Do you ever get super excited about the thought of something, and then when it actually happens it wasn’t as good as you expected? Yeah, I think we’ve all been there! This is the story of just that, a girl (me), who was so excited to get to ride a bike again and then, I got on Mission Trail!
As Marty and I were planning our road trip to San Antonio, we were thrilled to learn that the Mission Trail hike/bike path connecting all of the missions was complete. “What a great idea, and look, babe, we can even rent bikes along the path,” I said to Marty. We’re in decent shape, I mean it’s nothing for us to log 8 or more miles a day walking, we got this! (Oh, the famous last words!)
Getting to the Missions
The San Antonio Missions were formed in the early 1700s. The native people in South Texas were under attack by Indian tribes and were facing deadly diseases traveling into their lands. They were desperate! So, when the Spaniards arrived promising them protection and tempting them with silks and chocolate, who could say no? I mean, I don’t ever say no to chocolate! And so, the Spanish Missions were born.
When visiting the missions, you have several transportation options. You can drive to the missions, take the dedicated hike/bike trail, or take public transportation. Here is a great map of your options. We chose to do a combination of public transportation and the hike/bike trail. 0ur journey began right in front of the Alamo, where we boarded the VIA bus number 36 to Mission San Juan. You can buy a day pass from the driver, just be sure to have exact change. If you don’t have exact change, the tourist information store across from the Alamo will sell you a bus pass as well. The bus stopped at a couple of the other missions of the way, but our destination was Mission San Juan, the southernmost mission that public transportation will take you to.
Mission San Juan
After touring Mission San Juan, we set out on foot to Mission Espada, about 2 miles south of Mission San Juan. We chose to walk along a path leaving from the southeast corner of the mission. Along the path, you could see the acequia bringing water from the river to the area. We later realized that this was probably the “old” path, it was gravel and not well marked. We did find one sign along the way that mentioned the missions, but it had been cut in half and was buried halfway down in the dirt?! Being in unknown territory is not new to Marty and me, so we just trudged on. As we walked closer to the river, we could see the new paved path on the other side. Leave it to us to take the road less traveled. Oh well, we made it.
Leaving Mission Espada, I was delighted to see a bike rental rack. I convinced Marty that this was a good idea like I said before we could easily walk the 10-mile trail back to the Alamo, surely riding a bike would be so much more fun! We boarded our bikes and were off.
The ride was so fun when we left Mission Espada, straight down a little hill. We were laughing and being silly, picking up momentum and letting gravity just carry us away. The river was to our right and it was flowing so beautifully, the birds were chirping, this was living! Well, so I thought for about 10 minutes! People, let me tell you, this was hard work! Who am I kidding? There were points where I just stopped and walked the bike, seriously! My heart was pounding, my head started hurting, I hated this! I want to blame the clunky 3-speed bicycle whose gears felt super tight or super loose, but I’m sure it was just my body screaming to me how truly out of shape I was!
Despite my sudden hatred for this bicycle, I had to trudge on. The next bike station that we were docking at was 3-4 miles away, and you have an hour to “check in” your bike, so we must continue. I remember looking at Marty wondering if he was struggling as much as I was, but with Marty you just never know. He’s always cool, calm and collected. We finally make it to the docking station and I am cussing this bike. I don’t care if I have to walk 20 miles, I am not getting back on this bike! We dock our bikes and continue on the trail on foot (after a ten-minute rest break), and boy was I glad about that!
Mission San Jose
Upon arriving at Mission San Jose, I was famished and looking for water. It was so disappointing to discover their water fountain broken, and no water inside the little visitor’s center. Hey, Park Services, it’s Texas, it gets hot and people need water! So, my advice is to take your own water. Marty and I started our journey with 2 bottles, but I drank both of them on the bike ride….oooppps!
Back to the mission, sorry! If you have time, I recommend waiting for the free tour of Mission San Jose given by the park rangers. Despite the fact that we have visited this mission several times, I still learned so much from our fun and information tour!
Where to Eat
When you leave Mission San Jose, you have to head across Mission Road to Nicha’s for lunch! Nicha’s Comida is always crowded. To me, that’s a sign of a good restaurant. Today, we arrived at 3 pm, and yes, it was crowded, but don’t let that deter you, even if you have a short wait, it is so worth it. I love their puffy tacos and the house gravy that they serve on top of the cheese enchilada. YUM!
With our stomachs full, and both of us wore out from the bikes, we decided it would be better to take the bus to the next mission. We crossed back over Mission Road and walked about a block to the bus stop. I felt like this wasn’t the best part of town, and the bus only stops here every 25 minutes or so.
Leaving Mission Concepcion, we decided to continue on the bus back to the Alamo. When we arrived, the Alamo was closing for the day, so we only have this outside picture…sorry!
Tips from Us
- Take public transportation because it’s easier than getting your car out of the parking garage if you’re staying downtown. A day ticket for the bus was $2.25/person at the time of this posting (have exact change).
- The hike/bike trail is beautiful. If you choose to go this route, take plenty of water.
- Plan at least half a day for this journey.
- Take the guided tours if offered, they are very informative and allow you to see the missions through a different lens.
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