• The Three Twisted Sisters of Texas

    I took a cruise through the Three Twisted Sisters on Tuesday 2/13/2010. Many of you may have never heard of them. For those unfamiliar, it is a route through the Texas Hill Country with beautiful scenery and some very challenging and in some cases treacherous roads. It has been long known and traveled by the motorcycle cruising community, but Iíve never seen or heard much in the automotive enthusiast crowd about them. So I decided to take the ride myself and write a small overview for any that might like to go as well. Iím glad I went.

    My personal experience on my first cruise through the Sisters was absolutely wonderful. It was all that Iíd heard it was and more. The only negatives on my trip were 1) intermittent light rainfall and drizzle and 2) an anxious passenger who was far less excited and eager for a spirited hill country drive than I was (Iím not calling any names but Iím married to her). This somewhat limited my ability to push the envelope as much as I would have alone, but even still it was quite an exciting experience.

    First, the location and route. The Three Twisted Sisters are located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio. There most direct route to get there from Houston is west on Interstate I-10 to Kerrville. Kerrville is about a 4 Ĺ hour drive from Houston, this is more of a whole weekend cruise than a single day trip. In Kerrville, I take TX Hwy 16 S. (Medina Highway) to Medina. Kerrville is a great place to top off the fuel tank, check tire pressures, fluids, spare tire, and make sure everything is in top shape for the ride, thereís not much civilization ahead where weíre going.

    This next section is what I like to call The Prelude. As I leave Kerrville headed south, I see beautiful hills ahead. A few miles further as Iím driving through them, I begin to get a taste of the excitement that lies ahead. This is where the steep hills and sharp twists begin to get my heart going. But this is only the beginningÖ
    The Three Twisted sisters proper are TX FM 337, 336, and 335. These ranch roads are very well maintained, sparsely traveled, and in fantastically great shape. No potholes, washouts, bumps, dips, or anything at all that would mess up a great driving experience. From traveling southbound on TX Hwy 16, I take a right turn onto TX FM 337 to begin the ride. Are you ready?

    As I began on TX FM 337 headed west I could already tell this was going to be a treat. The narrow two lane black top laid out before me was as inviting to me as the Yellow Brick Road to Dorothy. No ruby slippers required. Would it live up to its reputation? The first few miles were pretty mild although scenic; long sweeping smooth turns and subtle changes of elevation. As I got to the first steep 500 foot rise in elevation and saw the road sign warning of falling rocks, I know Iíve made a good choice. The road is hewn directly through the Central Texas rock in some areas. Far different than the flatlands of Southeast Texas. Along this route there are numerous elevation changes and plenty of gorgeous scenery. About a third of the way through this initial 20 mile stretch is where the road gets into some tight twisties and elevation changes. There are some very sharp blind corners with no shoulder, just sheer rock face. The roadway is also sometimes rising or falling away depending on your direction of travel. This section has earned my nickname Dead Manís Curves. This goes on almost all the way into the first small town, Vanderpool. Here I took a right turn at the T, continuing along FM 337 on through the small town for about a mile or so, then another left turn to follow it back out into the ranch lands. A couple more Dead Manís Curves and sweeping Sís along this section, including a few hairpins and a blind 90į left hander around the hillside with only a guardrail between you and the valley far below. Yes, Iím still in Texas. It alternates between tight and twisty through the hills, then straighter through the valley for a bit until you reach Leakey.
    At Leakey, FM 337 continues straight ahead but I take a right turn at the main intersection in the sleepy little town onto US Hwy. 83 heading north. After heading north through the tiny town for a little less than a mile, I turn left again onto FM 336, the second Sister. As I drive along, pretty soon Iím encountering something we donít often (or ever) see on the urban streets of Houston or even in the suburbs Ė cattle guards. Yes, I said cattle guards; about a half dozen of them or so along this leg of the trip. But they are smooth and well maintained as cattle guards go. I just slow down quite a bit as the highway warning signs tell me to, 20 mph. This part is more twisty roads with great scenery as FM 336 snakes along the route of the Frio River, crossing it once. I call this section The Devilís Backbone (although there is another highway in Texas called that). There are lots and lots of elevation changes and switchbacks. I shift down into first and second more times than Iíd expect to, both for hill climbing and descent. Elevation goes from 1600 feet in Leakey to as high as about 2400 feet at the highest point of the road. FM 336 dead ends into TX Hwy 41 where you I take a left turn.

    This next section is what I call Recovery because I get a chance to recover and stop white knuckling for a bit. Yes my knuckles were white. TX Hwy 41 is mostly straight and flat. 14 miles of smooth Texas rural blacktop through ranch country. 15 minutes to regain my composure and take it easy. Enough of that, letís get back to it!
    After 14 miles I take a left turn onto FM 335 heading back south. Now weíre on The Coaster. Ups and downs. Side to side. There are some spots along this part of the route that may cause your suspension to bottom out or some tire/fender scraping if you are slammed really. But I figured out the key to preventing this pretty quickly Ė control of my speed as I reach the bottom of the steep hills and transition right into the sharp uphill swings again. Itís only in the sharp sudden transition in the bottom of the valleys where this is an issue, so I just slow down before reaching the bottom of each one and then accelerate again after starting to climb up the other side. This section is long, about 34 miles. Most if it is carved into the hillsides making for some spectacular views if I dare to look out over the guardrail. Iíll let my passenger do that, I better be paying attention to this road! Toward the end the road merges into TX Hwy 55 S for about 4 miles into the little town of Camp Wood.

    The final section of the trip is back onto another part of FM 337, the road we started out on. This section is mostly straighter at first than the ones weíve been through but still at a high elevation. Except for one tricky section about two thirds of the way through its 21 mile length that I call The Esses. Youíll know it when you get there. This part of 337 goes back to Leakey where we turned onto FM 336 earlier. Iíve just completed about 132 miles of some of the most scenic and challenging roadway in the state of Texas. I stopped and had a cold drink, I deserved it.

    There are a few of scenic overlooks along the route and a few roadside picnic tables. The shoulder along much of the road is very narrow on completely nonexistent, so be careful where you pull off the road. There are a few low water crossings as well, I donít advise this route during or after heavy rains because obviously itís hilly and the road will have water across it in several places. They are clearly marked with low water crossing signs. Plan your trip accordingly. One of the best parts is, no trucks, no traffic (except for a few locals and the motorcycle riders), and no bad roads.
    Youíre only about 110 miles from San Antonio along highways US 83 Ė TX 127 Ė US 90.

    Drive safely.

    Sector I: Jct TX Hwy 16 & FM 337 in Medina to Vanderpool Ė 20 miles
    Sector II: FM 337 from Vanderpool to Leakey Ė 16 miles
    Sector III: FM 336 in Leakey to Jct. TX Hwy. 41 Ė 27 miles
    Sector IV: Jct. TX Hwy 41 to Jct. FM 335 Ė 14 miles
    Sector V: FM 335 to FM 337 in Camp Wood Ė 34 miles
    Sector VI: FM 337 from Camp Wood to Leakey Ė 21 miles
    Total length: about 132 miles. Total time: about 4.5 hours. Total turns: lots and lots.

    Credit goes to Jeremy aka BlackBetty for this awesome article.
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. 2Slow's Avatar
      I loved it! So much imagery. Brings to mind my trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Tail of the Dragon, and hauling butt on US 6 through the mountains in the middle of the night in Utah (and many other less traveled but just as exciting roads out in the American West). Luckily for me, my wife loved it and doesn't get carsick (unlike me, who does get carsick even as the driver). Post more!
    1. nyckid's Avatar
      Awesome write up Jeremy! This looks like a very fun cruise you have. The scenery looks spectacular. Something that you don't see in Houston at all. Makes me wish we had hills and mountains to look at while we drive. Everything is just flat and boring here.
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      It's a fantastic place for a full weekend meet/cruise for SGS.
    1. FlSHRFun's Avatar
      Great blog, Jeremy!
      A cruise on this route sounds like a ton of fun!
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by FlSHRFun View Post
      Great blog, Jeremy!
      A cruise on this route sounds like a ton of fun!
      So when are we going?
    1. InvaderXin's Avatar
      When you get your supercharge or TT kit.
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by InvaderXin View Post
      When you get your supercharge or TT kit.
      Uh, I really wont need any FI creeping around blind mountain road hairpins at 15 mph.
    1. InvaderXin's Avatar
      Stop being afraid and drift around them canyons. That's what DK would do.
    1. icfp1980's Avatar
      Just read this. Sounds awesome Jeremy. Wow
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      That's where we will be cruising on Saturday at NISMO Firsta in April. It's so much fun.
    1. WARAT's Avatar
      Wow. And I thought Austin is the only place with good twistiea. Nice write up J.
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by WARAT View Post
      Wow. And I thought Austin is the only place with good twistiea. Nice write up J.
      This leaves the hiils and curves around Austin in the dust. Way in the dust.
    1. Black Betty's Avatar
      NISMO Fiesta this past weekend was the first chance I've had to go back and drive this cruise again. It was just as much fun as I remember. Even more so as this time I was able to go with a large group of friends and fellow Nissan/Infiniti enthusiasts. This time I traveled the loop in the opposite direction (clockwise) that I did last time. Every bit as much fun. Thanks to everyone in our group that made it fun.