The ABB 5K was plenty of fun and easy – starting and ending at Discovery Green next to the convention center, it was a flat, looped course out and back through downtown. It had a lot of kid and charity runners but was a wide course so it didn’t feel too congested. At the end you got a medal (from men and women in army fatigues), a bottle of water, a banana, and a mini muffin (had to brave a chaotic line for the food). Post race I had to look up what ABB is – apparently it’s a “global leader in power and automation technologies” based in Zurich, Switzerland. It’s the largest supplier of industrial motors and drives, wind generators, and power grids. It’s also the main sponsor of a 5K in Houston for some reason.
The weather today is supposed to be the weather for tomorrow’s marathon – warm and sunny, supposedly in the 50s at the start but it felt even warmer. I tried to hold back but the excitement of the race and the appreciation of my metallic costume got me a little revved up, and I averaged 11:30 minute miles, about 1.5 to 2 minutes faster than I want to go tomorrow. (I freely admit and acknowledge I am too slow for my age and non-injured status – something to work on in 2015?)
After the race I had a quick shower and some oatmeal at the hotel, where I asked the concierge how to get a taxi to the Museum of Natural History. He told me to take the Metrorail (aboveground light rail) instead. I told him that if I got lost and a missing person alert went out on me it was on his head. He laughed since there is only one track that goes north and south so I’d have to be an idiot to get lost. He didn’t say “idiot” but I saw it in his eyes. He gave me a map and circled the two stops I should use (Main Street to Museum District, easy enough). I asked him how to buy a ticket and he was a little cagey and unclear about that process, even though he said he took the train every day to work. I thanked him and went off to have another public transit adventure in another US city.
I managed to find the station with one detour (I initially stood at the northbound stop before realizing, but another woman did the same thing and she was a local so that made me feel better. We ended up chatting the whole ride.) I also learned why the concierge was so cagey about the ticketing – there are machines at each station where you can buy tickets ($1.50 per trip) but there is no one on the train that collects or checks for your ticket. I assumed it’d be like a NYC bus – you swipe your metrocard (or give your ticket) as you get on. Nope – you just get on and ride and don’t see anybody official the whole time. I think I was the first sucker all year to actually buy two tickets. That’s three dollars to honesty. Thank god for that gas card.
I was instantly rewarded for my journey with some beautiful gardens next to the Natural History Museum (the circular hill with a winding path and waterfall is the “Garden Mount,” part of a $31 million 2014 renovation in Hermann Park). I didn’t walk the path or spend much time in Hermann Park (or visit the Japanese Gardens there) because I was desperate to see the butterflies at the museum, and I wanted to spare my legs for tomorrow.
Before you enter the butterfly garden ($8 admission, separate from the $20 admission to the main Natural History Museum, and you don’t need a main ticket to access the butterfly garden), you walk through some informative exhibits about insects and see some incredible (HUGE) specimens seen here.
The butterfly garden itself is hot, humid, and filled with greenery & butterflies. They were difficult to capture with my iPhone but they really filled the air. It’s a lovely spot and I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re into that sort of thing.
When you exit the garden there’s a vending machine that sells edible bug candies and products. (Do those live butterflies know they are bookended by dead bugs? Bit creepy, no?) I got some ant candy for my niece who ate a cricket lollipop once (she said the cricket part was like horrible-flavored dust). This is one candy I won’t be personally reviewing.
Then I went into the main museum for a whirlwind tour. That place is a labyrinth and I had no idea where I was half the time. I crisscrossed more than I should have and stopped to read (aka learn) almost nothing.
I saw a bunch of other stuff too, but I promise I didn’t learn a thing. The gift shops (two!) were nice but they didn’t sell any pins, just buttons and jewelry (and a million other things, including a lot of dead bugs in lucite). The only food option at the museum is a small McDonald’s (which had a crazy long line at lunchtime, surprise). I’d recommend going to the museum as early as possible as there was a long line at the ticket counter when I left and the place was filling up.
By noon I was starving and the ladies at the gift shop directed me to a Mexican place two blocks away. I got a burrito and sat outside to eat it while reading texts from my friends who were freezing in NYC.
I took the train back to downtown, visited my new favorite grocery store for more treats, and finally headed back to the hotel. I was so exhausted I fell asleep for almost two hours. Oops. Definitely overdid it a bit today, then ate too much candy for dinner, so it was not the most prudent of pre-marathon days but I had a super great time.
I also got the most amazing souvenir at the Phoenicia – this little gold dinosaur planter. I love it more than a grown woman should love a plastic dinosaur anything. When I feel tired tomorrow, I’m going to draw strength from my gold dinosaur. Wish me luck!
What’s your most favorite souvenir ever? Have you ever visited a butterfly garden? What’s your go-to order at a Mexican restaurant? Share in the comments!