The Roads of Texas

Originally published in the BMW MOAOwners News in June 1995 and reprinted in Enchanted Rock Magazine in March 1997.

Unless you are more fortunate than I, sooner or later other obligations such as work, school, kids, etc. will ultimately limit your riding opportunities. When this happened to me, I looked for ways to get most enjoyment out of the chances that I had. Instead of long tours through several states, my trips became weekend rides around my home state of Texas. I found that roads in close proximity to each other sometimes differed greatly in riding enjoyment. I looked for ways to plan my rides to make sure I found the good roads and avoided the boring ones. The solution, become a Texas Roads Scholar.

Now that I knew the solution, all I needed to know, was how to accomplish it. The main thing I needed were maps showing a lot of detail. The first one I tried was the map handed out at state-line welcome centers. This was better than the map in my atlas, but it didn't show all the Farm-to-Market roads. I discovered the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation had maps for sale at reasonable prices that were larger than the welcome center maps. Of particular interest was the availability of County Maps. A complete book containing all 254 Texas Counties in the 10" X 14" size was only $20. This was a real bargain if I ever saw one. Now I had the detail I was looking for. These maps showed the curves in the roads and the rivers and creeks. I discovered that a road running alongside a river or creek usually had more curves and elevation changes, just what you need to make a good ride. There was only one problem, the book was an inch and a half thick. It was great for studying at home, but a little too hefty to carry in a saddlebag.

In 1988 I discovered the ultimate solution. The folks at the Texas A & M University Cartographics Laboratory and a company called Shearer Publishing created an atlas titled, "The Roads of Texas." It is based on the county maps from the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation. This book is about the same size and weight as a standard road atlas, but has the same detail as the previously mentioned county maps. It is probably the best $14.95 I ever spent. Now I had something that easily fit in a saddlebag and showed all of the roads and all of their curves. As you page from front to back, it starts in the far northwest corner of the state and moves east and then south. Enough detail is shown to identify watersheds, bridges, cemeteries, cattle guards, gates, and the various types of road surfaces. It also contains a listing with addresses and phone numbers of Texas State and National Park facilities as well as some interesting glimpses of Texas History.

"The Roads of Texas" makes for great armchair reading while being a couch potato watching TV. Using this book, my riding buddies and I have picked out some fantastic roads to explore. We've planned many a ride sitting in our easy chairs plotting and scheming over the phone while studying our "Roads Of Texas" atlases. Some of the greatest fun is imagining what a particular road is like from studying the map, and then riding it and seeing how close you were. Without this book I might not have discovered Green's Sausage House in Zabcikville, Texas (oops that's another story). I am on my second one, having totally worn out the first after many miles in the saddlebag of my Beemers. Whether you have a Sport Tourer or a GS, you can find the roads worth riding, either paved or unpaved. It allows you to get off the beaten path and still know where you're going.

"The Roads of Texas" is currently available in its third edition. This latest revision even includes the names/numbers of the County Roads. You can find it at most bookstores or at stores specializing in maps. It may be ordered direct from Shearer Publishing by calling 1-800-458-3808. They also have atlases available for Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and North Carolina.

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