Sunday 31 October 2010

Day 65 – Actually It Is Rocket Science

This morning I was rudely awoken by the hotel’s fire alarm. Let me tell you, there aren’t many more terrifying ways to be jolted out of a slumber. Luckily it was a false alarm, but it might as well have been an alarm clock as there was no point going back to bed after a fright like that. Welcome to Halloween 2010, I guess!

Our day started out at Houston’s most famous attraction – The NASA Space Center. I don’t pretend to know much about all things science; it’s beyond my comprehension how this universe works, but thankfully there are people out there that do know their stuff and it seems NASA has snapped a lot of these smarty-pants up.
Although the actual layout of the Space Center doesn’t initially appear that big, it turns out to be deceiving as a lot of the things on offer take time to experience. We couldn’t quite figure out how their current medieval Lego exhibit fits with the technology theme though, so we moved onto the tram tour that takes you around the nearby facilities.
The Space Center is a working environment and the tour starts out with a walk above the training area. It amazed me that they allowed people not just to see where the astronauts train for real live missions, but also take pictures. Surely there was a time this would have been considered classified information!
The equipment they use in training is exactly what they use up in space and they even have ways to duplicate weightlessness by using the same principles that an air hockey table uses. Unfortunately as its Sunday there weren’t any astronauts to thrill us with some ‘moonwalking’ though.
The other main stop on the tour is the Rocket Park. There are a couple of rockets outside that seemed mildly impressive, but then when you head inside you find some mammoth ones. They literally engulf the room. The exhibit side walks you through all the Apollo landings--and I couldn’t help musing that its weird nobody has been to the moon since the 70’s…Joe thinks that scientifically, they don’t need to, but I’m not sure I’m buying it. Do I smell a conspiracy?!
Back at the Space Center, we took in the rest of nerdsville. There’s an interesting presentation where you learn about current missions. It usually includes a live-feed of the International Space Station, but they were doing work on the feed today so we got live-feed of an empty swimming pool instead. Hurumph! We did learn that no shuttles have ever been launched from Houston…or anywhere other than Florida. They like to launch and land everything there as it saves them billions to do so. They do train for EVERY mission in Houston though – and it’s where the ‘Mission Control’ rooms are.
Education done, we hit the road and left Houston in our dust. On the way out of town we discovered they like their big statues--as we passed some presidents and then Sam Houston (for whom the cities is named). Everything really is bigger in Texas! This was especially obvious when we sailed past Dallas and its ridiculous freeway system; I’ve been on less exciting rollercoasters!
As the sun was setting, we crossed into state number 45: Oklahoma. I was disappointed not to find a ‘Welcome To’ sign. This means we’ll have to work extra hard when leaving the state to catch it on the way out. Our stop here for the night is at a casino because it seems the options on what to do with your time in Oklahoma is limited. We were worried what kinda joint we were gonna find here after our rural casino brush back on ‘Day 1’ in North Dakota, but Choctaw Casino is a luxury all onto itself…and it’s cheaper than most of the hotels we’ve stayed so far. Bonus! Shame we ran out of gambling money long ago…
So, until tomorrow…

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Saturday 30 October 2010

Day 64 – From NOLA To HOTX…

After checking out this morning we headed off to get the Yank some coffee and the Brit some tea. Turns out New Orleans appears to suffer daily from a ‘morning-after’ as the streets stunk and everyone around us was indulging in greasy fry-ups. If you ever plan to visit, be warned this is a smelly town, soaked in alcohol and possibly the effects of that alcohol. Apparently the only ones without sore heads were us.
Even the baristas in the coffee shop weren’t fully awake as they managed to give us two drinks each. Not wanting to look a gifthorse in the mouth we tried to make a quick getaway before they realized their error. Trip lesson no.361: Never rush a Brit pouring milk into her tea, it will not end well. I have no game when it comes to crime as I clumsily proceeded to make a scene and spill liquids all over the place. Let it be noted nothing free comes without a price - sticky milk hands and sleeves being mine!

Before departing New Orleans we drove over to the Garden District to rub shoulders with the millionaires and their mansions. The purpose for this stop-off was to see the ‘Benjamin Button’ house. In the light of day it is nothing like the rundown home for the elderly that the movie makes it out to be! Sightseeing done for the day, we made our way out of town (via the Superdome!) and got on the road.
It was a long drive out of Louisiana and its swamplands, but eventually we made it to state number 44: Texas. Ah, the Lonestar state. One of the rare ones both myself and Joe have visited before. A couple of years ago we flew over for the Austin Film Festival. Having had some friends there last week for this year’s festival, we were disappointed we couldn’t figure out a way to make it to Texas a few days earlier to hang with them. Oh well, there’s always next year!
Our destination in Texas is not somewhere we’ve been before though (unless you count Joe’s layover at the airport years ago). We’re staying in Houston – the 4th biggest city in America – and already being in a huge metropolis again is a lot of work. Traffic here is a challenge to say the least…therefore we’re hiding out in the hotel until tomorrow! It’s just as well, our camera seems to be on the fritz anyway…
So, until tomorrow…

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