By Pete Luna
When anyone reaches a retirement age, we all have a choice to enter a sedentary or an active lifestyle. While relaxing and going out to eat in all the wonderful restaurants the Rio Grande Valley has to offer is a great way to enjoy leisure time during the winter months, cycling and other outdoor physical activities are a fantastic way to create a wellness balance for Winter Texans. Regular physical activity helps to improve physical, cognitive and psychological health as we obtain a well-earned departure from the working life. Therefore, hobbies and exercise should be introduced into your routine. While arts and crafts, fishing, shooting are no doubt fun activities to do; cycling is something that creates an influence on all aspects of your life.
For anyone seeking a retirement location that is biking friendly, one must look no further than the Rio Grande Valley where major developments in cycling are occurring. The cities of Pharr and San Juan, led by Precinct 2 commissioner Eduardo Cantu, have been constructing a 7.7-mile urban hike and bike trail that will connect to the southernmost entry to the McAllen Hike and Bike Trail. Future plans include the City of McAllen and Edinburg partnering to continue the construction of the north side of McAllen’s hike and bike and extend the construction through Edinburg with The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley’s campus. Eventually, anyone can travel the hike and bike from San Juan’s starting point all the way to the University. The entire hike and bike trails will have lighting, landscaping with native trees and plants, along with educational and informational signs.
Then you have the Harlingen to Brownsville/South Padre Island area where the rails-to-trails conservancy is working with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Transportation and Tourism Plan to construct a trail system called the Caracara Trails.
The Caracara Trails will comprise of 428 miles of trails, including 230 miles of multiuse trails, 120 miles of U.S. Bicycle Routes and 78 miles of paddling trails, that will showcase the beauty of the lower Valley, cultural sites and geographic landmarks.
The trails will run through the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen, Combes, Los Fresnos, Los Indios, Port Isabel, San Benito, South Padre Island, and the towns of Laguna Vista and Rancho Viejo. You can see a full map of the current and proposed trail at www.railstotrails.org/our-work/trailnation/caracara-trails
Runners and cyclists have had local events multiply in the past few years. There are almost five or six outdoor physical events held every month with almost half of them being coordinated to fundraise for various non-profit organizations, scholarships or other ways to support people in need. A perfect example is the Jalapeno 100 which is a multi-distance event which benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Harlingen.
Winter Texan involvement has grown over the years with some participants choosing to ride one of the routes which are 12, 25, 50, 65 and 100 miles. Others are also welcomed to spectate and/or volunteer for various support roles. The Jalapeno 100 just had its 30th annual event this past February.
A relatively new event that is making waves in San Benito is the annual Resaca City Bike Tour which just had their 4th annual in February.
According to Megan Treviño, Executive Director of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce, the 4th annual event went really well this year; there was an increase in attendance and participation with about 200 riders of which 15% were Winter Texans. Meanwhile, the support from the business and cycling community was amazing, which lead to the largest attendance they have ever had. With businesses providing water and food for riders and volunteers and promoting various businesses; it was a way to help local businesses grow all while benefitting the health and happiness of our local communities.
Both events are looking for even bigger turnouts and increased participation from our Winter Texans next year.
Supporting local businesses
Anyone who rides bikes knows that if you enjoy this activity, eventually your bike will need a tune up, flat tire repair and a shop to find accessories. Not to worry, we have multiple bike shops throughout the Rio Grande Valley. This Winter Texan season, we had two bike outfitters advertise with us. Bicycle World RGV which has long been the most solid bike shop we’ve ever had, has been around since I was a kid
They have all sorts of bikes for any Winter Texan and they focus on what type of bike is right for you. They sell recumbents, trikes, comfort bikes, road and mountain bikes too. Additionally, comfort and safety are paramount in riding, especially if you are new to cycling as the experience should leave you feeling the endorphins of good aerobic exercise and not the soreness of a bike saddle. With Locations in McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville, Bicycle World RGV covers all three major metropolitan areas of the Rio Grande Valley.
What about a mobile repair service? Five Star Bicycles is the first of its kind in our area that offers bicycles assembled, adjusted and delivered to your doorstep or workplace. Five Star boasts having serviced over 30 bikes in one day, typically for Winter Texan bicycle clubs who are getting ready for cycling events. With years of experience, Five Star Bicycles can deliver new bikes or provide repair to your cycling clubs bikes on location at your parks.
Whichever bike outfitter you use, just know that there is plenty of support and invitation for Winter Texans to participate and share the enjoyment of cycling.
Last, but definitely not least, the Valley has multiple Winter Texan Bicycle clubs which are usually seen riding in the early mornings with a support vehicle riding behind the group. These social rides are, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful sights that Winter Texans bring to deep South Texas.
Social and group rides are a fantastic way to meet others who love cycling, get your miles in and stop in at one of the multiple great local restaurants to eat lunch. Just the other day a co-worker and I went to eat at the Drunken Chicken in the city of Mission. The Bentsen Grove Easy Riders were having a meal with the entire fleet of bicycles parked outside. The conversations were flowing, and everyone was smiling – which is further proof that cycling improves health, mood and overall happiness.
I have to say that at that moment, I wished I could have been a part of that morning ride. Additionally, I was later notified that the group had ridden 14 miles, stopped for lunch and then rode back to their park.
We look forward to next year’s cycling events, group social rides and all we have to offer Winter Texans in regard to outdoor activities and cycling. In the meantime, please be safe.