A Weekend Trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains

 

 

     It is nice to experience motorcycling in different areas of the country every now and then. I was able to do just that a couple of weeks ago. It is a wonderful change of pace to ride in the mountains.

I was able to ride Yosemite National Park. What beautiful scenery! Unfortunately I picked a very crowded time of year for my visit as it was bumper to bumper traffic. After fighting the crowds for half a day, we made our way out of the traffic jams and on toward Tioga Pass.

Descending from Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, we were stopped from our original route plan due to wild fires crossing our route. With some hasty googling of motels we were able to secure rooms for the night 60 miles out of the way.

The next day we rendezvoused with the rest of our group and hit the back roads to bag a couple more of the mountain passes.

I highly recommend sampling all the different types of riding available in the US.

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If Eating’s Your Thing, Don’t Miss These Four Hill Country Spots

The Texas Hill Country is not the place to come visit if you are on a diet.

One of the best parts of touring on motorcycles is stopping to eat. There is no shortage of delicious and diverse foods in the Hill Country.

1. The Salt Lick

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Barbecue is king in Texas and one of the very best places is the Salt Lick, which is located near Driftwood. Upon first glance it looks like a dusty campground in the middle of nowhere, except there are hundreds of cars in the dirt parking lot. It started out as nothing more than a pit in the ground and has blossomed into a restaurant powerhouse. This family-run business has won numerous awards, has been featured on numerous blogs and even on the Food Network.

My favorite menu item is Thurman’s Choice, which gives you a sampling of ribs, brisket and sausage. My wife also likes to take home a 

slice of homemade pecan pie for dessert.

2. Coopers BBQ

Another famous Hill Country favorite is Coopers BBQ in Llano. You can smell the barbecue before you arrive at the restaurant, with five pits

 lined up just outside the door. Just stop by the pit and the cooks cut your chosen meat to order. Take it inside where it’s weighed and wrapped in brown paper, pick up some sides, find a spot at one of the picnic tables and chow down!

3. Alamo Springs Café

There’s nothing better than a big juicy cheeseburger when you are on a road trip. And the Alamo Springs Café is a small burg

er joint that prides itself on being “inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere,” about 10 miles outside of Fredricksburg. The Alamo Springs Ranch is cut off by creeks that run from both directions, so they warn travelers ahead of time if heavy rain is expected — otherwise, you may end up stranded. Also nearby is the Old Tunnel State Park, which features an unused tunnel that’s home to as many as 3 million bats that come out at night.

As for the food, their half-pound burgers are a welcome refreshment after a long ride through the Texas countryside. The shack-chic ambiance alone is worth the trip to find it.

4. Trattoria Lisina

Italian cuisine is surprisingly great in the Hill Country. Trattoria Lisina is a picturesque restaurant located on the Duchman family’s working winery and vineyard just outside of Driftwood. While you’re waiting to be seated, you can play a quick game of Bocce on the grounds. The architecture of the building combined with the landscaping, surrounding hills and the on-site winery creates an environment that’s like being in the middle of Tuscany. I highly recommend the pasta and steaks.

Of course almost every small town here has Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine. Most are small family run affairs and they tend to be very good. Enjoy!

 

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10 Tips for Your Motorcycle Riding Experience

    Riding motorcycles in the Texas Hill Country could be one of the most pleasant ways to spend a day. However, you must do a little preparation to tour safely and protect yourself from an unplanned stay out in the middle of nowhere. Most of these tips are common sense but bear repeating:

  1. Riders should be properly licensed and have completed some instruction such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider’s course or some comparable instruction. While most of the roads in the Hill Country are smooth with nice sweeping curves, some are definitely not for beginners.

  2. Proper attire is important. While there are many different ideas about proper attire, my personal recommendation is ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). Even on 100 degree days a mesh jacket is preferable to a t-shirt. Always wear a helmet goes without saying. Also wear a jacket, pants, boots and gloves that are designed for motorcycling.

  3. Your tires are the only thing between your bike and the road, so make sure they are properly inflated and have good life left in them. Remember, the last 30% of tread goes 30% faster. Also, carry a tire repair kit to help get you back to civilization in case of a flat. I don’t know about you, but my back tire is a nail magnet.

  4. Always keep water with you. It gets hot in Texas, especially in the summer with temperatures reaching 100+ degrees. You don’t want to be caught with bike trouble by the side of the road for hours with no water. A simple inconvenience can turn into a life-threatening situation in short order.

  5. Not every small town on the map has gas. Don’t ride around on empty.

  6. If riding alone, make sure someone knows where you plan to ride and when you should return.

  7. Stay on the road. Most of the scenic riverbanks and scenic drives are through private property. The landowners take a dim view of trespassers.

  8. Carry some cash. Not everyone takes credit cards.

  9. Cell phones don’t always have reception in the hills. Consider a satellite-based form of communication such as the Spot Tracker.

  10. Make sure to bring a camera to capture some of the scenery and keep great memories for yourself.

 

Be safe and have fun!

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My First Ride Through Texas Hill Country

Our first trip to Austin as tourists was in the spring of 2010. My wife and I were planning to move from our hometown of Shelbyville, IN to start a new adventure.

 

Having grown up in rural Indiana, I was excited to see the fabled Southwestern landscape. Our children had left the nest and it was time for Act II. As we were making plans to visit Austin, my wife Sharon suggested we rent a motorcycle and tour the Hill Country. Knowing about my love for riding, she knew she didn’t have to ask me twice.

 

I had flown into Austin several times and heard of the Hill Country, but had not seen it. As a pilot, one often gets to see some amazing sites from up high, but rarely gets the chance to examine them up close.

 

So we rented a BMW RT bike and carefully mapped out a fantastic route through the Hill Country. We rode over 230 miles that day, riding past state parks and natural areas, and through numerous small German towns that were established in the mid 1800’s.

 

The roads are smooth pavement for the most part with several of them paralleling the creeks and rivers of the Hill Country. Some of the roads take you right to the edge of some stunning canyons. There is very little traffic, especially during week, so you can ride at a spirited pace. Scenic vistas abound. Just pull off and you can see for 50-60 miles.

 

For someone who spent most of his life living in the middle of a flat cornfield this is quite special.

 

The vegetation was especially surprising as I thought most of Texas was arid and flat. Live Oaks are one of the most important native trees to the area. Sharon commented on how spooky they looked and compared them to the trees one would see in a ghost story. I personally enjoy them and find their spidery limbs to be quite interesting and exotic. It is illegal to chop them down and so one will notice that many restaurants have Live Oaks shooting right up through the patios.

 

Having spent most of the morning taking in the sights of the Hill Country, it was now time to exercise our taste buds.  We ended up having some of the best BBQ at one of the more interesting authentic pit barbeque restaurants. Texas BBQ is different from Memphis and St. Louis in that the BBQ is mostly rub and not a lot of sauce. Mesquite is big here and so are jalapenos. The taste was complex and totally foreign. I loved it!

 

There’s a wide variety of wildlife and domestic animals in the area. Sharon and I saw Longhorn cattle, horses, whitetail deer and goats. The Longhorns were especially impressive. The rivers were all quite scenic with peaceful tree-lined banks.

 

         As we returned to the motorcycle rental place around 6 o’clock, we were exhausted by the day’s ride but elated by all the things we’d seen that day. That evening I decided that the Texas Hill Country was one of the more beautiful places that we had ever explored on a motorcycle.

 

 

 

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