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The Road Goes on Forever: Exploring the Texas Hill Country

Riding a 1975 Norton Commando 850 and a 1948 Vincent Rapide through the Texas Hill Country with friends.

| November/December 2016

  • 1975 Norton Commando and 1948 Vincent Rapide in the Texas Hill Country.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Nice custom Norton ES2 at the Norton-Vincent rally in Leakey, Texas.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • A well-used Series C Vincent Rapide at the Norton-Vincent rally in Leakey, Texas.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Inside the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Editor Backus with Corey Levenson out front of the museum. Corey managed to snag a ride on Peter Allen’s 1936 Vincent HRD Comet (at right), a fantastic-machine that sees plenty of use.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Twisted Sisters: Mark Scott on his Vincent Rapide leads Chris Butler on his Royal Enfield Interceptor down CR 335 in the Hill Country.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Corey’s new Motus drew as much attention as the vintage Nortons and Vincents at the rally.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Mark Scott on his Scott (what else?) Flying Squirrel.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Texas personified.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • The 1948 Vincent HRD Series B gets a rest in Luckenbach on the way back to Austin.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Stunning Hill Country views like this seem to pop up everywhere you go.
    Photo by Richard Backus

According to the numbers, Texas is second only to California in population. Yet rolling through the fabled Texas Hill Country, that statistic seems improbable. The road in front of me is empty and serene, a winding ribbon of blacktop running through vast expanses of scrub land punctuated by huge ranches. If there are people here, they’re not showing themselves.

The numbers start to make sense, however, when you consider that Texas is almost 40 percent larger than California, second only to Alaska in terms of total area. And with the lion’s share of the population in the state’s eastern half, the western half, with the Hill Country running roughly across its midsection, has miles of empty roads. They’re perfect for the vintage Norton and Vincent that Mark Scott and I are piloting from his home in Austin to the 2016 North Texas Norton Owners Association and Lone Star Vincent Owners Club joint rally in Leakey, in the heart of the Hill Country.

This whole trip is something of a pinch me, an “is-this-really-happening?” experience set into motion when I made a date with famed Vincent collector and restorer Herb Harris in Austin to photograph his latest project, the Woodward Avenue Vincent. Good pal Mark had long tempted me with a Hill Country ride, and the window of opportunity to meet with Herb happened to match up perfectly with the Norton and Vincent rallies in Leakey. Talk about planetary alignment.

Westward ho!

Arriving at Mark’s home the day before our ride, he wheels out our bikes for the weekend, a 1948 Vincent HRD Rapide and a matching black 1975 Norton Commando 850 MK3 electric start. He picked up the Norton in 2009 and added the Vincent in 2011. Both are riders, wearing the scuffs of regular use proudly. The Vincent has been upgraded to Black Shadow specs, with Amal Concentric carburetors added to help civilize fueling, while the Norton is mostly stock, save for an upgraded starter along with 750 pipes and K&N air filters.

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