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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Everything is Big in Texas, Part 2

How about big as in big time?

The next day, at five in the afternoon, Allan and I were already comfortably seated in the Greyhound bus on our way to Houston. It took us 45 minutes to reach the station through a cab from the resort. The thing with Greyhound, we realized, is to always queue 30 minutes before the bus arrives. Even if you already have a ticket, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get a seat for the trip on that particular schedule. I got this info with my bus seatmate. Only five or six passengers behind us made it. The rest had to wait for the next bus that could or could not have a long stop somewhere.

We arrived in Houston at quarter before nine in the evening. Minutes later, I received a text message from Don-don (a “kababayan” and a former vice mayor’s youngest son). We were then met at the nearby Mc Donalds parking lot along with Don-don’s wife Ruby. After a few minutes, we’re already having a blast at a Thai restaurant that was about to close. The place happens to be my friend and his wife’s all-time trusted restaurant.

The next day, at 9am-ish, we were already heading the first pit stop for the day: IHOP (which stands for International House of Pancakes). I enjoyed my breakfast sampler of pancakes, bacon, sausage and eggs. Since we only had one whole day to invade Houston, we spent most of the time in NASA’s Space Center.

It was one hot and humid Saturday and the center was already peppered with tourists, forming some three long lines for the tickets. I was glad that I didn’t have to queue since I already got my ticket online. We just waited for Don to buy two tickets for him and Ruby. The center isn’t that big. But I can say that it’s pretty much jampacked with everything about the outer space. Talking about something “spacious”. The displays range from old astronaut suits to Star Wars gadgets and mock spaceships. There was an activity center in the middle of the center (which doesn’t make much sense if we’re holding on the “space” theme) that keeps the kids busy.

At the other end of the center is another line dock for tram rides. Now you have two options: the blue tour that leads you to the control center (where “Houston, we have a problem” was first relayed perhaps) and the red tour that brings you to a junk shop-like of spacecraft. Both tours had a side trip at the gigantic Saturn V (a few feet longer than the Statue of Liberty) that is housed in a warehouse-like building. Forget the tour guide’s comment that it is optional. Saturn V is definitely a must-see.

Aside from the usual showcase, there’s another portion that serves as a museum. It’s called something like Starship Gallery. It has a wide range of display from toiletry that austronauts use to toy dinosaur and old-school camera. Don’t miss the chance to hold a real moon rock. It’s a must-do.

We left Space Center at 4pm and had a late, late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It was a buffet-style dinner with a variety of the usual dishes and an overload of tiger shrimps. To spend the rest of the afternoon, we headed to Kemah Boardwalk that is like a marina area similar to Newport in Kentucky and perhaps the Bay Area in San Francisco. It was sunset time and people started to enjoy the last hurrah of tanning sunshine. A bunch of nice restaurants sits in the area. It was a bit crowded because it was a Saturday but I enjoyed the ambiance of the place. From the parking lot, you can see thousands of sailboats docked and being docked. The site is simply amazing. It actually minimizes the impression that Texas is just cowboys and boots. We left the place at roughly 10pm after having a mug of frap from Starbucks and purchasing a giant playing cards.

Sunday, the next day, was almost unforgettable if not from the shaky airplane touchdown in Lexington and the warm hospitality we got from Don-don and Ruby.

The rest of the pics here.

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