At 57, I am no longer any good at spur-of-the-moment travel. It was fine in my 20s, when life was less cluttered, but not today.
Which is why it was a surprise when I agreed to Mary Ann’s suggestion that we visit two of our children in Houston last weekend.
I had just returned from a two-day newspaper convention in Biloxi the previous weekend, and have come to despise the disruption in my routine that travel creates.
Nevertheless, this would be the last time we’d get to visit Audrey in Houston, as she is moving to Memphis when she gets married in four months. Time to gas up the Buick, because the trip was on.
The hook Mary Ann used was that we’d get to see a Van Gogh exhibit at some museum. “You know, we did watch that TV show last year about that artist,” she noted.
True enough, but that “Genius” series was about Pablo Picasso, not Vincent Van Gogh. Those European artists are all the same to me.
As usual, by focusing on travel headaches I overlooked the fun stuff. Luckily for me there was plenty of that.
For starters, when we got to Houston on Friday afternoon, Mary Ann hauled me straight to this gigantic Ikea warehouse. She may not know her way around that town, but she sure found Ikea.
While she browsed, I bought some cinnamon rolls (they were better than I expected) and found a seat to read a magazine.
Meanwhile, our museum plans were changing. Audrey asked if we’d like to go bowling Friday night, and when we got to their house, John said he had discovered that the Van Gogh exhibit had got up and gone the day before.
As a replacement, he suggested a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where a moon exhibit was there as part of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.
But first, it was Bowlmor Lanes — one small step for me, since I’m in a weekly bowling league; but one giant leap for our family.
Especially Mary Ann. One of my best-intentioned but absolutely disastrous anniversary gifts to her, back in 1991, was a bowling ball. Just ask her about it one day; she’ll be glad to tell you the story.
This was the first bowling center I’d ever been to with a VIP area that included eight lanes. It was also the first time I’ve bowled with all the LED glow lights and loud music.
My scores were way below average, but we had a good time — especially watching John celebrate any time he did well.
Saturday was Museum Day. Houston has a bunch of them, and the natural sciences museum probably has something for everybody.
Right now the museum features a gigantic 23-foot diameter sphere of the moon that’s suspended from the ceiling. You can look at it from ground level or from the second floor.
There was all sorts of interesting information about the moon — it is inching further away from the Earth with each revolution, for example. It also includes images of the half of the moon that we cannot see from Earth.
But the best thing about the exhibit is how it amplified the size of the moon’s craters. That thing has really been hammered over the eons, because it has no atmosphere to burn up or slow down the meteors that crash into it.
That night John, Audrey and their friend Bianca spent hours cooking steaks and side dishes based on recipes from Gordon Ramsey. The food was good, and afterward the kids taught Mary Ann and me how to play a Monopoly card game they like.
Seeing the kids was great. It was too bad our middle child Thomas wasn’t there, but all three of them had been in McComb for a wedding the weekend before.
I suspect John will miss his little sister more than he realizes when she moves away. But he does have his dog, an oversized goldendoodle that he named C.J. He treats that dog like a princess, and she really is a pleasant, entertaining puppy. She and I got along very well during the visit.
The real news of this trip is that nothing big happened. It was just a nice family get-together. The Ikea store was tolerable, the bowling was fun, the moon was cool and the steak dinner was good. As for Monopoly, I will stick to the board game.
I was glad to get home on Sunday night from a trip that was brief and enjoyable. Just the way I like them.