Virtual Travel Tuesday: Houston

Like most people, my travel has been severely limited this past month and for the foreseeable future. I was scheduled to have already been to Beaujolais in France, I would have been heading to California this week, and then South America at the end of the month. Perhaps the most disappointing? I was due to attend the Giro d’Italia (Italy’s version of the Tour de France) in May.

Instead, in the past few months, the furthest I have been from our home in Houston has been about 10 miles when I went on a bike ride out to the Western edge of the city. If you take the bike out of the equation, the furthest I have “traveled” is 3.1 miles to our local grocery store, the H.E.B. (Update: this last week we did drive to Arkansas for a few days)

Thus, this lull is causing me to become a bit stir crazy and my wanderlust is in full bloom. Pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic, I have wondered where I would go if I could. Where would be the first place I would visit once it made sense to travel again?

So far, I have “visited” Palermo, Sicily; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Lisbon, Portugal; Bruges, Belgium; Philadelphia, New York; and in France: Paris, BurgundyChampagne, and Provence.

This week, I have decided to take a different approach to Virtual Travel Tuesday and stay in Houston, where we have lived now for precisely four years. In that time, I have learned a bit about Texas and Texans in general and Houston and Houstonians in particular.

I never thought I would, but yes, I bought some cowboy boots once moving to Houston four years ago this week. The. Most. Comfortable. Shoes. I. Own.

There is plenty to do in non-Covid Houston, including the NASA Space Center.

Despite what many people (including me when I lived in Philadelphia) think, in general, Texans are exceedingly nice. While that is, of course, a generalization, I am in the firm belief that the “average” Houstonian is nicer than the “average” Philadelphian. And it is probably not close.

Of course, if you bring up politics or religion here in Texas, that might change rather rapidly, and you might be faced with some rather strong opinions and fierce defenses (like maybe a gun). So, I don’t talk about those things.

Sadly, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled this year. 2017 was literally my first rodeo and we had gone three years in a row.

I have also served as a judge for Rodeo Uncorked! One of the largest wine competitions in the country during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

It has become obvious (at times painfully) that Texans are fiercely independent and have a real reluctance to having people tell them what to do, particularly when they feel that it infringes on their “personal liberty.”

This is why, at least in part (the utter lack of leadership in Washington did not help either), that many people in Texas refused to wear face coverings even with the ubiquitous reports of increased cases of Covid-19. My evidence was merely anecdotal: on my infrequent trips to the grocery store, I would see maybe 50% of the customers and slightly more of the employees wearing masks.

I have also been able to coach both of my sons here in Houston, which has been mostly good.

I was also able to build a cellar…

…attempt to raise monarchs…

…raise another puppy…

…and conduct several large tastings for members of the Houston press in my home.

Governor Abbot, with whom I agree on very little, finally exhibited an ounce of knowledge and a bit of courage and instituted a state-wide requirement to wear facial coverings when in public (there are exceptions for elections and worship, which are astounding exceptions, but that is a topic for another post). As a result, on my more recent trips to the store, it is exceedingly rare to see anyone without a mask (not all people are wearing them correctly, of course, but…).

Even though the sports world is currently frowning upon the Astros a bit, Houston is a great sports town.

As some of you may already know, my wife is a pediatrician and works at a hospital that is part of the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world. She works at a children’s hospital, which caters (for the most part) to the under-18 population. Currently, they are pretty close to their “base capacity” in the ICU. I have since learned (from her) that said base capacity merely means rooms currently set-up for the ICU. She stressed that at her hospital, at least, they could fairly easily double their ICU beds.

Houston is also a great food town. This past year I was invited to participate in La Nuit en Blanc, which was a ton of fun.

It is also a great wine town and as such, many producers visit the city, like Franck Dubœuf.

The situation in adult hospitals, however, is much more serious and my wife’s hospital has been increasingly asked to take on some adult patients (mostly non-Covid patients, but she expects that to change should the situation continue to worsen) and they do when it makes sense. However, as you might imagine, children’s hospitals are ill-equipped and not properly trained to handle the medical needs of, say, octogenarians.

I have also been able to focus a bit more on my own cooking…

…with some success (at least according to my family).

On a personal note, many out there have texted, emailed, and called, concerned about me and my family as they hear the stories of doom and gloom on the daily news. While I truly appreciate all of the inquiries, truly, there is little reason to be concerned, at least for now, for one simple reason:

We don’t do anything. At all.

Yes, I get out for bike rides about four times a week and I visit my H.E.B. (my local grocery store) about half that often. Other than that? Nada. I filled my gas tank last week for the first time since the middle of February. Yeah, that’s right, five months on one tank of gas.

We don’t go anywhere. At all.

For now, at least, we are all doing well down here in South Texas. And by last count, we have nearly 1,800 bottles of wine in the house. So we are set for at least another few weeks.

If we do happen to run out of wine, there is always the Drive-Thru Margaritas, which is packed at all hours of the day.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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