By Helena Rodriguez
My 14-year-old daughter Laura recently got to fly for the first time. In fact, she traveled by almost every possible mode — land, sea, plane and train — in the course of only a few days.
Laura and I accompanied my friend Yolanda to Houston last week for outpatient eye surgery. We were there to make sure Yolanda got back OK from the hospital to the hotel to recover. Once we got Yolanda safely back to her room and all medicated, she urged Laura and I to explore H-Town.
The opportunities were seemingly unlimited: The Johnson Space Center, The Houston Holocaust Museum, The Downtown Aquarium, The Houston Garden Center and Rice Village, to name a few.
Knowing we wouldn’t have the time to thoroughly explore The Space Center, I chose one of Houston’s newest attractions, the Kemah Boardwalk between Houston and Galveston. Since Laura had just had her first airplane experience, I thought it’d be cool for her to see the ocean for the first time, too.
I consider the Kemah Boardwalk to be on the ocean. It’s actually located on the Clear Creek Channel that connects to the Galveston Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean — just like the knee bone connects to the thigh bone and the thigh bone connects to the hip bone and so on.
We went on an unforgettable speed boat ride, at least five miles into the Galveston Bay.
This boat ride was the bomb. Three crew members were like cheerleaders. They got everyone on board pumped up through song and dance, beginning with, “Don’t Rock the Boat.” As we ventured out into the bay where the choppy waters that day made me nervous, the music switched to none other than the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.
The captain sped up the boat and made sharp turns so the boat skidded on its side, water splashing in our faces and the lyrics racing through my mind, “… The weather started getting rough (thunder in the background), the tiny ship was tossed…” I nervously held on to my purse and the railing and the particular lyrics froze in my mind, “The Minnow would be lost! The Minnow would be lost!”
I turned to Laura and she was having a blast, so I finally relaxed and had the boat ride of my life. I enjoyed the wind and water blowing in my face and with the sights and sounds of seagulls flying overhead and the cityscape of Houston in the distance, it was an incredible escape from the busy semester I’ve been having at Eastern New Mexico University.
When we got back to the Big H, Laura still hadn’t seen downtown Houston, so we took a train ride. I thought these smooth-gliding, Amtrak-looking cable carts were buses, but when I inquired about the next bus, the stranger looked at me like I was weird and noted that it was a train station. I was forced to accept the fact that this single cart — a spacy, bus-looking thing — was actually a train.
It didn’t seem right, though.
Being raised in eastern New Mexico, a train is supposed to be a long string of boxcars that snake along at slow speeds and sometimes have a little red caboose at the end. But then I realized I haven’t seen any little red cabooses on the trains at home lately. When I was little, there was always a caboose at the end and a man waving.
As we drove home from the airport in Lubbock, I told Yolanda that traveling is like going to another world. When you go to unfamiliar places, it’s like you temporarily enter a dream world and things move in slow motion. You leave your cares behind and notice things that people from these places probably take for granted, just like you take your own surroundings for granted.
Yolanda agreed and then brought both Laura and I out of our dream states and back to reality. With each mile that we inched closer to home, our cares returned to stacks of homework that had piled up while we were off in the clouds and sailing the sea.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: