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Thursday, May 20, 2010  

Houston, We Have No Problem

We only throw M. Edium birthday parties for his odd-numbered birthdays. For the even-numbered birthdays, we get out of town. Literally. But we bring him with us, so that makes it better.

This year, M. Edium requested Houston as his destination. The siren call of the Johnson Space Center is irresistible to a space nerd like him, especially since he found out it has a Space Shuttle where you can climb into the cockpit. Of course he's been in a Space Shuttle before, at the Kennedy Space Center, but you can't get into the cockpit there.

So Houston it was. Since there's no time to waste, what with M. Edium's birthday coming up in a mere five months, Trash started researching details last week.

Hey, guess what's going on at the Johnson Space Center this summer? Clone Wars. Through September. Oops.

Obviously, Trash called right away to find out the chances of it being held over at least into mid-September. Equally obviously, those chances proved slimmer than Taun We.

So Trash started looking for alternative travel dates earlier in the year. While she researched flights, I called the visitor center back and talked to the same sweet lady Trash had. Among the questions I asked was whether there was a hotel nearby. She said yes, and referred me to a brand-new one that the JSC employees had recently toured. Amenities include a big saltwater pool, full breakfast, and a movie room where you can play your own DVDs. I even think she gave me someone's direct line. A few minutes later, I was on the line with an expatriate Minnesotan, who was so happy to reminisce with me about her hometown (which happens to be this one) that she gave me a fantastic discount on a room. I'm sorry, a suite. Sweet!

By this time, Trash had found us a cheap flight down, transferring in Chicago. Unfortunately, it did one of those things that online air fare so often does, which is to disappear at some point between the finding and the reserving. But then she locked down better flights, with no transfers, for a difference in price no more than the cost of a hardcover book. In 1983. So it wasn't so unfortunate after all.

We did run into one glitch. I was in such a hurry to get a rental car that I gave the Houston airport code only the most cursory of Googles and ended up reserving a car to be picked up at Hobby instead of George Bush. Rookie mistake, I know, but then I've never been to Houston. No wonder the car had been so cheap. Fortunately Trash figured it out that same day, and although I seriously considered taxiing from one airport to the other, I was able to correct the reservation. Even more fortunately, the right airport has even cheaper rental cars, which I didn't think possible. In fact, on a per-item basis, I think I'm paying less to rent this car than I did some movies when we were on the old Netflix model.

As Trash said, there are just times when the universe is telling you to go for it. And even if it's the Star Wars universe, who are we to argue?

Here's Trash's favorite part: she's busy that weekend, so she doesn't get to go with us. And she was so looking forward to the space and the Star Wars and the summer heat and everything. Not to mention three airfares instead of two.

That only leaves the question of where to take him on his actual birthday trip, now that Houston is going to be covered. So far he's requested Madagascar, Australia, and the Sahara Desert.

I think any one of those three would be easier than throwing another party like the one we threw last year.

posted by M. Giant 8:21 PM 9 comments


Having moved OUT of Houston last summer, I offer this piece of advice:

-Get the navigation on your rental car. It will be your friend.

-Traffic there is a nightmare beyond imagining. The posted speeds on the interstates/tollways may SAY 65/70, but it's really closer to 85/95 (during the times you're not doing 7 mph due to traffic). Also watch for people slamming on their brakes for no apparent reason. Houstonians love doing that. Also, FLOOR IT when trying to merge. FLOOR. IT. Really. Minnesota nice has no place on a Houston freeway.

But on the plus side, Houston has more restaurants per square mile than any place I've ever lived. I was boggled by the sheer variety of places to eat. Texas barbecue is phenomenal. None of that pork crap they serve you in this part of the world. Good luck and have fun!

By Anonymous Ellie, at May 20, 2010 at 8:58 PM  

I'll add to the above:

- Always wait a few seconds before starting after a green light, because a minimum of 3 cars blow through the red after it turns. I know this happens other places, but it is institutionalized in Houston.

- Do not plan on walking anywhere. It's too hot and too far. Just don't do it.

- Also do not plan on taking the bus anywhere. Public transportation is nonexistent, and the Metro system is ridiculously bad.

- If you have a chance, try to grab a meal at The Black Labrador in the Montrose. It's a really nice British-style pub with really tasty British food (I know, but it really is) and incredible desserts. They also have a lovely patio with a giant chess set.

By Blogger Unknown, at May 22, 2010 at 7:09 AM  

sounds exciting! may the force be with you ;)

By Blogger Mama, at May 22, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

Courtney is SO RIGHT. I can't believe I forgot the three car rule. Although, I did like the bus when I was doing the park and ride to work downtown.

Oooh, and if you're going during the week, use the HOV lanes. Since you'll have M. Edium with you, you guys will save oodles of time with them.

By Anonymous Ellie, at May 22, 2010 at 6:06 PM  

Ellie is right about the restaurants, although as a native Tennessean I take exception to her slam on pork BBQ. :) Try Pappasito's for some good Tex-Mex.

If you have time, the Museum of Natural Science has an IMAX film on the Hubble telescope all summer, and it's a very kid-friendly place. The Aquarium is cool too--don't miss the shark train, if you go.

Enjoy Houston! And be aware that it really is as hot and muggy as they say.

By Blogger Leigh, at May 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM  

I'm not sure how much time you are here, but you might also want to check out the Children's Museum - it is awesome and was just renovated last year!

Have a great time and dress comfortably b/c it is hot as hell, but on a positive note we do know how to air condition!!

By Blogger Fun Gal Julie, at May 23, 2010 at 5:12 PM  

Australia in September is quite nice actually. And certainly easier to get to than Madagascar. (Not sure whether the Sahara would be easier or not, although if M.Edium gets into Ancient Egypt at all I'd certainly recommend the Egyptian part of the desert as an option.)

By Anonymous lsn, at May 25, 2010 at 6:02 PM  

And I know you're unlikely to do it, but if you come to Melbourne in September I'll take you to the footy finals and generally show you a good time...

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