26.9 inches. That's the amount of snow New York got Sunday, an all time record! Meanwhile, Jen and Sean are in utah getting ready to fly back to NY during the storm. Ok, no more third person. So we were to leave from SLC on Sunday at about 1:00pm. We had a connecting flight in Houston, of all places, but all the flights to NY were canceled. But this wasn't made certain until we were to arrive so we decided to take the first flight and roll the dice in Houston. We actually were secretly hoping we wouldn't be able to get back immediately. We wanted more vacation.
After a very tumultous final 20 minutes of the flight, Jen poised with her barf bag at the ready, we landed in lovely Houston Texas at about 5:00pm. (I did not puke, by the way. but i was this close.) Crap, i did third person again. So we sat down in the terminal and Sean got busy calling the airline (Continental). We found out all flights to New York were, in fact, cancelled and so we got another flight out for the next day, Monday, at 9:00pm. Next item: finding a hotel. Yay! Mini-vacation for us. Sean and i have never taken any kind of trip together, alone. Ever. No honeymoon, no trip, nothing. So i was very excited about this. We had to talk to the Continental lady about our luggage, which was on its way to JFK and our new flight was to land in LaGuardia. She fixed that (somehow) and so we went out to the shuttle pick-up area where our Holiday Inn Express Honda SUV picked us up. There was another passenger there who was on his way to D.C. Our driver actually lived in NYC for 20 years so he had lots to say about it. Sean and I noticed the tall trees, nice weather, and palmtrees that we love. And then we arrived at our hotel. And so began our Spontaneous Texas Trip 2006.
I have never been to Texas, before this. Neither has Sean. Neither of us had very strong feelings toward it, either way. "Texas? Um... I don't know." That's pretty much all i have had to say about it up until this point. Throughout the whole trip, Sean and I kept finding the fact that we were in Houston kind of funny. It's just so random. Who knew we'd be spending a day there? Never in my life. It was just so... spontaneous, you might say.
Our hotel room had a little living room with a tv, a little kitchen, and another tv in the bedroom. Obviously more than what we needed but it was all we could get. Oh yeah, so since our luggage was out in Never Neverland, we had the clothes on our backs and anything we had in our carry-on, of which the contents of mine included the following: book, video and digital cameras, 2 oranges, lotion, make-up, hand sanitizer, orange tic tacs, a pen, vitamins, advil, candy, and earrings. I was on day 2 of showering and thought it best not to go another day. Very hungry, we set outside in search of food.
Everything on this trip was spontaneous and we came up with the title in the Waffle House, the first place we visited, and made continual references to it (in its full title) throughout the whole trip. I know this probably doesn't need to be explained but i particularly liked the "2006" part of the title, as if we may have a Spontaneous Texas Trip 2007. You never know.
The Waffle House was close to the hotel along with not much else, actually. So we're lucky it was there. It was deserted except for 2 other customers, and our waitress was nice, friendly, and full of "y'alls." I ordered the Texas Cheesesteak Sandwich and Sean got an omelette. We noticed to the side a bottle of Casa De Waffle picante sauce for all your waffle-topping needs. Mmm. Our food was as greasy as can be and it was GOOD. I'm sorry for the lack of photos. I got a lot of video footage but forgot about the other camera.
After our stay at the Waffle House we went back to the hotel but first stopped at the Food Mart to get 2 small bottles of normal shampoo and conditioner (I'm sorry but hotel shampoo & conditioner that says only "cleanse" and "moisturize" on the bottles frightens me a little. As does the completely unlabeled tube of "toothpaste."), real toothpaste, a brush, some mousse, snacks, juice, and that's it, i think. The airline gave us some little toothbrushes and nasty deoderant. Oh, i got some deoderant too but it was another weird kind like Lady's Choice or something dumb. But it smelled better than the musty man's deoderant the airline gave us. That should have been its name. Musty Man.
We took our supplies home and watched the olympics and ate all our junk in bed. Ahhhh.
The next morning we put on our old clothes, stumbled downstairs for breakfast, and went back up to shower. The last shuttle to the airport left at 10:00 so while we were waiting for it at 9:58, we saw a big stand full of pamphlets and brochures for things to do in Houston. Sean and i were both at a loss for ideas of what we could do. We grabbed like 5 brochures that looked semi-interesting until we saw one that advertised the NASA Space Center. DUH! Ok, honestly, how dumb are we. I mean, given that I LOVE space and all things related, you'd think this would have occurred to us. We joked about how we were like, "What can we do in Houston? What can we pooossssibly doooo?" I'm all, "Sean, we have a problem. What is there to do in Houston?" Sean said, "I just don't knooooow... it's driving me into outer space." Ha ha. Lame. Anyway, so that was decided. We hopped on our shuttle car and went back to George Bush Intercontinental (the airport). We went to the taxi/shuttle/transportation location, found out how much it would be to take a cab, said "yeah freakin' right!" and decided to rent a car instead. fun! Everything was spontaneous. Right after we decided to do that we're like, "hey look... a car-rental shuttle." So we hopped on that which left about 2 seconds later. Next item: Selecting a car rental service. The first one we noticed: Alamo. It was meant to be. we ended up getting a small deal on an SUV, gold, a Chevy Trailblazer, i believe. Our bags, excitement, and a map in tow, we set off. The NASA center was about an hour away and after a couple bumpy moments (aka "getting lost") we arrived! The drive was pleasant. It's actually not that different from utah, minus the mountains. I felt at home. It was nice being in a car and feeling in control of our travels.
I took a plethora of photos so i'll just stick 'em here so you get to see the exciting world of the NASA Space Center.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In an alternate life, I would most definitely be an astronaut. On a constant basis I am bedazzled by the stars, planets, black holes, all things space. I was getting excited, and felt my geekiness rise higher and higher to the surface. When we arrived I had thoughts of wishing I had my Star Trek keychain with all the sounds effects before reminding myself that while space is cool, Star Trek is not. The place was packed with fun little things to do, especially for kids. I think this would so much fun to bring your kids here. I made a mental note of that but somehow I don't think this will be the last trip to Houston we make.
Here is a picture of a big lunar landing module hanging from the ceiling.
The U.S.S. Shuttle Enterprise. Ok, i don't know. Sorry, fits of my Star Trekiness are bound to come out here. They took apart a real shuttle so we could walk around inside and look at stuff. Here is a pic of Sean behind the cockpit:
It was shielded off with plastic but oh, how i wanted to sit in the chair and yell, "engage!" But that's ridiculous. Everyone knows the Ensign doesn't say "engage."
I don't have a pic of it, but one cool thing was you could sit down in front of this big screen and try to land a shuttle. You had a stick in front of you and a crosshair-type thing and a view of the runway/landing area on the screen, with voices of people from NASA telling you "CHHHK. U.S. Endeavor, your nose is angled too far down. Pull up." I tried many, many times to land the shuttle but crashed and burned pretty much every time. I guess i know now i am not the person to land a shuttle. good to know. Sean was better. He landed with his front wheel making a definite skidding sound, but then ran off the runway.
Every hour or so they took a bunch of people on a tram ride to the real NASA center nearby and gave them a small tour. So we got on and rode over. The first place they took us to was the old school control room where all the Apollo missions, etc took place. They had the badges of everyone who was in a space mission and had them blown up and on the wall. They also had plaques for the fallen astronauts of the Challenger, Apollo 1, and Columbia missions. 17 people died. Remember the Apollo 13 incident? Those astronauts gave the control room members a plaque thanking them for bringing them back home safely and included a little mirror (that's found inside the shuttle) on the plaque and put that next to the water fountain so that whenever someone in the control room went to take a drink, they would see their reflection in the mirror and be reminded of who helped bring those 3 men back to Earth. Kind of cool, eh?
Then we got back on the tram and they showed us the real, modern day mission control room. Here is a pic:
I guess we were sitting behind a one-way window/mirror thing. It was cool seeing people at work. I wanted to bang on the window, my face pressed up against it and yell, "Can i heeeelp?" but i didn't. They showed us who sat where, like the Flight Director, and who actually talked to the astronauts (the Capcom).
On the way back to the Space Center we stopped at Rocket Park and got a picture with the rockets.
Back at the center, we visited the "artifacts" room. I don't know what to call it. But here, we got to touch actual moonrock.
It was a special moment.
We also got to explore the insides of a shuttle and they had creepily real-looking but fake uniformed people inside to show what life is like. We saw what the "bathroom" looks like and where and how they sleep. Here's a picture of me and Mr. McScary Austronaut who appeared to be eating something from a tube.
Astronauts Jensen, Richards, Stevens, Roberts, and Morello, Cptn.
Me and Mr. Astronaut. It's supposed to look like he's putting his arm around me but I don't know if you can tell.
Here is a picture of Sean and some rockets.
They had a moon set of sorts, with astronauts, moon rocks, and the tiny earth in the distance. We tried to take pics to make it look like we were there too. It was kind of dark though.
After that we stepped on big scales that showed us how much we weigh on Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. The last thing we did was sit in a chair and try to dock the shuttle in the space station. Here is a side picture of Sean:
And here is a view of him and his screen though i don't know if you'll be able to tell. We had to get the green light to match up with something else. A green square or something.
After that it was closing time and time for us to get back so we said "Goodbye, NASA" and got back in the car. I was struck with a paralyzing bout of fatique and slept pretty much the whole way to the airport. Too much excitement, I guess. After we dropped off the car we got on the shuttle but got off at the wrong terminal so we had to take the "inter-terminal train." Ehh? Yes, that's right. It's an indoor Disneyland ride, pretty much. It was really weird but appropriately random. We found our gate and then decided to have some dinner at Bubba's Bayou City Bar & Grill where Sean ordered the steak and i got the most delicious Tilapia fish on rice with pineapple pico and black beans. Mmmmm. The fire alarm went off with an automated voice saying "alert... a fire has been reported in the building. Please listen for further instructions" as we calmly finished our meal. This went on for about 15 minutes. Nothing happened. No one was fazed. We paid the bill and left.
Oh, when we returned the car, I jumped out and took this picture of a pretty Texas sunset.
After dinner we boarded our plane and as i looked outside, I felt saddened. Sad to leave this place. Sad to go back to real life where it's hard to be spontaneous. But our plane took off and we headed for home.
Houston, we have a problem.... i miss you.