Houston April 19, 20 and 21
We took the scenic route along the coast and took the free ferry between Port Bolivar and Galveston. Always nice to be on a boat.
We stayed in Clear Lake, which is a suburb of Houston and close to both NASA and Kristine's niece, who we had arranged to meet for dinner the next day.
The day after we arrived, our first stop was The Johnson Space Center. Our main reason for visiting was to see the recently restored historic Mission Control, but we only discovered after we arrived that it was closed because of Covid. Very disappointing.
So off we went on the tour. The first stop was the test lab, where all kinds of equipment is used and tested.
The second stop was a restored Saturn 5 rocket - rather like the one at the Kennedy Space Center, but you can't walk underneath this one. Still very impressive.
Then on to the 747 used to transport the Shuttle, with an early non-flying version of the shuttle stacked on top.
Finally, back to the Visitors Center, with various Apollo exhibits like this mock-up of the Lunar Lander.
Sadly, the Visitors Center and the various displays were mostly about past successes, like the Apollo missions and there was a sense that NASA's best days were behind them.
In the afternoon, we went to see the Kemah Boardwalk - somewhere Kris had read about it. It was very quite and some of the rides and restaurants were closed.
It was on the water, so we could watch boats coming and going and there was a nice breeze.
There were several rides, including a rather dramatic wooden rollercoaster, but we didn't do any of the rides even though they did seem to be operating.
In the evening, we visited Kristine's niece Melinda, her husband Alan and their son Wyatt.
They showed us around their neighborhood, Clear Lake Shores, which is a small city within the Houston Metro area. After a few drinks, Alan and Melinda barbequed and we had a very enjoyable evening catching up.
Next day, we did a day trip to Galveston Island. We had actually driven through part of Galveston on our way in, so we headed for the coast and drove west to see what we could find.
The city of Galveston doesn't have a lot to see, but once out of the city, there are miles and miles of beaches with houses perched high on stilts to avoid the tide when hurricanes hit.
We took our car onto the beach, to get a better view, but we didn't actually drive along the beach.
After a long drive, we went back into Houston for our third night.
San Antonio, April 22nd and 23rd
When we arrived in San Antonio, it was cold and wet, like the last time we were there at Christmas in 1997. However, we braved the weather and went down to The Riverwalk for dinner.
It wasn't warm enough to eat outside, but we had reservations and managed to get a table inside, which was fine.
Next morning, the weather had improved and we headed for The Alamo.
It was much smaller than I remembered and there's really nothing inside. Apparently at the time of the siege, in 1836, when the Battle of The Alamo took place, it didn't even have a roof, because it had never been finished. The modern roof was added in the 1930's. Most of the fighting took place around the chapel, but the Americans never really had a chance as they were outnumbered, so the battle is remembered for their bravery, even though they lost.
We took a walk around the city, which was very quite and all the interesting buildings and museums were closed because of Covid. We finished up back at The Riverwalk, which was quite pleasant now the weather had warmed up. We didn't do the boat ride though. Perhaps we should have....
Ozona, Texas April 24th
Ozona was a stop along the way as it was too far to drive to Carlsbad in one day. However, mostly by chance, along the way, we found ourselves at the ranch of Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) , which neither of us had visited before, although we had been to his Presidential Library in Austin. The park surrounding the ranch is controlled by the Sate of Texas, while the ranch itself is controlled by The National Park Service.
LBJ was born here, lived here most of his life when he wasn't in Washington, died here and is buried here.
A recreation of his LBJ's birthplace, built by LBJ as a guest house in the same location as his original home
The Western White House - LBJ's home and his escape from Washington. Many important guests visited him here.
The view of the river from the Texas White House
The family grave site
The grave's of Lady Bird (left) and LBJ (right)
The next day we drove from Ozona to Carlsbad, through some of the ugliest countryside I have ever seen . Mile after mile of scrub and desert with oil wells and storage tanks every few miles. We were glad to get out of West Texas !