It seemed like a perfect place to start a Austin barbecue odyssey. The Salt Lick is perhaps the most famous joint in the area, not counting the legion of BBQ palaces in Lockhart. The ‘Lick is also a nice quick jaunt out of town down some cool little back roads. It’s just 25 miles from Downtown Austin, so typically a longer ride would be in order to work up an appetite.
The ride there isn’t much to talk about. Pretty, hilly, and ranchy, as many are around here, but not many vistas or twists in the way. But, make no mistake, Driftwood is in the heart of riding country, or the gateway, if you prefer. Just down the road in the town of Driftwood, there’s a county road (170) that leads you through some tight twists between ranches, past a big swanky housing development seemingly planted in the middle of nowhere, and out to FM12.
You can’t go wrong with 12. South will take you down into Wimberly, which is considered by many to be the heart of Hill Country, or north into Dripping Springs, which is adjacent to Pedernales Falls State Park. 2325 west out of Wimberly is a particularly good stretch, which hooks up with 165 and takes you into Blanco. Blanco is the county seat out this way, but it doesn’t have much in the way of sprawl, so it doesn’t get in the way of a nice long ride.
A popular weekend destination is straight down the 1888 west out of Blanco to the very small town of Luckenbach (population 3). It’s basically an old post office that’s been converted to a gift shop, a barn for dances and other events, and very biker-friendly. It’s a welcome tourist trap and cold soda, in the middle of a long ride.
Like Wimberly, Luckenbach leaves you with a staggering number of choices for extending the ride. US-290 just a couple miles north will get you somewhere in a hurry, or, if you can find it, Grapetown Road will take you south, deeper into the hills.
Way, Way Out West
While way off the map as far as notable Barbecue joints go, 336 north of Leakey is heaven, and worth the trip. It’s about 170 miles from Austin one way to Leakey, (in fact, the day I rode this road I stayed the night in Fredericksburg) so it’s a pretty ambitious day trip, but well worth it.
336 twists and turns its way through nearly deserted ranchland, following ridgetops, then dropping into little hidden valleys, and back into the hills. It’s narrow, and has a distinct lack of guardrails, but it’s roller coaster ride, I’d try again in a second. Once at the north end of 336, taking SR-41 east for about 12 miles to Ranch 1340 drops you onto a cool country road that follows the Guadalupe River becoming the 39, then the 27. If you get to Leakey from this direction, taking the 337 east out of town will take you through Vanderpool, then on to Bandera on the SR-16, again, some nice hilly twistiness.