"Three Amigos Tour"

3 Guys, 3 Motorcycles,
7 Days in the
Texas Hill Country

by Robert E. Hilliard

Wherever there is injustice, You will find us!
Wherever there is suffering, We'll be there!
Wherever liberty is threatened, You will find...The Three Amigos!

Well, that may be the battle cry from the movie "The Three Amigos", but the following might serve as a better motto for Dale, Gary and myself and our "Three Amigos Tour":

Wherever there is pie, you will find us!
Wherever there are twisty roads, we'll be there!
Wherever peace and quiet is threatened,
you will find us asleep in our tents on...The Three Amigos Tour!

There is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than camping out with friends and riding key roads in the Hill Country on motorcycles. I had always heard of the Texas Hill Country, but never really knew what beauty and splendor it contained. If you ride a motorcycle and enjoy riding twisty, curvey roads, start packing and head for the South central part of Texas. You won't come back the same person.

The following is my feeble attempt at writing a trip report about a 7-day bike camping excursion that three of us took during the month of October, 2001. It's called, "The Three Amigos Tour".

My involvement begins with an invitation from Dale McCorkle, a friend and fellow motorcycle rider to attend a bike camping trip. This was May, 2001 and plans were for us to make the trip in October right after the SMOT Fall Fling being held in Buda, Texas. SMOT stands for Sabre Magna of Oklahoma and Texas, it's a motorcycle club I'm a member of where riders primarily own and ride Honda V-4 motorcycles. Over the years, I've met many good riders and friends through this club. Twice a year, we have get-together's or "flings", where we talk about, ride and work on our V-4 motorcycles. And it's through this club that I met Dale. Dale loves to ride and bike camp. He has been on several trips bike camping and riding in Colorado and other states. So, Dale took the lead and organized the Texas Hill Country trip.

Two other fellow SMOT members were slated to make the trip. Gary Brooks, a friend, experienced rider and SMOT member, and Chris Happ, a friend, fellow rider, SMOT member and host of the SMOT Fall Fling. Chris ended up staying for a day and a half before having to leave us to get back to work. So, for the first day and a half, the trip was actually the "Four Amigos".

Since this was my first bike camping trip, the creation of a bike camping list was in order and some money had to be spent on camping gear as well as other riding items. I acquired a good bike camping list from the Magna Riders Association web site (another motorcycle club I'm a member of, MRA #891) and modified it to fit my needs. I already had a T-bag for carrying my clothes so, a good sleeping bag had to be purchased along with a sleeping pad, bivy tent and other items. Also, with the help of Dale, I decided that $600.00 dollars would be taken to take care of meals, gas and overnight camping fees. All I need to do is buy some chaps to finish out-fitting my riding gear and I'm set. Now, it's just a matter of waiting until October gets here.

Day One: Sunday, October 21, 2001.
Dale, Gary, Chris and myself set out for the Texas Hill Country from Chris' house in Buda. The previous three days had been spent enjoying the company of fellow SMOT members. The Fall Fling went very well and was well attended, but now it was time for the four of us to head out to the hills and start our week-long trek of riding the twisty, curvey roads of the Hill Country. Our goal for the day was to ride Ranch Road 337 from Medina to Leaky (pronounced Lakee, the "e" is silent), and then setup base camp at Garner State Park, 10 miles South of Leaky. Ranch Road 337 turned out to be "Heaven" for a motorcycle rider and after riding it, we stopped in Leaky to talk about it.

We arrived at Garner State Park about 5:00pm that evening and set up camp. Garner is an excellent state park. We camped under tall pecan trees with the Frio River rushing by about 100 yards away. Each night we were there, deer would come out and graze across the street from us. One night we counted 16 deer not more than 30 yards from us. Restroom and shower facilities were very good. We had few neighbors due to the fact that it was the beginning of the week. When night would fall, we would build a fire and talk around the campfire. Yep...tomorrow we hit some more of the fine roads of the Hill Country. Can't wait!

Day Two: Monday, October 22, 2001.
The next morning the sun comes up shining brighter than ever and the temperature is 70 degrees. We left camp about 9:00am and rode into Leaky for breakfast at the Frio Cafe. On our way out of the park, we stopped at a scenic spot and took these pictures.

Dale McCorkle and "Bronson"

Gary Brooks and "Kawabunga"

Chris Happ and his V65

Me and my '98 Magna, "Paladin"

After eating breakfast, we gassed up and took off for the hills. We decided that we would ride highway 335 and 336 and anything we could find in between. We left Leaky and rode out highway 336 heading North. We weren't disappointed. Twisties galore and enough beautiful scenery to make Colorado jealous. Highway 336 was especially significant to Gary. It was on highway 336 several years earlier that Gary suffered an accident on his Honda Magna that landed him in the hospital for several months with a spinal cord injury. To this day, Gary is partially impaired due to that accident. Gary mustered the courage to not only get back on a motorcycle, but also make this trip knowing he would travel down highway 336 again. Coming back to the scene of the accident was sort of a "mental cleansing" for Gary. After we rode 336, Gary became more confident in his riding as if he had "slayed the dragon". I admire Gary greatly for what he has been through. I'm not so sure if that had been me, I would get back on a bike and ride back to the scene of the crime. I feel privileged to have been there with Gary at that very moment when his confidence soared and his faith in himself increased dramatically.

We continued West on 41 and then went South on Highway 335. 335 took us into Camp Wood where we stopped for gas and something to drink. Then we traveled down highway 55 into Uvalde, highway 90 to Sabinal, highway 187 North, then highway 470 into Bandera. In Bandera, we stopped at a Chevron station to gas up and get something to drink. It was getting late and Chris decided to head back to Buda from Bandera while we headed back to Garner State Park. It was at that Chevron Station in Bandera that I pulled a "Hilliard". Let me define what a "Hilliard" is. It's a technique by which a SMOT member drops his or her bike while coming to a stop sign on dry pavement. (Proper Usage: "I pulled a *Hilliard* at that stop sign in front of three cars and that guy with his lights flashing.") I got that dubious honor in April of 2001 while traveling to the SMOT Spring Fling. I stopped at a stop sign in Huntsville, Texas, lost my balance and had to drop my bike. Now I'm guilty of the same thing only in Bandera, Texas. I've got to layoff that front brake while turning. Someday, I'll learn. I picked Paladin up off the pavement with Dale's help, dusted myself off (Paladin came out of it with just a scratch or two thanks to his engine guard), and all three of us arrived back at camp at dusk. On the way back, we stopped on highway 1050 at the Frio River and I took these late evening shots.

Day Three: Tuesday, October 23, 2001.
After getting a good night's sleep (I wore ear plugs...Dale and Gary snore), the three of us got up and rode into Leaky for another excellent breakfast at the Frio Cafe. I can't tell you how great it feels to get up each morning and not think about work. The fun part of this trip is planning what roads you're going to ride on and just ride...all day long! Today our plan is to ride down to Camp Wood again, take highway 337 back through Leaky, continue on highway 337 toward Medina and travel North up highway 187 and highway 39 to Hunt, Texas. Hunt is a city of paradise! Nestled along the Guadalupe River, it is a beautiful city and was a pleasure to ride through. On our way out of town on highway 1430, we ran across a replica of Stonehenge. It seems a gentleman from Dallas bought some land in Hunt and decided to build a replica of Stonehenge to 1/3 scale. The hills of Hunt were absolutely stunning and were a fitting backdrop to Little Stonehenge. After leaving Hunt, we traveled down highway 41 to highway 83 and made it back to Garner by dark.

Dale and friend.

Day Four: Wednesday, October 24, 2001.
We got up and broke camp. We decided that today we would travel up to Llano and make camp at a small state park called Colorado Bend State Park near Bend, Texas. This would allow us to ride roads in the Northern part of the Texas Hill Country. After packing up and loading our bikes, we traveled to Leaky for our last breakfast at the Frio Cafe. After breakfast, we gassed up at the local Exxon station and headed out toward Medina on highway 337. Once you ride 337, you are hooked! Out of all the roads we traveled, ranch road 337 is, by far, the best road in Texas. We had to travel down it just one more time. Several times we stopped to take pictures.

We rode through Ingram, Kerrville and Fredricksburg. That evening we arrived in Llano and ate pizza. After eating we traveled to Bend, Texas to try and find our next camp site. We couldn't find the entrance to Colorado Bend State Park and since it was getting dark, we decided to stay at a private camp ground located on the Colorado River. A cold front came through that night. And although the weather stayed clear, the temperature dropped dramatically. Oh well, it doesn't matter where you pitch a tent, sleep is sleep. So amid the picnic tables and cow paddies, we spent the night.

Day Five: Thursday, October 25, 2001.
When we woke up the next morning, the temperature was close to 38 degrees. Other than two guys camping near the river, we were the only other campers in the grounds. We decided to break camp and find a decent camp ground to stay in that night. We packed up and traveled to Lometa, Texas. I ran out of gas in my main tank right when we pulled into town. Hopefully there would be a gas station so I wouldn't have to travel to another town on reserve. As luck would have it, there was a Texaco station right in the middle of town. After gassing up, we went to the local cafe for breakfast. Once we got breakfast out of the way, we had to take care of some personal priorities....laundry. We stopped at a local laundramat and washed our clothes. I called my wife, Kathy by cell phone and asked her to guess what I was doing? When she heard that I was doing laundry, she spent 3 days in the ER in shock. Just kidding. She did ask if I had a fever. Once our laundry was done, we left town on highway 183, then hit highway 281 and traveled South to Johnson City. Our plan was to make camp at Pedernales State Park, then eat dinner in Johnson City and maybe get a quick ride on a local road before dark. Funny how things never go as planned. We arrived at Pedernales and made camp at about 3:00pm, we went into Johnson City to eat, but by the time we were through eating, it was close to dark. So, we stopped at the front gate of Pedernales and bought some firewood, then it was back to camp for a big camp fire before retiring to our tents for a good night's sleep.

Day Six: Friday, October 26, 2001.
We got up at the crack of dawn and watched the deer feed around us. Seems they were used to humans. Counted about 7 of them, working their way down to the river to feed, then back up again. We packed up and traveled to Johnson City for breakfast. We decided that since this was our last REAL day to ride the roads of the Hill Country we would try and ride FM 1431 from Marble Falls to Cedar Park. While going through Marble Falls, we stopped at the Bluebonnet Cafe for some pie. Not just any pie, but Bluebonnet Cafe PIE! May I suggest the coconut cream. FM 1431 was the third road that we had ridden on our trip that's listed as one of Texas' Top Ten Roads as compiled by the Honda Sport Riders Association. The other two roads, Hwy 337, between Medina and Camp Wood and Hwy 16 between Llano and Bandera, we had already ridden...and thoroughly enjoyed! FM 1431 turned out to be a thrilling road. There was some construction being performed when we went through, but other than that, 1431 was a delight to ride. Very hilly and featured some good sweepers. Our plan for the evening was to stay with Chris Happ in Buda before we head back home tomorrow. So, after riding to Cedar Park, we slowly made our way to Buda by way of Hwy 183. Right before we got into Austin, we turned Southwest and traveled through such towns as Dripping Springs and Wimberly. Wimberly was a beautiful town. A must ride for anyone going through that area. We arrived at Chris' house about 4:00pm. Chris and Christine were gracious enough to have us in their home once again. We ate, then went to a local high school football game where Chris's daughter plays in the band. After the game, it was time for some sleep. Tomorrow's going to be a long day.

Day Seven: Saturday, October 27, 2001.
Got up that morning and realized the fun was about to be over. Today was the day to head home and although I sorely missed my wife Kathy, and son Wes, something inside me didn't want to leave the Hill Country. We left Chris' house about 9:30am and worked our way out to Hwy 281. Stopped and ate breakfast in Johnson City. Then it was flat out on Hwy 281, through Marble Falls...Burnet...Lampasas...Evant...then we stopped in Hamilton to gas up and change course to the East. Next stop was Hillsboro. But before we got to Hillsboro, we took a little out-of-the-way road called FM 219 between Cranfills Gap and Whitney off of Hwy 22. If you're ever in that area, ride that road. It's got some of the best sweepers I've ever ridden on. We stopped in Hillsboro at the McDonald's to get something to eat and drink. It was then we decided it might be best with the daylight we had left to split up. Dale went home by way of I-35W. Gary headed home on I-35E. I continued to the East on Highway 22. The remainder of my trip took me through Corsicana, Athens, then on to Tyler and North to Lindale. I arrived in my garage at 6:30pm. The following picture was taken just before we left outside the McDonald's in Hillsboro.

"The Three Amigos"

In summary, I can't begin to thank all of those involved in the "Three Amigos Tour". I had never been on a bike camping trip before and for me, it was a quest. A challenge to see if I could do it. Not only did I do it, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

My thanks to Chris and Christine Happ for housing and feeding us for several days. You guys are wonderful. Gary, I thank you for being there during the trip and I feel privileged to be a part of your bike riding evolution. Dale, you're a good friend and excellent point man. Thanks for inviting me and guiding me through this grand adventure. To the members of SMOT, I say...ride safe and thanks for the good times.

Miles traveled: 2,107
Total cost of trip: $250.00
Getting to ride 3 of the Top Ten Texas Roads: PRICELESS.

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