Exploring the Lower Rio Grande Valley on a Bike

I’ve made a few changes to my blog site and what I want to focus on. My tag line used to be about losing weight (and it’s still my goal) but I wanted to change directions. Instead, I want to focus more on exploring the lower Rio Grande Valley on a bike. I figure kill two birds with one stone. Explore the Valley with long rides and lose weight at the same time.

The lower Rio Grande Valley is located in deep south Texas. I have to put the word, lower, in it because the Rio Grande Valley stretches all the way up to Colorado where the Rio Grande River starts. I realized this when I would see the Rio Grande Valley associated with New Mexico and I was saying, “What?”. After doing a little research, I found out about the Rio Grade Basin and why New Mexico also has a Rio Grande Valley. Well to avoid any confusion, I added the ‘Lower” prefix as I should have done all along.

The Valley is located in deep south Texas along the U.S. and Mexico border. If you want to look it up in a map then look for the cities of McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville. That’s where I’m at. The weather is sub-tropical which means 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures in the summer and 40-50 degree winters. The terrain is flat but lots of wind provides the simulated hills. The Valley is a Winter Texan haven during the winter months and I do see them out cycling.

Anyways, my goals are to ride around more on my bike exploring and seeing what I can find. I’ll do the long rides out to the sites or drive near by and start from there. Maybe even an overnight trip. Who knows.

I still plan on posting on the equipment that I find and use as well as the training that I’m doing. This year looks to be a good one, I just need good health to make it happen. Expect to see more postings as I explore the lower Rio Grande Valley on a bike.

Mapping Bicycle Routes in the Rio Grande Valley

One of the things I wanted to do with this blog is to share bicycle routes here in the Rio Grande Valley, specifically the Mission-McAllen-Edinburg metroplex area. I started out with individual routes of rides I have taken and those can be found in the Routes tab at the top. Initially, I thought I would just add a whole bunch of rides of me going to various places in the area and just build up a collection. But after some thought and laziness I came up with a better idea, Google maps!

Google Maps Overlays

If you don’t know already, Google maps has what is known as overlays (or layers) that you can choose to display on the map. They range from traffic congestion to terrain to bicycle routes. If you open it up and select Bicycles all the bike routes will be displayed for the area you have open. It also gives a small legend to describe to color scheme used to display the various bike routes. It is divided into three parts, Trails, Dedicated lanes and Bicycle friendly roads.

Now, with the Bicycling layer turned on, you can see all the routes in the area. This should make it easier to plan your route to your destination. Many of these routes I entered myself (and cycled on) with a little help of my friends. In the months to come, I’ll be adding more routes and hopefully get most if not all roads that are safe to ride on. Keep in mind that I don’t plan on adding neighborhood roads, but I will be adding major arteries that help you get from one town to another.

texas

Texas and the Rio Grande Valley

For those that don’t know where the Rio Grande Valley is, we are located at the bottom of Texas. It comprises of four counties, Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy and Camron county. The area I live in is in central Hidalgo county near the county seat of Edinburg, Texas. The terrain is flat with overpasses and wind providing the hills. Temperatures typically exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months and in the 50’s during a cold front in the winter months. Riding is pretty much an all year in this area. Wohoo!!

Help me out, if you see a section of the road that is not marked let me know and I’ll work on getting it added to Google Maps. There is also another source for cycling routes and that is through the Hidalgo County MPO. Contact them for details and consider joining their Bike-Pedistrian Task Force and get involved.

Have fun exploring the bicycle routes in the Rio Grande Valley!

Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area on a Chip Seal Spree

In the last two months I have noticed that several of the outer laying roads in the Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area are being resurfaced in the Chip Seal way. First was part of my route that I cycle after work, Ware Rd from 107 to Monte Christo street. As a result, I no longer take that loop. I drive back home and ride afterwards. It’s not bad as I still have plenty of daylight left to zip around.

Sometime later, I was heading over to go see a movie, and I ran across another section of Ware road getting the same treatment of Chip Seal resurfacing. This time it is a heavily used cycling route from Expressway 83 south to Military road. Another one bites the dust.

Let’s not forget the Granjeno loop. That was such an enjoyable ride through farmland and county parks, but now, forget it. No one rides that section if they can help it. It’s not enjoyable with your teeth rattling form the bone jarring ride you get.

Now, today I was planing a route to Bentsen State park for the Ciclistas Urbanos cycling club and I ran into a 3-mile stretch on Bentsen Palm Drive from Business 83 to the park. Ugh! When will it stop! It seems that many of our routes are being chopped up and there is really nothing you can do about it. One or tow people complaining at a public meeting has zero effect and good luck getting cyclists to ban together and join a cause.

For those that don’t know what Chip Seal is or what the big deal is, Chip Seal is a method of road construction where they basically place a sticky substance (liquified asphalt) on the bottom and dump aggregate  on top. Then it is mashed down with a big roller to stick to the hot asphalt (acts like a glue). It is an inexpensive method of road maintenance that good for cars but terrible for cyclist. Riding on that kind of surface is akin to riding on a dirt road with a controlled distribution of rock sizes. Even on my carbon framed bike it was a rough ride. It also slows you down as it is harder to pedal on (at least to me). For those that want to learn more on it, I found this link that does a great job of what it is and the benefits of it for automobiles.

To me, this is terrible news. We are trying to encourage more cycling in our area with cycling clubs for all levels. Long distance riding or endurance rides will be the ones primarily affected. You know it wouldn’t be so bad if they just redo to road where the cars drive and leave the shoulders alone. Some say to turn this negative into a positive, the Tour de France has their cobble stone roads and we have our chip seal! If you ask me, I rather not have either.

What can we do about it? Pretty much nothing. City planners, TXDOT, and others don’t give a damn about cyclist or other minority users such as motorcyclist’s. Cars is where the action is at and they will not do anything to promote other modes of transportation.

I don’t know of anyone or group that has successfully launched a Stop This Shit campaign but if you have, let me know. I’d like to hear from you about it.