As the mercury (finally) dips into fall chill, San Antonians shut off the AC, open the windows, and head once again into the outdoors. With all the egg-frying rhetoric behind us with those extended summer temps, there is an embarrassing glut of outdoor activities in the Alamo City. The best place to start is with a nine-mile Mission Trail ride.
I start in the heart of Southtown, kicking off from MadHatters Tea House, emboldened by some of their cardamom-cinnamon tea.
The Mission Trail is part of a larger effort to extend the 14th most-visited tourist attraction in the nation, our River Walk, deeper into the north and south. The southern portion will stretch all the way to Mission Espada. However, it won’t be completed until 2012, so our ride is still confined to roadways, existing bike lanes, and designated sidewalks. The easy way to avoid misadventures and detours is to look for the brown “Mission Reach” placards on street signs.
Heading south from South Alamo and Durango, pass the crumbling Parthenon in front of La Focaccia Italian Grill and turn left onto South St. Mary’s at Rosario’s Café y Cantina.
From here it is a long, straight ride down South St. Mary’s to Brackenridge High School. This is a good time to check any bike maintenance issues because right across the street is the lovely S.A. Cycles ready to satisfy any of your cycling needs. If everything is in fighting form, carry on under the overpass and hang a right at Roosevelt Park where the old Lone Star Brewery stands. Carry on along Mission Road past the power plant and under I-10. Mission Concepción is the first stop, followed by Mission San José further down Mission Road. Leaving Mission Road briefly, take Napier Ave, and get back on Mission Road at its juncture with SE Military. Here begins my favorite leg of the trip. The concrete and roar of city traffic begin to recede as a more pastoral scene opens up ahead. The vibrant artificial blooms decorating Mission Burial Park jump out from the greenery like fiesta confetti. The vibrant foliage and grave decorations promise to become even more vivid as we near Dia de los Muertos in November.
As you near Mission San Juan with the sun climbing higher in the sky, the trail brings you past Stinson Municipal Airport. If thirst and hunger haven’t set in by this point, they soon will, making Stinson Airfield Patio Café a great place to stop for a bite. The café is tucked inside the airport in the back left corner and easy to miss. The café offers an aviation-themed menu and affordable Mexican-American favorites. Owners Joe and Elizabeth Rodriguez cook up 17 satisfying breakfast taco combos, but there are also “Jumbo Jet” pancakes, a “Wright” western omelet, and “Fueler” huevos rancheros to satisfy your hard-earned appetite. In the lunch category, the café has some gut-busting burgers, but I recommend the crispy beef tacos with extra avocado, a great protein-carb-fat combination that will have you flying through the second half of your ride. Most of the menu is pretty solid, standard even, packed with what you would expect to find at you average Tex Mex place, so I would encourage you to bypass the everyday menu and hone in on the daily Lindbergh lunch specials.
I sat next to the open kitchen resting my weary legs to watch the parade of platters being ferried from counter to table. The real reason I come to Stinson airfield is for the view. Those who enjoy a Saturday morning at the corner coffee shop nestled behind a newspaper with a cup of coffee, try Stinson Airfield. The Café recently added an open-air eating section alongside the runway where diners can tuck into their meals and take in the planes and helicopters swooping across the blue Texas sky. I lingered on the back patio over my migas and iced tea, adrift in this surreal setting, blissfully basking in the sun.
With the risk of racing the waning sun, I refilled my water bottle and headed back on the trail. In my opinion, the four missions not granted Hollywood screen time are the most interesting and these last miles are what the rest of the ride is all about. Biking along the river, it is easy to imagine what life might have been like for these early inhabitants of San Antonio. Each mission offers a unique look at the settlement and development of San Antonio. Notable features include the original frescos at Mission Concepcion, the restored façade and gristmill at San Jose, the nature trail at San Juan, and the acequias that cut through the fields around Espada. A self-sustaining community originally organized to function like a small Spanish village, each mission was a thriving hub of daily activities set in the open landscape of South Texas. Take the time to reflect on the cultural foundations and historical importance of the trail as you peddle along on your modern day steed. •
Stinson Patio Café
8535 Mission Rd
The Skinny: Aviation-themed menu with Mex-American favorites
Best Bets: Beef tacos, chilaquiles
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Thu; 8am-3pm Fri-Sat
Prices: Breakfast $3.50-$4.00; Lunch special $3.99-$4.50