Saturday morning rolls in way too early. The sound of the phone ringing in my ear sends a cold sweat over my body. Geez, I just fell asleep! Then I remember that we are about to spend the day riding around on some great roads with a good sized group of folks and I start getting motivated enough to get out of bed and into the shower. Then suited up and ready to ride, we head out into the parking lot to see who else is here.
Beth and I are the first ones out in the parking lot. One look at the filth on the bikes sends me into spasms of agony. I can't take it. It has no affect on Beth. Out comes the can of Pro Honda Spray/Polish and I start cleaning off the thick coat of grime to reveal the beautiful red VFR underneath. As I am cleaning the bike, other people start to gather around and we make the introductions.
Several of the riders showed up Friday night and more show up Saturday morning in time to ride with us. At final count there are around 11 bikes, quite a mix of types and brands. There are four VFR's, four Triumphs, a CBR 929, a Katana 600 and some kind of flat triple Beemer. A nice crowd. We hang out in the parking lot for a bit waiting to see if anyone else is going to show up before leaving around 9:00am. I make everyone pose for a group shot before we head out. The picture is fuzzy, I could swear I got it focused, I have to work on that. So here is the run down on the folks that showed.
|Will Bird||2000 Triumph Trophy 1200|
|Tony Davis||1995 Honda VFR 750|
|Barron Hakke||2000 Honda VFR 800Fi|
|Mandy Herring||Riding with Tony|
|Clark & Elda Stringer||2000 Honda CBR 929|
|Todd & Miriam Hoffmaster||2000 Suzuki Katana 600|
|Beth Friday||1999 Triumph Legend 900 TT|
|Mike Benson||1998 Honda VFR 800Fi|
|Scott Friday||1998 Honda VFR 800Fi|
|Bart Bartels||1999 Triumph Trophy 900|
|James & Terri Brown||1997 Triumph Thunderbird|
|Unknown Couple not shown||Flat Triple BMW|
The only time I have ever been out in this area before was the Y2K New Year's weekend. We rode our bikes that weekend but I had no idea where I was going. So today we decide to let Mike Benson lead the way on his "Little Mule" because he is very familiar with the roads in the area. I had previously made some maps with suggested routes. We loosely follow them.
We stream out of the parking lot and head east on HWY 27 back towards HWY 16. Somewhere along the line the unknown couple on the Flat Triple BMW join up with us. We head south on 16 towards Medina. It is really cool to be riding at the back of a long line of bikes snaking its way down the road. I decide to bring up the rear and follow Beth. This is her first time back on her bike since her tip over in North Carolina. She is understandably tense. I have to remind her over the communicator to relax her shoulders and breath. From where I am sitting, her shoulders are up around her ears, hehe. She does pretty good until we get a ways south of town.
A few miles south of Kerrville, Hwy 16 gets very twisty and has lots of elevation changes. Several of the curves are tight uphill 15 mph curves. Even I am gripping the handle bars pretty tight here. We make it through with no problems, but the rest of the group has pulled a good sized lead on us. Fortunately we had agreed that the group would stop at each turn off and wait for the stragglers to catch up to them. We get to the turn off at Medina for FM 337 west and find the group standing around waiting for us. Beth is a little self conscious. I tell her to forget about it and to just focus on riding her ride.
Fm 337 starts out with long sweepers running along the low lying land and then starts climbing up into the hills where it runs along the ridges. The ridges are where the real fun starts. The stretch between Medina and Vanderpool is fun but nothing real bad. There is one turn that is a 10 mph turn that has a reputation as a bike eater. Our next stop is in Vanderpool at a local grocery store. While inside getting water, the owner gives us a friendly caution about 337, telling us that a rider was recently killed and that they have had a major accident in each of the last eight weekends. We thank him for the advice and head back out to the parking lot.
It is the stretch of 337 from Vanderpool to Leakey that is really fun. There are lots of elevation changes and tight turns. Beth is still going pretty slow, but I don't mind. Everyone else has passed us and we are just having fun. I am more concerned about Beth being comfortable and enjoying herself rather than hauling through the curves. We catch up to every one again in Leakey. Leakey is a popular gas stop. Those that need gas top off because the next stretch of the ride is pretty long and there aren't any gas stations along the way.
We head north on US 83 about a half mile and then turn off onto FM 336 heading north. As soon as we get on 336, I notice a sign that informs us there is free roaming livestock for the next 25 miles. Just what I want to encounter, a large bull standing in the middle of the road when I come cruising our of a corner! FM 336 wanders off into the middle of nowhere. There are few houses along the way until we get more than a few miles out of Leakey, then there is nothing but hills, trees and asphalt. The road is two narrow lanes but the surface is pretty good. There is occasionally loose gravel at the edges of the road in some of the curves, but everyone points it out to the following bike as we go along. At one section of the road we are dodging cow patties on the road. I think most of them are dry. I'd hate to hit a wet one! I have not seen any livestock, but I have seen several deer. This area is know for it's large deer population.
We eventually reach the end of FM 336 and find the group hanging out on the side of the road. Beth and I pull up and they let us take a break for a minute or two before we head back out again. At this point, James and Terri Brown decide they are going to head back towards Kerrville on Tx Hwy 41. She wants to do some shopping and also is not used to spending the day on the bike. We say goodbye to them and then we all head west on 41. Hwy 41 is wide, smooth and basically pretty boring. The lead guys are really moving out. We have not reinstalled Beth's windscreen since her accident a few weeks earlier so she cannot comfortably go much above 65mph. But we catch up to everyone at the turn off for FM 335 a few miles up the road.
FM 335 is often described as a roller coaster. After riding it, I now know why. It is about 32 miles of up and down twisties that make you get that butterfly feeling in your stomach as you crest the hills. Again, like 336, there are some places with pretty large chunks of gravel along the edges of the road so we really have to pay attention. But for the most part this road is just a blast. Also like 336, there is little if anything in the way of urban development out here. I love the isolation and solitude.
Eventually, FM 335 intersects Tx Hwy 55 just north of Barksdale. We stop here for drinks and gas. It is starting to get pretty hot by now. I think it is around 11:30 or noon. Our plan is to head over to Utopia to eat at the Lost Maples Cafe. While we are standing around, we see various other bikes coming and going along 55. This whole area is really popular for riders from all over Texas. After about ten minutes, we all saddle back up and head south on 55 to Camp Wood.
At Camp Wood we turn east on FM 337 back in the direction of Leakey. I have never been on this section of 337 and it is quite fun and as usual, too short! It also runs along some of the ridges. The scenery is nothing spectacular, especially due to the ongoing drought in Texas this summer, but it is still a great ride. Before I know it we are in Leakey. We turn south on US 83 and head towards Garner State Park. US 83 is a smooth wide road with improved shoulders. Unfortunately, that means traffic. It is wild to watch a stream of bikes moving in and out of the lane of traffic passing everyone. I guess it must be kind of wild to be one of the people getting passed by so many bikes.
We quickly reach the turn off for Garner and head east on FM 1050. This is a nice wide two lane road. There aren't very many real tight turns on this section of the ride. What this road offers is long high speed sweepers up and over the hills. It is a cool sensation when I come to the bottom of a gully and the bike starts heading up the upside while my body is still going down from my momentum. If you've ever ridden a roller coaster, you'll know the feeling. Because of the speed we can carry on this road, the ride to Utopia is quick. We drop out onto FM 187 and into Utopia. It is around 1:00pm and well over a hundred degrees now. We pull off the road and under a large Pecan tree to park. I take the opportunity to get a few pictures of the bikes.
The food at the cafe is great. However, it takes forever for our table to get its food. Everyone at the other tables is checking out and leaving before we ever even see our food! We collectively decide to blame Barron. He had to confuse the waitress and cook staff by ordering a custom meal instead of just picking something off the menu hehe. Next time, we'll be sure to avoid his table. Finally, the food arrives. It is delicious. Then we lazily wander back out to the bikes, dreading the remainder of the ride in the incredible heat. It is now around 108 degrees F! And we still have about a sixty mile ride to get back to Kerrville.
Everyone mounts up and we take off. This time the lead folks are no longer waiting for the stragglers. They are in full cruise mode and are hot to get back to the hotel, pronto. This is fine with us. I have good maps and know exactly where we are heading. We go straight up FM 187 past Lost Maples State Park until we hit Tx. Hwy. 39. FM 187 is nothing great, but it is still a fun ride with very little traffic. Highway 39 is much the same as 187. It also runs along the south fork of the Guadalupe River. Somewhere along the way, Beth and I see Tony and Mandy pulled over at a rest stop. I check to make sure everything is okay. It seems they have decided to cool off in the river hehe! Smart. We continue on.
As we get closer to Kerrville, there is more and more development along the river. There are beautiful home across the road from the river. Some have walkways over the road to boat docks on the river bank. I love the use of the local stone and timber in much of the architecture of the homes. It is a nice break from the typical three bedroom two bath brick home so prevalent in many towns. I notice that the traffic has picked up quite a bit now that we are nearer to the river. It seems to attract lots of visitors.
Highway 39 eventually runs into Tx. Hwy. 27 and then on into Kerrville. We get back to the hotel around 3:30pm. We don't see anyone else around. We decide to shower and cool off. Afterwards, I head back down to the parking lot to install Beth's windscreen. I brought the mounting brackets with us since I did not get to install it before leaving Huntsville. While I am looking at the bike, the dirt on it starts to really bug me! The next thing I know I am going after it with the Honda Pro Polish until it shines! Then I install the windscreen. I have a cold beer and admire my handiwork. The temperature is hovering around 110 degrees F. Ugghh.
Beth and I head back to our room to absorb some of the air conditioning for a while. Then we start wondering where everyone else has gotten to? We have not seen or heard very many of the other bikes since we returned to the hotel. So we start wandering around and eventually find some folks cooling their heels at the swimming pool and enjoying strawberry/banana daiquiris. We pull up some chairs and kick back to visit. This is the first time many of us have ever met each other in person. It is fun to ride together but it is hard to get to know everyone when you are on the bikes. We have a blast sitting around and talking bikes. Then we start making dinner plans.
Our plan in the morning was that everyone would meet at the front of the hotel at 7:00pm so we could all go to dinner together. The best plans seem to always be laid waste. We waited outside in the drive through area at the front of the hotel, Clark and Elda, Todd and Miriam and a few others waited just inside the lobby. Amazingly, we never found each other, so we all went our separate ways for dinner.
For dinner we settle on CW's Steak House just down the road from the hotel. The hotel has a courtesy van that they load all of us into and they take us to the restaurant, pretty cool. Then when we are done eating, we call them and they come back and get us. When we arrive, the place is packed and the wait is at least 30 minutes we are told. We decide that we REALLY want to sit on the back patio overlooking the river, so we wait... and sweat... and wait... and sweat... I ask a waitress if they could bring water out on the front porch for us and they graciously do so.
We do finally get in, through and out the back door to the patio. It is near closing time, but they are going to stay open to feed us. When we get to the back patio, we get a surprise. It slopes pretty bad towards the river. Everyone with their back to the river is having to sit forward in their chairs to keep from tipping over backwards. The food is pretty good but I could have had pizza an hour earlier on a level table hehe. Mike Benson's wife and daughter, Dottie and Allie, showed up this afternoon. They are both a hoot. All three of them are fun to hang out with. I met him on the VFR list. Dinner comes to an end and we call the driver from the hotel to come and get us.
Everyone sort of goes their own way when we get back to the hotel. Several of us migrate to the parking lot where the bikes are parked and hang out until around midnight. It is amazing how hot it is still, it is after midnight and still in the low 90's. Finally, we cannot take the heat any longer and head to our room to cool off and go to bed. We are planning on doing another ride tomorrow morning.