- Where We Started: Ennis, Tex.
- Where We Ended: Galveston, Tex.
- Miles Driven: 321 (4,728 total)
- New States: None
- Total States: 13 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
After spending a few days exploring the celebrity B-list in Branson and snapping photos of outsized religious objects, it was back to sober, serious matters on Wednesday, as our major stop was the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex. Now, before you worry that we're getting all serious on you, we did drive past a home in Houston made largely out of beer cans. But we'll get to that later.
To get to the the Bush library, located on the campus of Texas A&M, one first has to drive past all of Texas A&M's athletic facilities, which takes about three hours. But, once we arrived, we found an attractive, classic-style building, located on a small lake on a quiet part of campus.
The George Bush Presidential Library, in College Station, Tex. (Photo by Jim)
The library's layout is pretty intuitive, which is a weakness of some other presidential libraries. You may recall that I ended up going through the Jimmy Carter Library in a Benjamin Button format, starting with his presidency and working my way back to his birth. This library is laid out to force you through it in a particular order, which helps if you -- like me -- prefer your history chronologically.
In terms of the content of the museum, it's pretty strong. From a technical standpoint, it's not as cutting edge as the Clinton Library, but there were a surprising amount of video monitors and a cool flight simulator for landing on an aircraft carrier (dating back to Bush's days in the Navy). I crashed three times. As usual, the less-stellar parts of the Bush presidency are pretty much ignored; in fact, there's even a small display that talks about how terrific a vice president Dan Quayle was, with no mention of the controversies and that marked his tenure. The library is also very heavy on Bush the Man, and doesn't have quite as much information about Bush the President as I would have liked. But the Gulf War displays are excellent, and overall, I'd put it on par with the Clinton, Johnson and Reagan libraries.
One thing we learned on this visit: Behind the Bush Library is a small grave site, where Bush's sister daughter, Robin -- who, in 1953, died at 3 of leukemia -- is buried, and where George and Barbara Bush will be buried upon their deaths.
Now, there was one oddity to report. The library -- like most presidential museums -- is almost always hosting an exhibit that's not necessarily related to the president the museum honors. The Bush Library was hosting a NASA exhibit that was quite interesting. But, as we were completing our visit, we found ourselves walking through a display featuring a space creatures from movies. I think this was related to the NASA exhibit, but I'm not positive. Nonetheless, in two minutes, we'd gone from Schwarzkopf to Boba Fett.
The Muppets in Space, also now appearing at the Bush Library.
This exhibit also featured a photo of William Shatner with George and Barbara Bush. I mean, what's next, a letter to President Clinton from Tony Danza?
By the way, in case you're wondering, the George W. Bush Presidential Library will be located at Southern Methodist University. There's no projected opening date at this point.
Oh, and what would any stop on the FHMA tour be without Joan getting a photo of someone fishing.
From College Station, it was a 90-minute drive to Houston, where we made a beeline to the Beer Can House, since we wanted to get a photo before it got dark. We discussed how the people who live in the relatively nice neighborhood where this home sits must absolutely despise it. Not only is it, shall we way, an odd structure, but it also is a place where annoying tourists stop all the time to get their picture taken.
We then shot over to gorgeous Memorial Park to give the dogs a walk, and despite the sporadic rainfall occurring at the time, we were stunned how many people were out jogging, walking or riding bikes in the park. The traffic on the pathways made Central Park look rural.
After dinner, we battled a driving rainstorm in order to make it to Galveston, where we wanted to start today's busy day.
- Correction: In my haste to post yesterday, I did indeed mis-identify the disembodied hand from "The Addams Family." The hand was Thing, and the hairball was actually Cousin Itt. Management regrets the error. This is what happens when you ask Fred for material.
- At the hotel in Galveston, Joan took the dogs for a walk while I wrote. Upon her return, she was annoyed to find out the key to her room didn't work anymore. She knocked on the door so I'd let her in, but I didn't respond. A sympathetic housekeeper happened by and let her in, and Joan -- undoubtedly ready to confront me for my non-response -- strode briskly into the room of Roger and Martha Bates from Baton Rouge. OK, I made up the names, but you get the point: Not our room. She was on the wrong floor. Before she left, however, she did do their laundry for them.
- Now, Joan sometimes worries that I make her out to be simple-minded. Yes, I do poke fun; that's the advantage of having the virtual pen. But we all have our blind spots. As we were pulling up to a tollbooth on the Indian Nation Turnpike in Oklahoma a few days ago, the toll rates were not broken out by car or truck, as they usually are. The price was per axle. I thought about it, turned to Joan and said, "You know, I have no idea how many axles we have." Alas, the mechanics of a car as a huge blind spot for me. Unless you need your wiper fluid filled. I'm awesome at that. Let's just call this incident my axle folly.
- We have seen three near-accidents in two days, which has me a bit unnerved.
- On Tuesday, a car trying to get right to exit decided to cut off an 18-wheeler with almost no space. The truck jammed on the brakes, wobbled a little, but held the road. We were in the left lane, about 100 yards back and would have been right in the middle of any accident.
- On Wednesday, an 18-wheeler took his eyes off the road and didn't see that the car in front of him was making a right, so he had to swerve into the left lane to avoid the car, and the entire truck listed dangerously and almost jackknifed. I was coming from the other direction, but because it was a four-lane divided highway, would probably not have been affected.
- As we entered Galveston, we waited at a long traffic light next to another car going our direction. As the light turned green, the guy to my left started to shoot out into the intersection, only to see a young kid on a bike wearing headphones cruise casually through the intersection. The guy to the left had to swerve to avoid hitting him, and Joan yelled to me to watch out, and I jammed on the brakes. This idiot kept riding, listening to his tunes, and probably still doesn't know how close he came to becoming road kill.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Big Wave," by Pearl Jam. I don't know this song, largely because I never really got into the album its on, "Pearl Jam." I loved "Ten," "Vs." and "Vitalogy," but lost interest in anything they did after that. One exception: Eddie Vedder did some really cool work with the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fetah Ali Khan on the soundtrack for "Dead Man Walking," which also has a great title song from another artist you may have heard of: Bruce Springsteen.
- We have about a week in Texas, so we didn't feel a need to plow through lots of Texas artists in one day. So we started with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin. If you're not a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan, buy the album "Texas Flood" and download SRV's version of Hendrix's "LIttle Wing." Amazing.
- Unrelated music note: I just saw on TV that Spandau Ballet is getting back together. Do we, as music fans, have any legal remedy to challenge this?
- Lunch: Chili's, Ennis, Tex.: In a rush, we blew through lunch here, and were perfectly satisfied. Joan went for a shrimp salad (with no cheese, and dressing on the side, she helpfully adds). Jim was victim of sloppy ordering. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, not realizing there were two on the menu. Instead of asking a follow-up question, the server took one look at me and figured I meant the one with bacon and cheese and a side of fries, and not the one without toppings with a side of rice. I was so angry when the wrong meal arrived, I chowed it down. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Captain Benny's Half Shell Oyster Bar, Houston, Tex.: Now, let me start by saying I find seafood restaurants that take the nautical theme too far quite annoying. So when we went to this Roadfood-recommended joint, and saw that the entire restaurant was in the shape of a ship and the kids menu was labeled "Wee Lads," I thought, "Aaaaaargh." But, once we got past that, everything else was fabulous. Their famous seafood gumbo lived up to the hype, and the oysters and steamed shrimp came with limes, which was a great touch. Additionally, the service was great. In fact, after watching me pound down sodas for a little while, the server brought over an extra soda when I was only half done with the one I had, calling it the "soda-in-waiting." I love that. Jim Nutrition Rating: 3 stars (out of 5). We started with oysters and steamed shrimp, so were looking good. But Joan -- yes, Joan -- pushed for some fried shrimp, so she suggested we get six. Jim -- yes, Jim -- then took it upon himself to order nine instead. OK, that last part probably didn't surprise you. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5). One of our faves so far this trip.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites, Galveston, Tex.: We hit La Quinta for the first time on this trip -- and maybe ever -- since we wanted to stay on the water in Galveston, and since we were struggling to find a dog-friendly hotel. Despite having done almost all our laundry on Tuesday, Joan couldn't resist doing another load after she found out there was guest laundry here. I am sure that someday soon, I am going to find her out in a hotel parking lot, throwing our clothes on the ground and stepping on them, just so she'll have an excuse to wash them. The good news: In her laundering fervor, she still has not accidentally washed Fred or Hank. Our room was big and clean, and had a water view if you didn't mind craning your neck pretty significantly. Hotel rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: Galveston, the Gulf coast of Texas to to Austin, Tex.
- Tomorrow: Austin, San Antonio and then west.
- The Day After Tomorrow: Big Bend National Park.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO