Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Destination: Texas Hill Country

Every April, I open up the map and start looking for an interesting destination for a 'Bring in the Spring' motorcycle getaway. This year, the Texas Hill Country is the destination of choice and it looks like May 25-30 is the perfect time to make the trip.

We've been to the Hill Country many times, but usually spend most of it in the Highland Lakes area and Marble Falls because it's such an easy ride down from the DFW area. This year, we're going to ride the pinnacle of motorcycle roads in Texas...the Three Twisted Sisters, also known as the Twisted Sisters, The Sisters, or, in Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) lingo, FM-335, FM-336, and FM-337.

We'll make Kerrville our base camp, figuring any road worth taking is within a day's journey. Will also need to spend a little time in Bandera, I understand there is a watering hole or two worth visiting in the Cowboy Capital of the World.

Each weekend, thousands of bikers converge on the Hill Country, so I expect we'll see some old friends and make a few new ones too. Time to get the bike cleaned and road-ready.


© 2009 TRHG Holdings LLC


Saturday, April 4, 2009

In the beginning...

It all started with my buddy, Phil.

We've known each other for over 30 years and it seems we've always shared a passion about motorcycles. But life always got in the way of getting an iron horse between our legs.

In 1997, Phil unexpectedly (at least to me!) took the plunge and bought a used Road King to begin his journey. I thought he'd never find time to ride, as he too was working his ass off, had kids the same age, and, and, and...(all the other reasons we often don't go where our heart leads us). Within three years, it seems all of our friends were out riding on the weekends and my wife, Liz, and I were still spending our time at the baseball, basketball, and soccer games.

Then came my day -- March 17, 2000.

I found a Heritage Softail Classic with 800 miles on it in the paper that was FSBO. The lucky bastard had won the bike in a drawing -- "...it was the last day of a conference that my wife was attending in Austin," he said. "At the hotel counter, there was a charity drawing for a new Harley, so I bought $10 worth of tickets. I really didn't think anything else about it until I got a phone call two months later telling me I could come out to Barrett's Harley-Davidson in El Paso to take delivery of my new bike. Hell, I couldn't believe it, I hadn't ridden in 25 years! But I flew out to El Paso and picked out the bike, then rode it back to DFW. For the first 100 miles, I sucked the seat up my ass every time a semi passed me by!"

Still laughing, I asked him why he was selling so quickly.

"Well" he said, "I have a cousin in Paradise (TX) that has hit on some hard times and needs to sell his land. We've been living in Arlington for 20+ years and are ready for a change, so I'm going to use the money to buy his land and build a house. But the best part is, I have a geologist friend who is very familiar with the area and he tells me this land sits in the middle of a new natural gas field called the Barnett Shale. So I figure if we hit something, I'll be able to buy whatever kind of Harley I want!" Let me get this straight...this guy is parlaying a $10 charity ticket into over $100K in gas royalties? Welcome to the latest Texas oil boom.

I talked my bride of twenty years into the purchase, but only after she exclaimed that, "...there is no way I'm going to be one of those biker bitches all dressed in leather and crap."

So there I am, dressed like a biker wanna-be in my Hard Rock denim jacket, make-shift doo-rag under a borrowed helmet, and what looked to be antique fighter pilot goggles, riding bitch on the back of Phil's bike headed to the guy's house to take delivery of my first Harley. I would have made Dudley (from the Wild Hogs movie) proud. Doug came along too.

Personally, I think they were LOL at me and taking bets as to whether I'd be able to ride the damn thing home without dropping it at the first stop light, having not ridden for twenty years myself. Luckily, I dissappointed them, but appreciated the glory of riding in a group from the get-go. And it didn't hurt that they would be there to help me lift the bad boy up if I DID drop it!

We made the obligatory trip to the dealer the next day to "make the bike mine", which is code for worshiping the H-D gods by spending another $1K to put engine guards and a bunch of chrome on there that should have come with it in the first place. That's when Liz got religion. Within 15 minutes of going through the sacred doors of the H-D temple, she had found the sale rack....and "oh, look at this cool leather coat and matching chaps!!" She was hooked...and the rest of the Bonus of 2000 was squandered away on selfish luxuries that only new bikers can appreciate. After several hours, a couple of six packs, and a few scraped knuckles, the bike - and we - were ready for our first ride.

It was barely 55 degrees when we pulled out of the driveway the next morning, headed for a breakfast run with Rhonda and Phil. After 50 miles of construction and four-lane highways, not to mention several u-turns, I realized that either Phil didn't know where he was going or he just didn't know better. This was a job for Radar...or Magellen...or Gallileo...or all the other names the guys used to call me during the post-ride beer briefings.

But they soon learned to appreciate my gift.

Taking the roads my Dad used to frequent, I've been creating cool touring routes for years - filing them away in my mind and, as technology evolved, capturing them in various mapping programs. You see, Dad was a communications engineer, the brain behind a company that created a series of microwave towers that delivered cable TV to all of the cities west of Fort Worth. There isn't a map that he hasn't read or a back road that he hasn't taken.

As a kid, I remember traveling with Dad to his tower sites, which were usually located off some remote Farm-to-Market road, on a vista in the middle of a ranch, where you could see as far as the weather would allow. Every once in a while, we'd stop and fish in the rancher's tank, but we ALWAYS found the best dives for groceries while on the road. Some think this route thing is a gift, but it's not. I was trained by the best of them and he's still going strong at 84 years-old.

In the beginning, it was enough to map a dozen 2-3 hour rides rides around the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex for a quick getaway with my buddies. But let's face it, North Texas isn't exactly known for it's rolling hills and forest trails. As the kids got older, we began to take overnight trips - little 1-2 day escapes. Now that they're all out of the nest, we've extend our ventures to 5 or 10-day journeys, sometimes trailering out to "get through the ugly stuff" faster. Sometimes we're just in a rush to get there, like the day after we dropped our youngest off at college. Liz and I jumped in the truck at 5am the next day, bike in tow, and drove 19 hours so that we could wake up in the Great Smokey Mountains for a 10-day "Celebration Ride". I don't know what excited Liz more, the prospects of no more kids in the house or going through the tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway...both are pretty amazing milestones.

But I digress.

Bottom line, if you're looking for an awesome ride in the Greater Texas area, I've got a lot of them and am actively building a library of routes throughout the South and Southwest. If there is a good road that you've taken, I want to hear about it. Once we take the route and like it, I'll add-in a few watering holes, diner dives, and points of interest along the way. Then I'll certify it as a "Thunder Roadworthy" ride and post it on our site when construction is complete.

And hopefully - just hopefully - the rest of you will put some of life's noise on-hold and go make some thunder of your own.


© 2009 TRHG Holdings LLC