West Baden Springs Indiana

West Baden Springs Indiana
Inside of the AMAZING West Baden Springs Resort in Indiana.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin Texas

Completing out our LBJ tour of Texas, we stopped at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin.

The museum is on the grounds of the University of Texas at Austin, but it is managed independent of the University.  We thought this was pretty cool, and we ended up having a nice lunch in a college cafeteria nearby (see my photo).  We were also able to get a glimpse of the famous Austin Tower on campus.

The LBJ Presidential Library is divided over 3 of the 10 floors in the building.  Most of the rest of the floors are archives.

On the first level (the third floor) we saw the limo used by Johnson after his Presidency.  There is a short film on Lyndon.

The most interesting (and odd) display involves an animatronic life sized version of LBJ telling jokes (I have heard that the jokes are edited, and they are a lot more tame than jokes generally told by Johnson).

On the next floor (#4) there were many photos of Presidents and others at the LBJ Museum.  We also noticed many photos around the Library showing President Obama enjoying himself looking at the same displays.
 The top floor was devoted to the Johnson's time in the White House.

I always enjoy looking at campaign buttons at these sites.  I was also excited to see a Remco bobble head of Johnson as I have one of these at home!

I was most impressed with an actual moon rock on display.  Check that out!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at the LBJ Ranch in Texas

This nice home on the LBJ Ranch shows how living would have been in 1918.

It is part of the main LBJ Ranch property, but I wanted to put a few photos from our trip up separately, as we enjoyed this little side trip (many ranch visitors skip over this part).  I wanted to also put these pictures up because this specific site reminded me so much of my grandparents (on my dad's side) old place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park- Stonewall Texas

We drove to the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall Texas after our visit to the LBJ Boyhood Home in Johnson City.

It is free to drive around the grounds.  You stop and get a pass at the main visitor center.  There is also a 25 minute film shown, with LBJ discussing his home and growing up here.  There is also a very nice and friendly gift shop.

At the gift shop, there is a CD/DVD combo you can buy (for $7!).  The CD is narrated so that you can drive around the park and listen to stories about the sites in the park you are seeing.  We were really glad that we had the CD as we drove around the park.  The DVD has several old TC clips of the Johnsons at their home.

One of the first things you see as you drive into the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is the Junction School.  It is where Lyndon, at 4 years old, learned to read.  53 years later, he would return as President to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

There is a reconstructed birth site house that Johnson built in 1964 as a guest house.

There is the Johnson Family Cemetery, where LBJ and Ladybird, among other family members, are buried.

There is also a working farm, and you might have to drive very carefully at times, as cattle may cross the driving path.

A plane used by Johnson, and several of his cars are also displayed.  Of course, the main attraction is the Texas White House.

Near the plane is another nice visitor center.  Here, for $3, you can buy a ticket to tour Lyndon's Texas White House.  They do not allow photos inside of the house (the DVD from the gift shop does show a lot of what you would see on the tour).

Oh, and for an idea of how the tour was handled BEFORE the Texas White House became open to the public, read this well written article from Chris White.  He did a bus tour on the grounds in 2008.

On the tour, we were told that Lyndon spent about a quarter of his Presidency here.  The Ranch was his home, and he loved being there.  Lady Bird Johnson continued living here after Lyndon's death in 1973.  She lived at the Ranch until her death in 2007.  At that point, the National Park Service took over, and opened it up for tours.

I asked our ranger guide about the process of restoring the home to its late 60s early 70s appearance.  The ranger told me that Lady Bird did have a great awareness of the historical importance of the home, and their belongings, and she kept many things in storage.  So, they have been able to get all of the great items that are shown in the home from what she put away in storage.

Throughout the home, phones are everywhere.  LBJ was obsessed with keeping a phone very close.  Some rooms had multiple phones.  There is a phone under the kitchen table, right where Lyndon would be seated.

Outside of the home, there are the concrete blocks where LBJ would ask important visitors to sign their names in concrete.  I was personally most impressed with the signatures of astronauts (there is a video clip on the Apollo astronauts visiting the ranch on the DVD).

There is a nice museum on the property that houses Lyndon Johnson's cars.  We stopped there briefly on our way out.

The house is actually warm and comfortable.  It seemed to me to be a bit humble for a President.

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is a great, well managed Presidential site.  I believe it may be very unique in that, within the park, you can see the birth and death site of a President, along with paying respects at the burial site.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

LBJ Boyhood Home- Johnson City Texas

Lyndon B. Johnson was way before my time, but I have been reading up on the man lately.  I do think history will judge him as a good hearted, hard working President.  I think he got some impressive things done (especially relating to education).  Plus, his VERY admired wife was exceptionally progressive and did a lot in her own right relating to parks and nature.

LBJ was also a one of a kind leader.  It was a tough act following JFK but the man came out swinging, and did what he could.  He had a fighter's chip on his shoulder at times, and a frat boys attitude (he could be crude).  He did things his way.

After spending a few days in San Antonio we drove out to the Texas Hill Country to see some places relating to our 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson.

We first stopped at the LBJ Boyhood Home in Johnson City Texas.  This is a very small little community that would be a great place to grow up.  The town has a small town, friendly vibe.

There is a nice visitor center with several Johnson relics displayed.  There is a small gift shop.  I think tours of the boyhood home are offered on the half hour, and the boyhood home is a very short walk from the visitor center.  We were the only ones on our tour.

The actual home is also small and humble.  LBJ's early days in life and politics are covered here, along with stories of his grandparents.  Most of the furnishings in the home are period specific, and there were only a few items that would have been there during Johnson's time there.

After spending a little time here, we drove the 14 miles to the Johnson Ranch.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Mrs. Kennedy and Me" by Clint Hill

I wanted to take a book with me on our trip with a heavy Texas connection.  "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" by Clint Hill seemed like a good choice. 

And it was.  Clint Hill was with the Secret Service during several administrations.  Most notably, he was Jackie Kennedy's main Secret Service agent and spent a lot of time with her.

Hill does a great job of writing a nice story about his work in the Secret Service over a few years, keeping this mostly about his work with the late First Lady.  He does a very admirable job of leaving the dirt relating to the Kennedy family alone.  There are no scandalous stories in this volume.  He is just professionally telling about his own direct experiences on the job.  He does very briefly allow his opinions of Aristotle Onassis to show, but that's it.

Especially concerning Mrs. Kennedy, Clint dealt a lot with sneaky photographers trying to get pictures of her riding horses (and falling off).  Star struck fans and admirers are also another issue.  Mostly, he tried his best to help her get some privacy.

Clint Hill figures prominently into the tragic day in Dallas, when President Kennedy is shot and killed.  Immediately after hearing shots fired, he jumps on the back of the limo and uses his body to shield the first couple.  The limo is speeding off to the hospital fast, someone is shooting at the President, and Clint is putting himself in a very scary position.  There is an amazing photo in the book showing this.

Clint does feel guilt about not getting to the President in time, but the First Lady still recognizes his efforts on that terrible day.

I really enjoyed reading this book because it was simple and sincere.  Mr. Hill is being Honest, and has no bones to pick.  it gets my highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tower of the Americas- San Antonio Texas

I think anywhere up high with some sort of an observation area is a must do while on vacation.

The Tower of the Americas is a great landmark in San Antonio.  It was built for the 1968 World's Fair.

This was one of the more hoppin' space needle type structures we have visited.  It was full of people, unlike at the Knoxville Sunsphere or the Florida Citrus Tower.  Plus, they had some other cool things to do here.

There is a restaurant at the top, but we did not visit that.  They did have an exciting "4-D" movie about the state of Texas- think 3-D movie, with a moving chair, and mist and smoke effects in the theater.  I almost passed on seeing the film, but I checked it out, and it was pretty cool.

You take an elevator to the top, and you can look out a window and see all of San Antonio.  There is an open area too.  In the more open area, the wind was blowing like crazy!  I had to put my hand over my face to make sure my glasses didn't come off!

This was a great experience, and we enjoyed our time at the Tower.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The History Shop- San Antonio, Texas

I have to give a quick mention to the History Shop, located in San Antonio.  Its a VERY short walk from the Alamo.

For $5, you can see a great miniature version of the Alamo, with a narrated description of the Battle!  Interestingly, Phil Collins does the narration!

I had a very nice chat with the fellow running the shop on the day we were there.  I asked about the Phil Collins connection, and was told that Phil is a fan of the Alamo.  I was also told that he is a very pleasant person when he comes around, and he is always accommodating to his fans!

In addition to their diorama show, the history shop sells old maps and historic items.  I felt that the  person at the shop prided himself on their ability to find (and even restore) old maps and documents.

I also enjoyed learning that the actual Alamo, at the time of the Battle, took up a lot of area.  In fact, the History shop, and most of the noted businesses in the area, are really a part of the location of the Alamo.

If you are going to visit the Alamo anyway, you must stop by the History Shop as part of your experience!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Six Flags of Texas at the Alamo

This postcard went through the mail in 1913.

The back says, "The Alamo Church property was purchased by the State May 12, 1883 for $20,000 and placed in the custody of the City.  It showing the French, Spanish, Mexican, Texas, Lone Star, Confederate and the U. S. Flag."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Alamo- San Antonio Texas

EVERYONE has heard of the Alamo.  Even if you have no idea about it, you have HEARD it referenced.

I have to admit, most of what I knew before my trip about the Alamo came from Hank Hill.

LUCKILY, we found ourselves at the Alamo on the anniversary of the battle!  We were very excited to see reenactors and others doing presentations while we were there!

We also thought it was cool that ACTUAL Texas Rangers were there protecting the site, even at night!

Originally built as a Mission in the 1740s, the building gained its notoriety in 1836 during the Texas Revolution.  Mexican troops, under the leadership of General Santa Anna, took no prisoners in an absolute slaughter of Texans defending the Alamo.  Pioneer legends Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie died during the battle (and the exact details of their deaths are a bit fuzzy to historians).

Santa Anna thought the victory would intimidate his enemy but the opposite happened.  Many rallied, and a month and a half later, Sam Houston and the Texian Army would defeat Santa Anna's army in an 18 minute butt kicking rematch.  The battle cry at that time was, "Remember the Alamo!".

The actual remaining Alamo structure is a Texas shrine now.  The inside does have a very holy feel, and photos are not allowed inside.

Outside, around the shrine area are various tour companies, shops, restaurants, hotels, etc., etc.  In many ways, the area around the historic site reminds me of Gatlinburg.

And I don't mean that in a bad way necessarily.  I know for a lot of families, a visit somewhere like the Alamo, or the Great Smoky Mountains might be more appealing to the kids if a side trip to Ripley's or the Hard Rock CafĂ© is also promised.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Alamo Plaza Looking South from Post Office, San Antonio Texas

This undated but older postcard mentions on the back-

"The center of San Antonio business life, showing the historic Alamo and walls on the left.  In the center, the beautiful Band Stand, flower beds and tropical verdure of the famous plaza."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

San Fernando Cathedral- San Antonio Texas

San Fernando Cathedral was built between 1738 and 1749.  According to the brochure I got from them, "The walls of that church still stand today making it the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States, and the oldest building in Texas."

A stone marker inside indicated the official center of San Antonio.

There are many great statues and paintings inside.  There is a statue of Pope John Paul II, who visited San Fernando Cathedral on September 13th, 1987.

The church is forever linked to the Battle of the Alamo in many ways.

Santa Anna was hanging out here when the Battle started.

Five years before the Battle, Jim Bowie was married here.

AND MANY visitors (including me) stop by to see the remains of the Defenders of the Alamo.