Texas has always been high on my list to travel and explore by motorcycle, sparked primarily by the Hill Country rallies that have been held in the past by the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club, or VROC of which I am a long-time member. 
Located in central Texas, Hill Country is a top motorcycle destination of undulating roads, rugged hills and craggy limestone outcrops with lush green landscapes of Texas oak, cactus and scrub.  From the largest cities like the state capital of Austin and San Antonio where the famed Alamo awaits history enthusiasts, to the smallest towns of grit and stone, to be here is to experience the mythology of the Lone Star state of cowboys and cattle drives.

Given the time of year when late winter weather is always a possibility in southern Ontario, instead of riding from my home in Toronto I chose to catch a plane to Dallas where I would rent a bike and continue on to Fredericksburg where the rally is being held.

Monday, April 7

 Up early before sunrise, I arrive at the unusually quiet Toronto Pearson International Airport this morning . .

. . where I am met a few hours later at Dallas/Fort Worth airport by my good friend John . .

. .  who drives me to Sport Ryder Rentals to pick up my ride for the week.


Having toured the European Alps two years ago on a K1300 GT, I wanted to step up to Beemer's top-of-the-line touring motorcycle. 
Like its smaller sibling, the K1600 has a sports tourer feel to it.  As I do a practice scoot in the parking lot, the riding position is more cramped than I'm used to for my 6'2" frame, while maneuvering requires added input from the rider from a higher center of gravity when leaning into a  slow-speed turn compared to my Honda GL1800 Goldwing at home.
Nevertheless, I look forward to the next few days with this German two-wheeled powerhouse.  

I turn south and head for Fredericksburg.

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But not before a stop at Dealey Plaza.

Located on the west edge of downtown Dallas, it is named after George Bannerman Dealey (1859-1946), born in England before his family immigrated to Galveston, Texas, who rose to become early publisher of the Dallas Morning News, civic planner, and founder and lifetime president of the Dallas Historical Society.
Dealey Plaza marks the site of the 'the birthplace of Dallas where the first house was built, that also served as the first courthouse and post office, the first store and fraternal house.'

More famously, of course, Dealey Plaza is the site of President John Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963.

Across the street from the George Bannerman Dealy dedication is the memorial to President Kennedy while the famous Texas Book Store Depository that houses a museum detailing the events of that fateful day looms one block further. 

From the memorial can be seen the infamous grassy knoll from where many people theorize shots were also fired as the President's motorcade passed along Elm St.

 I make my way across the street to the spot where Abraham Zapruder recorded for history the events that changed the course of America.

As you tour the area, one is immediately struck by how small and confining it is.  From the Zapruder film, my impression of Elm Street was a grand boulevard when in actual fact it is a mere three-lanes wide roadway.  To be standing on the sidewalk as the motorcade passed before you are a  mere ten feet or so away when the shots were fired (with X's marked on the pavement noting where Kennedy was struck).

After and hour and a quick bite for lunch, it's 100 pm and time to saddle up and head south when priorities soon become apparent.

This store located in Alvarado, located next to a McDonald's of all places, is one of the largest booze outlets I've ever seen.  With countless local and regional spirits and beer, I only wish I could live long enough to sample them all!
With a six-pack and a bottle of rum, I'm off again.

On the way, I'm dodging ominous thunderclouds before I hit a vicious windstorm ten miles from my destination with crosswind gusts of 50 mph and a brief cloudburst of rain.  It's all I could do to duck low behind my windscreen and hang on til it let up.  The same system moved on to knock down trees and power lines in Austin, a hundred miles to the east. 

Arriving at 600p, my home for the next few days and the headquarters of the Texas Hill Country Rally is the splendid Sunday House Inn.

The Vulcan Riders and Owners Club was founded in 1996 by a few like-minded individuals who owned Kawasaki's line of Vulcan cruiser motorcycles, specifically the 1500 Classic.  Soon more Vulcan owners joined in and the VROC website was created allowing members to communicate via the webforum and newsgroup.  
Today, VROC has members from around the world with a core group that discuss not only tech issues but all manner of interests, who get together for rallies throughout put on by hard-working individuals that allow for new friendships and cameraderie.  
Many of us are known by our nicknames, either self-proclaimed by our interests or given by others denoting one's personality, odd quirks or happenstance.  All with affection and good fun, of course.
While some of us may move on to other motorcycles, VROC has become more and primarily about the people than just bikes.

As our own Agent 99 puts it, 

"The bottom line is that any group can be dedicated to tech, and there's lots of tech resources out there. Shoot, tech is a huge part of what makes VROC great. But what makes us more like family and different from all the other motorcycle related forums out there is having one main board where we can come and discuss anything we feel like. This is where bonds are made (and sometimes broken when called for), and this is our greatest strength as a group."

Evening settles in as more member arrive.
One of the first people I meet is Southern Draw.

CheapB as he rolls his bike off the truck.

Then it's off to Mamacita's for dinner across the street.  Ater 287 miles, it was time to settling in for the night.

Tuesday, April 8

This day I will cover 235 miles while seemingly ending up all over the map!

View My Saved Places in a larger map

 I'm off, too, southwest past Kerrville, then east to Comfort where I had intended to continue on to northbound 1376 for Luckenbach, but somewhere I got sidetracked and turned up US 87 and back through Fredericksburg.  

An interesting feature is the flood gauge where the road swoops down across a low-lying creek or stream. 

I continue past Fredericksburg looking for the Willow Loop road but somehow miss that, too, while I stop in at the Knot in the Loop saloon.  

A local watering hole in the middle of a large field where I chat with another visitor and his fetching wife.  Unfortunately, the place was closed today.

Continuing on I look for an eastward road that I can loop southward on, I pick up 312.

It' a great little road until I come to a dead end seven miles in.  The f**king GPS said it was a through road!!
So I end up doubling back . .

. . and get my first look at longhorn cattle.

I eventually end up near the town of Stonewall and the Lyndon Baines Johnson National Historic Park that tells the story of America's 36th president.  Within the park is the LBJ ranch where Johnson is laid to rest only a mile from his birthplace.

 The museum recounts not only the life of Johnson's ancestors who settled here by the Pedernales River, but other immigrants and the local native peoples.  Tours of the park and Ranch are also available.

 I then make my way past the small town of Stonewall, . .
. . named after Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who holds a particular interest for me and my studies of the Civil War.  The town grew from its beginnings as a stage station in 1870.

On to Luckenbach . .

. . made famous by Waylon Jennings' song of the same name.

A YouTube clip -

* *  Waylon Jennings' 'Luckenback, Texas'  * *


A popular tourist stop, laid back where you can sit a spell, have a cold one and enjoy some local music.

I meet up with some of my fellow VROCers . . 
 . . Lee, Badger and Susan, Stewey, biglefti, and Sherm.
You can't leave without having your picture taken under the post office sign!

Time to saddle up and head for home!


Southern Draw 
Bug in your eye, Stewey?

 Back at the ranch I find Bassman and Laura, as well as John, aka Coyote.
Coyote is one of three people who maintain the VROC webserver.

Then it's across the street for dinner at K-Bob's.

An evening stroll back to the hotel where we are met by latecomers K.T. and WrongTurn.

Wednesday, April 9

Today I will put 276 miles on the clock.

 Early morning as the bikes await their riders.

K.T. and WrongTurn
 GrampaD, our host and organizer of the Hill Country Rally.  Many thanx, John, for your efforts!

I met with this nice couple from Fergus, Ontario, only a couple of hours from my home.

Led my Coyote, we set off on the Three Sister ride, . . 

View My Saved Places in a larger map

. . the premier riding circuit in Hill Country, in a counter-clockwise loop on highways 337, 336 and 335.  The roads travel through canyons, over hills with twists, turns and sharp drop-offs.  It is a motorcyclist's dream ride.

We take a break at an overlook.
Lee, biglefti, Coyote, myself, GrampaD, Laura and Bassman

More great roads and scenery ahead.

Me and my Beemer!
biglefti, Coyote, Lee, Laura and Bassman, GrampaD
We stop for lunch in Camp Wood  . .

. . at Casa Sifuentes where I absentmindedly leave my vest behind.  I seem to leave something behind on every trip.

Say what??

Then it's a leisurely ride along the Guadalupe River on our way back to the hotel . . 

. . where Slammer waits with a supply of tequila.

Thursday, April 10

After three long days of riding, today I will take a break to play tourist and take in the historic downtown of Fredericksburg.

A quick breakfast at Hill Country Donuts & Kolaches (a fruit-filled, pastry-size piece of bread in the display case), owned by friendly Hanyou.

Founded in 1846, it is easy to see the the culture and influence of German immigration during the mid 19th century.

Under the auspices of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, the first immigrants, seeking to escape economical, social and political conditions, arrived in Texas in December 1844, settling on a piece of land on the banks of the Guadalupe River purchased by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, the first Commissioner-General of the colonizing project, thus founding the town of New Braunfels in March 1845.
Under the direction of the new Commissioner-General Baron Ottfried Hans von Meusebach, a second settlement on the banks of the Pedernales River was established which von Meusebach, (later changing his name to John O. Meusebach), founding Friedrichsburg, or Fredericksburg after Prince Frederick of Prussia in May 1946.
John Meusebach worked tirelessly on behalf of the new settlers and negotiated the first peace treaty with the Comanche Indian nation guaranteeing peace in the region.  He would later rise to the position of Texas senator.  

A stroll along Main Street through the center of the Historic district is a tourist's delight, lined with shops of every description from clothing to souvenirs, period costumes and western wear, food items, and western and German-style restaurants.

I run into solo and ElNomad.

One interesting store is Rustling Rob's Texas Gourment Foods . . 

. . featuring all manner of condiments, toppings and spices, including . . 
. . one room alone for every hot sauce imaginable!
Almost every product in the store is available for sampling.  What a great idea!

The Pioneer Memorial Library
The building formerly served as Gillespie County's first courthouse in the mid 1800s.

The Admiral Nimitz Museum/National Museum of the Pacific War.
Born in Fredericksburg in May 1885 of German immigrants, Chester Nimitz was a Fleet Admiral of the U.S. Navy and Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet during World War II.
Nimitz's grandfather owned a hotel in the building that now houses the Nimitz Museum.

In the Marktplatz, or Market Square, is a memorial to Fredericksburg's founder, John O. Meusenbach, and the Vereins Kirche, or Society Church.
The Veriens Kirche is a replica, built in 1935, of the original 1847 wooden structure that sat in the middle of Main Street and served as the community's first church before it was demolished in 1897.
The current building has been used as a library, home of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce, and presently a museum that documents the city's history and regional settlement.

For lunch I take in the Fredericksburg Brewery brewpub where I enjoy their 4 oz. samplers and a hearty burger and German potato salad before returning to the hotel.

Badger, Susan, ElNomad, Coyote, Lee, Solo, myself (after a dip in the pool), Wanda, Slammer, CheapB

I return with the gang to the Fredericksburg Brewery for dinner, including the mandatory group pic.

With my fellow beer-drinking aficionado Stewey

On our way back to the hotel, a few of us check out some local entertainment
with a brief video I shot of Badger and Susan sashaying on the dance floor as K.T. and WrongTurn look on -

* *  Badger and Susan  * *

Friday, April 11
It's time to say goodbye as the rally draws to a close.

Susan and Badger are ready to roll out . .

. . while Mal gets a hand loading his bike onto the trailer.

A pair of Italian bikes in the lot this morning, a Ducati and Moto Guzzi.

I take off for a last day's ride of 216 miles.

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 I head west from Kerrville on 39 along the meandering Guadalupe R.
Then south on 187.

Some of the locals.

Not sure what the boots on the fence are about.

 Scattered throughout the region are Texas bluebonnets that line the highways and decorate the countryside with blankets of blue and purple.  Prominent in the early Spring, they are not out in full this year, I am told because of the lack of rain.

Then eastward on 470

I'm sure I don't know what this is.  
I'm guessing the rancher is displaying the number of critters he's bagged on his property.

I make a stop at Wildseed Farms.
Not only is it the largest nursery I've ever visited, but also a tourist attraction for the attractive landscaping and variety of horticulture on display.

Back in town again, I return to K-Bob's for dinner and take in their excellent all-you-can-eat salad bar.

 Proof for my wife that I'm trying to eat healthy on the road.

Where did all these people come from?
I left a very empty and quiet parking lot this morning to suddenly find when I returned early this evening the place taken over by a Harley rally!

Saturday, April 12

Today is my turn to head for home as I leave early in the morning for the 273 mile ride to Dallas.

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Stopping for breakfast in Goldthwaithe at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant.

Arriving at noon, I was met at the rental shop where I returned the bike by Coyote.
With a few hours to kill before my flight home, he graciously offered to take me on a tour of the Dallas/Fort Worth area which I readily took him up on.

Some of the local sites included . . 

Texas Motor Speedway where NASCAR holds two races per season.

 The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, documenting the livestock history of Texas.
A tourist attraction for entertainment, shopping, dining, and Wild West culture I would love to have more time for.
The famous Chisholm trail passed through Fort Worth in the late 1800s as cattle were driven from Texas to the Kansas railheads for shipment to the East.

AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers.

Coyote and I cap off our day at Humperdinks.
Thank you, John, for your hospitality this week.  You are truly one of VROC's finest!

Back at DFW airport for the trip home.

A short video as my plane takes off - 

Back home at the arrivals section at Toronto Pearson.

*                    *                     *                   *

Like all VROC gatherings where new friends are made and old ones renewed, this trip was a blast.  Great roads, scenic landscapes and local history, all the ingredients that I enjoy.
And always, good times with good friends!

If you plan to motorcycle here, an excellent on-line resource is Hill Country Cruising that details towns and cities, local attractions and rides.

After a few days on the K1600GT, I found it an awesome bike.  Like all BMWs, it is geared to performance and will smoke anything in its class.  In the hands of an experienced rider, I'll bet it could keep up with the crotch rockets, too!
But for comfort, I don't find it up to the Goldwing's standards.  The ride is closer to that of a sports tourer with higher-placed footpegs than I would like.  On my Wing, I can look over the windshield with little wind buffeting, unlike the K on which I found myself looking through the electric screen (are you listening, Honda?) fully raised to block the wind. Yet I still had a lot of buffeting and noise making the radio almost inaudible.  Resting my right arm by my side when engaging the cruise control directed even more wind at my face.  
The Beemer's brakes are outstanding though one can easily lock up the rear wheel in an emergency stop  if you're not careful which I found out avoiding a deer that darted out in front of me, while the trunk is a little less wide than the Wing which makes for a tighter squeeze for my travel bag.

But overall, I'm glad to have had the chance to ride it.
It was fun!