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Old 12-07-2005, 05:27 PM   #1
ColGoodnight
 
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Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

(There's been a flurry of postings about bridges of late, and a plurality answered the "why do you ride" question with "the relaxation of sight-seeing and geographic discovery". Hope you enjoy this article. Tom)

Texas' Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

copyright Tom Shaddox 2005
all rights reserved
unauthorized reproduction in whole or parts prohibited


There are over 48,000 bridges in Texas, the most of any state. Some were designed with impressive brainpower, and all were built with sweat and hard work. There are bridges large and small, made from wood, concrete, stone and steel. Their designs come from every bridge structure family, and they cross Texas’ rivers, lakes, bays, canals and channels. They connect people together, and they let motorcyclists get away.

In the early days of Texas motorcycling, road bridges were rare. A rider parked his Harley-Davidson Silent Gray Fellow or Indian Power Plus at the bank of the ford, and waded across to check the water depth and traction before attempting the crossing on the bike. New bridge openings were a big event for a community, and kicked off a day of speechifying and picnics. A major bridge could secure the economic prosperity of a region. As more and sturdier bridges were built across the state, we began to take them for granted, and now we pass over them every day without a thought.

As I cross Texas bridges, I’ve begun to observe their structures, and think about how that reflects the bridge building science and economics of the period when they were built, and the geography of the local areas. I like to think about the first person to ever ride across a given bridge on a motorcycle, too. Where were they going, and what kind of bike were they on?

Following is a countdown of great road bridges in the state. Each of these bridges is notable is some way: engineering, aesthetics, historical significance, uniqueness or just being a really fun ride. Most Texas motorcyclists will be familiar with at least some of these bridges; but others will be unknown or forgotten. All deserve appreciation as your journeys lead you across them, and any would make a good destination for a ride.

20. Name: Hammetts Crossing
Location: TX3238 over the Pedernales River, Travis County
Type and date: Low Water, 1924

The first step up from fording a river is the low-water bridge. When the water is low, there’s a bridge there, and when the water is high – there isn’t! These are found throughout the state, but for motorcyclists the Hammetts Crossing low water bridge has especially fun approach roads on either bank. Note: Cross with caution or not at all unless the bridge deck is completely dry.

19. Name: Regency
Location: CO433 over the Colorado River, Mill and San Saba Counties
Type and date: Suspension, 1938

Light duty suspension bridges once dotted the state, but there’s only a double handful left these days, and only two that still carry vehicular traffic. The Regency is fairly ordinary from a structural standpoint, but it is a graceful bridge in a particularly scenic setting. There are good spots on either end and from below to take pictures of your buddies riding across, too. Note: Access is on gravel roads.

18. Name: Washington Street
Location: Downtown Waco, over the Brazos River, McLennan County
Type and date: Steel truss, 1902

The steel truss bridge was once the most common type on the Texas main highway system, but many have been replaced or bypassed. The Washington Street Bridge is an early yet large example, and still carries traffic in downtown Waco. Through-trusses are particularly fun to ride across because of all the structure visible above – you go inside them as much as you go across.

17. Name: Bullman

2008 UPDATE - THIS BRIDGE HAS BEEN TORN DOWN AND REPLACED WITH A NEW ONE

Location: CO301 over the Leon River, Hamilton County
Type and date: Bowstring arch, 1884

Early Texas communities built small wooden bridges that were washed away in floods. After the industrial revolution took hold late in the 19th century, longer, sturdier steel bridges could be ordered from bridge factories and shipped to Texas by rail. A few still stand, and the Bullman Bowstring is one of the most beautiful. Note: Access is on gravel roads.

16. Name: Sidney Sherman
Location: Loop 610 over the Houston Ship Channel, Harris County
Type and date: Continuous Plate Girder, 1973

The Sidney Sherman looks like an overgrown freeway overpass – but users of this bridge probably have no idea just how overgrown. With a clear span of 600 feet, it is the US champion bridge of its construction type. While it seems plenty big when riding across, ships have hit the road deck on several occasions!

15. Name: Percy V. Pennybacker
Location: Loop 360 over Town Lake, Travis County
Type and date: Steel Arch, 1982

After several decades in exile, bridge aesthetics made a triumphant return to Texas in the award winning Pennybacker. As a benefit of its good looks, it is quite dramatic to cross on a motorcycle. The designers were said to have chosen a steel alloy that would weather into a UT burnt orange – I don’t want to get anything started, but in certain lights it looks more maroon to me.

14. Name: Harbor
Location: US181 over the Corpus Christi Channel, Nueces County
Type and date: Truss Through Arch, 1959

Sydney, Australia has the Harbor Bridge, and San Francisco has the Golden Gate. In Texas, we have the lovely Corpus Bay Bridge. Riding across, you not only see the bridge’s arching superstructure but fine views of the USS Lexington and State Aquarium to the north and Oceanside Drive to the south.

13. Name: Roma International
Location: Roma, over the Rio Grande, Starr County
Type and date: Suspension, 1928

The most important bridges in the state would have to include those across the Rio Grande, but those spans are by-in-large uninspiring structures. The bridge at Roma is a notable exception. It was built only after the railroads – and taking lots of water for irrigation - ended the riverboat traffic on the Rio. A companion bridge carries the vehicular traffic today, and the old suspension bridge is used for pedestrians. Bonus: Historic downtown Roma is a really cool place.

12. Name: Possum Kingdom
Location: TX16 over the Brazos River, Palo Pinto County
Type and date: Masonry Arch, 1940

The WPA had plenty of cheap labor but little money for materials, so they took a lesson from history and build the Highway16 Bridge out of native stone in the old Roman way. After two millennia, it’s still a construction method that yields a fine bridge: these stalwart rock arches have been inundated during floods with no damage.

11. Name: Brackenridge Park
Location: San Antonio over the San Antonio River, Bexar County
Type and date: Lenticular Through Truss, 1890

Texas is a big place, big enough that we lose things like entire forests of Pines and Maples. The San Antonio area is home to the “lost lenticulars”, the only lenticular truss bridges in the United States west of the Mississippi River. The best one for motorcyclists is in San Antonio’s Breckenridge Park; the lens shaped structure is elevated above the road deck and provides an impressive appearance at the low park speeds. Bonus: In downtown San Antonio, Crockett Street crosses the River Walk on a pony lenticular.

10. Name: Fred Hartman
Location: TX146 over the Houston Ship Channel, Harris County
Type and date: Fan Cable Stay, 1995

In Texas, big = good. With a clear span of 1238 feet, the Fred Hartman is the biggest bridge in the state. The massive double diamond cable stay supports are surely best appreciated from a motorcycle, and in addition to ocean going ships passing beneath, sharp-eyed riders can make out the San Jacinto Monument to the west (Deaf Smith can be glad he didn’t have to burn the Hartman!)

9. Name: Pecos River
Location: US90 over the Pecos River, Val Verde County
Type and date: Deck Cantilever, 1959

The Pecos River cuts a deep gash across the desert between Del Rio and Langtry, and the bridge carrying Highway 90 across is the highest in the state at 273 feet. Be sure to pull out on the scenic overlook to really appreciate this towering cantilever structure.


8. Name: Wagon
Location: US60 & US83 over the Canadian River, Hemphill County
Type and date: Segmented Through-Truss, 1915

An impressive bridge in the Panhandle? Yep! At 3,255 feet total length, the Wagon Bridge in Canadian was the longest truss bridge west of the Mississippi went it was built. Crossing the quicksand of the Canadian River bottoms, it was recently restored and today is open to foot traffic.


7. Name: Jesse Jones
Location: Beltway 8 over the Houston Ship Channel, Harris County
Type and date: Hollow box cantilever, 1982

Selling the Brooklyn Bridge is a long standing financial scam joke. The Texas version is selling the Jesse Jones Bridge – except the Jones really was sold, and for $225 million, about four times its replacement value! That’s Texas-sized money, and makes this arching ribbon of concrete far-and-away the most expensive bridge in Texas. For their money, the Tollway Authority got the third longest hollow box cantilever bridge in the country. Because of its length, ear-popping vertical rise, lack of any superstructure and unusually narrow roadway, the Jones is perhaps the most thrilling bridge to ride across in the state.

6. Name: Queen Isabella Memorial
Location: Park 100 over the Laguna Madre, Cameron County
Type and date: Viaduct, 1954

Most Texas school children could tell you that the 12,500 foot long Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge is the longest in the state. In addition to its champion length, it connects the mainland to South Padre Island – and what more reason would you need to ride it than that?

5. Name: Upper Harbor
Location: Navigation Blvd. over Tule Lake Channel, Nueces County
Type and date: Vertical lift, 1959

A great many of the historic drawbridges in the state have been replaced with “high” bridges rising above the ship traffic. The most impressive drawbridge ever build in the state is still in service, though. At the command of the bridge operators, the Navigation Blvd. Bridge lifts the road deck 138 feet. After riding across, be sure to stick around to watch it do some heavy lifting!

4. Name: Rainbow
Location: TX87 over the Neches River, Jefferson and Orange Counties
Type and date: Through Cantilever, 1938

The Rainbow Bridge in Bridge City has the greatest vertical rise of any bridge in Texas. It was designed in the mid-1930’s to – I’m not making this up – provide clearance for the US Navy’s dirigible tenders, and soars 177 feet above the river. Bonus: the Veterans’ Memorial cable stay bridge stands along side.

3. Name: Waco
Location: Downtown Waco over the Brazos River, McLennan County
Type and date: Suspension, 1869

The queen of Texas bridges is the suspension bridge in Waco. It was easily the most impressive bridge in the state for the first half of its century long service to local traffic, which spanned from cattle drives to air conditioned automobiles. The lovely structure today is open to foot traffic.

2. Name: Sargent
Location: TX457 across the Intercoastal Canal, Matagorda County
Type and date: Pontoon swing, 1964

A “swing bridge” is a type of drawbridge that rotates rather than lifts. But this particular bridge isn’t just a swing bridge – it’s a pontoon bridge, too! How cool is that? It floats on the water it bridges, and the operators swing it out of the way of the barge traffic along the coast. These were once common along the coast, but the pontoon swing at Sargent will be the last such bridge left in the state when a similar one in Matagorda is replaced by a high bridge in a few years. Subtle distinction: “Swinging bridge” is a colloquial term for any bridge that sways in the wind or under load.

1. Name: Bluffdale
Location: CO149 over the Paluxy River, Erath County
Type and date: Fan Cable stay, 1891

Cable stay bridges are all the rage these days. From the boss-of-the-coastal-plains Fred Hartman Bridge over the Ship Channel to the soon-to-be-built “signature” Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, cable stay bridges are built to make a statement. The bridge books say the first cable stay bridge in the USA was built fairly recently, in 1970. Those books are published back east and they’re wrong, of course, for in 1891 Texas bridge engineer William Flinn built a cable stay bridge of his own design at Bluffdale. It served the area as the main highway crossing of the Paluxy River for decades, and stands to this day as a testament to the state’s history of great bridges.

I wrote it - now help your fellow TWTs out with some illustrations! Pictures of you and your bike at these bridges, please! How long will it take to post ride photographs of all twenty bridges?
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Old 12-07-2005, 06:22 PM   #2
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

I have some memorable mental pictures of some of them.

#3 in Waco - I believe that this was the first bridge to span the Brazos river in Texas. I've been across it on a motorcycle a few times and it is a nice mental picture (and yes, it is open to foot traffic only).

#15 360 crossing Lake Austin - Very nice to look at from both a distance and up close. I have crossed it on a GSXR 1100 with the throttle pinned. Nice mental image, goes by very quickly.
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Old 12-07-2005, 06:29 PM   #3
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

I like the list - will have to start chipping at it.

Quote:
Texas' Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar
Now, to be picky, it is a bridge list. I look for cool RR tresles, too, but I have never heard a bridge called a trestle...

BTW, I still chase trains on occasion...
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Old 12-07-2005, 06:29 PM   #4
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
Originally Posted by ColGoodnight
20. Name: Hammetts Crossing
Location: TX3238 over the Colorado River, Travis County
Type and date: Low Water, 1924

The first step up from fording a river is the low-water bridge. When the water is low, there’s a bridge there, and when the water is high – there isn’t! These are found throughout the state, but for motorcyclists the Hammetts Crossing low water bridge has especially fun approach roads on either bank. Note: Cross with caution or not at all unless the bridge deck is completely dry.
Thanks for the info. Here is a pic of Hammets Crossing.It is actually the Pedernales, not the Colorado.
This will be a fun thread.
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Old 12-07-2005, 09:14 PM   #5
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Welcome to TWT, Tom! Nice way to make an entrance. Just curious, have you been observing here for a while (sounds better than lurking, doesn't it? ) or did our bridges threads get your attention somehow?

Somewhere I think I've got a picture of the Devil's Canyon Bridge taken on one of the Big Bend rides, though it may not have my bike in it. Have to dig it up and see if it qualifies.
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Old 12-07-2005, 09:26 PM   #6
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

This one?

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Old 12-07-2005, 09:36 PM   #7
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Yep, beat me to it. That's the one.

Next time I ride out of Clear Lake w/ kocook, I'll have to remember to pull out my camera and take some shots while passing over the Fred Hartman bridge. That really is quite nice from a motorcycle.
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Old 12-07-2005, 09:46 PM   #8
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
Originally Posted by ColGoodnight
(There's been a flurry of postings about bridges of late, and a plurality answered the "why do you ride" question with "the relaxation of sight-seeing and geographic discovery". Hope you enjoy this article. Tom)

Texas' Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

... (shortened for space savings - text at top of page)...
Houston's 610 Loop bridge is amazing. Houston does have a massive port and while riding on that bridge, one gets an excellent view. My father was a long- shoreman and I was brought up on the port (Harrisburg area) with the boats, etc. It still amazes me!
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Old 12-07-2005, 10:45 PM   #9
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Howdy Tom, Glad to see you got the registration issues sorted! Welcome into the site! Excellent first post
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Last edited by Gilk51; 12-07-2005 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 12-07-2005, 11:49 PM   #10
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Number 19:







Paul b.
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Old 12-08-2005, 01:06 AM   #11
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

A cool website about Texas Bridges:

http://www.allacrosstexas.com/texas_bridges.htm
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The number one rule for this forum!
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29 (NIV)
Think before you post. Leave out the vulgarity, personal attacks and foul language!

Quote:
"However lofty the goals, if the means be depraved, the result must reflect that depravity." - Leonard E. Read

Lies are fragile. They require constant attentiveness to keep them alive. The exposure of a single truth can rip through an ocean of lies, evaporating it instantly. - Brandon Smith

If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist. — Joe Sobran

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. – Murray N. Rothbard

When one possessed of the Truth suffers from a heavy heart he is susceptible to a more dangerous affliction — the craving for power to eradicate error, to cause Truth to triumph by force. - Frank Chodorov

Where politicians flourish, long history has harshly taught us, people and their liberty wither. Where the state is god and the "public interest" worshipped, individual man will be found bleeding upon the altar. - Karl Hess

The accepted wisdom is that without the state, society would collapse into lawlessness and crime. In fact, lawlessness and crime define the very nature of the state and the society organized by it. - Bionic Mosquito

But the myth of the rule of law does more than render the people submissive to state authority; it also turns them into the state's accomplices in the exercise of its power. For people who would ordinarily consider it a great evil to deprive individuals of their rights or oppress politically powerless minority groups will respond with patriotic fervor when these same actions are described as upholding the rule of law. - John Hasnas
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:07 AM   #12
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jing
Number 19:
Paul b.
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Old 12-08-2005, 12:55 PM   #13
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Nice post, I would like to see them all. I grew up in Pt. Arthur, not too far from the Rainbow Bridge. In High School my favorite place to park with my girlfreind was very close to the bridge. We used to drive across it, (after we were finsished) just so we could come back and look at all the lights on the oil refineries and chemical plants. They are very ugly during the day, but almost pretty at night, especially from the top of that bridge.
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Old 12-08-2005, 01:43 PM   #14
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
Originally Posted by scratch
Just curious, have you been observing here for a while (sounds better than lurking, doesn't it? ) or did our bridges threads get your attention somehow?
I've been "observing" for quite a while. The kind of mc riding I'm doing right now is pretty different from what most TWTs are posting about and I haven't had much to contribute until the bridge thing came up. I wrote the bulk of this about six months ago for my own amusement and only had to make a few tweeks to post it here. Hope it's enjoyable reading during this cold snap and maybe gets a few folks to dig the maps out and go on good rides in the future.

(BTW - Sorry about the copyright thing. I've never considered myself a writer, but I thrown a few things out on the 'net only to find them later published in a local newsletter or on a web page - with someone else taking credit as the author. That kinda stinks.)

In addition to punting the correct river for Hammett's Crossing, I'm having doubts about exactly which county road the Bullman Bowstring is on. Perhaps the TWT that posts that bridge/bike picture can help with a confirmation/correction. We're already three down and just 17 to go in less than a day on the pictures, so snaps out to the posters.

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Old 12-08-2005, 02:38 PM   #15
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
The kind of mc riding I'm doing right now is pretty different from what most TWTs are posting about and I haven't had much to contribute until the bridge thing came up.
What kind of riding is that? We have a pretty wide variety of riding tastes here so now I am curious
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The number one rule for this forum!
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29 (NIV)
Think before you post. Leave out the vulgarity, personal attacks and foul language!

Quote:
"However lofty the goals, if the means be depraved, the result must reflect that depravity." - Leonard E. Read

Lies are fragile. They require constant attentiveness to keep them alive. The exposure of a single truth can rip through an ocean of lies, evaporating it instantly. - Brandon Smith

If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist. — Joe Sobran

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. – Murray N. Rothbard

When one possessed of the Truth suffers from a heavy heart he is susceptible to a more dangerous affliction — the craving for power to eradicate error, to cause Truth to triumph by force. - Frank Chodorov

Where politicians flourish, long history has harshly taught us, people and their liberty wither. Where the state is god and the "public interest" worshipped, individual man will be found bleeding upon the altar. - Karl Hess

The accepted wisdom is that without the state, society would collapse into lawlessness and crime. In fact, lawlessness and crime define the very nature of the state and the society organized by it. - Bionic Mosquito

But the myth of the rule of law does more than render the people submissive to state authority; it also turns them into the state's accomplices in the exercise of its power. For people who would ordinarily consider it a great evil to deprive individuals of their rights or oppress politically powerless minority groups will respond with patriotic fervor when these same actions are described as upholding the rule of law. - John Hasnas
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Old 12-08-2005, 04:43 PM   #16
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

I like to think of myself as an "adventure-commuter"



Nothing like curb jumping a big dually in the morning with a Nalgene bottle full of coffee in the pannier....
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:20 PM   #17
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourmeister
What kind of riding is that? We have a pretty wide variety of riding tastes here so now I am curious
Oh, you know, too much of this and not enough of this.

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Old 12-08-2005, 10:21 PM   #18
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

That is a cool looking scooter! What brand/model? We have quite a few scooter people on the site. Very cool bridge pic by the way
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:35 PM   #19
Paoli Veloce
 
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Garland, TX
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

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Show off!
Hey, Chuck, you're at least 1 to 1.5 hr closer to Regency than me. Now that you have those new Tourances, more seat time, less keyboard time!


Paul b.
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Paoli Veloce

Distorsione di velocità, niente battimenti quel ringhio basso che viene da sotto quella vernice rossa brillante.

'06 Ducati Multistrada 620 - SOLD & missed

Garland, TX

Last edited by Paoli Veloce; 12-08-2005 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:51 PM   #20
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Re: Texas’ Top Twenty Trestles for the Roads Scholar

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Originally Posted by Tourmeister
What brand/model?
Honda. Some people are posers and some people are riders; while there are other bikes I'd love to have, the Met is what's in the garage right now, so that's what I ride.

The bridge is up on the Oklahoma border and getting there involved running the scoot WOT for around two and half hours each way over a maze of back roads. Tom
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