Ready for the Republic of Texas biker rally? We’ve got the best motorcycle routes in Central Texas

Last year, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, right, greeted bikers at the Republic of Texas Biker Rally parade in downtown Austin Friday June 10, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Republic of Texas Biker Rally is this weekend at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin. If you want to take a ride near the city, here are some of the best routes you can take:

The Three Sisters (aka The Twisted Sisters): 131 miles

This 131-mile ride has some of the best scenery you can get. Riding alongside rivers and past Texas ranches, this route is one of the best the Austin-area has to offer. The ride is known for its scenery and road quality and not so much its amenities, but a few can be found along the way.

Devil’s backbone/Old Spicewood: 33 miles

On this 33-mile stretch of scenic road, you’ll get a great view of Balcones Fault. You won’t be going too fast, but the road quality is good and so are the amenities.

Gruene-Fredericksburg-Bandera Loop: 239 miles

Clocking in at 239 miles, this scenic route takes you through the countryside and farmland of Central Texas. For amenities you can stop at Gruene, Luckenbach, Fredericksburg, Kerrville and Bandera, which all have great things to see and do.

Day trip to Luckenbach: 72 miles

This 72-mile trip goes through the Hill Country back roads. If you get hungry, stop at a mom-and-pop burger restaurant called the Alamo Springs Café.

Bikers park their bikes to register for Rot Rally on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the Travis Country Expo Center. This is Rot Rally’s 11th anniversary. Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

South-Central Texas Route 16: 88 miles

If you just want to ride through different towns in the Hill Country, including Kerrville and Fredericksburg, this 88-mile route is scenic with great roads.

Hutto-Granger-Georgetown Loop: 61 miles

This northeast Austin route has good scenery filled with creeks and rives. There are also plenty of curves to ride on. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, there is Louise Miller BBQ in Taylor.

Spicewood Springs Road: 5 miles

Looking for a short ride? The Spicewood Springs has good scenery and road quality. You’ll see some farms with horses and creeks and rivers. Its not a fast road, but you will be able to soak up some Texas beauty.

FM 487: 11 miles

This ride is on the shorter side but it has some nice scenery and good road quality. You’ll be riding through Texas farmland and woods. However, don’t expect there to be many roadside amenities.

Texas Twister: 61 miles

This 61-mile ride has great scenery as you’ll be in Hill Country near the Texas Highland Lakes. The road quality is good, but the road side amenities are not the best.

Hippie Hollow Horror: 40 miles

The Hippie Hollow Horror is 40 miles of great scenery that will take you to the north end of Lake Travis. There are also great roadside amenities with stops in Austin and Four Corners.

With graduation, UT caps a tragic, turbulent 2016-17 academic year

Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duren Residence Hall on the UT-Austin campus on Aug. 19, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As May approaches, so does the end of another academic year at the University of Texas. Over the course of the last several months, a lot has happened on the Forty Acres: Campus carry, protests, demonstrations, a farewell to Charlie Strong, a memorial for Haruka Weiser and, more recently, a drive-by shooting on campus. Here’s a quick recap of some major things that happened during the 2016-2017 academic year:

August

UT honors victims of 1966 tower shooting for 50th anniversary:

On Aug. 1, victims of the 1966 sniper attack were honored at the UT Tower. A memorial was also placed near UT’s turtle pond, with the names of the 15 people who were killed by engineering student Charles Whitman. Survivors, the student body president at the time and the police officers who were involved with the incident attended the commemoration ceremony. This 50th anniversary coincidentally fell on the same day that the campus carry gun law went into effect.

Campus carry law goes into effect:

On August 1, Senate Bill 11, legislation also known as “campus carry” went into effect, permitting the concealed carry of handguns by license holders on campus.

Campus carry is protested with sex toys:

What better way to start off the first day of a new school year than with a protest with dildos. “Cocks Not Glocks” showed their opposition to the new campus carry gun law by brandishing the sex toys on backpacks and holding a rally on campus. In August, the event organizers said they hoped students would continue to carry the items until the law was repealed — the dildo-carrying ended shortly after the protest and the law remains on the books.

September

Bevo XV makes debut:

The young calf made his appearance as the new mascot of UT on Sept. 4 at the football game against Notre Dame— the Longhorns beat the Irish 50-47 after double overtime.

Security officer shot at Sigma Chi party:

On Sept. 11, a security guard was shot in the foot at a fraternity party by a party guest – who was not a student – who had earlier been thrown out of the party for causing trouble. The guard who was shot has sued Sigma Chi, accusing the fraternity of not doing enough to prevent the shooting.

October

Anti-affirmative action bake sale held:

On Oct. 26, the Young Conservatives of Texas held a bake sale that protested the affirmative action policy in college admission. The item prices were listed differently based on gender and race.

November

UT students organize anti-Trump protest:

The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of UT students gathered at the UT Tower for a rally that turned into a daylong march throughout downtown Austin.

UT fires head football coach Charlie Strong:

After three seasons and a record of 16-21, the lowest winning percentage in Longhorn football history, Strong was fired on Nov. 26. Many football players and members of the UT community were upset with this decision— several players reacted on Twitter, thanking Strong and saying bye. It wasn’t long before Strong was hired as the new University of South Florida head football coach and Tom Herman took over the Longhorn football program.

Matthew McConaughey give students a ride:

Alright, alright, alright! If you were lucky enough to call a SURE ride on this night, you may have had Matthew McConaughey as your golf cart driver.

Not to mention, McConaughey also co-taught a film class in the College of Communication, “Advanced Producing: Script to Screen”— Professor McConaughey?

February

The Ellen Show comes to UT:

On Feb. 7, UT students got in formation and put together their best Beyonce costumes in hope of winning two tickets to the Grammys from The Ellen Show. Sophomore Collin Wang won the contest by recreating Beyonce’s underwater pregnancy photo.

March

First Latina, physically disabled student body president is elected:

Fourth-year government and Mexican-American studies major Alejandrina Guzman made UT history when she was elected as the 2017-2018 student body president. Guzman and her running mate Micky Wolf captured 54 percent of the vote after a campus-wide run-off.

Survey released: 15 percent of female undergraduates say they have been raped:

A shocking report was released toward the end of March, detailing sexual assault, stalking, dating violence and harassment. Key findings of the random and voluntary survey also found that 12 percent of undergraduate women said they had experienced attempted rape and 22 percent of students reported having experienced sexist gender harassment from UT faculty or staff.

April

One-year memorial held for slain student Haruka Weiser:

On April 3, UT held a memorial ceremony for Haruka Weiser, the 18-year-old dance student who was found dead on campus in Waller Creek in 2016. Since her killing, the university has made it a priority to enhance safety and security on campus.

UT football gets 43-inch tv screens instead of name plates

Paper name plates are a thing of the past for the Longhorn football program. 43-inch flat screens were installed on every player’s locker, each costing about $10,500. Also, glowing locker doors were implemented!

Gregory Vincent announces he will leave UT for his alma mater:

On April 20 , Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, announced that he would be leaving UT in July to be president of his alma mater, Hobart and William Smith— after 11 years of diversity and inclusion work on the Forty Acres.

UT Recreational Sports celebrates 100 years:

On April 21, the university celebrated a century of RecSports, which has grown to 500,000 square feet of recreational space and 47 club sports. UT was one of the first colleges in the country to organize an intramural sports program.

Gunshots on campus:

On the morning of April 27, gunshots were reported on campus and UT police began investigating what they believe was a drive-by shooting. The suspect and the target were thought to be unaffiliated with the university, officials said. Several UT students took to social media to complain about the lack of timeliness when it came to alerting students about the incident and the vagueness of the emergency alert. UTPD notified the students, faculty and staff about the incident nearly an hour after it had taken place.

May

UT stabbing attack on students leaves 1 dead, 3 others injured

First-year student Harrison Brown was killed and three others were hospitalized after a stabbing attack on the University of Texas campus near Gregory Gym around 1:30 p.m. on May 1.

UT Police Chief David Carter identified the suspect in the attack as 21-year-old UT biology student Kendrex J. White of Killeen.

Carter said his officers saw a man, later identified as White, with a “large, bowie-style hunting knife.” One officer drew his gun and told White to get on the ground, which he did, before taking him into custody.

Within about a block, three more people were found stabbed, Carter said.

UT students and employees have been expressing annoyance on social media that they heard about this from campus media, local media and the UT community before a campus alert went out.

For National Walking Day, 5 things to know about improving your health by walking

Bob and Linda Larimore enjoy their walk along the Hamilton Greenbelt on Nov. 10, 2016, with their dogs, Sam and Calli, both rescue dogs. SUE KNOLLE FOR LAKE TRAVIS VIEW LAKEWAY

Is it National Walking Day already? Yes, it is — and to give you more reasons to appreciate getting off the couch and into your best pair of comfy shoes, the good folks at Seton Healthcare have outlined five things to keep in mind if you want to improve your health through walking:

 

1. It’s great for your heart

Aerobic exercise, such as walking, will increase your heart rate and help lower your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The advantages of walking, health experts say, is it provides benefits without high-intensity stress on your body.

“For most people, establishing a long-term habit of walking is more feasible compared to running or other more intense exercise,” says Seton Heart Institute cardiologist Raymond Bietry.

A study in the American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found that the more runners and walkers took to the streets and sidewalks, the more their health benefits increased.

2. It’s good for your mind, too

According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking can:

  • Releases endorphins that can help fight depression and improve your mood.
  • Releases serotonin, which can help you relax and get the most amount of deep sleep at night
  • Strengthens your muscles, promotes joint health and can prevent bone loss for people with osteoporosis.
  • Help fight against memory loss and lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Make time for 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day

The American Heart Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

You’re busy, so how can you pull that off? Try these tips:

  • Have a set walking time
  • Walk with a partner or your dog
  • Bring music with you via your smartphone or an MP3 player.
  • Break it up into multiple small walks, as long as each session lasts about 10 minutes

4. Work walking into regular activities

 

  • Instead of looking for the closest parking spot, park further out and walk.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • If you’re walking the dog already, add hand or ankle weights to amp it up.

“No matter how slow you go, you are lapping anyone on the couch,” Bietry said. “So start with small lifestyle changes and go from there,” he said.

5. Make walking a habit

Try these tips:

  • Set realistic goals. Use a pedometer, smart phone app or journal to track your progress. Raise the bar once they are met, and keep going.
  • Soft, breathable clothing and walking-specific shoes are key to walking in comfort.
  • Be safe. For early morning or night-time walks, wear reflective gear.  Carry a flashlight and walk in familiar areas. Always let someone know where you are and carry a phone for emergencies.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays.  If it gets too hot, or rain interferes, head to the mall for an indoor option.

IN OTHER NEWS:

SXSW 2017: What people are saying about immigration agreement language change

South by Southwest announced Tuesday afternoon that it will change the language in its performance agreement and invitation letter next year, including the removal of one of the most criticized phrases.

TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 03/21/15. Fans cheer for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as they perform at the Rachael Ray Feedback Party at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, TX during South by Southwest (SXSW) on Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Here’s the full statement, as per the fest’s website:

With the announcement of President Trump’s latest Travel Ban, SXSW would like to reaffirm its public opposition to these executive orders and provide ongoing support to the artists traveling from foreign countries to our event.

To reinforce that stance, we would like to address the concerns regarding the language in our artist invitation letter and performance agreement for the SXSW Music Festival.

 SXSW will do the following:
  • We will change the language in our artist invitation letter and performance agreement for 2018 and beyond.
  • We will remove the option of notifying immigration authorities in situations where a foreign artist might “adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official showcase.”
  • *Safety is a primary concern for SXSW, and we report any safety issues to local authorities. It is not SXSW’s duty or authority to escalate a matter beyond local authorities.

In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.

While SXSW works to be in compliance with U.S. immigration law, it is important to know that:

  • SXSW has not, does not, and will not, disclose an artist’s immigration status, except when required by law.
  • SXSW does not have the power to deport anyone.
  • There are no “deportation clauses” in our current performance agreements. There will be no “deportation clauses” in our future participant agreements.
  • SXSW does not “collude with” any immigration agencies including ICE, CBP or USCIS to deport anyone.
  • Each year SXSW coordinates with hundreds of international acts coming to SXSW to try and mitigate issues at U.S. ports of entry. This year we are working to build a coalition of attorneys to assist any who face problems upon arrival in the States.
  • In the 31 years of SXSW’s existence, we have never reported any artist or participant to any immigration agency.

We would like to again apologize for the language in our agreements. We care deeply about the community we serve, and our event is a welcome and safe space for all people.

Last week, the festival took a lot of heat on social media and in the national press after Brooklyn-based artist Felix Walworth tweeted a segment of SXSW’s performance agreement that said the fest would notify immigration authorities if any non-American band or act playing the fest acted up during their stay in Austin.

After the language reversal news broke Tuesday afternoon, several people had something to say on social media. Here are some of the best responses, pulled from Facebook, Twitter and reddit.

https://twitter.com/BrysonBriight/status/839199601223692288

Comment from discussion .

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Austin metro area makes ‘most unauthorized immigrants’ ranking

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the Austin-Round Rock metro area sits around 100,000, based on 2014 American Community Survey data. This places Texas’ capital city at the bottom of a list compiled by Pew Research Center of the top 20 metro areas with the most unauthorized immigrants.

The term “unauthorized immigrants” includes both people who overstay their visas and those who enter the country illegally.

The nonpartisan fact tank notes that “individual metro areas do not differ in rank from those immediately below them.” This means there is little statistical difference between the No. 19-ranked Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla., area and Austin-Round Rock.

The center analyzed 155 metro areas with foreign-born populations of at least 20,000 people.

The Pew Research Center also points out that almost 25 percent of foreign-born U.S. residents are unauthorized immigrants. In Austin, these people make up about 34 percent of the city’s immigrant population, or about 5 percent of the total population of the city.

Two other Texas metros made the list. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area ranked third and is home to about 575,000 unauthorized immigrants. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area ranked fourth with 475,000 unauthorized immigrants. In both areas, these populations make up about 37 percent of the total immigrant population.

RELATED: Get complete coverage of ‘sanctuary city’ legislation

The subject of illegal immigration has reached a new level of conflict between civil rights groups and government agencies since President Donald Trump’s election. Trump has proposed building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and imposing tax on Mexican imports to pay for it. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has pressed the legislature to make ending ‘sanctuary cities’ an emergency item. The governor has also cut funding in Travis County following newly-elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy to limit the sheriff’s office’s cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Why do readers think Austin is the best place to live – or not?

To almost no one’s surprise, Austin was named “the best city to live in” by U.S. News & World Report on Tuesday. And why not? There’s a growing tech industry, a bustling restaurant and bar scene, and the city is filled with outdoor activity options from trails to water recreation.

But as many locals and new residents are quick to notice, living in Austin can come with growing pains. And our keen readers were quick to point out that Austin can be both fun and frustrating.

Some people agreed with the news, even if there a few concessions to make.
https://twitter.com/SFSword/status/829367294736351233

Others weren’t on board with the latest ranking. Traffic, gentrification and cost of living were cited as reasons Austin’s “Best City” title wasn’t exactly on point.

And while Austin enjoys sunny days the majority of the year, there’s no denying the city gets hot in the summer.

A few readers referenced Austin’s blue-dot-in-a-red-state reputation.

But some people just miss the “old” Austin.

Austin’s neighbor to the north also chimed in.

But of course, there were plenty of people who would like to keep the city to themselves.

Check out a full breakdown of the city’s stats on U.S News & World Report’s website.

Follow Live: Texas Muslim Capitol Day rally

img_4385
Photo by Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Muslims are set to meet at the Texas Capitol today at 10:00 a.m. to rally and lobby lawmakers, as part of Texas Muslim Capitol Day. The event is organized by the state’s chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and aims to teach Muslims about the political process.

Follow American-Statesman reporters Mark Wilson, Sean Walsh, Chuck Lindell and Forrest Milburn for live updates out of the rally below, and read more about today’s event here.

Trump’s Mexican border wall executive order: What Texans are saying

President Donald Trump’s executive order Wednesday calling for the U.S. to build a Mexican border wall while simultaneously de-funding sanctuary cities predictably drew a lot of reactions from Texas politicians and citizens alike.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 25: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security with Vice President Mike Pence (R) January 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. While at the department, Trump signed two executive orders related to internal security and to begin the process of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 25: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security with Vice President Mike Pence (R) January 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. While at the department, Trump signed two executive orders related to internal security and to begin the process of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Beginning today, the U.S. will get back control of its border,” Trump said during a speech at the Department of Homeland Security. “We’re going to save lives on both sides of the border.” A few hours later, Trump said he will stop accepting Syrian refugees and will also suspend the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days, according to the Associated Press.

Many Texas Republicans were supportive of the measures, with Gov. Greg Abbott leading the charge.

“Gov. Abbott is pleased with the immediate action President Trump has taken to fulfill his promise to secure the border,” Abbott said in a statement released Wednesday. “The governor looks forward to working with the Trump administration to keep Texans safe and protect our sovereignty.”

Senator Ted Cruz also issued his support: “President Trump took action that will launch the process of securing our southern border and effectively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”

U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, voiced his approval: “I applaud the president for moving swiftly to put in place the multi-layered barrier defenses we need to keep criminals, drugs, and potential terrorists out of our country.”

However, many Texas Democrats were not in favor of the president’s executive order.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said Trump’s speech was indicative of a broken campaign promise. “He is not building a wall that Mexico will pay for. Now he demands that American taxpayers pay for his folly with the false hope that someday he can eventually extort the money from Mexico,” Doggett said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Laredo, said the move was “disappointing:” “This is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem; and a decision I cannot support.”

Then there’s this, on the financial implications of the wall, from San Antonio’s Joaquin Castro:

And it wasn’t just politicians who sounded off about the executive order. Throughout Wednesday, “The Wall” stayed trending on Twitter, and many Statesman readers made a point to share their opinion. Below are some of the highlights.

Some questioned the wall’s effectiveness, if it even gets built.



Some wondered if Americans would be forced to pay for the wall out of their own tax dollars, or if Texas’ work force would even participate.


Some were worried about the federal power of the executive order.

(A 2016 poll found that 59 percent of Texans surveyed were not in favor of the wall.)

And some were in favor of a more secure border and praised the executive order.


What about you? What do you think?

George W. Bush fights with rain poncho at inauguration, strikes internet gold

When it rains, it pours. This adage applies to both weather and viral photos of former U.S. presidents.

Former US President George W. Bush leaves after the Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States today. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
Former US President George W. Bush leaves after the Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States today. (Photo by Saul Loeb – Pool/Getty Images)

During Friday’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., former U.S. President (and Texas Gov.) George W. Bush stole the show from President Donald Trump for a brief, befuddled moment. It seems Bush got himself tangled in his rain poncho as he sat in the audience.

RELATED: Barack Obama sends his first tweet as a former president

If there’s one place you should avoid if you want to dodge photographers eager to capture your embarrassing moments, it’s the presidential inauguration.

The internet had reactions. Like … the entire internet.

https://twitter.com/kashanacauley/status/822529947784843264

MORE: Comparing Trump, Obama inauguration attendance in photos

On a day rife with political polarization, it’s nice to know that the relatable struggle of man versus rain-proof garment can unite us all.

White nationalist Richard Spencer to speak at Texas A&M next month

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and a leading voice of the so-called alt-right movement, is scheduled to speak on the campus of Texas A&M University next month, the Battalion reported Wednesday.

But university officials sought to distance themselves from the appearance, saying in a statement on Wednesday that “private citizens are permitted to reserve space available to the public as we are a public university.”

Spencer, who heads a think tank called the National Policy Institute, has defined the alt-right – short for “alternative right” – as a set of ideologies with a core belief in white identity and a racially homogeneous society. Critics of the movement says its rhetoric is racist and advocates white supremacy.

The profile of the alt-right movement has been elevated ever since President-elect Donald Trump named former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon his chief strategist. Bannon has described Breitbart, a conservative news outlet, as “the platform for the alt-right.”

Spencer, who will be speaking at Rudder Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, gained wider notoriety this week after video from a national alt-right conference showed supporters raising their arms in an apparent Nazi salute after Spencer told the crowd, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory.”

Trump, in an interview Tuesday with the New York Times, disavowed the alt-right group in the video.

According to the Battalion, white nationalist Preston Wiginton, who attended A&M briefly from 2006 to 2007 and has brought other white nationalist speakers to the university, organized the event.

A&M University spokesperson Amy B. Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Texas A&M, provided a public statement that sought to clarify that Spencer was not invited by the university.

“To be clear, Texas A&M University – including faculty, staff, students and/or student groups – did not invite this speaker to our campus nor do we endorse his rhetoric in any way. In fact, our leadership finds his views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values,” the statement said.