The visit to Non-Houston: March 7-12, 2010

Dot has developed an extensive internet relationship with many Schip owners via a national private chat line.  We’re making an effort to link up in person with as many participants as possible as we travel, especially the ones she’s never met before.  We had already linked up with folks in Alabama and Georgia.

Debbie and Russ Whitmarsh and their three rescue Schips live in the Houston suburb of League City, Texas, about 30 miles south of downtown.  The campground we selected there was named Space Center, because it’s not more than five miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.   The port of Galveston is about 25 miles south.   And due east at the Gulf shoreline about ten miles away is the Kemah Boardwalk, “where the fun never stops.”  So we decided that the Whitmarshes and nearby attractions were our preferred choice.

We arrived Sunday afternoon, and we were barely set up before Debbie and Russ were over with big hugs and warm welcomes.  We shared stories for a couple of hours and made plans to get half a day of touring with Deb and take her to lunch in return, then to get all of us together at T-Bone Tom’s for Thursday dinner.

In between, we took  in all the sights.  One day saw us at the Kemah Boardwalk for the morning.  It is a fascinating amusement park with dozens of rides, a traditional midway and plenty of games and places to eat.  We toured Galveston extensively and enjoyed the incredible amount of big commercial traffic in and out of the vast harbor – a déjà vu for Dorothy.

We spent most of a day doing NASA.  There is a commercial Space Center Museum next door that handles the tourism element.  Entrance includes a significant number of exhibits and demonstrations geared to a better understanding of the programs. One can participate in a take-off, wander inside a space shuttle (mockup), listen to and witness the history of the shuttle program and feel zero gravity.  But the highlight was a tour through JSC itself by tram.  You don’t get to see a lot of its inner workings, of course, but you do get a bird’s eye view of the control room that anchored not only the Armstrong/Aldrin/Collins trip to the moon but the rescue of Apollo 13.  For those of us who’ve descended from the big iron days, the entire room was powered by five IBM 360-75’s.  Gigabyte was hardly an operative word.  Walking the full length of a Saturn rocket and its payload makes one feel miniature, indeed.  It was just one more of those experiences where we realize that while we’ve seen and learned about them through history books and the media for years, it’s more powerful to be there.

Dinner at T-Bones was a kick.  The restaurant was featured last year on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and they are reputed to move a ton and a half of beef through there every week.   A favored appetizer is armadillo eggs – jalapeno peppers stuffed with mozzarella and coated with pork sausage and bread crumbs before baking.  The next morning, we pulled up stakes – without ever seeing a minute of Houston itself!



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