Monday, July 26, 2010

Texas: Houston, we have a problem

Houston may be able to launch a mission to the moon and create a pen that can write upside down, but they can't build an easy to use motorway system.

The endlessly wide city is connected by weaving maze of on-ramps, off-ramps, loops and split roads filled with insane Texan drivers. If you don't plan on visiting the downtown area I'd recommend staying just south of the city, close to two of the main Houston attractions; NASA and Galveston Island.

NASA is spread over several blocks like its own suburb and people can catch a glimpse of this famous world at the NASA Visitors’ Centre.

The Centre is part serious museum, part kids’ play land. Children run wild on rides while grown ups can take in tours and talks about NASA and its history and future space exploration.

First up we took a tour to the original Mission Control where teams controlled the Apollo 11 moon landing. Mission Control is right in the middle of the working NASA centre and to get there a guide takes you in a tram across several streets.

For the retro control centre scientists, engineers and astronauts managed to land a team on the moon with less computer technology than the average mobile phone has today.

Next we stopped by a hanger filled with the Apollo spaceship used for all the Apollo missions.

Back at the visitors’ centre more space artifacts are on display including the Gemini Space Capsule and a large collection of moon rocks.

From outer space the next day we journeyed further south to Galveston Island.

Connected to the mainland by the large freeway bridge Galveston is a sunny beach escape from the madness of Houston.

The island is a mix of lazy beachfront, high-rise waterfronts and historic inland homes and we spent the day sweating our way up and down the sand.

Parts of the island are still feeling the effects of 2008’s Hurricane Ike with a number of businesses, homes and hotels boarded up and awaiting repairs.

It wasn’t long until it was time to head to Scout Bar to see Nick’s all time favourite band - Filter.

Scout Bar is the Houston equivalent of Auckland’s King’s Arms and the signed guitars on the walls show that many famous bands have played at the bar.

After three pretty good up and coming bands, Filter took the stage and put on a strong show for the crowd.

The only down side to a great evening was the amount of people smoking inside - I don't know how you can sing with all the smoke in the room.

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