The normal morning routine around here can be variously described as slow, uncomplicated, laid back, very non-urgent. There's almost never any rush to get anywhere or do anything. Read, catch up on news, grab a little something for breakfast, do a sudoku puzzle, and, if the mood is right, write. It can be intensely boring. But it can also be calm and peaceful... good for the soul as some would say.
This Ranch is the place where LBJ was born, lived, died, and is buried. The original portion of the house was a very small two story limestone block structure built by an early settler to the area in 1894. One of Lyndon's uncles bought the house and surrounding property in 1909, and then Lyndon and Lady Bird bought it in 1951. Over the years the house was added onto 8 times by the various owners.
We have been here before, back in 2008, but at that time the Johnson Home on the Ranch wasn't open to the public. It is now, and we found the whole visitor routine had changed too.
Back then a visitor joined 20 or so others and a tour guide aboard a small tour bus, which was the only way the general public could gain access to the Ranch property itself. We followed the crowd and really enjoyed what we saw, but felt shorted in not being able to see the inside of the house. You see Lady Bird had just died the previous July and up to that time this was her home. The agreement between the Johnson Family and the National Park Service allowed for a period of time after Lady Bird's death for the family to retrieve personal effects and memorabilia before turning the rest over to the Park Service.
Now that the home is under the control of the National Park Service a visitor gets a free ticket at the State run visitor center. That ticket allows one vehicle access to the Ranch property. Along with the ticket, there's a map and a narrated driving tour on CD for the car CD player.
So this time we could drive ourselves onto the Ranch property. The narration on CD turned out to be a great idea as it was informative, entertaining, and well-paced for a leisurely drive through the Ranch. There are stops at the reconstructed LBJ birthplace house, the family cemetery where both LBJ and Lady Bird are buried, the Show Barn that showcases ranch activities and history, and the Ranch House also known as the Texas White House.
During the tour we drove alongside the 6300 foot asphalt runway used by the President and visiting dignitaries during his time in politics. The runway is not robust enough for large planes like the Boeing 707, but could handle smaller business jets like the Lockheed JetStar assigned to Johnson for shorter trips. Because so much government business was done here the runway got a lot of use at times -- as many as 10 or more operations on some days.
The old airplane hanger behind the House is now a combination visitor center and museum. A few of LBJ's cars are on display, as is a Lockheed JetStar under a shelter beside the hanger. Here we bought two tickets for the tour of the Texas White House for 3 bucks each, and before we had much time to peruse the hanger museum, we were following a knowledgeable tour guide around and into the House. He had plenty of interesting stories about LBJ and Lady Bird too.
I found an interesting story about the Lockheed JetStar that's on display... how it almost was scrapped but ultimately saved in a last minute deal. <link here>
During LBJs time in office he spent over 500 days in the Texas White House... far exceeding any previous or subsequent President's time at an alternative or remote office.
Inside, the house feels smaller than it's 8,000 sq. ft. size. It's warm and unpretentious, with the most extravagant portion being the large bedroom suites (yep... one for him, and one for her) added by LBJ and Lady Bird. LBJ died in his bedroom as a result of his third massive heart attack on January 22, 1973. He was 64.
After our Ranch visit we drove into Fredericksburg for sustenance. Being Saturday, and a nice one at that, this increasingly touristy town was bustling. Some folks just can't have enough trinkets, trendy clothes, jewelry and such. We found a table at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company Restaurant and enjoyed watching the crowd.
We've got a bunch of photos from our day in our online albums. Check them out for a more complete "picture" of Ranch. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted inside the house.