Palo Alto Battlefield Trail

This Memorial Day I spent the morning in the city of Brownsville. I knew of a trail that runs from the Gladys Porter Zoo up to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic park and I’ve been looking for some time to take my bike and go cycling it. This holiday was a great opportunity to hit both parks with a bike ride in between. Early Monday morning, I loaded up the bike and took off on my hour drive to the other side of the Rio Grande Valley.

GLADYS PORTER ZOO

I got to the zoo early and found good parking in the gated area. With my bike locked up on the bike carrier, I took off to explore the zoo. The day was overcast so that helped keep the temperatures down a bit. I spent the morning walking around the zoo snapping photos and admiring the animals that they took care of. One thing that struck me is how they used the water from a stream to provide both a moat (for containment) and drinking water for the animals. Clearly, water played a big role at this zoo and they do a great job of managing it.

My favorite animal? It’s hard to say as I liked all of them. If I had to name one, I think I’d go with the Southern Greater Kudo. They exhibited a lot of curiosity and seemed genuinely interested in you. The other animals seemed indifferent to our presence.

By mid-day most of the animals (especially the primates) were in the snoozing in the shade stage and I felt it was time to ride the trails. I’d save the rest of the zoo for another trip.

PALO ALTO BATTLEFIELD TRAIL

The majority of the trail is an abandon rail road line that has been converted to a usable trail. It will take you on an eight-mile one-way trip to the national Park without having to ride on the street. What a pleasure that is! No cars to worry about, taking a lane or yelling out “Car back!”. At every major intersection there is a street crossing button to press to get the lights to change. The majority of the lights change quickly except for one busy intersection where you have to wait, but it will change.

RestStopThe path is dotted with rest stops. Some have water and other don’t. I left my water bottle in the car where it does the most good. One of the rest stops is a bus terminal. It was there that I found a vending machine to fork out a bottle of water for $1.25. The trail flows right through a warehouse district where they used to use the train to load and unload goods. Further on out the trail runs through neighborhoods and crosses several water ways. I wish Mission had a river winding through it.

Going out even further you hit the outskirts of Brownsville and you start to get into a more rural country feel. You will still find rest stops out this far which is great to pull over for a breather. Some of the stops seemed to be victims of vandals. Tagging and physical destruction is typical but you can see that trail maintenance is being performed. You really can’t get away from that. There is always someone that wants to tear down what’s good and that’s unfortunate.

I know that there is a Bike Brigade of young kids that periodically goes out and does trail clean up. Thanks to their efforts, the trail is very clean and enjoyable. I didn’t see any signs of trash anywhere on it. That is something that every community should take note off. Why wait, or depend on the government to do something, when the citizens can do it themselves.

PALO ALTO BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK

PaloAltoEntranceThe entrance to the park (for those cycling or walking) is on the corner of Highway 550 and Paredes Line Road. You are greeted to a well-kept red paver stoned entrance with a huge black painted canon standing guard. There is a little paved trail that goes by the gated entrance and back into the park where you will find a large park building. Inside the park building you will find a lot of history about the battlefields and the events leading up the to the fight between Mexico and the United States. What strikes me the most were the uniforms that they wore in this south Texas heat!

Going out the back you will find a display of the different munitions used in the canons. All I can say, I’m glad I wasn’t around then when those were going off. Past the build there is a paved path that takes you out to the park and the rugged land that two armies fought over. The signs say that fallen solders from both sides are buried out there somewhere. If you go out there early in the morning, I’m sure you will catch a glimpse of the wildlife that call the park their home.

The ride home is the same trail that got me there. The bridge crossing over the railroad tracks to the port provides a nice scenic view of the country. I had the wind to my back going up there, so going back I now have it in my face. That’s ok with me. There one section where standing water covered a small portion of the trail but it’s nothing major. Rather it has a cooling effect in that hot day. I even saw sand crabs and lots of them in that section! I should have taken a picture or video. Something for next time I suppose.

Anyone wanting to do the ride I highly encourage you to do it. Completely off the city roads, plenty of rest stops, quick detours to restaurants for food, a zoo at one end and a Historic Park at the other end and nice scenery in between. What more could you ask for? I have a map of the route in the Cycling Routes section of my blog and it’s also on Google Maps under the Bicycle overlay. Brownsville has a gem of a trail, enjoy!

2015 New Years Resolution Followup

Earlier this year I set out two goals for 2015, lose weight and do long rides. Many people have these resolutions and are really sincere in achieving them, but as time slips on by, circumstances changes and eventually those resolutions are a distant memory. For some there is a brief resurgence with an iron will and by golly I’m gonna get it done! As with anything that iron will turn to putty and the whole idea is shelved for next year. Well it has been five months and it’s time for an update. Did I turn to putty like everyone else?

I am happy to say that I still got the iron will and fortitude. So far I’ve lost a little over twenty pounds since February 1st and have gone down three pant sizes! I did have to get some new cloths and a belt! I ran out of holes on my old belt. That’s always a good sign.

It hasn’t been easy but with a lot of cycling (three plus hour rides on the weekends and about seven hours during the week) I’ve managed to put some miles in on my bike. I’m not complaining. I’ve also made additional changes to my diet to reduce the carb intake. Egg omelets for breakfast now with the occasional multi-grain low sugar cereal. I eat the cereal on days that I’ll be riding in the morning. No pasta, very little starches, no subways or subway size breads. I eat a lot more fruit such as bananas, pears, and apples. More nuts of the mixed variety. A lot more fish (salmon) is consumed especially at home.

I definitely stay away from the tortilla’s, cakes, pies, sodas, sweet bread, chocolates and pop tarts. I really don’t miss them or crave them. It did take a while to get past the soda’s. Mind you I was not drinking much to begin with but sugar is a strong addictive substance.

It hasn’t been all fun and games though. During a routine check-up the Dr scheduled me for a colon screening procedure, liver scan and prostate biopsy. The colon screen was negative but I’ll have to redo it in five years due to family history.

I’ve found out that the fat around my liver caused damage to the liver. Stage two liver disease I believe the Dr called it. The good news is that any further damage can be prevented with medication that helps reduce the visceral fat on the liver and probably other organs.

The biopsy on my prostate was all negative except for one sample that was in a quasi state between normal and cancerous. It may have been that way for sometime or it just changed. I’ll have to go back for another evaluation in June. I’m optimistic that it’s benign but I dunno.

Both Dr’s said the same thing, lose the weight, lose the body fat and build muscle. The losing weight has been tremendous and I continue to with the weight loss. I now incorporate more core building such as full planks, push ups, light weights w/increased reps and I can really feel the difference when I’m out cycling.

I’m still known, in the cycling culture, as a clydesdale (cyclist over 200 lbs) but I’m getting close to dropping from that list. I feel fitter and I’m faster on the bike, but I know I still have a long way to go. I can’t slack off now. I have a strong motivation to keep at it, my health (liver) depends on it. I’m a little anxious about my urologist visit in June and what he will find out about my prostate. I’m optimistic that it will be okay but if not, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

So, here is a message to all of those that have New Years Resolution’s to lose the weight. You CAN do it! Don’t do it for your family or anyone else, but rather do it for yourself. You do it for yourself so that you can be there for your family or that someone special in your life. Be frank and honest about how you live and eat. The stuff that you love to eat and drink is probably what got you where you are at. Learn to love new healthier foods. There is plenty to choose from. You will have to make sacrifices on the short-term, but you will be rewarded on down the road of life.

As always, I like to hear from your success stories or even failures. Drop me a comment.

Wildflower Centurion

Bluebonnets along the route

Bluebonnets along the route

Back in late April I traveled over to San Antonio for the Fiesta Wildflower Ride. I knew the route was hilly and coming from the flat lands of the Rio Grande Valley, I didn’t know if I could complete that ride or not. I was already completing a training plan for a century ride but felt it wasn’t enough. I went back to Training Peaks and found a plan for a hilly century by Allen Hunter and decided to follow that. My plan was to ride the sixty and see how I felt and decide if I could ride on and attempt the one hundred miles.

The new training plan that I was following was a lot more intense with more VO2max intervals than my previous plan. I headed out to the only hills we have around here, west of La Joya, and did some of my rides over there. Our hills are more like rolling hills but that’s all we have. I also used a steep overpass as a training segment and found that tough but fun. During the week my rides ranged from 2 hours to 2.5 hours. Nothing more than that. On the weekends they were about 3.5 hrs. I was putting in no more than 45 miles in any one ride with most of it in the Endurance zone but it did include a lot more Tempo and VO2max zones than my previous training plan.

I felt good about the results I was getting with my weeks of training but I was noticing that some other cyclists that were also going to the Wildflower ride, to do the one hundred miles, were putting in 60-80 miles on their long rides. It got me thinking, am I putting in enough miles and saddle time? I felt strong after my rides and my energy levels were good too. The only way to find out is to ride it. Until then, I would have to wait and see.

On the day of the ride it was a nice overcast morning with over 2k cyclists ready to ride. From my perspective, it looked like a lot more than 2k but who knows, I didn’t stick around to count them. I was anxious to see how my training paired up with the route. Will I have the juice to do the metric century? Would I have enough in the tank to push on wards to do the imperial century? I wanted to know! The only way to find out is to ride and stay in my Endurance zone and take my electrolytes every hour. Pacing was the key and not to start off real strong only to burn out later on.

At the sound of the canon fire we started in stages. Imperial Century first, then the metric, then the rest of the different distances. The ride was tough getting out to the first rest stop at the fifteen mile mark. It was there that I caught up with some friends that was doing the 100. I decided to ride with them as they seemed to be going at my pace (something I was careful to watch). The scenery was fantastic heading out to New Braunfels through the hill country. I really was taking advantage of all the gears on the bike. At times I wished I had a few more gears but you work with what you have. Granny gear going up and coasting going down, that was my strategy. I knew that coasting down was a great way to conserve your energy for the long haul.

Flying down Krueger Canyon road was a thrill hitting 38 mph! Fastest I’ve been, that’s for sure. Others hit 40+ mph and as far as I know of, no one wiped out. It was well worth the time and energy climbing the hills. At the bottom was another rest stop where you can fill up on ice-cold water and other. Each rest stop had exactly the same thing except further on out the rest stations added pickles. A favorite among cyclists. I tend to shy away from it cause it can cause mild cramping for me.

At the forty-seven mile rest stop I had to decide what I was going to do, the 60 mile or the 100 mile route. At this point I was in good shape. I was not tired, achy or spent. Looking at the map we still had to be at a checkpoint by 1 pm to be allowed to continue the 100 mile route. We had a little less than an hour to ride out about nine miles. Looking at each other, I told my friends that I’m game for the 100 so we hopped on the bikes and pressed on. We passed one other cyclist and eventually shared a PNB Sandwich with him. This section of the route is the flat part and the scenery changed to farm lands. I liked this area as well. It was more I was used to here in the Valley.

At this point it was clear that we were the last ones doing the 100 mile ride and that caught up to us at the 80 mile rest stop. At this point we were informed that they were closing the course and they offered to bump us to the last rest stop. We weren’t too keen on that idea and instead opted to continue on our own. We handed over our bib numbers and loaded up on ice-cold water and pushed on.

We pushed harder and faster but had to stop for one team member to catch his breath and rest a bit. By this time my knees and ankles were starting to get sore but I could still pedal. At that point, that’s all that mattered. Keep pedaling and finish.

At the 95-mile mark one of our team mates called it quits. His legs were spent and his wife was nearby to pick him up. As far as I’m concerned, he finished the ride. That left two of use plus one last cyclist that was about ten to fifteen minutes behind us. I used my phone to plot a course back to the finish and we took off, this time with a SAG.

Rolling into the parking lot at the Mall and seeing a few people there cheering us on was totally awesome! Thank you team Wingman for sticking around until the last rider rolled in. They even had pizza waiting for us too! Yay!! Woo wee, what a fun adventure that was! I absolutely loved the ride and will do this ride again in the future.

I do want to thank Tony and Veronica to encourage me to go for the 100. They twisted my arm :)