Wed 16 May 2012 - Thu 17 May 2012 90 °F
All right, Texas, although I am this moment crossing the Continental divide, I must go back and blog about you before the memories fade.
We covered Texas in two days, which is pretty amazing given its size. After seeing Kermit Ruffins play in New Orleans, we booked as fast as we could to crash at the Walmart in Beaumont at about 1AM. I was starving when we pulled in, so grabbed a burger at a Jack in the Box, where I could understand about one in three words the server said to me. Hello, Texas.
The next morning, we kept going on Highway I-10 into Houston to visit the Johnson Space Center, as in "Houston, we have a problem." I think the Kennedy Space Center has it over the Houston one; they also have a Saturn V, but they bus people to it like cattle in cheesy tourist trams and don't give them the tear-jerking launch movie beforehand. (I do like the fact I've seen two out of three of the Saturn V rockets in existence now. Guess I'll have to get myself to the Smithsonian later this summer. Yes, I haven't visited the Smithsonian since 1994, even though I live relatively nearby.) Houston also has some neat interactive displays, such as a walk-in model of a shuttle (Vale, Space Shuttle Program) and a flight sim for landing the shuttle (which I caned even on the most difficult level, ha!), and you get to see the actual Mission Control room used in the 1960's.
We left Houston around 3PM to get to Lancaster, just south of Dallas, in time for dinner with my friend Julie and her family. Julie was a Texan exhange student majoring in marine biology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney around 1998 and had the good (mis)fortune to live in a five-bedroom apartment whose occupants included me, Dr Yobbo and my BFF Jason. Those were some super wild and crazy times, fueled largely by disgusting amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, and drama. But Julie was an awesome flatmate, and we connected years later on Facebook (of course), so when she offered up a place to stay on the roadtrop, along with an oversized good dose of southern cooking and hospitality, I jumped at the chance.
Among the culinary offerings were chicken-fried venison, bason-wrapped venison, squashes and new potatoes fresh from the garden, freshly home-made biscuits, home-made plum jelly, fried okra (Matt usually hates okra, and even he loved it), pickled banana peppers ... it was a FEAST. I haven't eaten so well in I don't even know how long. Julie's family's house was also very impressive, and our guest room was practically palatial. And of course, her family were so lovely, we felt waited on every second.
After a good night's rest (I actually slept in, woah), Julie loaded us into an SUV and gave us a tour of downtown Dallas, including, of course, the spot where Kennedy was assassinated and the nearby grassy knoll and book depository. I've lived in America long enough, now, to understand and even tap into some of the sadness and fascination associated with JFK's murder, so it wasn't just a trivial photo op for me.
We had to leave Dallas after lunch (some of the most delicious tacos I've ever eaten from a truck stop called Fuel City) to head to Dinosaur Valley State Park (we ended up mostly bypassing nearby Dinosaur World, which looked super lame) for the heart-pounding, squee-inducing experience of treading in actual dinosaur footprints, preserved by a river for tens of millions of years.
Note to self: it is extremely difficult to stop stepping in dinosaur footprints once you start. We had to drag ourselves out of the park, knowing that we had a helluva drive ahead of us to Carlsbad, New Mexico. When it was my turn to drive, I could barely keep my eyes open, and had to wake Matt and ask him to drive the last twenty miles.