Wednesday, March 12, 2003                       Laguna Atascosa Ride

This was a truly spectacular ride. My ride reports tend to get into a lot of narrative detail, but this was one of those rides where I was swept away by the joy of riding and exploring to the point that narrative couldn't do it justice. The route described in Best Bike Rides Texas starts at Port Isabel Lighthouse just west of South Padre Island. Since it was after noon, plus the spring break traffic was thick heading toward Port Isabel, I decided to skip the part of the ride outside Laguna Atascosa.

It was a little hazy when I entered the refuge, but it cleared up quickly.

Laguna Atascosa N.W.R. is the largest area of the southern Gulf coast preserved in  its natural state. It's a bird watcher's paradise, but frankly, I never had the patience for birding. Bayside Drive (described as " semi-paved" ) was rough for a road bike, but my Americano is no mere road bike, it's a touring beast with wide tires and a beefy frame. Consequently, I had no problems, even on the two occasions where I found myself riding on double-track.

The yucca were in full bloom.

Bayside Drive was  narrow, but there was little traffic. This was one of the better paved segments of the road--other parts were more like packed dirt.

This panaramic view includes  the sand dunes in the photo above (warning: 632K).

The first time on double-track was deliberate, as I rode out to a point on the Moranco Blanco Trail for a great view.

I got to practice my off-road skills on the Moranco Blanco Trail.

At the end of the doubletrack, I posed beside a yucca.

The sand was packed hard, so I didn't have any trouble riding on it.


This panaramic view shows wetlands on the left and Laguna Madre (which is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by Padre Island) on the right (warning: 690K).

My other off-road experience could be attributed to my obstinacy. After completing the Bayside Drive loop, I followed a short, paved trail that led to an observation deck which jutted out into a small lake. Then I continued south. When the pavement ended, I should have turned around and returned to the parking lot. Instead, I ventured onto the rough double-track path as the sun was setting. I hoped that it would lead out to FM 106, which I could ride back to the refuge's entrance. Sure enough, the path went to FM 106, but a locked gate blocked my path. Apparently, I was not the first person to venture into this blockade, because someone had made a gap in the fence off to the side. I slipped through with my bike and headed east  toward the refuge.

The ride back into the wildlife refuge was notable for the disgustingly thick clouds of gnats that pelted my face like rain, clinging to my clothing and the hair on my arms and legs. Although it was getting dark, I kept  my sunglasses on  to keep the bugs out of my eyes. It was dusk by the time I got back to my car, and the lot was empty. At least I could change my clothes outside the cramped car for once. I had ridden 30 miles in 2:31:45. My slow average speed of 11.8 mph was due to the off-road adventures, the roughly paved loop road and the breeze off the Gulf.

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