When Eileen and I were emailing back and forth about plans for my trip to Texas, she mentioned that I was visiting during spring break, and as such our usual day-trip spot - Galveston Island - was not going to be a great choice, so we needed to think of somewhere else to go. I decided to ping my colleague Jason, who grew up in suburban Houston, to see if he had any recommendations. This was his reply:
places like brenham texas they make blue bell ice cream there and there will be wild flowers and it has old historic shit all the things we love
(This message was sent via Gchat; he did not write a tiny free-verse poem in response.)
Eileen thought this was a splendid idea, so yesterday we headed out to Brenham and the Blue Bell ice cream factory. Spring break was, alas, in full swing there too, so even though we got there at 1:30, they were selling tickets for the 3:25 tour. As we hadn't had lunch yet, we decided to start killing time in the ice cream parlor.
(Yes, there were three of us - one of whom was an 18-month-old child - and we got four servings of ice cream. You got a problem with that?)
After "lunch" we headed outside to kill something like another hour and a half.
We took photos with the statue of the Blue Bell founders:
And with the statue of the girl leading a longhorn that is the Blue Bell logo:
Note James' hand placement in this photo... I have a feeling his parents will have their hands full one of these days.
Photography is prohibited on the factory tour, so I can't share it here, but it was pretty cool to see how ice cream is made. The amount of stuff it takes - milk from 50,000 cows per day and bags of nuts as big as pillowcases - is kind of mind-boggling. And the speed of the factory workers is flat-out impressive - they fill and shift and pack and inspect faster than I do... well, just about anything.
The price of the tour ticket included post-tour ice cream, so we were herded back into the scoop shop when we were finished.
At this point in time Eileen and I discovered something neither of us had ever expected: it actually is possible to eat too much ice cream in one day. I know, right? Who knew?
Once we were finished at the ice creamery, we headed off in search of a place to take pictures of James frolicking in the blue bonnets - the wild flowers mentioned in Jason's recommendation. For the uninitiated, this is a blue bonnet:
They're planted all along the roadsides in Texas - part of Lady Bird Johnson's wild flower program, according to Eileen - and taking pictures in them is, like, a thing. People just pull their cars to the side of the road an all pile out for family portraits, baby pictures, happy couple shots... whatever. It seems a little unsafe to me, since it seems to involve a lot of toddlers running around on the edge of the highway, but they are undeniably pretty, so I get why people do it.
Eileen and I opted for a slightly safer plan - pulling into a total stranger's driveway and running around in what was probably their yard and not really the roadside.
James was adorable, of course:
And Eileen even convinced me to join him for a few shots:
Of course, I didn't realize how odd it would look to be hiding James' pacifier and my glasses behind my back, but oh well... Having a blue bonnet photo is part of the Texas experience!
Please excuse any typos or other errors - I'm once again phone-blogging without spellcheck.