The Presidential Libraries of Texas

Last summer we found ourselves in Independence, Missouri and visited the Truman Presidential Library and really enjoyed our time there. Since then we have made sure that visit the libraries we come across on our travels. When it was time to plan our route from Florida to Seattle we had multiple reasons to go thru Texas, friends, barbeque, and three Presidential Libraries.

As Leslie has noted we started our Texas travels in Austin where we visited the Lyndon Banes Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. The Library is in downtown Austin on the grounds of the University of Texas.

LBJ Library

LBJ Library

Like a few of the other Libraries there was a Presidential limousine in or near the lobby area. This limo is the one that Johnson used after he left office in and around Austin and is not armored. According to Wikipedia future Presidential limousines will be destroyed to keep secret the protection methods.

LBJ Library - Limo

LBJ Library – Limo

Johnson’s history in Congress and relationships he developed coupled with the events of the time enabled Johnson to push thru a lot of landmark legislation that affected everything from arts and humanities to civil rights to head start and highway safety to urban mass transit.   The Library did an excellent job of highlighting the various bills that Johnson signed. Seeing the row of pens really made it clear how many federal bills were passed during his time in office.

LBJ Library - Pens

LBJ Library – Pens

Johnson’s Oval Office was different than any of the others we have seen. He always wanted to know how each of the networks were reporting the news of the times and had a console that contained three television sets and a remote (not like the remotes of today) that allowed him to pick which audio to listen to.  It also had a teletype machine in it – how the times have changed. Johnson’s Oval office had a dark green rug with the Presidential Seal kind of embossed in it – very different than the others we have seen.

LBJ Library - Oval Office

LBJ Library – Oval Office

Like the other libraries, Johnson’s included exhibits of letters written to the President. One that really caught my eye was the one with the picture of the Smothers Brothers. There is not a lot I remember about my youth, however I do remember watching the Smothers Brothers.

LBJ Library - Smothers Brothers Letter

LBJ Library – Smothers Brothers Letter

It is interesting how much outrage there was that Nixon was taping conservations he had in the Oval Office. There was an exhibit in which you could listen to phone calls between Johnson and others that were taped. One that really struck me was a conservation he had with Robert Kennedy where they were talking about things that could be done to support various candidates and Johnson asked Kennedy to help him apply some pressure but not to let it known it was coming from the White House.

The Library included one of the more extensive sections devoted to First Lady. The Library included a lot of information around Lady Bird’s environmental crusades and identifies her as the First Lady of the Environment. It was the only library that included a mockup of the First Lady’s office.  Of course the Library also included the china; Leslie likes Lady Bird’s wildflower pattern.

LBJ Library - Lady Bird

LBJ Library – Lady Bird

There were three special exhibits at the library when we were there. The first was entitled Photojournalism and the Presidency. It was interesting reliving moments in history by seeing photos that you recognize from the past.  The second was a tribute to 3417 Texans that gave their life in Vietnam. It was a very well done memorial that really brought home the human cost of the war by way of the 3417 dog tags.

LBJ Library - Vietnam Memoral

LBJ Library – Vietnam Memoral

The third special exhibit was George Washington’s personal copy of “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States. It is a bound copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the acts passed by the first Congress in 1789. In it you can see Washington’s notations where he highlighted the powers of the President of the United States. By Article 2 Section 3, Washington wrote required – this is the section that talks about the President giving the Congress the State of the Union. The book was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in an auction in June of 2012 for 9.8 million. It is currently touring the 13 Presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and will be part of a privately founded Washington Presidential Library that is being built in Mount Vernon.  Sorry they did not allow pictures of Washington’s book.

The Johnson Library was the largest library we visited so far and really enjoyed the hours we spent there. The next blog entry will cover the Bush Libraries.

 

 

 

 

More BBQ… Are you Serious?

Yup More BBQ. Well when in Rome do as the Romans do, right? Well we were in Texas and while our first meal was a nice TexMex (got that out of the way) we were ready to move on to BBQ again. We drove over to the Senior Bush’s Library and when we finished up we were starving. I pulled open my Urbanspoon App (best thing in the world when traveling) and figured in a college town there had to be something good to eat. I happened upon a restaurant called Rudy’s. Little did I know that my life was about to change.

I had been seriously regretting not having picked up some of the sausage at Memphis BBQ Company to go. We arrived at Rudy’s and they welcomed us loudly. We were the first to arrive for the dinner shift and the restaurant was empty. If it had been later in the day this would concern me but being that it was 4 in the afternoon and the University was out for the summer I had no concerns and bellied up to the counter. They asked if we had been there before (we generally look like out-of-towners) and we said no. They offered to let us try any of the meats they had. First up was smoked turkey. Now when I go to a BBQ joint I think Pork or Beef. I am sure there are a lot of places that have a decent turkey or chicken but that is not what I am there for. I acquiesced and tried it thinking it was a waste of space in my stomach. Deliciousness ensued. The turkey was moist and juicy. The flavors just made my taste buds jump. I was shocked and amazed and confused.

Next up was the brisket. When in Texas don’t order pork just go straight for the brisket. It is what they do best. The brisket was exactly what Texas brisket should be. I looked at the menu and asked if I could try the sausage. I had no thought in my mind that the sausage could be any better then Memphis BBQ Co. but I thought I had to try it just in case. It was almost exactly the same wonderfulness. I was so excited I may have squealed a little. Bill tried the jalapeno sausage and was in heaven. They sell their meats by the half pound except the sausage which is sold by full link or half link. We got half pound of brisket and turkey (REALLY?!?) and a half link of each sausage knowing we would have leftovers and then perused the side menu. Now when I am in Texas I don’t expect there to be any sides worth mentioning. They gave us spoonfuls of their green chili stew and creamed corn. Now creamed corn is something that has to be done right or it’s a gelatinous mess. The corn was sweet and the cream was rich. Oh yeah gotta have some of that.

Rudy's

Rudy’s

We sat down and gorged ourselves until we were ready to roll home. Their sauce is good and peppery but not the masterpiece that is Marlowes. We wrapped our leftovers and I bought a few extra beef sausage to go. I can honestly say that we have eaten BBQ in nearly every state that sells it and the meat at Rudy’s is by far and away the best BBQ I have ever had.

The only other BBQ we had in Texas this trip was Salt Lick. Salt Lick is this huge complex out in the middle of nowhere. We drove down for lunch and ordered the combination plate and the Beef Ribs. On the Food Network they have a show that talks about the best things the different Chef’s ever ate and the Beef Ribs at Salt Lick were from Bobby Flay and the Combo plate was Duffy from the cake show. The meat was tender and somewhat smokey but otherwise pretty flavorless. The restaurant serves a BBQ sauce and from the flavor of the meat I assume it is meant to be drenched in it, which I don’t mind because the BBQ sauce was fantastic. It is more of a South Carolina mustard-base then a Texas or even Memphis. Bill liked the ribs but really overall was not impressed. Texas is a state where the BBQ should be so good that you don’t need sauce. If the restaurant was in South Carolina it would probably have been given a higher rating overall but it is not Texas style BBQ. However, their sauce is awesome and so was the pecan pie.

Salt Lick

Salt Lick

Austin, Texas is weird

Austin, Texas is weird. I like weird. There are certain places in this great country of ours that I drive into and immediately feel welcome. I am a freak and so that is not very many places but when I drove into Austin, Texas it was like being home but to a home I had never seen. We arrived in Austin after a very long drive from Little Rock, Arkansas. We were meeting friends for dinner and so we had plowed on with a mission. My friends Scott an Sandy live in Austin and I had been looking forward to seeing them again after our last visit was mired slightly by Bill having a pill lodged in his throat and us having to go to the hospital.

Scott had chosen a place for dinner and sent me the address. We got the RV settled in and went off in search of the restaurant. We were driving and took a turn and went into an area where we were certain we must have made a wrong turn. We kept driving up and up into what looked like a neighborhood full of expensive homes on cliff sides looking out over a lake. We finally reached the top of the pinnacle and there is indeed the restaurant. The Oasis is built on the top of a large hill (could be a mountain) and looks out over Lake Travis. It was sunset and could be one of the most beautiful views we have ever had from a restaurant. Scott and Sandy have two beautiful girls and so we sat and chatted about all kinds of things. Books they were reading and things they were learning. I love having so many adopted nieces and nephews. I am a lucky lady to have such an extended family.

View From The Oasis

View From The Oasis

The restaurant is Mexican and so Bill had to try the Margarita Martini and we had Fajitas which we could eat all the time. Everything was good but the company was the best part of the day!

Scott gave us the low-down on sites to see in the area. One of those sites was already on my list. Esther’s Follies. I had read that it was a comedy and vaudeville show that was a must see. Scott was taking family of his that was coming into town later in the week so we decided to join them.

We all met and watched the show. There is a magician and every kind of comedy. It was so much fun and I laughed so hard my sides were splitting.

Austin really is a place I could be at home… if it wasn’t for the summers.

Family and Friends Make Traveling More Fun

One thing about traveling is that the places we see are amazing but it is the people we get to spend time with that really make it the best.

I have always been able to make friends fairly easily. This may be because I traveled so much and had to make new friends each time we moved so it became necessary for me to bond with people quickly because I didn’t know how much time I would have to spend with them. Years ago when I started playing a game that had forums online where you could meet people to play I began to explore the world of internet friendship. I built friendships via the Internet from all over the world and all over the country.

In addition many years ago I while looking for information on planning a trip to Disney I ran across a group of Disney fanatics that was like coming home. Many people think I am a Disney fanatic but these people don’t know many of my new friends. In the process of finding this lovely group of individuals I discovered many of them, like me, were looking to be healthy. A couple of these lovely people ran a Half Marathon in 2012 at Disney and sparked something in me that has changed my life in some very interesting ways. Well in February of this year, as many of you know, a large group (I think our final total was 50+ strong) got together at Epcot and set forth to run a Half Marathon.

This group of individuals were complete strangers to one another just a couple years before and through that time period via this wonderful thing called the internet became a family. Many of us had never met until February of this year but it was like a family reunion when we all finally got together. There were many hugs and tears.

While we have been traveling since April I have had the wonderful time of seeing these sisters and brothers in all different parts of the country. Rebecca and Sara in Memphis, Tricia and Michelle in Dallas. Then there was Austin.

So Bill and I don’t like to make firm plans when we travel because sometimes things change. We had plans to visit both Austin and Dallas in Texas and it didn’t really matter which order until one of my running buddies mentioned she would be in Houston a particular weekend. She lives in the UK and I did not expect to see her again very soon so when I found out she would be a mere two hours from a place I could be it had to happen. As we started chatting about getting together in Texas several of the other runners from our group are within easy driving distance. Then two of our runners from Oklahoma decided to join us in the epic reunion. One of the locals to Austin, Katie, decided on a place to meet for lunch and so it began. Tracy, and her husband, Chas, Angela and her daughter Stormie, Jennifer and Keith, Katie, Robyn, and then a few friends we hadn’t met yet Genieva and her husband (I am sorry I don’t remember your husband’s name!), and Carol.

We had a wonderful time at lunch and then Tracy had to pick up a pair of Cowboy boots to take back to the UK.

Fun with Friends

Fun with Friends

We then spent the afternoon having a grand time just chatting the day away. It was such a wonderful time seeing these people that are my new family of runners and meeting a few new friends I hope will continue to be family.

The main lesson in my life is the people that are blood related to me are often not family. Family are the people who support you and love you no matter relation. I have the most amazing family all over the globe and I am so happy to have each and every one of them.

A Presidential Library and a Bath

During our stay in Little Rock, Arkansas we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, our third visit to a Presidential Library. The library was larger than either of the two we previously visited and like the others started with a film that talked about the Presidents early life and entry into politics.

William J. Clinton Library and Museum

William J. Clinton Library and Museum

After watching the video the guide at the library directed us up to the third floor to the Oval Office.  We enjoy seeing the differences layout and decorations in the Oval Office between the various Presidents.  Clinton’s office had more ‘stuff’ on the tables and shelves than the other offices we had seen prior (and since). A nice feature of the Clinton library was the plaques outside of the Oval Office that identified the artifacts and gave some history of them.

Clinton Oval Office

Clinton Oval Office

Clinton Oval Office Descriptions

Clinton Oval Office Descriptions

One thing to note do not believe everything someone that is working in one of the libraries tells you. One of the guides at the Clinton Library said that all Presidents since Kennedy have used the Resolute desk, which is not correct, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Bush 41 used other desks in the Oval Office.

After viewing the Oval Office we started our tour thru the rest of the museum. We should not have followed the advice of guide that told us to go up the Oval Office after viewing the video. It put the rest of the tour out of order. A couple of the standout exhibits included Christmas decorations exhibit and the Clinton comedy exhibit. The comedy showed a number of videos of the sense of  humor of the Clintons (our only suggestion is that they include a sitting area – it is hard to stand an laugh for an extended period of time).

The Clinton Library also included a full size mockup of the Cabinet Room which we have not seen in any of the prior libraries.

Clinton Cabinet Room

Clinton Cabinet Room

Although the library and museum told the story of Clinton from birth thru his Presidency we did not feel it was laid out as well as the other ones we visited prior (or since). The second floor has a nice timeline of his presidency, but it makes one side onto the other and back as you move forward in time.

Clinton Presidential Timeline

Clinton Presidential Timeline

And now for the bath part of the blog – Leslie mentioned the other day that we took a day trip out to the Hot Springs National Park.  Although many consider Yellowstone to be the first national park, the National Park Service considers Hot Springs as the first park. The Hot Springs Reservation was formed by an act of Congress in April 1832, about 40 years before Yellowstone became a park in March of 1872.  In 1921 Congress changed the name from Hot Springs Reservation to Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the National Parks, but since the park includes portions of the downtown area as well as the sounding hills it is one of the easiest parks to visit.

The panoramic shot below shows the downtown area of Hot Springs as viewed from the surrounding hills.

Hot Springs Panoramic

Hot Springs Panoramic

The history of Hot Springs dates back to the Native American tribes that enjoyed the healing properties of the thermal springs. In the early 1800’s expeditions to the area started to spread the word of the thermal springs and in 1807 Jean Emmanual Prudhomme became the first settler of modern Hot Springs.

The first bathhouses in the area were little more that huts placed over holes in the rocks that collected the hot waters. In 1877 the Federal Government started various programs of major improvement which included a central plumbing and cooling tower system that led to the development of larger bathing houses. As word spread about the therapeutic baths the area developed into a well-known resort.  At one point there were nearly two dozen bathhouses in operation with nine of them on Bathhouse Row in the National Park.

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

During our visit we did a Ranger Walk and learned about the geology of the area. The water comes from rain that falls to the north and northeast of Hot Springs. The water flows thru cracks in the rock to a estimated depths of between 4500 and 7500 feet below the surface, where it is heated before flowing back up to the surface via over 40 thermal springs.

The water from 33 of the springs is monitored and collected into a central underground reservoir.  The springs that supply the reservoir are sealed and capped to protect the safety and quality of the water.

Hot Springs - The Covered Springs

Hot Springs – The Covered Springs

The reservoir supplies water to the bathhouses and public faucets where people can fill containers for personal use. The water does not have the sulfur smell (or taste) that one frequently associates with water from hot springs.

Hot Springs - Free Spring Water

Hot Springs – Free Spring Water

Although the majority of the springs feed the reservoir, there are a few springs that are not part of the central plumbing system. These springs feed little ponds and fountains in the area and I can attest that the water is indeed hot.

 

Hot Springs - Open Hot Springs

Hot Springs – Open Hot Springs