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.

 

Even in Hawaii, these Texas parents brought the Lone Star state to their baby

You can take the family out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the family. Even in Hawaii.

With just tamales and a bottle of Big Red, some enterprising parents made their baby Thomas internet-famous.

In Hawaii, thousands of miles away from their beloved Texas, Christina and Javier Sustaita were hosting Javier’s grandmother for a visit. The elder Sustaita apparently makes the “best tamales,” according to Christina, quoted in the Houston Chronicle. While the family didn’t eat the tamales at first, they did the next-best thing: they put the napping Thomas on top of the delicious treats with a bottle of Big Red by his side, and started a photo shoot.

And so a Texas legend was born. Large social media accounts like Texas Humor Twitter and Big Red’s Facebook posted the picture and it went viral. “Parenting: you’re doing it right,” Texas Humor tweeted. “Never too small to enjoy Big Flavor,” posted Big Red, which received almost 1,000 likes.

“I couldn’t believe how many people actually shared the post on their Instagrams as well, so that was really awesome,” the new mom said, who took the pictures. Our hats go off to her.

h/t: Houston Chronicle

We may be getting a Texas flag emoji soon, but it might not be because of the Legislature

 

Last week, state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress submitted a resolution to the Texas Legislature that called for “Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.” HCR 75 would “hereby reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.”

texas_flag__large_by_dallasx
The Texan flag.

The two flags do look a lot alike (hence the inevitable substitution of one for the other). But according to a Dec. 9, 2016 blog post from Emojipedia, Emoji 5.0 is now available for public review, and a Texas flag emoji is on its list of upcoming features. A release date for the update has not been set, but it will most likely be in the first half of 2017.

A third-party developer has created a pack for all 50 flags and Washington, D.C. which will be available to vendors to see if they want to support those features on iOs or Android. Flags from Scotland, Wales and England are on the list, too.

So, basically, even if that resolution goes through, it might be worthless by the time you update your phone with the latest operating system.

And if you really want a Texas emoji that bad, you can download that third-party emoji pack mentioned above through the App Store here.

 

A Texas representative wants you to stop using the Chilean flag emoji

When Texans text, we sometimes need to express our love of our state. One of the best ways to do that is through emojis. They say so much with so little. Who among us hasn’t substituted the taco, sunset, horse, cow, cactus, avocado or beer emojis for the real thing when we’re trying to make our text messages pop out a little bit more?

Perhaps the biggest expression of Texan pride is invoking the Texas state flag, the old Lone Star. But there is no Lone Star Flag emoji for any platform, according to emojipedia.com. So the solution for many has been to simply use a flag that looks like the Texas state flag.

chileflagimage1
The flag of the republic of Chile.
texas_flag__large_by_dallasx
The Texas flag.

The Chilean flag, shown above, looks a lot like the Texan flag, and there’s even an emoji for it on various mobile platforms. So, many people have been using that as a Texan flag substitute. And at least one Texas legislator doesn’t like that.

HCR 75, filed and introduced in the Texas Legislature Thursday, “urg[es] Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.”

The resolution was written by state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress. He previously designed SB 978, a bill aimed at protecting patients from a loophole in Texas Medical Board regulation of physicians performing anesthesia in office-based settings.

Notably, the resolution doesn’t call for a Texas flag emoji to be created; it just wants people to know that Chile’s flag isn’t Texas’ flag.

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.

What would Austin-themed Monopoly game pieces look like?

Hasbro is reportedly letting online voters choose new tokens for Monopoly. Previously, the game had eight classic pieces: Scottie the dog, thimble, battleship, hat, wheelbarrow, car, shoe and Hazel the cat (which took the place of the iron after a separate online vote back in 2013). Now, you can vote on more than 50 options (including the original eight, if you’re a traditionalist) before Jan. 31.

This March 11, 2015 photo shows a Monopoly board in Atlantic City, N.J. - the city on whose real-life streets the Monopoly board game is based. The board game turns 80 years old on Thursday, March 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
This March 11, 2015 photo shows a Monopoly board in Atlantic City, N.J. – the city on whose real-life streets the Monopoly board game is based. The board game turns 80 years old on Thursday, March 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

So it got us thinking — what Austin- or Texas-themed game pieces would we add to the board? The new options include a cowboy hat and a cowboy boot, which would be super appropriate. There’s also a wheel option, which one could argue symbolizes the Broken Spoke, and a bike, which would make sense for Austin’s cyclist-friendly vibe.

The Statesman web desk weighed in with some ideas for additions:

Do you have any to add? Let us know in the comments.

Everyone is moving to Texas, according to new report

You know those bumper stickers that say, “I’m not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I can?”

You may be seeing more of those soon.

Longhorn cattle stand in front on a Texas-flag-painted shed on FM 1371 in Chappell Hill on Thursday January 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Longhorn cattle stand in front on a Texas-flag-painted shed on FM 1371 in Chappell Hill on Thursday January 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

According to a new report from the Texas Association of Realtors, people are moving to the Lone Star State like crazy. Texas saw a gain of more than half a million residents in 2015, making it one of the states with the highest amount of new residents, second behind Florida. (However, if you subtract the number of Texans who left the same year, the net gain is 107, 689 residents in 2015.)

While we’re talking about bumper stickers, the ones that say, “Don’t California my Texas” also may get more popular. The number one state these new Texans are arriving from? You guessed it: California.

Related: How many Californians are moving to Austin daily?

There is some relief for Austinites, though: More out-of-state residents moved to the Dallas and Houston metro areas than the Austin area in 2015. However, out of all the people who decided to move to Austin in that time frame, most of the new residents came from Houston or Dallas, and the most out-of-state residents came from Los Angeles and New York City.

Related: People are leaving Austin in droves, according to new report

How much space would you need to put the entire population of Texas in one spot?

If you were to cram all of us Texans together in one spot, how much space would we take up?

That question was the subject of a new infographic from Sparefoot, the storage facility aggregator located in Austin. And the answer is a lot.

According to the infographic, if you took all 26.95 million of Texas’ residents and put them in the same spot standing shoulder to shoulder (and adjusted for different body types, the size of children and accounted for obesity rates), the group would take up 4.25 square miles.

If you’re visualizing that in Austin terms, the area would stretch from the west side of the I-35 corridor to the east side of MoPac, and from just south of the Austin Convention Center up to the  northern end of West Campus.

Screenshot from Sparefoot.
Screenshot from Sparefoot.

Data for the infographic was taken from the 2014 Census, which had Texas in 2nd place in population numbers, right behind that Golden State that is famous for sending Austin a lot of transplants.

Calculations for the size of children allotted for 3 square feet of space and 4 feet of height, taking up .87 square miles of the total 4.25 square miles.

Texas women took up 1.53 square miles of the total area, while Texas men accounted for 1.84 square miles.

And, true to Sparefoot form, the infographic also measured how many storage units it would take to fill that area. That number? 385,923 units, measuring 10×20.

Arkansas takes queso crown in cheesy D.C. taste-test

This is a miscarriage of justice the likes of which we haven’t seen since it was insinuated that San Antonio has better breakfast tacos than Austin.

Promotional hand out photo of "Creamy Mexican Cheese Dip" aka queso. CREDIT: Kristen Michaelis. Received 06/12/09 for 0617bloggerrecipe.
Promotional hand out photo of “Creamy Mexican Cheese Dip” aka queso. CREDIT: Kristen Michaelis.

According to a blind taste-test from a group of Republican senators Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Arkansas’ cheese dip is better than Texas’ queso.

The whole ordeal started about a month ago, when U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas picked a cheese battle with Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz about which state’s cheesy goodness was better. Cotton also mistakenly called it “Texas cheese dip.”

The fermenting disagreement resulted in a taste test Wednesday, where Texas surprisingly lost.

More: Arkansas ‘claims’ queso — ‘Don’t tell Texas,’ Wall Street Journal warns

We think this finding has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese, but Cotton and his cheese dip apparently beat out Cornyn and Cruz and their hand-picked Uncle Julio’s chile con queso.

Cotton tweeted the results of the taste-test after the lunch.

Cruz staunchly defended the merits of queso in a post-taste-test interview, saying “Good queso relaxes you..look, cheese dip can be served on a Ritz cracker or on one of those tiny Vienna sausages…One is a visceral, emotional powerful family bond…the other is party favors.”

Texans on Twitter voraciously defended Texas queso and admonished Cornyn and Cruz.

https://twitter.com/lyz_estrada/status/806580740452401156

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to Kerbey Lane to eat away our sorrows.