Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

LBJ Ranch

LBJ used this small Air Force One so he could land at the ranch.
LBJ used this small Air Force One so he could land at the 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

That tiny person is me in front of the 4 Sixes Pullman Car.

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.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Remembering the The LBJ Library


Welcome to my new series about Presidential destinations.  With presidential primaries filling the air waves, I though it might be fun to take a look at some of the Presidential Destinations I’ve enjoyed.


THE Primarily Presidential Destination

Of cours, the mother lode of presidential homes is The White House.  I’ve never actually been inside the official residence of our country’s leader, but the wonders of television and movies have taken me inside so many times that I feel as if I I know my way around.  Part of the reason I’ve never been inside The White House is that you can’t just walk up and buy a ticket.  Visiting The White House is a big deal and you have to get an invitation through your Congressman – even if all you want to do is take a tour.  If you follow the link above, you can start the process for your tour.

I may not have been to The White House, but I’ve been to the Oval Office several times.  No, Scottie did not beam me in.  Authentic replicas of the Oval Office are a feature of all the presidential libraries.  Each president has the privilege of decorating the Oval Office and when they leave office, the decorations are part of their administration’s legacy.  I’ll admit, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I was actually in one.  Then you’re standing there surrounded by furnishings and fabrics that have been a part of history and it gives you goose bumps.  It’s one of the things that’s turned me into a presidential library groupie.

Memories of LBJ

The first presidential library I visited was LBJ’s.  Makes sense, me being a Texan and all.

For the record he was also the first president I saw in person.  I was a little kid, living in Augusta, GA at the time and LBJ  came to town to promote his Great Society program.  The death of JFK still loomed large in my childhood memory.  I learned about the assassination on the way home from school, when a wisecracking kid shouted, “Yea, Kennedy’s dead.  Goldwater all the way.”  My family spent the weekend in front of the TV, trying to wrap our minds around the tragedy in our home state of Texas, but to this day I can feel the chill that came over me when the kid yelled out his disrespect.  When mother discovered LBJ would be in Augusta, she felt that attending the rally would help give me a better understanding  of the American presidency.  I was small enough to be frightened by the loud, boisterous crowd and aware enough of race to realize there were more black people there than I’d ever seen in one place before.

Remembering the LBJ Presidential Library

Many years would pass before I visited his library in Austin, TX on the campus of The University of Texas.  After my first visit, I made several others, so it’s hard to remember the different impressions the library made on me each time, but I can tell you what captured my imagination the first time: a moon rock and a sword.

The moon rock was a small gray rock which would not have caught my attention if it were tossed on the ground, rather than being prominently displayed in a glass case at eye level, but it had come all the way from the moon.  I was among the kids awed by the idea of rockets and space.  I’d watched John Glenn climb into the US’s first manned space capsule.  I’d heard the words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” as they were uttered.  I was as captivated by the moon rock as a pilgrim viewing a piece of the True Cross.  I couldn’t prove it was a moon rock, but the idea that it might be was enough.

The sword and scabbard which captured my eye came from some foreign dignitary.  My memory is arguing about whether it was Japanese or Moroccan.  Either way, it was gorgeous – diamonds, pearls on the scabbard and perhaps the largest emerald I ever saw at the top of the hilt.  I tried to find a picture of it on the internet, to no avail.  So you’ll just have to go to Austin and see it yourself.  But you might want to wait until next year, because right now the library is getting a face-lift.

Have you been to a presidential library?  Which one(s)?  What did you think?  Over the next few weeks, in honor of the American political process,  Travel Talk will be devoted to my visits to presidential destinations.  I hope you’ll come along.