What started as a road trip up to Dallas ended up as a bit of a lads weekend, full of assassination sites, cars and guns. Here's a bit of a summary of what we got up to:
KENNEDY ASSASSINATION SITE
The first stop of the weekend was to take in a tour of the old Texas Book Repository (now a museum) and the Grassy Knoll, from which locations President Kennedy was shot. In some ways strange that this is now a major tourist attraction, but I guess it was a major event in world history. The Museum provides a massive amount of information about everything Kennedy and how the assassination took place (in addition to providing information on how Oswald was assassinated and why). It struck me that the 256 yard moving-target shot that killed Kennedy must have been a miracle shot, even from a trained sniper.
Stranger still was the selection of assorted conspiracy weirdos hanging around outside selling autopsy photos to illustrate why the US Government's investigation of event was a cover-up. In addition, there is also a conspiracy museum which provides an alternative explanation for events. Certainly a lot more low budget, and gets somewhat confusing when you leave the main exhibit and head down to the basement for the displays about Roswell and alien abductions...
From the museums we headed over to a massive car show, looking around at all the models that each company was looking to release. For the most part, being Texas, the most popular displays were various trucks, the popularity of which I still find somewhat amusing given that all the roads are multi-lane highways with no mountainous areas or chance of ice / snow.
The other point of interest was the presence of the US Army's PR machine, which seems to be at every major event (e.g. NASCAR itself) trying to convince people that they are not going to get killed if they enlist. The guys at the car show were giving away various pieces of merchanise, the most amusing being fake dog tags that you could get anything you wanted printed on. Lacking the ability to come up with any amusing story, I suggested Brad get "...only steers and queers come from Texas" (from the movie Platoon) inscribed on his. Unfortunately he refused.
Being one of the millions of people that had seen Michael Moore's films, I assumed that finding somewhere that would let you shoot automatic weapons in Texas would be relatively easy. Having not come across anywhere in Houston, we stumbled across an indoor range in Dallas. You could hire a sub-machine gun for target practice purposes with no license of any description. The only thing I had to do was give them my NZ driving license to hold on to.
In the finish we decided against a sub-machine gun (being somewhat over the top), and went for a .45 calibre semi-automatic Glock 21. Having never fired a handgun before, and the largest rifle being a shotgun or a .303 I let Brad go first (he had fired a .22 pistol before). As luck would have it, the controls (i.e. clip release, safety etc) were almost identical to the Glock replica BB gun I had when I was a teenager.
It turned out that a .45 Glock 21 was an absolute hand cannon, complete with a foot of muzzle flash and a kick like that of a small horse. Somewhat amusing that two such complete incompetents could get such a big gun to play with...the targets they had were pretty amusing too (see photo).
I did initially have some foreboding when it was suggested that we go to a NASCAR race - although I do like watching some motorsport, NASCAR, with its oval circuit and over 320 race laps had never really appealed. However, over the inital stages of the race, there was something special about watching the cars top 200 mph and the frequent crashes that ensued. It is fair to say that after 4 hours of racing I had really had enough.
What did not get tired was the different types of spectators in the crowd. Whereas backetball had spectators from a range of ethnicities, NASCAR was almost exclusively the domain of the white trash redneck. That said, considering the large amount of mullets and tattooed fat guys in the crowd, there were a surprising amount of women and children supporting the event.
NASCAR is apparently one of the biggest spectator sports in the US, with 250000 attending the race we went to. This contributes to a massive traffic jam across the city before and after each race making for a relatively long day.
Another thoroughly strange thing about NASCAR was that you could bring alcohol to the event (non-glass beer anyway), but there was only one location in the whole place where you could actually purchase it, and once you had done so, you had to consume your drink in the beer garden rather than returning to your seat with it. So, it turned out to be a somewhat dry day, which after 300 odd laps was quite a challenge.