07 February 2008

Corpus Christi/Galveston

We arrived in Corpus Christi in the morning on Friday. After driving along the main drag along the Gulf (Ocean Drive) where we observed that most of the shorefront property is multi-million dollar mansions and landscaped parks, we headed over the Harbor Bridge (entry to the CC Navigation Channel) next to the University of Texas Aquarium and the public beach to the U.S.S. Lexington, a former U.S Navy aircraft carrier (built in 1943, decommissioned in 1991) now revamped into a floating museum in Corpus christi Harbour. The tour was excellent. There are lots of old jets that are moved from the Hangar to the flight deck and several different self-guided tours within the interior of the ship -- I took video of most of them. We ended the tour with a movie in the Imax theater on-board called "Flight Pilot" that documented the pilots and support crews of the 2004 Operation Red Flag, a training exercise that takes place at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas every four to six years. It really gives you insight into the inner workings of these armed forces teams, the coordination required for any defense exercise of any scale, and the insane amounts of money that are spent on defense, particularly by the United States. It leaves little bewilderment why President Bush is now asking for a $3.6 trillion defense budget for 2008!!

After the tour, we headed out of Corpus Christi, aiming for Galveston by dinnertime. We rolled back into the outskirts of Houston and veered east to Galveston on time and checked into a Gulf-view hotel for the night. We went to a fantastic Italian restaurant for dinner and a great bottle of wine along the historic Strand on Galveston Bay and then went back to the hotel to retire for the night. Galveston is set up quite differently than Corpus Christi. Instead of beaches along the Gulf, they have a concrete seawall and a main six-lane thoroughfare (aptly named Seawall Blvd) along the east shore. It makes for an uglier view of the ocean, and presumably along the Galveston Bay side where the cruise ship docks are, things would be the same. But then again, in Galveston there are around 100,000 people crammed onto several small sandy islets. For similarities, both cities have vast oil refineries and tanker offload ports as far as the eye can see in the industrial areas. As you would expect, with the volume of oil and gas that is either pumped or shipped to the Texas coast, most of the shoreline is built up to accommodate this infrastructure. I think even most Americans would be blown away by the scale of it all. This morning we got our Starbucks, hopped in the car and headed to the airport, where I am now sitting. We tried to take the Sam Houston Tollway to see if it would be faster. You pay as you go from section to section, but at the northeast end, it reverts back to normal parkways with lights and such, so I would probably suggest staying on the inner loop further into Houston and one of the Interstates to get where you're going if you're not travelling at rush hour or in a hurry.

Reflecting on the trip as a whole, it was a great venture and I'm glad this time we did a driving tour from Houston with the opportunity to tour a host of Texan cities. I would limit the driving to only a few days though -- despite the highway system being one of the best in the world, the distances between everything here are still large and you find yourself driving for hours and hours to get somewhere. I always find this type of vacation very disruptive as you're not getting any real downtime if you're trapped on a freeway in traffic. Lord knows why everyone here decides to do those big trips between Texan cities in trucks and SUVs (they outnumber cars by a large margin). I would be all about the luxury cars!

...so I've heard that there was a big snowstorm in Calgary yesterday which has made the roads shitty and it's still far too cold...-25C this afternoon? All I got was freaking Fahrenheit which is still nonsensical to me. Sigh - it seems like yet the end of yet another too-short trip. It was a good one, but alas a week still feels too short. I can only look forward to a potential trip to Tucson as being the next warm one! It'll only be five days or so, even shorter than this one. Back to work on Monday to pay the bills!

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