Johnson City, the Ranch, and Austin

Yesterday, we had a great breakfast cooked by the very generous Texas hosts: eggs to order, bacon, pancakes. We took off as the coffeecake was coming out of the oven--whew! Don't need those calories! Then off we went early (8AM) to explore the LBJ national monument--his boyhood home and grandparents' homestead are in Johnson City and then a 14-mile drive out to the real ranch, where the Texas White House is. We caught up with a caravan of Skinnie Winnie's at one point (we, um, drive a bit faster than others, apparently) and couldn't resist the picture:


LBJ's ranch is a gorgeous place and Lady Bird actually lived here till her death in 2007, so the tours and such are pretty new. We opted to take the self-guided tour with an audio CD (everything is mandated by the Johnsons to be free, provided the National Park Service maintains the ranch as a working cattle ranch). It was really great to hear the songs he liked (my mother's favorite, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" was LBJ's favorite, too) and the actual voice recordings (e.g., Rev. Billy Graham's eulogy as we were at the graveyard) as we toured. Nicely done. Here's the family plot, which is still maintained as private. Lady Bird is buried beneath the flowers; her headstone is not yet installed:


Apparently, LBJ's mother had a quite-rare-back-then college degree and taught him to read and started him in school by age 4. I hadn't realized how many pieces of his Great Society plan related to education (Head Start was started on the ranch and the legislation that authorized it was signed at his one-room schoolhouse on the ranch) and that LBJ himself started out as a schoolteacher.

Here's the reconstructed birthplace home, which was used as a guest house for visiting Cabinet members during his administration. Quite lovely.


And here's the actual house. Underneath this beautiful oak tree were held many, many Vietnam-era meetings. LBJ was a workaholic, but loved being outdoors whenever he could. The ranger said that, after LBJ's first heart attack in 1955, the doctor told him to get more exercise. So, he installed a swimming pool in the front yard, just beyond this oak. But he never swam laps--he'd hold meetings, read, talk on the phone...work. No wonder he died so young (age 64, only 4 years after leaving office). I shan't make that same mistake!



Then we took off for the big city: Austin. Navigated traffic and fit (barely!) in our friend's driveway. Had a great evening having dinner at my favorite Austin restaurant and then seeing my favorite NPR show taped live: Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. Here are Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal. Sigh. I love this show.


And here's a sunset photo of our merry band:


Made it back to our campsite today, after provisioning at Central Market. Ah. A great grocery store. We figure it's the only island of organic yumminess on our entire East-West route, well, barring Boulder, Colorado, which we think we'll be passing through on our way home. No Trader Joe's in these parts. Had Migras for breakfast and a delicious salad for lunch, and an organic, vegetarian entree for dinner last night--see? It's not all BBQ....

Stopped at Longhorn Cavern State Park on our way back, but missed the cave tour by minutes. Enjoyed the exhibits about the CCC, though. We have always been admirers of the CCC's lasting contributions (our Big Sur highway, the Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado, etc., etc.), but hadn't realized what a genius of a program it was. FDR didn't create a new department; he used existing infrastructure of Army (logistics), Labor (recruitment), Forestry and Agriculture (projects) to administer the program. More than 250,000 unemployed young men learned trades and skills and were able to help their families. They were paid $30/month, with $25 going straight to the family and $5 to them, since they got their room and board. And look how well-built and useful their work has been for the last 75 years. Now, that's an investment in a bunch of shovel-ready projects. Here's Lisa at the top of one of the beautiful stone structures they built:


Must get ready to go to a 6PM wine-and-cheese at Mr. and Mrs. Iflyfish's site ;-)

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