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Texas Lone Star Cruiser Touring

Friday, May 21, 2010
Texas Lone Star Cruiser Touring
This article and many more like it are featured in Issue Three 2010 of MotoUSA Magazine. This coffee table quality publication features timeless articles that focus on the best destinations and the rides from around the world is brought to you by the editors of Motorcycle-USA.com. Get your complimentary copy with every order from the exclusive distributor Motorcycle-Superstore. (While supplies last!)
If you’re like us, you don’t need much of an excuse to go riding in the Hill Country of Texas, especially when the invitation comes from Steve Johnson, President of Tucker Rocky. Steve was putting together a group of friends and business associates to go for a ride with him in search of Lupinus Texensis - the Texas Bluebonnet.

Although we had spent some time a few years back touring the northern part of the state, we were eager to get out of town and explore what many refer to as the “best country-in-the country.” After all, we simply needed to show up in Fort Worth and our host would take care of the rest. Bluebonnets, here we come.

In Search Of Lupinus Texensis

Oregon was still a bit chilly so “Texas should be warmer than here,” became our mantra as we made plans to spend a couple nights prior to the ride at the Gaylord Texan Resort, which is now, without question, our favorite resort. You really don’t need a reason to stay at the Gaylord Texan... just do it. This fully enclosed glass atrium is home to some of the best restaurants, unique shops and recreation opportunities. The hotel rooms are splendid as is the service and the people. That’s a trifecta right there!

Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano claims to have the best barbecue in Texas. We wont argue.
Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano claims to have the best barbecue in Texas. We won't argue.
Steve’s ride started out with a meet-and-greet at the Tucker Rocky headquarters followed by a down-home Texas-style dinner his wife, Linda, prepared at their ranch in Decatur, about 45 minutes outside of Fort Worth. How did she know we were foodaholics? It was a fantastic meal and afterwards, around the campfire, Steve shared the history of Decatur, detailing stories about some of the local outlaws like Sam Bass, Billy the Kidd and Machine Gun Kelly. It was already becoming a great ride and we hadn’t even been on the bikes yet.

Steve recruited famous Lupinus Texensis hunter, Jim Kauffman, as our trailboss for the ride. One look at Jim and you instantly knew he had forgotten more about the backroads of Texas than most will ever know. All-in-all we were about 15 riders as we headed south from Decatur toward Goldthwaite where we stopped in for lunch at the Wagonwheel Cafe. “We’re not really sure why it’s spelled Gold-TH... when it’s just pronounced GOLD-waite,” explained the waitress when quizzed about the correction pronunciation. No matter... the pie was great. We learned a long time ago that an order of pie always makes riding motorcycles a little better.

Don’t even ask us what roads we took to get to GOLDwaite, all we know is Jim must have used a corkscrew as his GPS to get there. We are still studying the map trying to figure out what route we took! We do know that after lunch, we started out on Highway 16 headed south towards Fredericksburg, our destination for the evening.

Now the group was ready to ride as you could easily deduce by the massive increase in speed. Pie has a tendency to slow one down a few MPHs, but when I looked down at the speedo, somewhere between McMillan and San Saba, we were still registering above 90 when Butch and Kyle crawled by us.... at about 94. Damn Harleys! Wait... they were on Harleys, also!

When touring in Texas dont be suprised to come across some open range cattle.
Texas may look flat on the map but it's anything but! There are plenty of curvy backroads in the Lone Star state.
We blew through Llano so fast, we’re still not sure if it has two Ls or three. Then the fun started... Jim was obviously so possessed to track down the elusive Lupinus that he started taking roads that aren’t even on the map. Okay... that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we were taking backroads off of backroads off of backroads. Don’t ever let anyone tell you Texas is nothing but straight, boring roads... Jim knows better.

Somehow or another we snuck-up on Fredericksburg coming in from the east. Early Google searches told us that Fredericksburg was a quaint, little German village that tourists flock to... especially during the Lupinus season. Kind of reminded us of Solvang without the windmill. The few ladies who were on the ride instantly thought we struck gold with all the numerous antique stores. The guys were still sorting out the number of riders as one of them had picked up a flat.

The good news is we had showered, put on clean clothes and were headed toward the Auslander restaurant where we were all scheduled to meet for dinner. The bad news... still no bluebonnets. Although we might have arrived a week before the “big bloom,” we’re pretty sure some of those blue blurs along Highway 16 might have been some early bloomers. Nonetheless, we were all back together inside the Auslander reminiscing about the day’s ride. Word to the wise, if you are on a diet, don’t go to a German restaurant. In fact, don’t even bother going to Texas! Everywhere we stopped the food was great. There are signs promoting barbecue restaurants everywhere, almost all of them claiming to be “the best Bar-B-Que in Texas!” No argument here.

Fredericksburg Loop

The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum on Highway 187 has an eclectic group of old antiques on display and a small cafe inside.
The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum on Highway 187 has an eclectic group of old antiques on display and a small cafe inside.
Day 2 was scheduled as a “loop” ride. That means after breakfast at our hotel, the Inn On Baron’s Creek, we were off to explore the Hill Country, eventually working our way to the town of Leaky where we would gather for lunch. Along the way we stopped at Lone Star Motorcycle Museum on Highway 187. A great place for a cup of coffee, a hot dog and a look at some of our sport’s dinosaurs. No pie though.

The Leakey area is famous for the Three Sisters. These are basically three different ranch roads, 335, 336 and 337 that are considered the best riding roads in Texas. With nicknames like the “Roller Coaster” and “Twisted Sister” you can bet they get a lot of action on the weekends. We didn’t have a chance to sample them all, but if 337 was any indication, the other two sisters have to be pretty good looking. After climbing our way out of Leakey we pointed west towards Medina. This stretch consisted of wide open country, some winding roads that even runs parallel to a river for a bit... but, still no bluebonnets.

Heaven IS In Texas

The best apple pie in Texas  The Apple Store is the place.
Who's got the best apple pie in Texas? The Apple Store is the place.
We may not know where those dang blue flowers are, but we do know that when we die and go to heaven, we hope to hell it looks like the Apple Store. And we’re not talking iPads here. It’s easy to find the Apple Store - you simply turn north on Highway 16 and look for all the other motorcycles. Think of anything you can sew an apple emblem onto and they have it. Not to mention the most delicious pies and out-of-this-world cinnamon ice cream you could hope to find. Get this - you walk in the door, grab a plate, fill it with pie, a waffle cone you can fill with ice cream.... sit down, eat it... and do it again. You don’t even pay until you are walking out the door. No one takes your order, no one keeps track. Just like heaven. We don’t just throw URLs around, but when you get a chance, check out lovecreekorchards.com. The Medina apple pie recipe is to die for.

It’s a short ride back to Fredericksburg - maybe 50 miles by the time we were back at the Inn on the Baron’s parking lot. We met as a group for dinner at the August E’s restaurant. Despite the lack of bluebonnets, Steve had pulled out all the stops and made sure we were staying in great hotels and dining at first-class facilities. It was Butch’s turn for a flat earlier that day so he and Karen, (Steve’s secretary, or “boss,” as he refers to her), had to do some scrambling to find a new tire so they showed up a bit late. They were quickly excused when Butch ordered up several bottles of Napa Valley cabernet and got the party underway.

Austin Bound

Texas Lone Star Cruiser Touring
Whether or not you are searching for bluebonnets it's still a great ride through some scenic rural landscapes.
The final day had us splitting from Steve and his group so we could take in the city of Austin before heading back home. We rode together up Ranch Road 965 and through Enchanted Rock State Park and hung with the group until Llano. That’s where we took off on our own towards the capital city. In retrospect, the Hill Country, even pre-bluebonnets, makes for a great ride.

Austin-bound, we left Llano on Highway 29 heading east towards Buchanan Dam... and I’ll be damned if we didn’t start running into some bluebonnets. It was still a little early for the full fields of color to explode, but there they were nonetheless. Jim would have been proud. As it turns out, our timing would have been better if we had arrived a week later. The riding around Buchanan Lake may not be as challenging as the Three Sisters, but it’s just as pretty. There are numerous ranch roads you can take that wind along the river and through Inks Lake State Park and further down to Longhorn Cavern State Park.

Trust us, Texas is not short on roads or parks for that matter. Towns like Horseshoe Bay and Cottonwood Shores are as nice as can be found in America. There are plenty of places to stay... and get this... gas is cheap and easily found.

Luckenbach, Texas
A quick visit to Luckenbach  Texas.
If you listen to country music, you’ve no doubt heard of Luckenbach, Texas. For years it served as a beer stop for the locals, but it wasn’t until 1973, when country rocker Jerry Jeff Walker put the place on the map when he recorded his album, Viva Terlingua!, inside the old dance hall. Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band stacked the hall full of haybales to help baffle the sound - the result produced a gold album and a resurgence in the popularity of Luckenbach. In 1976, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson released Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love), and Luckenbach was at the top of the country charts again - riding the #1 spot for over two months.

Originally founded by August Engel as a trading post in 1849, it quickly expanded into a post office and general store. It was after August’s daughter, Minna, married Albert Luckenbach that it received its name.

Today, Luckenbach has an almost cult-like following of fans that show up for anything from a chili cook-off to a bike rally. The post office and bar are still intact as is the dance hall. If you like signing your name on the walls of buildings, grab a marker and place your moniker alongside the thousands of others. Like any tourist attraction, there are lots of souvenirs to purchase and a separate building that sells country-western style hats. At the back of the bar is a stage where local talent shows up for daily jam sessions. Weddings, dance parties and music fests are still common occurrences and, if you’re lucky, one will be taking place when you arrive.
When you do visit, you’ll see there’s not much to Luckenbach, but as it says on the sign in the bar, “Everybody is Somebody in Luckenbach.”
Knowing this was our last day of riding, we pointed the Harley south on Highway 281 towards Johnson City, hometown of our 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson. It was one of those places we wanted to say we had been, but wondered why once we got there. It wasn’t quite as impressive as we thought it would be. Supposedly they have a Wine and Wildflowers Festival the third week of April that might be worth attending if you like wine… and bluebonnets.

Just a short ride heading back west on Highway 290 will take you to Luckenbach (see sidebar). This little town was made famous in the popular Waylon Jennings song. As they say, everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach. When you check this place out, tip back a Lone Star brew for all of us, too.

From there we headed back to Johnson City. Once past that monumental place we pointed the Harley east and jumped on route 2766. We knew that in a straight line, the ride to Austin was only 60 miles away so we searched for more backroads in an effort to extend the ride. Ranch Road 2766 took us into Pedernales Falls State Park where the Pedernales River winds it way through the 5200 acres of wilderness. Admission was $10 per person, which we thought was a bit steep, but proved to be a beautiful stop that serves as an opportunity to stretch your legs, grab some snacks and snap off some photos of the famous Perdenales Falls.

Backtracking to Route 3232 dropped us onto Highway 290. We rode north on Ranch Road 12 towards the Lake Travis area, an upscale suburb of Austin. Judging by the explosion of residential communities, shopping malls and golf courses, you would never know the remainder of the country is experiencing difficult times. The city of Lakeway sits on the edge of Lake Travis and is a recreational paradise, especially if you like boating and golf. The Oasis is a great place to grab lunch as you sit out on the deck overlooking the lake. Sailboats gliding along on the water below made us wish we could trade our H-D and riding gear for some shorts a cold beer and a catamaran, along with few extra days to enjoy them... but it was time to move on.

The end of a trip is always a bit of a downer as your mind shifts from enjoying the countryside to preparing to wrap things up. We had heard great things about Austin and looked forward to spending some time there. From Lakeway we cut down the 71 through the city of Bee Cave and made a beeline across 290 towards Austin. Prior to departing Lakeway, we broke out the laptop and tapped into Travelocity.com to help select a hotel located downtown and close to the action. The Gnome didn’t let us down and set us up with a $98 room at the Omni International.

Geographically speaking, Austin takes up a lot of area, but the heart of the city is located around 6th Street. Perhaps the most popular street in Texas, 6th Street and its surrounding district plays host to numerous restaurants, night clubs, art galleries and tattoo parlors. The Omni was perfectly located - walking distance to a vast variety of eating options. Neon signs flashed with Tex-Mex, tacos, seafood, Japanese, and yes, barbecue opportunities. As we walked down the sidewalks, sounds of jazz, rock, hip-hop and country music mixed with the aroma of smoked ribs and cajun-cooking, throwing two of our five senses into overdrive. Austin is definitely a town we could spend several days in and
Texas Lone Star Cruiser TouringThe True Blue Tattoo shop sports a giant Don Julio mural painted on the side of its building.
The True Blue Tattoo shop sports a giant Don Julio mural painted
on the side of its building and some pretty flashy neon out front.
never quite eat our way through.

We eventually decided on sushi since we already hit the rev-limiter on barbecue while riding in the Hill Country. Afterwards we were back on the Harley for some late night photo opportunities. Nightlife along 6th Street is made up of an eclectic group of street folk including Texas University students, tourists, panhandlers and a few hard-working girls. When you circle the same four-block area a couple dozen times waiting for the photographer to give you the thumbs up, you see a lot of things you usually won’t see with a single pass by.

Overall the streets appeared to be very safe. Some of the shady goings-on, which you spot in every major city, blended in as part of the nightlife ambience. One of our photo-ops had us riding up and down a dark alley where a mural of a
Texas Lone Star Cruiser Touring
Riding through the capital of Texas we knew our ride was almost over but we just barely scratched the surface of what Austin has to offer. Reason enough to plan a return visit someday.
Don Julio tequila bottle covered the corner of the True Blue Tattoo shop. Justin, our photographer, thought it would make for a great location until about the fifth pass through the alley rousted a street bum who jumped out of a dumpster and scared the wee out of us.

Austin is one of those cities we look forward to visiting again as we barely scratched the surface. Yearly events like the Austin Mardi Gras, Republic of Texas Rally and their famous Halloween celebration all sound like great excuses for a return trip. If we were a couple decades younger, who knows, we might even consider hanging our cowboy hat there for an extended period of time. We liked it that much. The energy you draw from the people, the combination of big-city feel and small-town atmosphere all makes Austin an unmistakably contagious tour destination. In fact, this place was a lot like our ride. We knew it would be great, but it was better than expected. The people, starting with Steve Johnson, his friends and family all the way down to the personalities on 6th street – we were left wishing we could spend more time taking it all in. Maybe next time we’ll visit a little later in the spring so we can hit the bluebonnets when they are in season. What do you think, Jim? Are you up for another round? 
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Texas Lone Star Touring Information
Texas Lone Star Cruiser Touring
AIRPORTS
 
Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW)
Our trip started out in Decatur so DFW made the most sense. This is one big airport. Large enough to have its own ZIP code! Be sure to schedule enough time to make your flights.
San Antonio International (SAT) and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA)
If the Texas Hill Country is your destination, SAT or ABIA might be a better choice. Both cities have motorcycle rentals available.

LODGING
 
Gaylord Texan Resort
Located in Grapevine, Texas, the Gaylord Texan is a fantastic experience. This climate-controlled resort is fully-enclosed inside a glass-roofed atrium. There are several 5-star restaurants, numerous shops, fitness spa and the Glass Cactus nightclub. A great place to start or finish off your trip... or, better yet, both! 
www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-texan

Inn On Baron’s Creek
Located two blocks off Main Street in Fredericksburg, the Inn On Baron’s Creek is an ultra-clean hotel and a short walk (which is always good to do after riding all day) to the downtown restaurants and shops. They also feature a fitness room and salt water pool. 
www.innonbaronscreek.com

DINING
 
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
When it comes to food, Texas is all about Bar-B-Que. Cooper’s has a couple different locations and we can tell you the one in Llano is well worth the trip. Your choice of chicken, pork, beef or sausages - all of which is nothing short of mouth-watering splendicious. 
www.coopersbbq.com

Auslander Biergarten and Restaurant
A German restaurant in a German heritage town - the perfect blend, especially after riding a couple hundred miles. Great food, a large beer selection, an excellent place to eat dinner when you are with a large group. This is not your typical Der Wienerschnitzel. 
www.theauslander.com

August E’s
Nouveau Texas cuisine that you would not expect to find along the Hill Country backroads. Also located in Fredericksburg, August E’s is the favorite choice for upscale steak or seafood meals including sushi. Located one block off Main Street and very popular, you’ll want to make sure you have reservations. 
www.august-es.com

The Apple Store
For the best apple pie, apple turnovers and cinnamon ice cream simply stop off at the Apple Store. Located just north of Medina on Highway 16, it is easy to find - just look for the hundreds of motorcyclists parked out front.

MOTORCYCLE RENTALS
 
Cowboy Harley-Davidson
Just off Highway 35 in Austin, the Cowboy has a solid selection of Harleys to choose from plus a sizeable dealership to purchase any necessary apparel or even a new HD. 
www.cowboyharley.com

EagleRider of San Antonio
Like all Eagle Rider facilities, they have an assortment of bikes you can rent and are easy to reserve from via the internet. Maps and tour suggestion are also readily available. 
www.sanantonio.com/eagle-rider

ATTRACTIONS
 
The National Museum of the Pacific War
The National Museum of the Pacific War is dedicated to continuing the memory of the Pacific Theater of WWII so that the sacrifices of those who contributed to the victory of the United States will not be forgotten. This is the only institution in the United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific and Asiatic Theaters in World War II.
The museum compound includes the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel. 
www.nimitz-museum.org

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
To learn all about the great state of Texas, visit The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin. With three floors of interactive exhibits, the special effects show, The Star of Destiny, in the Texas Spirit Theater, and Austin's only IMAX Theatre, featuring the signature large-format film, Texas: The Big Picture, you will get the full story of Texas. 
www.thestoryoftexas.com
 
Rating the Texas Lone Star Ride
Just a little ways off the the usual roads will lead you in to some interesting places.
ROADS/SCENERY: motorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa star
Riding the Hill Country of Texas offers a beauty and relaxation that can only be found in the Lone Star state. All roads are well-maintained and dotted with numerous places to stop for a barbecue lunch or mid-afternoon snack. Very few potholes and enough roadkill to make it sporting. When the bluebonnets are in bloom, the scenery takes on a life of its own and you get sensory overload trying to take it all in.

FOOD: motorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa star
There’s lots of it - and most of it comes with a side order of gravy. A great mix of barbecue and high-end cuisine. Austin sports enough restaurants that you’ll need to stay for a month just to sample the variety of choices available throughout the city.

PEOPLE: motorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa star
We’ve always heard that Texans are among the nicest and most accommodating folks on the planet - and we have to agree. Pull into a roadside cafe and strike up a conversation with a waitress or ask for directions and you’ll be surprised what you can learn... and how easy it is to score that larger slice of pie.

ACCOMMODATIONS: motorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa star
If the Gaylord Texan had retirement condos available, our moving van would be on the road by the time this issue hits press. Fredericksburg also has several nice hotels that work well for a weekend. Austin has just about every type of accommodation you could think of. Like most states, you get what you pay for and there is a lot of variety in Texas.

BIKE: motorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa starmotorcycle usa star
The 2010 Harley-Davidson Ultra we picked up from Cowboy HD in Austin proved to be the perfect sled for two-up exploring on the backroads of the Texas Hill Country. Long stretches of highway had us cruising at speeds that were a bit of a surprise when you remembered to glance down at the speedo. We weren’t exactly carving up the turns through the Three Sisters, but the pace was perfect for soaking up the scenery. Spending one week on a rental bike is a bit of a challenge and the Ultra made that challenge a bit easier offering plenty of storage space and a comfortable cockpit.

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Comments
Jdechols-Copcycle -The Real Deal  July 3, 2010 10:37 PM
We took pretty much the same loop from Fredericksburg to Leakey, via Borne and Luchenbach. We came back through Kerrville and on to Fredericksburg. The views and road can't be beat, but watch for deer, hogs, and turkey on the road. Great Texas riding.
flashman -mr.  May 27, 2010 10:03 AM
Loved the article, makes me want to go next year. But is it possible to find out what week Tim's trip took place in? So I can plan to go "a week later."
Morvegil -yes  May 25, 2010 07:59 AM
I'll be going to ROT rally in 2 weeks!
zzr600Ryan -Great Article  May 23, 2010 01:35 PM
I love riding in the texas hill country and am so happy to see this article. I live in Houston and ride the hill country which actually begins in College Station / Bryan tx ( about an hour north west of houston ) every chance I get. Great write up!
Alang -Bluebonnet run  May 22, 2010 05:33 AM
The 3 sisters on a sport bike is one incredible ride.
The bluebonnets last about a month (April).