Where I Live: Bel Meade, a San Antonio Oasis

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An O'Neill Ford- inspired home.

An O'Neill Ford- inspired home.

Josh LevineJust three interlocking ovals on hilly terrain, three times around equals a mile. Bel Meade, nestled against the confines of Fort Sam Houston, boasts multiple parks, two designated by San Antonio Parks and Recreation.

With names like Swampy Marsh and the eponymous Bel Meade, the parks range in size from micro vista to village green to dog run with trickling creek, accompanied by ducks and egrets.

A collection of mid-century modern, ranch, and contemporary architecture designed by the likes of O’Neill Ford sit on eclectically landscaped lots of a half-acre or more. (There is actually a Bel Meade Yard of the Month award that I covet but have yet to win).

Lush landscaping, common in Bel Meade (unfortunately not my yard).

Lush landscaping, common in Bel Meade (unfortunately not my yard).

A former mayor, a present day congressman, a renowned artist, princes of industry and pillars of the community are among the denizens who call this diverse but down-to-earth neighborhood home.

An O'Neill Ford- inspired home.

An O'Neill Ford- inspired home.

Originally, the residences of officers from the army base, Fort Sam’s presence still resonates with the Reveille at 05:30 and the murmur of cadences by the recruits at sunrise.

This oasis from the hectic pace of the city truly distinguishes itself with its unsurpassed access to outdoors activities and municipal culture. Fewer than three clicks away downhill are the McNay Art Museum, The Witte Museum, Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, The University of the Incarnate Word Natatorium, and Cathedral Park.

Bikers can reach the many group rides that head south to the Mission Reach trail hassle-free. Triathletes cherish the ease with which they can create bricks of any length and duration utilizing the hills and trails of Alamo Heights and Olmos Basin.

A shady walk through Bel Meade Park. Photo by Josh Levine.

A shady walk through Bel Meade Park.

Just as close in the other direction, the Salado Creek Greenway via Tobin Park offers routes to mountain biking at McAllister Park or inline skating and skateboarding at Lady Bird Johnson Park. Don’t forget to bring climbing shoes.  Along the way, an outcrop of the Balcones Escarpment contains some often-missed passable bouldering opportunities and elusive caves for the more daring explorer. The path under 410 connecting to Los Patios receives my vote for best engineering job of all the trail extensions.

When I really want to get dirty, and run with animalistic abandon, I head to the lower level of John James Park, a perfect place for more advanced trail runners. The main entrance on Rittiman Road is under construction, but the trails can be reached from the back side along Holbrook Road. Be ready to get lost. Take the wrong turn and you may end up amid a sea of tombstones at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery or in a labyrinth of work roads to nowhere.

A flag flies over a neighborhood crossroads.

A flag flies over a neighborhood crossroads.

About 20 miles further east, in my opinion, is some of the best and definitely the safest cycling in the region. Many a Grackle has burned rubber across this vast countryside of family farms and rolling hills. From beginners learning to clip in for the first time to pelotons fifty deep pumping at more than 25 mph, this is the perfect setting for novices and expert cyclists alike.

A memorable example of the wide range of riders who enjoy this excellent cycling track: I once saw a little boy come to a standstill on his pedals, unsure how to unclip, followed by the inevitable slow motion crash sideways that even the best cyclists have experienced, just as a speed demon on a Pinarello zoomed past, adroitly dodging the careening youth.

Photo by Tom Trevino.

Photo by Tom Trevino.

To get there, bring a valid photo ID to enter Fort Sam and traverse on your bike heading east on Binz Engleman, or load everything up and head out to Trainer Hale Road via I-10 east. Take a left on Weir Road and park on the north side of I-10 in the empty lot adjacent to the gas station.

At the center of circuits ranging from 20-90 miles in length, Gin Road is the perfect place to learn to ride with no hands. When passing through the town of Zuehl, stop for some pie or a brisket taco and a beer.  Enough calories have been burned, and besides, beer helps dissipate lactic acid (so they say). Enjoy the pastime of throwing darts or try your hand at nine-pin bowling. Time seems to move at a slower pace out here.

After a day full of activity, I come home to the quietude and peace of an original suburb, still a short drive to downtown. Ending the day with twilight meditation, sunset on the front porch. Then later, past dusk, the aching sound of Taps plays somnolently in the distance as I fall asleep awaiting another eventful day.

 

Josh Levine owns MBS which stands for Mind Body Soul, a lifestyle company that consists of a variety of small businesses – MBS Fitness, MBS Pilates, MBS Spa, Crossfit Mind Body Soul, and Uncommon Fare Goods and Groceries.   A certified personal trainer and yoga instructor for over ten years, he continues to help people get fit on a daily basis.  He can be reached at josh@mbslife.com.

 

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Click here for a full list of our “Where I Live” series.

 

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