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North America » United States » Texas » Houston
December 27th 2017
Published: December 28th 2017
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If I never see another G.D. mobile home on a truck on an interstate, it will be too soon. Seriously, how many of these things did we get behind today? I feel like I-10 and I-12 are the primary corridors for the transportation of these things. And they were frequently unconcerned with taking up both lanes of the interstate; yeah, how were these interstates only 2-laned in each direction for so long? But alas, such is the driving life.

Yesterday was a big driving day, but since we had no stops scheduled, it went by surprisingly quickly. It was a total of about 7 hours on the road, but because the first 2.5 hours were backroads through Georgia and Florida, they didn't seem so boring. And then it was all I-10 until we got just inside Louisiana. A stop for gasoline, another couple of bathroom breaks, and we were at our hotel in Pearl River. With the crossing into Central Time, it made us really early, but really tired. I guess that's a boring drive for you. But we did listen to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris, the whole time. I mean, we finished it just as we crossed the Louisiana state line, and there was only 15 minutes left of the drive.

Today was a frustrating drive through Louisiana for about 4 hours (see the 1st paragraph above), but we didn't stop until we got to the Texas Welcome Center. Exit 880. Good grief. But I managed to get some quality "Don't Mess with Texas" swag, as well as a Texas map. I got to show dad how to use his new camera (i.e., my old phone), but he still preferred to use his own "dumb" phone to take pictures, so that he could send them back to mom. Since my old phone isn't connected to the network anymore, that won't be possible. You try. And we finished The Great Gatsby by the time we got to Houston. Dad remarked as we got to the final disc of the audiobook how much he was actually getting into the story. Progress, I suppose.

Once into Texas, it was pretty smooth sailing. But cold. And windy. The forecast had said no more rain after 10 AM, but it drizzled on us until we got to the stadium in Houston. Unfortunately, the rain made our first real stop of the trip a bit of a bust. The San Jacinto Museum in La Porte, TX, is reputedly the tallest freestanding column in North America; I think it's about 5 feet taller than the Washington Monument or something like that. Anyway, the pictures were pretty impressive online, and you can even go up to the top of the column and get reportedly breathtaking photos of the Houston area. Due to the rain, however, the views were not going to be that great, so we opted not to go up. Plus, that costs $6 to do. You can also see the special exhibit or the film about the area's history, both for $6 each. Aside from this, there is a small exhibit for free, and when I asked the lady at the cash desk whether these three things (panorama, paid exhibit, film) were the only things available, she said yes. Liar. The free exhibit wasn't really all that impressive, and dad made sure to let me know that he could've seen a lot of the same stuff back in Georgia. But they had specific relics from the founders of the Republic of Texas, and there was also the obligatory gift shop.

Did I mention that the Museum and column were built in 1939? Did somebody say "Art Deco"? Yes. That was another reason for me to visit.

But once we finished with the column, we made our way to NRG Stadium, the site of the Texas Bowl. Or should I say the "Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl"? No, I shouldn't. We were parked at 4 PM, just after the lots opened. I had pre-paid so we could have a good spot; normally, I would just show up and pay whatever I had to, hopefully finding some place cheap (or free) from a mile away or something. But traveling with a senior citizen requires a few changes to the normal routine.

So at the Texas bowl, in the great state of Texas, on our first day in Texas, it was only fitting that we watched the University of Texas totally dominate the University of Missouri. We were ostensibly pulling for Mizzou over Texas, since Georgia and Mizzou are both in the SEC. But it became clear early in the game that Texas was clearly controlling what was going on; the crowd was overwhelmingly in support of the local team. No surprise. I was hoping to see some good play out of Drew Lock, the quarterback for Mizzou, in what I assume was his last game in college football before he goes pro next year. But the team had other ideas about his likely swan song.

But the evening was very cold until we got into the stadium. They had a fan area before the game, called the TexFest, I believe, with free games, handouts, and even food. And we even got a free printed picture at some Geico booth. But once we went from one end of the TexFest to the other, we decided to head back to the car for two reasons: first, they had given us enough stuff to fill the clear plastic bags they had given us, and second, there was no sign of any kind of warmth. No free gloves, or heated areas, or anything of the sort. So we walked back to the car (thankful for the close parking spot) and sat in the warmth of the car for about 20 minutes before heading back out to face the chill. I had wanted to see the teams enter the stadium, but the Mizzou team showed up early (about 5:43, scheduled for 5:50), without the entire team. Read: without Drew Lock. So that was a bust. Then the Texas team was late (about 6:07, scheduled for 6:00). The stadium supposedly opened at 6, but we actually had to wait for the Texas team to do the walk-in. No thanks; we moved to the entry gates around 6:02, ready for some warmth.

The layout of NRG Stadium is pretty easy to follow. And the width of the main concourse around the field was very nice. The only real issue I had with the lower level was that the guardians of the entry points to each section were absolute dicks. Sorry, you can't go down to the field and take pictures of your team warming up. Sorry, you won't be able to visit any friends in this section if you don't have a ticket for this section, too. Sorry, you can't stand at the top of the section either; you have to stay behind the yellow lines (which were about 2 yards from the section entry). I just wanted a picture of the Texas band, with their snazzy uniforms. So we had to walk around until we found a section lacking a guard, and that was that.

Really, the rest of the lower level was great. The food selections were nice (but not the price), and all soft drinks came with free refills at various freestanding self-service kiosks. That was nifty and unexpected. The team shops were also found throughout the concourse, so you didn't have to go to the main one and hope not to be crushed by the crowds. There were plenty of escalators, and we even got to use the elevator when we were leaving. That saved so much time (and so much of dad's feet). I'm sure it would be a good atmosphere for an NFL game, too.

Tomorrow, we go to San Antonio, so the driving isn't nearly as much as it has been the past 2 days. And we'll do some sightseeing around town before heading to the Alamo Bowl to watch my TCU Horned Frogs take on Stanford.


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