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“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters.” Ursula K. leGuin

African Safari: A Texas Prelude

The Johnson Space Center was busy the day Kim and I visited, and dreamed of what it would be like to leave this planet's gravity. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Kim’s arrival at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in August should have been greeted with 100-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity. Instead the temperature was about 80 with little humidity.

The sadist in me was disappointed. I had told Kim what to expect of Texas summers, and now my native state was making me into a liar. Oh well, much better for the two days of sight-seeing before we left for Africa.

Our first stop was the Johnson Space Center.

I was living south of Houston, near all the glamorous astronaut happenings, when Neil Armstrong set the first human foot on the moon, uttering the historic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I’ve been fascinated with space travel ever since. And Kim and I both expressed awe at the idea of an adventure in space. She even oohed in awe when she actually touched a moon rock. I had taken a couple of grandkids to the center previously and recalled doing the exact same thing.

Our sight-seeing continued the next day with a trip to Galveston via the Blue Water Highway that runs from Surfside, parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, to San Luis Pass and then across a bridge to Galveston Island. My son and his family came along, and we did some birding on the way over to the island.

I had earlier infected my son, Lewis, with my passion for birds, and the others in the party were patient with our dawdling drive. They might even have enjoyed the sight of brown pelicans flying low over the horizon, snowy egrets gathered in the shallows and a lone great blue heron patiently fishing along the shore that we saw this day.

Hurricane Ike, just as a matter of trivia, took out the Blue Water Highway the next year, but it has since been rebuilt.

Laughing gulls and royal terns are common beach-side sides along the Blue Water Highway. -- Photo by Pat Bean

In Galveston, we walked along the sea wall, whose water-front sandy beach has been disappearing in recent years. Afterward, we stopped at the Rain Forest Cafe for dinner.

The cafe, which looks out on the Gulf and has an amazing rendition of an exploding volcano on its outside facade and a waterfall and computer animated wildlife on the inside is a popular place. We had an hour wait to be seated.

What helped make the wait worth the time was how the hostess finally announced that our table was ready.

“Bean, party of seven, your safari is ready to begin,” she said.

It seemed so apropos, as tomorrow Kim and I would fly to Africa and our safari would begin for real.

Next Episode: Flight to Nairobi

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 “Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage.” Regina Nadelson

African Safari: The Intrepid Adventurers

Kim, the younger of the African travelers, on one of our yearly adventures to Zion National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Kim and I booked our round-trip flight to Nairobi several months ahead of our August 19 departure date. The cheapest plane tickets we could find were about $1,850 each. By purchasing early we were gambling that the cost of the flight would go up in the coming months and not down.

I think we came out ahead, but I really didn’t bother to check. I was too busy at the last-minute replacing a lost passport (another $125 for expedited service). Of course I found my old passport shortly after I returned from Africa.

Then we followed the instructions the Africa Adventure Company sent to us along with our initial down payment for the trip, the remainder of which was to be paid before our journey began.

This included a yellow fever shot and malaria pills, which were to begin a week before the trip and continue daily through a week after the trip. The tour company took care of arranging for our visas on arrival in Africa.

Of course we had to purchase a few new items of clothing for our safari, and then we had to make sure everything we took for the 16 days weighed no more than 35 pounds. The weight limit was because we would be taking small in-country planes to and from some of our African destinations.

We bought small individual packets of Tide for our laundry and plenty of mosquito repellent. I bought a couple of pair of light-weight cargo pants, an extra battery for my digital camera, and a new pair of sunglasses, which I immediately lost in Nairobi. Kim bought a pair of binoculars for wildlife watching. As an avid birder I was already well equipped in this area.

Me, the old broad half of the Africa travel team, taking a breather on Walter's Wiggles during a hike to the top of Angel's Landing. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Then, in the mail, came an official notice from our State Department alerting us to the fact that travel to Kenya, while not forbidden, was not considered a safe destination. Kim and I both had the same reaction – what a great adventure we had ahead of us.

Neither of us had even a fleeting thought about canceling. Tenaciousness, such as the time we continued to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion even after it started to snow, is one of the few traits the two of us share.

During all these preparations, I was mostly gallivanting around in my RV with Maggie, and Kim, who is quite a few years younger than me, was working hard at her job in Utah.

But as the date for our flight approached, I headed to my middle son’s home in Lake Jackson, Texas, south of Houston, and Kim flew into Houston to meet me there. We had chosen to begin our trip here because I could leave my RV and Maggie at my son’s home, and he had volunteered to take us to and from the airport for our flight to Nairobi.

And the couple of days we had before departing for Africa was a chance for me to show Kim a tiny bit of my native Texas.

Next Episode: The Johnson Space Center

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