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.

Review this checklist before you hit the road Memorial Day weekend

 

An estimated 2.8 million Texans are expected to be on the roads this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA Texas. The group anticipates that more than 330,000 drivers will require a roadside rescue – at least 21,500 in Texas alone – AAA Texas spokeswoman Anne O’Ryan said.

So here are some safety steps that O’Ryan says motorists should take if they’re getting on the road this weekend:

  • Have your car battery tested.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Get plenty of sleep — at least seven hours — so you can stay alert. Drowsy driving accounts for about 20 percent of all crashes, O’Ryan said.
  • “Pack your patience,” O’Ryan said, and drive defensively.
  • Build in extra time for travel.
  • The best times to travel will be early morning, as other times will be more crowded.
  • Take breaks every two hours or every 100 miles.
  • Keep your eyes open for other drivers making sudden lane changes because a lot of out-of-towners and tentative drivers will be on the road.
  • Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Don’t text and drive or hold your cell phone.
  • Put your pets on a leash or a cage, and not in the front seat.
  • Wear your seat belt
  • Never drive impaired.

Austin police said officers will be targeting impaired and distracted drivers during the holiday weekend. Under its no-refusal initiative, Austin police will make it harder for a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated to refuse providing a breath or blood sample. If the officer has evidence of impairment, police said, the officer can get a judge’s approval for a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.

The no-refusal effort will be in effect from Friday through June 12 – to include the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally – between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Police said 107 people were arrested last year during the no-refusal period for Memorial Day and ROT Rally.

Interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley recommends that if you do plan to drink, you should have a plan for a ride home. He said the Austin Transportation Department has provided a website, austintexas.gov/gethomesafe, with resources to help you get home safe, including links to Capital Metro services and designated driving programs.

The Williamson County sheriff’s office will be undertaking its own no-refusal initiative, starting Friday and ending Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. each night.

In Hays County, San Marcos police will run its no-refusal program from Friday through Sunday.

 

Texas 3rd in number of hate groups, with handful near Austin, Southern Poverty Law Center finds

Photo by Larry Kolvoord AMERICAN-STATESMAN..11/11/06....NAZI RALLY.....Members of the national Scialist Movement (Nazis) march through the State Capitol Building at the conclusion of their rally on the south steps of the Capitol Saturday, November 11, 2006. About 20 Nazis demonstrated against illegal immigration including Charles Wilson, center, saluting Hitler as he walks through the rotunda. Police took the Nazis through the rotunda and through the Capitol annex to a basement parking lot to keep them from having contact with counter protestors.
In this file photo from November 2006, Neo-Nazi supporters march through the State Capitol to protest against illegal immigration. Larry Kolvoord AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2006

Texas has as many as 55 hate groups, including several in Central Texas, as the nation saw the number of such groups rise in 2016 for the second year in a row, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center tally released Wednesday.

A census report by the nonprofit group, which has spent decades monitoring hate groups and extremists in the United States, said the number of hate groups operating in 2016 rose to 917, which was up from 892 the previous year.

Texas placed third among the top five states with the most hate groups in 2016:

  1. California: 79
  2. Florida: 63
  3. Texas: 55
  4. New York: 47
  5. Pennsylvania: 40

The SPLC published an interactive map of the hate groups under its watch. A handful of groups operate in Central Texas, according to the map, including:

  • The Daily Stormer, which the SPLC lists as a neo-Nazi group
  • Power of Prophecy, a fundamentalist Christian group the SPLC has accused of being anti-Semitic
  • Southern National Congress, which is listed by the SPLC as a neo-Confederate group
  • the Nation of Islam, which the SPLC considers to be a black separatist group

The SPLC report cited Donald Trump’s successful bid for the White House as a factor in energizing radical right-wing groups and fostering anti-Muslim speech and vandalism.

“The increase in anti-Muslim hate was fueled by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, including his campaign pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States,” a statement from the SPLC on Wednesday said.

“The growth has been accompanied by a rash of crimes targeting Muslims, including an arson that destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, just hours after the Trump administration announced an executive order suspending travel from some predominantly Muslim countries,” the statement said.

The SPLC also said it measured a “near-tripling” of anti-Muslim hate groups, from 34 such groups in 2015 to 101 last year.

Austin ranked among best college destinations in the country

Austin tops many lists — it’s been ranked among best travel destinations, great places to live, well-educated cities and even one of the best places to live if you’re a hermit, like to drink a lot of coffee or like to…sweat?

Well, it’s also one of the best cities of its size if you’re a college student, according to a new ranking from the American Institute for Economic Research.

Austin came in second place in the “midsize metros” category (between 1 million and 2.5 million people), behind Denver.

The University of Texas Tower. James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –
The University of Texas Tower. James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN –

The study refers to Austin as a “cheaper San José — high on tech opportunities, with a better music scene and a fledgling light-rail system.” We’re not so sure about that “light-rail system” claim, since that’s been a major point of contention in local politics over the last few years, and some Austinites are probably rolling their eyes at the city being compared to anything related to California (but take solace in the fact that San José came in fourth on the midsize metros ranking).

Austin scored well in the detailed rankings: It ranked third in college-educated population and diversity, and scored high in the bars and restaurants, labor force, and innovation categories. However, the youth unemployment rate was ranked No. 1 for midsize metros — not a great look. See the full detailed ranking here.

This @StuckHouseATX parody account is sure to give you a laugh

It was only a matter of time.

For four days in a row, this house has been stuck in the middle of East Live Oak Street in South Austin, causing a traffic nightmare for nearby residents and an abundance of jokes, and now the house has its own Twitter account: @StuckHouseATX.

As evidenced by the famed Austin Cobra, the Jade Helm Cobra, the Austin Mongoose and of course, Evil MoPac, nothing is too sacred for Austin’s Twitter jokesters.

A house has been stuck in the middle of Live Oak Street in South Austin since the weekend after movers struggled to fit the wide load down the roadway. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A house has been stuck in the middle of Live Oak Street in South Austin since the weekend after movers struggled to fit the wide load down the roadway.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The house, which was being moved from Austin to Lockhart when it hit a utility pole and became stuck on Saturday, is proving to be a pain to move. The moving company responsible for the house obtained the necessary permit to relocate the temporary roadblock, but as of Tuesday afternoon, no work had been done on the house.

RELATED: Moving a house in Texas was never easy

If it isn’t removed by Tuesday night, National Night Out could be extremely interesting for Travis Heights residents.

The people who live in the neighborhood may not be laughing, but at least this whole thing has given the rest of the city a good chuckle. After all, we should count our blessings: At least the house didn’t get stuck on I-35.

RELATED: Songs to help you pass the time when you’re stuck on the road

Body of slain Travis County sheriff’s deputy escorted to funeral site

USE THIS PHOTO Authorities have identified the Travis County sheriff’s deputy who was killed early Monday as Sgt. Craig Hutchinson, a veteran officer of 32 years who was set to retire in September.
Sgt. Craig Hutchinson

Starting at 7 a.m., an entourage will escort Travis County sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Craig Hutchinson’s body from the Cook-Walden Funeral Home at 6100 N. Lamar Blvd. to Shoreline Church, 15201 Burnet Road, where a memorial will be held at 10 a.m.

The entourage taking Hutchinson’s body from the visitation site to the church will not force any road closures, but the convoy could disrupt traffic on its route along Interstate 35 North and Wells Branch Parkway.

Law enforcement officers from across Central Texas will join Sgt. Craig Hutchinson’s family and other loved ones to celebrate the life of the slain Travis County sheriff’s deputy at a service in North Austin on Tuesday.

Authorities say Hutchinson, 54, was fatally shot at his Round Rock home July 25 after encountering burglars.

Portions of North MoPac Boulevard, Parmer Lane and Interstate 35 will be closed about 11:45 a.m. as the procession travels from the church to a graveside service with police honors at Cook-Walden Capital Parks, 14501 N. Interstate 35 in Pflugerville.

web 080216 aus deputy visitation

‘Morning Joe’ tries to get weird with Austin

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 7.50.43 AM

Viewers of MSNBC’s talk show “Morning Joe” know that it’s hard for anything other than politics to break into show’s mix these days. If you’re not named Donald Trump, you need not apply for air time.

Unless, it seems, you’re South by Southwest and you’re celebrating you’re 30th anniversary.

The festival in full swing — Interactive and Film have largely given way to Music — was the subject of an effusive taped piece on Thursday morning’s show. That was followed by this equally effusive crosstalk among the show’s hosts and guests:

Joe Scarborough: “What a town, man. Isn’t it a crazy town?”

Mika Brezinski: “You’re headed there this weekend. You’re going to make Austin even weirder.”

Mark Halperin: “They have great music, great food, great people. pretty much great everything. Even the airport’s good.”

Steve Schmidt: “Hands down, one of the great cities in the country. … It’s an awesome place.”