Houston Road Trip 2014 – July 4th weekend

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It’s Saturday night … hard to believe tomorrow morning we leave Houston already and start the trek back home. But our Fourth of July weekend in Texas was an eventful and fun one …

We woke up a little late on Friday morning after our late arrival the night before. After freshening up we started driving south towards Galveston with plans to stop at Ooh La La Crepes in Alvin for breakfast. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to call ahead and forgot it was July 4th and found it closed when we arrived. I had been joking about getting donuts (mmmm, donuts) ever since seeing the first Shipley Do-Nuts shop on our drive into Houston and lo and behold down the street from Ooh La La was a Shipley’s. So we stopped for donuts and kolaches before getting back onto I-45 south towards Galveston.

When we finally got onto the island we were met with more traffic and crowds … again, the holiday weekend somehow had somehow slipped our mind. After finally finding a place to park we spent some time walking up and down Seawall Boulevard near the historic Pleasure Pier. The Pier looked like fun, but unfortunately you had to pay to get in (we thought maybe it would be a per-ride charge, not general admission) and we weren’t planning on staying much longer. It was really hot and people were obviously coming to the beach to camp out for the day before the evening’s fireworks display. After cooling off with some ice cream at a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop we made the hot walk back to the car.

Heading north again on I-45, we stopped at our second planned attraction: Space Center Houston. Living in Florida I’ve been to KSC (and even saw a few shuttle launches back in the day) but it was cool to see the mission control side of things (including the room where they will be running the future Orion missions). The Saturn V rocket is something to see in person and we got to touch a moon rock and a meteorite from Mars. Again, since it was a holiday, the tram tour of Johnson Space Center was a little empty (no one was working) but the overall experience was a cool one.

It was getting late in the day so we headed back to our hotel, driving through some heavy rains which didn’t make for a good outlook for fireworks. The plan was to take the light rail from the stop in front of our hotel up a little ways to the museum district, specifically to Hermann Park and the Miller Outdoor Theater where there was going to be a concert (complete with the “1812 Overture” and cannons) before the fireworks display. With a picnic blanket and cooler packed with dinner in tow, we went down to the train stop in a light misting. Right after purchasing our tickets, however, a transit guard told us the line was shut down due to high water covering the tracks further south. Instead, he said, we could take the bus, using our tickets. We waited for the bus for about 15 minutes, with the rain steadily increasing, before giving up and going back to our hotel room … no bus in sight. We decided to risk our late start and try to drive, just in case the rain did let up. After being stuck in more holiday traffic, we managed to find a parking garage just a few blocks from the park. By now the rain had actually stopped so we were optimistic, but when we finally got to the theater we found it packed (of course). There was plenty of open room to spread out our blanket and eat dinner on the hill, just not in view (or hearing) of the concert. The rain started again and people had started leaving, giving up on the fireworks. We decided to call it quits as well, but on our walk back to the garage, the show started! We ended up watching them on the street, but at least a) we saw fireworks on July 4th and b) we had a head start back to the garage and beat out all the traffic.

Saturday morning we drove back to Hermann Park (drier and sunnier this time) to visit the Houston Zoo. We made it in time to see the morning elephant baths, which delighted my daughter. For lunch we drove downtown to check out the Bombay Pizza Co. (which my wife found via her Food Network on the Road app). Downtown Houston is pretty dead on a Saturday (or, at least, a Saturday on a holiday weekend) but this place was open and the Indian-themed pizza was pretty good.

More rain was on its way as we drove west to the Galleria Mall. It really started coming down just as we got into the labyrinthine underground parking garage, and it took us a while, wandering around this subterranean maze, to finally find a parking spot. Inside the mall, my daughter marveled at a leak in the arching glass room that was allowing water to stream down four levels to the skating ring below. You’d think a high-end mall like that would have less leaks in the roof. With the rain forecast to continue most of the afternoon, we left the Galleria without actually buying anything (although there was a Microsoft store and Telsa dealership!) and drove further west to the Memorial City Mall, specifically for the American Girl store where my daughter did actually purchase something.

By now it was nearing dinner time. It was our second day in Texas and I still hadn’t had any barbecue. Despite the pleas of my vegetarian daughter, we went to Rudy’s BBQ for brisket, cole slaw, and other BBQ fixins. On our way back to our hotel we made another restaurant stop, this time at Radical Eats to get a bunch of (frozen) vegetarian tamales to take back to north Florida with us tomorrow. Back at the hotel, we let our daughter spend some time in the pool before turning in for the night.

Tomorrow, we start the drive back home …

Our roadside attractions over the past two days:

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