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800 S. Francisco St.
Mission, TX

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: "motorcycle touring"

Labor Day Tour 2013

Tomas Perez

The bikes

I got up super early to pack the bike although our meeting time was 9 am. We left Mission at 9:15 am with temps already at 87 F. We are now at San Isidro for breakfast. Stats - 48 miles (ha), 52.2 avg mpg, temp 89 @ 10:30 am.
New gear on this trip for me is BMW Rallye Pro 2 jacket and pants and my 2nd ride with the Touring Pro boots. I even got a set of suspenders for my pants.  I plan to use them on the riding pants as well as my jeans.  Reviews on these to follow. 
Heading to Dilley and then Ingram. 

Fueling in Freer. 
Stats: temp 94F, 139 miles, 2.75 g, BC 51.1 mpg. 

With Ed, Hiram & Ricardo. 

About 20 miles south of Cotula it hit 100 F.  Cotulla is always hot. It was 101 in town. Dilley is just 18 miles north so we rode on. 

This is Motohank in Dilley, TX.  He's a pretty good BMW motorcycle mechanic. He can pickup and deliver in that MB diesel van in the picture. (Since Dilley is in the middle of nowhere)

Good mix of BMW bikes. 

The bike was finished shortly after 5 pm so we head north on I35 to Devine. At Devine we switch off from the Interstate to a nice country road - 173. We take 173 until Bandera where we stop for gas. 

Stats: Temp 99, miles 169, gas 3.4 gals, and BC claims 52.2 mpg. 

At Bandera we change over to highway 16 which is a very nice twisty road. We got to Ingram and my BC showed 61.9 mpg!  

Having dinner in Ingram. 

Nice easy first day with a total of 355 miles. Tomorrow we want to make it to New Mexico. 

We pack, clean up the bikes and leave Ed's house at 8 am. Of course, we stop at 8:10 am for breakfast at the Hunter House Cafe in Ingrim.  It's only 10 minutes of riding but I could use some coffee.

We decided to take some back roads from Ingram to some point in New Mexico. We took 83 north to Eden where we got on 87 to San Angelo, on to Big Spring and then take 380 west at Brownfield. We take 380 to Roswell where we debate if we should continue north to Santa Fe in spite of rain and thunder showers.  It's already late but decide to do the run in the rain and darkness. The rain was not too bad. Get in rather late into Santa Fe. 

Total miles for Sunday was 995 (355 was on Sat). 

On Monday morning we ride to the square for some coffee and maybe something light for breakfast. 

We make several travel plans that we all break. We just kind of rode the local roads. First place we stop at is Chama, 

The bikes resting in Chama.

NM right next to the CO border. From there we head to Shiprock via highway 64 but when we get to 550 heading north we take that route in order to get away from the heat. At that time the high was in the low 90's. we make it into Durango, CO at about 4:30 pm. We rode 250 miles with the majority of that being in the mountains.  We decide to stay here for the night because we want to visit one of the local motorcycle dealers in the morning. 

Coffee in early morning Durango

[Let me interject at this point that the best intended plans can very easily fall by the wayside.  I stopped recording my fuel consumption because of a number of reasons.  It was already a little difficult having to document all the figures that I wanted to keep when others are waiting for you to depart.  A few of the problems that I had include stopping to fuel up during rain storms, a partial fuel stop at a very old place with very old pumps that I - for one - did not trust, and even a pump that did not take my card and two of us fueled up on one card swipe.  I decided to enjoy the ride and forget the stats.]

After leaving the hotel in Durango we went to the Harley dealership there.  One of our guys wanted to add a few items to his baggage.  After our shopping we headed north via 550 to Silverton and then to Ouray for lunch.

Silverton down below
From Ouray we continue to Montrose and from there we use the minor roads and head north east to Carbondale.  From Carbondale we take 82 to Aspen.

I thought we would have to pay double our regular hotel rates in Aspen but we found a nice hotel at a very good price.  We got to Aspen in time for a few beers and dinner just before a storm hit the area.  The hotel manager even let us park the bikes under a car port after he moved his car out from his spot.  Nice of him to do that.

First place we ride to is Maroon Bells just outside of Aspen.

Maroon Bells
We leave Maroon Bells and take 82 to Independence Pass.  That's always a nice ride.  This day it was just cool.  I've been here in June and still had snow and very cold weather.  I guess the weather changes.

Self explanatory
We then head north again to Rocky Mountain National Park.  The ride through that park is also recommended.  It has some awesome views and very easy to ride.

From there we head to Boulder for the night.

From Boulder we decide to head back home to Texas.  We head to eastern Colorado (it's so different from the western part of the state) and head south.  As we head home the temperature just about doubles on us.  We don't get much of a chance to get acclimated to the near 100 degree weather.  Make it through Colorado, cut the handle of Oklahoma and into Texas to Lubbock.  I think the day total was 675 miles.  We did have a delay on the way to Texas.

Something on fire up ahead.
We had to wait for a while for that fire and finally they detoured us around that area.  All dirt roads.  They were ok to ride but of course very dusty especially with trucks also taking the detour.

From Lubbock we take some strange back roads to Ingram.  I think our guide was lost because for many miles my GPS wanted me to turn around and distance to destination was increasing instead of decreasing.  But that's ok... the purpose of the trip was to ride.

We make it to Ingram in time to relax with some beer (again!) and watch a little TV.  No supper.  I don't know why we didn't get supper but we did finish all the beer.

Our last leg is from Ingram to the Valley.  It's a short ride for a day.  We take our time taking back roads for the entire ride.  We have a few times when we run into rain.  Once we put on our rain gear only to have to take it off again about 20 miles down the road.  We're in south Texas now and it's about 100 F.  I even welcome small showers every so often.  It's like nature's air conditioning system.

The total miles logged on my bike for the trip was 3008 miles.  The other RT in the group had exactly the same mileage.  I liked the Rallye Pro 2 jacket and pants.  Also the suspenders make life a lot easier.

The cockpit 

The author and his RT

Riding The Storm

Tomas Perez

It has happened to everyone that has done any type of touring regardless of the season.  We all plan for it and if you have any experience with motorcycle touring you can read the signs and you have the equipment to handle almost anything nature can throw at you baring any major or catastrophic storms.  But in my case, I have no excuse.  I was caught unprepared for one of the worst rain storms that I have ever ridden through.

I had been visiting both of my local BMW dealers plus doing a little riding in the Texas Hill Country.  I use the term local rather loosely.  I wanted to take advantage of my ride to the dealer since it is 265 miles each way by extending my ride.  Dealer #2 is 327 miles each way but even more miles if I go via dealer #1.  A simple dealer visit is not a leisurely daily ride for many of us not living close to a major metropolitan area. It calls for a very long day of riding or a multi day trip.  Any day trip or longer and I pack for bad weather.  I always carry rain gear and in any weather other than the middle of Summer I will include some cold weather gear.

Looking back North towards the storm
 My wet weather riding gear consists of the following: Tourmaster Sentinel Rain Jacket, Olympia rain pants, Corbin seat cover, shower cap for XM radio, and BMW All Round gloves.  My current boots are BMW Touring Pro 2 (at times I also use Sidi Way boots) and they are totally waterproof.  My helmet is a Schuberth C3.  My head and feet are always covered (no pun intended) in case of rain.  More - both good and bad - on these two items later later on.  By the way, unless it's the middle of winter I use my BMW AirFlow 4 jacket for Texas riding.
(This Blog contains reviews on most of these items.)

During my visit to Lone Star BMW in Austin, Texas I purchased a Rev'It Wind Barrier jacket because a) it's very good and b) it was on sale.  I also purchased a cooling vest called Hyperkewl because a) it was hot as nearly always is in Texas and I was headed south where it's even hotter and b) it was relatively cheap at $39.95.  The sales lady kept telling me that she would soak the vest for me in the toilet for free as part of my purchase.  I soaked it in the sink in the men's restroom instead and left the dealer in the early afternoon.  The weather was hot but other than that it was very nice for a motorcycle ride.  In addition, I had called home and got a report of "it's sunny and a beautiful day".

Traveling through central Texas I almost always take back roads or secondary roads instead of the Interstates.  In this case I choose highway 123 and 72 to I 37 to I 59 for a short 8 mile run to 281.  I like highway 16 down the middle of south Texas brush country but not after dark.  That part of South Texas just has too many wild animals out after dark and even cows and horses seem to find their way out to the warmth of the road beds.  Once on 281 South I consider it smooth sailing for the last leg of my ride home.

Normally I'm OCD when it comes to riding or coming into bad weather.  Not to the point of stopping or outrunning a storm but more to preparing for the ride.  I tell my friends that I do not mind riding in cold weather nor rain (but not freezing rain!) since I have the gear for both including a bike that has excellent weather protection.  You learn to see the signs; dark clouds, oncoming traffic showing signs of rain or worse, any column of darkness from the clouds down to the ground are all signs that you are about to run into something big.  The column is a sure sign of rain or worse and the wider the column the larger the storm with little to no chance of riding out of it.

As I turn south on 281 in George West I see the columns.  Not one but two of them.  They appear to the east and west of my direction of travel but still a ways south of my position.  The thought comes into my head to stop at the DQ in George West to see what happens.  In any account I have not eaten lunch and it is mid afternoon.  I could use a meal and some caffeine.  But I decide to push on.

Within 10 or 15 miles I start to see little water droplets on my windshield.  They are so light that I don't even feel them on my helmet.  I ride through stuff like this often without doing any riding gear change.  This presents zero cause for alarm but there is a warning sign... I don't see the columns anymore.  I continue and it's only a few miles and I get a light shower but my only concern is my XM radio being exposed to water.  I think about my friend that says he does not put on rain gear in the summer and simply uses the opportunity to wash his riding jacket and sometimes riding pants.  I tell myself that I will wash the AirFlow jacket - it could use a cleaning anyway.  By this time I am in a heavy but otherwise normal rain.  I start my preparation.

Ok... I can do this.  Tuck in behind the fairing, raise windshield to just below eye sight, close helmet visor (make sure it's snug), and close both helmet vents (it matters).  It's important to close your visor before you get water on the inside and if you wear glasses you have another two surfaces that can get wet.  That's a total of four surfaces that can have water and limits your vision severely.  Add a windshield to that and you can consider yourself nearly blind if you continue riding.  But I'm good!  As a matter of fact only my arms are getting wet.  Even my radio, GPS and dash were only a little wet with slight spray.  I'm thinking: awesome bike, awesome fairing.  I'm actually enjoying the ride and keep in mind that I did not put on any of my rain gear.

And then it happened... I hit what appears to be a wall of rain... and high winds!  A little panic sets in plus sensory overload from the walls of water hitting me.  First thing that comes to mind is to pull over.  This is brush country and only a shoulder exists along the route.  In addition, stopping will result in a total soak within seconds but my main concern was for the bike.  The winds were too high and I thought that I would not be able to hold the bike upright during any sudden gusts.  I also was concerned about getting run over by some driver that could not see well which I knew was the case as that was happening to me.  Phase 2 kicked in right away.  First I lowered the windshield so as not to be kicked around so much by the winds and I turn on my 4 way flashers.  I have one car behind me and way ahead was an 18 wheeler that I no longer can see.  Not bad... the trailer has plenty of lights that are much more visible than car lights but at this point I don't see him ahead.  The car passes me up but within a mile he is slowing down to the point that I pass him.  While this is happening I feel my chest and legs get totally wet and then my crotch went from dry to wet within seconds.  I don't know why wet crotch feels like an insult when you are riding a motorcycle.  Your torso can dry and your legs can dry once you get out of a rain storm.  This is especially true in the Texas heat where a wet jacket can dry in minutes of riding.  But a wet crotch seems to stay wet forever and I always seem to get to the next gas stop and feeling like I wet my pants.

I can't see much but I see the trailer lights ahead.  At first I think that's good - something like my own personal lighthouse ahead of me but I find myself downshifting to 5th and then to 4th.  I'm shifting based on feel because I cannot read my gauges - not even the gear indicator.  I'm thinking this is too slow and thus dangerous and I could see where he was being pushed around by the winds.  I pull over to the passing lane with no indication of my intent because I have my 4 ways on.  I notice one of the reasons that he may have slowed down for was that there was a row of cars pulled over on to the shoulder.  I think about stopping myself but decide not to since the bike is handling the wind so well. I don't want to make this a BMW report but at this time I am gushing for the brand.  Since I saw columns before I hit the rain I figured that this was a storm within limited boundaries.  I continued for about 10 or 15 miles before the rain and wind let up to a normal shower.  The road ahead cleared up but I could not see any cars ahead of me.  Weird feeling being all alone on a highway that is normally busy.

Soon after the rain it was these things
 I stopped at a Whataburger in the next town so that I could take off my cool vest.  Didn't need it any more - as a matter of fact I felt cold.  Several people came up to me and advised me not to ride north.  Too late - would tell them I was just there.  When I told one man that I had just ridden through the storm he said "No way!  Otherwise your bike would be full of bugs.".  I didn't say anything but when he walked over to me and looked at the bike he apologized to me.  I guess because he was calling me a lair but I thought nothing of it.  I never found out how bad the storm was but part of Alice had no power, a gas station sign (the tall type) was blown over, entire crop fields were flooded and the Whataburger was full of cars.

I don't know how much of a lesson this was for me.  At my age, I mean experience, I should have known better.  Observations... I was impressed with my bike with the way it handled in such a storm.  And the other thing was that the only thing dry on me was my feet - totally dry!  I got home 2.5 hours later and I was still wet except for my feet.  The Rev'It jacket kept me warm even when my shirt and jacket were soaked.  I wore it under my AirFlow jacket.  I found it strange that I felt no cold yet my shirt was still very wet when I got home.  I was disappointed with my helmet.  In case you don't know it is expensive but it let in too much water.  In the past I've had a drop of water run down the front on the inside of the shield.  Then another drop and so on every few minutes while riding in a normal heavy rain.  On this ride I first felt a fine spray or mist inside the helmet (recall that I shut everything off before the heavy rain hit me but did not use the chin cover normally used in the winter).  Then the water droplets continued to get bigger to the point that I had as much water on the inside of the shield as I did on the outside.  Perhaps it was the wind forcing the rain in but it should not happen.  It's a safety issue IMO.  On a plus note I never got fogging inside the helmet.

My helmet didn't do much better

And what are these bugs that are out by the millions immediately following the rain?  They look like termites.  They are rather sticky since it was still raining when they start to come out yet don't get washed off the bike.  They would hit my helmet and stick and when I moved my head into the air stream to try to blow them off it only got worse with many more hits.

Thanks for reading,

Davis Mountain State Park Indian Lodge

Ricardo Perez

The Indian Lodge
Within Davis Mountains State Park is the Indian Lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. It has over 30 rooms for overnight stays as well as a restaurant and swimming pool.  It offers an elevated porch area outside the community room which offers a great view. Swallows fly around as they nest throughout the porch ceiling

The park has a nice road called the Skyline Drive Trail that rises far above the rest of the park and offers a great view of the Davis Mountains as well as the city of Fort Davis just a few miles away.
Community Room Column & Beams
If you can't stay at the Indian Lodge the camping area is great. There is lots of space and shade trees which will make camping out a nice experience. My wife and I camped out there a couple of years ago and were awakened by a herd of javelins foraging through our campsite. Those jaws certainly clack loudly as they graze, not a comforting thought when the only thing between us is the flimsy nylon tent wall and only a pocket knife to possible defend yourself.
The park is not huge, but it's one of those that's not on everybody's list so it makes for a nice stay. Nearby is McDonald's Observatory, Fort Davis, Alpine and Marfa.

Black Bear Restaurant

Indian Lodge


Rocksprings, Texas by Motorcycle

Ricardo Perez

It's Wet Out There!

Three of us, Tomas, Rob Brace, and myself,  rode to Rocksprings, Texas on Friday, October 26, 2012 for the Annual Texas Honda ST Rally. It was a beautiful morning, clear and approximately 76 degrees when we left on our 370 mile ride, but that didn't last as we rode into our first big cold front of the year. Within two hours we were riding in rain and dropping temperatures and by the time we made Encinal, on Hwy 35 north of Laredo, it was wet and temperature around 54 degrees. That lasted at least 150 miles before the rain let up. It stayed overcast as we rolled into Rocksprings at 6:30pm.
The rally had approximately 20 riders from all parts of Texas, one from Colorado and another from Kansas. The only restaurant open, The King Burger,  was right across our motel and served up some decent food. It closed at 8pm, but we were told that there would be room since most the town was attending the local high school football game. The stadium was just a couple of blocks away and you could clearly hear the announcer doing the play by play with a Texan drawl that made you think the game was in slow motion.
I rode my 1979 R100RT and it did great on the more than 800 mile ride. About the only thing I miss from my Ultra Classic is the ABS brakes. I'll be switching out the ATE brakes on the RT for the better Brembo brakes which came out on the '81 RT.

Click on this link for a short video on the ride as provided by one of our fellow ST members:  Texas Hwy 337

International Ferry at Los Ebanos, Texas

Ricardo Perez

Los Frenos International Port of Entry

The only thing that came to mind as I stood looking at the new port of entry in Los Ebanos was the quote from Paul Newman in the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Paul Newman is surveying the local bank which has been refortified and he asks, "What happen to the old bank? It was beautiful"
Guard: "people kept robbing it"
Newman: "Small price to pay for beauty"

That's exactly what I thought yesterday as my wife and I rode up to the modernized International Ferry at Los Ebanos, Texas. Talk about a clash of designs, like wearing prints with stripes; or cowboys and aliens; or having a solar powered vette; or sushi at a tailgate party!
The modern beefed up port of entry is about to open and it totally destroys the beauty of the old hand drawn international ferry, the last of its kind in the United States. It looks like it's built to handle lots of traffic, but in reality they only get about 120 to 150 vehicle crossing a day and that's on a good day according to one of the customs officers I talked with.
The new port of entry dwarfs the actual barge that is used to transport cars and pedestrians from Mexico to the the US and back. As a matter of fact, you can't even see the river from the port of entry, at least not from where I was standing. I guess it's not hard to make something good really bad.
Pedestrian Traffic Coming From Mexico
I got past the customs guards as I strolled down towards the river, but was stopped about 50 yards further down at the "Stop" sign and the "Everyone Must Pay Beyond this Point". Even from this point you could only see a piece of the river and the ferry itself was still out of sight beyond the river bank. In my opinion this new and modernized Port of Entry is like Jerryworld (the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium), just too much. Ah, the price of progress! Sad!

Here's the New Port of Entry to the Left of Temporary Entry to Ferry Crossing

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Mexico Touring: On the Safe Side

Ricardo Perez

Afternoon Stop at Fruit-stand

So you miss traveling in Mexico since it's not safe to travel down there? Well the next best thing is cruising around the rural areas of Rio Grande Valley and taking in some really local stuff like this fruit stand. In many ways it's just like being in Mexico, the cokes are the Mexican cokes made with real sugar and the fruits and vegetables are those you would find in any Mexican market. Take a step back in time and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of roadside stands.  If you really want buzz then go into a flea market and you can find anything from ponies to satellite dishes, but those are too crowded for me so I stick to the roadside fruit stands. 
While we were there some guy drove up and grabbed ten pounds of over-ripe bananas for three dollars and left just as quickly. I asked the lady working there, 'what's he doing with ten pounds of bananas' and she said that he runs a raspa (snow-cone stand) and needs them for his raspas. 
Well it was a short break, but definitely a step back into what it's like in Mexico. 

Tomas & Pancho

Making a Stop

Fresh Watermelons


Tire's Had a Better Day!

Catus Fruit

Ricardo & Pancho Outside Lane's in San Isidro 


Enchanted Rock State Park

Ricardo Perez

On Top of Enchanted Rock With View of Ranch Road 965 Headed North

I believe, Enchanted Rock State Park is the world's second largest pink granite rock and it's a great place for a day trip or for an overnight camping. The park is only 18 miles north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965 (Latitude N:  30° 29' 45.45" Longitude W:  98° 49' 11.53"). Rumor has it that a lot of bikers miss the park entirely after having a few German Brews in Fredericksburg as some riders, not saying who, tend to stay on Hwy 16 and miss the park. Both Hwy 16 and Ranch Road 965 head North out of Fredericksburg and are only four blocks from each other so it's a common mistake. 
There's no mistaking the rock from a distance as it stands out in the Texas Hill Country. It's over 400 feet tall and at the top the elevation is over 1,800 feet. It takes about 45 minutes to hike up to the top, but it can be done much faster depending what shape you're in. From the base of the rock it doesn't look that big until you see hikers at the top looking more like ants. 
Enchanted Rock became a State Park in the 1980's so not too many people realize what a great site it is. Of course, on weekends when traffic is heavy, especially with riders, the Park Rangers will close-off access to the park so if you're riding up there on a beautiful spring day then you should plan to get there by 10am or better.

Tomas and the healing powers of Enchanted Rock
By legend, Indians believed that the rock possesses special spiritual powers as the rock "speaks" which is a natural sound of the rock expanding with the day's heat and contracting with the night's cool air. We tended to believe the Indian legend and laid at the top center point of the rock, it's marked by a US Geological Survey marker. 
Paladin Back Rest- Various Motorcycle Models - NC-P9800A (Google Affiliate Ad)I'd recommend it to anybody riding out in that area just take some good hiking boots or comfortable riding boots. Camping is good, but it can get a little crowded depending on what time of year you plan your camping outing. We've camped there before and we've stayed in Fredericksburg which makes for a good home base for a weekend of riding. Try the Old San Antonio Road also known as "Old No. 9" for a great ride, it's off of Hwy 290 as you head East out of town. It's the old highway between Fredericksburg and San Antonio which will intersect with Hwy 473 which heads into Sisterdale. Sisterdale Road heads South to Bourne. 

That's Tomas about to get lost for a couple of hours!

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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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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

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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