I wasn’t all that excited about Houston. My office is here, and there’s a pretty awesome Space Centre, but it’s kind of sprawling, it’s really hot and it’s terribly humid. Arriving into the face of thunderstorms and floods hadn’t done a lot to change my opinion. But then the rain stopped, the flood waters receded and the sun came out. I finished up my day’s work as quickly as I could and headed for the park. I’d been lent possibly the cutest bike in the world, with a wicker basket on the front, and the sun was blazing overhead. The bike and I pootled down the road, crossed the bayou and passed under the freeway.
The cycle way diverged from the road, the loblolly pines and tall cypress rose all around me, and the sounds of the cicadas grew louder than the cars I left behind. It was 94 degrees and around 85% humidity, but I was suddenly, ridiculously, uncontrollably happy. I couldn’t suppress my delight and giggled to myself all the way down N Picnic Lane.
I was looking for a place to lounge on the grass, perhaps read a book, do some handstands and stretch, but the bike and I were on a roll. We carried on going. Memorial Park is quite an accessible park. It strikes me as a very American thing. The park has a golf club, tennis courts, softball fields, football pitches, an outdoor gym, volleyball nets, an equestrian centre and a Catholic church. Yes there are hiking trails and biking trails but they’re rarely far from a place to park your car. I didn’t care. I was riding my bike with the wind in my face, soaking up the sunshine.
I rode unhurriedly along the eastern and northern loops, looking for the spot to lounge. The recent thunderstorms had left the ground waterlogged in places, and deceptively swampy. At the northwestern corner, the road turned one way (the wrong way) and I decided to walk so I could continue my circuit. I transferred on to a gritty jogging path that looked like it travelled further from the road than the others, pushing the bike and enjoying the slower pace. The rabbits and herons made me regret leaving my proper camera and borrowed telephoto lens at the hotel, as I just couldn’t get close enough to fill the iPhone’s super wide field. All this less than a quarter mile from the freeway. Amazing.
Part way back to Memorial Drive, I saw the first of my training spots. A few posts and cross bars for pull ups. Perfect.
Now significantly sweatier, I intensified the search for a place to lounge. Still swampy. Crossing the main road and heading back to where I started seemed like the best option. I’d passed a few places that looked likely during my first ecstatic forays on to the cycle route. The sun was thinking about setting, and the light was becoming my favourite kind of fiery gold as I pulled the bike into a patch of grass set back from the cycle path behind a row of trees. It was handstand practice time.
I must have stayed for half an hour at that one spot, practising kick and tuck ups, and eventually holding one of each for a few seconds. My alignment is still not altogether wonderful, but it’s definitely progress and it’s been much quicker than I expected when I started the handstand journey. And I managed to avoid the ant mounds, which I’d almost-but-not-quite plopped my shoes down on earlier.
The sun was definitely setting as I made for home.
I’d surprised myself. Houston had surprised me. The park itself isn’t particularly one for me, but it turns out that if you give me a bike, I’ll make myself happy. Outdoors is usually best, and a place that has sunshine can never be bad.