Two Weeks in Houston TX- Dec 12-28

4 Jan

Other than the Johnson Space Center south of downtown Houston, I’m not sure why League City exists.  Nor am I interested in finding out.  Most of the city seems to be spacious shopping centers bordering I-45.  I’d describe the downtown area, only I don’t remember it.  Apparently League City has waterfront resorts along the Galveston Bay shoreline.  It also affords views and smells of nearby Texas City, an oil refinery center and deep-water shipping hub.

We stayed at an RV park alongside I-45.  Being alongside a busy interstate, it was very noisy.  The pads were narrow.  So were the grass strips between the pads.  The price was double what I would consider fair.  Our neighbors were permanent residents – two parents, two small children, and a disabled grandparent living in a trailer about twice the size of our VW.  On the plus side, great bathrooms and it was a convenient functional place.

For those unfamiliar with RV parks vs. Campgrounds, allow me to explain the difference from my point of view.  RV parks are often filled with long-term residents, either there for economic reasons (RV parks are relatively cheap), work reasons (temporary workers, like construction workers on a project), or Snowbirds (those fleeing their inhospitable northern winter homes for the warmer, crowded, and very social conditions of an RV park.  The RV parks tend to be expensive, crowded, clear-cut, and developed in such a way as to maximize the number of slots that can be crammed between the fences.  They remind me of entry level housing developments, without the houses.  Campgrounds, especially national or state, are developed in more remote areas where the environment was minimally disturbed when the campground was developed.  Oftentimes the roads have not been paved.  The bathrooms tend to be minimalist, but functional.  Campgrounds offer far more privacy and quiet.  They are often located within large national or state parks and away from development.  In the morning one hears chirping birds, not the RV park roar of 18-wheelers.  Our preference is clearly Campgrounds, but sometimes there just aren’t any that are convenient.

I’ve always been fascinated by space travel.  Earlier this month we missed a 4 am launch from Cape Kennedy in Florida as it was rescheduled several times and we decided to leave Florida.  Disappointed!  And so, on to the NASA Johnson Space Center near Houston.  We toured the Johnson Space Center.  Lots of fun, but not as exciting as Cape Kennedy.  The high point for me was visiting the original Apollo Command Center (think “Apollo 13” film).

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That night we went to a Mexican restaurant.  Big mistake.  During the night I began experiencing chest, back and digestive challenges that would last for some time.  Skipping the details, and adding a bad cold, I’ve not been feeling well for several weeks and, as of today (Jan 2), I’m beginning to feel normal.  Joanna’s also had a cold.  I shall not belabor these issues.

We drove an hour or so to Galveston Island, a barrier island, and spent a day or so.  It’s a city filled with history that we liked.

For the rest of our Houston stay, we did a lost of visiting and attended niece Erin Coppens’ wedding.

Next stop, Jackie and John’s home in Sugar Land (just outside of Houston) for the beginning of wedding festivities.  Our niece Suzanne (one of Jackie’s daughters), husband John and our faux grandkids, Sarah, Jack and Luke were staying Jackie and John’s.  We did too, but due to room limitations, we decided to camp out in the VW in their driveway.  We had fun here for several days, with other folks visiting, most notably, Jackie and John’s daughter Erin and her fiancé Brian, and their sons Michael and John Jr. (aka Tex) and his wife Kim and her grandson.  Erin is Jackie and John’s daughter.

Joanna and I moved to the wedding hotel, the Inn at the Ballpark, across the street from the Astros’ baseball park, Minute Maid Park.  It’s a wonderful hotel and Erin, the bride (who is event planner), arranged ridiculously low rates.  Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, and on Saturday some of us toured the ballpark.  Exciting to go behind the scene at the ballpark, particularly the dugout and going on the field.

Saturday night was Erin and Brian’s wedding at Saint Anne’s Church, with the reception at the historic Union Railroad Station.  A most beautiful and memorable evening!

One day, for breakfast, Joanna and I took a cab to the Breakfast Klub, a soul-food restaurant modeled after Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in LA.  The line snaked around the block.  We actually enjoyed standing in the cold for almost an hour.  We befriended two big scary looking guys standing in front of us, Lester and Jerome, and the time passed quickly as we became fast friends.  After breakfast, Lester and Jerome gave us a ride back to the hotel.  The fried chicken wings and waffles, while an unusual breakfast combo, were actually quite good.  But, next time I might opt for the catfish and waffles.  And, by the way, I do understand why my digestive challenges have continued.

Out of Houston proper, and on to Tomball, a suburb and the home of Joanna’s brother Charles, his wife Rosemarie, their son Preston, and her mother Christina.  We had more heavy-duty visiting as our niece Suzanne (Charles daughter) and her family, Joanna’s brother Will Jay and his wife Annette joined in.  And, over several days, Rosemarie’s daughter Crystal and her sons Dakota and Logan dropped by for visits.  We continued our VW driveway camping during this time.  It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to visit with family.

After several days we headed back to Houston and spent a night with niece-in-law Ashley and her fiancé Cameron.  They live in an historic area of Houston.  We were delighted to have dinner with them at a restaurant that not only served delicious food, but prepared their vegetables al dente. An unusual occurrence in our travels through the south.

OK, we’re both exhausted and still feeling under the weather.   We want a break!  So we check into a business suite hotel in the Houston Energy Corridor.  Quiet time around the holidays, therefore great price, including a real breakfast in the morning and cocktail party at night.  The three days stretched to four then to five.  It was wonderful to have quiet private time, to catch up on personal business stuff, to watch TV, and let our bodies heal.  We spent a meaningful and enjoyable Christmas eve with Joanna’s old friends, Jean-Pierre and Mary and their nine children and grandchildren in Richmond (a day trip from our hotel).  While at the hotel, we met with some of Joanna’s childhood friends, David Webb, and Tom and Michelle Gardner, Cindy and Donna Dybowski, and Joanna’s former husband Larry and his wife of 37 years, Linda.

Finally, time to move on as we drove from Houston to San Antonio to stay with Joanna’s brother Will Jay and his wife Annette.