Need some wind therapy?

With 45+ years of riding experience, the team has developed a library of our favorite rides in Texas and points beyond. We call them our Twisted Rides. We thought it might be a good idea to share that experience and encourage you to do the same!

We partnered with MyRoute-app, a leading provider of route planning tools, to create and share the routes. Using the map below, Users are able to view and download the routes without registering with MyRoute-app. If you would like the ability to open/edit/save the routes, the User will be prompted to register with MyRoute-app and offered two subscription levels - Basic (free) and Gold (fee dependent on subscription term and payment method). Being an avid ride planner, I prefer the Gold level for the additional features and I also believe in supporting independent software developers who invest their time and talents to create useful applications for the motorcycle industry. As a Twisted Rides referral, you receive an extended evaluation period and special pricing if you choose the Gold level - so give it a shot!

What journey is on your bucket list? Click on a ride below and we'll show you the way!

Friday, August 25, 2017

FILR Mancation 2017

A buddy of mine and I are going through career changes and decided it was a good time to hit the road. We named the ride the Fvck It, Let's Ride (FILR) Mancation 2017 and thought we'd head for the mountains of West Virginia in hopes of escaping the heat that is pounding the South. The dates of the ride were August 14-22. With Scott based in Charlotte and me in East Texas, we chose Chattanooga, TN as the start/end of the tour.

Altogether, I spent 1,696 miles in the saddle and 1,450 miles in the seat. I trailered to/from Chattanooga to avoid heavy thunderstorms on the outbound leg and extreme heat on the return (+100 degrees with the heat index). The route file below is the saddle portion of the adventure.

Day 1
Travel to Chattanooga.

Day 2
With 271 miles planned for the day, Scott and I were both eager to hit the road early. Living in different parts of the country, it's been a while since we toured together on a long-distance ride. I had never been through eastern KY or WV, but had heard of - and read about - many of the sights we were going to see along the way. Our first scenic stop was Cumberland Falls. The falls are not as tall as some I have visited, but it is wide and powerful...and muddy. We tried to rent barrels so that we could ride the falls, but the nice park ranger advised against the idea. The heat was rising after the falls, so we stopped by The Root Beer Stand in Corbin, KY for a root beer float. I highly recommend!

Cumberland Falls

Day 3
Having stayed at the Cliffview Resort in Zoe, KY, our Day 3 ride began with a beautiful run through the Natural Bridge State Park along KY-11, then along KY-77, also known as the Nada Tunnel Road. When I shared how beautiful the Nada Tunnel Road was with a friend from KY, she informed me that her husband's great grandfather helped cut the tunnel so that he could haul timber from his land on the east side of the mountain range. Small world.

Pic from the Internet, but is the view exactly as soon from over the handlebars.

Our first fuel stop of the day included an interesting encounter with the locals. There were four ladies in two cars that were at the service station when we arrived. Appears they were on a journey and had stopped for a drink and smoke break. As they prepared to leave, all four were wearing those u-shaped travel pillows around their necks. It was definitely a WTFWT moment and we were laughing too hard to sneak a pic. Guess these are called Kentucky Airbags around these parts.

There were storms forming on the horizon, but we placed a bet that we thought we could skirt them. Unfortunately, the mountains and twisty roads proved us wrong and we got drenched in the early afternoon...before we had a chance to don the rain gear. It was a welcomed relief from the heat, but made the twisties that much more treacherous.

We survived and were mostly dry by the time we pulled into the Mardi Gras Resort and Casino in Nitro, WV just north of Charleston. The Mardi Gras is very biker friendly and has a pole shed for parking the bikes. The shed is well lit and has security cameras. Nice Touch! Beer not included.

Motorsickle parking at the Mardi Gras Resort and Casino

We enjoyed dinner while watching the greyhound races, then made a few donations in the casino before retiring for the night.

Day 4
With storms off to the east, we headed south on WV-85, then on WV-10. Both roads cut through coal country and followed a river or two along the way. While stopped at a McDonald's in Matoaka, WV for a break, we struck-up a conversation with an 80 year-old gentleman who had lived in Matoaka all his life. Although he had very little formal education, he was a self-taught and successful Ford mechanic, electrician, home builder, and coal miner. I suspect there was very little this man can't or hasn't fixed at some point in his life. A former Harley-Davidson rider (as well as many other brands), he still mows his own lawn (and those of his rent houses) using a push mower and is pretty handy with his smartphone too! I walked away thinking he was one of the happiest and most accomplished men I have ever met. I love the conversations with the people along the way, it always makes a motorcycle trip special.

We closed the day with WV-16, also known as the Back of the Dragon. IMO, the many twisties, coupled with the major elevation changes, makes this a more technically challenging ride than the Tail of the Dragon...and it was a LOT less crowded.We ended the day at the General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion, WV. Marion is a small town with a cool little downtown and a half-dozen restaurants within walking distance.

No pics today...too busy riding!

Day 5
Leaving Marion, we followed Black Lick Road through the farms and forests. The views reminded me of what it must be like riding through the rolling hills of Ireland - bright green fields, gentle rolling hills, and undulating twisties. Add to it the smells of the many farms along the way and it really sets the mood for riding that morning. Once we turned north on US-52, we immediately entered one of the fingers of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. This area played a key role in the Civil War. We stopped at the Big Walker Lookout to catch a view of the valley below and to read-up on the path the Union troops took to capture the railroads and cities along the way.

Just outside of Hillsdale, WV, we stopped at the John Henry Historical Park to see Mr. Henry's legacy. From the museum's website:

The legend of John Henry depicts an American folk hero known for his amazing strength and symbolism as an advocate for the working class American during the industrializat of not only Appalachia, but the entire United States. During the late 1800's, the railroad embarked on its expansion plans to head West over the Appalachian Mountains. John Henry, along with crews of men made up of over 1,000 former slaves and Irish immigrants, was hired to tunnel through the mountain, using hammer and steel rods to cut through the rock. Eventually the railroad management, in its quest for efficiency and speed, brought in the Burleigh;s top of the line steam powered drill to replace the crews on men. As the legend goes, John Henry challenged the railroad to a contest pitting his skill and strength using hammer and steel rods against the machine to prove the superiority of manual labor to mechanization and to, hopefully, preserve their jobs. John Henry made more progress in a shorter period of time than the machine, however, as the legend goes, he later died as a result of the contest.

The battle did not end with John Henry's death. As a result of his heroic victor over the machine, the crew of over 1,000 men kept their jobs and finished the tunnel. John Henry's legend served as an inspiration to those men finishing the tunnel as they kept the story alive through song. Although the "legend" has been embellished over the years, the reality is John Henry was a real man, hero, and symbol of hope. His legend lives on.

Our pinnacle destination of the day was the Bunker Tour at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV. From 1962-92, this top secret bunker served as an emergency back-up site for members of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Built at the peak of the Cold War, the bare basics bunker was "hidden in plain sight" from the many guests who frequented the luxurious Greenbrier Resort. it included a state-of-the-art communications system and enough food, water, and fuel storage to be self-sufficient for up to 45-days. This is a must-see if you are ever in the area.

Day 6
We were met with a wonderful surprise leaving Lewisburg, WV...US-219. On the map, it appeared to be a rather straight run through the valley, but we were pleasantly surprised to find beautiful scenery, a decent amount of elevation changes, and a number of welcomed twisties. North of Marlinton, we maneuvered more technically challenging twisties as we climbed to the highlands, then turned on WV-150 (also known as Highland Scenic Highway) for a long, gentle run along the ridge of the mountain. WV-150 connects to WV-39 around the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area and we followed the road west through the mountains and into Summerville, WV. We explored Summerville Lake which feeds the Gauley and New River recreational areas (camping, hiking, rafting, etc.) before continuing on to Charleston and the Mardi Gras Resort and Casino for a nice meal and an attempt to recover from our previous losses. Good thing we ate before gambling.

Day 7
Feeling a little road fatigue, we opted for a more direct route down to Bristol, VA than we originally planned so that we would have time to explore downtown Bristol before they rolled the sidewalks up on Sunday. We stopped by the Indian Motorcycle dealer for a quick look see and stumbled across this beauty, a 2017 Jack Daniels Limited Edition Chieftan. It was already sold and under-cover, but we were able to get a sneak peak.

This was our last day of touring together, as Scott was peeling-off towards Charlotte in the morning. We decided to celebrate the tour by pigging-out at Cootie Brown's in Bristol. Their Memphis-style baby back ribs are to die for!

Day 8
The day of the 2017 North American Solar Eclipse!!

I originally planned to witness the eclipse on Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but news reports of large crowds and traffic problems steered me to Plan B, a spot along US-411 just a little south of Madisonville, TN, which just happened to be dead center in the path of totality. Traffic was relatively heavy along the way, but most folks were stopping in Maryville or Vonore to set-up their viewing spots. The opportunistic entrepreneurs were out in full force, charging between $10-$20 for a parking spot along the road. There were license plates from all over the South and Mid-Atlantic, even a few from Canada. Kudos to the City of Madisonville, where they opened the city park for free parking, as did many churches.

I found my perfect spot, donned my ISO 12312-2 approved geek glasses, and set-up my smartphone to capture the historic event. My location was very remote, only 2-3 other people within sight in any direction. As the eclipse reached its totality, all highway traffic came to a halt, it became eerily quiet, and everything went totally dark. At the farm across the highway, the roosters began to crow and a flock of birds were swarming out of confusion. Two minutes later, the light began to return and life returned to normal. Sadly, the iPhone pic doesn't do the experience justice.

I spent the rest of the afternoon fighting traffic back to Chattanooga.

One of the most intriguing things I noticed on the ride were the geometric or hex designs mounted on the barns in the area. I researched this phenomena and founds the designs began with the Pennsylvania Dutch. They are usually 8'x8' and are placed on the barns for good luck in crop production or fertility of the livestock. I hope they produce the intended results, but nonetheless, they are beautiful and certainly added to the quaint rural scene.

While I really enjoyed this tour, I continue to learn the art of touring. I felt as though I had a little beginner's relapse reflected in my planning. Simply stated, I made the daily rides too long, ranging from 190-270 miles on the back roads, which translated to 6-7 hours in the saddle. This limits the amount of time one can spend on really seeing the sights and meeting people along the way - the very things that make such a ride so special. It also cramped our ability to find those mom and pop cafes where you literally get the flavor of the area. And pics...NOT ENOUGH PICS!!

But I do have the memories.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Texas BBQ Tour - 2017

Began the Texas BBQ Tour 2017 today. The journey started out cruising the back roads, headed towards BBQ heaven...the Texas Hill Country. It is definitely spring in Texas - the young calves are staying close to their mothers, same with the newly born kids (baby goats for you city slickers). The chicken houses were in full bloom...and the scent carried for miles downwind. The famous wildflowers have already seen their better days, but the roadsides were still slightly colored. They will be scorched by the end of May, as we are already in the 90's.

My first BBQ stop was Louie Meullers in Taylor, TX. The exterior sold me, but the interior did not disappoint.

The place attracts folks from all over the United States and the world. One of which you may recognize...

Muellers consistently wins top BBQ awards...

But I failed to get a pic of my selection...ate it too fast!

I ended the day in Kerrville with 370 miles on the trip odometer. It was a good day, indeed. And it ended well too!

I guess I need to include a pic of the bike to qualify as a true ride report. Here is Dusty, aka The Insect Assassin. Another sign of Spring in Texas is the plethora of kamakazzee bugs, some the size of small birds! I only took a half dozen to the head...might be time for a slightly larger windshield.

Day 2 began a little late...had to take care of some business this morning. Since I overnighted in Kerrville, I thought I would give one of the local, lesser known, joints a chance to impress. Here is Dusty anxiously awaiting her turn in line...

Bill's BBQ is the name and they get decent ratings on TripAdvisor. I tried the three-meat platter - a 1/4 pound each of brisket, sausage, and ribs - along with some baked beans and tater salad. I'm no foodie or food critic, but would rate Bill's in the middle of the pack in terms of Texas BBQ.

The owner is doing his part to clear the roads of deer and other vermin. All four walls in the seating areas were lined with mounts and tons of pics of successful hunts.

With my belly full, we began a little cruise along TX-39, a tree-canopied road which criss-crosses along the banks of the spring-fed Guadalupe River. After a few miles, I could sense Dusty was getting a little sleepy from the full stomach and warm sunshine, so we stopped at one of the bridge crossings to take in the sights and rest.

On the other side of the bridge was a nice waterfall...

And the natural tree growth was kind enough to double the view. I have been known to wear swim trucks under my riding clothes and take a little dip on a hot summer day at this very spot. But not today...and you wouldn't want to see that pic anyway!

A little further down the road was an interesting set of fence post decorations on both sides of the road...

Here is a zoom-in it original Texas recycling. Or maybe the PC term is "re-purposed".

I rode TX-39 west to US-83, then south to Leakey (pronounced LAY-key) and stopped in at the Bent Rim Grill (also known as the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop) for a cold adult beverage. The place as a dog-run style seating area where you can catch a cool breeze on the hottest of days. They also have a wall of shame...

And a pretty dry sense of humor...

The primary reason motorcyclists come to this remote area of Texas is the Three Twisted Sisters, perhaps the best combination of motorcycle roads in the state. The Sisters include FM-335, FM-336, and FM-337 which offer a wide range of twisties, elevation changes, and scenic views. Several sections of the roads cut through the hills, giving us kids an opportunity to the throttle a couple of extra VROOM, VROOMs just to hear the echo back. These roads are packed on the weekends, but not so much during the week. 

Today was a very peaceful ride...probably rode 50 miles without seeing another vehicle. Being in that isolated of an environment certainly puts things in perspective. We are but one of God's little creatures roaming this Earth.

Hope you are enjoying the ride!

Day 3. 

I met a business associate/friend for lunch today in Boerne (pronounced BUR-nee). In keeping with the theme of the trip, I selected Klein's Smokehaus as the venue. Klein's speciality is smoked meats and processing game for the many hunters in the area. And they do a little Q on the side. Very good Q, I might add. The po'boy brisket sammich must have weighed a full pound and was delicious. The only seating available is on the sidewalk, so we ate al fresco. No pics, but it did happen.

I arrived in Boerne a little early, so I stopped in at Mission City Indian Motorcycle to check out the new Chieftan Limited and Chieftan Elite. I really liked the Elite. I'm the curious sort and rode several Indians a few weeks ago at a Demo Days event. Out friends at H-D have some serious competition, but I think there is room for both brands to do well.

After lunch, I tool the back roads to Lockhart, a little town SE of Austin. Lockhart is the county seat of Caldwell County and, more importantly, is the home to two of the best BBQ joints in Texas - Kruez Market and Black's. The early German settlers definitely made their mark on the Texas Hill Country and Central Texas, especially in the areas of architectural influence, quaint country churches, farming, and smoked meats. Here is a sample of the courthouse architecture.

Decisions, decisions. What should I ear for dinner? How 'bout more BBQ? I chose:

Black's is family owned and has been in continuous operation for 84 years, so they must be doing something right. And after sampling the brisket and garlic sausage, I hereby proclaim Black's as my favorite BBQ of the tour!

The walls are plastered with game mounts, press clipping, awards, and pictures of their community involvement over the years, such as sponsoring Little League Baseball teams...the sort of things that generate 84 years and multiple generations of loyal customers. THIS is what makes America great.

All good things must come to an end and so it is with my Texas BBQ Tour 2017. With a full belly, I pointed Dusty towards East Texas and began the long journey home. I stopped at Buc-ee's (perhaps the world's largest gas station) and couldn't resist capturing Disty's trophy shot. She definitely lived up to her Insect Assassin moniker. I arrived home safe and sound at 10:30p...with the belly still full.

Oh, and that bottle of Four Roses is gone now too. Thanks for keeping me company on the adventure!


Now that my digestive tract has processed all of the beef and pork consumed, my brain can finally start thinking about what made this trip special. 

The weather was perfect and the 941.9 miles of roads outstanding. The food was obviously great and the hotel accommodations (Best Western Sunday House in Kerrville) were adequate. It was my second long distance solo ride. Better than my first, but I still much prefer to have my bride of nearly 37 years along (she was doing her annual vacation with her sisters).

I didn't post about the people I met along the way, but they are what really made the trip special.

Like the guy from Denton, TX riding a BMW adventure bike. The thing was a little beaten-up looking and had stickers from all over the world where he had ridden. Like his multiple trips to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (yes, multiple). And from Texas down to the southern-most tip of Latin America. And from China across Russia into Eastern Europe. And all around New Zealand and South Africa. he was not a wealthy man, just determined with a great sense of adventure. He'd never been out of Texas until 2002.

Or the fun couple from Angleton, TX on the GoldWing who are relatively new to motorcycling (started in 2015). The own a small logistics company and work too much, but play hard too. With retirement on the horizon, they find motorcycling together a great way to put their life into perspective.

Or John, a recently retired pastor from San Antonio who lost his wife to cancer a year ago. He doesn't hesitate to jump on his 2008 Ultra Classic and ride to Arizona or Las vegas to visit (or help) friends. At 63, he'd full of life and healthy. He's still mad at God for taking his wife, but understands tehre is a higher power at work and is finally ready to share life with someone again...but she has to ride!

And there were countless others who shared a brief word or lustful glance at Dusty.

I made a conscious effort to slow down on this ride. Not speed, but pace. To take really see the trip, not just push through it. I also made it a point to talk to people, whether it was at a rest stop, while eating, or sitting around the pool at the end of the day, or just holding a door open for someone and striking up a light conversation. And out of respect for growing the riding community, to complete the ride report. It didn't happen if you don't write the ride report.