Monday, July 4, 2011


I noticed my running or waddling partner had a travelog on his trip to D.C. so I figure I'd do one now that I just returned from Houston.

This was not a vacation as such but a Red Sox road trip for my daughter and myself. Three games at the fabulous Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.

Now we stayed out by Bush International (IAH) since a downtown hotel is about six to ten times what you pay around the airport. Travel was exceptionally easy since the usual snarl of greater Houston was not present thanks to the 4th. If not this city has among the worse traffic in the country. Public transportation is limited to a small LRV line and buses so cars are the way to go.

Now when you visit Houston there is very little to do in the downtown area. Almost nothing of merit since it is a collection of skyscrapers. In fact Saturday at noon time we went to the Houston Aquarium and there was no traffic to get there and none on the city streets. Easy to park. Downtown is limited to a theater district, a museum section and a non descriptive shopping district. Everything is outside the core city.

So if you go to Houston the main targets would be on I-45 heading south to Galveston. We went to Kemah and the Kemah Boardwalk that has a new five star wooden roller coaster that is one of the best I've ever been on. The Boardwalk has about a dozen rides that can have a daily pass or individual purchase. Plenty of restaurants and I'd suggest Joe's Crab Shack that is part of the Landry's chain of restaurants.

In the same area is NASA and that is fairly self descriptive as you can grab a shuttle tour of the facility. We did it about ten years ago and there is something for everyone and some good hands on stuff.

At the end of I-45 is Galveston and that is the main destination in the area. Moody Gardens is a fascinating place that will take you all day.

Next up would be the ultimate water park right next to Moody Gardens and that would be Schlitterbahn and that could also chew up an entire day.

In downtown Galveston is the Strand District that takes up about an eight block area around the waterfront. Galveston also has a selection of fine Victorian homes for viewing at a nominal charge. Then you have the beaches and from the West End of Galveston on the fee is free. Others are a few dollars. Galveston is also the center for the cruise lines to dock. But now back to the important stuff - The Boston Red Sox.

Three games that had the highest attendance figures of the season except for opening day. Red Sox Nation was in full bloom and this was a home game on the road. Sox fans everywhere. The "Let's go Red Sox" spontaneous chant totally drowning out any attempts by the Astro fans to quell the boisterous members of RSN.

Pres game lineup introductions gave a hint. Huge and demonstrative for Red Sox and mild and polite for the Astros. Game reports even commented on the Red Sox fans obvious enthusiasm and support of their team. Ditto by player comments from the Astros who expressed a high level of jealousy.

Friday night fireworks were spectacular as they "Popped the Top" since Minute Maid has a retractable roof. The display was timed to music of Boston groups Aerosmith, The Cars and Boston. On Saturday night the display mimicked our own Esplanade 4th display.

Sunday was when they played Sweet Caroline for their 6th inning "Kiss Cam" segment and also had lobster rolls available in the Diamond Club.

The food at MM is both exceptional quality and reasonable. The Blue Bell four scoop ice cream cone was $5.50. Popcorn - a tub - was $4 and a large drink was $4.50. The variety was from Bar-B-Que to seafood to Cajun to Tex-Mex with lines that moved quick. Even a McDonald's available but no Dunkin' Donuts. Their food service and park amenities put Fenway to shame.

Parking at the ballpark lot is $15 but lots near the park range $10-20 with free parking or meter (no charge after 6PM and weekends) a ten minute walk - if you don't mind walking in 100 degree weather.

On Friday morning we went to check out ticket upgrades and saw three gentlemen with suitcases attempting to get into a gate that was locked. I told my daughter they were coaches and she didn't believe me until we got close and I said "Good luck in the series, gentlemen, and especially you Terry." Was Francona and two of his coaches trying to get in.

The upgrades were not necessary as on Friday we sat in section 328 ($23), Saturday in section 418 ($16) and on Sunday six rows from the field in section 111 ($60). Far cheaper than Fenway. Great views in the cheap seats - Spataro would like that - and less crowded for the bathrooms and food.

On Sunday the Sox side of the field was mobbed and we had trouble even getting to our seats as fans tried to get up close and personal during pre game. The Astros side was deserted. Kind of sad.

About ten minutes before the Sox took the field reserve infielder spent about five minutes signing autographs next to the Sox dugout and was soon joined by a few other players. Nice touch. Beckett - who was starting - handed his warm up ball to a kid. During the game Sutton hit a foul in our section and a guy went nuts to grab it, spilled his beer and almost did a face plant. Then he hands it over to a kid about five years old a row behind him. Nice gesture.

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