Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

3 Full Days of Museums (plus riding its light rail) in Houston

For my first day in Houston I had a small breakfast of toast and biscuits (an item I had never encountered at a hostel breakfast before). I next went walking and ended up finding the light rail. The Houston Light Rail is the only modern one in the country (Pittsburg is the other, I’ll end up having to buy a weekly pass when I end up railfanning it) that doesn’t offer day passes. Instead you can either buy a single-ride ticket for $1.25, on the light rail only valid for 3 hours in only one direction of travel, away from the originating station which is printed on the ticket. If you use a Q-card it deducts $1.25 and you have three hours of transfers whose use have restrictions I did not figure out. At the end of the day I tapped onto Metro Rail assuming I had a transfer (it had been less than three hours since my last tap) but had another ride deducted after walking a few Metro Rail stops down. I started off wending my way down from Wheeler Station making some brief stopovers until I got to Fannin South, the southern terminus. There I had a nice chat with the customer service folks (in a air conditioned booth with a window they slided opened) who told me photography was completely fine and to make sure I buy another ticket to head northbound. I decide to tap my Q card assuming I would be transferring to a bus in less than 3 hours. I make a few more stops and get off at Museum District.

My first attraction is the Holocaust Museum which is quite a good little gallery of history for that tragedy. It isn’t nowhere as large as the national museum in DC which I went to years ago. Next I notice a sign for the weather museum which is maybe four homemade looking exhibits on the first floor of what felt like a home, a place I would not spend money to visit. It was a Thursday and free and the Holocaust Museum is always free. At that point it was about 12:30 and I had booked a free boat ride on the Sam Houston at 2:30.

I took the light rail into downtown and the heavens opened up, it started pouring. I stopped for some soup in a cafe before going outside to a shelterless stop for the hourly bus out to the port. My iPhone said 1:30 but that time came and went as I got worried I would miss the boat, they advised arriving a half-hour before for security reasons. The bus finally got there at 1:50 and I was at the gate to the port at 2:15. It had luckily stopped raining by then. The guard was a little surprised to see someone show up on foot but with a flash of my ID I was walking down the driveway (lined with completely transplanted palm trees) getting to the dock at 2:25. The captain of the boat checked our Ids again and we were off on a 90 minute cruise through the port. It was scenic for the industry. We passed quite a few huge ocean going container boats and one that transported cars as well as a mill for stones and a huge oil refinery. It was a good reminder of how much industry powers our modern lifestyles. At the mid-point of the tour they unlocked a few refrigerators with complimentary cans of soda and I indulged (something I never do). There was a fairly simple commentary of the facts about the port from time to time but it was neat getting on the water in front of such large boats on what was basically a propaganda tour. The tour ended and I wondered back to the bus stop with two routes to choose from, my iPhone had died so I just waited. The gate on one side of me and a freight train yard on the other where I watched (and photographed) a few trains being built. There was no fence, just no trespassing signs. A different bus route came which also went to downtown and I had a very chatty driver all the way to Minute Maid Park where I bought a ticket to tomorrows ballgame.

I spent the rest of the day wondering down Main Street getting some more light rail photos, got charged for another ride on my Q card for what I thought would be a transfer, as well as letting my phone charge in a bookstore. I wondered back to the hostel early and went out for a quick burger before going back and having good time chatting with others in the hostel, distracting myself from planning Dallas.

Friday began with me making a point of sitting down and planning my time in Dallas and quick overnight round-trip to Oklahoma to ride the Heartland Flyer. I’ll be discussing my adventures in the next few days. I ended up realizing that with the fact the one youth hostel is on Trinity Railway Express and not accessible on Sundays to delay my trip north for a night (by Greyhound, no other way) and leave on Sunday and found a decent Hotwire Hotel but not in downtown. I then wondered out of the hostel and back down to the museum district.

I spent the morning first visiting a small photography gallery and then the small (and free Museum of Contemporary Art’s). I wasn’t planning to go to the larger Museum of Fine Arts until I saw a sign for one of there promotions, free admission if you buy lunch (from a food truck outside or their cafeteria). The food truck outside specialized in grilled cheese and I enjoyed one for $6 before spending the afternoon wondering through Houston’s predominant art museum, with the standard little bit of this and that collection from the ancients to impressionists to modern.

I left around 4 o’clock and got on the Light Rail making a few photo stops on my way into downtown for tonight’s activity, attending a Houston Astros Game. The game didn’t start until 7 but I entered around 6 wanting to make sure I got one of the T-shirts being given to only the first 10,000 fans. I then wondered the two concourses getting a feel for the modern movable roof stadium which was closed on the hot night. I also got my pictures of the building that provides one of the entrances into the park (and houses the Astros front offices), the historic Union Station. It was a fairly quick, well pitched game in which the Cincinnati Reds beat the Astros 4-1. Interesting oddities in Minute Maid included the Deep in the Heart of Texas sing-along during the seventh inning stretch and two sponsored between inning moments from Latin Food companies (Goya and a tamale company) which shows the Latin influence in Houston. The game ended and the roof was opened for a fireworks display. I was just over two miles from the youth hostel with a bus that would take me right there leaving every 15 minutes according to maps on my phone. I got to the bus stop and one came in shortly there after on layover and finally left ten minutes later not at all following the schedule on my phone. It got to be standing room only and I was one of the first to get off and had another late night just chatting with some new people and some from the day before in the hostel.

Saturday was my final day in Houston and a day I decide I’ll relax on and not have my usual I must be out for the entire day mentality. I eat my breakfast with some Dutch smokers who I was hanging out with the night before who are ending up in New York and remember to warn them about our extremely high cigarette taxes to stock up before they arrive (I completely support the high taxes, we spend so much more money subsidizing the health care of those who participate in the deadly disease). I leave the hostel and start wondering down the museum district again. I first stop at a little craft gallery and then continue to the main and final museum I wanted to see, the Health Museum.

I get to the Health Museum and realize its primary designed for children, but since my Transit Museum membership gets me in free it is the only reason I am going. $8 for an adult is not worth it to see this museum. I find it a little amusing when the clerk asks me Where I Parked? And is surprised that I got there the more healthy walking way. There is an interesting interactive exhibit about cells and how they work, and I can’t believe how much I remember from biology class, with most of the names. There is then a 15 minute 4D show (we are waring 3D glasses and there are lights, fog machines and mist that are spayed on us in the theater) about how the human body fights disease going through computer generated images of the blood stream which I find actually quite neat. I then go and see there general exhibit on the body which seemed a little out of date. For example the wall about the Food Pyramid had a giant sign that it was no longer accurate with the new USDA food Plate. I poke into the gift shop and am surprised to see a soda machine and vending machine with sugary snacks as the only food service in the museum. You would think a museum about health would have a nice healthy cafe to eat in. At that point it is around three and I leave to walk back to the hostel wanting some computer time to catch up on this blog.

I get distracted saying good bye to the really interesting British Couple I have spent the past three late nights with and talking to a few new arrivals. I end up wondering over to Starbucks to have some time to myself before going back to the hostel shortly before 7 to do my laundry (only $2, including detergent) as I watch the Stanley Cup which the Devils unfortunately lose 2 to 1 in overtime. I have a very late dinner before going to bed relatively early and not having another 2:00am night chatting.