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To Tour, or Not to Tour

29 Aug

That was the question!

A while back one of my riding buddies told me he’d like to ask some questions about cross-country touring.  Said he has a couple of trips in mind, but is wondering if he can do it.  Now, my friend is a big, strong man and a capable rider.  There are no outward reasons for self-doubt.  Clearly, his reluctance (perhaps fear?) has to do with the unknown.

Of course, my response to him was to tour — and that’s a convenient segue to the rest of my tale.

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While I haven’t toured for a couple of years, I’ve taken plenty of long rides and been on a few overnighters.  During that time I’ve grown a little older, lost some strength and stamina, replaced a powerful bike with a not-so-powerful bike.  Those changes eroded my confidence and conjured up doubts, questions, reluctance — and perhaps even fear about my ability to complete a cross-country trip.

The antidote for that fear was to tour in spite of my doubts. . . so here is Pearl (Suzuki Burgman 400) earlier this month loaded and ready to leave on a trip to Des Moines.

IMG_3420I rolled down the driveway at 4:15 a.m. and by 4:20 a.m. was filled with the sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes from moving forward on two wheels.  Lingering doubts?  Reluctance?  Fear?  No, no and no!

Texas was hot, even in the piney woods, but when I reached the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the temperature began a steady drop.  Severe weather and flooding in Missouri forced me to take an uninteresting detour via superslab, so let’s skip all that and pick up with the ride back to Austin.

Headed south from Des Moines on secondary roads, looking forward to some good ole Heartland scenery.  While the Midwest has lost almost all of its prairie land, Iowa and Missouri roadsides, fence lines, and ditches are covered with native grasses and wild flowers.  I saw tons of chicory, prairie clover, sunflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, ironweed, coneflowers, and many others I couldn’t identify.  All morning a steady, light rainfall softened the light, but made stopping for pictures difficult.

One weird observation is that it seems like every time I’m in Missouri it rains.  What’s up with that?

In Springfield, Missouri, I searched out the World’s Largest Fork.  Pretty good roadside attraction and worth taking the  time to find it.

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South of Springfield, the road turned into a narrow Ozark state highway with plenty of twists, turns, and changes in elevation.  What a relief and joy to lean into the curves and knock those rubber doodads off my new rear tire.  That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

I’d called ahead and made reservations at The Trails Inn, a mom-and-pop hotel in Eureka Springs.  It was reasonably priced, had all the basics, was exceptionally clean, and the owners were friendly and helpful.

But here’s the kicker.  When I pulled in, the hotel parking lot was full of Burgmans, Silverwings, a Pacific Coast and Helix, and a few other types of scooters and motorcycles!  Note the custom-yellow Burgman 650.

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Turns out a group of scooter-loving friends come to Eureka Springs each year to ride and b.s. for several days.  They immediately walked up, introduced themselves, and invited me to their cookout.  Had an awesome hotdog and was put on the mailing list for next year.

As always, unknown friends are found in every turn of the road.  If that doesn’t boost sagging confidence, nothing will!

After an early good-bye to my new friends, I couldn’t wait to get onto the Pig Trail Scenic Byway, which gets its name from wild pigs that carved trails through the thick forest.  Being a weekday morning with little traffic, the road belonged to me.  The best word I can think of to describe the Pig Trail is enchanting.  Love it!

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The Ouachita Mountains and Arkansas River Valley are not technically part of the Ozarks, but in my mind it’s all the same.  While the Ouachitas, located in Western Arkansas, seem less rugged, they’re every bit as scenic and green as the Ozarks.  Magnificent riding.  All I know is the drive through Arkansas went way too fast!

Crossed the Red River and entered the piney woods of East Texas.  Spent the night a few miles outside of Alto with my good friends, Lynda and David.  I dislike the fact that they moved away from Austin, but am happy I get to visit their rustic hideaway in the trees.

Coming home the next morning, I reflected on my 2,200 miles on the road with Pearl.  I had to admit my touring life has slowed down a bit and, yes, there have been changes and adjustments.  In the end, though, the mileage and scenery are the same, no matter how fast or slow I travel.  Isn’t that what really matters?

So to get back to the original question. . . .  The answer, most definitely, is to tour!

Peace on the Road!
BT

A Ride Story at Last!

29 Jul

(To explain my lack of ride stories lately, this summer I’ve taken three 10-day cage (car) trips to Des Moines due to a family medical issue, and that’s left little time for riding.  Fortunately, the patient is doing well, and my last trip will be in August.  By the way, cages are for wimps.  It’s so easy to travel that way!)

Now for the story. . . .

This morning before daybreak, I pulled my trusted and dusty friend, Lizzie, out of the garage. . . at last.  With little wind and a clear sky, it turned out to be the perfect day for a Sunday drive.  

The Texas Hill Country is surprisingly green for late July, and it reminded me of springtime in the early-morning light.  Seemed like I was the first person to go down the road towards Sandy, and I had to slow several times to avoid open-range cattle, white-tailed deer, and even a few jack rabbits. 

It took several minutes to pull the camera out of the saddlebag and take the next two pictures, and not one other vehicle passed.  Nice! 

Just look at that dusty, neglected windshield.  Not acceptable!

Ended up at Willow City Loop, which meanders through a unique little ecosystem with lush vegetation, desert willows, and flowing streams.  I do believe this is the most scenic road in the Texas Hill Country.  Really, you have to see it to believe it.   Saw tons of sun flowers and other wild flowers, several roadrunners (one of my favorite birds), and hundreds of butterflies.

Didn’t take any extra time to get pictures at Willow City.  I wanted to be home by 11:00, before the heat and Austin traffic had a chance to spoil the mood.  In fact, the handlebar thermometer read 90 degrees by 10:00.  (It’s always so hot out on the asphalt!)

Heading home by way of Llano, as always, I loved cruising past Enchanted Rock and seeing the pink granite “mountains” in that area.  Man, it’s been way too long!  That new gas station on the corner of SH 16 and SH 71 sure saved me the headache of driving into town. 

Some rides are fun and all; but, like today, other rides — well, they filter down and settle in your heart.  Maybe it was the saturated morning colors, maybe it was reconnecting with Lizzie, or maybe it was the gentle reminder that my chosen home is here in Texas.  Maybe I simply needed a two-wheeled experience. . . at last.    

Peace on the Road!
BT

The Pies of Texas are Upon You!

24 Mar

Following their ongoing mission of “Pursuit of the Perfect Pie,” the Two-Wheeled Texans motorcycle group organizes once-a-month rides to various small towns for lunch and pie.  People ride in from all over; and last Saturday Desha and I met them at Royers Round Top Cafe in Round Top, Texas, for a little pursuit of our own.  As they say at Royers, “The Pies of Texas are upon You!!!”

The tiny town of Round Top  is best known for antiques, and I’d never heard of this quirky restaurant with a surprisingly varied menu, which even includes quail.   We arrived early at around 10:30, and by 11:00 bikes and cages were crammed in everywhere.  As far as I could tell, everyone was there for lunch at the Round Top Cafe!

I’d had a large breakfast, so skipped lunch and went directly to the pie.  It’s hard to say what I liked best:  the “Not My Mom’s” apple pie, the biker-friendly atmosphere, or meeting Bud, the pie man.  Take a look at Royers Round Top Cafe website and you’ll see what I mean.  In fact, I’ll buy you a pie if you don’t laugh out loud at least three times!

Here is Bud taking names.  Yes, he’s every bit as colorful as he looks! 

After lunch the Two-Wheeled Texans had drawings for a gift certificate and a pecan pie — and yours truly won the pie!  How cool is that?  Thank goodness Desha has plenty of under-seat storage on her Burgman! 

Before long everyone parted ways for the ride home.  Usually our route is beautiful this time of year, with splendid wildflowers lining the roads.  I’m sorry to say that because of the drought,  we saw only a few sparse spatterings of  buttercups and Indian paintbrushes and, sadly, even fewer bluebonnets.

Here is a link to a short video about the ride, where you’ll see the dry, brown roadside.   Normally those roads are green and full of life.

We had a lot of fun in Round Top and will most likely join the Two-Wheeled Texans again in their pursuit of the perfect pie.  In all honesty, I’ll never concede that anyone’s pie could taste better than what my grandmother used to make, but will say that Royers’ “Not My Mom’s” apple and pecan pies come darned close!

Peace on the Road!
BT

Texas Independence Day Ride

2 Mar

Is there a better way to honor Texas Independence Day than to get out and ride under a clear, blue Texas sky?

Today’s episode starts way back in 1835 when dissatisfied settlers of Mexican Texas started the Texas Revolution.  On March 2nd, 1836, with the Alamo under siege by Santa Anna’s army, Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico.  Only a month and a half later, on April 21, 1836, Sam Houston defeated Mexican troops at the Battle of San Jacinto  in the Texas Revolution’s decisive battle.   The Republic of Texas  remained an independent nation until 1845, when it joined the Union.  Nowadays Texas Independence Day is an official state holiday and is celebrated every March 2nd with parades and festivals.

I’ve lived in Texas for 33 years and am still in awe of  Texas culture, especially in small towns.   Most of that culture is great and some is not so great, but one thing is for sure:  there ain’t nuthin’ like it anywhere else on earth!  On this warm, springlike day, it was only proper that I get out to explore and appreciate some of that culture.

My first stop was the small town of Blanco.  No matter what direction you come from, you can’t help but notice the old Blanco County Courthouse filling the main square.  It was built in 1885, but in 1890 the county seat moved to Johnson City when the county lines were redrawn.  Since then the beautiful stone building has been a school, hospital, bank, museum, restaurant, and now an information center.   It’s an interesting stop, where you’ll see many Hill Country artifacts on display, old pictures and clean bathroooms (!!!).

Headed over to the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe for a heavy dose of small-town experience and an early lunch.  

When was the last time you had roast beef that melts in your mouth, perfectly steamed cabbage, mash potatoes and gravy, and a small salad for $4.62?  (Not so enthused about that included desert.)  This was the small portion.  You should’ve seen the large!

The Bowling Club is known for its pies, and here is the chocolate meringue.  Unfortunately, meringue bothers my stomach so I was forced to admire from afar.

While I’ve stopped here several times before, I’ve never taken the time to learn about the Bowling Club’s history.  As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be anything in print about the history, not even on the back of the menus or anywhere on the internet.  Lucky for me, the manager introduced me to an oldtimer having lunch in the back, who knew all about it.  Before long, two other patrons got in on the story.

Ninepin bowling clubs are an old German tradition, and several small towns in Central Texas still have them.  This particular club was built in 1947 by a private investor, and shortly thereafter he sold shares or memberships.  In fact, the original document with the bylaws is still tacked to the wall for anyone to look at.  It’s yellow and brittle, but miraculously intact.  Today the club has over 300 owners/members, and they vote like stockholders.  They still have ninepin bowling leagues that play Monday through Thursday.  The pins are set up by hand.

Here is one of the score tables.  The sign shows how the bowling pins are set up.

Bar, complete with bowling shoes.

It was a lot of fun visiting here, and I highly recommend stopping if you ever get the chance.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking to everyone, and they seemed proud to tell me about the club.  Here is the best part, though.  Not one person asked me for a link to my website, which has never happened before.  I love the fact that they don’t seem the least bit impressed with us city folks!

Next stop was the Leatherlyke motorcycle luggage factory in Bulverde for a few minor repairs to Lizzie’s rear trunk.   Although I wasn’t expecting it, they replaced and installed the latch and lid gasket  for free.  How nice is that?   Didn’t take a picture because the building is boring and nondescript with no signs, only an address.  The inside lobby is the same, and you’re not allowed to see where the luggage is put together.  

What used to be the tiny town of Bulverde pretty much seems to be a suburb of San Antonio.  If there was any old-time culture going on, I missed it!

Took several roads less traveled to get home.  Rebud trees are popping out and everything is starting to turn green.   It’s scary to think what will happen if we don’t get some rain soon. . . .

Now for a quick EFM auto clutch update, sort of.  It still looks like the auto clutch is doing exactly what I need it to do.  I’m having to learn a few new techniques and change some ingrained habits, which is turning out to be harder than expected.  However, I rode well over 200 miles today and my left arm and hand felt zero strain, which is amazing.  I’ll continue to reserve final judgment on the EFM auto clutch until I have more time in the saddle!

Today was a lot of fun, and I hope I did my adopted home state proud by celebrating this Texas Independence Day on two wheels.  

Peace on the Road!
BT

P.S.  Did you know that the name Tejas, which later became Texas, comes from the Caddo Native American word “teysha,” which means “hello friend”?

New Year’s Solution

1 Jan

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to think about my two-wheeled future. 

Those of you who have been following Biketrash Holiday for a while may have noticed a sharp decrease in motorcycle miles in 2010.  It’s only right that I confess to y’all and to myself that I’ve been in denial about a serious issue and am forced to face a difficult fact.   The tendons in my left hand and wrist, which operate the clutch, have become increasingly weak, and it’s impossible to ride the motorcycle any distance without pain. 

It seems to have started back in the eighties when, working as a court reporter, I was in court all day every day and that left arm and hand would go numb for weeks at a time.  In the nineties, working as a ride marshal and motorcycle official for the US Cycling Federation, I frequently had to crawl along behind the peloton, constantly changing gears and feathering the clutch, leaving my hand tired and weak.  Then in this century, add trigger digit in the  left thumb and index finger, and my poor ole hand has worn itself out and doesn’t want to play anymore.  (Thus ends complaints.)

That being said, I am not yet ready to give up my long two-wheeled rides.  No way, man!  There are apparently two options to keep riding:   installing an EFM auto clutch on Lizzie or getting a maxi scooter.  The auto clutch is an expensive risk, but the perfect choice if it works like it’s supposed to.  In some ways a maxi scooter would be easier, but I’d still have to use my left hand for the rear brake, which is less than a perfect choice.  

So here is the New Year’s Solution:  I WILL make a decision NEXT WEEK about which option to choose:  EFM auto clutch or maxi scooter.  Whichever option is chosen, I WILL keep riding and WILL have some amazing BTH experiences in 2011!

Lest we forget the “Why?” in all this, here is a photo taken on the AMA Conference ride, showing the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.  This, my friends, is why.

   

A few “housekeeping” matters. . . .

You may or may not have noticed a fairly new link on the right sidebar, FleeterLogs Travel Journal, where you’ll find many interesting and entertaining motorcycle travel stories with plenty of pictures.  Check it out.

And about that Three Twisted Sisters video you were promised a few months ago. . . .  There is more than enough great material for half a video, but the most important half — the actual riding on the sisters — did not turn out so well.  With the sun being at such a low angle in November, the tall limestone cliffs shaded the roads to the point that they’re not bright and inviting like they they are when the sun is high in the sky.   You know Auntie Biketrash insists on portraying our Hill Country at its best, so will finish the video next spring.

Okay.  So let’s get on with 2011!

Best wishes for a healthy and safe New Year; and, as always, Peace on the Road!
BT

Twisted Sisters Wrap-Around

15 Nov

Hello from Austin, Texas!

Picking up where we left off on Saturday. . . .

So glad we stayed the extra day on Saturday.  The sky was blue and bright, with plenty of light to take videos with the helmet cam.   Hopefully there will be enough to put together a Twisted Sisters video.  If not, guess we’ll just have to go back and get some more!

Did an out-and-back on two of the sisters, 335 and 337, all the way to Medina.  For the first time ever, it felt like I was one with Lizzie on the twists and turns, and I was able to effortlessly zip through from beginning to end.  Used to ride the Intruder like that and have missed it something fierce.  I was able to recapture the euphoria, altered state — whatever you want to call it — because last week, for the first time in 3.5 years, my left shoulder released and miraculously rotated into its proper place.  No more straining and holding back!   That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

 

One thing you do not ever want to do is ride a motorcycle in the Texas Hill Country at dusk, especially during the peak (right now!) of white-tailed deer rut.  It’s dangerous because they seem to be everywhere and constantly pop out onto the road.  This has to be the favorite time of year for vultures and auto body shops.

That being said. . . we didn’t do the best job of keeping track of time, ended up returning at dusk and crawling along the last 20 miles or so.  Bet we had to completely stop five times out on the highway to avoid a potential collision.  Of course, as the light waned, the slower we went, the more deer on the road.  Never want to do that again!  But, in spite of frazzled nerves, we made it back safe and sound, and that’s what counts.

This picture was taken a short while before we got onto the Junction highway, and you can see the long, late-afternoon long shadows.  Oopsie!

So remember me talking about running into Kathy and Jim at the museum?  Well, their riding group had coincidentally moved to Junction and our same hotel.  It was good to be with friends after that nerve-wracking experience, and they patiently indulged us as we recounted our story several times!  We all rode back to Austin together on Sunday, which was fun.  Had a great time hanging out with them and hope to get to do it again soon.

Peace on the Road!

Linda

More Sisters!

12 Nov

Hello again from Junction, Texas!

We covered a lot of ground today,  so let me give just a few highlights.

After riding on a few roads I’d never been on, we eventually wound up at the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool.  For an unexpected surprise, our good friends, Kathy and Jim, coincidentally showed up a few minutes later.   Sure was fun seeing them there!

This amazing little museum is owned by a former American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association competitor, who has plenty of stories to keep everyone entertained.  He’s from Australia, and I enjoyed hearing his accent when he talked.  Here I am trying to look tough on the one bike we were allowed to get on.  Notice the pan of kitty litter underneath to catch the oil spills.

Had a genuine Aussie meat pie  at the Ace Cafe, which is located at the back of the museum.   Truthfully, it was way too salty and I didn’t care for it, but the home-made pineapple-coconut pie more than made up for it!   I’m told the burgers are fantastic and the fries are even better.

This picture shows the amber grass I was talking about yesterday.  It also shows how cloudy it was today, with the sun breaking through intermittently.

Finally got to ride my favorite sister, 335, late in the afternoon.  She isn’t as twisted as the other two, but her scenery is definitely the best.  The next two pictures show a few of the more, ahem, unusual sights.

Looks like the windy and cloudy  weather is passing tonight and we’ve decided to stay until Sunday.   Hope to be able to get some good video tomorrow.

Peace on the Road!

BT

Veterans Day Ride in the Hill Country

11 Nov

Hello from Junction, Texas!

Before we begin with today’s adventure, Auntie Biketrash wants to remind everyone that today is Veterans Day (written without an apostrophe), where we honor our nation’s military veterans.  European countries call it Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.  Major hostilities of World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with Germany signing the Armistice, and President Wilson declared November 11th a national holiday in 1919.

So. . . this morning Desha and I left Austin for three days of riding in the Texas Hill Country.  Specifically, our goal is to spend time enjoying the Twisted Sisters in the Medina-Leakey-Camp Wood area.  The twisted sisters are three farm-to-market highways that offer some of the best — maybe even THE best riding and scenery in the state.  Unfortunately, for various reasons we didn’t get started this morning until 10:30, so our stops were rushed and we didn’t have time to take photos and hang out at any one place for very long.

Keeping with the sisters theme, our route took us through Sisterdale, which is not too far from Austin.  Check out this Sisterdale link for the unusual history.  From there we took a slow route and were able to enjoy lovely brown, red, orange, and amber fall colors at every turn.  Had a completely different feel from a summer ride down the same road.

Right after passing through Sisterdale, a buck suddenly jumped out of the trees and ran across the road in front of us.  In spite of the butt-pucker moment, we had a good laugh because there was a thick mass of bright green foliage wrapped around his antlers that trailed behind as he ran.   So is that the dorky-deer equivalent of having toilet paper stuck to your shoe?

Stopped for lunch at The Apple Store, formerly called Cider Mill Cafe, in Medina for lunch and had a fantastic hamburger with our choice of three kinds of tasty home-made buns (sourdough, jalapeno, and sesame seed), fresh apple pie, and apple ice cream with hot apple-cider sauce.  MMMmmmm good!

Highway 337, the twistiest of the twisted sisters, begins (or ends) in Medina, and I felt myself grinning from ear to ear as she greeted us with limestone cliffs, a herd of buffalo, amber meadows, smooth pavement and a steady pace and rhythm of tight curves.

At Leakey we hopped onto 336.  She’s not quite as twisted as 337, but the scenery is magnificent and the fall colors seemed to be more vibrant in the late afternoon light.

Tomorrow will not be so rushed and I promise to take some pictures.

Peace on the Road!

BT

P.S. Auntie Biketrash says, Always thank a vet!

For a Few Scooters More Lockhart Ride Video

23 Oct

Howdy, pardners!  Join the scooter posse as it saddles up to make its way to the Barbecue Capital of Texas!  For the unique and rare opportunity to witness this fun-filled event, check out the Lockhart Ride video!

Background story at For a Few Scooters More.

For a Few Scooters More Lockhart Ride Video

(If your computer does not handle High Definition, click on the HD in the bottom right-hand corner of the movie screen to turn off the High Definition.  It also might be helpful to let the movie load for a few minutes before you begin playback.)

Peace on the Road!

BT

P.S.  Gymkhana video coming soon!

Ladies Escape 2010

12 Oct

Last weekend Desha, our friends, Holly and Wendy, and I rode to East Texas for the 18th annual Ladies Escape weekend.  I’ve attended LE off and on since 1996, but it was the first time for the others.  Originally, women came to LE from several locations, including New Mexico, but attendance has dwindled the last few years.  We’ll make an effort to revive it next year.

We took our time getting to Jasper, following the section of the scenic Texas Independence Trail where the Declaration of Independence for the Republic of Texas was written in 1836.  It’s been a while since I’ve gone down those roads, and I’d forgotten how rustic and beautiful they are.  We definitely need to get over there during bluebonnet season!  From there it was a short ride to the East Texas Piney Woods and Sam Houston National Forest.  

This picture shows how the sky looked the entire weekend!  This, my friends, is why I ride!  Yeah, baby!

The historic Belle-Jim Hotel in Jasper has been home to Ladies Escape since before my time.  It’s located on the town square and is a community gathering place with many regulars stopping in for breakfast and lunch.   David and Pat, owners, always make us feel like family with their warm hospitality and home-cooked meals.  The experience is small-town charm at its finest.  (No, the City of Jasper is not like it’s portrayed in the movie!)

Mrs. Mamie Patten, a widow, built the hotel in 1910 and named it after her daughters, Belle and Jim.  The story is that Jim received her name because the Pattens wanted another son.  In fact, Jim was an avid fisherman, golfer, and traveled the globe three times!  After Mrs. Patten died, Jim took over hotel operations until her death in 1974.

We found ourselves in good company Saturday morning when Mayor Mike Lout, Retired District Judge Joe Bob Golden, and several other regulars  stopped in for breakfast.  They talked to us like friends, and I discovered Judge Golden knew our beloved Judge Thurman.  There aren’t many old-school judges around anymore, so I sure enjoyed meeting him!  Later Pat told me I was sitting in the mayor’s chair, but he was a gentleman and didn’t say anything!

Here is Rosie parked in front of the Belle-Jim with the Jasper County Courthouse as a backdrop.

After breakfast we went on a lovely 200-mile loop through the Angelina National Forest, crossing into Louisiana.  There were some fall colors (still early this far south), and the air had that fresh, clean smell of fall.    Desha got to count her fifth scooter state, and this was the first motorcycle out-of-state experience for Wendy and Holly.   Here they are posing on the east side of the Sabine River.

By the time we got “home” to the Belle-Jim, the Houston group had arrived, and we were treated to one of Pat’s wonderful dinners.  The sneaks had put together a surprise birthday party behind my back and got me good, but the carrot cake made everything all right!   We had our traditional parlor pajama party, until it got late and every few minutes someone would leave to hit the sack.  Never did find out what time Desha and the Houston girls called it quits!

After saying our goodbyes Sunday morning, we headed west to the Yankee Tavern in Carlos for lunch.  The Yankee Tavern was voted to have the sixth best burgers in the state in a Ride Texas Reader’s Choice Poll.   It definitely is a great biker hangout with a friendly atmosphere and lots of interesting characters, but sixth best burger?   Don’t think so!    

Warning:  Don’t be frightened by the scary bad-ass bikers in the next pic!

We all made it back to Austin safe and sound and have already made plans to attend next year’s Ladies Escape!  Hmmmmmm. . . maybe we’ll have to swing through the Big Thicket National Preserve on our way there? 

Peace on the Road!

BT

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