PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE LBJ RANCH
Welcome to number two in a series about presidential homes, libraries and other sites. Last week I talked about the LBJ Library which was the first presidential library I ever visited. By coincidence, on my last vacation we visited the LBJ Ranch, so that seems like it should be next.
Where to Stay When You Visit the Ranch
The most logical place to stay when you visit the LBJ Ranch is Fredericksburg and it’s a destination worthy of at least it’s own day, so don’t skimp on time when you head to the LBJ Ranch. Austin, the State Capitol; Bandera, Cowboy Capital of the World; Luckenbach, made famous by Waylon Jennings; New Brunsfels, home to Wurstfest, Schlitterbahn and tubing on the Guadalupe; and even San Antonio, my favorite vacation destination are all nearby, so you could easily plan anything from a long weekend to a two week vacation in the area.
The area is full of great little bed and breakfast accommodations, but my favorite place to sleep is the 4 Sixes Pullman Train Car. In fact, of all the hotels, motels and other places I’ve called my temporary home on the road, the 4 Sixes is one of my current favorites. Usually when I stay somewhere I enjoy, I’m eager to recommend it, but if I go back to the area I’ll want to check out something else. No chance of that in Fredericksburg. This great big, huge train car, complete with sitting room, two bathrooms, a dressing room, bedroom, dining room and kitchen is all yours. It’s cute and quaint, but it’s also historical. Quanah Parker and Theodore Roosevelt are just a couple of the famous people who slept there. But on to The Ranch
Visiting The Ranch
The LBJ National Historic Park actually has several different areas. You can visit his boyhood home, the Ranch and the Johnson Settlement, which traces the history of the Johnson family back to a log cabin. I recommend it all, but if you only have a limited time, the Ranch is what you want to see.
At the Ranch, you’ll need to stop at the Visitor’s Center. It wasn’t so long ago that you could only see the ranch through the windows of a bus boarded at the Johnson Settlement, but now you can drive through on your own. You must have a pass to tool around the premises and they’ll give you some goodies, like a CD, to enhance your visit. Just past the visitor center, we stopped at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which actually had nothing to do with LBJ, but was an interesting interpretation of farm life at the turn of the 20th century.
Then it was all LBJ – a Head Start School, Trinity Lutheran Church and a reconstruction of his birthplace. Bill and I lingered in the private cemetery contemplating the public and private man who lay beneath the pink granite monument. Not far past his grandparent’s house we made a left turn and drove along next to his private airstrip. Turning left again we arrived at his show barn and made a brief stop to better understand the Rancher President. Finally we arrived at the Texas White House Complex.
The Air Force One Jet which used to bring LBJ to Texas was parked next to the house. We took a tour through the large, yet modest, home of the 36th president. Comfortable, but not opulent, the house was obviously a well-loved family home, not a showplace for foreign dignitaries, though it certainly entertained a whole herd of them. Back in our car, we could understand why a man would say, “I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your President,” so he could be home in a place like the LBJ Ranch.
Have you been to the LBJ Ranch? Did your visit change your impressions of the president? I’d like to hear what you think.