Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time to Break Out the Leathers

With Fall riding season just around the corner, I thought it might be a good idea to get out the leathers to see if I will be able to ride in cooler weather. You see, it's been a hectic summer and with stress comes eating and little extra beer...and the inevitable rider's cushion that comes along with it. Luckily, I usually drink Michelob Ultra, so it looks like we'll be seeing the colors again this year.

Just as Spring means touring to see the wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country, the Fall is all about seeing the colors in the Piney Woods of East Texas or a brisk ride into the mountains of northwest Arkansas. This year, we hope to spend many weekends touring the winding Farm-to-Market roads and rolling hills of East Texas.

This part of Texas is my secret motorcycle touring treasure. I took a friend, Patrik, on an all-day trip there a couple of years ago and, to this day, every time I see him he begs to make the trip again. Coming from a guy who grew-up riding in the Swiss Alps, I think he knows beautiful scenery when he sees it.

One of my favs is FM-16 between Canton and US-271, just south of Gladewater. A Texas Forest Trails road, FM-16 is a great alternative to I-20 / US-80, running through the thriving metropolises of Lindale, Red Springs, and Winona along the way. All three communities are have vestiges of the big oilfield days of the 1930's, but have been reduced to primarily rural bedroom communities of Tyler, the Rose Capital of Texas.

If you are a burger connoisseur, the East Texas Burger Company in Mineola is a must stop. Set in a 100 year-old building on Main Street (US-80), this little burger joint is world renown for its hand-packed patties and fresh-cut french fries. They also offer another of my favorites, chicken fried steak, but I've never been able to eat both in one setting.

Once you're fed and watered, go north about a half-mile on US-69, then hang a right on FM-49. This road is my #2 in East Texas. You see a little of everything on FM-49, hay fields, pine tree forests, rolling hills, expansive creek bed views, and pristine two lane roads with huge tree canopies. In the fall, the trees really put on a show, usually at their peak between late-September and Halloween. If you have the time, take FM-49 all the way into Gilmer, the horse farms in the last five miles will remove any remaining stress you might have in your body.

Continuing east out of Gilmer, you have two great options to run the perimiter of Lake 'O the Pines. Option #1, go northwest on TX-155 to Avinger, then right on FM-729 to Jefferson. FM-729 is a twisty two-lane cruise through the pine forests on the east side of the lake. It is 23 miles of sensory overload all the way into Jefferson.

Option #2 is TX-154 east for about two miles, then left on FM-726. FM-726 takes many turns as you journey through the small villages that make this part of rural Americana. Simply follow the signs for Jefferson. You'll have several options along the way and every one of them worth take multiple times.

Jefferson is the Fredericksburg of East Texas. Chocked full of quaint antique shops, B&B's, and small inns, many of the establishments in Jefferson boast of being haunted by ghosts. My friend, Phil, will testify to that fact, but that is a completely different blog entry to be told at a later time. The biker bar of record is Auntie Skinners. Go there, enjoy the delicious food and cold beer, and tip your waitress well -- they do a great job there.

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