Day Trips

Cycle Ranch in Floresville features one of the top motocross tracks in the Southwest

Buzzing excitement
Buzzing excitement (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Cycle Ranch, in Floresville, Texas, is a playground of high-flying fun and entertainment. Whether you're in the saddle churning up the red dirt with knobby tires or watching the action in the shaded bleachers, the excitement is worth the minimal price of admission.

The motocross track may be one of the top tracks in the Southwest, but it hasn't gone the way of fancy NASCAR speedways yet. Instead, it caters to a society of enthusiasts who would rather ride motorcycles around a dirt track than go fishing, fly model airplanes, or play golf. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those activities.

Among the oak trees of the campground are tents and campers instead of ocean-liner-sized recreational vehicles. Parked around the pickups are motorcycles in a stair-step of sizes for family members. In addition to the main course, the ranch has tracks where young riders can learn skills and confidence.

I was there on a practice weekend, and only a dozen or so teams of motorcycle riders were spread out in the shade. If it had been a race weekend, even the beginners course would be filled with humming generators connected by unseen umbilical cords to massive motor homes. Race weekends are crowded fairs of vendors and motorcyclists, while practice days are relaxed and just for fun.

From the track, a constant buzzing of hornetlike motorcycles rises and fades as the riders work their way around the serpentine 1.7-mile track. The bright red dirt of the track contrasts with the deep green of the surrounding vegetation and the sapphire-blue sky above. In a strange way, it is reminiscent of a painting by an ancient European master artist. It is difficult to look away from the stark beauty of the scene and the hypnotic buzzing of the iron insects.

As the source of the noise works its way closer to the spectators, the bikes grow in to powerful mechanical horses with masked riders throwing a spray of red mud from their rear tires. Slowing around hairpin turns, the beasts let out a high-pitched scream on the straightaway and then slide into another sharp turn. Most of the course is visible from the bleachers, and you can't help but cheer on each unidentified rider as he or she works his or her machine against the natural obstacles of steep hills and the loose red dirt of the track like a lumberjack working a chain saw.

It is the downhill side of the ramps that gives riders and spectators the biggest thrills. With throttles wide open, the motorcycles race up the steep inclines to be launched airborne. Flying off the end of the ramp, the motorcycles seem to hang in midair for a moment before coming back down to earth.

The Cycle Ranch Motocross Park is on the south side of Floresville, about three miles east of U.S. 181 on Sunnyside Road/County Road 405. The track opens to practice riding Thursdays, noon to 8pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 5pm; and Monday, 10am to 5pm. Riders are charged $10-20 per day, and spectators pay only $2. The track holds monthly local and regional championship races throughout the year and a national championship series race in November. For more information, call 210/635-9199 or go to www.cycleranchmx.com.

About 30 miles south of San Antonio, Floresville is worth checking out. Although much of the business district has moved out to the highway, the old downtown section around the 1884 courthouse retains a rural charm. The county seat of Wilson County, the area is famous for its peanut crop and livestock.

The town is also famous for some of the best small-town Mexican-food restaurants in South Texas. Olivia's Mexican Restaurant, 1008 C St., makes a great plate of Tex-Mex enchiladas complemented by warm, homemade tortillas and finished with an assortment of cakes and pies. Many of the locals favor El Rancho, 1109 C St., for its Interior Mexican recipes. The most renowned restaurant in town since 1907 is the White House Cafe and Saloon, 1307 Third St., but it's only open in the evenings Tuesday through Saturday. For more information on what to do around Floresville, go to www.floresvillechamber.org.

843rd in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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