Since we arrived in San Antonio in the middle of the night, all we had to do the next morning was pack our tents, grab breakfast at the “Chuck Wagon Café”, and we were on our way to see the sights. Our first stop was the Alamo. As anyone who attended school in the US knows, the Alamo has a special place in United States history: it was the site of the Battle of the Alamo. In 1836, during the Texas Revolution, a handful of Texians attemptedto fend off an attack by the Mexican Army. Knowing that they faced certain death, a group of about 150 Texians were successful in defending the Alamo for 12 days. On the 13th day, General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo, killing all of the Texian soldiers. Only the women and children were spared, and were sent to spread the news of the horrible fate of the defenders, in hopes of quelling the resistance. Eventually, Texas would become a country for 10 years, after which it became a part of the United States. This is the abridged version of the history of the Alamo; for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Alamo.
Our next stop was the famous San Antonio River Walk, which is a network of sidewalks alongside the San Antonio River. The sidewalks are lined with stores, restaurants, and craft vendors, providing a very pleasant atmosphere. We walked to the Arneson River Theater, which should be familiar for those of you who watched Miss Congeniality (with Sandra Bullock). If I recall correctly, it’s the location of the scene in which Cheryl (from Rhode Island) is being interviewed by the host:
Stan Fields: Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.
Cheryl “Rhode Island”: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.
We decided not to spend too much time at the River Walk, considering that we had to drive to Houston and see the Space Center before it closed for the day. After eating some lunch (General Tso’s with fried rice – our favorite meal to order during the trip), we climbed back into the car and headed east.
While driving to Houston, we did some research and found there wasn’t anything that interesting in the city itself. The Johnson Space Center (aka Space Center Houston) is actually 20 mins south of Houston. This is the location from which all American human space flight is managed, home to the Mission Control Center. When we first entered the museum, personally I was a little disappointed. Most of the facility seemed to be geared towards kids, instead of being a real museum. However we soon found out that there are tram tours of the actual NASA space center, which is probably the best and only reason to come here. The tram takes you around the office and warehouse complex, stopping at the Mission Control Center and a building that holds one of the unused Saturn V rockets. The driving around part was pretty uneventful, since the complex looks like any normal office park. The most exciting part was seeing one of the two Mission Control rooms. Although there was no one working there at the moment, a live feed of the space shuttle launch preparations from Cape Canaveral were being projected. The space shuttle is planned to blast into orbit later this week. Our second and last stop was at the Saturn V rocket. The pictures we took can’t properly show the enormous size of the rocket. It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and still holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload. On our way back to the museum via tram, we passed by cattle grazing, which we thought was a really random sight to see in such a developed area. Apparently NASA donated some land to a local community program and allows them to raise cattle there. By the time we came back, the museum was about to close and so we decided to head towards Galveston Beach to find somewhere to pitch our tents. Galveston is known for a hurricane that destroyed the city in 1900, which is still the deadliest natural disaster in American history.
Upon arriving in Galveston we discovered that both campgrounds were full, and that there weren’t any other camping options available to us in Galveston. After dipping our toes in the Gulf of Mexico, we decided to head east to the Bolivar Peninsula, where we could set up our tents on the beach. In order to get there we had to take a car ferry, which took a long time but was a new experience. We finally arrived at one of the beaches, but took one look around and kept on driving. The beach is open to everyone, and we didn’t feel safe sleeping there, especially since some people were there obviously to party. Also, the sand would have gotten everywhere and be a pain to remove.
Our plan was to drive towards New Orleans and stop at the first campground we saw. Unfortunately, it turned out that all of the ‘campgrounds’ marked on the map where for RV’s only, and so we had to keep driving. We tried to get a motel after midnight, but either they had no vacancies or where too expensive (around $100). Considering that we would only be at the motel for 4 to 5 hours, $100 did not seem like money well spent. After crossing into Louisiana, we finally arrived at a rest stop (with a security patrol!) and attempted to get some rest. As it turned out, this area was probably the mosquito breeding capital of the world. When we got back into the car and shut the doors, we realized there were dozens of mosquitoes in the car with us, and so the bloodshed began. After killing 40 or so, and making a mess on the windows, we could still here a buzzing noise, like something out of a horror film. At this point the decision was made to get out of there as fast as possible. We took off down the highway, with the windows opened in the hopes that the last of the mosquitoes would get sucked out of the car.
Finally, around 6am, we arrived at the New Orleans KOA. Since the office didn’t open until 8am, we went to sleep in the car. Thankfully, even though check-in is after 12pm, the owner was nice enough to let us find a campsite and set up our tents then and there. After being awake for a day and a half, we fell asleep instantly, although the heat and humidity eventually made sleeping in the tents extremely uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such heat and humidity in New Jersey, even the owner said that he can’t get used to it after being there for 7 years…