by James C. Moore
The sign is just a few miles up the road as you begin your climb up the Devil's Backbone, which is the lead-in to the Three Twisted Sisters route in Southwest Texas. It reminds the rider of the number of lives lost in recent years along the caliche and blacktop roads carved into the limestone.
The roads, maintained by the state, are 337, 335, and 336, and the risks are more than just the curves, falling rock, and July heat. As I rolled out with two friends from Spain, we saw deer close enough to the road to be frightening. One of them paced my bike briefly, in a sprint, before fading off toward the fence line. A fawn was waiting in the middle of the hardtop at the bottom of one steep incline, and another deer jumped an eight foot fence in fright as we motored past.
The countryside is beautiful. The region is famed for spring fed rivers, the Frio, Sabinal, Medina, and Nueces all run through the canyons that are formed by the aquifers leaking out of the Edwards Plateau to the north. Not far distant, in the area around Uvalde, is an alluvial plain that Texans refer to as the "Winter Garden" because the rich soil and temperate weather allows for more than one growing season. The isolation of the geography has kept down population but real estate costs are rising as immigrants from California see similarities to their home state's wine country.
The roads and rivers are separated by small towns that are as close as Texas ever comes to being "quaint." They are named Utopia, Vanderpool, Leakey, Camp Wood, and to the east, Bandera, which bills itself as "The Cowboy Capital of the World." There are numerous spots to enjoy a cold, cleansing ale at the end of a ride but a popular hangout is the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop.
And if you grow tired of the sisters, there are ranch roads that weave along the river banks and low water crossings, and lead to two of the most beautiful state parks in Texas: Garner State Park and Lost Maples. Garner was named after Uvalde rancher John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner, vice president of these United States under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Garner is remembered by history only as the man who once said, "The vice presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of piss," though one version suggests he said spit. We are dubious that he might have exercised restraint.
Get thee to the Three Twisted Sisters of Texas, and twist your throttle, but not too much, just enough to remind yourself of why you ride.