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Our website is all about motorcycles, especially BMW cycles. We cover rides in the Southwest and Mexico, motorcycle modifications and review motorcycle products. 

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Ride Reviews

Filtering by Category: "Harley Davidson Motorcycle Touring"

Big Bend National Park Ride: March 2013

Ricardo Perez

Heading from Big Bend National Park Towards Alpine
Picture by Voni
Ricardo & New RT
The above picture was taken by Voni Glaves who happen to be out on the front of her house with camera as we rode by on our way to Alpine. Voni has over a million miles on BMW motorcycles. Tomas has met her before at BMW rallies and he spotted her and stopped for a short visit. Tomas had actually emailed her about the possibility of camping out at her place in case we were out of luck on a hotel for Saturday night, but the odds of catching her out by the highway as we rode by was really amazing. Check her riding history, truly impressive.
We started our ride at 5:30am and it immediately struck me what's great about riding as the smell of grass fields heavy with the mornings dew fill the senses, then the sweet, powerful smell of blossoming orange trees dominated as we rode between orchard fields. It's just the sense of being close to nature that reminds me how we just miss those senses when we're caged up in our vehicles. What a time to ride as spring comes early to South Texas.
The new BMW R1200RT is a week old and I've got 2,323 total miles. After the break-in procedure and the 600 mile service a group of six took a three day ride to Big Bend National Park. During the three days we logged approximately 1,481 miles. Tomas, Marco, Ed, Albert,Pancho, and myself met up about 5:30am in Edinburg and headed out at 6am or so. It was still dark and we wouldn't risk the back rural highways at night with too much wildlife venturing out on the highway.  We stuck to Highway 281 North and made our way to Falfurrias, about 90 miles from home to gas up and eat breakfast. We left Falfurrias about 8:30am and headed West on Highway 285 and then North on Hwy 339 to Benavides and Freer. Highway 339 is one of the few backroads that's not congested with all the trucking from the "Fracking Gone Wild" in Texas, so that's a pleasant ride through Benevides. We rode through Benavides and made a quick stop in Freer and a gas stop in Encinal then pushed on to Carrizo Springs where we stopped for lunch.
Cruising Down the Highway
We made Del Rio by about 3pm and fueled up at WalMart on the West end of town while Albert went in and bought a sleeping bag. In Sanderson we stopped for a break and met two brothers from Colorado riding the new BMW GTLs on their way to South Padre Island. We didn't mention that it's Spring Break and not the place to be.
Marathon Motel
We arrived at the Marathon Motel & RV Park right about 7pm. We had reservations for only one night  so the plan was to camp out Saturday night at the basin in Big Bend National Park, but we started re-thinking that idea when we heard that it would be about 34 degrees on Sunday morning. The basin campsites were also all taken due to Spring Break so we settled on a couple of rooms at the Hampton Hotel in Alpine for Saturday night. The Marathon Motel is a neat little place that we've stayed at on many of our trips to Big Bend. When they hand out complimentary ear plugs you start thinking, did I miss something in the small print?" The train runs by about ever hour, twenty four hours a day, at least that's what they say. They don't bother me, but that may not be the case for everyone. The motel has a handful of little cabins/rooms, an RV park and about four tent campsites. It also has a great open patio area with a huge fire place and it's the perfect spot for just relaxing. There's plenty of firewood and we're free to start a fire. We were joined by another motel guest, a band member from Austin out to take pictures of the Big Bend area for his band.
Before we started the fire we went out to the Gage Hotel White Buffalo Bar for a couple of beers and some dinner. Food at the Gage is very good and the prices are not too bad. After our fireside chats we ended our day; 525 miles on Friday.
Marathon Coffee Shop
Saturday we were up early and rode over about an eighth of a mile to the Marathon Coffee Shop which always has a good breakfast menu. You can sit inside the restaurant, but with pleasant weather it's great sitting outside which is what we did. After breakfast we gassed-up the bikes and rode west to Alpine where we dropped off our bags at the hotel before we headed to Marfa, Texas. Marfa is an interesting place with a large artist community. We toured the town on our bikes, passed the open market area and moved on to Presidio.
Presidio is not a very attractive town, but it's the gateway to Hwy 170 to Lajaitas, about a 60 mile road that hugs the narrow Rio Grande River. It's only a stone's throw from the US to Mexico and the river is a very shallow crossing in many places. There's no wall here as it's sparsely populated on both sides of the river. The highway is a great ride with lots of dips, some small and others big. It's a hilly ride, but most are small hills so it's a real up and down ride.
As we rode east we hugged the river to the right and crossed the Big Bend State Park to the left. We stopped at the State Park parking area to check out some trails and then rode to the next rest stop which is lined with Tee-Pees, not real ones, but ones made from cement.
We ended the route at Study Butte, fueled up and entered the western entrance to Big Bend National Park. Once in the park we rode to the Chisos Basin for a nice break. It's about 28 miles back to the western exit at Study Butte and another 82 miles to Alpine.
Reata Resturant was our dinner stop in Alpine. It's probably the nicest place in Alpine and they serve some great dishes.
Marathon Coffee Shop
Our stay was at the Hampton Inn on the western end of town. We woke early Sunday to 34 - 36 degree weather so we layered up and headed out by 8am. The ride home took us through Hwy 67 North which meets I10 about 15 miles west of Fort Stockton. Once we hit I10 we cruised at 85mph and battled a strong northern that was blowing in that day. We rode from Alpine to Ozuna, approximately 180 miles before stopping for some hot coffee. It was now 58 degrees, but it still felt cold. We went another 100 miles to Junction for BBQ at Coopers. Hwy 83 is just east of Junction so we decided to take Hwy 83 south and have the wind at our backs.
From Junction on Hwy 83 south we stopped for a break at Concan just off Hwy 83 on Hwy 127. From Concan we made stops in Hondo and Alice before making it home. About 625 miles that Sunday.
It was a quick three day ride, but we had a great time. Weather was cool and skies were clear all three days and except for the cold start on Sunday morning, it was just about perfect riding weather. Big Bend is always a great ride and next time we'll do Santa Elena Canyon before heading out of the park.

Pancho's BMW RS

Marco Having a Bad Hair Day!

Tomas & Albert by Rio Grande River along Hwy 170

Pancho, Marco, Ed & Albert in Concan

Pancho in Study Butte, Texas

Ed's solution for operating his phone! We're sure Apple is picking up on this one; the new iHandinGlove! We'll be selling these for $39.95 & if you order before July 4th we will toss in a left-handed glove for free. There is a small S&H fee of $19.95. Satisfaction guaranteed, if not completely satisfied simply return the glove(s) for a complete refund minus a small restocking fee of $21.95. Our shops and technical staff are ready to help you. Wait, that's not all, yes, for a small added fee we can design the same glove for left-handed users, but you must act now! Imagine yourself texting away while cruising down a narrow country road at 75mph while your friends just look on with envy! Don't be the last one in your riding group to be without the technical advantages of our designs. (Just in case anyone thinks we're serious, we're not...don't send us any money, we don't sell gloves cut-up with scissors, and never text while riding) 

Checking out the glove in Freer, TX
Going down the Hwy

Made it to Marathon Motel just before dark!

Albert at motel patio area

Yes, they have TVs (small), but no WiFi!

Rear view of Marathon Motel area.

Persidio stop at fruit drink cafe

Big Bend State Park

Rest Stop

Rio Grande River



Arriving at BBNP Chisos Basin

Chisos Basin at BBNP

Big Bend National Park - Chisos Basin

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The Benediction Sisters Good Shepard Monastery

Ricardo Perez

The Benediction Sisters Good Shepard Monastery
View from Conference Center
Saturday was a great riding day. It was it the high 80s and just a very nice clear day to enjoy a leisurely ride into our great brush country. Irma and I headed northwest and kept going for about an hour and half before we made our way north just west of Rio Grande City. About nine miles north of highway 83, which runs along the Rio Grande River, on FM 3167 is the entrance into The Benediction Sisters Good Shepard Monastery. The entrance is on the west side of the highway, marked with a big white wooden cross. It's about a mile ride up a dirt road to the monastery. There in the middle of nothing but brush for miles in all directions are a set of monolithic looking buildings which make up the monastery. It's run by three Benediction Sisters who have created this wonderful place with just private donations. The retreat center with conference rooms, cafeteria, and lodging hosts retreats for up to about a 100 people. There's also a great little chapel and sitting areas throughout the grounds.

Of course, the great beauty of this place is the wonderful surroundings of nature. We stopped by to just wander the grounds, sit for a while and just to give thanks for a wonderful day and a great ride. If you're ever out in this area make it a plan to stop at this little oasis, you won't be disappointed.
Our Ride Among the Thicket 

Here's a little history as taken from one of their brochures, "Benedictines in Starr County In 1986 the pioneers of the Monastery of the Good Shepherd came from their motherhouse in Crookston, Minnesota to share life with the people of South Texas.  They brought with them the 1500 year tradition of Benedictine monasticism that traces its origin to the life and work of the great St. Benedict of Nursia who lived during the fifth and sixth centuries.

The Benedictine Sisters have been serving the Diocese of Brownsville primarily by their witness of community life and prayer and by offering hospitality to those who wish to step back from the hectic pace of life to encounter God.  The Sisters wear the traditional habit, meet five times daily to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and are faithful to the Magisterium."

Nature Conservancy

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Motorcycle Ride: Gruene, Wimberley, Blanco, & Elsewhere

Ricardo Perez

Catholic Church in Panna Maria, TX
We took four days in mid-April to ride up to Gruene, Texas. The weather was perfect, unusually cool for Texas in mid-April so riding was great. On Thursday, at 7:15am we left our house and met up with Albert and Lisa as we headed to Edinburg to meet up with three other couples, Sid & Letty, Joe & Sonia, and Leo & Terry. By the time we all gathered together North of Edinburg we were ready to head out about 8:15am or so, five couples and all riding Harley Davidson motorcycles. We stopped for breakfast in Falfurrias at a new Mexican food restaurant by one of the new overpasses under construction. The food was good and we decided that the weather being so nice we should just take our time riding and enjoy the ride so by George West we stopped to fuel up before heading around San Antonio on Hwy 72 via Karnes City.

We pulled over in Panna Maria to check out the church there. Panna Maria (Virgin Mary) is the oldest permanent Polish colony in the United States. Approximately 100 Polish families reached this site on Christmas eve in 1854 to settle the area. Other than the church there isn't much activity around, but the church and grounds are special and worth a stop. 
We made our way through Seguin and then New Braunfels before arriving at our destination in Gruene. Don't bother trying to input "Gruene" into your GPS like I tried on my Garmin Zumo 550 without any luck. Gruene is officially a part of New Baranfels so all addresses are in that city's name. I was able to input my address without any problem at all.
The Yellow Haus 
We stayed about two blocks from the old Dance Hall in Gruene at a place called, "The Yellow Haus" which was a little pricey, but not too bad when split among four of us. It was so close to everything in Gruene. It had four bedrooms (three of which were roomy), a nice back porch area and a very long front porch. We took advantage of both porches to relax and enjoy some good spirits & morning coffee. There's a separate unit attached to the back part of the house that is also available, for more money, of course. There's a car port dedicated for that back unit, but it was unoccupied the first two days we were there so we used it to park our bikes.
We arrived in Gruene about 2pm giving us plenty of time to ride over to the Dance Hall, even though it's an easy walk.  We took time to have a couple of beers. It was nice at the hall, not too crowded on a Thursday afternoon and it's usually very busy since made famous by the movie with John Travolta in Michael. We walked around a bit after that and ended having an early dinner across the street from the dance hall. Once back at the house we made a quick run for some food and beverages and spent the remainder of the evening just relaxing and planning the next day's ride.
On Friday we spent the morning at the Javelina Harley Davidson dealer  checking out the bikes. While I was there I went ahead and replaced my key-fob battery which is something I like to do every two years so I won't end up in the middle of nowhere with a dead key-fob. That set me back a couple of dollars. We hadn't ventured out very far because the weather forecast called for severe thunder storms by mid-day. Weather Bug was right, right about noon the thunder clouds moved in and it started pouring. We watched it all from our front porch. By three o'clock it was clearing up and the sun shone through in spots so we headed out on Purgatory Road headed to Wimberley.
Wimberley, Texas
Wimberley is a smaller Fredericksburg which to me means nicer. It's less than an hours ride and it's northwest of Gruene or northeast of Canyon Lake. The ride is very nice as it skirts along Canyon Lake and goes through some nice remote hill country without a lot of traffic. We landed at a good coffee shop and spent the afternoon checking out the local stores and the creek that runs through Wimberley. The main river that runs through that area is the Blanco River.
Back in Gruene that evening we went over to the River Grill, but this time we walked over so we didn't have to limit our beverage intake. The place is much like Gristmill and I was told that there's at least three restaurants with the same owner. Considering that these places are just churning tourists in and out the food wasn't bad and the lady behind the bar didn't limit the amount of liquor to just a shot!
Ole Blanco Courthouse
Becker Vineyards
Saturday morning we started out early and rode towards Johnston City. We stopped in Blanco for their open market day around the old court house and checked out all the vendors and their booths before moving on to Johnston City for lunch. After some good BBQ we ended up at Becker's Vineyard and their lavender fields. Becker's is a nice stop, but it's a little uppity as we all stroll around with our wine tasting tester glass in hand. The opposite ambiance of Becker's is Luckenbach where there's lots of hats, but they're all cowboy hats and lots of bikers. We had funnel cake and beer as we relaxed and enjoyed the live music.
We left Luckenbach with some of us going to Bouerne and others back to Gruene. It was a good leisurely day of riding that ended with a nice dinner in Gruene. Back at the dance hall, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was playing, but we opted not to drop in at $57 a head.
Sunday morning we headed back to the valley only detouring of I37 near Campbellton as we rode the old highway 281 which is seldom used by anyone since I37 re-routed traffic around Campbellton and Whitsett. It's worth the extra 10 minute detour to travel on the only major highway connect the valley and San Antonio back in the day.
We had a quick four day trip with limited riding and only 800 miles on the clock, but we enjoyed ourselves and just as in the hill country this area northwest of San Antonio has lots to offer with some great back roads. 
Dinner Time in Gruene

Dance Hall in Gruene

Leo, Terry, Irma, Ricardo
Sid & Letty

Irma & Ricardo in Lavender Field at Becker's

Joe & Sonia

Irma & Albert as Hosts rejecting customers at restaurant 

Bikes at Becker's Vineyard

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Marathon, Big Bend National Park, Terlingua & Presidio via Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Marathon RV & Motel

Just as you head out of Marathon, Texas is the Marathon RV and Motel and that makes for a perfect stopping place for riding into and around Big Bend National Park. Marathon is situated above the Big Bend National Park's North entrance. It's still about 45 miles due South before you get to the park entrance which is just an entry booth that's more often than not never staffed and it's about halfway to the Park Headquarters so just keep riding South. Total miles from Marathon to the Headquarters is about 80. The first half goes at a fast clip, but once you enter the park things slow down as radar enforced speed limits max out at 45MPH; about an hour's ride to the headquarters from the park's entrance.
Sonny at The Window
The park's headquarters is fully staffed and a good place to stop for a break, pay your park entry fee, and load up on free maps of the park. Most riders I know that ride into Big Bend have never taken the time to hike any of the great trails in the park. My recommendation would be to go early in the morning before 10am and locate a camping spot at the Chisos Basin camp grounds and stay at least two nights. The basin also has hotel type rooms about a half mile from the camp grounds, but those have to be booked long before your trip. Once you're settled into a camping spot you can take time to do a little hiking. The Window is probably the shortest and best hikes you can take. It's about a two mile hike and it's easy walking, but the way back is more difficult since you're walk uphill.
Another good hike, but more of a medium duty walk, is The Lost Mines Trail which is about 4.8 miles and it starts at about an elevation of 5,800 feet. This hike offers some of the best views of the park and worth doing if you're staying at the park for more that one night.
Sotol Vista Overlook
My third hike would be the one at Santa Elena Canyon. It's at the southern most part of the park, about 40 miles from the Chisos Basin camp grounds, but it's a nice ride unless its July then it can get really hot as you descend from the basis. Temperatures changes can be dramatic. Halfway down to the canyon is the Sotol Vista Overlook, its a short loop off the main road, but a must stop.
Sotol Vista Overlook
The overlook offers a majestic view of the southern park of the national park. Off in the distance you can see Santa Elena Canyon.
Road to Sotol Vista Overlook
Right before arriving at the canyon is Castolon Station, a must stop for water, snacks and just rest. It may be closed during the summer months so it's a good idea to carry water on your bike just in case. About six miles from Castolon sits Santa Elena Canyon. There's a parking area, restrooms some picnic tables and a short hike away is the Terlingua Creek that many people confuse for the Rio Grande River. Unless there's been a rain storm its easy to wade across the ankle deep waters of the creek to get to the mouth of the canyon and it's hiking trail.

The trail is part of the park's trails so its easy to climb, but it is a vertical climb of about a 100 feet as you get a great view of the Rio Grande River, the creek, and the park to the north. I've been there half a dozen times or more, but have been turned by high waters cutting through the road those last eight miles between Castolon and the Canyon.

Castolon Station
Water crossing south of Castolon

Santa Elena Canyon
Study Butte Gas Stop
As you backtrack out of the canyon road its best to exit on the western side of the park. It's about 40 miles from the basin to Study Butte and Terlingua. Both of these towns are very hot in the summertime so a mandatory lunch stop is not a bad idea. It's 82 miles to Alpine if you're headed north. You're now out of the park and can head 17 miles southwest to Lajitas. That's the town that was bought by some millionaire who turned it into a very spiffy upscale rural village. I've only stopped there once and that was enough. Its best to keep moving toward Persidio a 50 mile ride that hugs the Rio Grande River most of the way. Its a great twisty road known as the River Road that is worth riding in both directions since they both offer a unique riding experience. Persidio is just as hot as Terlingua, but much bigger. It's got lunch places, gas, and a large grocery store.
Marfa lies north of Persidio. Marfa has become somewhat of an artist colony so it offers a nice mix of West Texas town and New York City in a twisted sort of way. If you like art then spending the afternoon in Marfa is well worth the stop. 
From Marfa its not a bad idea to east into Alpine and/or Marathon as a wrap up to a good day's riding. Another good ride is to head out to Fort Davis which has a great State Park with camping and a lodge and further northwest is the famous McDonald's Observatory. I'll cover those in another post. 

Somewhere between Big Bend National Park Headquarters & the North Entry

Tomas on his ST at Big Bend's Western Entry by Study Butte

Terlingua Hill View

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Sturgis Motorcycle Trip

Ricardo Perez

Harley Dealership in Sturgis

My Toy Hauler & F350
Back in 2008 I owned a Toy Hauler fifth wheel trailer and used it to trailer my bike and a friend's bike up to South Dakota. We started in Mission, Texas and went up through the panhandle and into Colorado then Nebraska and South Dakota. My Toy Hauler was a 37' Keystone Raptor which I pulled with a Ford F350 diesel. Pulling that much weight was never a problem, stopping on a dime was another story. There was so much "mass" behind you that it could easily push you if you weren't careful. I never really had trouble handling it, but you had to pay attention to under-passes since it required about a 13' 6" clearance. Turning tight corners was another thing you had to watch out for. I once ran over a curb in Eagle Pass while pulling over to decide where to eat (letting my stomach do the thinking instead of my head) and the tire popped like a ballon. Fortunately, we were only about a half mile from a truck stop where they called a guy to remove and replace the tire. That incident starting me thinking about replacing the Toy Hauler with something I can maintain myself. It was obvious that changing a tire is no simple task when trying to jack-up a 15,000lb unit. Turning a fifth wheel is much easier than turning a tow-behind unit and you can surprise yourself with a little practice how tight a turn-around you can maneuver on a fifth wheel. Regardless, the Toy Hauler is a beast  and you can't get too confident pulling that unit down the highway.
We left Mission, Texas early in the morning joined by another couple from Pharr, Texas and quickly made our way past San Antonio and on to I10 West. We then turned Northwest and headed to Fredericksburg then San Angelo. We kept going until we were north of Lubbock and stopped for the night at an RV Park. It was past 10pm by then and we had been on the road over 14 hours. We moved out early and headed through the Oklahoma panhandle and into Colorado. We ended our second day in the late afternoon at the Sterling State Park. The park was fairly deserted and we had most of the park to ourselves.
Sterling State Park - Colorado
Rainbow's End
Once out of Eastern Colorado the countryside started to get more interesting, everything was green, much different than the type of landscape we have in South Texas. We went into Rapid City then ran uphill into Nemo, a small village in the hills about 20 miles from Sturgis.  We stayed at Big Moma's place which is a horse ranch most of the year except during Sturgis' Bike Rally when she converts the place into an RV and Camping ground. We arrived the week before the rally in order to ride across Wyoming and camp out at Yellowstone National Park. The camp ground was really great. We had pick of any spot since we were there early so we backed up our RV close to the stream running behind us and about a hundred yards from the highway. We had a couple of friends join us, one from Minnesota and the other from Wisconsin. They joined us in Nemo and camped out a few hundred yards from where we parked the RV. We unloaded the bikes and made ourselves at home for a couple of days before heading out to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.
Creek by our Toy Hauler
Once we got back from our ride to Yellowstone we made time to join up with some other friends for some nice riding. Our first day we rode to Mt. Rushmore and rode through the Needles and through Custer State Park. We also made it to the Crazy Horse monument. We made time to stop by some good lunch spots and had a good time.
The next couple of days we would ride in to Sturgis to check out all the sites including all the different bike vendors although we didn't spend any money on all the available add-ons. Back in Nemo we spent the evening planning our BBQ menu and having a few refreshing brews as we sat around and enjoyed the nearby creek, the high cliff beyond the creek and passing motorcycles. Big Moma's had a bar setup at one end of the pasture which made it nice once we ran out of beer and their live music meant we didn't have to worry about finding our own.

We ventured into Deadwood one morning to check it out and ended up at a restaurant that was also a bar and casino. The slot machines were already going as we sat down for breakfast, but we didn't waste our money on any gambling. Deadwood was founded in 1876 after gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874. The town was famous for its outlaws and gamblers. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in a saloon with the famous "Dead Man's Hand" of aces and eights. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are both buried in Deadwood.  We walked around Deadwood for a while before heading out to the Interstate.
Sturgis, South Dakota is home to the largest or second largest motorcycle rally in the world. It's always held the first full week in August. We had been out to Yellowstone National Park during our first week and spent the second week in our Raptor in Nemo. Nemo is relatively higher elevation than Sturgis so its cooler and certainly lots less crowded. It's about 20 miles from Sturgis so it was a quick 20 minute ride into the rally. Our first trip into Sturgis was one of those where you just follow the other bikers hoping someone knows where they're headed. As it happened, we ended up parked by the local Harley dealership and in the middle of everything. What's best about Sturgis is that there are so many vendors that you get to at least see products closeup, where you can grab them and check them out. That's a treat compared to the blind purchasing done on the internet.
Of course, there's lots of demos as well and bars with live music. They must bring in police from throughout the state because they are everywhere and there's no drinking on public sidewalks, streets, or public places so those that happen to walk out of a bar with a beer got zapped fairly quickly. That was rare since most places had someone at the door to remind patrons that you couldn't take that beer with you. As for food, we mostly stuck to the vendors selling whatever verses eating inside a restaurant. Restaurant food was okay, but nothing to write home about.
In all, I think we went into Sturgis only twice since once you've seen it, it doesn't much change. We had a much nicer time back in Nemo with our friends, our BBQ, beer, and music. It was so relaxing that we didn't miss all the buzz down at Sturgis.
All in all, the rally and just the fact that we were in a state where everything was green and cool compared to the 100 degree weather in South Texas made this a special trip. We got to see our friends who joined us at Big Moma's and met their friends from different states. That made 10 of us riding around and enjoying each other's company and the great countryside as well as the rally in Sturgis. Every rider should make that trip a least once in their lifetime.

Sitting by Toy Hauler: Checking email and enjoying a couple of beers!

Jaime, Ricardo, & Mike pointing up to the cliff beyond the pasture.

Friendly Man in Deadwood
View of Mount Rushmore as we exit a tunnel
Deadwood Store
Stream Running Through Big Mama's Pasture

Passing Through Roswell New Mexico

At Santa Fe Plaza - Birthday Girl

We're checking out some on the spot pin striping work.

Irma's Taking a Break at Sturgis

She better watch those hot pipes!

George wasn't saying much!

In the Needles as we approach a 360 turn!

Where to Now?

The Needles

One of many one lane tunnels

Here's the Gang at Crazy Horse Monument 

Crazy Horse

Low Clouds Approaching

Entering Hill City

He wanted to tattoo Irma

Take a Tequila Shot or get bounced!

Sturgis Bar

Where's My Bike?

Hey, another Chicano!

She was on Letterman that week!




Fishnets still in style?

Local Bar

After many miles we get back to Texas!
Ricardo and Irma in Sturgis

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Lone Star Motorcycle Rally Galveston Texas

Ricardo Perez

The Strand - Galveston's Main Street

Our Riding Buddies From Corpus Christi

The Lone Star Rally gets really crowded, but the best part is that it allows us in South Texas just about the most coastline riding you can get, especially north of Corpus Christi, Texas. It's slow going, but a nice ride to the seaside town of historic Galveston.
Once you're at the Rally there's tons of bikes so finding a spot to rest your bike can be a challenge. We stayed in Kemah which is about 20 miles from Galveston since we couldn't find a place in Galveston, but as it turned out, that was a good thing. It's peaceful and lots of things to see in Kemah so it's a nice break from all the crowds in Galveston. Our hotel was right by the docks in Kemah and some nice sea food restaurants.
At the Rally we had a good time just seeing everything that's out on the Strand. We also went into the Convention Center to see the displays, but that was definitely a waste of money (seen one, you've seen them all) imho.
The ride north of Corpus was great as we went through Rockport, Port Lavaca, Palacios, and then along the seashore from Free Port into Galveston. We ran into some rain, but it was warm so it was a welcome site although rain in Galveston's Strand makes riding your bike hazardous since the rail line running down the middle of the road gets slick as ice when it's wet. We saw a few bikes go down as they tried to cross it running parallel to the tracks.
So next time you make this rally be sure and take time to go down the coast to Free Port then make your way up to Angleton home of GOE Harley Davidson. It's one of those small town local dealers that's family owned so they're friendly and a great place to visit. GOE Harley Davidson

Of course, last, but not least are the great little sea food restaurants all along the coast line between Galveston and Corpus. Take time to get off the road in these small towns and check out their great food.

Need a Parking Spot!

Plenty of Bikes to See
View From Hotel

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Motorcyle Tour Through Wyoming & Yellowstone National Park Camping

Ricardo Perez

A Wyoming Creek Along Highway
 My Map
Stopping by a creek on our way to Yellowstone
Wyoming has to be one of the most beautiful states in the union. We started our ride just 25 miles south of Deadwood, South Dakota from a little town named Nemo. We stopped for breakfast in Deadwood before hooking up with Hwy 90 West toward Sundance then Gillette, Wyoming.  We stayed on Hwy 90 until we hit Hwy 14 and continued on to Greybull and finally Cody, Wyoming. Cody is all Cowboy town and during the summer there's a rodeo every night. It's nice just to walk downtown and find a good place to eat and drink. We went for drinks at the Irma Hotel built in 1902 by Buffalo Bill and named after his daughter. It has a classic cherry wood bar that is still in use today. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express and a couple of the guys camped out at the KOA camp at the entrance of town. We were up for breakfast early and as it happened, we met the chef there at the hotel who asked where we were headed. After we said we were headed into Yellowstone he suggested that we stop at his parent's place in Cooke City, Montana.
View of winding Chief Joseph Highway
So we left Cody and took the famous Chief Joseph Highway as we headed to Cooke City and then on to Yellowstone National Park. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway follows the route of Chief Joseph and his tribe as he successfully eluded US Cavalry troops in 1877. His route ran through Yellowstone and into Montana. It's a beautiful highway that's a must motorcycle ride. 
Once we arrived in Cooke City, Montana it wasn't hard to spot Buns and Beds restaurant which was owned by the parents of the chef we met back in Cody. We had a good time enjoying the great burgers they made for us and talking about their annual snow fall. They mentioned that they get hunters in winter and campers in the summer time so they stay busy.
From Cooke City we entered Yellowstone National Park and made our way to the northwestern corner, a place called Mammoth Headquarters. It was obvious we weren't in Texas anymore as huge elk roamed the grounds without a care in the world. We went out to the campgrounds and secured a spot for ourselves and then went back to the headquarters to wait for a couple of the guys that had taken a detour from our route to Red Lodge, Montana so they were a couple of hours behind us. Once we joined up we settled into our campgrounds and setup our tents. I have a Marmont two person tent, but we managed to squeeze in four of us into it for a good night's sleep. Our Marmont sleeping bags are rated at 30 degrees so we slept very comfortably just a little tight. We really enjoyed the many wonderful scenic views in the park. Yellowstone is so beautiful that we can't wait to get back there and spend some serious time camping out. Of course, we took the loop road around the entire park and made the mandatory stop at Old Faithful. As you can see by the picture, it's still working, almost like clockwork. That area of the park is obviously the most popular, thus it's by far the most crowded area of the park so we were glad to get away from the crowds once we enjoyed a good lunch at the headquarters. 
Old Faithful
We took a nice ride around the entire park except for one section that was closed by an ongoing forest fire. As a matter of fact, there were several fires ongoing during our ride. After we exited on the East side of Yellowstone it wasn't long before we ran into another forest fire. This one was really close to the highway. At one point it was within a couple of hundred yards from the highway as we had to slow down to a crawl as a helicopter crossed right in front of us and hovered over a stream running parallel to the highway. It hovered over the stream as it drew water up into its tanks to dump on the fire. It was soon off and headed back into the fire. That moment as it flew low over the highway in front of us and hovered over the stream looked surreal. Needless to say there was lots of smoke and it took many miles for us to get away from the smoke and back into clear skies. 

Getting Away From Fire
We made our way back to Cody for another night's stay before heading back to South Dakota. We left Cody and headed on a different route back to Nemo. We headed South to Ten Sleep and then into Big Horn National Forest via Highway 16. That route was nice and not as crowded as the traffic on the Interstate Highway.
Yellowstone National Park is worth a camping trip and the rest of Wyoming is a wonderful state to tour. Our visit was way too short and we'll try to make it back there this summer. Motorcycle travel is fairly easy and we didn't encounter any problems. Once a coke truck broke down and we had to make a stop at an awkward incline, but once we got through that spot everything else was routine two-up riding.

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Forest Fire Getting Close
Getting Too Hot!

Fire Fighting Helicopter Getting Water!

Elk at Mammoth Headquarters in Yellowstone

Ricardo & Irma with a day in Cody

In Yellowstone National Park

Entering Yellowstone National Park

Galeana Mexico via Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Galeana Church
Galeana is a medium sized city located in the state of Nuevo Leon and about 200 kilometers south of Monterrey. It’s a neat little community, high up on the Sierra Madre Oriental at an elevation of 5,430 feet. This is the same mountain range that runs along the Northeast Mexico and up through Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Going Up Towards Galeana
 Galeana is a small town nestled among the mountains just southwest of Linares and Montemorelos. We took our motorcycle route through Reynosa, Mexico and then made our way down the autopista to General Bravo. From there we jumped off the main highway and headed to China then General Teran. Motemorelos, famous for its citrus industry was next on the way and finally Linares before making our way to Galeana. Its a short distance in total, about 220 miles, but it takes a good five hours plus to finally make it there. The countryside is beautiful once you pass Linares as you begin to climb towards Galeana which lies at approximately 5,500 feet. Aramberri and Doctor Arroyo are further to the south with Iturbide to the east. 
Galeana is one of those small towns that's a jewel to visit. It's got great weather, small enough to where everybody is very friendly, and it's so conveniently close to the United States that it's easily a great weekend ride. That is, once the violence down there ends and its once again safe to travel. So my Mexico ride stories have become rides that we've taken in the past. What a shame that we can't ride into Mexico right now without the fear of getting assaulted, but like all things, I believe that this will pass and touring Mexico will once again be safe. Can't wait since it's such a beautiful and historic country.

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Leaving Galeana

Heading Towards Galeana

Dinner Time
View From Plaza

Long Line of Riders

San Miguel de Allende Motorcycle Ride

Ricardo Perez

San Miguel de Allende

Our trip in 2006 to San Miguel de Allende was one of the best riding trips we ever took into Mexico.
We met in Pharr, Texas on Hwy 281 just north of the international bridge from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.  It was almost exactly a year since our last trip into Mexico when we rode down to Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico on a short four day ride.  Real de Catorce was at one point in time the richest silver mining town in the western hemisphere and now is a quaint tourist village whose only entrance is a one lane mile long tunnel.

 Word spread about the good time we had the year before and our original group of 15 was now 28 with 18 bikes (with an additional couple joining us in Cd. Valles).  It was the second week in March, coinciding with Texas schools’ spring break. 

Lou, Bruce, Bob
My wife and I awoke about 3am to finish packing and to make sure we were in Pharr, about 20 miles from our house in Mission, on time.  I had plenty of time to pack the bike, check everything, and recheck.  We made Pharr right at 6am.  There were already about six riders there, mostly the group that came down from Corpus Christi, but within twenty minutes everyone showed up.  Seems we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t sleep! 

Lunch Time
     After we all topped-off our tanks, said a group prayer, and had our last cup of coffee we headed out at about 6:45am, still dark, across the international bridge into Mexico.  The weather was a very nice 72 degrees or so.  We rode through Reynosa’s eastside and out of town headed towards the coast then south on toward San Fernando and then Cd. Victoria.    Eighteen motorcycles meandering through small Mexican villages and twisty mountain roads made the going slow, but we were able to coordinate all our stops on a pretty orderly basis and after the first few times it didn’t take long for us to line up for gas at all the available pumps at the nationalized PeMex stations and move through the refueling process fairly quickly. 

As we got close to Cd. Victoria we shot off the main road to a small local restaurant for some good carne guisada (braised beef tips).  It was good home food cooking because it was both a restaurant and residence.  After lunch we rode through the outskirts of Cd. Victoria and on to Cd. Mantes. 

Hotel Taninul in Cd. Valles
Ready To Ride
     Gradually, the terrain began to change from the typical south Texas semi-arid desert to green semi-tropical surroundings.  It got hot towards the end of that first day, well into the 90’s as we entered Cd. Valles.  We stopped in Valles for the first night and stayed at a resort hotel named Hotel Taninul on the outskirts of town which is famous for its springs.  The hotel staff was very accommodating, asking us to park our bikes under their entry veranda.  For most of us, this was our first experience of traveling together in such a large group, but by natural instinct everyone went about their way, some straight to the bar, others to check in, and still others to eat.  We couldn’t help notice that the hotel had a weird type of smell, not offensive, but not typical of anything.  Well, we soon found out that the smell was caused by the high concentration of sulfur in the spring waters that ran right through the hotel.  Cd. Valles gets many visitors who come to dip in the sulfur springs, long known as a therapeutic cure for body ailments.  A few also discovered the metallurgic properties of sulfur on silver.  It turns silver black, but as we later discovered on our trip it can be reversed. 

     Early the next morning we all had breakfast and were joined by a couple from Tampico who would lead us on our next leg, across the mountains toward San Miguel de Allende.  We left the hotel at 9am and it wasn’t very long before our semi-tropical surroundings really switched to a much more tropical look.  Everything was a beautiful green and plants and trees were already blooming into beautiful colors.  It also was sugar cane harvest time and we would come up on slow moving trucks loaded to several times their height with sugar cane.  Needless to say, we ran over a lot of sugar cane which fell from these trucks. 

Tropical Highway as we head up mountains
     At first we traveled on mostly beautiful rolling hills and through green pastures.  As we rode, you could see off in the distance the silhouette of low hanging clouds which slowly transformed into a mountain range.  It didn’t look like there was any great passage through those mountains and we soon discovered that there isn’t any. 

Mountains As We Head Toward San Miguel de Allende
All of us knew that the road ahead was going to be both beautiful, but challenging.  There was no disappointment.  The road twisted right, left, down, up, and again though some beautiful scenery.  We all felt good about the ride and making it through, looking forward to moving on to our lunch stop when our guide said the road ahead is not too far from our planned lunch stop, but that it was really a twisty road, much worse than what we had just been through!  He was right.  I don’t know the exact mileage, either 45 to 100 miles, but it took about two and half hours.

We finally got through the mountains and had a late lunch and we knew that we would have to really make some time to get to San Miguel before sunset.  At one point we were within a hundred miles of Mexico City and then headed north toward San Luis Potosi.  We made the outskirts of San Miguel right after sunset and entered the city at night with traffic bumper to bumper moving very slowly or not at all on steep cobble stone roads, not the best thing to be on after a very long day through the mountains and riding two up, but we made it through town to our hotel, Real de las Minas about 7:30pm. 

     San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful town with plenty to see and do.  Over the years it has become quite an attraction for settled-out tourists from the United States that make it their year-round home.  A cab driver told us that San Miguel was at least 45% anglo.  It certainly seems to be that way.  With that migration the town has adapted to a higher standard of living with very good restaurants, hotels, homes, and art galleries so you won’t find great deals for a few pesos.

Yesneia & Irma 
Sonia at Harley Bar
     We stayed in San Miguel two nights so we could take our time seeing all of the attractions in the quaint town. My wife and I spend most the time walking through the historic churches, and the great market square.  We ate lunch at a great Italian restaurant situated at the street end of an intersecting “Y” that gave us a wonderful view of daily life in San Miguel.  We saw a local police officer writing a citation for a vehicle parked right in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk in what was an obvious “no parking” zone.  He left the citation and removed the license plates and went on his way.  We asked our waiter why they do that and he explained that you can’t drive around without plates and the only way to get them back is to go to the police station to pick them up where you’ll have to pay the fine.  That makes sense.  We watched as six of our bike group roared by on rented ATVs, and just people reading and going about their business in San Miguel de Allende. 

The Girls at the Harley Bar in San Miguel
     At night there was good number of us at the Harley Bar.  The proprietor, a young man who looked like he could have belonged to the WWC federation, served up drinks to all as he traded Harley stories with anyone wanting to listen.  He had his “black beauty” parked right outside his bar and he would start it up and tell us how he crossed the United States at least twice on that bike, one of three he owned.  Before the night was over one of our group had commandeered the mike and was singing well into the night.

Slow Going on Way to Cd. Victoria
Mary & Jaime Pena
     We left San Miguel at seven in the morning and headed back up north and eventually northeast toward Cd. Victoria.  We went through quite a bit of highway under construction and it slowed us down, but we made Cd. Victoria by day’s end.  We stayed right down town on the plaza square at a Hampton Inn and had a great view of the plaza.  Our bikes were parked in the basement garage and we had a great evening relaxing and talking about the trip. 

     Our fifth and last day we left Cd. Victoria at 9am and headed north on the same highway we first took Saturday morning.  We made it back to the United States by 3pm and we all headed straight to the closest What-A-Burger in Alamo for our favorite staple, hamburger and fries. 

     We traveled 1,300 miles in five days.

Irma and Ricardo 

Joe Cantu 

Slow Going Behind Sugar Cane Trucks
At the Harley Bar

Happy Trails To You!

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Motorcycle Tour to Veracruz Mexico

Ricardo Perez

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South of Tropic of Cancer
Veracruz, Mexico is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and its Caribbean, African, and Spanish influences port are undeniable especially in its architecture and foods. It's Mexico's oldest sea port having first served as a port of entry since 1518 making it about 500 years old; more than double the age of our country's independence. Taking a fairing direct route, Veracruz is about 650 miles from the Texas border (Mission, Texas).

Mission, Texas To Veracruz, Mexico
Twenty four of us set out for this seven day trip and for the first time we had a couple follow in a suburban which added a degree of security in case we broke down or had an accident, neither of which occurred. It's funny to note that all of us had our bikes packed perfectly, but once we had the luxury of the Suburban it quickly got filled with bags and paraphernalia that made us realize just how much stuff we load our bikes with.
Rest Stop - Just Follow that Beer Truck!
Central Downtown Veracruz Plaza 
One of our group leaders had shirts made up for all of us which read, El Chorrito Club, commemorating one of our first rides into Mexico when two of our group dropped their bikes as they stalled out on a sharp narrow turning incline as we headed to El Chorrito, Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Lunch Stop
Our group was so large that routine gas stops and meal breaks usually turned out to be a good minimum half hour for gas and about two hours for lunch, but that didn't seem to bother any of us as we were having a good time. For lunch breaks we'd try and find something out of the ordinary where they could handle a large group.
South of the Tropic of Cancer that the landscape started to change a little bit, but it was not until we were well south of Tampico that the vegetation really went from dry semi-arid conditions to lush vegetation.
Our first night was spent in Tampico in a downtown hotel which made it convenient for us to leave the bikes parked while we hunted down a good restaurant or bar. Tampico founded in the early 1800's is another port city which is very industrialized and carries tons of commercial traffic inland to Mexico's major cities.
Away from the crouds on a Tecolutla Side Street
We were off early the next morning and headed to our next stop, Tecolutla. Tecolutla is a small village on the Gulf Coast which serves as a big tourist village mostly to local Mexican nationals since it is the closest beach to Mexico City. It's a real jewel, hidden away from all major traffic it serves as a must stop for anybody wanting to really see something special. The Tecolutla River discovered in 1518 pours into the Gulf of Mexico. We happened onto Tecolutla on a Saturday and they were holding an annual festival so everybody was out on their main streets strolling up and down. We were really fortunate to be there and participate in the festivities. We wandered through the streets trying to decide where to stop for a beer or dinner...too many choices. One of us, as I discovered later that evening, followed a young boy carrying a huge lobster as he made his way to a tiny restaurant. Our rider quickly said that he wanted "that" lobster for dinner! You won't see that too often on our US streets.
Our hotel had a secure fenced parking area where we kept our bikes and a young man washed our bikes for just a few pesos while we took in the town.

Irma & Ricardo in El Tajin
The next day we took  a slight detour from our journey south along the coast as we headed West about thirty miles to the archaeological site of El Tajin. It's an ancient city with pyramids, buildings with bas-reliefs carved into its stone walls, and game courtyards where losers were beheaded. The carved reliefs tell a very interesting story on their culture, games, rituals, battle enemy's being decapitated, and social life.
Although it was out of our way, it was certainly a worthwhile detour. It's hard to imagine that just a few hundred miles South of our border there are archaeological findings that long pre-date the discover of America.

Jaime Pena at El Tajin
Player's Courtyard at El Tajin

Voladoros de Papantla 
El Tajin Market Area

Our visit to El Tajin was only half day before continuing our journey down to Veracruz. The highway south of Tampico leaves a lot to be desired and it's probably some of the poorest highway since being so close to the coast it gets battered by coastal winds and moisture year-round. 
We hugged the coast as we stayed on the Poza Rica - Veracruz Highway (Mexico 180). Other than the condition of the road in spots the ocean views, the tropical vegetation and sea breeze made this ride one of our most memorable. 

It was a long ride into Veracruz and ended up rolling into town after sunset. We finally settled on a hotel along the Costa Verde vicinity, checked in, and made our way across the street to a nice seafood restaurant.
View from our hotel of Isla de Sacrificios
It wasn't until daylight and riding into downtown that we discovered what a beautiful city we had landed onto. It's an old city with much history and it architecture is beautiful. We went by the port where huge ships were docked and they were busy either getting loaded or unloaded and headed to unknown destinations.

Veracruz Port and Ship of Unknown Origin
Gran Cafe de la Parroquia
Of course, a prerequisite of any Veracruz trip is a visit to the historical Gran Cafe de la Parroquia where clicking your glass with a spoon sends over a waiter to pour milk into your coffee. In my opinion, it's a must visit, but it's not for the food, just for the coffee and for the fact that it's more than a restaurant, it's more of an institution in Veracruz. After your coffee we walked the streets and dropping into the markets along the docks to check out the tourist things. That evening we asked a waiter at a "nice" touristy restaurant for a recommendation and he quickly told us that after his shift was over he headed over to a little side street restaurant where he worked another shift, but swore by the food. We took his recommendations and we were not disappointed. Seems most good restaurants like the one we visited has fresh seafood and can fix it just about any way you want. Of course, I had the Huachinango a la Veracruzano (red snapper) that was great.
On our last day in Veracruz we spent most of the day in the main downtown plaza. All of us had a great time as we drank, listened to music, and just kicked back and enjoyed good food, drink, and music with good friends. 
We took a few days getting back to Texas riding straight from Veracruz to Cd Victoria for an overnight stay and then back into Texas the following day. Veracruz is one of the southernmost rides we have taken into Mexico, but it was a great ride along the Gulf coast. Once things settle down in Mexico we'll point our bikes in that direction again. 

The Girls
The Boys

Roadside Luncheon Stop 
Joe at the Plaza in Veracruz

Trio at the Veracruz Plaza with Irma
The Plaza
Lunch Stop 
Veracruz Downtown
Veracruz Group

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Lone Star Motorcycle Museum

Ricardo Perez

This is the 1938 Brough Superior Model "SS80"
A few miles north of lonely Vanderpool, Texas nestled just off of Highway 187 North and surrounded by the Texas Hill Country you'll find the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum  The bike pictured above is the same model bike that Lawrence of Arabia, TE Lawrence, was riding when he suffered a head injury after losing control of his bike while attempting to avoid some children riding bicycles.
A motorcycle museum situated in the Texas hill country doesn't make much sense until you consider all the bike riding that takes place in the hill country then I guess its not a bad place to be.  Come springtime there's always a slow, but steady stream of bikers that stop-by to check out the bikes on display in the museum. The museum is open from March to November on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so it's closed for the winter season. There's a $5.00 entry fee which seems high for anything out in the middle of nowhere, but it's well worth the money once you see the bikes on display. If you eat there you can get in for free, but I've never been too crazy about their food so I just pay the entry fee.

They have over 50 motorcycles from all models and years. You'll see Ducati to BMW bikes from vintage years as well as everything else. So next time you're riding in the Three Sisters area take time to make a side trip to Vanderpool and visit the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum. You won't be disappointed.

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BBQ: Motorcycle Ride to Texas Pride in Adkins, Texas

Ricardo Perez

Texas Pride BBQ in Adkins, Texas

Saturday was a cool cloudy day and perfect for a nice day ride. We rode out at 6am for breakfast in San Isidrio and from there we kept going north on Hwy 16 just before Loop 1604 in San Antonio and then headed east around Loop 1604 to Adkins, Texas which is between I10 East (Houston) and Hwy 87. Texas Pride is a nostalgic trip in time if you're of age to remember things from the 50's or so. In the 60's I worked at a Sinclair gasoline wholesale distributer so it was neat to see all the old Sinclair signs and gas pumps.
Old Gas Pump & Coke Machine
Most the pumps read between 19 Cents and 24 Cents per gallon.

Sinclair Dino
Aside from all the antiques the BBQ is really good. We each had some type of Monster Sandwich for $8, two toasted buns loaded with pork ribs without the bone and brisket. Looked like about 3/4 of a pound of meat which can easily be shared by two. The sandwich and a large tea cost $11.02 which is pricy, but you get a lot of sandwich for that price. The guy behind the counter said that there's an even bigger sandwich, but we didn't go there. That same guy mentioned that we should drop by on Thursday,  bike night. According to him there's over 500 bikers every Thursday. They have live music in the pavilion area behind the restaurant as well as a special parking area for motorcycles and a motorcycle shop. The shop was closed, but it looks like they sell lots of after market stuff. It's worth a return trip just to check it out.
Motorcycle Shop
After lunch we slowly made it back to the valley via Karnes City and Kenedy. Kenedy, like most rural towns in Southwest and West Texas is overrun by oil riggers working on Oil Fracking. Seems like each small town from Hebbronville, to Freer, Jourdanton, Kenedy, and everything in-between is overrun by big Tractor Trailers loaded with pipes or other oil drilling rigs. That means lots of mud on parts of the highway. Temporary RV parks just pop up over night and it seems like each little town has a hotel or motel under construction. So towns like Kenedy no longer just have prisons as their major industry, now its prisons and rough necking.
We spent about 15 minutes in Kenedy talking with a guy that had a Kawasaki motorcycle made up to look like an Indian Motorcycle. He was really proud of it and mentioned that he had owned it all of three hours.
We rode approximately 520 miles on a beautiful cloudy day with temps in the high 60s and 70s. A great ride with great BBQ. 

Ed, Tomas, Hiram at Texas Pride BBQ

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BBQ: Motorcycle Ride to City Market in Luling Texas

Ricardo Perez

Luling, Texas 

City Market BBQ
At least two or three times a year, if not more often, we make our way to Luling, Texas either as a destination ride or passing through as we take the back roads to Austin. If you couldn't see Luling you can sure get the heavy smell of crude oil as you roll into town. Luling is at the intersection of Hwy 90 and 183 and is approximately 50 miles Southeast of Austin. Founded in 1874, Luling was known as a rowdy town for cattle drivers on the Chisholm Trail, but became most famous for its oil production in the 1920's. At one time Luling produced over 10 million barrels of oil per year. That's still evident today as you pass through town seeing several oil rigs still pumping. There's one right at the heart of town right across the Central Market BBQ.
BBQ is the reason we stop. City Market Barbecue is a rustic, old fashioned restaurant that is packed with locals so you know it has to be good. Once inside, at the far end there's another small room where you enter through one door to order. That's the room where the pits are and it is hot. The signs on the wall in the pit area are all pretty well covered with years of soot, but you can still make out what's available. Half a pound of brisket, a slab of pork ribs, and a jalapeno sausage link is more than enough for two. Everything is placed on several layers of butcher paper along with as many slices of bread as you care for. Pay, exit through other door, and make your way to the drink counter to order your "Big Red" before finding a place on any available picnic type table.
A Passing Train is a Regular Occurrence
Watermelon Thump
June is a good month to visit during the annual watermelon thump. It's still pleasant riding weather in June and makes for a great one day ride. Can't beat BBQ, watermelon, and strolling around downtown to check out what the local merchants have for sale.
If you're looking for a one day ride to somewhere other than the hill country think about making a stop in Luling, Texas. You won't regret it.
Luling At Cross Roads of Hwy 90 and 183

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Honda ST Motorcycle Cheap STOC Rally: Camp Wood, Texas

Ricardo Perez

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Intersection of Hwy 83 & 337 in Leakey Texas

The annual Honda ST rider's Cheap STOC (ST Owner's Club) Rally was held May 6-8 in Camp Wood, Texas. That's right, May 8th was Mother's Day, but that didn't seem to bother anyone very much. They must have been abused children? Tomas, Marco, Ed and I rode up on Thursday from Mission/Edinburg and going by way of Boerne. Marco had a service scheduled for 9:30am at the Alamo BMW Motorcycle dealer. We left Mission at 4:30am and Edinburg by 5:00am. Marco went ahead of us once we stopped for coffee in Falfurrias, but we met up about 11am at the dealership. We were off to Camp Wood via Bandera, Medina, Vanderpool. and Leakey by 3pm and arrived by 5:30pm. We stopped in Leakey at  Hogpen BBQ right on the intersection of Hwy 83 & 337.
Ed's pretending to read at Lost Maples Restaurant

Keith, Man in Black is wanted in several counties


 some of us had just ridden the Three Sisters (Hwy 335, 336, & 337) we decided to do something different so we rode to Utopia via 337, 83 and 1050 for breakfast at the Lost Maples Restaurant Cafe.
We met these guys at our motel. Cycling from San Diego to Austin averaging approximately 60 miles per day

From there we headed south on 187 to Sabinal then west on 90 through Uvalde and into Brackettville, about 30 miles east of Del Rio. Brackettville is home to the Alamo remake which was used for the movie by John Wayne. It's open for tourists if you're into that kind of thing.

Stuart Bat Cave At Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Brackettville was our destination in order to get to Hwy 674 to Rocksprings. It's one of my favorite road which doesn't get much use. It's about 60 miles from Brackettville to Rocksprings and it's a great ride. About halfway up 674 is the Kickapoo Cavern State Park which is about a two mile ride onto the State Park Road. It's also about as little known as Hwy 674, but worth the time to visit.
Last summer the countryside on this highway was really green, but this time around with our drought conditions, it was rather dry, but the stark contrast made it a very nice ride.
Feed the Trough BBQ in Rocksprings
Once we got to Rocksprings we decided to stop at Feed the Trough BBQ. It was late afternoon and they were just taking the beef right off the grill. Don't know how it tasted since we stuck to the Root Beer Floats as we had planned an "all you can eat" catfish dinner back in Camp Wood. Mistake!
Back in Camp Wood we had a good, but not great catfish dinner then gathered around the motel with the rest of the ST Cheap STOC folks. We had a very good rain storm roll in about 9pm and enjoyed seeing some rainfall for a change.
We left Camp Wood in the morning and I headed back home via Hwy 83 and Tomas, Ed, and Marco headed back to the BMW dealer in Boerne for their open house and the first viewing of the BMW K1600 GTL motorcycle. It's the new six cylinder motorcycle that's replacing the four cylinder LT. I owned a 2005 LT and it always seemed a little top heavy at parking lot speeds, but this new bike is suppose to have a much lower center of gravity and a dream to handle. We'll see in the future if that holds to be true. We'll have to make our way back to Alamo BMW for a test ride and another report. At-a-glance the bike looks great, sounds great, and has a seating height that allows someone like me at 5'10" with a 31" inseam to be flat footed on the ground.

The New BMW K1600 GTL

West Texas On Fire - Motorcycle Ride in West Texas

Ricardo Perez

Wildfire View from Sanderson's Desert Air Motel

I had to run up to Alpine to give a presentation on a new insurance package to our TRLA Alpine Office, but after the first question I had to use my "call a friend life line" to our Benefits Director. After that call I just held the posters and as Julie said, I was in my best Vanna White mode. An exhausting presentation.
Tomas and I had started out early from Mission stopping in San Isidro for breakfast where we were warned not to stop for any suspicious looking police/deputy/DPS vehicles because there's been a rash of robberies by men pretending to be cops. Just like the Zetas in Mexico. Good to know that there's nothing like having a little bit of Mexico in South Texas to make the ride more interesting!
We've been in a drought throughout Texas and the valley had not had significant rainfall since late July 2010 so when we saw the thunderstorm approaching us north of Hebbronville we were glad to see rain clouds. That good feeling didn't last too long as we had to pull over about 20 miles south of Freer, pull out the rain gear and move on. I have a BMW one piece rain suit that I brag about being absolutely water proof and the perfect outfit for any thunderstorm. I was wrong. The rain really started falling and the wind was blowing the rain sideways and soon I began to feel rain coming up my sleeves because I forgot to put on my neat rain gloves, the ones with the little squeegee on the forefinger for wiping the water off my face shield. Those gloves overlap the rain suit sleeve, my summer riding gloves don't do that and with no place to pull off the highway it was too late to change. Then I felt water dripping down my neck onto my shirt and rain coming up my pant legs so by the time we made the Love's Truck Stop in Encinal some 70 miles later, I was soaked. A guy who passed us up on the way to Encinal was also at Love's and came over to tell us that he couldn't believe we were riding in that rain and that he wouldn't do it for any amount of money. It's hard to look like "mancho man" when you're soaking wet so we just smiled and said it cooled us off. I switched shirts, fueled up and rode on. The clouds were gone past Encinal and 30 miles later I was totally dry.
Riding in the rain, if you stay dry, is not bad especially in summer months when it's a nice cooling off break. The only scary part, apart from hitting water puddles and fearing hydroplaning (not a good thing on two wheels) is lightening. Before getting to Freer there were some pretty nasty flashes that were a little too close for comfort. I can feel myself ducking as we cruise by those big radio antennas. I'm thinking that the rubber tires prevent grounding with the pavement so I should be okay, right?
There's not too much change in the landscape from the valley and the rest of South Texas not until we pass Eagle Pass, about 20 miles west on Hwy 277 do things change as we approach Quemado, Texas. Quemado is a small town sitting in what is a beautiful oasis of green pastures and huge pecan groves. There isn't anything like it east or west for hundreds of miles. It's by the Rio Grande River with its pastures and groves irrigated by a series of canals. It's worth the time to get off the highway and take the narrow two lane county road which parallels the river for a few miles.
Another 36 miles to Del Rio, stopped at Rudy's BBQ for a late lunch before continuing on Hwy 90 west to Alpine from Del Rio. We're running late so there's no time to stop at the Pecos River overview of the highest suspended bridge in Texas or at Judge Roy Bean's Museum in Langtry as we kept rolling west.
West Texas Fires - photo by JBalovich
We fueled up in Sanderson, Texas and had been on the road all day with 455 miles behind us and only 84 to go on Hwy 90 before reaching Alpine, Texas. As we rolled into Sanderson the setting sun silhouetted what I thought was a beautiful rain cloud finally making their way into dry, drought stricken West Texas. Between that beautiful cloud and our bikes sat on the middle of our lane two Sheriff Deputy vehicles with their red and blue lights flooding the highway. No doubt some type of license check point or a search for poachers. I was wrong. As I pulled up to them they said the road was closed because there was too much smoke across the highway. That's when I realized my beautiful rain cloud was actually smoke from the burning fires. The deputies said that the wind usually dies down at night so the highway might open by 1am or we could head north to Fort Stockson on Hwy 285 and then south on Hwy 385 to Marathon, a 120 mile detour. The wait would be too long and riding at night is never a safe alternative in deer country so we checked in at Sanderson's Desert Air Motel for the night. The $48 room charge convinced me that stopping overnight was a smart move.
Still burning by Hwy 90 West of Sanderson

West of Sanderson fires rule. With the highway now open I left the motel at 7am leaving Tomas to get some more sleep. Highway 90 west to Marathon was open, but it was still burning just off the highway and with the winds picking up again during the day the highway would close again by that afternoon.

Friday morning and the fires are still burning. This is how much of the area looks like now.

Late Friday morning Tomas joined me in Alpine and we headed south to Study Butte before entering Big Bend National Park. The skies were still hazy as far south as the park. At the Chisos Basin we met a fellow rider on a Ducati riding from Phoenix, Arizona to Houston. He had been riding since Tuesday (four days) and heading east. I mentioned that unlike his ride from Phoenix we were just down the road about 600 miles and then it dawned on me that we were about the same distance from each other. On the way north we were at the speed limit of 75mph when suddenly a very huge buck stood in front of me on the middle of the highway. I slammed on the brakes, but he just looked at me like I was invading his space. He walked off, leaped a fence and disappeared into the woods. To say he jumped the fence would be wrong, implying that effort was involved, and with a graceful walk he glided over the fence as if it were only a foot high.

We left Big Bend by way of the North entrance coming out in Marathon planning to head east to Sanderson for a second night's stay. Unfortunately, Hwy 90 was again closed so we rode back into Marathon to try and find a room for the night. Alpine was booked, and so was Marathon. We had no choice, but to go north about 60 miles on Hwy 285 to Fort Stockton. We landed a room at the Hampton Inn. We rode about 340 miles on Friday before we finally ending up in Fort Stockton.
About 10pm Fire Fighters started coming in for the night. Seems all were young, looking like America's real cowboys, beat and weary from fighting fires. They all carried their packs with everything from sleeping rolls to work boots. By 6am they were eating breakfast and gone by 6:15am. These young men and women had to be worn by the daily grind of coming in late at night and leaving before daylight.
West Texas blazes. Photo by JBalovich
Saturday morning we were off at 8:15am riding to Eagle Pass, Freer, Hebbronville and home. We rode 534 miles on Saturday and 1,335 miles in three days.
It was impressive to see the charred landscapes looking stark and strange like something from another planet. Rain will certainly help put out the fires and restore the landscape to its natural beauty. Until that comes about it's worth your time to see parts of West Texas in this unusual setting.

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The Three Sisters Hill Country Motorcycle Ride

Ricardo Perez

Luckenbach Store Front
For our first real ride in April my wife and I rode along with Albert and Lisa Chapa to the hill country to ride the popular Three Sisters. We left Mission on Thursday about 9:30am and rode on the Expressway 83/281 about 20 miles to Susie's a small restaurant just past the Flying J and before Love's truck stops. It's a tiny restaurant with good breakfast plates.
By the time we rolled out from Susie's it was about 11am, but we were in no hurry since our ride that day was the destination. We stopped twice, at the rest stop in Falfurrias and then at the rest stop past Three Rivers before heading into Pleasanton then west to Jourdanton to gas up. North of Jourdanton we took Hwy 173 to Hondo then Bandera and Medina on old highway 16. Nine miles north of Medina is the Koyote Ranch RV and Resort where we stayed for three nights and four days.
Koyote Ranch is an out-of-way place with a restaurant, store, an outdoor stage with a live band on Saturday nights as well as neat little cabins next to the general RV lots. The particular weekend we were there was also an annual bike rally for gay women and the place was packed so there was good live music and interesting bikes! We stayed in some of the cabins that can sleep up to six or so, but we each had our own cabin with a neat rear patio deck, great for just sitting and drinking some cold beer.
Our first day's ride totaled approximately 330 miles so we had plenty of time to just kickback and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening.
One of my favorite bikes at the museum.
Vanderpool, Texas

Friday we rode into Medina for breakfast then get on Hwy 337, the first of the Three Sisters Highways, riding west towards Vanderpool. In Vanderpool we made the ritual stop at the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum. I've been to the museum at least half a dozen times, but it was Albert and Lisa's first visit and I always like to stop there. You've got to support somebody that's crazy enough to put a motorcycle museum in the middle of nowhere! Of course, we  checked out the vintage bikes and enjoy some nice bench time before continuing west on 337.
Next stop was Leakey which has a nice big gas station now on the south side of town as well as a good outdoor BBQ & Beer joint right on the northwest corner of the Hwy 83 and 337 intersection. We fueled up in Leakey then continued west on 337 to Camp Wood for an early lunch. Camp Wood is most famous for Charles Lindbergh. He landed there in 1924, three years before his historic trans-atlantic flight, and crashed into a local store trying to takeoff. He had to spend a week or more there while parts arrived to repair his damaged Jenny.
From Camp Wood we headed north on Hwy 335 for the second leg of the Three Sisters. Being further west and because of the ongoing drought the ride on 335 showed just how dry things are this spring with no rain. Twenty eight miles north Hwy 41 intersects 335 so a quick 10-15 mile ride east on 41 and you're at the Hwy 336 intersection. Headed south on 336 for 27 miles and although you can't see it most of the time, we are riding parallel the Frio River all the way back in Leakey. This time we stop for a cool beer before heading back east on 337 to Medina and then Koyote Ranch. This was Friday and it was a great day of riding and we got to ride the famous Three Sisters, Highways 335, 336, and 337.
Friday afternoon we were joined by my brother, Tomas, and Ed Ramirez and late that same night Marco Gutierrez rode in from Edinburg. Saturday morning the seven of us rode north on old Hwy 16 into Kerrville for breakfast. Old Hwy 16 north of Medina is a very scenic hill ride that has several low water crossings as well as two hairpin turns. It's another must on anybody's riding list. After breakfast Tomas and Marco split off and headed to a BMW rally in Llano while the rest of us rode to Fredericksburg for a couple of hours before heading to Albert, Texas. Albert is much like Luckenbach, but without the people. It's got a dance hall and two huge oak trees which are the hallmark of Albert. It's worth the ride if you like out of the way places without the crowd you find in Luckenbach.  From Albert we headed towards Blanco then Luckenbach. Since it was Saturday afternoon a live band was performing. The music was great, but too many people so we headed back to Kerrville for some BBQ before attending mass at the local Catholic church. We rode into Koyote at dusk and settled in for a quiet night of listening to the live band from our cabin balcony.
Sunday morning and time to head back home. After breakfast in Hondo we made our way back to the valley via Hwy 16 through Tilden, Freer, Hebbronville, La Gloria, McCook and back to Mission. A great four days of riding with good friends, nothing better!
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Big Bend National Park via Motorcycle: Santa Elena Canyon & Castolon on Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Santa Elena Canyon

Sotol Vista Overlook
Most visitors to Big Bend National Park seldom take the time to make it all the way to Santa Elena Canyon on the southwest corner of the park. It's one of the most interesting parts of the vast environmental diversity found in the park. If you're coming in from Alpine, Marathon or even from a campsite at the Chisos Basin within the park you'll notice that it can be very hot down by the canyon. My wife and I have camped out at the basin with temperature about 80 degrees and by the time we reach the canyon it was 20 degrees hotter, a 100 degree day. On a motorcycle those 20 degrees are light years apart on the comfort level so be prepared to peel off layers of clothes as you approach the canyon. If you go into the park via Study Butte on the western end of the park the turnoff to Santa Elena Canyon is about 13 miles away. The ride is about 30 miles from the turnoff.  About one third of the way down is the Sotol Vista Overlook.  Don't pass this up, the ride is less than half a mile and worth the stop to take in the view.  Santa Elena Canyon is in view about 12 miles away as the crow flies, but another 20 miles or so on the road. Friends with a BMW GS or other worthy off road bike can circumvent this route by taking the unpaved "Old Maverick Road" that hugs the western boundary of Big Bend National Park and cuts the travel distance in half or more. Old Maverick Road is a 13 mile ride to the canyon.
Eight miles before reaching the canyon is Castolon Visitor Center. It's a must stop if its 100 degree weather. There's water, soft drinks, snacks and usually a great person behind the counter ready to share some time with visitors. Over the years we've met several workers stationed at Castolon and you really have to admire their dedication to their job and the National Park Service. Talk about being stationed away from civilization! This is it.
Majestic View From Sotol Overlook

Evaporating "low water crossing" close to the canyon

Castolon Visitor Center Patio

Creek at Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon and Road's End
Another eight miles down the road is Santa Elena Canyon which is not always accessible. If it has rained then, most likely, the road is impassable to traffic at anyone of the numerous low water crossing those last few miles. We once went about three straight visits to Castolon only to be turned around due to high water. There is a turn around at the end of the road and about 75 yards from there is a sandy walk to Terlingua Creek that merges into the Rio Grande River. If it's not raining or rained the night before you can walk across the creek and meet up with a steep path that runs almost a mile along the canyon wall above the river. It's a very nice hike if you can cross the creek.
If you are already in the park then plan to spend at least a half day to enjoy the canyon. Remember it takes about an hour to get there, then a rest stop at Castolon, and at least an hour or two at the canyon makes for a long day trip. There is also Mule Ears Viewpoint which you can see on the way back. An even longer day is if you're in Alpine, 82 miles from Study Butte or Terlingua so plan accordingly. It's just as far from Marathon if you enter from the north entrance.
Big Bend National Park gets over 300,000 visitors a year, but I know that's not in July. We've been there during the summer months and its fairly void of other humans so you have the whole place to yourselves.  Did I mention it gets hot? Last summer my wife's shoe literally melted apart so plan ahead and take sun screen, water, more water, and snacks.  April and May are good months to visit since its still a little cooler.
There's also rafting trips you can take down the river from Lajitas. It used to be a really neat old town, but somebody bought the whole town and gave a Gucci type remake. It has fancy stores, a golf course, and even an airport landing strip for private jets. We've ridden through it many times and we even stopped once. 
Residence at Castolon
Sotol Vista Overlook Parking - Not Too Crowded in July!

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Irma at Sotol Vista Overlook

July is hot enough to melt your shoes off!
Castolon Visitor Center and Canyon visible 8 miles away

Motorcycle Riding Hwy P100 South Padre Island

Ricardo Perez

SPI Hwy P100
One of our favorite "short rides" from the upper Rio Grande Valley in Mission is to head over to South Padre Island via Military Hwy so named for its original purpose of connecting the valley's two forts, Fort Brown in Brownsville and Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City.
Fort Ringgold not named after the famous Beatle, Ringo Starr was settled in 1848 served until its closing in 1944. Likewise, Fort Brown, not named after famous singer James Brown was settled in 1845 and was decommissioned in 1946.  Connecting the two forts is Military Highway which was originally laid out for General Zachary Taylor in order to get supplies from Fort Brown to Fort Ringgold. It wasn't until the 1960s when the entire Military Road Highway was paved.
View from Wanna Wanna's Bar
We're in Mission so when we hookup with Military Hwy we're at the halfway point between Brownsville and Rio Grande City. It's a much longer ride especially in time taking Military verses staying on Expressway Hwy 83, but the ride is much more scenic especially at this time of year when there are fields upon fields of winter vegetables growing and being harvested. Unlike the hectic and crowded expressway, the Military Hwy route is a much better ride. We turn off Military heading north and coming out at the intersection of Expressway 83 and Hwy 100 then its about thirty miles to South Padre Island.
Once at SPI there are quite a few things you can do including riding up the highway to the pavement's end on the north end of SPI. Usually its a nice quite place to go except for an occasional RV along the side of the road parked for the night there isn't much to distract from the great view of the dunes and seashore. If you like to sit back, have a nice beer or soda, and listen to some live outdoor music then the place to be at is WannaWanna's. It's a small hotel with an outdoor deck and thatched roof bar overlooking the seashore.  It's a great place to spend some time before heading back home.
Ed rolling past huge dunes on P100
End of SPI Hwy P100

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The Gage Hotel in Marathon & Riding Big Bend Via Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Our room at the Gage.
My 2005 BMW LT
Marathon is a small community north of Big Bend National Park, divided by the railroad, trains run just about on an hourly schedule, round the clock. If trains bother you keep riding another 32 miles west to Alpine. Aside from the Austin influence that's taking over some of the real estate and raising prices it is still a great place to visit before heading into Big Bend National Park.  This is especially true if it's late in the afternoon since chances are you will not get a good campsite at the Chisos Basin (that's the place to camp) so I'd recommend staying at the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas for at least one night. All campsites at Big Bend except for those at the Chisos basin are probably too hot if its after May so check-in at the Gage and get an early start to the basin. Marathon is about 45 miles north of the park entrance and another 20 plus to the park headquarters and finally another 10 to the basin.
The Gage Hotel, built in 1928, has two sections, one being the old historic section and the newer ground level rooms near the pool and an outdoor panel. If you're a history buff stay at the main building, if you want to kick back in the patio and drink some refreshments then go for the newer section.
The Gage also has a nice bar and a good restaurant, but it's pricy and something we usually avoid.
Once in Marathon there are few good places to eat and just to walk around and see. There's an old cemetery across the tracks and just a few miles away are the remains of Fort Pena Colorado which protected settlers from Indians. It was settled in 1879 and closed in 1893.
Downtown Marathon at sunset
rap & irma

An alternative to the Gage is the Marathon Motel & RV Park just west of the Gage. It not as fancy, but it has a great outdoor patio and fire place.  You're free to start up a fire in the fire place and settle back into a lawn chair.

There is a great view of the Glass mountains to the north and east as well as the Santiago mountains to the south and southwest. It has small cabins which are not as nice as the rooms at the Gage. Of course, this is the place to stay if you're pulling an RV.  They will also let you setup a tent if you want to camp out on their grounds. Both locations are great and it's best to call ahead for reservations.
Marathon RV & Motel Patio Area

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Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

Laguna looking north up the bay!
Last weekend (March 2011) we took a short ride, 186 miles total, to and from Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. It's fairly well hidden and accessible only on a very poorly maintained road especially the last seven miles or so. Parts of the road seem to have washed away and you've got to slow down to about 15mph.  Once in the park there's a 14 mile or so loop around the entire refuge.  The Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda hit this area around 1519 and it looks probably much like it did then, but look across the bay and it's 2011 with South Padre Island on the horizon's view.  The refuge is mostly dense brush which serves as habitat to a large number of wildlife.  Road signs warn of crossing wildlife, but none in sight on a late afternoon except for an exceptional view of birds both on and off shore. If you don't like big crowds this a perfect place to visit.  Here's the LANWR website:

Laguna tower and bikes!
SPI in the distance directly across the bay.
Sunset on the West side of Refuge.
From the scenic overview tower South Padre Island is visible across the bay. As a matter of fact you can see Port Isabel, the causeway, and SPI. It's a spectacular view and judging from the little traffic it's a view few people get to see. Ed Ramirez, Tomas Perez and I rode together and stayed through sunset before heading back home.