The Rio Grande Valley has many fine cycling routes to choose from. It all depends where you are at and what you want to do. For me, I like to be out on the country roads and away from all the hubbub of cars. You don’t need to go far before you start seeing pastures for the cattle or horses. Sometimes you get the goats or the more exotic animals such as Long Horn cattle, Emu’s or Llamas. One of my favorite route doesn’t have the farm animals but instead farm land and the Rio Grande river dominate the landscape. I call it To the Training Grounds and Back.
Riding out on the route it passes the Hike & Bike Trail in Mission and I always take a glance at the parking lot to see if I recognize anyone. Mostly no, but every once in-a-while I do. A friendly wave or a “Howdy” is called for. It is clear that the trail is very popular with all the cars jammed into the parking lot. Once in a blue moon I’ll ride the trail to get to the other side but I usually don’t since the paved path is not is so good shape in certain parts. Riding it at night is always fun though!
Riding on past that you get to a turn and start heading to levee. Used to be crossing that stretch was relegated to those with 4×4’s or mountain bikes due to the excessive large pot holes, but no more. Improvements to the road makes it a nice ride over looking the sugar cane fields next to the border river called the Rio Grande. On the other side of the levee is rugged brush land that’s a combination of private property and part mountain bike trails. Often you see the Border Patrol parked over looking the land looking for illegal immigrants that cross the river. Yes, they do catch people here, especially when the sugar cane field is just planted or harvested.
After crossing the levee this bring you to the loop. The loop is at the end of the route before you have to turn back. Although the loop is only 3.5 miles long, you do get some good training because you get the wind in all directions plus a half mile stretch of chip seal road thrown in for good measure. Also at the loop leads you to Bentsen State Park that is very popular for birding and other family related activities. Often I spot a family riding into the park for some site-seeing. The Hike & Bike trail crosses here and continues on to the state park. I usually stay on the road because I can go faster but many other cyclist do ride the trail. It all depends on your comfort level.
If you are a Butterfly enthusiast be sure to stop by the National Butterfly Center which is also on the loop. The center is situated about a mile from Bentsen State Park and the two put together would make a nice time out with the family.
Besides the two parks, this stretch of road is popular with runners, walkers and people fishing along a canal bank that is near by. It’s all part of the Hike & Bike trail system that is about five miles long. One end is Bentsen State Park and the other end is the Hike & Bike trail parking lot. This makes the area a prime spot for outdoor related activity.
To the Training Grounds and Back is not a terribly long route. Straight out and back is roughly 15 miles but it’s fun, consistently low automobile traffic (most of the traffic is the Border Patrol) and the scenery is nice. If I want to do longer rides there are several point along the route that I can take off and add additional miles or take an alternate route back home. This is my favorite go to route.