One of the things I came to appreciate about the people of McAllen was their drive to better their community. Each time we turned around, we found yet another example of home-grown efforts to improve the lives of those around them.
In addition to the canal trails, Mission Trails, a mountain bike club in the area, has developed a series of single-track trails through the desert. We had a blast riding the narrow paths through dense cactus and other prickly plants.
Our intended two-day stay in McAllen had somehow stretched into ten days before we finally headed south. But there was one final treat for us on the US side – the Pump House Museum
The Hidalgo Pumping Station (Photo/Nancy Sather-Vogel)
A hundred years ago, the entire Rio Grande Valley was nothing but dry, barren desert. Eventually the vast network of canals was dug and a pump house built to lift water out of the river and deliver it to 40,000 acres of fields. The pump houses quite literally changed the face of the valley.
Now, the pumps have been converted to an electric system rendering the old steam engines obsolete, and the ancient pump house has been converted to a fascinating museum.
The pump house lies right on the banks of the river, so it was a short jaunt to the bridge over the Rio Grande to Mexico. Our lives were about to change!
One of the many people we had been privileged to meet in McAllen was Claudio, former head of the motorcycle police brigade in Mexico. Claudio had offered to help us out in any way he could and we were more than honored to have his help.
As soon as we appeared on the Mexican side of the border, motorcycles appeared out of nowhere to escort us to Claudio’s home for the night. Our little rag-tag bunch of cyclists looked like backwoods hicks compared to the slick, shiny, powerful motorcycles escorting us through the city, but it was a wonderful experience to have them stop the traffic for us.
The following morning, Claudio showed us the true extent of his magic. Escorted by two police motorcycles, one police car, and four members of the motorcycle club, we made our way to the mayor’s office where we were officially welcomed to Reynosa and to Mexico. From there we made our way to a local school, where the principal and all his students welcomed us once again.
I’ll admit we were more than a bit apprehensive about riding through a Mexican city as large as Reynosa, but Claudio had assured us it would be a problem. I should have listen to him.
Accompanied by our enormous entourage of security personnel, we slowly snaked out way through the city as our escorts stopped traffic. After thousands of miles of watching traffic and being ultra-careful of cars, it was a bizarre feeling to simply pedal knowing others would stop the traffic for us.
Ninety minutes later, we were on our own. The city traffic had faded away and a remote, little used, rural road stretched ahead. Our escorts turned back.
“Are you ready?” I asked John and the boys. “Mexico is waiting!”