It was time to explore beyond San Antonio, so we went to Johnson City and Stonewall to visit the LBJ National Historical Park, as well as the LBJ ranch. Afterwards, we spent the night in Fredericksburg, a town which has a definite German influence.
After one last breakfast at the motel, we gathered our stuff, loaded the car, and checked out. We then got to Celeste's place, where we got to meet Celeste's beagle Frankie. He was going to doggie day care for the trip, and was a bit nervous being in an unfamiliar car. When he got into the yard, we watched the feeds from the cameras and he looked really happy.
On the road again, we went to the northwest, and just off the highway we went into Johnson City to find the LBJ National Historical Park. The ranger at the visitor center was extremely knowledgable and helpful, outlining on the map his suggestions of what we should see and how we should proceed.
The Johnson Settlement is where LBJ's grandfather Samuel Ealy Johnson, Sr. and great uncle Tom Johnson settled in the 1860s and started a cattle driving business.
There are a few cabins still on the settlement, and barns such as this one built by James Polk Johnson, who was the nephew of Samuel's nephew. James also built the cooler house in the first photo above.
The cabins themselves were built as dogtrot houses, which have living sections on each side of an enclosed breezeway. This is used to help keep the houses cool.
We saw lots of bluebonnets along the highway on the way to Johnson City, but we got a chance to see lots of them up close at the settlement.
After we finished with the trail, we dropped by the Boyhood Home to see when the next tour would be. Ends up we just missed the last one before lunch, so we looked up possibilities to grab a bite to eat. One place looked like it would be good, but ends up it had closed and there was another diner in its place. We decided to go across the street to the next one, and ended up with great food. We realized we'd been pretty lucky so far with the food being really good, and were hoping it would continue.
We dashed back across the highway and got back to the Boyhood Home a few minutes before the ranger showed up. Since we were the only people waiting, we got a personal tour of the home.
The house was a modified dogtrot layout, since there were doors which needed to be open to allow the air to flow completely through the center. There were three bedrooms (for the parents, the boys, and the girls), a dining room, a kitchen, and a room with a bath (there was an outhouse in the back).
The ranger had lots of stories, including how LBJ's parents were both college graduates, and his mother wasn't very happy on the ranch. After moving to Johnson City, however, she was in her element and thrived. He also said that LBJ's father would make the children write essays on current events and then would pick two of them to debate the topic.
LBJ Ranch, Stonewall
Several miles west of Johnson City is Stonewall, where the LBJ Ranch is. Several of the acres of the ranch are now open to the public and it remains a working ranch. Looking at the various buildings, we figured the last stop, the Texas White House, would be the most popular. We chose to return to the Living History Farm at the end, since the two places closed at the same time, and we didn't want to miss the house.
LBJ learned to read at the Junction School when he was four. It's also where he signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 as part of his "War on Poverty".
Normally you can only view the part of the school which is next to the blackboard, viewing the rest from behind a window. Apparently one day a year they open the whole school to visitors, and we just happened to be there that day. I wish we could chalk it up to good planning.
Birth home, cemetery
As indicated by the name, LBJ was born in this home, the first of five children. He rebuilt it during his presidency so it could be used as a guest house. Across the street is the Johnson family cemetery, meaning that LBJ was buried within eyesight of where he was born.
Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr. home
This was where LBJ's grandparents lived after they lived in Johnson City. While we could wander around the birth home, we could only walk up to the fence of this one. The park probably doesn't expect many people to stop at this home, since there were only a couple parking spaces (compared to a dozen or so at the school and birth home).
There were also very few parking spots for the show barn, which is too bad, since it was very interesting. The barn itself is very large, and the volunteer said the middle was wide enough for LBJ to drive his car through, showing visitors his cattle.
The Hereford cattle here have a very distinctive look. In the show barn were a very large bull, a cow, and the calf above.
We also saw some Spanish goats in a pen just off the barn. Running loose were four goat kids, which ran in a loping fashion, jumped in the air. They nibbled on almost anything, including my shoestrings, camera bag, even my socks.
When we drove up to the Hangar, we had to drive quite a ways before we found a place to park, even though there were dozens of spaces. Since this is also where the Texas White House is, it falls under the "popular" category of ranch attractions.
As you're driving up, it's hard to miss LBJ's jet with all the presidential marking. He jokingly called it "Air Force One-half".
In the hangar itself you can purchase tickets to tour the Texas White House, then browse the exhibits while you're waiting for your assigned time. In addition to the usual videos and other posters, you can view some of LBJ's cars (including an amphibious car and two of his convertibles which he bought annually).
One room is dedicated to items that LBJ would give to guests. They included cufflinks, pens, and small busts of him. He was proud of his hospitality, which is why he stocked such a large array and quantity of potential gifts.
Texas White House
The highlight of the ranch was LBJ's home on the ranch, dubbed the Texas White House by the media. It's a very large home, as LBJ kept adding onto the house over the years. There were televisions and telephones all over, enabling to perform his presidential duties from Texas.
There were several gifts presented to LBJ from foreign dignitaries. They don't belong to the President but to the people, but LBJ stipulated that what was presented to him in Texas must stay in Texas. There weren't very many books in the room since his daughters took several of them to keep.
In the backyard there's a display of several "friendship stones" which are a sort of guest book. Visitors would sign and date a set of concrete, which would be later displayed.
Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm
By the time we got to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, it was done for the day. However, even though the volunteers were no longer there, we could still wander around and look at the buildings and animals.
We made the short drive to Fredericksburg where we were staying at Ava's Suite, a very cute cottage. It was made of stone about 150 years ago; the stone didn't exactly help cell data reception, however. The owner left juice, yogurt, and a danish ring for us to have for breakfast, so we knew we would be set.
Celeste and Jean, not being terribly hungry, set off to walk around downtown while Melody and I got dinner. We knew we would want to try a German restaurant, where we had bratwurst and sauerkraut. Afterwards, we walked around the town ourselves, then met up with Celeste and Jean to grab some fudge from a candy shop.
It had been a full day, and it wasn't last very long after we got back to the cottage before we were asleep.