Friday, February 16, 2007

Bike Trip Update - Day 1 - Harlingen to Port Isabel, TX

The Winter 2007 Bike Tour is underway!

Here is the plan.

We flew into Harlingen, TX, and we're going to ride to Austin, with visits to S. Padre Island, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and the fourth least populous county in the United States! (That would be Kenedy County.)

I'm riding this with my friend Jim, who's never been to Texas. I drove through here about 10 years ago to look at birds.

To fly to Harlingen, you have to stop in Houston to change flights. Look what they have in the airport to entice travellers about how wonderful Houston is.

I bet this has inspired a number of displaced Katrina victims to go to Houston.

Harlingen has a very small airport. They don't mind a bit if you put your bikes together in the baggage claim.

It took me a very long time to assemble the trike. Three hours. We weren't on the road until 4:30, and we had over 40 miles to go to get to S. Padre Island. This means riding at night.

Here's a picture of the fully loaded and equipped trike on the road.

You can see these pictures the interesting terrain down here. It's dead flat, and sort of tropical desert. It looks very windblown, like its been hit by lots of hurricanes.

This picture shows Port Harlingen in the background, as Jim tries to figure out why his front wheel isn't round.

The security lady at the airport was chatting with us as we put the bikes together. She gave us a great route on obscure back roads. We messed up a bit trying to get on this route, but once we found it, it was terrific. We learned what south Texas is really like. First, people live in small farms surrounded by fences. They have lots of goats. They have horses, which are typically tied to the outside of the fence between the fence and the road. They have lots of dogs, which like to run out through the open gates in the fence to chase bikes. We were chased by 17 dogs.

I didn't take any pictures of this because it was getting dark, and we wanted to get lots of miles in before we had to ride at night.

It got completely dark with about 15 miles to go, where we were riding along the bay that separates South Padre Island from the mainland. It was in the 40s and windy. The sky was clear, with no moon, and there were wide shoulders and no traffic. It was pretty peaceful riding.

We eventually got to Port Isabel and the main highway that goes over the causeway to Padre. I headed up the causeway, amused at the warning sign for Pelicans that has flashing lights when they are present. This caused me to miss the "No Bicycles" sign. The shoulder went away when the bridge started, and I thought to myself "this is going to really suck..." Then I heard Jim hollering about the no bikes sign. I walked the trike backwards down the shoulder, to see this sign, and to see if maybe there was another sign about how to get to the bike path to the island. Then the nice police officer showed up with his lights on.

The policeman wasn't concerned about our abortive attempt to cross the bridge. He said there was no way to get to the island on a bike, except for the bus which has bike racks (lot of good that does me on a trike) and the bus had stopped running for the day. Bummer. Our excursion to South Padre Island was a bust.

The police did clue us in to a total score of a motel.

$55 for a two-room suite with kitchen. They cater to sport fisherman. Here's our campsite. Jim's in his whole other room.

After we got cleaned up, we walked down the road for dinner and electrolyte replenishment therapy (margaritas) at Chili's.

The water felt sorry for me because I have a cold, and gave me a shot of Theraflu. I feel much better.

Here's the MotionBased link, which has links to Google Earth and Google Maps with the track from the day's ride.

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