This trip took place from February 17th through February 22nd, 2017.
Day 6, I don’t want to go back to normal life, we’re vacation people now: The little one actually slept well overnight which means we did too. He stayed in his crib all night which meant I didn’t end up on the couch or floor for half the night. Everyone was still awake fairly early for one reason or another. Val’s reason was to go to work. She was taking Carter to daycare as well so before they left we got hugs and thanked Val for putting us up in their house for nearly a week. Dave also had to work but stayed home for the morning so he could take us to the airport. Lucky for us, he has a job that allows him to work remotely when needed. Before we trekked to George Bush International, however, we had a couple hours to kill.
Dave still had to work despite being home so he retreated to their room while Beth and I watched movies. We started with The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. This one was Beth’s choice. It’s been on our DVR at home for months so I’m glad she finally decided to watch it. It was very well made and I found the story about Alan Turing quite interesting. Five stars. We next watched Moonrise Kingdom. I had actually started watching it the day before but only made it about ten minutes in before Carter made me change it. I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson’s films and this one was on par. The visual style, dialogue, and familiar faces are clear indicators you’re watching an Anderson. I love his sense of humor most of all. It’s not for everyone (as nothing is) but I enjoy his writing and style.
We eventually got around to re-packing our suitcase and tried to put James down for a nap but he didn’t sleep for very long. The weather was fantastic so I recommended we take a walk around the neighborhood. Beth loaded James into Carter’s stroller and the three of us set out on a 1.5 mile jaunt around the neighborhood. The sun burned hot so we mostly stayed on the shaded side of the street. I would have been fine getting a tan on this trip but I burn easy, especially during winter when I’ve spent very little time outside for four months. It was an excellent change to be outside in the sunshine among pink flowering bushes and greening grass. Houston’s spring plant growth had just started in the past two weeks. Val had joked earlier in the trip that winter in Houston was from January 6th through January 8th this year and they had lost a couple of plants in their front yard to the frost. Our winter in Minnesota hasn’t been too bad in 2016-2017 but I’d trade it in a heartbeat for the Houston version (Dave and Val would likely trade their summer for ours).
The neighborhood was actually quite active for a Wednesday morning. There were people at the park we passed, an older couple walking their dachshunds, another stroller-pushing mom, and at least three crews laboring on houses (one landscaping/clean-up crew, one renovation crew, and one foundation repair crew). We crossed the bayou again, the same one we crossed on our visit to the park on day three, and our turtle friends were still there. There were more of them around this time, basking in the sun. There were at least two babies among them. Our walk wasn’t as long as I would have liked only because I didn’t want to go back. This was the last bit of our Houston experience for 2017 which meant I had to work the next day. I like my job but not nearly as much as I like taking vacations. A coworker of mine asked if I would keep working if I won a sizable lottery prize and I can honestly say I’d be willing to keep working but I would probably go into business for myself. Being my own boss one day is a dream of mine. If I do it right I’ll have way more time to adventure out into the world. Winning the lottery cannot come soon enough.
Back at the house, we fed James his lunch, a fruit-flavored baby food that comes in a pouch. He’s eating up to two meals of baby food a day now, mixed with breastfeeding and the occasional formula supplement. Dave helped me get all of our stuff in the car and we drove off towards the airport. I did have one quick detour for the group that I had wanted to see for a while since seeing it in a book about kitschy road trip attractions. The Beer Can House of Houston is a local landmark. You can learn more about it here but basically a retired upholsterer, eccentric, and potential crazy person named John Milkovisch started decorating his yard and house with glass, marbles, and crushed beer cans in 1968. This insane house turned-art installation would stick out like a sore thumb on just about any street. There are normal houses nearby and large condo buildings being erected across the road. Maybe the locals are excited to have a local landmark right next door but I don’t know if I’d like looking out my kitchen window and seeing a bunch of reflective beer cans! The Beer Can House is only open for tours on the weekends so I snapped a couple pictures from the street and we continued our journey.
Our kitsch detour took us through Memorial Park, home of the Houston Arboretum and a golf course. It’s also part of the Houston Marathon, which Dave has run. He said it’s towards the end of the usual marathon route where runners hit a massive wall. Memorial Drive follows the Buffalo Bayou straight into the heart of downtown Houston. Beth, her mom, Carol, and I had actually visited Buffalo Bayou Park a few years before on our road trip. It has excellent views of the downtown skyline which I was pleased to see again on this drive. Dave hopped on Interstate 45 North and we arrived at the airport a short time later. He helped us unload our luggage and stuff James’ car-seat into its carrying case (we could have brought his car-seat onto the plane if we wanted to buy an extra ticket). Beth and I thanked Dave for letting us stay with them and for driving us to the airport. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank both Val and Dave again for their hospitality and for providing us with many delicious meals during our trip. They are incredibly generous and we truly appreciate having them in our lives.
James made more friends at the airport (something he is very talented at doing) while we checked our luggage and got our boarding passes. Beth was granted TSA Pre-Check out of the blue, presumably because they knew she was toting an infant. She left me with all of our carry-ons and took just the baby through security in the much shorter and much quicker line. I waited my turn in the normal security line and then I was stopped by one of the x-ray technicians. The person at the front of the x-ray machine had asked whom I was travelling with because I had a diaper bag and far too many items for just myself (true) but laughed it off when I explained how Beth went through and left me with all the stuff. The security officer at the end of the x-ray machine stopped me so I thought it was likely going to be the same question. She opened the diaper bag, however, and pulled out Beth’s water bottle full of water. It was certainly more than the allowed volume (whoops)! This woman looked at me like I was trying to smuggle several ounces of an illegal substance onto a plane. I asked if I could dump out the water or chug it and she said no.
If I wanted to dump it or even drink it I had to go back through the security gate and wait in line again. I yelled out to Beth sitting on a bench thirty feet away from the security area and she came over. I grabbed James and all our non-water bottle items and Beth took it back through to dump out. Her Pre-Check clearance allowed her to get back through faster than I could have. We didn’t notice at the time but the security officer had untied Beth’s sweatshirt (acquired on one of our San Francisco trips) and a treasured baby blanket from the diaper bag and did not return them to us. We lost them for good despite placing claims when we got home with TSA lost and found and Delta’s lost items website.
We only had to wait around for our flight to board for roughly ten minutes. I learned my lesson from the first flight and chose to eat my lunch from the nearest dining establishment instead of picking a slow burger place. I paid $9 for a turkey sandwich at a counter across from our gate and Beth got a bag of Doritos and a strawberry parfait for $7 (yay airport prices!). Because of James we were able to board the plane first again. We were once again sitting in the very last row of seats, right in front of the bathrooms. This was a slightly smaller plane than our trip down there so there was no window in our row and one side only had two seats instead of three. There was also no galley behind the bathrooms, just an emergency exit. Beth breastfed James briefly while I ate my sandwich. I gave Beth the
window wall seat and I took the middle. A woman arrived relatively late in the boarding process to sit next to me. She didn’t seem disappointed to be seated close to a baby, which was a good sign.
Before we took off, the flight attendants came around and rearranged a couple people. Apparently there were several empty seats and they were offering them to passengers that might appreciate a little more space. For example, the 350lb man two rows ahead of us was gifted two seats to himself. They also offered two seats to Beth and me so we could be more comfortable. Since we were already settled into our seats with all our stuff in the seat-back pockets, I suggested that perhaps the woman next to me might want two seats to herself, which would of course give us three seats to ourselves. The woman agreed and we were gifted with an extra empty seat between us. This meant we could let James lay down for a while if he wanted and when holding him set our stuff there instead. This plane also had power outlets so we could charge our phones. It was an awesome setup.
We took off around 3pm. Beth watched a show on Netflix. Whenever she was holding James he would reach out for her phone and try to touch the bright screen. He also liked to play with her headphone wires. I played more Ticket to Ride on Beth’s iPad. I played several games and even won a few against the robot competitors. James did not sleep much on the plane, instead choosing to mutter baby non-sense at an elevated decibel level. He wasn’t screaming or crying. He was just telling us (and everyone else around us) a story. It was cute (another talent of his) but I was aware of how loud he was being. I hope the other passengers weren’t too bothered.
Halfway through the trip a horrible smell reached our noses and a man in orange walked back to his seat in the front of the plane, presumably several pounds lighter and infinitely more comfortable. It was so awful even the guy opposite us against the other wall covered his nose with his sleeve and he was sleeping! The flight went through a minor amount of turbulence (potentially caused by that man’s poop somehow) but the plane landed safely around 6pm. Sitting in the back it took us twenty minutes to de-board but this time around we were able to pack up all our items into the carry-on bags long before our turn to walk off the plane. The flight attendants were very kind and complimentary of James’ demeanor as we exited and all my fears of a screaming baby on a plane were gone.
The big board in baggage claim said our luggage was going to a claim that was completely empty and still. There were a dozen other people waiting around too so we figured something was up. How exactly had everyone else on our flight managed to find the right claim and gather their luggage? Only after asking several people did we determine that our flight’s luggage was at the other end of the long (and I mean long) claim area. My dad was waiting outside in Beth’s car and so our vacation was just about done. I drove us back to Beth’s parent’s house first, as it was closest, and we picked up Maeby. I guess she had a good couple of days because she managed to sneak several large chunks of bread and an unknown portion of goldfish crackers from her temporary guardians. She always eats well at grandpa and grandma’s house! We then dropped off my dad, thanked him for the pickup, and then drove home ourselves. James was anxious for his dinner and bedtime was a welcomed occasion for everyone. Another vacation in the books. End of day six.
Conclusion: The trip was a success even though we didn’t get to do all of the activities I had hoped to do. I knew travel with a baby was going to be different but the inability to go out into the Houston area and experience the various sights and restaurants was disappointing. I just need time to get used to it. I like to go-go-go when I am on vacation and it will take a trip or two for me to change my travel style. I know I will get to go-go-go once again when James and any future children Beth and I have are a little older. It is my plan to show them the beauty in this world and I’m hopeful they will desire the open road and new sights much as I do.
Coming Soon: Trip #9 –>