During our five-months' visit to the United Kingdom last year, we learned one lesson we are repeating as Mining equipment, Butler we start our 2015 travels: Guidebooks and travel articles are interesting tools to start planning with, but we get most satisfaction in leaning about subjects that interest us. And those subjects are frequently not covered in tourist literature.
For the first half of the trip to Houston we tried to follow Old Highway 20 maybe Texas state highway 20). The road avoided the high-speed divided road U.S. 290, and took us to some small Texas towns.
It was a beautiful ride, with lots of spring greenery and a pleasant temperature and very little traffic, which prefers the high-speed roads. We got waves from the other drivers and even an offer to (sell?) (give?) us a puppy! Little Free Library
Near Butler, Texas, we came upon a huge mine, which employed a piece of mining machinery that looked like a ship to extract and process ores.
In McDade, Texas, quite a small town, we found on the main drag in front of a tired building one of our favorite Little Free Libraries.
Then near Paige, Texas (where we were offered the puppy) we found a big concrete thing which we guessed to be some kind of tank under the ground, also waited a while for a disabled child to be put aboard a Concrete tank school bus with its stop signs deployed. We also caught some neat wildflowers.
We spent several days in Houston and found that there was so much to see that we'll be coming back one day.
Our first visit was to the Printing Museum, where we admired several old printing presses, watched a video, and spent time studying some items from their extensive collection of printed works, some several centuries old. In addition to the museum, they host workshops and special exhibits and events connected with printing.
We're trying to catch up with data entry and corrections to our genealogy files, which limits our sightseeing but helps us feel as though we are doing some worthwhile work. On a series of cloudy and rainy Texas wildflowers days, it was easier to stay warm and dry indoors at the computer keyboards.
One sunny morning we drove to a Mandir (rather like a temple) to learn a bit about a Hindu denomination known as BAPS, part of the Swaminarayan Sampraday or faith. The building site and the mandir are most impressive, gleaming white under the cloudless sky. It is one of several examples of the diversity of Houston's population. The mandir was sculpted in India and assembled in the U.S. There are several others around the world.
Houston stands for oil money, so it is fitting that the beautiful Menil collection of modern art was built by heirs of the Schlumberger fortune. It is particularly attractive to us because of the collectors' Museum of Printing love of surrealist art -- there were wonderful paintings by many of the best-known Surrealist artists, including one special room developed particularly for the Menils -- a collection of artifacts either owned by the painters or similar to objects they would have collected themselves. A special exhibit by the Greek scientist/artist known as Takis was exciting, featuring exhibits in which magnets or motors or bicycle wheels or guitar picks produce mesmerizing movements and/or sounds. A friend of the Surrealist Marcel Duchamp, Takis continues to experiment.
We spent the rest of our sightseeing time on drives in the city. BAPS Mandir It seems as though Houston is built on a collection of small neighborhoods, often referred to as villages. Some are grand and elaborate, with large homes and careful landscaping. Others are more down to earth, and a some are struggling against poverty. One of the most striking aspects of the neighborhoods is that they frequently change abruptly, sometimes in the middle of a block.
We suspect that some of what we saw is the result of the 2008 crash or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but time has smoothed the edges of some of the worst troubles. We're interested to guess at what we'll see on our next visit, as Houston, the fourth most populous city in the United States, continues to grow and change.