“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.
Motorcycles & Gear
2018 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye
2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
Helmets: Klim Carbon Krios
Jacket/Pants: Klim Badlands Pro, Klim Artemis Women’s
Boots: BMW Rallye Pro GS, Forma Adventure
Gloves: Klim Mojave
Luggage: Wolfman Rocky Mountain Saddle Bags with Pike’s Peak Rapid Release System, Wolfman Overland Duffel
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.
Recommended Lodging: Fredericksburg Inn & Suites
Fredericksburg Inn & Suites was a perfect launching pad for our Shamrock Tour. Stationed just one block from Main Street, we easily walked from our hotel to dinner each evening.
The property underwent a $ 4 million remodel in 2016 but the place has the intriguing air of an older establishment. Some of the credit could be given to the old German cottage; built here in the mid-19th century and incorporated into the south end, it’s now used as a dining room for the full breakfasts included with each night’s stay. Fresh breakfast tacos were the perfect accompaniment to scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, fruit, muffins, and Texas-shaped waffles.
This 5-acre spread sits beside Barons Creek and incorporates a rustic, dry-stacked stone waterfall, heated pool, and picturesque outdoor hot tub. Rooms are easily accessible to motorcycle parking, and the covered walkways and outdoor gathering areas were a pleasant hangout in the incessant rain during our stay. Find it at 201 S Washington St, Fredericksburg, TX, 830-997-0202.
Our route so far has taken us north of Fredericksburg along Lower Crabapple Creek Road, a surreal paved ranch road past old farm communities and raging drainages full to bursting with runoff. We stop to explore Crabapple School, taking a few photos of the old buildings. A turn to RR 965 allows us to skirt the dome of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, rolling past exotic animal farms where giant Nilgai antelope, aoudad (or Barbary) rams, and gemsbok, with their frighteningly long, spearlike horns, create an African ambience. Normally dry washes and narrow streambeds are out of their banks. After a short run up State Highway 16 we begin picking our way down skinny paved and two-track dirt roads lined with fields unseasonably green for October. A welcome lull in the storms has allowed us to attempt the off-pavement segment of the tour.