Chris's rant fest travel blog

Bike race @ Rice Uni, Houston

Rice Uni Football Stadium

Brad flying a kite at George W Bush (senior) park

Historic mission control, NASA space centre

X-33 international space station return module - project discontinued due to budget...

NASA space shuttle astronaut training facility pt 1

NASA space shuttle astronaut training facility pt 2

Mercury-redstone rocket

Brad with Mercury-redstone rocket

Me in rocket engine

Moon lander

Me in a space helmet

Brad in a space helmet

Houston sunset

Well, after embibing slightly too much on my last night in Banff (it was $2 spirit night), made the epic journey back to the US. Going through customs I was sweating and pale, trying to prevent myself from being sick. As a result it was no surprise that I encountered some 'special attention', luckily not of the rubber glove variety. Mostly involved being asked repetitively if I had been arrested, where I was staying in the USA, if I had an ongoing ticket, where I worked in NZ (location and employer) etc.

Apparently Houston has been going through a bit of a cold snap, meaning that it was around 14 degrees last night. Seeing as the warmest temperature I have encountered in the last 2.5 months is around 10 degrees, its going to take some getting used to! Luckily Brad's apartment complex has a pool, so I foresee plenty of use for this over the next few days whilst I get used to the change in temperature...

Houston is a city built in tribute to the automobile. Everywhere there are 4-6 lane roads, not counting the 6-10 lane freeways and toll roads. Road crossing on a bike or by foot is hazardous at best, due in part to the lack of recognised crossings and footpaths, and the insane give way rules here. Essentially, cars have the right of way, and will attempt to cut off or 'intercept' any non-motorised traffic that happens to get in their way. Added to this in places is the lack of footpaths, or at least footpaths that are in very poor repair (read: drops of 20-30cm are not uncommon).

All of this seems to encourage further car use, perhaps explaining why Houston is one of America's fattest cities. Additionally, the sheer size of the city (approx 4 million people - US's 4th largest) makes moving around without a car somewhat difficult. The only public transport is a network of buses, which thus far I have found impossible to understand.

So far, attractions in Houston have included attending a Rice University bike race - an annual event for students and Alumni (i.e. Jess) which seems to involve teams riding around a track and drinking in equal portions. Houston also has a number of art galleries and museums which we have preused, most notably one that focuses on modern and surrealist art. Have also been to the Johnson space centre, NASA's main mission control (as in "Houston, we have a problem...") and repository for old space stuff they no longer use. Otherwise, each day I have been spending 2-3 hours on the bike, trying to keep fit for South America. This has been harder than it sounds, because although Houston is dead flat, the temperature and humidity mean that it can be like riding in the inside of a sauna - particularly uncomfortable if you have spent the last 2.5 months at below zero temperatures! Essentially, I have found a network of urban trails (called a Bayou park) that enables me to ride across a part of Houston avoiding the most busy roadways whilst still seeing part of the city.

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