Blue Bonnet Tour of Texas Hill Country, April 2001

  A few months ago I got an email from a lady living nearby regarding the fact that her and her husband are both Triumph riders. Apparently, she had found her way to my website and noticed Beth's 99 Triumph Legend 900. This is how we met Charlie and Vicki Contella. This leads to a few months of trying to get together for an afternoon of riding and/or dinner. Finally, Vicki invites us to join her, Charlie and some friends for a ride out to Austin and surrounding hill country for a weekend of riding. I manage to juggle my work schedule around and we make it a date.

  The night before we are to leave for the trip, we meet Charlie and Vicki for the first time. We join them and their friends for dinner down in Conroe. The folks going on the ride are all folks Charlie used to work with at Tenneco, as well as his brother. We have a great time at dinner, meet everyone, promptly forget their names, and then head home to pack for the weekend.

  After work Friday, Beth and I load up the bikes and head for Austin. The skies are overcast and it is very windy, but we never get any rain. We are staying at Will Bird's house in Austin Friday night and then riding out to Marble Falls in the morning to hook up with everyone else. They had already left early Friday.

  Saturday, we start early and ride out to Marble Falls from Austin on FM 1431. It is a great road. Right where it drops to one lane each way, a Travis County Deputy Sheriff let us pass him and then proceeds to tail us all the way to the county line. It is a bit nerve wracking. However, he does let us get by with 70mph in a 60mph zone. But for the occasional cattle guards in the middle of curves and the free roaming livestock, this is a fantastic road, very popular with the locals. We make it to Marble Falls a little earlier than we had planned. Everyone else is still busy getting ready to go for the day. Eventually, everyone starts to trickle out into the parking lot and warming up the bikes.

  After we grab a quick breakfast at the Whataburger by the hotel, we mount up and head out. From Marble Falls we head South on FM 2147. This is another fun road. There are TONS of flowers of all sorts all along the road, and back in the distance they cover the pastures. I typically like to hang at the back of the pack. This time there are nine bikes. We have my VFR 800, Beth's SV650S, a mid 80's Yamaha Virago 500, some kind of big old touring Beemer blaring country music from it's in-dash speakers, a Triumph Thunderbird and a new Bonnie, a Kawasaki Concours and a ZRX-1100, and lastly a 92 Honda ST-1100. Quite the motley crew. I really enjoy watching the line of bikes snaking along the road in front of me.

  Phil leads the way on his trusty Kawasaki Concours. We pick up Hwy 71 and ride Northwest to Llano. The sky has a high overcast and the wind is gusting pretty good, but still no rain. The Blue Bonnets along 71 are great! There is also some kind of white flower with a tall stalk and large individual blossoms on the ends that is growing everywhere. When these and the Blue Bonnets are clustered together, they really highlight each other nicely. After about thirty minutes or so, Phil pulls over in a gravel area in some shade, apparently for a quick rest and chat with the others. After a few minutes we saddle up and head out again.

  Upon reaching Llano, we turn South on Hwy 16. At this point, we have been seeing motorcycles everywhere. It seems that the overcast and high winds have not discouraged very many folks from getting out. We reach FM 965, the turn off to head over to the Enchanted Rock State Park. Part of the group rides right past the turn off. The others wait as I go off to chase down the lead pack and get them turned around. My wife and I are using Collett 900Mhz Communicators. They are real handy. She stays with one group and I go with the other, that way we kind of keep every one together. Right as I get the lead pack back to the turn off, the park ranger puts up a sign stating that the park is full and is now closed until 5:00pm, it is only about 11:30am now! We ride in anyway just to see it. Enchanted Rock is a giant dome of pink granite sticking out of the ground. By giant, I mean it is easily a few hundred feet high and half to three quarters of a mile long or more. I take a few pictures while some of the others make a pit stop. We don't go into the park proper. During this time the group gets separated again and Beth and I are on the fringe of our communicator range, but we get everyone back together again. Then we continue on 965.

  At a very very small town called Crabapple, we turn off onto Crabapple cove road. This is basically a one lane road that winds through the country side. I doubt if there were any heavy earth movers involved with the making of this road. It follows the hills and creeks. There are huge patches of Blue Bonnets growing all over the place. Every direction I look is a postcard scene. Top speeds are about 40mph here which is fine because most of us are looking away from the road more than we probably should.

Crabapple road eventually hits Hwy 16 and as we cross becomes FM 1323. There is one stop sign in Willow City. Next to it are huge five foot tall weeds topped with beautiful purple flowers. While we are stopped, I realize we have lost Milt. Turns out he went on to Fredericksburg as he was getting low on gas. Had me worried for a minute. Taking advantage of the momentary stop, I snap a few pictures of the purple flowers, one fully bloomed and the other just blooming. Very cool. There is a restaurant of sorts right by the intersection. The parking lot is crammed full of all kinds of expensive shiny Harleys. The owners are looking at me like I am some kind of fruitcake while I am taking my pictures, hehe. Oh well.

  We hang a left on Willow Road, the start of the locally famous Willow City Loop. The road pretty much sucks. Speeds of more than 30mph take you to the edge of risking life and bike. But the scenery is rugged, colorful and choked with motorcycles! I have never seen so many Harleys in all my life in the same day (and so few helmets). These 50 yr old guys trying to look tough with their 25 yr old babes on the back are everywhere. And don't even get me started on the loud pipe issue. If I was a local there I'd probably be driven to take drastic measures to cut down on the amount of traffic. My defense would be insanity from the racket! Anyway, there are some spectacular views from on high of the valley below with a river of Blue Bonnets lazily drifting in and around the rocks and trees for as far as we can see. We stop and take a break at the scenic overlook. After I shoot loads of weird pictures, we get back on the bikes and continue on our way. The road drops down into the valley where there are more of the white flowers spread amongst the thick Blue Bonnets, stretching as far as I can see into the woods. There are several places where we have to slow and ride through water as the creeks actually flow over the road rather than under it. The loop eventually drops us back out onto Hwy 16 North of where we came across earlier and we head South towards Fredericksburg (tourist haven!).

  When we roll into Fredericksburg, we park the bikes and start thinking, "lunch!" Did I mention that there were a ton of Harleys out and about today? Apparently every Harley rider within two hundred miles is in Fredericksburg for lunch. The racket is appalling. I am standing outside the restaurant waiting to be seated. I'm trying to talk to this nice elderly gentleman sitting on his Goldwing trike about his trips all over the country. And I can barely hear a word he says because of the constant stream of Harley idiots going by at five miles an hour revving their engines because they think it makes them look cool. Jeez! Sure, I know they are not ALL like this, but I have met or seen very few that aren't. If they weren't spending so much of their yuppie money in town at the tourist traps I imagine they'd be run out of town by the Law. Anyway, the lunch is great. I just can't remember the name of the place.

  The rest of the group is going on to Kerrville. Beth, Will and myself have to get back to Austin. Before leaving I snap a few pictures of our new friends. They are a great group of folks and we have a great time hanging out with them. I look forward to our next ride. We gas up the bikes and head back up Hwy 16 to check out Bell Mountain Winery. We passed it earlier as we were coming into Fredericksburg. Will, wants to pick some up for a shindig at his place this evening, something about a wine tasting party? I'll be picking up some beer later. The road into the winery is loose pea gravel so the going is slow and treacherous. We skip the tour. Will tastes a few of the different wines they offer and makes his selection. Then it is back down the long gravel drive back to the main road. After the winery thing, we head a mile or two back down 16 to FM 1323 and cut back over to the beginning of the Willow City Loop again.

  This time when we hit the stop sign, we go right. FM 1323 is a great road. There is very little traffic. The road surface is in very good condition. The road twists and turns its way up, over, and around the countryside. As impressed as I have been all morning and afternoon with the Blue Bonnets we have been seeing, nothing prepared me for the ride on 1323. One particular stretch of about 4 miles had them solid from the shoulder on each side, all the way back into the woods as far as we can see. The sweet smell is almost overwhelming. Right about the time I make a mental note of the sweetness of the air wafting into my helmet, I catch a whiff of something that smells like rotting flesh. As I round the next corner I am treated to the sight and stench of some kind of sheep/pig farm. The filth is horrid and the animals are huddled around in large groups knee deep in mud and feces. A sad sight. For a split second I consider taking a breath and holding it, then I realize I will have to inhale to do that so I opt instead to just stop breathing for a few more moments and to accelerate a bit more. Once past the farm, I suck in some more of that sweet air to clear my system. It was nasty in the extreme.

  The rest of FM 1323 is just more of the same road wise, great sweepers, some tight corners, neutral G hill tops and heavy G dips. What a great way to spend a day! Eventually, we come out on US 281 and head North. A two up Harley and a two up Beemer in front of us engage in a brief impromptu drag race as we pull onto 281. Will can't resist and screams by me on his ZRX-1100, easily catching them from behind hehe. Then we settle into our pace and head for Round Mountain, the town where we are going to pick up FM 962.

  The beemer couple turn off on FM 962 as well. Apparently, this guy is very familiar with the road and he is off to the races. We take a more sedate pace. This road is out in the middle of nowhere and we see about five cars. Like FM 1323, it is smooth and generally just a fun road to ride. There is one spot where it descends rapidly into a small valley, crosses the Pedernales river and then begins an extremely tight back and forth route back out of the valley to the ridge top. Fun stuff. A few more miles and we pick up FM 3238, head over to Hwy 71 and then back into Austin.

  We did just shy of 300 miles for the day. The wind never let up. After some beer and munchies, Will and I watch a DVD about the Andretti Family. I forgot the name of it. It was an IMAX movie. AWESOME!!! Will has the home theatre, surround sound, blah blah blah,... It almost makes you feel like you are in the car. Unfortunately, I have been drinking and had very little sleep the previous night so now I am head bobbing in a serious way. A great day, off to bed.

  Beth and I head home Sunday on Hwy 290. The wind is worse than it has been all weekend. It is often difficult to keep the bike in the lane. It takes little time for our necks to get sore from fighting the crosswinds. I think the right side of my tires probably have much less rubber than the left side now. I spend most of the day going straight but leaned over like I am trying to drag a knee. In Burton, we decide to turn off onto Scenic Road 390. We have driven by this road many times and have often mentioned that one of these days we should explore it, today we do.

  It runs around the North side of Brenham, the home of Blue Bell Ice cream, the greatest in the world. The scenery is peaceful and beautiful. The hills are covered with monstrous Live Oak trees and vast pastures of Blue Bonnets. The road curves around among towns so small they aren't even on the maps. There is a lot of Texas history in the area, historical markers abound. We both enjoy a very relaxing ride, just taking it all in. 390 drops out onto Hwy 105 West of Navasota. We take 105 to Navasota, Hwy 90 to Anderson and then FM 149, one of our favorite rides, towards Richards. FM 149 cuts through parts of the Sam Houston National Forest and has excellent pavement. We head North on FM 1791 towards Huntsville, our home. It is good to get back... Just in time to watch the WSB races, GO COLIN!! and Honda ;-) 602 miles for the weekend followed by motorcycle racing. Mmmm... good for the soul.

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