TERRE HAUTE —
I have an uneasy feeling that I know what I’m getting for Fathers Day.
Not sure how your family celebrates that holiday, but mine uses it to get me things I wouldn’t otherwise buy for myself. It’s probably the only reason I ever got a cell phone, and a couple of years ago it was a good excuse for a flat-screen TV for the living room.
Yes, I use both of them now.
But before the Amey family spring-break trip to Texas last week, the subject of a GPS device came up. It was vetoed then, partially because JoJo — who gets a lot of mileage out of the screaming and swearing when the driver who shall remain nameless gets lost — said, “What fun would that be?” Well, we found out that other computer directions aren’t that much fun either.
We did fine on the nine-hour, 580-mile first leg to Little Rock, but we were on a time constraint the following day because we’d heard our resort was exceptionally picky about its guests arriving on time (a reputation that, fortunately, was vastly overblown).
Our first glitch came at Texarkana, when we encountered a detour on the exit from one highway to another that must have been designed by a committee of engineers from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. It took us what seemed like 45 minutes to get from one road to the other, so we got to a nervous stage of the trip (and the Butler-Michigan State game on the radio didn’t help our nerves much).
Got to the outskirts of Conroe — our week was spent in the Conroe, April Sound and Montgomery area of Texas — and called our resort to tell the folks there we were going to time the deadline for arrival very closely. No problem, they said — and besides, we had our computer directions from a company whose name rhymes with “Lap Nest.”
Kept going and going and couldn’t find the turnoff those directions suggested. More nervousness, more anxiety. Finally arrived at Loop 336, which we took after leaving westbound Texas 105. Followed the loop around, got back on westbound Texas 105 and discovered that yes, it really was a loop. In a situation where every minute counted, we’d wasted a half hour by being directed in a circle for more than 15 miles! Now there was considerable screaming and swearing.
But that and the long ride home — which was saved for the driver and Ryan by baseball on XM radio, although I can’t speak for the four women (our step-daughter Tass also joined us) crammed in the car with all the luggage — were the only tough parts.
Was expecting some cowboy stuff, since we’d read that people occasionally shopped by horseback in Montgomery (birthplace of the Texas flag, population 479), and we did enjoy the food and the atmosphere at Ransom’s Steakhouse and Saloon (great steaks, pretty good venison chili and maybe the best margaritas in Texas) a couple of times.
But our area was actually a suburban golf and fishing area around Lake Conroe, basically a distant suburb of Houston. Son-in-law Ryan (known to our family as BR) and grandson Garrett flew out to join us and stayed at The Woodlands, so we also got to see one of Houston’s toniest suburbs.
We found Incredible Pizza, which has an all-day buffet plus an arcade, go-karts, bumper cars, bowling, etc., and spent one day there, Darcy getting her ski-ball fix and Garrett winning the go-kart race (because of the size of our kids, the cars had no acceleration, so I can understand why NASCAR drivers hate restrictor-plate racing).
We got to Houston three times for the science museum, the Astros vs. the Giants — Houston may not win a game this year, but the kids loved the Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval of San Francisco) — and one day when BR took the grownups to the NASA space center and the kids and I (you know by now I’m not a grownup) buzzed around downtown to the aquarium, the zoo and several unplanned places in between.
Traffic was a little dicey at times, although not nearly as harrowing as Washington, D.C., was last summer, and BR even found some toll roads and HOV lanes to help him out a couple of times. Weather was gorgeous every day but one (the ballgame day, of course, when thunderstorm warnings caused the Minute Maid Park roof to be closed) and we even swam once in an outdoor pool (once being a key word).
Had a box for the Houston Chronicle about 10 yards from our front door, so I still had my daily newspaper fix (and read once about freshman Mel Dumezich, the Whiting softball star that Brenda Coldren and I drooled over, getting a game-winning hit for Texas A&M) and the kids and I got to pet sharks and learn a little science and history. JoJo even invited Darcy to play checkers with her at one point, my personal high point of the trip.
To summarize, we had a great time at a place we hadn’t decided to visit until it was almost too late to decide to go anywhere. We’d be happy to go back again sometime.
But we’ll probably fly when we do.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.