Day 18 - Stephen F. Austin State Park
|Tuesday, February 7, 2023: Oh, my, the bed in the Super 8 was comfortable, and we slept in until after 8:00 AM.
|We're really good at getting our gear together, though, and we were packed up, out of the hotel, and in the nearby McDonald's drive thru by 9:15 AM. We even had time to wonder how the astronaut would be eating those French fries with a helmet on.
|We drove north toward downtown Houston, ...
|... and one hour after we got breakfast, we were very happily taking Exit 9, getting out of the post-rush hour but still dense Houston traffic.
|Keep it classy, Houston.
|Our first stop this day was the Houston Galleria Mall. This is a mall so large it has multiple parking garages associated with it. We passed the Blue Garage, with its sign painted blue, and then the Yellow Garage, with its sign painted yellow, ...
|... and then we finally found the Orange Garage, which did not have the helpful color coding of the other garages.
|As we made our way up the various levels of the garage, we saw this Rivian RT1, a very beautiful, fully electric pickup truck. It was only the second one we've ever seen.
|Around 10:30 AM, we headed into the mall,
|... walked past the colorful macaron kiosk, ...
|... and went directly to the LEGO Store. They did not have a Build-a-Minifigure station, and instead had a display with all of the possible minifigures that you could buy. You just had to tell a staff member which numbered minifigs that you wanted, and they would bring you a minifig pack with your selected items. Debbie selected minifigs 4, 6, and 8.
|She then filled a small Pick & Build cup, and added another LEGO store stamp to her passport.
|Back in the van, she photographed her loot, and we got back on the highway.
|This time, we weren't lucky enough to get off at Exit 9 and had to stay in traffic.
|We saw a circus tent erected in a parking lot just off the highway. This was the second one we had seen, and it was surrounded by RVs. The circus appears to be alive and well in Texas.
|Our next stop was Woodlands Mall, which for some reason had horse-mounted security. The horse appears to be vigilant, but the rider appears to be playing on his phone.
|Check out the beautiful metal bird sculptures in the atrium.
|LEGO! You already knew why we were here though.
|As Debbie looked through the Build-a-Minifig station, a very helpful employee, Pam, came over to help search for the pieces Debbie was after. A little later, she brought an iPad over to show Debbie a website that describes each new quarterly batch of Build-a-Minifig releases. Thank you, Pam!
|Another store, another stamp. It was getting harder and harder to find a blank space to put a store stamp in Debbie's passport.
|The Build-a-Minifig station shows that you get three minifigs with one accessory each, but in reality, every store we've asked has allowed us to get fifteen pieces regardless of the type. This time, Debbie got several normal torsos, several costume torsos, and lots of accessories, but only one head.
|We stopped at the nearby Raising Cane's for lunch. The drive thru line was around the building, so we parked and Tom went inside to order. Surprisingly, he was back out a few minutes later with a complete order, while the drive thru line had barely moved.
|Even though it was currently raining, we decided to go to a nearby carwash to get the mud and sea salt off of the van. Because it was raining, we were the only vehicle there. Score!
|The Gringo's Tex-Mex sign looked exactly like the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. There were several locations and Debbie was compelled to take pictures of each one until she got the best picture of the sign.
|For the third time in three hours, we arrived at another mall. This was the Willowbrook Mall, ...
|... and after filling another small Pick & Build cup, Debbie also selected a LEGO model, and proceeded to the checkout.
|On the way out, we stopped to admire this LEGO floral display. We took special note of how they made the vases using pieces available on the Pick & Build wall. So creative!
|Back in the van, Debbie photographed her recent acquisitions: free Friends stickers, a small Pick & Build cup, and the LEGO City ATV and Otter Habitat set. How could she resist LEGO otters?
|We left the mall and drove by a Twistee Treat location. The buildings are so adorable. This one had sparkly LED lights throughout the ice cream portion of the cone.
|Check out the pretty detail on this retaining wall!
|Just before 2:30 PM, we pulled into the parking lot of the most convenient Voodoo Doughnut ever. There was parking, it wasn't crowded, and it was easy to get to.
|We took a minute to make our doughnut choices, ...
|... and then proceeded inside. They had a display case with each of their available doughnuts as well, and we made some substitutions.
|While Tom waited for the doughnuts, Debbie went to the bathroom. She laughed out loud when she realized the doughnut-looking pictures were actually other non-doughnut foods.
|Here's a close up. There is shrimp cocktail, a Slim Jim, Pepto Bismol, Spam, an oyster, and smoked salmon in this picture. Yummy.
|We added a pair of Voodoo Doughnut socks ...
|... to round out of half-dozen doughnuts. Clockwise from the top left, we ordered a Fluffernutter, a Voodoo Doll, a Memphis Mafia, a Maple Bar, a Mango Tango, and a peanut cake doughnut. Some of their doughnuts are so large, that even the huge box isn't big enough to place all six doughnuts flat. The Fluffernutter was a special edition doughnut that was so gross we didn't finish it but the others were all winners.
|The poor voodoo doll was a little worse for wear.
|As we headed out of Houston, we decided to stop at another Buc-ee's to get gas.
|This one was absolutely huge. Like "is there a shuttle to the main building from the gas pumps?" large.
|They still didn't have squeegees though, which makes Tom sad.
|After filling up, we headed into the main building, which was larger than some retail stores that we've been in.
|There were great-tailed grackles hanging out by the entrance, maybe hoping that you'd buy a bag of bird feed on the way out.
|Look how big this place is! This is a gas station!
|A gas station with a womenswear section, ...
|... and a kitchenware section, a sporting goods section, and a toy section.
|Check out the Buc-ee Beaver statue, in front of the lawn carts and firewood stands, of course.
|Around 3:20 PM, we arrived at Stephen F. Austin State Park, our destination for this day.
|There was a bridge at the entrance the crossed a small stream that showed some damage from a washout. There had been heavy rainfalls and storms going through the area recently, and some of the damage may have been from those.
|We were so proud of Stephen F. Austin State Park for getting this right. We will watch out for the venomous snakes, thank you.
|There had been a break in the rain, and we got the tent set up quickly.
|We set up the tent right at the end of the parking pad, which is one of our preferred locations. The park staff had sent out a message earlier in the day warning that might be standing water in the campgrounds, and setting the tent on the parking pad eliminates any problems with mud.
|There were lots of bird noises in camp, and Tom used the Merlin ID app on his phone to try to identify them. There was a Carolina wren, a barred owl, and a tufted titmouse, among others. Lots of noises that we weren't use to hearing.
|A squirrel came by to see how we were doing, taking a few minutes to prowl around and dance on top of the picnic table. Our dinner was doughnuts, naturally. This was a primitive site, so we didn't have electricity. We worked on our laptops until the batteries were depleted, and then used a battery bank to charge our phones and watches overnight. It rained lightly on and off until we fell asleep.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy