Sunday, November 15, 2009

Houston we have a problem...

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter

When I left Miami I headed to Panama City for the night. I arrived late and then started my drive through Alabama, Mississippi and then Louisiana. I stopped in New Orleans and drove through the French Quarter. Trust me on this, a Hummer with a large cargo trailer is not the vehicle to pull through the tiny winding streets of the French Quarter, especially with horse and buggies present. I needed to let my pulse resume to a normal rate after that escapade. The architecture is really fascinating and it is such a shame that Katrina rolled through. It has been four years since the hurricane and New Orleans is still rebuilding. It appears it will be a few more years before it fully recovers but hopefully it will recover with all its glory.

I decided that while in Texas I would stop in Houston to visit NASA at the Houston Space Center. I am a long time fan of everything to do with space and really looked forward to my visit. NASA did not disappoint. The one thing to remember if you visit the Space Center is that it is a working facility and not a theme park. On certain days if you get the right flight director in the right mood you will be allowed to come in and see Mission Control live. Today was our lucky day and this is exactly what happened. The most interesting fact about this part of my visit was just how much power the flight director has. It ranks right up there with presidential.

The one thing that comes to my mind instantly is the Saturn V rocket that you get to see in a hangar. This has to be the largest most impressive manmade object I have ever seen. Its size will blow you away. The Saturn V rocket, which is the largest rocket ever built by NASA, is a staggering at 363 feet tall! The rocket is a three stage rocket, which means it takes three different stages of fuel firing to get all the way to the Moon. It is displayed with each of the three stages separated and you can actually walk between two of the stages. By the time it reaches its third stage and goes into orbit around Earth, it is traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. It is then that the rocket can be aimed at the Moon and the third stage can fire again, beginning the three day trip to the Moon.

This is a picture of the liquid nitrogen tanks that NASA uses. In space, it can be really cold, so they need to somehow simulate those conditions on Earth while they are training the astronauts. Liquid Nitrogen is extremely cold and is stored at 320 degrees Fahrenheit below zero in liquid form. Equipment in space will face very cold conditions, so Johnson Space Center uses this liquid nitrogen to create harsh, cold environments in which they can test the equipment that will be sent into space. The temperatures in space can range from 200 to negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on whether they are in the sun or not. On the Moon, temperatures can drop to 370 degrees below zero.

My second night in Texas was spent in Austin. While I was in Austin I chose to visit a legendary restaurant and club called Stubbs. Stubbs has been around since 1968 when it was located in Lubbock Texas but opened in Austin in 1985. Stubbs the man himself has met HRH Elizabeth the Queen of England, Jimmy Carter, and David Letterman etc. all because of his legendary food. I can tell you this about his food. Outstanding chicken! Probably the best chicken I personally have ever ordered in a restaurant. The cool thing about Stubbs is that, even though it is split into a restaurant and a bar it also has an outdoor stage in a large courtyard that regularly draws big name acts to perform. This all happens in the middle of downtown Austin. Try that in Vancouver…

Next on the list for me to try is the famous Coopers Old Time Barbecue in Llano Texas. This happens to be George W. Bush’s favorite BBQ restaurant. Coopers is very cool and you have to watch the video to see what I mean. If you like meat you will love Coopers and it was a definite highlight of my trip. It is a place that I had read about, and viewed pictures of, but I never thought I would eat there. It is not the type of place that you take a trip to, but if you are in the area you will visit it, but usually it is for the locals to enjoy. I am so glad my path took me that way.

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