Hangin’ in Houston

We didn’t arrive in Houston after dark, but the first pictures I took here were at night. I really get a kick out of night photography… the iPhone 11 does amazing things with time exposures. These night shots were all about 3 second exposures. Handheld. Amazing. They sometimes look just like daytime.

This is the same park we stayed in last winter, and where we left the motorhome when we flew to Antarctica. It is a gated park, the sites are all paved, and it just seems safe. There are lots of people who live here, so lots of big 5th wheel trailers, plenty of bumper-pull trailers, and some motorhomes. And this little camping trailer someone is storing here (not living in it.) I looked up its “Floor plan” and found it is all a double bed inside, with small cabinets over the head and foot of the bed. The rear door opens to expose a sink (6 gal water tank) and a stove and microwave. There are doors on both sides, and even an air conditioner. It even carries a spare tire… but I figured if a tire goes flat, you just throw the whole trailer in the back of your pickup and take it somewhere…

I guess I’m getting a reputation for checking out weird museums, but this one may take the cake. The National Museum of Funeral History. Really. How could you pass up something as unique as that??

You may think I timed this so it would release on Halloween, but that is purely coincidental. In fact, I pay so little attention to Halloween, that I thought this piece would show up a week before it.

The museum houses a collection of old hearses… A hearse is always and interesting vehicle, because they invariably are built out of very nice cars, maybe the best luxury cars available at the time. I suppose that is to show respect for the deceased, and make sure their last ride is a comfortable one.

This one is a sad one… a child’s hearse, designed to be pulled by two men, not horses. It is smaller than it looks here. Childrens’ hearses have often been white.

The museum has a whole section on funeral notices, programs and memorials. Somehow in that section was this model of a TV dinner. Anybody else remember those? Hopefully it is memorializing the death of the TV dinner.

This is one of the most unique vehicles I’ve ever seen. It is mounted on a Packard chassis, and its mission was to eliminate the cumbersome funeral procession. It has sections for the driver, a coffin, a shelf above the coffin for flowers, a section for the pallbearers, and a room for mourning family. All in one huge vehicle. It is far wider than a normal car – almost like a railroad car. The distance from the rear axle to the end of this beast seems very long too.

So the story is that this thing was fully loaded, going uphill to a cemetery, when the whole thing tipped backwards, front wheels in the air, mourners, coffin and contents all in a jumble. It was retired shortly after that.

The coachwork on some of these hearses is amazing. This one has wooden side panels, carved to look like drapes.

Here is a hearse on runners for icy climes, and a Japanese hearse, designed to place a coffin on the roof for display.

In the early days of automobiles, it was common for a hearse to double as an ambulance, so this car has markings of both. I think it would be a little disconcerting, if you were in an accident, to find them loading you in a hearse for the trip to the hospital! I guess if you didn’t respond well on the way, they could always change destinations…

Are there car nuts out there who remember George Barris? He designed lots of crazy cars, including the Batmobile (of the 60’s,) cars for the Munsters, the Green Hornet, Hollywood Celebrities and tons of other wacky cars. He asked his buddy Ed “Big Daddy” Roth to design his coffin, and this is what it looked like. Roth also created crazy cars, and was famous for the “Rat Fink” drawings and cars in the 60’s.

In the 1800’s, before there were embalming techniques widely used, there were coffins made to hold ice as well as the deceased, to enable a viewing service. You can see the metal liner to keep ice water inside in the picture below. Also a sad little coffin for a child, with removable viewing lid.

Many extremely weird coffins are on exhibit here… yes, these are all designed as final resting places!

Here is another hearse with very ornate woodwork.

A couple more horse drawn hearses…

Here is another Packard – this time called a flower car. The coffin could slide in the back, and the deck above it was to hold flowers.

Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession lasted for days, and travelled through many states, to let a grieving country pay its final respects. This is a model of the train car, and a horse drawn hearse, used in this long procession.

This is a replica of the coffin.

Here is a 2003 Cadillac hearse, used for two U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

And finally, two even more strange boxes… The “Money Coffin” – I’m not sure the point of it. Maybe so he could “take it with him?”

And the last is a really creepy story… a married couple lost their daughter, only a few months old. They felt they could not go on without her, so they decided to have a murder-suicide, and then have the three of them buried together. So they ordered this Coffin-For-Three… They finally thought better of their crazy plan, and never went through with it. The story goes that the wife, 20 some years later, wrote the coffin maker requesting her money back, as she had never used it. She might not have expired, but the contract on the coffin was long expired, so she didn’t get anything back.

Ok, enough of that stuff.

In the “basement” of our motorhome, we have a couple of bays with trays… the biggest one has a tray that slides out either side of the motorhome, making it easy to find stuff and get it out. But while the storage bay is a couple of feet high, anything in the tray has to fit under a frame rail if you slide it to the other side of the coach, and means you can’t leave anything in the tray taller than the bottom of the frame rail. All that wasted space above that height restriction was making me crazy… so I built some shelves. They are flush with the bottom of the frame rails, so anything in the trays will slide nicely in either direction. Now I have storage for bulky things above the trays, and while we haven’t driven it since the installation, it looks like it will work well! You may notice I store flat things under the sliding tray. We have 4 extra floor tiles stored upside down on the starboard side, and some scrap building materials on the port side.

We took our bikes to Lake Houston Wilderness Park – Gateway to Nature.

It was a nice enough park to ride through, but the frequent signs warning of Venomous Snakes in the area made it slightly less inviting.

There is a pond/lake in our campground, and we occasionally see turtles swimming, and often lots of beautiful birds.

I will close with this warning posted on a rig here, but could apply to many… Maybe mine?

2 thoughts on “Hangin’ in Houston

  1. Very interesting! I can’t imagine that many ornate coffins made and never used…maybe for cremations? Oh, well! Interesting… The park and lake seemed quiet and restful. Did you see any snakes? I doubt it! Have fun!

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