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The Great Escape: Motorcycling in the Hill Country

Written by Dale Weisman.
One of three ranch roads in the Hill Country known as “the Three Sisters,” RR 337 rambles 58 miles between Camp Wood and Medina. It’s a favorite among motorcyclists for its exhilarating swoops and turns and spectacular scenery.

I’m having my favorite flying dream again, zooming low and fast over green, rolling hills. I lean into the gentle turns and accelerate to the next sweeping bend. Only it’s no dream.

I’m flying on my silver BMW motorcycle along a Hill Country ranch road. No traffic or urban sprawl to avoid, no obligations or deadlines. There’s only the enveloping wind, open highway, and scenery rushing by.

Cycletherapy at its best.

Earlier that morning, with a full tank of gas, helmet on, and jacket zipped, I had left my home in Austin, thrilled to be on the road again. My destination: Leakey, some 170 miles away along circuitous backroads.

A tiny, unassuming town by the banks of the Frio River, Leakey thrives on tourism, especially during the summer, when vacationing chill-seekers throng the cypress-lined river. Leakey and the Frio Canyon area also attract another breed of tourist, clad in leather instead of bathing suits. Motorcyclists have discovered that this western edge of the Hill Country has what they love most: winding roads, hills to climb, canyons to run, gorgeous scenery, and biker-friendly hospitality.

“Leakey is the motorcycling mecca of Texas,” says Deb Rose, owner and proprietor of the town’s D’Rose Inn, the state’s first lodge catering to motorcyclists and bicyclists only.

“People are discovering that we have wonderful riding out here,” adds Robin Albright. She and her husband, Bob, own the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop, a popular hangout and rest stop for motorcycle riders.

The D’Rose Inn and the Motorcycle Stop, along with the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum near Vanderpool, help make the Leakey area a prime motorcycling destination. The acclaim is spreading among riders around Texas and the nation, thanks in part to Internet chatter and popular motorcycling magazines like Ride Texas, whose annual “Best in Texas” Reader’s Choice Awards have put Leakey on the avid cyclist’s map.

Indeed, Ride Texas readers voted Leakey the Friendliest Town and Favorite Small Town for 2007. And the #1 Scenic Road in Texas? RR 337, a 58-mile rollercoaster that runs from Medina through Leakey to Camp Wood, snaking across Bandera and Real counties and three canyons carved by the Sabinal, Frio, and Nueces rivers.

RR 337 is one of a trio of hillaceous highways that Bob and Robin call “the Three Twisted Sisters.” The other two roads, RR 336 north of Leakey and RR 335 north of Camp Wood, rival RR 337 with steep climbs, tight curves, sublime vistas, and wild, lonesome character. While the Three Sisters get the glory, so many other Hill Country roads beg to be ridden, from RM 473 to the Devil’s Backbone (RM 32).

For more information about Leakey, Camp Wood, Utopia, and Luckenbach, see the following Web sites: www.friocanyonchamber.comwww.leakey-tx.comwww.utopiatexas.com, and www.luckenbachtexas.com.

Contact information for specific sites follows. Call ahead for hours; some sites open only a few days a week, and hours vary. The area code for the sites listed is 830.

Stay, See, Dine

D’Rose Inn and Cabins, at 527 S. US 83 in Leakey. Motorcycle- and bicycle-only lodging. Call 232-5246; www.droseinn.com.

Frio Canyon Lodge and Frio Canyon Lodge Restaurant are in downtown Leakey. Motorcycle-friendly lodging. Try the restaurant’s fried pickles and jalapeño poppers. Call 232-6800 (lodge) or 232-6810 (restaurant); www.friocanyonlodge.com.

Koyote Ranch and Koyote Mercantile (grill items, plus all-you-can-eat catfish on Fri. night) are on Texas 16 between Bandera and Kerrville. Motorcycle-friendly lodging and camping. Call 589-HOWL or 800/225-0991; www.koyoteranch.com.

Love Creek Orchards’ Cider Mill and Country Store, on Texas 16 in Medina. Call 589-2588 or 800/449-0882; www.lovecreekorchards.com.

Tarpley Hotel Guest House (daily/weekly rentals) and the Steel Horse Café (don’t miss the decadent Tarpley Mud Pie) are in Tarpley, 12 miles west of Bandera on FM 470. Call 562-3325.

Lone Star Motorcycle Museum and Ace Cafe, on RM 187, 4 miles north of Vanderpool. Admission fee. Call 966-6103; www.lonestarmotorcyclemuseum.com.

Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop and Bent Rim Grill, on RR 337, 1/4 mile west of US 83, in Leakey. Call 232-6629; www.friocanyonmotorcyclestop.biz.

Other Dining Options

Blanco Bowling Club and Cafe, at 310 4th St., in Blanco. Call 833-4416.

BJ’s Cafe and Sweet Shop, on Texas 55 in Camp Wood. Call 597-6402.

Vinny’s Italian Restaurant, on US 83, 2 blocks north of the courthouse in Leakey. Call 232-4420; www.vinnysitalian.com.

Hometown Market, on US 83 across from the courthouse in Leakey. Breakfast tacos, burgers, and more. Call 232-5414.

Mama Chole’s Mexican Restaurant, on US 83 in Leakey. Call 232-6111.

The City Coffee Shop, at 438 S. US 83, in Leakey, inside The Bird House (everything for birders, from feeders to guidebooks). Cappuccino and other drinks; breakfast on Sun. morning. Call 232-4242; www.friocanyonbirdhouse.com.

Lost Maples Cafe, on Main St. in Utopia. Call 966-2221.

 

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