…I would say I favor a pair of jeans you can wear some boots with. – Jensen Ackles
Texas: blue bonnets, armadillos, country and more cattle than people. Good thing I only spent time in the greater Houston area or I would never have been able to cover so much territory in one weekend. Back in January, Colleen emails to inform me that the Houston Rodeo is a month-long event with livestock, food, vendors, and concerts and I should consider visiting her for a weekend. Quick look at the concert line up and discover that country artist Luke Bryan is performing the weekend that happens to be two days in which congress isn’t in session. Check my flight points to confirm I have enough and boom. Houston is set!
Fast forward to mid-March and Houston here I am. I fly out of the snowy District of Columbia on a Wednesday evening and Colleen picks me up at the airport as we head to the Woodlands, a town north of Houston. She points out some places and things as we drive and settle for a British pub for a late night snack. We eat, catch up, and head home for bed.
I sleep in a little since its vacation but Thursday begins with a sunny, warm welcoming. For lunch we visit Chuy’s, a Mexican restaurant that has real New Mexican Green Chile served in their enchiladas and other dishes. I’m excited! We split a basket of chips, salsa, and queso. For the main entrée, flat green chile enchiladas with a fried egg on top (New Mexican style). And to further show that the world is small, our waitress used to live in Clovis, NM, a town on the New Mexico-Texas border. It was so exciting to meet someone from home. We finished up lunch with sopapillas and honey for dessert.
Completely satisfied with lunch, we head to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. Parking was fairly cheap and right next to the grounds entrance. We enter and decide to head to the vendor building to shop around. I cave and purchase a new cowboy hat (black of course) and we make our way to the other side of the building which houses the livestock. As we are walking through, I turn and see a cow walking right behind Colleen. The handler and me both smile as I say Colleen don’t freak out, to which she turns and sees the cow.
As it gets closer to the concert time, we leave this enormous building and by luck, walk out of the right door. Because right outside that door, was Garth Brooks on stage, announcing he would open and close the 2018 Houston Rodeo lineup. I was twenty feet from Garth Brooks. I’ll be seeing him in April in Las Cruces, so it was wonderful to see him a few weeks early.
After this exciting surprise, we climb the many stairs to our seats to watch the rodeo. Rodeos often begin with a parade of the rodeo court, horses, event staff, wagons, etc. The rodeo itself consists of a few events: steer wrestling, bareback bronc riding, calf roping, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding. The calf roping event had two kids from New Mexico entered and I cheered for them to win. They even have two kid events: a tamer steer wrestling event and sheep riding. Both of which are some of my favorite (and funniest) events.
Luke Bryan went on shortly after the rodeo ended to a sold out venue. His stage was a circle that rotated so everyone could see him. He also provided several large screens to accommodate for those up top in the nose bleeds. Once the concert concluded, we headed to a venue within the fairgrounds, known as the Hideout. It’s a tent that has a beer garden, dance hall, and usually hosts upcoming and new country artists. We were able to see a second concert, Cameron Nelson, and even got to meet him afterwards. I couldn’t have asked for a better day at the rodeo.
While Colleen was at work on Friday, I headed for some shopping at the local stores that I don’t have in DC. Slightly after lunch, she picked me up, we grabbed some food, and headed to the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Sun tanning and afternoon naps by the pool were long overdue. For the evening we decided on the Crawfish Place since crawfish is in season. Four pounds and an order of gator bites (which taste like chicken) later, we are debating on desserts. Colleen went with a homemade beignet and I picked the homemade blackberry pie.
Another beautiful morning welcomed in Saturday. We headed out for wine tasting. The first place was called the Bernhardt Winery. We settled on a sweeter wine and made our way to the lounge chairs for some sun. Bernhardt was what you’d expect from a winery: a beautiful home like setting on a vineyard with lots of outdoor space for guests, summer bbq’s, and year round activities.
After what felt like a nice tan (or the bottle was finally emptied) we made our way to the next winery, Cork This. This place was more urban being on the main street and the place itself was an industrial venue. We were able to sit at the bar that overlooked the pour stations. We settled on a lovely sangria and spent more of the time, chatting with the two ladies that were working that day.
Filled up on wine, the drive was stunning with blue bonnets along every road and the sun beginning to set, allowing for those cooler temperatures to come in. We grab a quick dinner, power napped, and got ready for the final portion of the day: Country Western Dancing. Colleen took me to Big Texas that has something for everybody. There were several bars in the place, one side completely dedicated to pool, spots for sit down eating, areas to hang out with friends and drink, a stage for live music, and most importantly, a circle dance floor with the center being a bar.
Boy was I excited to two-step. And this was one of those places where there was a combination of partner dances and line dances designed for solo dancers. In New Mexico, we have a few line dances but its mostly partner dancing. In Virginia, it’s line dancing. Texas provided us with a bit of both. The music was also a mix of both old western, the 80s and 90s of which I grew up with, and modern country music.
Sunday was my last day in Texas. Houston is home to main great museums including the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC). I felt like a day with NASA was needed to satisfy my History degree. The JSC is very educational for children. Most of the exhibits were kid friendly so we skipped those to see more of the historical and bigger items. To see the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center (MCC), you take a small tram through a tunnel, to go from the JSC to the still government controlled grounds. The tram provides an audio tour while you ride, so you can visualize what the area was like in the 1960s, how it progressed, and where things are currently.
MCC has been a historical landmark since 1985. It was used from the first mission (Gemini missions) until the last (Apollo missions). MCC was eventually moved to a different floor and the room was returned to its original 1960s look. Few interesting facts about the place: the viewing room, first row, third seat from the left is the seat the Queen of England sat in and the flag that is hanging in MCC has been there since its return from the moon.
On the tram ride back to JSC, you pass a memorial garden to astronauts and NASA workers, before making a stop at Missile Park. Inside the hanger, is a missile on display and information on all the missions related to the moon. The last mission is interestingly enough related to New Mexico. One of the astronauts in the Apollo 17 mission, was a man who was born, raised, and eventually became the U.S. Senator of New Mexico. His name was Harrison Schmitt. He brought back a piece of the moon, resigned from NASA to run for the Senate seat, won, and always told people to hold the rock that he got from the moon. This earned him the nickname Moonrock in the U.S. Senate. There are several other exhibits related to his mission throughout the JSC.
The other neat exhibit is the life-size replica of the Space Shuttle Independence. The top-level is the flight deck of the space shuttle with the level below being the shuttle facilities for storage and astronaut living. The bottom level is the tour of the entire plane that carried the space shuttle. We all joked about the baggage fees being a ridiculous argument after we saw the plane carry a shuttle, but the plane is completly jutted except for a few seats for engineers during flight. So the baggage fee might still apply since the space shuttle weight doesn’t have to compete with people, seats, foods, water, and other items in flight.
As the evening became present, it was a quick dinner before Colleen dropped me off at the airport. I loved every second of my quick getaway to Houston and cannot thank Colleen enough for thinking of me as her Rodeo Partner in Crime.
Until the next adventure or the remembrance of one,