What a day! Talk about experiences vs. objects… this day was all about experiences. Saturday was torrential thunderstorms which put a damper on any plans for the day, but Sunday was storybook weather with a storybook adventure.

Pennie & I loaded the bikes into the truck and headed downtown in the morning. We had an inkling of a plan for the day – simply, to check out the changes being made to the downtown tourist areas on bicycle and have an adventure. It turned out better than we could have imagined. And if you take away the costs of food (which we would have had not matter where we were) we spent a grand total of FOUR DOLLARS!

We rode around downtown and I have to say the changes to the landscape there are impressive. Just a few years ago, downtown Houston was scary in the middle of the day – now it was clean, full of activity and extremely attractive. We rode our bike up to the University of Houston, Downtown Campus which is the northernmost point of of the light rail system. I have to say that I was a big opponent of this rail system because of the way it was marketed to the public. It was sold as a way to decrease traffic congestion, but was designed without commuters needs at all. I see now the plan behind the design. It was created 100% for tourism. The line makes a lot of sense when you look at it as further development of tourism in downtown Houston. And for that task, it is a 100% winner.

We got on the rail and were surprised that they let us bring our bikes with us. We had planned on locking them up at UH and touring on foot. This is where our “big” expense for the day came in… we bought two day passes on the rail system for $2 each. We got off at the Hermann Park exit to go cruise around the park… and it was here we discovered yet another amazing surprise.

First, we rode around the nice new trails surrounding the area and came upon a huge reflecting pool. It was a stunning jewel in a park landscape that I thought I knew completely. We recruited a very nice lady on a park bench to snap this picture. Did I tell you this was a great day?

Further into the park, to our amazement, we discovered the Japanese Gardens. We were shocked to learn that this hidden piece of paradise has been here OVER TWENTY YEARS!! Isn’t that crazy? We seem to continually find hidden treasures within our own city. We met a really nice couple and they said they come to the gardens almost every day. It is odd to have been in this city for a decade and never known it was here. He took this picture of the two of us on one of the many little bridges spanning all the water features.

Amid all the oriental plants, shaded greenery and scenic pagoda seating, we came across this duck and her day old ducklings. Did I tell you this day was great?

We rode around Hermann Park and just had a great time. We met a couple of nice Basset hounds and humorously enough, spent all our time trying to get a picture of Maisy here who is camera shy and the one we took of her bud Kirby didn’t turn out – haha. Look at those eyes! Did I tell you this was a great day?

After all the discovery overload, we hopped back on the rail and road to the medical center to find something to eat. We grabbed a couple quick sandwiches at Subway and continued our adventure. Deciding that we wanted to get back to downtown, we once again hopped aboard the rail and rode into the heart of the tourist area.

I had heard that the Comets were have an open-house practice and season kickoff event at the Toyota Center and they invited all the fans to come out for free, so we decided to swing by. After some great help from the officials there in finding a place to lock up the bikes, we headed into the Toyota Center to watch some basketball. I am big fan of women’s basketball probably because while at SFA, our women were ranked #3 in the nation and always dominated. Dave & I never missed a Ladyjack homegame and thoroughly loved letting the refs hear it when something was called wrong on “our girls.” I took that love of the women’s game into being a fan of the Comets once the WNBA started… them winning the first four championships of the league’s history has just added to my affection toward this more team-oriented version of Mr. Naismith’s game. It was cool to watch them practice, as they did it in the form of a team scrimmage, complete with officials and scorekeeping etc.

At the half, the Houston Energy Dancers came out and did their shake-yo-booty thing and then started throwing T-shirts to the crowd. One came right near me and I brick-handed it as it bounced off into the row in front. I thought it was all over as you don’t really get too many shots at those things when one plopped down right behind Pennie and I out-quicked the three other arms scrambling for it! Did I tell you this was a great day?

After the Comets finished doing their thing, we hopped back on the bikes and rode to the other side of downtown once again, this time to the Spaghetti Warehouse. I really love this restaurant and haven’t been there since I worked at the YMCA downtown nearly 15 years ago. It was Pennie’s first time and we had an absolutely great meal. Pennie was so impressed with the service and hustle of the staff, that she flagged down the manager to compliment her on everything and we each got coupons for a FREE MEAL on the next visit! Did I tell you this was a great day?

We rode back to the truck, loaded up the bikes and decided that we needed to top off the day with something sweet. We went to Cold Stone Creamery in the Rice Village area because we like the atmosphere that location. It is right next to the Baker’s Street Pub and some other outdoor venues so we can sit outside, enjoy the weather, the music and people watch. A couple of excellent ice cream dishes was the perfect finishing touch to a …. well, you know – a great day!!