Day 2, Houston Friday 7th
Itís 4am. I canít sleep. Curses to those who invented jet lag.
Today the team is headed to the Houston Space Centre.
The alarm goes off at 6:45 although Richard, my roomie, and I didnít need it.
By the way, hereís a picture of our room. My bed is the tidy one.
And hereís the view from the window, thatís the city centre in the distance.
We headed down to the dining room to sample our first real American breakfast, Ye ha.
I was expecting a full cooked meal complete with bacon, sausages, eggs over easy (what is that, eggs over easy, does that mean they are easy eggs, or perhaps the bacon is easy and the eggs are over them?), and I wasnít disappointed. Wisely I chose the cereal and fruit, with a grapefruit juice, pot of yoghurt, and a large mug of coffee. What the hey I say, it all ends up in the same place. Some of the kids did the same, but some of them didnít as they donít have to worry about weight divisions. Great food, but better than that the service is something to experience. I had no sooner finished my juice than the waiter was at my elbow ready with more. It was kind of like he kept appearing by magic, and not just me, they were equally as courteous with the kids as well as the adults.
Following breakfast we boarded a bus and headed down the highway for our trip to the space centre. What a trip, and quite an eye opener. The Americans are very big on advertising, obvious statement I know, but here are a few of the signs we saw. No editing has been done, you are reading them as we did.
Saturn Sky Roadster - This was a new car sign. What a great name for a car!
Houston Shoe Hospital - Sounds obvious, but we werenít really sure either
Bald Furniture - We think this was the name of the family business, but then againÖ
Texas Pain Solutions - WellÖthis could go both ways really
Fancy Nail Spa - Yep, fingernails, good guess
Cock Eyed Seagull - Not sure with this one, could be an animal shelter, but probably a pub
Mom Alone Mexican Grill - Ok, sure itís a restaurant, but we were just not sure what their cliental would be like.
And my personal favoriteÖ
"Hurricane season is here, keep gas tank full."
Öneeds no explanation.
Arriving at NASA, I wasnít sure what to expect to be honest. But this place was amazing, and I mean really amazing. Going through the door we were greeted by Bob, the nicest guy in the world bar none. The team gathered round and listened to him, then headed off in different directions to look at lots of rockets and well, NASA stuff. They also had lots of kids stuff, rides, gift shops, cafeterias, and the place was chocker full of Americans, each trying to beat the previous level of niceness towards us. Below are some of the pics I took of the really cool stuff. Ladies, just skip on ahead.
The space shuttle flight deck
Shuttle and engine
After buying the obligatory souvenirs ( Wonít say what they were as the family is reading and I have to have some surprises when I get back), the team went on a tour to the actual mission control centre used in all the Apollo launches. Before boarding the tram tour we had another security check by yet another gun wielding security guard. We were old hands by now and just kept smiling and answering questions about where we were from, what we were doing etc.
The tour was just like the movies and the team loved it (even the girls). On way back to the space centre, we stopped off at a really large shed, and on walking inside we found one of the original Saturn 5 rockets that was used in the moon missions. This thing is a really really very big rocket, see pictures below.
Brad & Thomas standing at the back of the rocketís stage 1
The really big Saturn 5
Candice, posing next to the second stage
The rocket is being restored, so it was all covered in plastic, and really the pictures donít give the impression of size at all. This was the highlight of the Nasa tour for the team so far, without doubt. But all that was about to changeÖread on gentle reader.
In the centre they had a game called super hero, or something like it. Anyway, you entered this small circle with three pillars evenly spaced around you, covered in 3 levels of foam. The attendant would start the game and you had to touch the lights as they flashed on each pillar, on the different panels. As you can imagine, this is very close to sparring 3 people at once, having to turn and kick or punch. I mean, could they have made a better game for the team if they tried. We couldnít get them out of the ring! Young Mr Black had the high score, well done that man. The best part about the whole thing was the game attendant. She just couldnít believe the team members were so good at the game first time, by far the best ever!
Thomas, having a go. Check out the attendantís face, she is counting the hits which just kept coming
Alecia having a turnÖor three I think it was
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, Alisaís bag arrived overnight in time for breakfast, boy was she pleased to see it.
The team had a training session in the afternoon, part of heat conditioning I think. It has to be 35 degrees here at least. The ladies and myself headed to town in 2 taxiís to what has to be the worlds biggest shopping mall. Itís so big it has itís own ice skating rink.
Not a great picture I know. I am standing on the third level of shops in just one small part of the mall.
On the way in we had this taxi driver who, to be honest, was starting to scare us a little. He picked us up and was on his cell phone the whole time. He was talking about all sorts of weird things, and in the end we started to agree quietly amongst ourselves he was talking to some kind of psychologist about the road rage problems he had been having! Just as we were about to start getting really worried, he started talking to the person on the other end of the phone about the noisy passengers in his taxi. Yep, you could have heard a pin drop in the cab. Then he abruptly hung up, and turned to us to smile, apologise for his rudeness, and to explain that his lawyer had called him. Itís pretty funny now, but at the timeÖok it was funny at the time too.
After a mammoth shopping effort by the ladies, we headed outside for a cab to arrive. Then this huge Cadillac pulled up, with two of the biggest African Americans getting out, complete with radioís, suits, and opening the door for this very cool dude who was wearing a fedora (children, ask your parents what this is) and a zoot suit. Brilliant! He then headed into a cheesecake shop followed by his bodyguards. I can only imagine that either cheesecakes are very expensive in the States or his wife/partner/mistress had a craving for cheesecake real bad.
Back at the Hotel, everyone prepared themselves for dinner, which was had at this very cool American Steakhouse. Yes, finally, American steak, chips, salads, and an atmosphere that only a taxidermist could love. Imagine a room filled with people, all Americans, with 3 tables of Kiwiís at the beginning. The roof is high and the room about 30 metres each side. All along the walls are stuffed animal heads, including a bison, a wolf, 2 squirrels, a texas longhorn, a moose, a deer, and hundreds of old mining and cattle signs. My favourite this time, a sign that hung above the team stating "Beware of pickpockets and loose woman", I kid you not.
Having said that, it was the best steak meal I have ever had, and that goes double from everyone I asked. Great service, great food, great company, and an audience of rodents, mammals, and other small furry woodland creatures. What more can you ask for. Oh yes, they also had both kinds of music, country, and western (I know, an oldy, but a goodyÖat least itís out of the way now!)
Afterwards we all went outside to have a go on the amusement rides, some of the team riding on the machine that throws you upside down about 40 metres in the air. (Yep, both before and after their dinners. I stood well back the second time.) The amusement park was hot and very humid, but lots of fun.
Itís now 12:40 am and I am off to post this, then to bed. Tomorrow the team is training and the parents have a choice of places to visit.