Six months in… and a Brompton tour of Houston

3/10/22

Can you believe I departed Portland exactly six months ago today? Time flies… although at the same time, it now kind of feels to me like “this is my life now”… so being on the road feels pretty normal. I really do think I could keep up some version of this, somewhat indefinitely. My intention is to manifest that over the next year or so.

Today was my last full day in Houston, and the weather was perfect: low 70s, sunshine, and low humidity. I met up with a wonderful self-described “Bromptonaut” local named Rey. He led me on a fabulous tour of close-in Houston.

First we visited The Post, which is the old main post office building. It has now been turned into a food court with an adjacent warehouse-chic space containing art exhibits.

Up on the roof is a newly opened public garden/relaxing space with a nice view of downtown.

After that, we needed some lunch, so Rey led me underground, into Houston’s extensive tunnel system. When he had first told me about this network, I had suspected he was pulling my leg: how had I never heard of such a thing? Other Houston folks I had met hadn’t mentioned it. I had heard about the Minneapolis skyway system, designed to let people avoid walking outside in the cold. As it turns out, Houston has a similar network, but underground, which helps people to stay cool in the summers. (Sadly, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey flooded the whole thing, requiring extensive remediation.)

We walked in the tunnels for some blocks, turning this way and that amongst many other pedestrians. Finally we stopped at a food court, where we dined on some delicious Chinese dumplings.

Then it was on to Sam Houston Park, a little gem of a quiet, green historic area right in the midst of the city’s bustle. There were a number of wood-framed buildings still standing there, dating to the early 1800s.

We continued through that park, and along the Buffalo Bayou Park trail, which was a lovely oasis in the urban setting, including a dog park, multiple bike/pedestrian bridges, public art, and—as always—the majestic live oaks.

Then there was more urban sightseeing, including a beautiful brand-new bike path with hexagonal pavers. (There were even workers out adding to the path as we rode it; it has just opened.)

One sobering note: on the way back to my hosts’ home, we passed by the convention center, and on the lawn adjacent to it was a memorial to the more than 1400 Texans who died from gun violence in the year 2020. It was quite a sight to see.

One of our last stops, though, was a really cool tour of a unique space: the cistern. We were led on a tour with about a dozen other folks into the cool and echo-ey chamber that used to contain millions of gallons of Houston’s drinking water, many years ago. They sometimes host music-and-light art installations in there; it was a shame there wasn’t one going at this time.

After Rey dropped me off back at the house and went to catch his bus, my host Sylvia and I headed out to a happy hour at a bar just one block away, where we enjoyed a delicious strawberry-slushy variation of a Pimm’s Cup. Then when Mike returned from work, they took me to a Tex-Mex restaurant that dates to 1953, where I enjoyed a wonderful plate of vegan spinach-artichoke enchiladas.

Tomorrow I will head off to a new adventure in New Orleans. My week in Houston has been richer than I had imagined, and I’m so thankful to everyone who has helped to make it so.

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