I finally uploaded my Houston photos. As I said in my previous post, I had a really great time there. I flew in late Tuesday night and had work-related stuff on Wednesday and Thursday, so I didn’t see much except for the hotel conference room during those two days. I have a friend from LSE (Alicia) who lives in Houston, so I decided to take Friday off in order to stay there until Sunday and check out some of the city sights. I had never been to Houston before, and was bored out of my freakin’ mind in DC, so figured a change of scenery would be good.
On Friday, I hopped the bus to downtown Houston (yes, Houston does have public transportation) and then switched to the light rail and headed down to the natural science museum. I figured the science museum in Houston would have a sweet energy exhibit, and, of course, I was correct. The sponsor’s wall read like a “who’s who” of the oil & gas industry, and the introductory video was a hilarious cartoon composed of various music videos about each fossil fuel. My favorite exhibit was the “Global Oil Fields Information Center”, a HUGE screen on which you could zoom in on oil & gas fields all over the world. It was like a giant version of Google Earth…on crack.
After the museum, I decided to head back downtown and check out this weird underground tunnel system that Katerina told me about. You ever wonder why you don’t see many people walking around outside in Houston? It’s because they are all underground. A majority of the downtown office buildings are connected by underground tunnels, and in this underground tunnel system there are various shops, restaurants, banks, barbers…just about, well, anything you would find above ground. There are maps posted on the walls showing you the various “routes” you can take. The tunnel system is color-coded…it’s like a metro, but without the train. Totally bizarre. Aimlessly wandering around this tunnel system made me pretty hungry, so I stopped at Whataburger, a fast-food place that you can only find in the Southern and Southwestern U.S. It was decent – better than McDonald’s, but nowhere near the quality of In-N-Out.
After lunch I wandered around the tunnel system a bit longer, and must have looked completely lost, as a guy came up to me and said so. He advised me to stay on the tunnel loop, which connects all the tunnels. I finally decided I had enough of this bizarre underground world and finally surfaced in the Hyatt Regency.
Future Enron building! (Or, was supposed to be anyways)
Alicia and I were planning on seeing an Astros game that night, so I headed over to Enron Field…er…Minute Maid Park a few hours early to check out the stadium. I somehow ended up with a free ticket because this random guy was handing out his extra season tix, so I went in early to watch the Royals take batting practice until it was time to meet up with Alicia and her friends. This is definitely the only stadium I’ve been to where you can watch the price of crude oil rise while you enjoy a beer, hotdog, and some baseball:
Hard to see, but those are the prices for natural gas, crude…and some other energy commodities
There is a hill and pole in the outfield…I have no idea why
Conoco home run pump
Retractable roof…so we can see the fireworks
Unfortunately, the Astros lost. Yes, I was actually rooting for the Astros. I think I cheered harder for them than I have the Nats at RFK. Minute Maid Park is genuinely just a fun place to see a ballgame (RFK Stadium, on the other hand, is bordering on comatose). I will even admit to singing along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas” during the seventh inning stretch. What can I say, this state is slowly winning me over.
After the game, we stuck around for the fireworks show (courtesy of Marathon Oil and the stadium’s retractable roof), and then hit some of the bars downtown. I think we went to 6 or 7 different bars…taking a shot at each…I can’t really remember…although at one point in the night we were all dancing to techno music on a stage…yeah, don’t ask. We hopped a cab back to Alicia’s place and eventually ended up at a Mexican restaurant at 2AM. Baseball, drinking, and authentic Mexican food – how can you do better than that?
Nicole dancing on the bar
The next day, we were up bright and early to tour the Ocean Star, an offshore drilling rig museum in Galveston:
Ocean Star jack-up rig…that isn’t jacked-up
This museum was awesome. If you ever find yourself in Galveston, you HAVE to visit. Where else can you dress up in a Halliburton uniform?
Either this Halliburton employee was really small…or I was enjoying the BBQ and Mexican food in Houston a bit too much
We were pretty tired after our excursion to Galveston. It was incredibly humid down there…I’ve never been in weather that humid before, and it’s amazing how exhausting it can be. I’ll take the dry heat of the desert over humidity anytime. Later that night we drove out to Rice University to catch a free concert the Houston symphony was putting on. I almost dozed off in the middle of it because I was just damn tired, but it was a really good concert nonetheless.
My flight wasn’t leaving until the afternoon on Sunday, so we were able to take a quick trip out to the Johnson Space Center. Got to see Mission Control and the mockup facility where the astronauts train…and of course, huge rockets. I visited the Kennedy Space Center when I attended Space Camp as a kid, so it was really interesting to see the Johnson Space Center, where the astronauts actually train.
Mockups of Russki space vehicles
After the space center visit, it was unfortunately time to go back to D.C. I left Houston literally hours before the city was inundated with rain and subsequent flooding…only to return to Washington, D.C., where it rained for the past week and flooded a bunch of government buildings (oh, how sad!).
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Houston. I’m not quite sure why it gets such a bad rap, as I certainly had a hell of a good time while I was there. Houston has amazing restaurants, fun bars, great shopping, and a lot of other stuff going for it. I could even – dare I say – see myself moving there in the future.
Rest of the photos are here.
Off to Pittsburgh tomorrow for a wedding…back to DC on Sunday. Frantic packing on Monday, and leaving for the Former Soviet Union on Tuesday.