In a city where it seems everyone is from somewhere else, it might surprise natives and transplants alike to learn that Houston is a city founded on a waterway.
In early 1837, John and Augustus Allen stepped off their 85-foot steamboat Laura at the spot where Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou flowed together. Their landing place was no accident; it formed a suitable turning basin that would allow larger ships to deliver goods to the new city on the bayou and then return to the Gulf of Mexico. As Houston’s first port, Allen’s Landing became a thriving commercial hub and symbol of our city’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Today the site is gaining new life.
Anyone checking out a bike or kayak at the Sunset Coffee Building will be reassured to know that operations there are in thoroughly professional hands.
As they say in these parts, this ain’t the first rodeo for either rental company.
Bike Barn is one of the big boys in Houston’s local bike shop community. For proprietor Neil Bremner, the Sunset Coffee Building is his second rental location along the waterfront bike trails. Last fall he opened Bike Barn Bayou Rentals on Sabine Street and so far, so good.
“The whole area has been a big draw for those who live near the bayou, those suburbanites who want to explore downtown and even tourists,” Bremner said.
Bike Barn will lease hybrids, cruisers and tandem bikes for adults and big kids, and tagalongs and trailers for the wee ones. Rental rates range from $9 to $12 per hour (with a two-hour minimum). Bikes are also available for half-day and full-day rentals.
Bremner has entered into an arrangement with Bayou City Bike Tours to provide group rides. Bike Barn will provide the wheels and Bayou City Bike Tours will provide the tour guides.
John Boerstler has been operating Bayou City Bike Tours for four years, providing downtown historical and architectural tours as well as pedaling excursions along the bayou. Private group outings (think: family reunions and wedding rehearsal activities) are also available.
“We love, love, love delivering the message about Houston, whether you’ve lived here all your life or are new to town,” said Boerstler, who estimates his current business is 60 percent tourists and 40 percent locals.
Like Bremner, Rico Torres is opening a second front on the bayou with his paddlecraft business Bayou City Adventures.
His upstream location at Buffalo Bayou Park’s Lost Lake has been in operation since last October, and has been well-received, Torres says.
“We’ve put more people on the water at Buffalo Bayou than another company since 2010,” Torres said, estimating the number to be at 10,000 rentals.
Vessels available for rent are kayaks, tandem kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards. All rentals are for up to two hours at a time with a refundable deposit. Rentals include a life jacket and paddle.
A new twist for the operation, Torres says, will be the availability of a shuttle bus to return paddlers to their point of origin.
“Right now we just offer an out-and-back option out of Lost Lake,” he said. “But when we open at Sunset Coffee Building, kayakers can start at Lost Lake, finish at Sunset Coffee and then take the shuttle back.”
Bayou City Adventures may also be familiar to the downtown populace as the provider of boats at Discovery Green.