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Best Of 2000

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Video Game

No shooting. No explosions. But there are ideas here, furtively embedded in this first-person driver game designed by Houston-born artist Mel Chin and a passel of MIT programmers. You press the gas pedal and drive through the desert, where a "tree of life" dispenses golden balls to the tents of a nomadic tribe. In search of the balls, you drive to those tents, and through those tents, completing tasks, figuring out puzzles, overwhelmed by the detail of the tribes' rugs, mesmerized by the speed, hardly noticing how the new culture is colliding with the old. And when you've collected all the balls, well, nobody seems to know what happens then, because nobody seems to have collected all of them, even though -- and this is the best part -- the game, like admission to the museum, is free.

Best Bowling Alley

Of all the gall. Houston goes nuts when Bob McNair lands a pro football team for the area, or when Grand Prix racing adds the city to its circuit. But there's not even a tax subsidy or muted shout ready when Diamond Lanes operator Jimmy Young attracts one of the sports world's most coveted events to the Houston area: the Professional Bowlers Association tour finale (the Lone Star Open runs November 17 to 21). Hand it to the blue-collar citizens of Pasadena. They know their bowling, and they know Diamond's the best. The 32 lanes are kept in flawless condition. There's a pro shop, lessons, enough house balls to suit anybody and the musical lights-out rock-'n'-bowl extravaganza for the teens on Saturday night. Plus, there's the new arrival: a full-service pizza restaurant right on the premises. If Diamond's good enough for the pros, it's definitely the best for the rest of us weekend bowlers.

6327 Spencer, Pasadena, 77505
MAP
281-487-7327
Best Bowling Alley

Of all the gall. Houston goes nuts when Bob McNair lands a pro football team for the area, or when Grand Prix racing adds the city to its circuit. But there's not even a tax subsidy or muted shout ready when Diamond Lanes operator Jimmy Young attracts one of the sports world's most coveted events to the Houston area: the Professional Bowlers Association tour finale (the Lone Star Open runs November 17 to 21). Hand it to the blue-collar citizens of Pasadena. They know their bowling, and they know Diamond's the best. The 32 lanes are kept in flawless condition. There's a pro shop, lessons, enough house balls to suit anybody and the musical lights-out rock-'n'-bowl extravaganza for the teens on Saturday night. Plus, there's the new arrival: a full-service pizza restaurant right on the premises. If Diamond's good enough for the pros, it's definitely the best for the rest of us weekend bowlers.

Best Tube Trip

Not for us the overhyped Guadalupe, with its clear-water views of overboard Revos and its drunk-flotillas gummed together like fire ants in a flash flood. Give us instead the Colorado, a true Texan's Texas river, greenish on a good day, brownish on most, wide, flat, slow and so far blessedly empty of "fellow" humans. The Lower Colorado River Authority publishes recreation-oriented maps of the Colorado from Austin all the way down to the gulf, but the six-mile curve ballooning around Columbus makes for the tidiest day trip, just an hour and a half west of Houston. Frank Howell outfits your crew with enough tubes, canoes and/or kayaks to float a small army and its beer past the shady overhangs, the red bluff cow country, the middle-of-the-stream sand bars and the end-of-the-trip "wall" to the take-out at Beason's Park on State Highway 71. That's where Howell meets you, loads his equipment and ferries you to the put-in. The tube float takes anywhere from three to five hours, depending on the water level, and includes nothing more hazardous than a low-water ripple to disturb the sleepy course, most of which you could walk midstream without wetting a chin. Drinking water and wearing sunscreen are good ideas. Glass bottles are not. On second thought, go to the damn Guadalupe and leave the Colorado quiet, the way we like it.

Best Tube Trip

Not for us the overhyped Guadalupe, with its clear-water views of overboard Revos and its drunk-flotillas gummed together like fire ants in a flash flood. Give us instead the Colorado, a true Texan's Texas river, greenish on a good day, brownish on most, wide, flat, slow and so far blessedly empty of "fellow" humans. The Lower Colorado River Authority publishes recreation-oriented maps of the Colorado from Austin all the way down to the gulf, but the six-mile curve ballooning around Columbus makes for the tidiest day trip, just an hour and a half west of Houston. Frank Howell outfits your crew with enough tubes, canoes and/or kayaks to float a small army and its beer past the shady overhangs, the red bluff cow country, the middle-of-the-stream sand bars and the end-of-the-trip "wall" to the take-out at Beason's Park on State Highway 71. That's where Howell meets you, loads his equipment and ferries you to the put-in. The tube float takes anywhere from three to five hours, depending on the water level, and includes nothing more hazardous than a low-water ripple to disturb the sleepy course, most of which you could walk midstream without wetting a chin. Drinking water and wearing sunscreen are good ideas. Glass bottles are not. On second thought, go to the damn Guadalupe and leave the Colorado quiet, the way we like it.

Best Place to Mountain Bike

We know what you're thinking. Mountain biking? In Houston? Well, our famously flat town has its own version: bicycling the bayou. The best-kept mountain-biking secret in town is the Ant Hills, a system of ten-plus miles of trails and paths along Buffalo Bayou from Wilcrest to Highway 6. The prime off-road action follows the gully's southern side from Kirkwood to Eldridge, where it meets up with Terry Hershey Park. The mostly single-track trails of packed dirt and slippery silt twist and turn along the water's edge among thick vines and skinny pines, oaks and catalpas. The trails are intermediate to difficult, but they often split around obstacles, which allows a cyclist to tailor the ride to fit his abilities. A rider also can come up for air at several points to join the walkers, in-line skaters and joggers on the more peaceful system of asphalt pathways above the ravine. No, you won't see any mountains on this ride, but if you're not careful, you could come face-to-face with a more common Bayou City sight: poison ivy.

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Best Video Game: KNOWMAD, at the Art Car Museum

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