Houston Trip 2017

Introduction: I lived in Houston for the past five years, so this is one of the place where I would love to visit. However, living back in Japan makes it hard to travel abroad so this maybe the one last time to make a visit there...

2017/5/1: Heading to Houston, TX

Going to the Airport

I woke up at 5:00am as usual, stretched my body, get ready for the day. I need to do things before heading out of town for a week so I did many house chores. I stopped at a bank to check balance and make a deposit on a CD which I committed monthly. The day started from sunny but getting cloudy then overcast by 10:00am, when I check the weather radar on the web, it already started to show a sign of storm. I hope my flights won't be affected. Leaving home at 11:20am and took out the bags and walked to a train station. Getting on a train leaving Kachigawa at 11:30am.

I got on a local train to Kanayama, then I took an escalator up to the exit gate there. I switched to Meitetsu lines. Since I have a free pass from being a stock owner so I only bought reservation ticket at a vending machine at 11:47am. Took another escalator down to the platform, and waited a few minutes before MuSky #26 comes into the station and departed at 11:54am. While looking at the outside on the train, I felt weird sensation because I usually take opposite route that I take this train to go back to the U.S. but now I going on there. The train moved under cloudy weather quite smoothly, and arrived at the airport station 12:18pm on time.

After getting off the train, I proceeded to the check in counter for the Japan Airlines. The bag will be going all the way to Houston, so I am set. I stopped at a automated machine to buy medical insurance just in case, I no longer carry insurance in the U.S.

Heading to Narita: AA8491(JL3084) 14:50(NGO) - 16:00(NRT)

JL3084 at Centrair (2:30pm)

After passing the security, I had plenty of time before boarding. The good part of being at an airport is that I can use a free Wi-Fi, and I don't have internet connection at home. I updated all the apps on my both U.S. and Japanese iPhones and began surfing the net. The boarding soon started around 14:25, and my turn come in at 14:35. I took a seat at 18K. The plane was pushed back at 14:52 and began heading to the south end of the runway. The plane took off to the north and began turning left toward east for Narita bound. Due to bad weather, we are expecting some turbulence but it was not that bad. Flying over Miyake island at 15:35, it might have been put to the holding pattern for a circle or two. The captain was reporting that the bad weather is Narita are is causing delays. Finally the plane reduced power to initiate landing approach to Narita at 15:45. The approach was the same, coming from the south and landed toward north at 16:17. The plane taxied on the wet pavement to a spot off the gate. The power is cut and the plane was parked. The passengers were loaded into buses and the buses took us to a terminal building. I was one of those people almost missing the connection so they gave me a orange paper for quick connection.

Departing from NGO


  Getting closer to Narita

Landed at Narita

Heading to LA: AA170 17:25(NRT, JST) - 11:40(LAX, PDT)

I moved inside the building quick to locate a connection to American Airlines, which is at north? side. After passing the security, I used an automated gate for immigration. I hurried to the gate and then realized that the plane's departure is now 18:00 so I have some time. I tried to find the Japanese sake which my friend wanted but not in luck this time. At the gate, I replaced my Japan Airline tickets to American Airline ones and also bought a bottle of water.

At Narita Airport

I tried to call my dad but it looks like my cellphone's battery is dead again. This is the second or third time in a past one month. I guess I won't have a chance to chat with my dad before leaving Japan. I really need to replace my phone. After the boarding, I took a seat then get ready for the flight, the plane closed its doors and the preflight video started to show from 6:00pm. It took a while to start moving but the plane got pushed back at 6:20pm then began heading to the runway. It was late and also needed quite some times to depart. The plane finally took off around 6:50pm, and headed to the U.S.

Soon dinner was served. The air gets turbulent occasionally. I watched a couple of movies, one was The Founder, and another was Kimino Nawa (Your Name). I always wanted to check them out but did not have a chance until now.

Dinner Chicken

I decided to go sleep after the movie and woke up around 2:30am JST and I have about 2 more hours to go to the destination. Breakfast was served but I was not hungry much. However, I will miss all the meals if I don't eat it so I finished it. Since I was in an aisle seat, I could not see the outside but plane made turns and approached the airport. The plane landed at 11:59am local time and taxied until engine cut at 12:10pm, the plane needed to be towed in to the spot.

Breakfast Egg, ham and hushed potato with tomato

Final step to Houston: AA6018 LAX 14:05(PDT) - IAH 19:28(CDT)

After getting off the plane, I walked to proceed to the immigrations. The systems are becoming more automated and now it is easier to complete the screening. The process went good and I did not get questioned. Walking into the next building, where I had to go seek the baggage claim for my bags and needed to carry it for the connection. It took a while to locate mine then lined up for the customs. After passing the customs, now I am back in the States. I walked to the security screening and passed it with no problem. I went upstairs to locate the Gate 52, found out that the gate is not physically there. There was a door to the gates, and get picked up by a van. It was very weird that I am on a bus which drive on the one of the busiest airport in the U.S. among big jet like Boeing 777 and others. It was not so bad, under California sun, watching big jet airliners passing by. The van arrived at the gates 52s and I lined up to get on board.

It was a regional jet to it is going to be a tight cabin and seat. Took a seat and waited for the push back which started at 2:20pm. I was told that the plane had a bird strike before and cannot go any further up from 27,000ft. That's one amazing airplane we have. As usual, the plane took off to west, turning. left to change the heading to east. The plane flew by Miramar? Naval Air Base, home of Top Gun.  I get to see El Paso on the way. After nearly 3 hours of flight, I started to see a bit more familiar scenery. I get to see Houston area to my right. The plane approached to the airport from west, passing just north side and coming back for the landing. The evening was approaching as the plane landed.

Leaving LAX

Naval Air Base?

Fulton Lake

More desert looking

El Paso, TX

It look more like Texas now.

Houston in view

Bush Continental

Landed at Houston

A painting of my friend's daughter who died in cancer

Houston We Have Landed

Check in at the Hotel

Walking out from the terminal building and called the hotel I have reservation for tonight to request a pick up around 7:40pm. I had to wait, for a while under evening sun before the van comes, it is typical in the U.S. The outside was warm and breezy so no trouble just stranded there. The van finally came and I get on it. After a short ride, I checked in at the hotel around 8:30pm, dropped off my bags then immediately walked to restaurant inside the hotel. I had Texas Fried Chicken and a bottle of Shiner beer.


Finished dinner around 9:00pm with full stomach, come back to my room and took a shower. Started up my PC and began updating my trip notes and catching up on SNS. Going to bed around 11:00pm.

2017/5/2: Houston: Day 1

Getting a rental car

Woke up at 3:00am, feeling tired, did not want to do anything so I stayed in the sofa but decided to get up at 4:00am and began stretching for my body maintenance. I was checking on the weather news and it looks like it is going to be rainy on Wednesday so I guess I have to plan well.

Getting on Nissan Sentra with only 16miles in it

It's been a while since the last time when I drive on "wrong side" of the road.

Leaving the hotel at 7:21am, and I was dropped off at rental car center. I got a Nissan Sentra which has on 16 miles so it would be a nightmare if I wreck it. I have to drive with care. Getting in the car from left side, I need to get used to the position again. I drove slowly and come back to the hotel once more and called EarthLink to cancel subscription which the operator kept coming back and trying to convince me for keeping the account, despite of my sincere request that I don't live in the U.S. and  just want to close my account. I felt like wasting 30 minute just doing so. I would never renew my account with them again. Anyway, one job done and it's time for me to check out from the hotel and head out for the day.

Heading to Orange?

The first stop of the day is Liberty, TX. I left the hotel after loading my bags then drove along the airport and kept going on until joining FM1960. From there, I crossed Lake Houston and entered Dayton to get on US-90. After a short drive from here, I have arrived at Liberty.

Driving on Lake Sam Houston

75mph speed limit

Liberty, TX

 (my I Love Texas site for Liberty, TX)


Going up north on Main St. until hitting FM1011 then turned left to Sam Houston Library, where I can check out historical houses. I was getting hungry so I decided to head back to town and had a lunch at Whataburger. It was a good one, I kinda missed one with the burger and Dr. Pepper. Leaving the town and headed east on US-90 until joining at I-10 East at Beaumont. It was a few more drive to Orange, TX.

Whataburger, triangle tent looking shack with orange and white stripes is the sign you need to look out for.

It's got to be Whataburger in Texas!

Orange, TX

 (my I Love Texas site for Orange, TX)

Getting off from I-10 to US-90 Business, and drove into the town. I checked out the old depot, Stark House, and a few more places. The time is running fast so I needed to head back to Houston.


Departing the parking lot around 3:00pm, I drove back to Houston by taking I-10 west all the way. I had to make a restroom stop at Buc-ee's at Baytown. After arriving Houston, it was the time when the rush hour started and news on the radio began to report traffic jams and accidents. So I changed to I-610 north and then took US-290 to northwest of Houston while avoiding the downtown traffic.

At my friend's place

After coming back to Houston, I drove to my friend's place who just bought a house. Driving on Eldridge Pkwy near my former work place brings me back the memories of working in nights and driving home in the past years. Their house was very much, even have an attic. After chatting and unloading some Japanese snacks, we are done for now.

I then drove to Memorial City area to have a dinner with other friends of mine. We had an Mexican dinner, Fajita, as usual and Texas beer.

Dinner, Beef Fajita

After the dinner, I drove to my friend's apartment, greeted them. It's been a year since the last time we met. Going to bed around midnight today after a long chat. It was a good time catching up.

2017/5/3: Houston: Day 2

Heading to NW

I woke up at 3:00am again. The weather is expecting to turn rough today. Stretched my body and get ready for the day. I left my friend's apartment around 9:00am and began driving up on I-45 north.

Huntsville, TX  (my I Love Texas site for Huntsville, TX)

I pass Conroe and kept going. I got off the road right after passing the statue of Sam Houston. I then checked out the place for the first time. While I was staying at Huntsville, I also drove to a cemetery where Sam Houston in buried.

Sam Houston Status

Sam Houston's Tomb

Navasota, TX  (my I Love Texas site for Navasota, TX)

Left there after paying respect to Gen. Sam Houston then continue driving. I took TX-30 then TX-90 to Navasota. I filled the gas at Shiro, TX. Arriving at Navasota, I checked out old looking courthouse and church, as well as there is a old inn. There aren't much to see around here so I decided to continue my journey.


Brenham, TX

  (my I Love Texas site for Brenham, TX)

From Navasota, TX-105 to Brenham, the road was a series of up and downs. I do not know how people in old time travelled but usually those routes are usually well travelled after Spanish came to the continent, as well as by the frontiers who headed to west.

Driving on a hill, here's Hill Country

Brenham has many historical/classic houses. There are three landmark buildings which are open to public in certain ways.


One thing not to forget is the Blue Bell Ice-cream, the company has a visitor center and sampling section. There is a statue of a girl leading a cow just like the logo I see on package. While I was enjoying the sample, the outside was getting cloudy and wind gets gusty. It might be raining soon. I bought some items at gift shop, and left the place.

Blue Bell Ice-cream factory

Sampling Ice cream 1:30pm

Chappell Hill, TX

 (my I Love Texas site for Chappell Hill, TX)

After leaving Brenham, I took US-290 to Chappell Hill. There are some classic looking houses which I took pictures. I also continue driving back on US-290 to Houston a bit to Chappell Hill Sausage factory. I always find them at local grocery stores but just like the ice cream, I should taste it at there they are made. The store also had gift shop but those items are not like something I need.

Church in Galveston 2:12pm

  Chappell Hill Sausage factory 2:22pm

My lunch, a hotdog stuffed with Chappelle Hill Sausage

Driving toward Houston. Still no rain so I was lucky. Driving on US-290 East, some ups and downs on the route and finally made it back. Taking I-610 to come down south and get on I-10 East to my friend's place.

Dinner with friends

For the dinner, we met at a restaurant called "Urban Eats". It was raining pretty bad at the outside but we had a good time there.

Dinner with friends

2017/5/4: Houston: Day 3

Galveston visit

Waking up at 3:00am again. Leaving my friend's place at 8:00am, then headed to Trader Joe's first to buy some bags then began driving on I-45 South to Galveston. Stopping at Buc-ee's at Texas City.

Trader Joe's in Houston.

Stopping at Buc-ee's in Texas City on the way to Galveston

Crossing a bridge to Galveston


 (my I Love Texas site for Galveston, TX)

Crossing the bridge and found a place to park my car. I walked around to check places out. I have been to Galveston in the past a few times but never done historical tour. Visiting Bishop's Palace, Hotel Galvez, and Historic Theater actually made me feel like I am finally here.


Baseball game 1:10pm-

I can see downtown skyline from here

It's about time I need to go so I left the place and began heading back to Houston. The road was less congested this time and I stopped by at a BBQ place in Clear Lake area to catch up with my friend, then continue heading back to Houston and arrived at a parking nearby the ballpark around 12:45pm. I thought getting in was easy but there were lines of people by the ticketing corners. It took another 20 minutes to enter.


I was not sure how Astros are doing this year, and began watching the game from the 3rd. The game was a losing trend but they even had a chance with full base, which they could not utilize it. I went into a team store to buy stuffs and bought some items before leaving the stadium.

Another snack during the game

Wrapping up, Seafood in the evening

After the game, I called Houston Chronicle customer service to cancel subscription, which will take effect next month. I also called E-renters to confirm cancellation of apartment insurance because they charged me at the beginning of the year although I do not live there anymore. Finally, I called a couple of financial companies to cancel my 401ks. I think I mostly accomplished what I wanted to take care of in this trip. It's time for me to get my bags and get ready for the returning trip.

Making a stop at my friend's place for packing up my bags, headed out after bidding farewell. I drove to north by taking I-45. I decided to eat at Joe's Crab Shack for my last dinner in the U.S. I just love making mess while eating crab meat. On top of it, I get to drink St. Arnold's beer.

  My last dinner, at Joe's Crab Shack with St. Arnolds beer

Fueling the car after 600 miles.

Fueled the car and drove under dark sky to the hotel I have reservation for check in. The hotel had a better Wi-Fi connection than the another place. I repacked my bags and went to bed around 11:00pm. I am going back to Japan tomorrow.

2017/5/5-6: Coming back to Japan

Going to the airport, returning the car

I woke up at 5:00am, get ready for the day and brought down my bags to the car. Leaving the hotel by 6:00am, drove under dark sky to the airport and returned the car at 6:21am. I took up my bags to the upstairs to catch a shuttle bus to the terminal.

Heading to Chicago: AA3089 8:16(CDT) - 10:53(CDT)

Since the flight is an American, I was at the terminal B. The security line was not that busy and I walked pass it with no problem. I bought a mag cup from Starbucks with Houston design. I walked down to the waiting area which was shared with United Airlines, it feels a bit weird. I need to get some sleeping time but the area is way too cold. I also cannot miss the flight so I kept myself up by repeating countless yarning until the boarding starts.

Getting on the plane

The cabin window at my seat was not that clean so I did not quire enjoy the view but I can see the transitions, fell sleep during the flight and when I get up the plane was flying over green field and soon may houses and office buildings came into the sight. The plane went in straight to the airport for landing.

a shopping mall looked familiar

Heading to Narita: AA8404(JAL9?) 12:45(CDT) - 15:35(JST, 3/6)

I was checking at the counter and was informed of the bags I checked in Houston needed to be picked up at the baggage claim, so I had to go back and retrieve mine. After dropping off my bag at the JAL counter, I was rushed to the gate. I did not expected this but made it in time and get on board.

Some findings in Chicago Airport. American Airline's S80, globe at terminal

Let's Go home...

After taking a seat, it is going to be a long hour flight. I buckled up and I was set to go.

Departing Chicago

The plane took off as usual, start heading to Tokyo. Now I can relax and watched several movies; La La Land, Hidden figure, Hunger Games Final Part 1 and 2. Since this is a Japan Airline flight, the meals were better suiting my preference, compare to American flights.


I went to sleep and woke up when the cabin lights came on. A meal was served (I guess this is another lunch?) and now it is getting hard to land at Narita. The plane came down to south by Narita then make turn into the land from Boso Peninsula, heading to west, then turning left toward the airport for the final. The plane landed.

Lunch before arriving at Narita

Watching Boso Peninsula

Airport should be to left

Landed at Narita

Changing to Haneda Airport

After passing the customs, I walked up to a counter to buy ticket to Haneda airport. I checked the train which connects between two airports but it won't leave until 16:45 so I decided to take a bus. The bus was packed and I was told it is taking about 70 minutes at that moment. Since I have to catch plane leaving at 6:45pm, using the bus leaving 4:25pm is a little but manageable risk. I paid 3,100 Yen and bought the ticket at 4:09pm. I dragged my bag to the outside to locate the bus stop. There were lines of people waiting for their turns. My bags got tagged soon and I was ready.

Waiting for a shuttle bus to Haneda airport

Getting on a bus at 16:22, which left on time. The bus stopped two more places to pick up more passengers, and locating a missing cell phone before leaving the airport facility at 16:45. It took toll roads and moved toward Haneda airport. The bus pass around Ichikawa area, by Disney Resort, and went through a tunnel before arriving at the airport.

Arriving at Haneda Airport

Arrived at Haneda airport, I got off from the bus and picked up my bags, walking into the building to check in. First time being here and realized that the counters which are divided by the destinations. The one for Nagoya is at North? side so I dragged my bags to there. When I reached to the counter, it was 5 minutes shy of the cut off time. The lady there was telling me that I cannot check the bags in and so on at first but accepted them anyways. Passing the security was a easy part, I just needed to make a turn in front of the plate looking thing.

To Centrair: AA8483(JAL209) 18:45(HND) - 19:45(NGO)

I walked toward the designated gate then waited for the boarding time for the plane. I thought it would be a short wait but getting on board was late due to equipment issue. Finally the boarding started at 18:30 and I took a seat 10 minutes later. The outside was looking more like evening now than I when I arrived at the gate. The plane closed its door and got pushed back at 18:57. The plane taxied toward a runway, took off into the air and began heading to west toward Centrair airport. The plane began approach from the north but soon the captain made announcement that the landing pattern is being switched from north to south, so the schedule was pushed back. The plane proceeded toward south and flew south of the Chita Peninsula, then turned right toward the airport for landing.

JAL209 at Haneda airport.

Flying in to the night

To home

The plane landed at and I got off around 8:00pm. The baggage area was packed due to many planes landing around the same time so it took another 30 minutes until I can pick up my bags. I began walking towards the exit then bought Mu ticket at 8:33pm. I got on MuSky #255 to Kanayama which was just about leaving in a few minutes. The train left the airport station with not many people at 20:37, and moved smoothly toward Nagoya. I was quite tired but felt okay. The train arrived at Kanayama station on time at 21:01. I walked up to the gate and passed to the JR lines. I then realized that a local train is departing very soon so I carried heavy bags down the stairs as the train was coming in to the platform. The train left at 21:05 and arrived at Kachigawa 15 minutes later. Dragged my bags to my apartment but the issue was I could only carry one at a time at the stairs. I took a quick shower and made my bed around 10:00pm. It was a long trip and now it's time for me to get recover and still need to take care of my brother and dad tomorrow.


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Copyright 2017 - Kosuke Ishikawa / Unauthorized copying of contents, partial or whole, is not permitted.