My second day in Big Bend I backpacked the famous South Rim loop. The South Rim of the Chisos Mountain Basin drops 2000 ft down sheer cliffs teeming with peregrine falcons to the desert floor and the Rio Grande River below. The best backpacking campsites are perched along the rim - great views but also great amounts of wind. Luckily my bivy sack has a low profile and no loose fabric. A flapping tent is one of the few things that can actually keep me up - to me it's the mountain man equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.
|The Chisos Mountains|
|The South Rim|
|Sunset from South Rim|
|Chisos Basin from Emory Peak|
|Mule deer use the trail too|
|Casa Grande. Su casa es no mi casa.|
|Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande|
|It took every bit of my manly courage to take this photo|
The Alamo is TINY and appears even smaller in its urban setting surrounded by skyscrapers. However, during the tour you learn that only the chapel building - what everyone thinks of when they think "Alamo" - of the historic mission is still standing. The original mission was a large walled complex with additional buildings and barracks to house first the monks, then the heroes of Texas liberty. The battle for the Alamo was pretty much "300" with cowboy hats and Bowie knives. Brave men all.
For dinner I went down to the San Antonio Riverwalk, a very forward thinking public works project of the Depression Era. The San Antonio River kept flooding the town; when they decided to put in dams and levees upstream they also decided to landscape and develop the new river course thru town. Today the Riverwalk is like an American Venice- home to a quaint waterway lined with cafes and restaurants, crossed by pedestrian bridges, and traveled by small motor barges filled with tourists. I enjoyed fresh guacamole (prepared tableside) and a prickly pear margarita (it was purple). I much prefer my prickly pear in my stomach instead of in my leg.
Austin was up next. Armed with the recommendations from the top of Emory Peak I set off to explore the city. The Capitol building is pretty, but I didn't like the color. It's supposed to be a nice red granite, but in the light I had that evening it looked poop-brown. I tried Texas chili. Meh. I'll probably catch some flak from any Texas friends (hi Andi!) but I prefer beans in my chili. I did enjoy my brisket from the Iron Works BBQ. And when there are signed pictures of the wall of President Obama, President Bush, Neil Patrick Harris, and the 7 foot tall guy who played Chewbacca, you know you are in the right place! I also saw the Whiskey Sisters, a local country band, at one of the great Austin live music venues.
My last day in Texas was spent in the Houston area. I am a total space dork and filled my day with activities at the Johnson Space Center for the entire 7 hours they were open from 10-5. The pictures below will illustrate the awesomeness that is the JSC.
|An actual Project Mercury capsule flown in space and recovered from the Pacific Ocean. About half the size of a smart car.|
|The actual Apollo 17 capsule, recovered from the Pacific Ocean. 3 guys, 8 days, about the size of my pickup. Damn.|
|Apollo 17 EVA (extravehicular activity) suit brought back from the moon|
|Apollo 17 lunar rover recovered from the surface of the moon.|
|I GOT TO TOUCH A MOON ROCK!!!|
|Where the magic happened - Mission Control for Apollo Project. Now a National Historic Landmark. Current space missions are directed from elsewhere in the building.|
|A Saturn V launch vehicle. I can't convey the size without setting myself up for a "that's what she said" joke of the century. But it's really big.|
|Space toilet! (from the shuttle). Space toilets use vacuum suction to keep turds from floating away in zero g.|
|Any of my Coastie friends recognize the man, second from right, with the exquisite mustache?|
|Get a room you guys! The space shuttle transportation system and a future JSC exhibit.|
** UPDATE: the Apollo moon rover wasn't really recovered. That's a training one used on Earth. It was an attempt at a super space dork joke that nobody got but me. They had to leave a lot of gear on the moon to make room for the moon rocks they brought back. I don't want to be blamed for misinformation