What Does The Government Shutdown Mean to ME?

Trip Start Apr 05, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, October 14, 2013

I started this last installment of my Presidential Gravesite quest with more than a little bit of trepidation.  I was afraid the Government shutdown might impact my visits to any or all three of the last three Presidents on my list.  They are Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.  

I was up early.  I was having one of those restless nights you sometimes have before having to get up early to catch a flight or do something else important.  You know what I mean.  I woke up almost every hour checking the clock; the final time at 4:30 am.  Finally, I just got up and got going at 5:00 even though the alarm was set for 5:15.  Finished up packing and hit the airport.  
I was glad our flight was to DFW because the flight to ORD was delayed or canceled.  

 Travel problems are not fun.  Fortunately the new second flight to DFW (it just started October 1) was on time.  The young lady who checked me in noted that she checked my bags all the way to LAX, even though it was first on AA, then later on UA.  We'll see.  But I couldn't check into my flight.  Had to do that in Austin.  OK.   

 We were in the air and we took off just as the sun was rising over the prairie.  You could still see the mist and morning fog as it hung over the patchwork quilt of freshly harvested and ready to be harvested fields.  And those windmill farms are quite a site at first light.  A beautiful sight as we took off north and then banked over B /N.  I always like to try to find landmarks...Ironwood, ISU, The Den...Oh, maybe your landmarks are different than mine.  OK, Watterson Towers, the Heartland windmill, and Dixie Truck Stop in McLean.  It was crisp and clear until we got almost to Missouri.  I remember seeing distinctly the convergence of the two great rivers of Illinois; the Illinois and the Mississippi in a little town called Grafton.  I remember canoeing it many years ago.  Then the weather set in, and so did the turbulence.  The little ERJ (Regional Jet) shakes pretty violently in severe turbulence.  

We landed in DFW pretty much on time 9:05 am.  But I only had 40 minutes before my flight to Austin.  That shuttle train seemed to take forever to get from B-23 to C-39.  You wouldn't think so, but it had to take the whole circular route to get to C-39.  I boarded the plane at 9:40 am.  It was a large plane...Super MD 80, seating about 150 people.  I was in row 25.  When I got in a young man said, I have sort of a large bag under the seat, but I think we can make it fit.  I was doubtful, but went along.  Well, I couldn't get my small backpack under the seat in front of me.  Something had to give.  The nice young lady sitting in the aisle seat (I was the window) said she would store it under the seat in front of her.  I said, "We can make this work."  And we did.  The flight was only 33 minutes and I don't need that much leg room.  We started talking, and the two kids sitting next to me (who didn't know each other) were both U of Texas students.  Nice young people.  After talking with them, (except for the proliferation of my most hated word, LIKE), I have greater faith that the people we are leaving this world to will make it a better place.  Sort of restores your faith in humanity.  She was studying a form of childhood education where they help children cope with the death of siblings and friends...very cool.  He was a journalism major....I told him my wife was a journalism major, and corrected many of my papers....Sandy was kind enough not to put a little smiley face and "nice try Dave" at the top of them.  She was kind.  And she has made me a better writer, much as she has made me a better person! 

The kids (I guess I can call 18-22 year olds kids) liked my quests....Presidential Gravesites,  Major League Ballparks, etc.  They seemed (or faked it real well) to be interested.  

Then we landed in Austin.  Good little airport.  I was a bit worried about my bags so went to the United counter and asked a nice lady about them.  First, she checked me in for my United flight at 6:59 pm, and headed down to the AA baggage claim area where she said she would make sure my bag was on its way to LAX.  So I just had my backpack and headed to Hertz for my car.  It was ready and a nice car, as usual. Never driven a Buick Verano before.  Nice car.  Nice amenity was blind spot recognition; little light lights up telling you a car in in your blind spot.  Very nice safety feature.  It also had XM Radio, something I didn't think I would care for much, but have gotten very much used to since having it in my own car.  

 And I was on my way to "The Hill Country" of Johnson City, Texas.  I stopped in Johnson City for a minute to see where Johnson was born.  That's when I first encountered the sign...the sign that said, "Due to the Government Shutdown, this facility is CLOSED."  It looked nice, where they had set up a little village where the Johnson family had lived for many years.  Then I headed the 14 miles down the road to a town called Stonewall, Texas.  That's where a State and National Park share the Lyndon Baines Johnson historical site.  I went to the State site first.  Very nice.  A reconstructed home like what LBJ may have lived in, a working farm and a herd of buffalo.  I even watched a 25 minute film done in 1969 when a reporter interviewed LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird.  They showed the reporter around the ranch, pointing out where LBJ went to school, the Pendernales River that flowed through the ranch.  Good, if not dated.  Afterwards I asked the lady about the gravesite.  That's when she said, "I'm sorry, the National Park Service runs that part of the site, including 'The Texas Whitehouse' where LBJ lived, and they are closed due to the shutdown."   But she was kind enough tell me where I could get the closest to the Johnson family cemetery, and maybe get a picture of it.  I drove down the road and took a picture of the cemetery.  I think you can make out the American flag where LBJ is buried.  

It was better sweet.  Close enough to see it, but not close enough to make out many details.  It was the first one I was unsuccessful in getting close up.  But you know, I may be back in Texas again....if I outlive Bush I that is.   No guarantees in this life!  What I truly missed was the historical film on his life and times that almost always accompanies the National Park Service Visitor's Center orientation.  LBJ was the 36th President.  He was VP for Kennedy and when he (JFK) was shot in Dallas 50 years ago next month, LBJ became President.  He passed a lot of important Civil Rights legislation, but I remember him mainly as the President who got us even more deeply involved in Vietnam.  I don't think Kennedy would have done that...or is that just wishful thinking about one of may favorite Presidents?  Anyway, Johnson won again in 1964, but decided not to run in 1968 making the way for the next President I will see, Richard Nixon to win the Presidency.  

So much for history...let's talk food!  The "kids" on the plane had tried to talk me into stopping at a BBQ place called "The Salt Lick."  I had seen it on MVF, but I emailed my friend John Huffman (who is from Texas) and asked him about it.  He said, "Nope!"  If you want the real Texas BBQ experience, you have to go to Kreutz Market in Lockhart, TX...only 30 miles south of the Austin Airport.  That was important if I was going to make my 6:59 flight to Houston and on to LAX.  I made it to Kreutz (pronounced Krites...thanks John!).  I had seen it on MVF or DDD before or some channel where they were talking about the best BBQ in Texas.  Kreutz is huge.  Probably seats a couple hundred in two different rooms.  John told me the rules and he was right, they are clearly printed on the wall.  Order your meat in the main room...right where they cook it!  The aroma was a carnivore's dream!  You could almost taste that smoke!  So, meat in one room, and sides in another.  And they don't take credit cards...cash only!  Oh yea, couple other rules.  As printed on the wall, "Sauce...Nope, our meat don't need it!  Forks...they're at the end of your arms!  Wow!!! The way BBQ is suppose to be eaten...with your hands!  I ordered a quarter pound (couple of slices) of the brisket, beans and mac and cheese...oh, yea, and being in Texas, a Lone Star Beer.  They're right.  Not sure I've had better BBQ without sauce in my life.  Outstanding!

After eating my fill, I headed north to Austin and the airport again.  Made it through Security.  They have this new thing I signed up for earlier.  Can't remember the name, but it's the equivalent of an I-Pass on the tollway.  Don't have to take off your shoes or jacket.  Nice amenity to quicken your screening process.  

Then I sat at a bar near my gate and began writing my blog.  

At 6:30 it was gate time and I headed to my flight to Houston.  Nice big plane.  Boeing 737 - 800 Series.  Seats about 150 or so.  Rather uneventful flight, which is not all bad!

Made the quick trip to my other United flight in the Houston airport, and another big plane.  Boeing 757 maybe seats 160 or so, and I was in row 37....three from the back.      

Sat next to an interesting young woman.  Reminded me of a modern day flower-child.  Very free spirited.  Only drank water, and made necklaces from threading beads, which I later learned she sold.  I did not invest.  I just listened to music on my iPad.  Oh yea, I also forgot to power down my phone.  Take my advice, don't do that.  I think I had 76% of battery life left.  When I remembered an hour later, I had 4%.  I was told that your phone keeps searching for a tower, but from 38,000 feet, it can't find one, but it keeps looking and keeps draining your battery.  So, when they tell you to power down your cell phone do so, or at least put it on airplane mode!!!

I have never wanted to be a flight attendant.  Somebody I know called it being a flying waitress.  And it seems increasingly, you are dealing with a lot of unhappy people.  I ran into a flight attendant on our flight by the name of Gina who was nothing short of outstanding!  First, she refereed a seat mix up between two people.  Then she took one person and asked him to help her translate for a Spanish-speaking lady who was having a panic attack because she couldn't see her bag...it had been checked at the plane door.  She rewarded that guy with a seat in a row by himself in the back of the plane.  The flower-child next to me asked for a full bottle of water...nope, but then Gina brought her four full cups of water during the flight.  And me, I ordered a Bacardi and diet, and she gave me two.  She winked at me when she handed me the second small bottle of Bacardi.  When the flight was over and most everyone had left the plane (remember, I was in row 37) I went back and thanked her and told her how much I appreciated what she did for everyone.  I told her, I am sure no one or at least not many people noticed the three or four acts of kindness I witnessed she performed for her passengers, but I noticed and I wanted to let her know I appreciated it.  I plan on letting United know about flight attendant Gina on my flight from Houston to LAX.  I appreciate good customer service.    
Then it was luggage time.  I went straight to the UA customer service baggage counter.  Nice lady.  She checked and nope, my bag was not on the flight and UA did not have it.  She called AA, and sure enough....they did.  I was in Terminal 7...AA is in Terminal 4.  Do you know what kind of walk that is at LAX?  Long is the answer.  Nice lady at AA had the bag waiting for me, and I was soon outside waiting for the Hertz bus.  Finally got on the bus and realized it was after Midnight...LA time.  I had been up for almost 20 hours, and I was beat.  

Fortunately, except for the ridiculous airport traffic at 12:30 am, things went smoothly at Hertz.  Nice car...a Caddy!  10 minutes later I was at the Crowne Plaza and checking in.  Upgraded to the concierge floor (free breakfast tomorrow), and 20 minutes later I was out like a light welcoming my last two Presidential gravesites tomorrow, but dreading the LA traffic.  

Today could have been better...if the National Park Service had been working and I had gotten a closer look at LBJ's grave, but it was a good day nonetheless!

Take care my friends and family!



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jr on

i am in IRvine ,ca until thursday

Uncle Johnny on

Hope you and JR can get together. We love our Verano too.

John Huffman on

It;'s too bad that you could not see the National Park in Johnson City/Stonewall. They have done a nice job of preserving the family farm...including the runway Johnson had built to accommodate Air Force One when he visited....your tax dollars at work there folks! I highly recommend you return in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming, and take that lovely bride, she will really like it. Glad you enjoyed the authentic Texas BBQ....there aint none like it anywhere in the world!!!

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