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Travel Weekend #2

Turns out I had already blogged about Travel Weekend #1, so rather than repeat myself I'll skip straight to the Houston trip.

I run an online bulletin board for Chargers fans, and at least once a year we travel to a designated road game as a group. Three years ago it was Dallas, two years ago Cincinnati, last year Jacksonville and Chicago, and this year Houston.

My friend Rob from high school is stationed in Biloxi, MS, so he was able to join us last year in Jacksonville and again this year in Houston. I had also convinced my cousin Hector, who lives in Diamond Head, MS, to join us. The three of us joined the group from the board, some of whom I've known from the board and from road games for over 10 years.

Rob picked me up at the airport and we went to the hotel to check in. There we ran into Hector, and we carpooled to the Galleria Mall, where the guys were meeting at a local sportsbar. Slowly but surely, guys trickled in. At the appointed time, we all got up and hiked over to the Westin Galleria, where the Chargers were arriving. Yeah, I guess we sort of are Chargers groupies! We watched the team arrive and were hoping to chat with one or two players, but no such luck this time. So, back to the sportsbar for dinner and festivities.

Charger fans at Shuckers
Here we are at the sportsbar. You can't see Hector (just his hair), but Rob is the blond guy immediately to my right. The guy on the left holding up the baseball cap is Shane, who is the other administrator on the board. Joe is to my left and the guy standing behind me is Dan, the local.

After dinner, Hector, Rob, Mike, and I decided to check out the local nightlife. We did a lot of driving around, but didn't find much that appealed to us. By the time we found a club we might have enjoyed spending time at, for all the eye candy, we were too exhausted to stay.

Y'all heard about my adventures with church on Sunday morning. Despite my best-intended plans to attend the early mass, I ended up having to go to the 9 a.m. mass. One of the parishioners was kind enough to give me a ride back to the hotel. Rob was at the tailgate, but I found Hector in the restaurant having breakfast. I sat down with him and broke my fast as well. As we were eating, I saw a woman wearing a Scifres jersey. Scifres is our punter, and it's his first year in that role. No one wears punters jerseys! That's kind of like wearing the jersey of a short-reliever in baseball! And there was a "JB" patch on the front of the jersey, commemorating the Chargers GM, John Butler, who died of lung cancer last year. You can't buy a jersey with a "JB" patch. So I approached this woman and asked if she was Scifres mom. She was, and we had a very pleasant conversation.

Our hotel was quite literally right next to the stadium. We walked out one entrance and were in the north parking lot, with Reliant Stadium dwarfing the Astrodome right in front of us. We walked towards where the tailgate was, but it had just broken up. Instead, we met up with some of the guys outside one of the stadium gates. Right off the bat I can tell you Reliant has got to be the most beautiful stadium I have been in. The stadium has a retractable roof, a real grass field, and great seats everywhere. We were in the top row, nothing but wall behind us, and we couldn't have asked for a better view of the field. Words don't do it justice, so check out these pictures:

Reliant Stadium
This is a view of Reliant Stadium from our hotel. We really were right next door! To give you an idea of how truly big reliant is, check out the dome-shaped building to the left. That is the Astrodome, which used to be known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

Reliant exterior
Here you can see the mechanism that opens Reliant's retractable roof. They can get the roof opened in just a few minutes, 8 if I recall.

our seats in Reliant
Here we are in our seats, the very top row, but they were great seats! Hector is to my right and Rob to my left. Behind is the banner we take to every Chargers game advertising our site.

view of the field
Is this a great view of the field or what?

scoreboard
What a beautiful facility! If only San Diego could get its act together and build the Chargers a decent stadium....

The naming rights to Reliant Stadium are owned by the Reliant Energy Company, so it was ironic when, in the fourth quarter, the power went out. (We figured Chargers lightning had struck!) The officials decided at this point that they had better open the roof to let a little sunlight in. And afterwards, a Reliant employee approached us and said, "Thank you for coming to our stadium. Next time we'll remember to pay the electric bill!"

roof, closed
This is Reliant's roof, closed.

roof, opening
The roof again, as it's opening...

roof, opened
...and fully opened.

outside Reliant
Here we are posing outside Reliant Stadium after the game. Rob and Hector are front and center. Hector didn't have any Chargers gear since he's not really a fan. (His only connection to San Diego, besides my family, is that he was drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres in 1984 to play shortstop. He chose to accept the full scholarship to Southern Miss instead, where he blew out his knee and decided to become an architect instead.) However, Hector is also a Junior, so we made sure someone lent him a Junior Seau jersey. The other guys are, from left to right, Mark from Las Vegas, who was the cause of my nearly getting thrown out of the Jacksonville game last year when I came to his defense; Mike, from Michigan; me; Shane, who lives in Pensacola; and Joe, Mike's bro, also from Michigan, who I've known the longest of all the board guys who came out, about 10 years.

As we walked back to our hotel we walked past the Astrodome. They haven't torn down the Astrodome because it would cost too much, because of all the asbestos in it. One of the gates was wide open, and we couldn't resist the urge to explore. The field is still there, with "Houston Oilers" still painted in the endzones and the goalposts still standing. You can still see homeplate at the other end of the stadium, and there are still banners hanging that proclaim the Astrodome as the home of the Houston Oilers and Houston Astros. I can now say I have stood on a real NFL field!

Hector photographs Astrodome
Hector, fascinated by the Dome's architecture, spends his time snapping off a few photos.

endzone
I took a knee in the endzone, soaking up the moment.

goalposts and dome
From left to right, Joe, Mike, Rob, and I pose next to the goalposts with the Astrodome's roof behind us.

After the game, some of the guys wanted to hang out in the hotel's bar and watch more football, but Rob, Hector, Mike, and I were pretty adamant about wanting to go elsewhere. The others relented. Dan, the Houstonite, suggested a couple of places. The first was your typical sportsbar...boring! The second place was closed. Finally, after having wasted so much time driving around, Hector spoke up. A friend of his from Houston had given him a list of places to check out. Hector and I decided we'd go to the Guadalajara Bar and Grille, and the others could join us if they chose. So off we went. Most of us found the place alright, but ironically it was the localboy who got lost.

We had a great time at Guadalajara's. It had great food and a fantastic atmosphere for hanging out. One of the locals bought us a round of drinks to thank us for bringing our money to his city. We were able to watch the Sunday night game on a screen in the bar, although I'm not sure how closely any one of us was watching, as we were more concerned with enjoying our friendships. I even got a phone call from Ilana, after I'd had too much to drink to sound intelligent and charming! (Apparently, and quite luckily, it did not scare her away!) Afterwards, many of us agreed this was one of the best road trips we'd had.

And that was it. Hector left early the next morning to go prepare for Hurricane Ivan. Rob and I had breakfast together before he dropped me off at a mall near the airport and headed home to prepare for Ivan as well. I wandered the mall for a couple of hours before catching a free shuttle to the airport and headed home. It was a most satisfying weekend and -- oh, yes -- the Chargers won, too. :)

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
am0
Sep. 29th, 2004 09:03 pm (UTC)
LJ is misbehaving tonight. It has refused / discarded one set of comments I made on another of your posts. It'll probably accept this one now.

I enjoyed the write-up and all of the photos. I even printed out a photo to show to Delia.
spwebdesign
Sep. 29th, 2004 09:25 pm (UTC)
Which photo did you choose to show her?
am0
Sep. 30th, 2004 04:43 pm (UTC)
The one with Junior in the foreground and most of the group behind him. The lighting was more uniform and everybody could be recognized. Some of the photos tended to be dark in some places and bright in others, or the group got lost in the crowd.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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