Fredericksburg, Texas Shamrock Tour®: The Hill Country Flood!

Text: Bill Dragoo • Photography: Susan Dragoo

“Idon’t think we should try it,” my wife suggests as she cautiously wades through the rapids. We are communicating through our Sena 30K headsets over the incessant rush of a river overflowing its banks. I am sitting astraddle my 2018 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye. Susan is scoping out the James River a few miles northwest of Fredericksburg, testing the waters, so to speak, before we attempt a crossing. Tropical Storm Rosa is moving into Texas, dumping nearly a foot of rainfall and overflowing the Llano and Colorado rivers along with virtually every other drainage system in its path.

Our friends Tobin and Jenny Vigil also patiently await the final verdict, from the saddle of their 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure. Flash flooding has shut down many of the roads across south central Texas, and where the James River is normally only a trickle here on this remote stretch of unpaved ranch road, we are facing a roiling quarter-mile-wide torrent. Susan cautiously scopes out the high spots, feeling for purchase on the slippery surface lurking beneath the muddy brine. 

Texas’ backroads are typically well maintained, with finely graded dirt and narrow strips of twisty asphalt connecting historic villages, ranches, and homesteads dating back to a time when Texas was its own country. Because of this autumn storm system, however, the challenge and scope of our tour has changed considerably. But with adventure as our first language, we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Das Andere Deutschland (The Other Germany)

The Lone Star State is famous for its size. The second-largest state, after Alaska, it boasts of the biggest steaks, the longest-horned cattle, and some of the highest two-lane speed limits in the country. It is also well known for great barbecue, 10-gallon hats, tall tales of Comanche Indian raids, and the Alamo. But many are surprised to learn of the state’s German heritage. Texas covers more than 268,000 square miles—about twice the land area of Germany—and a formidable contingent of the German Empire has remained here since their early migrations in the 1830s. Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, and Luckenbach have a rich German culture that remains an attractive element for discerning tourists. 

The first day of our Shamrock Tour® begins with breakfast at Fredericksburg’s Airport Diner, next to the plush, ’40s-era Hangar Hotel. The restaurant harks back to early 20th-century railcar diners and displays an incredible art deco motif of terrazzo floors, a birch and mahogany ceiling, polished chrome and stainless steel trim, and checkered tile. Our feast starts with our eyes and ends with delicious plates of pancakes, eggs, and copious cups of good coffee. The hotel is a treat to explore, with plush rooms and creative lighting at every turn. USO-style dances are held here and patrons can relax and enjoy live piano at the Officer’s Club or step onto the balcony and watch vintage or modern aircraft do touch-and-goes. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2019 back issue.