After New Orleans, we wanted to go over to Houston, but it’s too long of a drive for us to do straight through. We decided to spend two nights in Lafayette, Louisiana at Acadiana Park Campground. It’s a city-run park and, in many ways, really lovely. It’s small, quiet, and nestled in the woods. There isn’t much privacy, but the sites aren’t right on top of each other, either (though I wouldn’t call them spaced far apart, either). The one drawback to this park – most of the sites were not level, and many had relatively steep drops immediately along the paved parking pads. In other words, if you’re not great at backing up yet and sometimes end up in the grass, it can be really nerve-wracking. There are also some tight turns and trees right alongside the road that can make driving through and backing up a bit nerve-wracking. We had planned to do some sight-seeing while we were there, but the playground was literally directly behind our site, so the kids opted to spend the entire day playing outside.
Driving through Houston – I’ll be honest, it sucked. We were on Rte 290 which is under construction and it was pretty awful. The exit we were supposed to take was just not there. Finally we made it to our campground, though – Trader’s Village RV Park. I was less than thrilled with this campground. It’s basically the parking lot to a giant flea market. The sites, while mostly pull-through, are right next to each other. The row we were assigned to seemed to be having trouble with the plumbing – our water spigot was spraying water everywhere. After a heavy rainfall overnight, the sewer overflowed. So we picked another site that was better suited to us.
Now, the problem that we encountered next was not the campground’s fault, but our difficulties soured our stay in Houston. Basically, when we plugged into the new site, the power wouldn’t come on in the RV. At all. After a LOT of troubleshooting on Doug’s end, we decided to call a mobile RV repair guy after a full 24 hours without power. I think he charged about $150 and he was worth his weight in gold. He determined that we had an open neutral in our shore power cord, fixed it, then tested all of our appliances. The “short” or whatever fried our electric landing jack motor, our TV (the old one that came with the RV), the electric fireplace, and the microwave. Thankfully, the fridge was alright. We knew we could use the manual crank on the landing jacks, but the RV tech explained how we could use jumper cables to connect to our battery and operate the motor that way.
Okay, I’m done with the complaining! Now for the fun stuff:
We used our ASTC Reciprocal benefits to go to the Children’s Museum of Houston. In many ways, this museum was just like any other children’s museum. It had the standard climbing structure, the wind tunnels and building supplies, etc, etc. Where it really excelled was the pretend play area and the water play area. The pretend town had exhibits I’ve never seen before – it had a Bank of America, a town hall, a news studio, a stock exchange, an ambulance, and police car – in addition to the grocery store, vet clinic, restaurant, etc. It was so much fun, it made me wish I was a kid.
The water play area is outside, which makes sense for Texas.. but we were glad it was a relatively warm day because the weather had been pretty chilly. This was not your usual set up with a few ramps and plastic boats. This was a full on splash pad, more or less. There were areas to experiment with pipes, with boats and dams, and an enormous bucket that poured water out everywhere. Needless to say, the kids got DRENCHED.
On our way home from the Children’s Museum, we decided to get some Ethiopian takeout. It had been forever since we’d had Ethiopian – probably two years, since we were in Boston over the summer. I highly recommend Lucy Ethiopian – everything we had was delicious, and the staff was very friendly.
This is what Fiona had been waiting for. Well over a year ago, Fiona asked if she could get a puppy. We told her maybe after we got settled into an RV. Well, as Christmas approached, we decided a puppy would be a Christmas present for her, though a bit delayed. We checked out shelters online in each of the areas we knew we’d be traveling through, and Houston looked like it had the most puppies available. I called a few places ahead of time to make sure there wouldn’t be a problem with the fact that we live in an RV, are from out of state, and wouldn’t be in the area for very long, and not only was Citizens for Animal Protection willing to work with us, they also had several adorable puppies available.
Everyone that helped us as the shelter was super nice, and the shelter itself was lovely and very well kept. We spent some time with each of the puppies that was available and a good fit for us (as much as I’m okay with pit mixes, many campgrounds don’t allow them, and we have enough trouble finding places that are cool with 4 kids as it is). There was a Bernese Mountain Dog mix named Bernie and two siblings, possibly border collie mixes, named Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Scruffles. I was drawn to Bernie right away, partly because I adore Bernese Mountain Dogs, and also because – Bernie! But he was pretty skittish and slow to warm up, and while I’m sure he would have done fine if we were in a house, we do enough weird, loud, unusual things that I didn’t think he would be a good fit. We saw Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Scruffles together – Bacon had a bit of a schnauzer-y face but was much more dominant than his brother. Scruffles seemed like a pretty middle-of-the road kind of guy and loved giving kisses and sitting in Fiona’s lap.
Well, it didn’t take long to decide! Sir Scruffles went in for his neuter surgery the next day, and we picked up the newly-renamed Sirius that evening! He is adorable and so smart, but man.. we all forgot how much work puppies are. I think Fiona is a little overwhelmed with all the peeing, but she knows it’ll get better soon! She is already head over heels in love with him!
Being a typical nerdy family, we knew the Space Center would be high on our list of things to do. Doug decided we should do that on his day off – but we had just brought Sirius home the night before. Fiona, Niall and I gladly decided to stay home and watch the puppy while Doug took Colwyn and Lachlann to the Space Center – we figured it might be a little too old for Niall at least, anyway. I’ll let Doug do the recap for the Space Center:
On a slightly drizzly Saturday we headed to Space Center Houston, about an hour from the RV park where we were staying. After arriving, we figured out that there are two parts to the Space Center: the exhibit area and the tram tours of the actual Johnson Space Center.
There are two tram tours: one that will take you to the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and one that takes you to Mission Control. We rolled the dice and took the Mission Control tram, figuring we could take the other tram if we had time. The wait for the tram was about 30 minutes, but I could see a busy day making that much, much longer. The tram tour itself takes about 45 minutes to an hour, plus a stop at the Rocket Park at the end.
On the tour you ride through the JSC campus, where the actual employees work – it looks like driving through a regular office park, except for the occasional rocket and monument to space travel. Once at the Mission Control building, you need to go up numerous flights of stairs, although an elevator is offered. At the top you sit in a viewing area overlooking one of the multiple Mission Control areas. The day we were there there wasn’t much going on, but during workdays you might get to see some bustle. A mission control employee gave a little overview of how things work and answered questions.
The tram then headed to the Rocket Park. Inside the building is an entire Saturn V rocket, separated into stages. It’s an incredible thing to see, giving you a sense of scale that’s missing when you see pictures of these giant rockets.
After leaving Rocket Park, we re-entered the exhibit area and wandered around for a pleasant two hours or so. There are currently exhibits on the missions towards Mars, a replica of an International Space Station segment, lots of artifacts from previous missions and more. Some realistic space simulators are offered at an extra price.
Outside, one of the most impressive exhibits is an entire Boeing 747 with a mockup space shuttle mounted on top of it. You can tour both – working your way from the top to bottom via steps or elevators and exploring.
Overall, we had a great time. I’d love to go back and hit the second tram tour – if you plan ahead and reserved your tram times, you could probably fit both comfortably into one day.
Somehow I don’t have photos of, like.. any of this. But what I do have are videos!