My Favorite Autumn Leif

Of all the people I meet on the road, motorcyclists tend to be the friendliest and most interesting. Sometimes they’re fairly high on the wackiness scale, like this fellow riding with his club in Arkansas, but wackiness adds spice to life — especially when it arrives wearing a faux-Viking helmet and introducing itself as ‘Leif.’

Increasingly, groups of riders are cruising the Texas countryside, stopping for refreshment in places like the aptly-named Cruisers Ice House outside Santa Fe.  Hill Country loops are especially favored; after a run through the famed route known as the ‘Twisted Sisters,’ riders congregate at Medina’s Apple Store, gas up at the Country Store near Lost Maples, visit the Motorcycle Museum near Vanderpool, or head to Camp Wood for burgers and beer.

They’re not alone. Miatas and Corvettes flock to the roads, and occasionally even a prim little sedan can be seen scooting over the hills, taking those curves with perhaps a little too much verve.

From now until March, bridge replacement on a portion of the Twisted Sisters will necessitate a detour, but that’s hardly a reason for concern. Untraveled roads abound; who wouldn’t want to be in the driver’s seat?

Take a ride with the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club


Comments always are welcome.

51 thoughts on “My Favorite Autumn Leif

  1. Oh yeah!
    The area in the hills that I frequent is a good run from the city and there’s always bikes of various description parked at the bakery or cafe. I drool…. brings back memories of my time riding bikes.
    Loved the image and video and music.

    1. Then you know how much fun it can be to ride, and to meet other riders. I’ve found that being polite enough to pull over and let a group pass can have side benefits, as well. More than once, I’ve come across the same group for a second time at a café, and gotten some good tips about places to see abundant flowers.

      I love that video. I suspect there might have been one or more professionals doing the filming and editing.

    1. That’s right, about the name. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that my gas station friend’s real name is Herbert, or Bob. But if he wants to be ‘Leaf,’ why not? A little weekend fantasy’s not the worst thing in the world. Of course he and his group had ridden to Heavener to see the runestone. I suspect he enjoyed the stone as much as the ride, whether or not he believed the legends.

    1. That’s right. Thinking “There’s no one interesting here” is akin to looking at a ‘vacant’ lot and assuming there’s nothing interesting or beautiful to be found. Whether it’s the old guy on the wooden bench in front of the store or the waitress in the café, there’s just no telling what might be learned.

  2. The highways out here in Big Bend are some of the most popular roads in Texas. The River Road that skirts the Texas/Mexico border along the Rio Grande from Presidio to Lajitas is regularly voted the #1 ride in Texas by the “Ride Texas” motorcycle magazine. For that reason we get lots of “Leifs” and “Pancho Villas” walking the streets of Marathon.
    My wife and I both ride motorcycles, so I’ll take this forum as an opportunity to remind folks that the greatest danger to bikers in rural Texas is not speed, and it’s not other vehicles, but it’s all the critters like elk, deer, javelinas and vultures that populate the narrow, winding highways in the remote places where folks like to ride. Slow down and keep both riders and animals alive.

    1. Once again, I realize how little I know of your part of the state. When I hear stories about weekend rides, the hill country’s usually the farthest west friends have traveled, and the river roads that get mentioned run alongside the Guadalupe or Rio Frio. When I looked up the Presidio to Lajitas route, I was surprised to see that Highway 170 skirts the edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park. One of these days…

      I’ve noticed increasing numbers of deer along the roads in the past month; we don’t have elk or javelinas, but even the feral hogs will wander out occasionally. And anyone who thinks vultures can’t cause damage hasn’t heard the tales. Your caution’s well advised.

  3. Thanks for mentioning this to me, Linda. Even if I don’t ride a motorcycle, it intrigues me. We’ll be in the area next week, visiting Garner State Park. Maybe we can do some of those roads.

    1. Garner’s beautiful. One of my favorite features is a big, old tree along the river that’s hollow; it’s been used as a clothes-changing spot for generations. Here’s a map from a local establishment that shows the detour well. Have fun!

      1. Thanks for that map, Linda. I had read about that road/bridge closure, but not yet looked it up on the map.
        As to Leif: he might be a nice person, but generally I don’t have a favourable opinion of bikers, e.g. when I think of the recent rally in Sturgis.

        1. Of course there are some bad apples in the biker barrel, but that’s true in every community. Condemning all bikers because of the ill-advised actions of some makes no sense to me.

          Of course the Sturgis event was problematic, but state and local officials were as responsible for the complications as out-of-state bikers. I even have some sympathy for the Sturgis officials. Allowing the rally to go on may not have been a wise decision, but even if the event had been cancelled, people would have shown up. On the other hand, a number of people I know — people who’ve gone to Sturgis multiple years — made the decision not to attend this year’s event. They thought it was too risky.

          1. I agree with you, Linda, that not all bikers are the same – as are not all people. But, as you say, “even if the event had been cancelled, people would have shown up”. That’s what makes me furious, absolutely mad. And the same irresponsibilty can be found in local, state and national governments.

            1. Right. And the breath-taking hypocrisy of certain government officials does nothing to encourage good decision-making on the part of their constituents.

    1. After meeting Leif and his helmet, I did a little casual research and learned that Vikings didn’t have winged helmets as part of their normal gear. The Danish Museum has a nice article about them.

      I was surprised and amused to discover there were warriors known as ‘berserkers’ who went into battle naked. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, but things probably were different back in the Iron Age. The best part of that little tidbit is that it added to my list of my great-aunt’s malapropisms. I’d forgotten that she always spoke of someone “going bersmerk.”

  4. well, that was fun. our parents forbade us to ride on motorcycles as too dangerous (plus they probably thought all motorcyclists were criminals and thugs). I had snuck a ride or two back in my late teens but they were nervous rides what with no helmet and all exposed skin plus I never had a boyfriend who rode one.

    1. I don’t think I knew anyone with a motorcyle until I was in college, and even then they weren’t especially common. At least most of the people I see riding them now are wearing helmets, and more-or-less useful gear. Occasionally, a dude riding in flip-flops and shorts shows up, and I always wonder how long it will be until he’s literally ‘on the road.’ The riders in the video are more suitably (and stylishly) dressed.

    1. It took me a while to figure out that at least some of those helmets are vintage, too (or at least reproductions of vintage helmets). The red, white, and blue helmet at 1:10 reminded me of these famous scenes from Easy Rider. Steppenwolf still rocks.

  5. We miss the hill country!

    Leif looks like quite a character. You’re right about bikers tending to be friendly and unique. A good reminder to not judge books by their covers.

    1. Everyone who’s been there misses the hill country. Even some people who’ve never been there miss it; they just don’t know it yet.

      Some of the roughest-looking characters I know have the biggest hearts, and some people with truly weird beliefs have turned out to be utterly trustworthy. I’m always happy when a strange bird flies through!

    1. Leif clearly was having some fun with his identity, and he was more than happy to spend some time chatting after I took his photo. Sometimes even the most chance encounter can impress itself on the memory. This one surely did!

  6. It’s definitely a passion. I once sat in a small restaurant near Jackson, California and watched a thousand pass by. Breakfast was way late so Peggy and I and our two friends entertained ourselves by counting them. I would have detoured up to Sturgis this past summer expect for the Covid. Lots and lots of cyclists passed us on the road, however. –Curt

    1. I remember when you wrote about changing your itinerary in order to avoid Sturgis. There’s an annual bike rally in Galveston, too, but it got cancelled this year. Of course there were plenty of people who came down to the Island anyway, but I’m not sure how many there were. It’s too bad you and Peggy weren’t here to count them as they came over the causeway!

  7. Bandera County would suffer a serious economic hit without the bike and auto rallies. I’m interested in seeing how the bridge closure will affect our rally weekend traffic.

    I had a brief flirtation with motorcycle riding in my early 20s and it was fun while it lasted. Going down in a Houston rainstorm cured me. The bike frame was bent but I got away with just a few scrapes and bruises because my body hydroplaned as I slid down the roadway. I decided to do my riding in cars after that – I doubted that I would be that lucky twice.

    1. I was surprised to see the closure would be for four months or so — and total. The explanation makes sense (narrow road, no room for passing lanes), but it’s certainly a complication for the neighborhood. It’s not often that a road’s a destination, but that one certainly is. The good news is that there are options during the closure and an opening scheduled at the beginning of spring.

      Houston roads in the rain aren’t fun for anyone, but hydroplaning down them’s usually reserved for cars. It’s too bad about your bike, but good that your own frame wasn’t bent or broken!

  8. This brought back memories of a guy I dated in college who rode a Harley. I loved to go riding with him. That old Hog would rumble up to a stop sign, hunker down into first gear and mutter for the obligatory moment before we could rumble off again. (I have only to hear the engine to know it’s a fer-real Hog.) Oh, the lure of the open road. There is a strain of wanderlust in those who came to these shores and started these ‘States. Hopefully, that need to see what is just over the next hill and the need to be free to go look will carry us through the difficult times of the days and years ahead.
    (insert the obligatory Steppenwolf audio outro here: .)

    1. You’re right about so much here: about the joy of wanderlust, and the lure of the open road, and the willingness of our forebears to pick up and move. It’s important that we remember those things, and keep experiencing them as we can. Caution is one thing. Paralyzing fear and unnecessarily stringent, self-imposed constraints are quite another. Like the sound of a good engine, the sound of a good song can serve as a reminder that physical death isn’t the only death abroad in the land.

      That’s a great video. I especially enjoyed the ‘skeleton bike’!

  9. Your biker friend looks like he’s wearing longhorn horns! Something most attractive about the open road, especially when we’ve been cooped-up for months on end. And being out in open spaces is actually supposed to be pretty good for us, at least as long as the weather cooperates.

    1. Now you’ve got me thinking about those great Texas Cadillacs with the horns attached to the front. Longhorns certainly are emblematic when it comes to Texas; Viking horns are cool, but apparently more mythic than real. As for the joy of the open road, that can feel just as mythical these days. The good news is that getting out and about still is possible: at least, for most people.

  10. Oh, my, that was fun. I had a Vespa 125 back in Ohio college days, and anything like that puts the spirit of powered two-wheel rides in your blood. My brother had a half-ownership of a 500-cc Triumph around the same time, but the clincher was a ride on a friend’s Harley XLCH (900 cc on a 250-lb. frame) around 1962. My brother’s now an orthopedic surgeon and has told me enough up-close-and-personal anecdotes to keep me off them for the rest of my life, but there is still that yearning and that dream…

    1. I suspect I know the general thrust of your brother’s anecdotes, and it’s not good. Still, there is something appealing about a bike of any sort. I do wonder about the bikers who weave in and out of traffic around here sans helmets or even a good pair of jeans, but to each his own. (And in this instance, the exclusive pronoun seems to be the right one.)

      The good news is that the open road’s available through other means, as your recent posts make clear.

  11. I’ve only been on a “bike” twice and both were over 50 years ago. The second was my dinner break from the grocery store that I was working in at the time. And both were riding behind the owner. Wanting to impress my future prom date I bought her a chocolate ice cream cone. It was July and we were required to wear white shirts. I think you know what happened in the breeze and the heat.

    Not for that reason, which would be a silly one, haven’t been on a motorcycle since. Had a few opportunities but no interest. Chicken, I guess.

    I suspect that prim little sedan is the Linda-mobile. I’m a bit reserved for the look, but I admire folks like Leif who don’t let convention get in the way of life…or Leif-life.

    1. I don’t think it’s a matter of being chicken. It’s just one of those cost/benefit analyses that we always are engaging in. I think having a long history with a dangerous sport makes a difference too. Whether it’s horsepower or horses, someone who’s been around them for years gains a kind of comfort that comes only with time and experience. It’s the same with boats. When I’m on a new boat, I’m going to have scrapes and bruises until I learn its layout. On the Morgan 38 I sailed the most, I could walk around the thing even in tough conditions as though I were in my living room, while someone with minimal sailing experience always was awkward and on edge.

      You’re right — that prim little sedan is Princess. She loves the Twisted Sisters, and has been nagging me to visit them again. She pretty much gets what she wants.

          1. One of my Facebook friends and the former owner of the New Salem General Store where I get those peanut butter brownies is a member of the Red Knights M.C. which consists of former and current firefighters. They ride all over including Europe. I’ll ask if he has been on the Twisted Sisters route.

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