Read Part I here
One of the biggest advantages San Antonio has over DFW is public transit. It’s crazy that most of the Metroplex has no public bus system at all. The bike-share programs that are taking hold in Fort Worth, Dallas and parts of Arlington have not yet spread to the smaller mid-city suburbs. This has been incredibly limiting for Luke and Elizabeth, and inconvenient for me since I have to drive them everywhere. So on Day Two we tried out San Antonio’s B-Cycle system and its public VIA transit.
We parked at the Blue Star Arts Complex just south of downtown. I had already downloaded the B-Cycle app and prepaid a 24-hour pass for myself. We bought 24-hour passes for Luke and Elizabeth directly from the kiosk at the Blue Star’s B-Cycle station. The system is simple: each pass buys unlimited use of all B-Cycle bikes and stations for 24 hours, one bike at a time per pass. Each bike has to be docked at a station at least once per hour to avoid extra fees. You can also purchase monthly or yearly passes.
Elizabeth carried that huge backpack around all day, I have no idea why. I don’t even know what was in it.
We rode the Hike-and-Bike trail along the river to visit four historic missions. The weather was glorious.
Mission Concepción, founded by Franciscan friars in 1731, is first on the trail. One of the first major battles of the Texas Revolution took place here in 1835.
We found a shrine on the mission grounds and I thought, “That’s a weird place to put a shoeshine stand,” and then I realized that I’m an idiot.
Mass is still held in the mission on Sundays. I didn’t take any photos inside the church itself because I didn’t want to seem disrespectful.
Luke’s philosophy is “Why walk when you can run?” It’s like there’s too much world he wants to see to waste time getting there slowly.
We had docked our bikes at the B-Cycle station in Mission Concepción Park, not realizing that it was a 15-minute walk from the park to the mission itself. Luckily there is another station just outside the mission, so we didn’t have to walk back to get our bikes.
We took the bike lane on Mission Rd until it reconnected with the river trail, then followed the signs to Mission San José.
This is my favorite of the four missions. It was founded in 1720 and is still an active parish with a beautiful little church.
The church entrance:
We hit our first snag with the B-Cycle system when we were ready to leave Mission San José. Only four bikes were docked at the Mission station and two had flat tires. Not a catastrophe: it was an easy 15-minute walk to another B-Cycle station at Padre Park. But that station was having some sort of connectivity issues; we spent close to half an hour coaxing three bikes out of it.
At least the view was nice. We got to watch kayaks going down a river chute from the shady comfort of our pavilion.
Once we all finally had our bikes, we continued on to Mission San Juan. This is a pretty stretch of trail, with woods and bridges.
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1731. It was heavily restored in 2015, including the addition of a coat of white plaster on the main structure. It was small to begin with and there wasn’t a lot left of it.
Like the other missions, it still has a nice church.
Our last stop, Mission San Francisco de la Espada, was originally founded in 1690 in northeast Texas, or what was then northern New Spain. It was relocated to San Antonio in 1731. Like Mission San Juan, it has lost some of its historic charm due to extensive restoration.
This is the ground that we covered on the Mission Trail, including the walk back to Padre Park:
It took a lot longer than an hour, though, with all the time we spent exploring the missions. We rolled out of the Blue Star at about 10:45am and finished up at Mission Espada a little after 5pm, sunburned and ready for supper. I have just now realized that we went about eight hours without eating anything that day and didn’t even feel hungry until we were headed back to the Blue Star. The missions and the bike trail kept us completely captivated.
We left our bikes docked at the Mission Espada station and walked to the nearest bus stop. Here we got lucky: there’s a bus route that just goes back and forth between the missions and downtown. It took us about six hours to cover that distance by bicycle and maybe 35 minutes to get back by bus. Then another 10 or 15 minutes to walk from where we got off the bus back to the Blue Star. We could have waited for a connecting bus, but that would have taken longer.
The bus was clean and pleasant, and the driver and passengers were very friendly. Three thumbs up for public transit.
The original plan was to see the missions, have lunch at Alamode Panini and Gelato in the Blue Star Complex, go tour some local neighborhoods and then have supper at Mi Tierra. But it was so late by the time we got back to the Blue Star, we only had time for one of the restaurants. I was leaning toward panini and gelato, but the kids had their hearts set on Mi Tierra. I bowed to the majority, and we had a nice Mexican dinner.
For some reason – probably hunger – I forgot how expensive parking is downtown and just drove to the public lot closest to the restaurant. We did get some nice views of the skyline.
Not sure the views were worth the $10, though.
Mi Tierra was packed with tourists. We basically inhaled our meal and then spent the next twenty minutes trying to get our waiter’s attention for the check. To be fair, he had a large party keeping him running.
The mercado is pretty at night.
This spot reminded us of Disneyland. New Orleans Square on the right with the Matterhorn in the background:
The last landmark on our Day Two checklist was the Hays St Bridge. It’s a pedestrian-only bridge, so we headed back to the Pearl Brewery to trade our car for some bikes. I love that they repurposed the old buildings without changing their names.
There’s no hike-and-bike trail between the Pearl and the bridge, but there are mostly continuous bike lanes on the streets. We got there with no problems.
We got a nice view of downtown.
That was a fun ride. We like the B-Cycles.
We got back to the hotel around 10 or 10:30 and had no trouble falling asleep.
Read Part III here