By Michael Kinney
Joe Holifield loves the word freedom. It only takes a few minutes into a conversation with him to see just how much it’s a part of his life.
For Holifield, nothing represents freedom like hopping on the back of his 1995 Harley Davidson Sportster and going wherever he wants anytime he wants. That includes taking in the panoramic views of the Hill Country in Central and South Texas.
“I love riding a motorcycle. I am out in the Hill Country. Those roads are beautiful. I go out there almost every weekend. It’s therapy, to be honest with you,” Holifield said. “It cost you the price for a tank of gas. It’s the cheapest therapy you’ve ever had. You sit out there in your helmet with your own thoughts. Work through your own problems. Whatever is behind you is behind you. “
It’s that feeling and mindset that inspired Holifield to take a chance that others would want that same feeling in their lives. In June, the 51-year-old opened Texas Hill Country Motorcycle Tours (rideyourmotorcycle.com/), a motorcycle tour company, in which he guides motorcycle enthusiasts through the back roads of the Texas Hill Country.
“I want to help others experience the same joy and wonder that I’ve gotten out of it the past 40 years,” Holifield said. “Introduce a new generation of riders that will go out on the roads.”
Holifield’s passion for motorcycles developed while growing up the second youngest of five kids (4 boys, 1 girl) on a farm in the middle of Indiana. Even at the age of eight, he knew he was not meant for farm life and was already looking for ways to escape and had an inkling that the motorcycle was going to the key.
Despite his oldest sibling having a red 1978 Kawasaki 250cc dirt bike, Holifield said he taught himself to ride. Even though his feet couldn’t touch the ground, he was able to cruise around in first gear.
Even after Holifield’s brothers began teasing him for not going faster, he restrained himself from revving the bike up and taking off.
“But one day I got tired of listening to them and I put it in second gear. The next thing I know I’m flying down the road past the neighbor. I’m in top gear doing 50 to 60 mph. I hit the railroad tracks and that was the closest I had come to flying. But it was so freeing and I was able to put the farm behind me. The farm wasn’t what I wanted to do. It wasn’t who I wanted to be. To be on that bike showed me freedom. It was amazing.”
Four decades later Holifield has not forgotten that feeling. It has stayed with him throughout his life working as a bartender and manager.
Holifield moved to the Austin area in 1995. He immediately discovered the Hill Country and began exploring the roads on his motorcycles.
Over the years Holifield’s friends who had motorcycles began inquiring about his trips and wanting to tag along.
“I just spent the past few years doing what I do and what bi wanted to do and people were following me,” Holifield said. “I thought maybe somebody will pay for my tank of gas. If nothing else, if I get one rental a month, that will pay for my gas. That is where it all started.”
While Holifield had been tinkering with the idea of creating the motorcycle tour guide company for a few years, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020 that he realized just how much he needed to step out of his complacency and make it happen.
“During COVID I was going out every weekend on my rides and thought this is the perfect way for people to get out of the house,” Holifield said. “They can go out, be outside enjoy themselves and socially distance.”
Holifield is currently the co-owner and head brewer at Hitmaker Brewing Company in Austin. He help found the company in 2017 after he learned to brew his own beer at home.
Holifield isn’t planning on leaving Hitmakers and plans to run both businesses concurrently.
Texas Hill Country Motorcycle Tour offers four touring options: Jacob’s Well Kept Secret ($65), Adventure: Fredericksburg ($65), the Devil’s Backbone ($115) and The Enchanted Loop ($115).
The rides range anywhere from two hours to just over four hours of actual riding time on Saturdays and Sunday’s. The shortest is 85 miles while the longest encompasses 195 miles.
“That’s a day trip. We will start at the brewery because if they can ride their motorcycles out to the brewery from Austin, that tells me they at least know how to ride the motorcycle,” Holifield said. “They understand the mechanics of it and can get from point A to point B. This tells me they can ride. It also puts them closer to the Hill Country.”
Since Holifield is the only guide, he is currently only booking groups no bigger than three riders for safety precautions. But he will make exceptions for groups as large as 10 under special conditions.
“I want more people on motorcycles to experience what I’ve experienced. That freedom that I felt when I was eight is still with me today,” Holifield said. “I want to somehow get more people to feel that experience.”
At some point Holifield wants to expand the trips from a day trip into three, four or five-day rides in Texas, around the country or even overseas in countries like Peru or France. “Get on your bike and ride, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s so much fun. It’s not just going back and forth to work. You’re out enjoying the beauty,” Holifield said. “But you’re also inside your own helmet where there is no music, there is no phone, no laptop, no iPad, and there’s no conversation. It’s just you in your own head. To get comfortable with that is some of the best therapy.”
For more information on Joe Holifield and the Texas hill country Motorcycle Tours, got to his website www.rideyourmotorcycle.com, or follow him on social media: Instagram @txhcmt, Facebook- Texas Hill Country Motorcycle Tours, and YouTube- Texas Hill Country Motorcycle Tours.
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