Thursday, May 9, 2013

Touring Houston with an old friend

May 2-4, 2013
Houston, Texas
Spring Creek Park

The lead writer of this blog suggested that I should pinch hit for a half inning and share some of the Houston experience since I requested that we visit this city en route to the West Coast. Our main reason for stopping in Houston was to spend time with one of my best friends and roommate from college. We both graduated in the late sixties from the U of Idaho, and kept in contact for awhile since we both lived on the West Coast. In 1975, I was best man at Jim’s wedding to his beautiful wife, Simora. He was transferred to Houston by Exxon and here they established their family roots. We lost contact with each other until March of this year when, with the help Facebook, we made reconnected. I wasted no time calling him when he sent me his phone number and immediately lost it emotionally when I heard his voice talking to me. Our appearance may change over the years but our voice is what ties us to the years we spent sharing experiences even if there are gaps of time. We visited on the phone for about 15 minutes and made plans to get together after we set up in the campground in Houston. To say the least, the reunion was epic. I gave and received the best bear hug welcome in some time. It was a great evening of reminiscing, filling in the gaps of time as our lives changed, and laughing at the memories of past experiences many, many times.

The next day Jim was our official tour guide of Houston and it was better than any tour bus program. We covered a lot of ground, saw beautiful architecture in the two downtown areas of Houston, traveled the beltline that circles Houston, learned and viewed how the different communities of Houston were designed and developed. Jim is a wealth of information about the city and its history. After a great day checking out the area, we joined Jim and Simora for a delicious dinner at Pappacito’s Cantina, a fun Mexican restaurant with great Tex-Mex style food.

The next day Jim was my tour guide because I wanted to see the Johnson Space Center which was my  second reason to visit Houston. Simora had been here several times and Pamela was not all that interested so they went off for pedicures and shopping while Jim and I toured the Space Center. A number of years ago, I visited the Kennedy Space Center and was amazed at the many space artifacts I saw. It was fascinating to learn about what was involved in launching a spacecraft and sending man outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Johnson Space Center is mission control-- the command center for monitoring space flight (successful, near fatal, and tragic) and communicating with the astronauts flying to outer space, the moon, and currently the international space station. We visited the building that houses the Saturn V rocket and spacecraft, designed for moon mission. The size of each piece was amazing and it’s hard to imagine the science that went into their design and functionality in getting man to the moon.  The photo pictured below is stage one of the Saturn V rocket. Look how small the people are in the bottom right-hand corner (not a wide angle lens).

The rocket pictured below is stage three of the five stage rocket that was designed for mission seventeen to the moon—which never was used.

The brown area at the top is where the astronauts are housed. It is surprisingly small compared to the size of the rockets themselves.

The highlight of the tour was hearing firsthand from Dr. Leroy Chiao, the Commander and NASA Science Officer of the 10th mission to the International Space Station. Chiao, one of the first Chinese-American mission commanders, spent six and a half months in the space station with two Russian cosmonauts. He explained that he had a year and a half to speak Russian fluently for that mission as all the training was in Russian and he had to be able to communicate with his Russian counterparts. His talk was made even more interesting by the still photos and video he shared showing what life was like in the space station. This part of the tour was great for Jim too as he has taken lots of out-of-town guests here, but it was the first time he caught an guest astronaut presentation.  It was a memorable day to spend with Jim.

On the last day of our time in Houston, we invited Jim and Simora to our campsite to share a dinner prepared by Chef Pamela . The main course was one of our favorite meals: pine nut encrusted halibut with mango salsa, curried rice, and a citrus avocado salad. We enjoyed getting to treat our guests after all the generosity they showed us while we were here, plus we wanted to give them a taste of life in our motorhome. The hardest part of this visit arrived a few hours later when we had to say good-bye. The good part is Jim and I now have multiple ways to stay in touch and we will be back in Houston next year to spend time together again on our travels west.


  1. How terrific to reconnect with your college roommate! It's always great to have a local tour guide. I noticed that most of the visitors at Johnson Space Center were Q-Tips!!!

    Pam, that dinner sounded wonderful...right up my alley!

    1. Actually this is a big field trip spot for school students from elementary thru high school. Many in attendance on this day.

  2. That's so wonderful that you got to see your college roomie again...You did a great job expressing the emotions felt at reconnecting with an old friend. Very heartwarming....We loved the space center tour when we were there but we didn't get to hear an astronaut!

  3. Sounds like a meeting between blogging RVers ... you just slid into resuming a friendship from years ago.

  4. RVing opens all kind of reconnection possibilities!!Great that you got a chance to meet up with your roommate from yesteryear. Looking forward to visiting the space center.

  5. What a nice visit! It's just so neat how the years you have not been in touch just disappear and your friendship carries on like it was yesterday you saw each other.

    Isn't it great to have your own personal tour guide? And what an awesome sounding dinner you served!

  6. My step-daughter and family live but a few miles from the Space Center there in Clear Lake. In all these years we have not visited it. Someday....

    I would love to have someone DRIVE us around the Houston area. Isn't the traffic horrendous? Hate it especially when pulling our home behind us.

    Nice reunion there.

  7. Facebook has been responsible for yet another reacquaintance! A great reunion! Houston... we lived there for a short time and made lasting friendships. Someone told me "it's a great place to live but you wouldn't want to visit there." I'm sure you disagree. Thanks for the post, Vic.

  8. How nice to renew old friendships. So pleased for you.

  9. What a great description of your wonderful reunion. I could just feel the happiness in your words. So glad for you Vic. Why do we let those old dear friends slip away?? Bit you've fixed that now. Well done!!


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