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.

 

Austin’s emergency management office lauded, earns elite accreditation

American-Statesman file photo

A national nonprofit group lauded Austin’s emergency management efforts Friday, certifying its program meets 64 industry standards.

Austin is just one of three Texas cities, along with Dallas and Arlington, to win accreditation from the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

“Emergency management accreditation represents a significant achievement,” said EMAP Commission Chairperson Robie Robinson in a statement. “We applaud the City of Austin’s leadership and we recognize the dedication to the safety and security of the residents that it represents.”

The city’s 15-member Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, and manages grant funding to improve homeland security and public safety. The agency co-manages the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.

 

Your proposal probably won’t top this couple’s cute Chick-fil-A proposal

The South MoPac Chick-fil-A was the site of a sweet marriage proposal this week.

Stock photo via pexels.com. Used with Creative Commons license.

A post on the fast food restaurant’s Facebook page included photos of the March 27 proposal, when Chick-fil-A customer Nick asked Sarah to marry him. According to the Facebook post, the two have known each other since they were 3 years old.

Nick got down on one knee…

Presented Sarah with a ring…

Put the ring on Sarah’s finger…

And celebrated.

“CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HAPPY COUPLE ON THEIR ENGAGEMENT!!! Nick and Sarah have known each other since they were 3 years old! And tonight, he built up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage! How sweet is that!?” the Chick-fil-A post reads.

 

Hate Austin rent prices? Online list says Leander is cheaper

 

We all know it’s expensive to live in Austin. One recent study suggested that it takes a yearly salary of at least $52,578 to afford a home here, something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to afford if you’re a single man or woman.

A house on Garden Street is for sale on Thursday November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But take heart, those of you who rent homes or apartments in Austin: At least you weren’t paying the area’s highest rent prices this past month. That honor goes to Leander, our neighbor to the northwest. That’s right, it was cheaper to rent a domicile in Austin than it was in Leander, at least, according to rental site Zumper.

Zumper released a report this week detailing the drop in rent prices throughout the Austin area, a swath of land that includes all the way from Georgetown to San Marcos. The report found that for the month of March, Austin had a median one-bedroom rent of $1,080 a month, while renting the same domain in Leander would set you back $1,110. Both are still much higher than the $887 state median, however.

The cheapest rent in the Austin area for March belonged to San Marcos, at $860 a month for a one-bedroom.

Read the full report here.

Related:

 

 

Is Austin home to millennial ‘slackers’? Yes, but not as much as other Texas cities

The Pew Research Center found last year that the current generation of 18-to-34-year-olds (millennials) are more likely to be currently living with their parents than to be living with a spouse or significant other, or living alone or with roommates, for the first time in 130 years.

From Flickr user Elizabeth Hahn. Used with Creative Commons license.

Apartment search site Abodo took that Pew data and found that 34.1 percent of millennials across America are still living under mom and dad’s roof. To understand why, Adobo looked at 16 metropolitan statistical areas (cities with populations over 1 million people) that exceeded the national average.

The results? Austin isn’t as much of a slacker city as you might think.

Related: I’m a millennial. I don’t need your participation trophy.

The Austin-Round Rock area landed at the bottom of Adobo’s list at No. 40, with 22.3 percent of the city’s millennials still living at home. That’s 11.8 percent below the national average. And, just 8 percent of Austin’s millennials are unemployed, compared to the 10 percent national average.

Austin millennials are also raking in more money than the national average, whether they live at home or not; those living at home took in $1,314 a month, while those living on their own or with other people took in $2,329 a month. Unsurprisingly, the housing market in Austin isn’t kind to millennials. They pay almost $200 more than the national average in median rent.

More: When it comes to this list of heavyweights, San Antonio is way ahead of Austin

The area with the highest population of millennials living at home is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla. area, with 44.8 percent of that area’s millennials living at home. The largest contingent of stay-at-home-kids in Texas is in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, at 36.2 percent.

Austin is the nation’s best capital city to live in, according to online list

 

Shortly after Austin was named the “best place to live in America” by U.S. News and World Report, the city has landed atop another list of best places to live.

The Austin skyline as seen looking northwest from the Lakeshore area showing the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake August 31, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Austin skyline as seen looking northwest from the Lakeshore area showing the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake August 31, 2016.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin is the nation’s best state capital to live in, according to WalletHub. Their online study compared all 50 capital cities in America and graded them based off of 42 key indicators of affordability, economic strength, quality of education and health, and overall living standards.

More: Why you see so many moving trucks in Austin, according to new report

Those key indicators included things like cost of living, K–12 school-system quality and the number of attractions in the city.

Austin ranked 1st in two categories, the highest number of millennial newcomers (guilty) and lowest premature death rate; and ranked fourth for highest median household income (adjusted for cost of living) and ranked third for “most attractions.” The only two capitals to beat Austin in that last category were Honolulu and Boston, which…OK, that’s fair. One has the beach and the other’s got Fenway Park.

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

Austin also ranked 6th in the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher. (It’s also a great place for single ladies to find a man with a Bachelor’s degree that’s marriage material, according to one study.)

Funnily enough, Austin didn’t even make the highlights on the “most affordable housing” category. Apparently, it costs a little bit of money to afford a house here, and housing becomes even less affordable when you’re single, according to a new study.

 

 

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.

Single women are likely to find a marriage-material man in Austin — but single guys aren’t as lucky

Happy Valentine’s Day, Austin — we’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news: All the single ladies in Austin are in luck, because according to a new study, Austin is one of the best places in the country to find a man who’s “marriage material.” That may mean different things for different people, but according to Trulia, your potential husband is a man who is in his 30s, has a college degree and works at least 40 hours a week. Austin is the fourth-best city to find such men, behind San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

Even though there are plenty of guys meeting this criteria in Austin, your odds of bagging one aren’t great: According to the study, there are more single women than single men in Austin.

puppy-love-chris
Pam and Chris LeBlanc smooch at the Puppy Love mural outside Mud Puppies on East Riverside Drive.

The bad news: Single male Austinites aren’t as fortunate as the women. In fact, you’ll probably have to move to the Eastern Seaboard — somewhere like D.C. suburb Silver Springs, Md., Atlanta or Raleigh, N.C. — to find a marriage-material woman. The study claims the woman of your dreams is in her 40s, has at least a graduate degree, works at least 40 hours a week and may have been married before (but you don’t mind).

The study goes on to break down, city-by-city, the number of single adults in different age groups (20s, 30s and 40s), the number of single adults who work more or less than 40 hours a week, the number of single adults who have gone to college or graduate school and the number of single adults who have never been married.

So if you’re wondering why you’re still single, blame the data — or you can use the data to your advantage to up your odds of finding love. You can even take a quiz and answer a few questions to find out where you can find the man or woman of your dreams, if the criteria listed above aren’t your thing.

What do you remember about school lunch?

Man, school lunches have come a long way from the square pizza slices and tiny milk cartons of our youth. Now, at least in AISD, kids have a vast array of healthy food to choose from. They can even build their own fajita like they were eating at a Chipotle or something.

And that’s all thanks to  Anneliese Tanner, the district’s food services director. She makes it her mission to get kids eating healthy breakfasts and lunches every day. A sample menu from the week of January 4-6 includes lettuce, tomatoes, frittata, choice of tortilla, barbacoa & egg tacos, choice of noodle to go with pasta, and a healthy choice of meats.

Elementary school students in Austin can select which ingredients they’d like while a staff member assembles their salad. All 80 elementary schools in Austin will have salad bars like this by the end of the school year. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
Elementary school students in Austin can select which ingredients they’d like while a staff member assembles their salad. All 80 elementary schools in Austin will have salad bars like this by the end of the school year. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

“We’re teaching them that salads don’t have to be a side and that vegetables should be the center of the plate,” Tanner told the Statesman.

What do you remember from your school lunch days? We polled our newsroom, and while everyone remembers the square pizza slices (Seriously, they were everywhere. I was a military brat, and I remember eating those for lunch in Alaska), here’s a sampling of some of our recollections of the culinary delights from the cafeterias of our youth:

  • “That burrito they made with the refried beans and government cheese… I’ve never quite been able to replicate it, even with the cheapest Velveeta knockoff. It’s the government cheese…we loved burrito day at my San Antonio high school.” — Debbie Hiott, editor
  • “The only cafeteria food I remember ordering: mini Blue Bell cups in elementary school and pizza day in junior high, the plastic-like, yellowish cheese trapping the sausage beneath its surface. I loved it, and can still taste it.” — Matthew Odam, dining writer
  • “In middle school, I would either bring a peanut butter sandwich or buy pizza in the cafeteria. But on Fridays, I would treat myself to a chocolate milk and a Snickers ice cream bar. And that’s it.” — Eric Webb, social media and engagement editor
  • “The wonder that was tater tots. Tater tot day was the big day at my Catholic grade school, and I was always sad that my mom packed my lunch most days. I wanted the tots.” — Sharon Chapman, features editor
  • “I grew up in Dallas where the school districts served ‘Fiesta Salad’ a couple a times a month – or so. That was my absolute favorite item on the menu. What exact is a Fiesta Salad? A plate of pure yumminess made of a bed of Frito corn chips; white rice; seasoned ground beef; lettuce; tomatoes; shredded cheddar cheese – and if you wanted – a dash of Pace picante sauce to top it off.” — Gissela SantaCruz, Viewpoints digital editor
  • “Pizza always came with a side of corn, and it was perfect for some reason. Not real perfect, but I’m-a-little-kid-this-is-great perfect.” — Cat Vasquez, agate page editor
  • “Chimichanga day: the sweet, sweet processed cheese. Salisbury steak day- double portions available in 6th grade.” — Mark Wilson, breaking news reporter
  • “The worst lunch meal had to be the Salisbury steak, which was always smothered in some sort of gelatin-like sauce and rubbery mushrooms.  On those days I’d most likely have an order of french fries instead.” — Mike Parker, editor for the Round Rock Leader and Pflugerville Pflag
  • “Steak fingers with a roll and gravy.” — Gabrielle Munoz, assistant online editor
  • “Graham crackers and chocolate milk mid-morning snack. To die for.” — Kirk Bohls, sports columnist
  • “If it was chicken nuggets day, I’d get a double order. And in middle school they had this weird rectangular pizza that for some reason was both disgusting and amazing at the same time. I’d definitely get a double order — we called it ‘double lunch’ — if that was being served that day. Chocolate milk was the only choice, and I’d usually get two cartons. Crinkle fries.” — Philip Jankowski, public safety reporter
  • “Every once in a while they served chicken fried steak, but barely passable as that — basically just a leathery cutlet with soggy ‘breading.’ It was not good. (This was 1970s AISD public elementary school.)” — Peter Blackstock, music and entertainment writer
  • “I was the only person (possibly in the history of mankind) who liked chipped beef on toast.” — Emily Quigley, assistant features editor
  • “Lunchroom yeast rolls … mmm. Putting French fries on a hamburger.” — Christian McDonald, online projects and data editor
  • “Once we got to high school, they served taquitos with cheese sauce – but that also meant you could really get them to put queso on everything from fries and burgers to chicken fingers.” — Jackie Stone, audience engagement manager
  • “Sporks. And not being ‘cool’ if you didn’t have the pizza Lunchables or Gushers. Also, meal tickets. And the only fruit-like item was a medley of small chunks of apples, pears and peaches from a can. Bleh.” — Alyssa Vidales, multimedia producer

What about you? Got any fond (or not so fond) memories of your school lunch? Let us know in the comments.