History

We love history. It is so great to travel with someone who has such similar interests. I mean I know Bill puts up with me when I “drag” him to Disney but at least we have some things in common. HA!

We have visited Presidential Libraries, Forts from every war, you name it we have learned about it. This year has truly been the year of Presidential Libraries. We went to Truman last spring and I got a passport with all the sites listed. I wish now we had done this two years ago as we passed several we won’t get back to anytime soon. We saw Carter’s in Atlanta, Clinton’s in Arkansas, LBJ’s in Austin, Bush Senior in College Station, TX, Bush Jr’s in Dallas and Eisenhower’s in Kansas.

While we learn about the President’s we also learn some about the first ladies and I have to tell you my favorite first lady by far and away is Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson. This woman changed the world we live in. If you drive down the highway and see the green space and wildflowers that is because of her. These wildflower patches along the highway are some of my greatest joys when we are driving from place to place. Driving hours on end can be boring but it is less so when I look up and see acres of wildflowers that separate lanes and surround the highways.

Highway Wildflowers

Highway Wildflowers

Lady Bird Johnson loved traveling across the country and seeing all the different things that grow in different areas. She realized that if something weren’t done the country would become homogenized. Everything would begin to look the same. She set forth to encourage the use of locally grown flowers and setting aside open space for parks. In Austin there is a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We stopped in one afternoon and wandered through the flowers. It is a great place to visit and I highly recommend it. They are working hard to save species of wildflowers that are near extinction due to fields becoming paved.

LBJ Wildflower Center

LBJ Wildflower Center

History is often sad. Two years ago we toured so many Forts and battlegrounds that I became depressed. I have had a hard time visiting places where so many people died. When we were in Memphis we stopped at the Civil Rights Museum across from the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed and the area is full of sorrow. I was not looking forward to visiting the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas but was willing to go for the historical experience. We arrived downtown and parked in the lot behind the building. We walked up the sideway across the street from the Grassy Knoll. We went into the building and got our tickets and went up to the Sixth Floor. The exhibits are actually great. It is not just about what happened in Dallas it is actually quite a bit like a Presidential Library. The exhibit starts with his family and talks about his election. It goes on to talk about his presidency and then of course they do talk about his death.

Dallas - Dealey Plaza

Dallas – Dealey Plaza

The exhibit is very well done and talks about the Warren Commission and their findings and all the other groups that have tested the theories. It leaves in very open ended for people to resolve their own feelings and opinions as an individual and doesn’t force any one opinion. The museum is filled more with an intellectual feel.

Another piece of history we explored on Memorial Day. We hadn’t actually planned it that was but it worked out quite beautifully. We arrived in Kansas and the best day to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum was Memorial Day.

Eisenhower Library

Eisenhower Library

We got to the museum and home in the early afternoon and paid for the tour of the house. It is a small house and the guide was animated and very informative.

Eisenhower Library - Boyhood home

Eisenhower Library – Boyhood home

The Museum has a new exhibit being installed and only part of it was open. We walked through the open portion and then into the portion on his life. His museum was quite a bit different then many of the others we had been to. There was a short section on his early life and then a larger section on his wife and first lady, Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower. Now I am far too young to remember this time period so I only knew her name prior to going into the library. She was a very interesting lady. She loved pink and the outfits she wore were lovely. I don’t know if in the 50s the first ladies had their own stylists but she was always stunningly dressed. There was a video with interviews with her and Barbara Walters (so very young) and it was a very neat section. It then went on to discuss WWII and Eisenhower’s part in ending the war.

Eisenhower Library - Mamie

Eisenhower Library – Mamie

Of all the libraries this was more about his life prior to being president, which disappointed me some. One of our favorite things to see at the libraries is the Oval Office replica and this one did not have one.  It had a replica of his office from the house in Gettysburg but we had already seen that when we toured there. Overall really it did not give you much of a sense of who he was as the president.

The overall experience was disappointing but the site is beautiful and the childhood home was fun to see. I did hear many people complain that it was located so far away from everything. I guess Abilene, Kansas is not located well enough for most.

Some Twime in Kansas

How did people survive without smartphones and the Internet?  My daughter was thrilled that our plan is to return to the Seattle area. A number of times she has commented about how long it would take us to get back to Seattle from our various check-ins. As Leslie was driving thru Arkansas, she wondered where the center of the United States was – since we were traveling from far southeast to far northwest.  Well given smartphones and the Internet, I was quickly able to determine that it was just outside of Lebanon, Kansas.

Since we were going to Abilene, Kansas to visit another Presidential Library, and since we have visited the southernmost point, we knew we needed to stop.

Southernmost Point - Key West

Southernmost Point – Key West

According to Wikipedia – “In 1918, the Coast and Geodetic Survey found this location by balancing on a point a cardboard cutout shaped like the U.S. Although this method was only accurate to within twenty miles, and the Geodetic Survey no longer endorses any location as the center of the U.S., the identification of Lebanon has remained.”  That is considered the center of the contiguous United States, the geographic center of the entire United States is Belle Fourche, South Dakota

The center is really out in the middle of nowhere. The town of Lebanon is small and looks like it has seen better days, and then the center of the US is not really in Lebanon – but in a field outside of Lebanon. It is a nice little area that I am guessing does not really attract many people (there was a father and some kids playing when we got there). There are a couple of monuments and a little picnic area.

Center of the U.S.

Center of the U.S.

There is also a 4 (yes 4) seat chapel where couples can take their wedding vows.

Center of the U.S. - Little Chapel

Center of the U.S. – Little Chapel

There is a closed up motel for those that wanted to stay in the center of nowhere in years gone by.

Center of the U.S. - Closed Motel

Center of the U.S. – Closed Motel

FYI – According to Wikipedia, for the conterminous United States – the northernmost incorporated point is Sumas, Washington; the westernmost point is Cape Alava, Washington; the westernmost incorporated point is Port Orford, Oregon.

We also learned a new word – conterminous – sharing a common boundary (it is a synonym for contiguous).

During our travels we like to stop in the state Welcome Centers if possible. They always have information on interesting things to do and see in the state. If we have not stopped in the one for Kansas, we would never have known about the Largest Ball of Twine.

Cawker, Kansas is home to the largest ball of sisal twine built by a community. The ball got rolling (sorry) back in 1953 when Frank Stoeber started collecting twine and rolling it into a ball. In 4 years the ball had grown to 8 foot in diameter. Stoeber gave the ball to the town of and it now sits in an open air gazebo and every August townsfolk come together in a Twine-a-thon to celebrate the ball of twine and add to it.  By 2006 the ball reached a circumference of over 40 feet.  All we can say is “It’s a huge ball of twine.”

Cawker City - Ball of Twine

Cawker City – Ball of Twine

When your town is home to something as amazing and significant as the largest community built ball of sisal twine, the town must celebrate it in many ways.  The businesses up and down Main Street celebrate the accomplishment by proudly displaying painting in their windows that showcase the famous ball. Some of the paintings are originals, but many show the works of the great masters could have been improved by the addition of ball of twine.  Of course you can follow the yellow twine string painted on the sidewalk to see all the pictures.

Cawker City - Ball of Twine Paintings

Cawker City – Ball of Twine Paintings

That was enough excitement (and driving) for one day.

Oklahoma

When I hear someone say Oklahoma I think of the Broadway musical and the line from the song – Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.  As part of the musical it sounds so nice but in reality sometimes it can be devastating.

As we started to move thru Arkansas and into Texas we started to pay attention to the severe weather as it moved across the country. When you live in a house on wheels you do not want to be anywhere near a tornado. While we were in Dallas there was Tornado watch but the weather changed and there was no tornado. However north of us in Moore, Oklahoma they were not as lucky.

Two days after the devastating tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma it was time for us to leave Dallas and head north on I-35.  Our next area we wanted to tour some was in Kansas; however it was too far to drive in one day so we needed to overnight in Oklahoma. Our plan was to stay in the Oklahoma City area overnight. Our path would take us thru Moore and I-35.

The tornado crossed I-35. Although it did not damage the highway it did cause considerable damage along the highway. You hear about the destructive forces of a tornado and how it can destroy one building and leave the next one standing. Although you see pictures and television footage it really does not come close to seeing it in person.

In the picture on the left you can see the sign for a mall theater was left untouched while parts of the mall buildings were destroyed. There was a Post Office in the parking lot that was also untouched. The picture on the right is from the other side of the highway.  It shows some houses that were totally destroyed while ones just a block from them looked fine. Words really cannot describe the destruction on how one house could be standing while the next one is rubble.

Oklahoma - Moore Tornado

Oklahoma – Moore Tornado

Back in 2007, long before we lived fulltime in an RV, Leslie and I signed up to attend a glass convention in Las Vegas. Instead of flying we decided to do a road trip and obviously any route from Seattle to Las Vegas should go thru Amarillo, Texas to follow Route 66 west to Las Vegas and thru to Santa Monica. It turns out that our stop in Oklahoma was in the vicinity of Route 66.

We drove up to Route 66 and went into the city of Chandler where we saw a historic Phillips 66 that was built in 190 and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. We turned back around in Chandler and drove west where we found a part of the old road and Arcadia’s Round Barn which was built in 1898 and has been a part of Route 66 history ever since.

Oklahoma - Route 66

Oklahoma – Route 66

We were ready to head back to Serenity when we noticed what appeared to be a large neon soda bottle down the road. Of course we had to investigate. Well we ran across Pops Soda Ranch (http://route66.com/40.0.html) – a little restaurant, shake shop, and of course soda store. The soda bottle and straw out front soars 66 feet above Route 66 (of course), and they over 600 verities of soda for sale. We picked up a few bottles of some strange flavors to share with the kids when we get back to Seattle (I would say what we got – but I want them to be surprised).

Oklahoma - Pops

Oklahoma – Pops Soda Ranch

We figured nothing could top a 66 foot tool neon soda bottle so we headed back to the RV to rest up for our trip into Kansas.

Bacon and more

Now that everyone is thinking all we eat is BBQ I will surprise you with some of the other places we have been. We spent many years watching travel channel specials about food. We like food and like learning about different delicacies you may find in different regions and so when we travel to a new area we look to see what places might be special in that area. Sometimes we don’t have anything on our list and when that happens we open up our trusty Urbanspoon.

When we got to Austin we opened our list and one of the places on the list was one we obviously had to try, Bacon. Yup it is a restaurant simply and accurately called Bacon. We had heard about it from a couple different shows and so we had to try it. One of our local friends had never tried it and so she tagged along with us.We ordered the Bacon Fries (fries, topped with sharp cheddar, bacon, chives, and sour cream) as an appetizer. They sounded great, but were only fair.I love breakfast any time of day and they serve it all day so my instant choice was French Toast with a side of, obviously, bacon. I asked the gentleman at the register which of the bacon they had he would suggest and he said the House Bacon would go great so that was my choice. Bill selected the hamburger made with ground beef mixed with ground bacon.

Bacon

Bacon

Bill said his burger was good but he really couldn’t taste the bacon in it. My French Toast was great and the house bacon was awesome smoky and delish.

The next place on our list was from the same show Bacon Paradise. The Allgood Café was in downtown Dallas and has a bacon that is peppered that is supposed to be some of the best bacon ever. I ordered the pancake and eggs with again a side of bacon and Bill got the Texas Omelet (no it wasn’t the biggest omelet in the world or anything like that) just eggs topped with Texas chili onions and cheese and, of course, a side of bacon because I wasn’t in a sharing mood.

Allgood Cafe

Allgood Cafe

Generally when bacon says it is peppered it means that when it is a slab the outside is peppered and then sliced. That was not the case with this bacon. Well it was peppered and then sliced but then it was peppered again. Now when I first saw it I was concerned that the pepper would be too strong. I like pepper but if you get too much on something it is all you taste and it can make it a little too spicy for me. One bite took care of those concerns. It was a mix of peppers not just black and it was perfection. I would say definitely one of the best bacons I have ever eaten.

The same day we went to Allgood we followed that up with the trip to the Sixth Floor Museum. We walked around downtown Dallas and then it was time for a late lunch/early dinner. We don’t eat at typical meal times, which works well when we are out on the town. We are usually finishing lunch/dinner when the restaurants start to get busy. We pulled up Urbanspoon to see what was good in the area hoping to walk to lunch and found a few blocks away there was a steakhouse with excellent reviews so we headed that way. Hoffbrau is a Texas Steak house with some specialties on the menu that we have never seen before or since. Bill fixated quickly on the smoked sirloin. He asked the waiter how it was and was offered a sample. The waiter came back with a slab of about 2 full ounces of the steak. Bill was in HEAVEN. The sirloin takes the smoke very well and really tenderizes it. After the sample piece there was no doubt what Bill was ordering. I needed a little break from smoked meat so I opted for a ribeye, which is truly my favorite thing and it was not over priced. I also ordered something called Smashed Puppies hoping they would be decent hushpuppy type of appetizer since the last couple of hushpuppies I had were not the best.

Hoffbrau

Hoffbrau Steakhouse

The Smashed Puppies came out. They were jalapeno hush puppies served with honey butter and jalapeno jelly. They were divine! I would go back to Hoffbrau any day just for those. Our steaks arrived and were absolutely fabulous. Everything we ordered was excellent and we would go back any day of the week.

Our last dinner in Dallas was meeting up with more friends and they decided we had to try Babe’s Chicken House. Now every time I mentioned Babe’s Chicken House to anyone in Dallas they rolled there eyes back in there head and made an mmmmmmmm sound. This told me that this experience should be good.

We met them there and the waiter comes out. They don’t have a printed menu. Everything is served family style and you get a choice of meat. Fried Chicken, Grilled Chicken, Chicken fried steak, and a couple others. I had to try the famous fried chicken and Bill got the grilled chicken. Everything was quite good and lived up to all the positive feedback we had gotten. 

Babe's Chicken Dinner

Babe’s Chicken Dinner

Bacon on Urbanspoon Allgood Cafe on Urbanspoon
Hoffbrau Steaks on Urbanspoon Babe's Chicken Dinner House on Urbanspoon

Bush 41 and 43

We drove from Austin to Texas A&M University campus in College Station to visit the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. So you might be wondering which President George Bush is connected with this library it is George H.W. Bush or Bush 41. (Bush 43’s Library goes by the name of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

George Bush Library

George Bush Library

When we entered the Library we first stopped to view the special exhibit on the human genome. We did not really understand why there was a genome exhibit at the Presidential Library, but later in the library tour we learned that President Bush signed the appropriations bill for the Human Genome Project. The exhibit was very well done and had a lot of activities for children.

George Bush Library - Genome Exhibit

George Bush Library – Genome Exhibit

After a brief visit to the genome exhibit we started our exploration of the permanent exhibits of the museum. Like the other museums it tells the story of the life of the President. Prior to being President, George Bush was in the air force, moved his young family to Texas, was a Congressman,  was the UN ambassador,  was chairman of the Republican Party, was ambassador to China, head of the CIA and Vice President. The library was laid out excellently as a winding trail one could follow thru the life of George Bush.  In addition to an excellent layout the theming for each section was great.

George Bush Library - Theming

George Bush Library – Theming

This library did not have a complete replica of the Oval Office. It had what I would estimate as a third to half of the office with a mural on the opposite wall that showed the rest of the office.  This was the first office that you could walk into and right up to the desk.  (There was an additional $5.00 charge to take pictures in the Oval Office).  You can also sit behind the desk and as you can see Leslie really does not want to the President.

George Bush Library - Oval Office

George Bush Library – Oval Office

We really appreciate the volunteers that work at the various libraries; however one must not believe everything they say. The volunteer told us a little about the picture on the wall to the left of the desk. She said it was from an unknown artist and it is not clear why it is significant but it has hung in every modern president’s office. We went to see the Bush 43’s library and it was not hanging.

As we continued our tour we came upon the section devoted to Barbara Bush. One exhibit that caught my eye was Ked sneakers that she wore. The card talks about how George got 24 pairs from the president of the Keds and gave them to Barbara and then how Barbra divided them between the White House, Camp David and Kennebunkport and would wear mismatched ones and loved to see the expressions on kids’ faces as they pointed to her mismatched shoes.

George Bush Library - Barbara's Ked

George Bush Library – Barbara’s Ked

This area of the Library also had a couch where you could sit and watch a comedy video that included a Segway race that Barbra won. The video was very well done.

Something that we noticed as we toured the museum is the attention they paid to children. At each of the major areas along the way there were they little dog houses that had interesting questions for the younger visitors.  Inside the house the answers were printed on shape of dog bones.

George Bush Library - Dogs for Kids

George Bush Library – Dogs for Kids

We really enjoyed our time in the George Bush Library and Museum and have to say it was the easiest to follow and had the best theming of any we have visited.

Our time in Austin was done and moved on to Dallas. While in Dallas we drove to the campus of Southern Methodist University to visit the newest of the Presidential Libraries.  The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum took place on April 25, 2013 (just a little less than a month before we visited).

George W. Bush Library

George W. Bush Library

After purchasing tickets to the Library you proceed into what is called Freedom Hall. Although all of the libraries continue to update their exhibits to make use of new technology, it was clear that this is the newest library. Freedom Hall is a 67 foot tall lobby that features a 360 degree high definition screen that shows a video of sights and people from across the United States a few times an hour. Some of the scenes in the video were beautiful; however they put the screen up so high it hard on the neck to watch the entire video.

George W. Bush Library - Freedom Hall

George W. Bush Library – Freedom Hall

In an outside courtyard off Freedom Hall there are statues of Bush 41 and 43. We immediately noted the size of the statues and believe that none of the other Presidential Libraries we visited to date had such large statutes. It was interesting to hear other visitors comment that of course “W” would have a huge statue of himself at his library.

George W. Bush Library - Statutes

George W. Bush Library – Statute

We then started to explore the permanent exhibits of the Library. There were not any temporary exhibits at the Library most likely due to the fact that Library just opened. It was interesting to note that unlike the other Libraries, this one had very little of the Presidents early life prior to becoming President.

A large amount of space was devoted to September 11th and the resulting War on Terror. The exhibit included a chunk of the twisted steel from the World Trade Center, which we feel was a little out of place. It is appropriate for the attack to be covered as an important event that occurred during the administration but at times it felt a bit overdone.

George W. Bush Library - 9-11

George W. Bush Library – 9-11

Next up was the Oval Office, unlike Bush 41, the Oval Office was a complete experience, and unlike the other Libraries you could walk thru the office. It was nice to be able to walk thru the office but it did make it harder to get good photographs. I like the effect of the sunburst around the Presidential Seal in the carpet.

George W. Bush Library - Oval Office

George W. Bush Library – Oval Office

A unique attribute of this Oval Office was the addition of the Texas Rose Garden which you could exit into. I went out and was really surprised how small it was, so I had to look up the White House Rose Garden on the internet (how did we ever survive without smartphones). The White House Rose Garden was established in 1913 by First Lady Ellen Wilson on the site of colonial garden that was established by First Lady Edith Roosevelt (wife of Teddy). The garden is only 125 feet long and 60 feet wide (to me it looked larger in pictures). The modern configuration of the Rose Garden with the central grass area and plantings along the sides was done during the Kennedy administration.

George W. Bush Library - Texas Rose Garden

George W. Bush Library – Texas Rose Garden

One thing we have noticed in many (if not all) of the Oval Offices we have seen is a statue of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. We were able to get a good picture of it in W’s Oval Office. The statue is called Bronco Buster and was made in 1895 by American artist Frederic Remington. A cast of the statute was given to Theodore Roosevelt by his Rough Riders. That statue is now Sagamore National Historic Site. During the Carter administration an original cast was given as a gift and now resides in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush Library - Bronco Buster

George W. Bush Library – Bronco Buster

One feature of the Library we really enjoyed was the Decision Points game. This was an interactive exhibit that allowed visitors to play President in some of the controversial decisions that came up during W’s administration. The question was presented and then the players could call on various advisors to give opinions. As the game progressed the players would indicate their decisions. When the time was up the final decision was made from what each player decided. We participated in the decision to send in federal troops into New Orleans to assist in the restoration of order after Hurricane Katrina.  We wanted to play with Decision Points more, but it was near the end and we were very hungry. We did not get any pictures of the actual Decision Points game, but here is part of the exhibit on the Hurricane.

George W. Bush Library - Hurricane Katrina

George W. Bush Library – Hurricane Katrina

We were disappointed that the Library did not include the humor section that a number of the other libraries have had. Although we liked some parts of the George W. Bush Library overall we feel it was not as enjoyable or informative as the others we have visited.