Friday, September 28, 2012

LBJ Texas Ranch, 2 Million Bats, and Choke Canyon SP

Hi all, Dianne here.  Imagine yourself as a world leader back in the 1960s, in one of the chairs in the photo above, having serious discussions under the huge, shady tree overlooking the Pedernales River in the hill country of Texas.  After visiting the LBJ Ranch, I understand now why President Lyndon Johnson spent every minute possible conducting business there rather than in Washington, D.C.   Roger and I were able to stand under that same tree on our recent visit and tour of the ranch, and it was so inviting and beautiful I could have stayed there all day.  The photo above was scanned from a document given to us during the tour, because I wasn't able to get a good outside photo of the ranch with my little camera.

As we walked up to the visitor's center (a building where LBJ used to conduct press conferences), our first view was of his private plane which he jokingly referred to as "Air Force 1/2".

Inside, LBJ's presidential podium is still there, just as it was during the 1960s press conferences.  Roger posed behind it, showing just how much taller LBJ was than Roger!!  

We could also see his car collection.  There was his 1934 red Ford hunting car, which he had personalized with rifle racks and a full wet bar.

Then there was his 1962 German amphicar, which he would amaze and/or terrorize his guests by driving into the Pedernales River (see photo placard below).

The original gateway to the ranch actually required fording the river to get to the ranch house.  

Roger and I have noticed that Texas doesn't bother with bridges on its rural roads; they simply give flood gauge measurements so you'll know how deep the water is before you drive through it.  No wonder there are so many high-clearance pickup trucks here!

No photography was allowed inside the home, but now that Lady Bird is no longer alive, they are returning it to its 1960s decor.  That was a trip down memory lane for Roger and I; it reminded him a lot of his parents' home back in the day.  LBJ's and Lady Bird's personal belongings are still in the home, including all of their clothing and shoes displayed in "his" and "hers" expansive closets.  Speaking of Him and Her, there are original oil paintings of his two beagles (named Him and Her) on a wall.  LBJ loved his dogs.

In several of the rooms we saw sets of three identical TVs mounted together so that LBJ could
watch all three networks at once.   There were multiple telephones in every room, one even mounted on the table leg next to his dining room chair.  

One poignant display showed a pecan pie warming on the kitchen stove.  Jackie Kennedy had never tasted pecan pie before, so Lady Bird had prepared one for her impending first visit to the ranch.  They never made it there; President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on that Texas trip before they arrived at the LBJ ranch.  

We toured LBJ's show barn where they still tend the descendants of his registered Hereford cattle.  There we met this little guy.  

For my cousin Charles, here's the cattle diet.

We drove through herds of cattle as we made our way up to the house.  

Before we toured the inside of the ranch, we also took an audio tour via a CD loaned to visitors at the national historical park.  

Here are some highlights of that tour, with captions:
One-Room School where LBJ learned to read

LBJ's & Lady Bird's Graves

Johnson Family Cemetery

We also visited the reconstructed "dog-trot" style house where LBJ was born, just down the road from the Texas White House.  (He had purchased the LBJ ranch from a widowed aunt because of fond memories of visiting it as a child for holidays and family gatherings at "the big house up the road."  

I photographed a few of the furnishings, because they are very similar to ones I used to have in my home in Indiana:
Corner Cupboard (Molly - check it out!)

Secretary - Mine was prettier, huh, Leslie?
Oh, I guess it's yours, now!

Small washstand - Nancy R., check it out!

I once had beautiful antiques, but am glad to be free of them.  I can always visit them in my family and friends' homes where they now reside.

Here's one more stop on our Johnson state park and historical site tour:

This section of Texas was settled by German immigrants.  One of the displays at the visitor's center was the Behrens dog-trot style cabin.  

The above photo was taken through the glass of one side of the dog-trot cabin.  It makes our motor home and our little 288-square-foot coach house look roomy by comparison, and there are only two of us!  And, if you think about it, we have our own little "dog-trot" setup at Retama:  

The tiny coach house (dining and kitchen/laundry/shower), the open area, then the adjoining motor home (TV and bedroom).  The display placard explained that a lot of the family work and living was done outdoors, which also is how we live at Retama.  

On our last evening in the Hill Country, we decided to visit the Old Tunnel State Park 10 miles outside of town to see the bats emerge at dusk.  We visited the old tunnel on a previous visit, but it was the wrong time of year to witness the bats.  This time we were at the right place at the right time.  We had an early supper and drove over to the viewing area.  Right at 7:20 the bats emerged, and we watched for 15 minutes as millions of them swarmed out of the tunnel below us.

The lighting was not good for photography (it was getting dark, after all), but you can kind of make out the swirling tornado of Mexican free-tail bats as they emerged from the tunnel below our seating area. 

We could hear their wings fluttering and smell the guano when they were at their peak.  Amazing!

 The movie I took with my camera came out better than the photo, and as a bonus, in the background you can hear the park ranger giving a brief narrative explanation of the bats.

I'll end with a few more animal photos.  Our site at the Fredericksburg KOA was right next to a pasture with a horse and three pygmy donkeys.  I finally was able to get a good photo of the donkeys. 

 This little guy was not shy at all.

Roger said good-bye to the horse.

I'll even miss being serenaded by the guinea hen!  
This is one KOA that we plan to revisit, and hopefully we'll get site L-5 again.

We packed up and headed south, making a two-night stop at Choke Canyon State Park.  We have a lovely view of the reservoir from our site (site 131).  

So far, we've seen deer, wild turkeys, and, on my wildlife cam, raccoons.

We took the dogs down the mowed path to a little beach on the reservoir and let them run loose and chase balls in the lake.  Unfortunately, we discovered Bandido's favorite blue whistle ball doesn't float, so one of my first errands when we get back to Mission will be to get a replacement.  He had a lot of fun swimming and chasing a tennis ball in the water.  Tequila ran along the sandy shore, trying to grab it from him.  We had the great idea to spend today swimming and floating in the reservoir with the dogs -- that is, until this morning when I googled this reservoir and discovered there are 18-foot ALLIGATORS here!   Sorry, doggies, it's just not worth the risk.   (Too bad, though, the water temp. was perfect).

After spending much of late summer in the Colorado mountains, Roger and I are trying to re-acclimate to 90-degree heat (without much success).  

Last night the sky showed evidence of a rainstorm in the distance, and a stunning sunset:

The pet photo of the day shows Bandido in one of his quieter moments, taking an afternoon snooze on the cover sheet on our bed:

Sweet Dreams, Cuddly Boy!

It's been a great spring/summer trip, but after five months on the road, tomorrow it's time to go home.  We'll update again from Retama, but not as often, unless there's something novel to report on!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Winery, Wine, Luckenbach, Music, Beer, Wineries, More Wine, More Music

Grape Creek Winery

Roger here....  Ahhh.  Life near Fredericksburg!  So many pleasurable things to do.  Please keep in mind that these events did not all occur on the same afternoon :-).  

Our campground is located on the road to Luckenbach, so a visit there could not be simpler.  However, on the way we decided to stop by the Rancho Ponte Winery and Tasting Room that we can see from our campsite.  The picture above was taken from the winery parking lot.  That is our motor home, just to the left of the small building in the center of the picture and behind the brown horse grazing in the pasture.  

A shot of the tasting room below shows the view from our windshield.  We also have a view of the vineyard, a horse, three miniature donkeys, and a guinea hen.  Lots of wildlife to keep our dogs on full alert.  Oh, and there are also squirrels....  Lots and lots of squirrels.

After tasting a few of the wines, we, of course, made a few purchases. The four colored wine glasses are actually made from empty wine bottles.  (Our friends Jay and Nancy will be happy to know that we finally own some "down" wine glasses. -- D.)

On to Luckenbach!   This is our fourth visit to this eclectic place since our first Texas visit a few years ago.  The fun, music, and people-watching here draws us back every year.  You know you are almost there when you drive into the parking lot.

The highlight is always sitting outside, enjoying a beer, and tapping your feet to the beat of the local talent on the makeshift stage.  

We typically only stay a short while; however, the weather was perfect, the people were interesting, and the band, Midnight River Choir, was exceptionally good.  We stayed until the band finished its set.  Here is a short snippet:

Midnight River Choir at Luckenbach, TX Sept 22, 2012

(Roger and I had a debate; I said they were rock and he said they were country.  What do you think?  -- D.)

Get a load of the restrooms.  Always an adventure.

Lots of local color --- and that does not even include the tattoos.

I noticed a lady trying on a special hat at the hat shop, so we wandered over to take a look.  Dianne bought a Shiner Blonde bottle cap hat band for her cowboy hat, but that was not what I saw the lady modeling.  Look below to see how handsome Bandido is in his very first cowboy hat.

On another day, we drove a few miles down the road to the Becker Winery.  We had been here a few years ago, and enjoyed it, so it was time to go back.  We each enjoyed a sampling of six wines.  We bought three bottles of a white that we both enjoyed to share with our friends who prefer white wine, as well as a couple of reds.

The second, and last, stop that day was the Grape Creek Winery --- a dangerous place for us, because it is our favorite.  We shared a sampling of six wines since we have already tasted them before, and we bought a case.  Since we are on our way back to Mission, we will not have to transport it very far --- great rationalization on our part.

While the staff boxed our wine, we each enjoyed a glass outside on the patio.  It was a perfect day and so, so pleasant.

The musical performer on the patio was Jeff Wood.  We liked his music so much that we bought one of his CDs., entitled "Finally..."  Dianne thinks it will be excellent background music for when friends visit us at our place at Retama.

Here is a quick video of a snippet of his performance.  I can't explain why it's blurry, but the sound is good.  To make up for my bad video, I'm including a link to his web site, too.  A very talented young man!

Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Winery 

I found a You Tube short video which includes songs that he sang at Grape Creek.  This video is better than my blurry, amateur one:

Quick Song Sampling - Jeff Wood 

Jeff Wood's Web Site

Did I mention that it was pleasant?  We lingered on the patio for quite a while.  I had a second glass of wine.  We did make it back to the motor home before dusk.  Check out the giant pink clouds.

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido in his new hat, tolerating a round of picture-taking.  Oh, soooo bored.