Orange we heard the weather gurus on all three local channels promise that rain was on the way, so our drought should get some much-needed relief. And it came off-and-on throughout last weekend, giving our landscape and trees a much-needed drink.

We played golf last weekend and for once were happy to see the “cart paths only” sign in effect and some drives shortened in length by a puddle in the middle of the fairway.

Unfortunately the rainy weather didn’t hit Baltimore Saturday so the race track at Pimlico wasn’t sloppy and to the liking of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, whose bid for a possible Triple Crown fell by the wayside in the Preakness Stakes.

And the horse that was favored to win the Derby, Lookin At Lucky, which finished in the middle of the pack, captured the Preakness Stakes.

With Lookin At Lucky and Super Saver opting to skip the Belmont Stakes, this Korner wonders how many of the other horses that ran in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness will be entered in the 11/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 5? Bet there won’t be many.

KWICKIES…Both of our Lone Star State’s NFL franchises began their respective Organized Team Activities this week with quite opposite results. The Houston Texans were without the presence of star wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is holding out for a new contract. He wants the team to tear up the eight-year, $60 million he signed in 2007 and give him a bigger, better one. This will create a big problem down the road. On the other side of the coin, the Dallas Cowboys also began their OTA with Tony Romo on hand, despite rumors he really wanted to try to qualify for the upcoming Byron Nelson Golf Tournament. Romo was so anxious to start throwing passes to No. 1 draft choice Dez Bryant that he scrapped the idea of skipping the OTA and instead skipped the qualifying golf tournament.

Former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio is enjoying the fruits of his labor in his first coaching job as the St. Thomas Eagles defeated Houston Christian 7-5 last weekend for the TAPPS 5A baseball state championship. Bidge agreed to coach the team with both sons Conor and Cavan on it for $1 per year. And in typical Biggio fashion, St. Thomas advanced to the state championship game after winning the semifinal game in extra innings when Cavan was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The Lamar baseball team won another Southland Conference weekend series at UT Arlington by winning a doubleheader Saturday 22-5 and 8-1 before losing Sunday’s finale 11-8. The Cards trailed 8-0 after two innings in Sunday’s game and began chipping away at the Maverick’s lead until they tied the game in the seventh inning on a grand slam home run by senior right-fielder Quentin Luquette. But the Mavs scored three eighth inning runs to win 11-8. Lamar stands at 15-15 in the SLC and 30-22 overall and concludes the regular season with a three-game series against Stephen F. Austin on Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday afternoon at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.

Three Orange County teams are still alive and well in the Class 3A high school baseball playoffs. In fact all three teams hail from District 21-3A as Orangefield advanced with a 6-1 win over Bryan Rudder and will meet rival West Orange-Stark this week in the regional quarterfinals. Bridge City beat Taylor 4-1 Saturday and will take on Huffman in the regional quarterfinals.

JUST BETWEEN US…Congrats are in order for the West Orange-Stark track team and its coach Toby Foreman for winning its second consecutive state championship last weekend in Austin.  Senior Trey Franks successfully defended the state title he won last year in the 100 meters with a winning time of 10.62, despite coming out of the blocks slowly. The Mustangs also won gold medals in the 400 and 800-meter relays, anchored by Franks and senior James Haynes, respectively. Phillip Jones barely got nipped at the finish line to grab the silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles and sophomore Justin Thomas took second in the 200 meters, despite running from the outside lane. The Mustangs won the state championship with 66 points with Texarkana Liberty-Eylau taking second with 61.33 points on the strength of winning the 1,600-meter relay. Foreman predicted after winning the state title last spring that his Mustangs would repeat this year because of four returnees. And with four returning next year from the 2010 state championship team Foreman was quick to predict a “three-peat” for next year is not out of the question.