So, we traveled to Houston, TX for the Thanksgiving holiday, a 21+ hour drive that by any other means would have been met with a resounding “Hell NO!!!”, even given the fact that the people we were going to see were our closest family, people who really love for us to visit. They let us sit on their furniture, splash in their hot tub, run around the house and just be ourselves. Refreshing!! But the drive … Oh, but in the RV it was a breeze, even when we approached HWY 64 at 10 pm and found it was closed due to 3-6” of ice on parts, we didn’t flinch!! No need to seek out a hotel or anything, we simply pulled off with all the truckers and slept – a welcome break for Dan I’m sure! We even met a Raton, NM Sheriff’s Deputy who came over to the RV because he’d heard of us, knew our plight with “the law” and had to let us and the kids know that not all cops are “conceited self-absorbed jerks”!! He was super cool, gave the kids stickers, gave Dan some driving advice and wished us well.
The first few days in The Woodlands were spent relaxing, visiting, laughing and eating. Oh my gosh the amount of food I’ve consumed is ridiculous!!! I’ll be busting my butt on the slopes all winter to make up for it for sure! After chilling and eating my weight in bad-for-me-food, we went to the store and bought fruit, no I’m kidding, we actually managed to get out of the house and do some local Woodlands parks proud. We are always looking for free forms of entertainment and parks and playgrounds are always a fun option. And ya’ll know when we show up to a park we are ready to play, so we were thrilled to learn that The Woodlands had epic parks for the kids to run off their incredible energy resources!! Seriously, this is a mom’s daily job … to ensure her children have zero expendable energy at bedtime. The Woodland’s extensive parks and trail system helps accomplish that goal. We lived in an area that purported to take alternate forms of travel “very seriously”, but the bike paths go North and South and then East and West, there is not amazing intricate system where you can bike or run or skate for hours without ever recreating your steps! The trail system here was top notch!!! There are more than 160 miles of pathways and trails linking the villages in The Woodlands. These important trails connect The Woodlands Villages, schools. parks and shopping centers! They also serve as a safe venue to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, without the worry and the stress of the very dangerous “Bike Lanes”!!! Here’s a map, you’ll see what I mean!! Wordpress is being stupid, here’s the link… http://www.thewoodlandstx.com/pdfs/hikeandbiketrailsmap.pdf
In addition to Parks, we ventured to downtown Houston where our kids got to do something they don’t get to do everyday … that’s right folks, they road the Escalators in several buildings!! Here’s a photo of one escalator … getting crazy, I know!! That’s when the real tourists came out … I didn’t know we had a tourist side to us, but we do and it came out with a vengeance … in the form of 514 photos in a 3-4 hour time span! Our first stop was the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Let me just say, OMGsh, gorgeousness!! Marble, statues, pipes, modern architecture … what more can a cradle Catholic ask for? 🙂 It’s located on St. Joseph’s Parkway and there is on-street parking for everyone, around the corner on San Jacinto St … we parked our RV there, plenty of space and it’s free, and went out to explore! And first on our list of must sees was the Co-Cathedral!! First of all they do guided tours M-F twice daily that are wildly popular, but in true Kellogg fashion we opted for the self-guided tours (we cannot commit to time constraints, that’s the real story) that exist for stragglers and those that prefer to tour on their own time at their own pace! I’m not going to get into the history of the Cathedral here but you can read all about it right here: http://www.sacredhearthouston.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=208. What I want to tell you about is the stunning beauty, I want to tell you about the fact that the mind captivating opulence (with quite the minimalist feel) of this church certainly elevates your sense of celebrating with the Heavenly Hosts! As traveling Catholics we have been to countless Churches across the country and in Canada and this church captures the reverence, the tradition, the history and the modern in one beautiful structure! Even non-Catholics will be taken aback as I can’t imagine not being overwhelmed with adoration of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in this Church. I’ve been told in addition to being a revered Holy Church, it’s also quite the architectural art piece. And now there’s the Pasi Opus XIX Pipe Organ with a whopping 5,499 pipes ranging in size from 1/2 inch to 32 feet and with four keyboards, one footpedal and 75 stop knobs. This may mean something special to musicians, but to me, it was just another amazingly beautiful addition to the church! 🙂 I saw on their website that they occasionally host concerts to the public … this would be phenomenal!
We made our way to the light rail, aka METRORail, which was a fun adventure in and of itself. Dan and I used to ride the subway in DC quite regularly, but having been gone from there for some 13+ years it’s a rare, if not an out and out foreign experience for the kids!! They loved it, the little ones thought they were on a train, and it is a fast, convenient way to travel to downtown, midtown, the Museum District and even the Texas Medical Center should you have the unfortunate need to visit there! We had our own travel guide, my cousin, who studies architecture and is a connoiseur of all things Houston — BEST guide EVER, however, if you aren’t so lucky, METRORail has a trip planner on it’s website. You simply enter your starting point, your end point and it puts together an itinerary of cool places to stop and see! Here’s the link: http://tripplanner.ridemetro.org/. The METRORail “Red Line” runs a 7.5-mile route running from the University of Houston-Downtown to south of Reliant Park along the streets of Main, Fannin and San Jacinto. For those of you used to massive big city Subway systems, 7.5 miles may sound miniscule, but the fact is, the METRORail gets you wherever you want/need to get in Houston!!!
First stop: Chase Tower! This year it is closed for a few months for some renovations and some pretty high tech additions!! This was a bummer, but luckily last year we had the pleasure of viewing the entire city of Houston from the observation deck on the sixtieth floor of the JPMorgan Chase tower, which is, incidentally, Houston’s tallest building. It was a pretty clear day and we could see forever, but I hear on a totally clear day you can see for a good 20 miles in both directions!!! The actual Chase Tower climbs another 15 stories, but the 60th floor in the highest point in the city that is open to the public!! What’s even more awesome is that it’s FREE!! But then after you are done viewing the entire city, you can take the escalators down 20 ft to the underground tunnel system that links 95 (yes, 95) full city blocks below Houston’s busy streets! The first stretch was built in the 1930’s to connect two buildings owned by a dude named Ross Sterling and from there it spiralled to 7 miles of underground tunnels with restaurants, stores, banks, dry cleaners and even a food court like what you see in a big mall!! We stopped and bought some candy (of course) and Starbuck’s!!
From the Chase Tower we could see Pennzoil Plaza, it was totally unique in it’s epic trapezoidal shape which Sean said made Pennzoil Place the first skyscraper of the Post-Modern era and made it a significant work of architecture in the US winning awards in the 70’s — even being named building of the decade in 1975! He also tried to tell us that it was actually 2 buildings, despite the fact that it only looked like one. Not that we didn’t believe him, but we were in awe so we had to go check it out for ourselves!! Turns out Sean was right. it is, in fact, 2 36 ft towers, that are mirror images of each other, standing a mere 10 ft apart!! You can only tell there are 2 separate buildings once you come around the corner and you can see the crack of light separating them! It’s truly an optical illusion from anywhere except on the two sides where you literally “see the light”.
From here we walked around downtown, taking pictures of buildings that caught our interest, flags blowing in the wind, we stopped and talked to countless people and even found a corner where Fuze was giving out free Fuze Tea and taking pictures of people enjoying said tea!! LOL! We saw police on horseback, which was so incredibly cool, made even cooler by the fact that they were in front of a coffee shop!! 🙂
While the kids were scaling buildings and climbing light poles we slowly made our way to quite possibly one of the coolest things in Downtown Houston, the Listening Vessels in Discovery Green. The LIstening Vessels are 2 Alabama Limestone sculptures that have concave interiors which act as mirrors to reflect sound between the two! You can literally sit in one facing the other that is 70 feet away (70 feet, mind you) and hear every blessed word the other person speaks in the other … that is 70 feet away!! In the same park there is a playground, a bandstand, two dog runs and a pretty epic fountain that kids are encouraged to play in … OK, we were in like Flynn … a Kellogg must immerse themselves in water, it’s a given. It was pretty fantastic to find a park with such a peaceful, yet intriguing feel right in the busy downtown area of Houston!!
Now, we are starving, like literally starving, the kids are on the verge of death, but finding food in Houston is incredibly easy … we had a massive decision to make though, because in Houston, who wants to go to a restaurant you can go to anywhere? Not us!! Enter Hard Rock Cafe’!! EPICNESS. We, the Kellogg family, neither one entity nor separate have never ever been to a HardRock Cafe’! Not once! Ever! This was an adventure in an of itself!!! Our server was totally a character, the food was great and the atmosphere was Rock Solid — bad pun?! From the HardRock Cafe’ s own website: “Houston, we have NO problem! Long ago this dynamic temperament transformed what used to be just another swamp into the nation’s fourth-largest city, world energy center, and nucleus of outer-space exploration. Just in case you didn’t know, the first words spoken from the famous moon broadcast were: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” so you can probably guess that there’s no such thing as a humble Texan! There’s nothing humble about Hard Rock Cafe Houston. Located in the glittery theater district, a 35-foot replica of the Stevie Ray Vaughan Gibson Firebird guitar lights the way to the most rockin’ place in the city. Hard Rock Cafe Houston is the ideal location for your next event. Come see for yourself why this city rocks, and ditch your problems at the Hard Rock Cafe Houston! We’ll launch you into a whole new dimension.” You know what, they’re right … No Problem!! 🙂
We can’t wait until next year when we return … on the docket are to catch a Texan’s game at Reliant Stadium, Space Center Houston, The Waterwall, Battleship USS Texas, Combat Houston Paintball (duh) and so much more!!! 🙂 We are off to San Marcos next to enjoy the flood waters!! Then it’s back to CO to take advantage of the unbelievable snow storm and powder covered mountains! Can’t wait to ride that CO champagne!!!