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!

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.

My Top Two Cycling Goals for 2015

It’s January 2015 and the start of a new year. Like everyone else, I too am reflecting on what I resolve to do for the year. There is the usual lose weight and get fitter but there is something more that I would like to do. Cycle a 100 miles (century ride) and see more of the valley on a bike are the top two cycling goals I would like to do for the year 2015.

I’ve always wanted to join the Century club ever since I tried the Hotter ‘n Hell 100 in Wichita Falls, Texas many years ago. I completed about 75 miles and had to stop because they were closing the course. Rules! Ever since then I wanted to try again but life keeps getting in the way. There are a ton of excuses that I could come up with but not this year. This year I think I got all the pieces together to get the job done. Training plan, indoor trainer if needed, route for the ride and determination.

My other goal is more touring the Rio Grande Valley on my bike. I still want to reach Rio Grande City safely and I might make a run for it. I’ll need some more planing and maybe a little help. If I can safely make it to Rio Grande City, I’ll take a look at trying for Falcon Lake. There is a great State park there that would make a great stay over trip.

If I go the other direction and head East towards the coast I have more options and friendlier roads to cycle on. There are several Wildlife Refuge as well a civil war battle field park that I always wanted to visit via cycling. I have gone to two of them with a group of cyclists but this time I want to do it solo on my schedule and pace.

Besides what I have mentioned, there are a lot of small towns that dot the area. I’m sure there is some good food to be had if I looked hard enough. Would be nice if I could make it to the beach but the causeway is closed to bikes unless it’s a special charity bike event.

In essence, I would like to do more longer rides and a full Century is a good way to start. I can’t think of a better way to drop the weight by exploring the Rio Grande Valley on a bike. With the Valley’s nearly year long subtropical weather I should have a good chance of achieving my two goals.

What are your resolutions for 2015? Drop a comment and let me know.