We hit Houston during the afternoon rush hour on Thursday. As we were playing hide-and-seek with the southbound I-45 HOV lane entrance (the signage leaves something to be desired), we heard a thunk on the right side of the car like a rock ping. A quick once-over didn't show anything obvious, so we continued on to Galveston with an annoying squeaky-brake noise that quieted every time he tapped the brakes. Vogon took the car to a repair shop on Friday, where the mechanic put the car up on a lift and took a look at things -- and the whole wheel came off. Whee. Apparently the shop here in Dallas that replaced the axle in July used the wrong kind and didn't put a clip back on, so the axle was being held by the brake caliper.
Since the shop wouldn't be able to get a new axle until Monday, we got to spend the weekend in Galveston instead of driving home on Saturday as planned. This was a mixed bag: I packed enough disposable training pants for Laurel, but we mostly packed for two days, so I didn't even have a razor for my underarms. Ack. In other critical memory issues, I didn't grab my DivaCup on the way out, thus guaranteeing that I'd need it, and left my knee brace by the door. Next time I'll pack with FlyLady's vacation tips in mind!.
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME
Vogon's family visited Galveston frequently when he was a little burrito, so we made sure to visit some of the places he remembered fondly -- Ocean Grill, which he joked was playing the same music the last time he was there, Pancakes Restaurant for their yummy and inexpensive breakfast buffet, and Fisherman's Wharf, which was always on his father's must-visit list.
Laurel had never seen the ocean before, so she was very excited to see "lots of ocean" while we were on the causeway. As soon as we checked in and carried our things into our room, we walked the half-block to the beach and rolled up Laurel's and my pants so we could get our feet wet. Laurel loved it (no surprise, she's a water sign) and when waves came over the tops of her feet, she'd scamper back and holler "It's coming to get me!". She also got to see a beautiful sunset from the beach, which pleased Vogon immensely.
It'd been nearly a decade since I'd been on a beach myself, so I had a great time. It was good for my mental health, too; as Vogon put it, a few days near the ocean are as good as months of therapy. We put in a good amount of time on Friday afternoon near Stewart Beach, then stuck to the beach along the Seawall between the intersection by our hotel (at 39th Street) and eastward for several blocks, along with a few forays onto the rock piers. Did lots of shell collecting too, though I won't be taking pictures of it until after we soak and clean them up.
Thursday: Wanting to eat close by after going to the beach at sunset, we had dinner at Gaido's. Laurel tried fried shrimp the size of her hand, but didn't eat many because she filled up on bread while waiting. (The service was attentive, but we were seated for several minutes before a server took our drink order and I'd say we were seated for over half an hour before our entrees arrived.) I had chicken Torino, which was delicious, with a glass of white zinfandel -- and wasn't carded, which was a surprise. He had scallops and a glass of cabernet sauvignon.
Friday: We went on a trip down Vogon's memory lane for breakfast, visiting Pancakes Restaurant near UTMB, identifiable by a sign that simply reads "Pancakes", Waffle-House style. The $2.99 buffet wasn't half bad and Laurel adored the silver dollar pancakes.
After walking well down Seawall as Vogon tried to remember the location of a seafood restaurant that turned out to be in the Strand Historic District on the other side of the island, we came back to Fish Tales and their brightly colored decor. The Great Big Grilled Tuna Salad was pretty good, but the piece de resistance was the Coconut Crusted Mahi. Talk about sex for the mouth: the fish was tender, the breading slightly crunchy, and the pineapple-plum sauce absolutely divine. Laurel had a kids' meal of toasted ravioli and fries with an orange creamsicle smoothie; the drink made up most of her meal.
Saturday: we had lunch at Ocean Grill, which was surprisingly chilly over the water after we walked down the seawall from our hotel in search of brunch. I wasn't too hungry and had their seared tuna appetizer. It was good, but the dipping sauce was bland and adding the whole blob of weak wasabi didn't help much. The fries with Laurel's sandwich were delicious -- not too thick, just crispy enough to be toothsome, and perfectly salted. I tried a little of the house raspberry vinaigrette with candied pecans that came with Vogon's grilled salmon salad and man, would it be nice to have that dressing more often.
As a lovely splurge (I called it a late birthday dinner for Vogon, but that's none of your business *g*), we cabbed out to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner. We started with fried calamari, which was wonderful and not rubbery like the other time I've tried it. Laurel tried fried fish, which she only had a bite of, I had a mahi mahi filet (8-9 oz, served in a lightly herbed butter sauce with rice pilaf and steamed vegetables), and Vogon had redfish, a local specialty. He briefly cringed at the tail-on presentation of it and later described it as $18 of plain old fish.
Sunday: after brunch at a packed IHOP, we had an early dinner at Papa's Pizza. They're very casual -- much of their business is delivery -- and the jalapeno poppers were a bit bland for my taste, but Vogon ordered a muffaletta (9" diameter) and ate an entire quarter of it while I only made a few inroads into half of a mesquite turkey and bacon sub. Laurel demolished an entire kids' order of spaghetti while charming the dimples off the cook. (:
Monday: we had brunch at IHOP again. Vogon noted that all the kids we saw, including Laurel, ate the whipped cream and cherries off the Funny Face and then picked at the pancake itself. We got the car back mid-afternoon and Vogon made a grocery run for snacks for the drive home, then we decided to head out to the Strand again and try an Italian restaurant our cab driver recommended earlier that day.
If I'd known Luigi's was Zagat rated, I would have worn the dress I'd packed instead of denim shorts and the cute gauzy top we bought on Friday. Suffice it to say that for the first time in my life, I cleaned my plate. The cappeletti sugo rosso (chicken and ricotta-stuffed pasta in a tomato cream sauce) was THAT good. Vogon felt similarly about his pollo alla claudio (chicken breast sauteed with roasted garlic and diced tomatoes in a white wine butter sauce), although he wasn't able to finish the massive serving of fettuccine alfredo that came with it. Laurel made a pretty good dent in her bowl of penne in marinara sauce, but had trouble getting them into her mouth unless she threaded them over her fork tines. (It was adorable.) Their in-house wine is incredible and is a private label the restaurant imports from Italy.
To avoid as much rush hour traffic (our route goes through both Houston and Dallas) as possible, we left Galveston just before 0300. Taking I-45 straight through to Dallas, we stopped twice -- once just north of Houston for Vogon to get bottled water and again in Huntsville to apply Rain-X to the windshield after getting a few sprinkles as we passed the Sam Houston statue, which Vogon joked was from his chaw. Even lit up in the dark, it looked like the Quaker Oats man to me. I may write a haiku about it later just to be facetious.
We hit the first bit of rush hour traffic around 0745 on northbound I-45, then we sat in stop-and-go traffic on Woodall Rogers Freeway waiting to get onto I-35E and then for the 3/4 mile to the Dallas North Tollway; once we got on the tollway it was smooth sailing the rest of the way in.