The Hakeem era -- those glorious days that brought Houston its first major pro championships -- is now, officially, history. The Dream is a Toronto Raptor, and he probably has a better chance of making the NBA Finals with new teammate Vince Carter than with the current Rockets. But the Rockets are the team with the better future, and much of that future will rest on the shoulders of guard Steve Francis. Francis won the Co-Rookie of the Year award after the 1999-2000 season and continued with solid play in this past season. The Rockets prefer to spread the wealth around instead of having one dominant scorer, but Francis led the team with an average of 20 points and 6.5 assists per game. He's pretty deadly from the three-point line, and he's steadily developing into a leader both on the court and off. Francis came out from the University of Maryland after his junior year but has spent this summer going back to class to get closer to his goal of a degree in criminology. By the time the Rockets move into their new arena for the 2003-2004 season, Francis should be firmly established as one of the NBA's stars.

Forty-five minutes north of town on I-10 (at least the way we drive) lies Huntsville State Park, nestled among the Piney Woods of the Sam Houston National Forest. Here you can thrash and crash (well, if you're doing it right, it occasionally happens) more than ten miles of hike-and-bike trails for a $3 day-use fee. Following the perimeter of Lake Raven, these mostly single-track dirt paths are well maintained, with cute wooden bridges. There's nothing too technical here, but the roots of the skinny, towering trees can be challenging to negotiate, even when you're not busy avoiding the fine sand that gathers in deep pockets between the hills. After that long, fun ride, you can kick back in the parking area with the other bikers, clean up with a shower or, heck, go jump in a lake.

Forty-five minutes north of town on I-10 (at least the way we drive) lies Huntsville State Park, nestled among the Piney Woods of the Sam Houston National Forest. Here you can thrash and crash (well, if you're doing it right, it occasionally happens) more than ten miles of hike-and-bike trails for a $3 day-use fee. Following the perimeter of Lake Raven, these mostly single-track dirt paths are well maintained, with cute wooden bridges. There's nothing too technical here, but the roots of the skinny, towering trees can be challenging to negotiate, even when you're not busy avoiding the fine sand that gathers in deep pockets between the hills. After that long, fun ride, you can kick back in the parking area with the other bikers, clean up with a shower or, heck, go jump in a lake.

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