Arriving in Houston (and yet another Japanese garden!)

3/4/22

I am on a roll with these Japanese gardens. It’s such a treat to travel from place to place exploring them.

Backing up a bit: This morning started early. I had set the alarm for 5:00, knowing my train was scheduled to depart at 6:25. But I was so nervous about having to get up early—and also my hotel room was so noisy, from various sources—that I slept fitfully the whole night, and when my bladder woke me at 4:30, I decided not to go back to sleep.

I checked out of the hotel and biked the short distance to the station, where I waited outside in the dark, comfortable in short sleeves even before 6:00 am. Remarkable. I intend to manifest this sort of weather for all my future “winters.”

I had another trainside scuffle with the conductor, who exasperatedly insisted I check my bag, despite my calm but multiple protests that there is almost always space available on the racks.

He tagged the trailer and put it in the baggage compartment. I boarded the coach car and stowed my folded bike, and noted with smug frustration that there would indeed have been ample room for the trailer. This meant I didn’t have access to my laptop during my ride, which due to delays ended up being about six hours.

Oh, well. First world problems, as they say. I dozed a bit on the train, had some snacks, stared at my phone, and watched some scenery.

When I disembarked in Houston, several people marveled at my rig, and one took a picture. (A woman in the lobby of the hotel this morning had taken one too, as I was checking out.)

I pedaled about three miles to my Warmshowers host’s house, passing through downtown (those buildings are tall!) and stopping on the way at both a vegan bakery and a vegan soul food place. I neglected to photograph my wares, but at both locations people struck up conversations with me about my rig and my journey. They all warned me about how dangerous it is to bicycle in Houston because of terrible drivers. I have heard this many times; I’m doing my best to ride defensively. (Sure enough, I had already seen a loud motorcycle race through a red light in front of me between the station and the bakery.)

My host, Ed, is a very interesting person: a former Peace Corps volunteer with a Masters in Public Health, currently pursuing a PhD in urban planning, with an intention to teach at one of Houston’s five universities. He runs an Airbnb with multiple rooms, so I’ve been hearing people with accents from all over the world around me this afternoon and evening.

After I got settled into my room, I headed back out on the bike to nearby Hermann Park, one of Houston’s best known and best loved public parks. I could see why; it was large, green, and pleasant.

I spent some time lounging on a bench by the water under a live oak tree, but my main draw to the park had been the Japanese garden. Like San Antonio’s, it is free and open to the public. Given that fact, I was impressed by its size. I enjoyed the trademark koi pond and various other traditional style elements, as well as the many trees, including Texas pines and crape myrtles. I also appreciated some early colorful spring blooms.

Tomorrow, on my way to my next hosts’ place, I plan to explore the arboretum.

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