Friday, April 30, 2010

Around Padre - Part II

I tried to capture as much of SPI (cycling-centric and other aspects) as I could through my eyes. I think the video says it best!

Peace :)

PS. You may notice that in a couple of pictures the stitching for panoramic view creation produced certain undesirable results. I have intentionally included these pictures though to some purists this sorta thing might be a hard one to swallow :) 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Around Padre - Part I

Today, I took a ride around South Padre Island (SPI) on Meera. Today was a great day to ride. It was not humid and not too hot. The major thoroughfare that runs through the city is Texas Park Road 100. This highway is known also as Padre Boulevard in SPI.

After lunch, I rode all of Padre Boulevard from our condo to the point where it ends. That's about 10 miles from my condo.

Pictured below is the bike we rented for my wife from Ride N Padre. We rented it for four days and the owner, Mr. Joe, gave us a good deal on the rental. It is a comfort bike, made in China. It rides fairly smoothly.

View of my Element parked outside our condo.
Head West from the condo a few meters and then turn right to go North on Texas Park Road 100. All bicyclists use the bike lane/shoulder on this road. I did as well. I am sure I could have ridden on the road if I had wanted, but I did not want to. The shoulder was wide enough and I was comfortable riding it.
Few miles north of Padre and Huisache is the Sea Turtles, Inc, which is a Sea Turtle Rescue Center. It is a non-profit organization and I plan to visit it before I leave SPI.
Laguna Madre is on the west side of SPI and on the east is the Gulf of Mexico. This water tower had the name Laguna Madre on it.
Entrance to the Convention Center from Padre Boulevard. The Convention Center also has the Laguna Madre Nature Trail on which bicycles are not allowed.
I stopped by the Convention Center to quickly check it out. I will try to return to the SPI Convention Center to check out the Nature Trail.
There are some really pretty houses in SPI!
More beautiful houses! I didn't buy any today as I didn't have my panniers :)
And, some more beautiful homes!
And finally, a nice view of the Gulf/beach. The beach was packed over the weekend. Today it was not crowded, only a few visitors.
Cuatro amigos en cuatro espléndidos caballos!
Meera posing on the beach!
There are many entrances to the beach (Beach Access) from Padre Boulevard. They do permit automobiles to ride on the beach here. I rode in though one of these to check out the beach. Automobiles have to pay a fee! I asked the attendant if I needed to pay and I pointed out that I was on a bicycle and he said, "No, you just go right in". Perks of bicycle commuting :)
The road is surrounded by sand dunes on both sides from this point or so on till the end of this road at the north end of SPI. I have never seen sand dunes (perhaps seen'em when I was a kid but I can't remember) and so I was quite mesmerized by this seemingly endless road with sand dunes on both sides.
Another nice photo of Meera! At this point, we were still headed north on Texas Park Road 100.
More sand dunes!
Roadside sign indicating a Beach Access entrance!
A happy couple enjoying the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico!
Nature's way of keeping cyclists out of the shoulder? Here is something that I experienced for the first time in my life. Here I was riding along the shoulder and suddenly the shoulder was covered with sand! I tried riding through the sand I think I may have made it though roughly a few inches, if that! I finally just rode on the roadway until I could get back on the shoulder.
All good things must come to an end and here is the end of Texas Park Road 100 in SPI. The island ends shortly hereafter as well.
A Kite boarder checking out his equipment!
Abandoned school bus on the lagoon side! I thought it made a good picture.
More kite boarders! The noise in the picture is probably quite obvious. I did use the digital zoom in my Pentax Optio W90. I chose not to carry my DSLR on this trip.
On my way back to the condo, I ran into Frank (I think that's his name). Frank lives on the island and lives car-free. He was an interesting fellow, who told me a bit about himself and about SPI. Frank said he has bicycle toured from Ohio to Montana and back. Quite impressive! Frank knew where the bathrooms were on Padre Boulevard, important piece of information only a seasoned local rider might know!
View of Laguna Madre from Padre Boulevard! Ain't it pretty?
Close-up of a kite!
Just as I turned on to Huisache, I ran into a young lady who was training her kitty to walk on a leash! This adorable kitty was quite something!
After a short visit with the kitty, I went to my condo, cleaned up and headed out to dinner at Jesse's Cantina. Tres Empanadas para mĂ­! The food was delicious. I highly recommend it. If you are a vegetarian/vegan, please note that while I can not guarantee it, I was told by the waiter that the beans did not have any pork and the rice did not have any chicken broth in it.
After dinner, we swung by the Laguna to see if we can snap a couple of pictures of the Queen Isabella Causeway. I guess have a bit more to learn about my new camera's digital zoom, plus it was quite windy!
A nice Texas sunset!
Sunset in panoramic view!
That's all folks!

Have a great one! I hope to post more about SPI soon.

Peace :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ride'N Padre

We plan to rent one bike from this outfit which is 5 minutes by foot from our condo.
The island has a dedicated bike lane along its main thoroughfare, Hwy 100. If I understood what the bike rental place told me correctly, I could rent one bike for a week for about $10/day, which is pretty good. There may be a discount if I rent for a week or so.

I saw about 10 people or so riding bikes since our arrival here last evening.

I plan to take Meera out and ride tomorrow, now that I know where the roads go.

Pictured below is Shaggy refusing to play in the water. By the way he is trying to pull some stuff (little thorny things that are superabundant in the grass here) off his coat.
Have a great one, y'all!

Peace :)

Out for a week!

I will be in South Padre for a week.
I will post more soon as I gather my thoughts and ride in the new location.

Have a great weekend!

Peace :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Loaded Ride on the Thorn Nomad MK2

Yesterday, my friend Shoaib and I drove to Denton and then rode the Greenbelt Trail from there to Hwy 488. This is not the longest ride I have ever done but it was one of the most enjoyable rides and it was quite unique in certain ways.

Here is a map of our ride.

One of the things that sets this ride apart from any others I have done so far is the fact that my bike was fully loaded. Yes, I had all four pannier bags on, 2 GT-54's in the back and 2 GT-18's in the front. In addition, I carried my 2 person tent in the rear carrier to get the full effect. I also carried two water bottles and 1 bottle (500 mL) of denatured alcohol for the Trangia Stove I had carried in one of the panniers. This was in anticipation of reheating some food I had carried with me. I never got around to cooking but in some sense it was good to have all the gear. The gear gave me a rough idea of my personal hauling ability and helped me simulate the experience of cycle camping, granted I did not pitch my tent and stay in it overnight. I will save that for a S24O in the future!

Pictured are Shoaib's Dahon folder and the Thorn Nomad MK2. I took 3 bags off the bike in order to facilitate organization of all the stuff from both the riders. Also, lifting a loaded touring bike (even if the load wasn't very heavy) into the back of my truck was no joke.
So, we drove my Honda Element to the south entrance of the GreenBelt Trail - off of Hwy 377/380 aka. University Drive in Denton. While I had read some posts on DORBA regarding trail conditions, I wasn't totally sure how bad it would be, until we got there and  saw it firsthand. I have to admit that I was very happy that the trail wasn't paved. I was glad I had the proper bike and proper gear. I think Shoaib would gladly admit that he wished he had brought his mountain rig for this trip. I think Gikma could have managed this trip quite easily. Some parts of the Greenbelt trail were kinda rockier.

There was no shortage of puddles of water, some were quite large! I covered all the panniers with their respective rain covers. This kept the stuff inside dry. It was drizzling all day but it wasn't cold at all.
Ah, the love affair with the Nomad, making me smile from one ear to the other :)
Yours truly practicing to be an Expedition Cyclist?
This is a smaller version of the Denton Creek (?) that we crossed during our ride. It looks relatively small here, but it does get bigger, as you will see soon. Also, I learned about the possibility of one of my "friends" hanging out in these swampy, muddy creeks. Read on and you shall see!
The Bride Across River Qwai? No, just the one across Denton Creek!
We were pleasantly surprised to find a lot of wildflowers and a change in landscape along the way. Honestly, I wasn't expecting this trail to be much of anything other than perhaps a partially paved one with a bunch of road cyclists, but to my surprise it turned out to be quite nice. The view pictured below is one that I relished most.
Shoaib, excelling at multi-tasking while I was trying to get some snaps of the wildflowers. By the way, my friend Shaoib is quite the navigator. He did figure pick this ride and a route to get back on paved roads on our way back. Thanks, Shoaib :)
Wildflowers, variety 1!
Wildflowers, variety 2!
Rest stop #1, just before continuing on to FM 455. The bathrooms at this venue were exceptionally clean. Thanks to Texas State Parks!
Lots of opportunities for having a picnic out with your family and friends! These facilities were right outside of the rest stop.
After our first rest stop, we had a little bit of confusion about where the trail was. Later we realized that we're downright silly about reading the signs correctly. However, here is my friend being a brave adventurer trying to figure out if the trail continued on the other side of the highway. This was no joke as the surface was slippery!
Eventually, we figured out where the connecting trail was and headed out further towards Lake Ray Roberts. Here is another view that I really liked. Lots of wildflowers! By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken using the N900. I have to say I am quite happy with the quality of these photographs.
This was an intersection of an Equestrian and a bike trail. As the trail was quite muddy, we wanted to be certain we took the correct one. Here is "The Navigator" figuring out if we were heading the right way!
For those who might be interested, here is a bigger version of the sign+map!
Take a good look at what the arrow is pointing to! That's right, my "friends" the Crocodalians are a possibility, though rare, at least according to this official information.
Having a mudflap can be a blessing! I was happy I had one on my bike :)
Here is the same Denton Creek, much bigger and more majestic! I would say almost the size of a small river! I had to wonder if any of my friends were hanging out in there.
I guess I am trying to suck-in my gut and not show the 24-pack abs I have or trying to impersonate one of the WWF folks. Just another goofy picture of me! I don't know if ever wrote this before, but here it is, for what it is worth. Cycling is a stress-reliever, especially when you ride away from traffic, while not on a schedule, with not a thing to worry about. I guess Richard Feynman said it best in a different context.

“So I have just one wish for you--- the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.”
Richard P. Feynman 1974

Thanks, PM et al., for this lovely shirt! I feel legit when I wear this shirt :)
For lunch, we rolled into Aubrey, Texas. A fine little town like Roanoke, Texas, perhaps with the exception of so many highways surrounding Roanoke. We stopped at Mom's on Main for lunch. It is a fine establishment and they do have lots of choices for lunch. For a vegetarian, there were at least 3 choices, not including salads. I say that's pretty good for a smallish town.
Mom's had a lot of cool retro stuff. Here is a cool Coke Machine. "Do not put money in if you don't see any bottles", read the instructions on the machine :)
"Mary Had A Little Lamb..."
Vintage Scrabble, Concentration and Yahtzee! I like Scrabble. When I was a kid, it was one of the games I played with my siblings, many many times. At one point in time, I could look at the patterns on the back of those tiles and pretty much guess which ones were the Z, Q, E, P, etc. By the way, these were wooden tiles of the 70s. I see that the newer boxed sets of Scrabble have plastic tiles in them.
I found this nice "secretary" at Mom's. I suppose a modern day one of these is a lap-desk? I am particularly fond of fine writing instruments, such as Fountain Pens, Mechanical Pencils (not ones that come in packages of 12), etc. A good Fountain Pen is a joy to write with and so is a good pencil. I use them when I write in my journal.
It reminded me of the one I have at home. I bought mine, which is a replica, from an online knickknack shop. While it is a replica of an authentic one of the days gone by, it still works great. I thought my dad was a man of certain habits :)

I could't pass on lunch! I had Grilled Cheese with "low fat" onion rings :) Shoaib had Fried Catfish, Fried Okra and some other sides. Lunch was very tasty and provided us the badly needed energy.
Another interesting sign at Mom's!
I was, frankly, astonished to see a Spinning Wheel. I haven't seen one of these in ages. Back in the day, when Gandhi was boycotting the British, many Indian families followed the Mahatma and used an Ambar Charka (a Spinning Wheel) to spin their own yarn. My father had used one when he was a young man. I have seen them back in India as well.
Only in get to see when you ride a bike?
Someone so desperate they had to shoot the "Deer Crossing" sign? :(
After lunch, we took Rockhill Road and headed South and thence back on 377/380 to get back to my truck.

In all we rode about 27 miles. It was a great ride though it drizzled pretty much all day.

We had tons of fun!
I hope your weekend was a fun-filled one too!

If you haven't rode the Greenbelt, I highly recommend it. Make sure to take your Cross or Touring or some bike that can handle non-paved surfaces.

Peace :)