Texas Journal

Saturday, August 23rd, 1997 - Houston, Texas

I am very tired. I definitely need a vacation, though I don't know how much relaxation I will be doing.

It is August once again, and I am once again off to the World Science Fiction Convention to be held this year in San Antonio, Texas. Now, certainly the area is interesting but not somewhere I really wanted to visit for any reason. I only found out after booking my flight that the Alamo took place there.

I had a rather long trip to get here though. What complicated matters is that work has me on contract in Calgary, about a two hour flight from my home in Winnipeg. Calgary is a very nice city and, in reference to this trip, could be called the Texas of the north. I don't know if I would ever want to live there, it still suffers from the same drawbacks that other Canadian Prairie provinces have for me and that is it's isolation. The city itself is fine but there is not much close by. Calgary is a bit better than Winnipeg in that it is very close to the Rocky Mountains and one of my favourite passtimes (whenever I get an oportunity), downhill skiing. Calgary is a very young city and this is obvious when you look around.

People are extremely friendly and very relaxed, even more so than Winnipeg. In Winnipeg people always seem to be worried or complaining about something, in Calgary everyone is pretty much content. Some people have laughed when a few of us “ex” Winnipegers “current” Calgarians describe the difference. It sounds funny, I admit, but it is true.

It is even easier to live in Calgary for me because, as it is a work contract, they are paying for many of my expenses, including the apartment (condo) and transportation. I am very lucky in this respect, not many people can claim such expenses.

I left Calgary after only working half a day and caught a plane to Winnipeg. I met my mother and her husband at the airport. They were living in Ontario until recently when they came to Winnipeg to assist in the Red River Flood relief efforts. It is very fortunate that they can help and they seem to be enjoying the work. It is also very nice to have mother in town, I have always talked to her more than any other member of the family, or anyone else for that matter.

I visited a friend later that night and ended up talking with him until very late. The next morning I had to be up at 5 o'clock but it was the last time I would be talking with him for quite some time, at least in person. He is a very interesting person but many people believe he would be better suited in the computer industry instead of washing dishes. He has many years of computer experience now, including running a computer bulletin board system and assisting the organization I volunteer for, Blue Sky, which provides free access to community information via a computer network.

The next morning, I grudgingly tore myself out of bed and we made our way to the airport. The worse part of the whole trip (after the short amount of sleep) was the number of stops. I stopped in both Minneapolis (for 3 hours) and Memphis (for 1 hour). I have been to Minneapolis before, at least, their airport. I was surprised to hear that the Mall of America is so close by, I am hoping to visit that during my return trip (a stopover of 2 1/2 hours). I had a little time to visit the airport so I did make it up to the observation deck (which I miss at the Winnipeg airport), it was quite a view. The airport is normally very busy and today was certainly no exception. There is also a fair amount of military traffic as a base is very close by.

After finding some breakfast, I boarded my second flight of the day to Memphis. I was quite pleased to see the Mississippi for the first time. I have always wanted to see it, I don't know why. It was startling to see a tanker on the river looking like a toothpick in a bathtub of water. The Red and Mississippi seem to have much in common, they are both large for their areas and they are both brown since they move so fast (bringing up dirt from the bottom of the river). The mighty Mississippi fascinates me in that it crosses essentially the whole of the United States and many large ocean ships use it as a highway. Today we followed it from Minneapolis to Memphis.

Strange in Mephis, I felt closer to the “king” then ever before (literally). “For reasons I cannot explain, some part of me wants to visit Graceland, Graceland, Graceland Tennessee” (Paul Simon). Only thing I can think of there that I would want to visit, I was going to pick up some tourist information, like I did in Minneapolis but did not get the opportunity.

San Antonio is a very small city, quite surprising to me. It reminds me much of Winnipeg, ok, a bit larger, but the same “feel”. Mind you, I essentially only picked up a car and drove through the city on the expressway, but from what I saw…

I had decided to drive immediately to Houston, about 3 hours away, to visit NASA here in Houston, I figured that I would want to do that long drive first while I still had the energy and still leave time for San Antonio later this week. It is good that I have another nice car to drive, I remembered to bring audio tapes this time so I have something to listen to, especially when driving alone for such distances.

The drive I found VERY much like driving in Manitoba. There were rolling hills but the sky was just as large and the scenery just as bleak. There seem to be more trees here but it is a lot drier. When I arrived in San Antonio and it was 95 degrees. It is supposed to stay that way for a few days. As we arrived a thunderstorm was just moving in, but that cleared fairly quickly. Evidently it is supposed to be extremely dry here (like Winnipeg).

It was quite surprising to see the similarities while driving. I don't know what I really expected. I really did not know anything about the scenery here, I guess.

I arrived in Houston just after dark, and had problems finding a place to stay. I decided since my main reason to be here was to visit NASA, I should try to stay as close as possible. The space center is about 25 miles south of Houston and unfortunately (my luck) this weekend is also a big balloon show here, so most hotels were booked completely (except for the expensive rooms). I ended up in this hotel a ways south of NASA and fairly expensive. The rates are unbelievable. Thank goodness this is only once a year.

I have been busy thinking of things to do over the next few days. I have newspapers from both Houston and San Antonio, trying to track down current events and see what is possible.

⇒ Continue to Sunday, August 24th, 1997 - Galveston, Texas (Coast of Gulf of Mexico)