The Bandera Breakfast Run

Recon Viper 1

New Member
I ran across this while doing some research on the County. I live 9 miles from the heart of the business and financial district and I can tell you this has only increased with time. Article written about 2000.

Nobody seems to remember exactly when it started,or exactly who started it. The earliest of the recollections begin around 1963, give or take a year or two. Triumphs, Nortons, Harleys, and BSAs were the motorcycling rage then: quick, nimble and throaty, they were perfect for the Texas Hill Country. Somehow, somewhere, somebody said,"Let's meet at the last gas station out on Bandera Road and head up into the Hill Country for a ride," and every weekend for at least the last thirty years, that's exactly what has happened. Around 8 AM this Sunday, a large group of motorcyclists will head northwest out of San Antonio for an unofficial, non-sanctioned group ride.

Back in the old days, Highway 16 posed a much greater challenge for the avid riders who swept through its long sweepers. Shoulders were as rare as radar.

There's no club affiliation, no special size or brand of bike, no age limit- the only requirement is a desire to ride. Yet this single element is the primary reason this phenomenon is still occurring. That, and some of the most spectacular scenery and excellent pavement around. The name "Bandera Breakfast Run" has become synonymous with the ride, yet actually pertains more to a particular cycle in its evolution. In the early '70s, San Antonio was a sleepy little cowtown, unknown, (unless you'd been in the military) with the exception of the Alamo. Bandera Road (Texas State Highway 16) was a twisting two-lane that carved its way up to Bandera, a one-light, dude ranch, western town.

Bandera is a scenic doorway to the Edwards Plateau region of Texas, where mountains are blanketed with tall maples, centuries-old oaks, and cypress. The pavement is just as breathtaking, black-topped ribbons that curl and undulate, rising and falling like a zero-gravity roller coaster on which you control the speed.

The magic of the Texas hill country is its blend of wide open spaces, and serpentine roads with great sight lines. Big fun is hard to avoid.

Bandera is also home to the Old Spanish Trail (OST) restaurant. Open since 1921, this is an eatery where pictures of "The Duke" take up an entire wall, where the spur collection dates back to the 1800s, and where the barstools are fashioned from horse saddles. The OST's size is relative to the town, however, and it's roomy cypress booths and tables had a tendency to fill up pretty quickly on weekends. By then, the ride's itinerary had become a given. Everybody met at the last gas station on Bandera Road, in the tiny town of Helotes (hel« o-tis) a few miles outside San Antonio. In those days, the ride took place on Saturdays, leaving at 7 AM, and there'd be anywhere from 10 to 30 bikes ready to roll. Up to then, everybody had started out pretty much together, making the gradual 30-mile ascent to Bandera while watching the sunrise, then eating breakfast at the OST and discussing plans for the rest of the day. But 20 or 30 people showing up all at once usually meant somebody had to wait, and with a bunch of hungry, Type-A personalities on fast bikes, it inevitably turned into a race-with the prize being the OST's breakfast specialty, Eggs Enchiladas. Eventually, someone called it the "Bandera Breakfast Run," and the moniker promptly stuck. Soon, if you dared show up at 8 AM for breakfast, you risked being taunted as the group snickered their way out the door, picking their teeth.

The Old Spanish Trail restaurant is a one of kind combination of early morning eatery and John Wayne shrine. The "Cowboy Capital of the World" keeps the faith with a buffet served from a covered wagon, and more spurs than you can shake horse at.

George Sistrunk had opened up Casa Suzuki on Bandera Road during this period, and sometimes used the run as a promo ride. "It wasn't long before the hotshoes turned it into a roadrace," recalled George. "We tried leaving at 6:30, but they'd just blow right by us and beat us there anyway." The early '70s also coincided with Reg Pridmore's glory years, and the early Superbike wars that pitted lighter-weight BMW and Ducati twins against the bucking horsepower of the four-cylinder Japanese bikes. The same racetrack scenario repeated itself in the "tour de arc" that is the Texas Hill Country, and there were many who found that all the horsepower in the world couldn't keep up with the Euro-bike riders on their lighter, nimbler twins. One of them was Lem "Snooky" Miller, who rode an R75 and later the first black-and-silver R90S to hit South Texas. Then manager of the local BMW shop, Miller's recollection about the early-birds was that, "We knew those guys had started leaving earlier. We still left at 7 and got to eat first!"

Another was Nick Smith, a Western/Eastern Roadracers' Association (WERA) superbike contender who had put quite a few hours in on the track at Texas World Speedway. Nick had grown up with the likes of Freddie Spencer and Doug Polen, and was notorious for entering turns without using his brakes. When riders who keyed on brake lights tried to follow him, they often got in over their heads pretty quickly. Years later, after the run had mellowed, Smith overheard a biker in Luckenbach (another popular Hill Country hangout) describing a past ride on the BBR. "I chased that guy all the way from Helotes," the fellow stated. "I don't know who he was. I could see him up ahead, but he must have been going 140 to 150 mph, because I was doing 130. All I know is, the guy was wearing a black leather jacket, a half-helmet and aviator goggles, and riding a red BMW." Smith smiled to himself, but didn't say a word, because he knew they were talking about him. "That ol' Beemer (a '74 R90S) had close to 60,000 miles on it by then," claimed Smith. "It wouldn't go any faster than 120 -130 tops! I know exactly when that guy was talking about. I'd been running late that morning and had gotten into Helotes just as the group was leaving. I never took off my helmet till I got to Bandera. I saw him back there, so I just kept running it through the corners. I knew if I wasn't far enough ahead, that Japanese bike would pull me in the straightway right before you get into Bandera."

Another early '70s memoir comes from Jeff Scott, who first heard of the BBR around 1971: "Then, it was just an "everybody get together and ride sort of thing. But it soon got to where it was really dangerous, people crashing all the time." By then, Saturday mornings had become a throttle stretching, foot dragging free-for-all, and this was one of the many factors that caused an inevitable change in the way the BBR was to be run in the future -if it was, indeed, to have a future. Japanese crotch rockets were being bought and ridden by every Kenny Roberts wannabe around and it made them dangerous, sometimes they got caught up in the chase and lost it -in more ways than one. Although no one was ever killed (that I know of), scores of riders crashed during this period. Up to that point, the local constabulary had been pretty lenient. But as the carnage increased, the cops began cracking down, and after the infamous "Interceptors Enchiladas" incident of 1983, they became serious. Two novices, riding then-new Honda Interceptors (one a 750 and the other a 1000), were doing the BBR thing, dicing in a pack of five, when they came over a rise and saw a state trooper handing out tickets on the opposite side of the highway. The fellow on the 750 grabbed such a huge handful of front brake that his rear tire lifted off the pavement. The 1000 was directly behind him, and when the two bikes slammed together, they spit their pilots off in opposite directions then slid -locked in doggie-style position, sparking and screeching all the way -directly past the amazed lawman.

The state troopers (DPS) brought out a hotrod Ford Mustang Cobra and began to lie in wait. Choosing a long sweeper just inside the Bandera county line, the DPS will tell you they gave out quite a few citations for "well in excess of 100 mph" on Saturday mornings. Something had to give or the BBR might have ended permanently. Some decided that the racetrack was a better medium for roadracing, and this did a lot to slow down the pace. Then there was a sort of synergistic splitting into two groups, one of which left at 7 AM and was finishing breakfast just about the time the faster, 8 AM crowd was arriving. Finally, the BBR was switched to Sundays, which is how it is run today. Together, these steps allowed the ride to survive. In 1990, the BBR was featured as part of Kawasaki's "Destinations" ad campaign, recognizing not only the run, but greater San Antonio as one of the motorcycling hotspots in the U.S.

The sweet spot of the ride comes in the low slung hills, where the turns tighten up, and the pavement is clean and grippy. These locals show how it's done in Texas hill country.

Yes, Sunday mornings still find large packs of motorcyclists headed towards the OST, where, after 35 years, the locals don't even try to get in for breakfast on the weekends. The pace from Helotes to Bandera has slowed considerably, due to several factors, not the least of which is getting tagged. These days, after eating, most continue their ride through the Hill Country to points beyond, like Luckenbach, Utopia, or Fredricksburg. The roads north, then west and east of Bandera haven't yet been adulterated by the urban sprawl of San Antonio's growing metropolis. For many riders, the seductive nature of the Hill Country two-lane still beckons you to twist the throttle and test your angle of lean. For others, the breakfast stop in Bandera is merely a stepping-off point for what amounts to an amateur roadrace through the relatively unpatrolled Hill Country, and in that respect, the "run" survives in essence as well as name.

Sportbike fiends wail along on these Texas back roads, while the Goldwing crowd whispers through with a little more leisure. A friendly mixture makes the hill country a bike heaven.

The spirit that gave rise to the BBR is still alive and well, flourishing in every motorcycle enthusiast's heart. Every weekend for the past 35 years, Bandera has borne witness to this, and hopefully, as long as motorcyclists ride and the warm Texas sun shines, it will continue to do so.

With the easy proximity of Bandera to San Antonio, most of the traffic today continues west to the 3 Sisters.