LBJ addiction & the Bat Flight

Trip Start May 31, 2009
Trip End Jun 05, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Texas is a BIG state, but LBJ's "piece of it' isn't as large as I thought.

His boyhood home, which he wasn't born at, is about one block from the modern Visitors Center, is a must-see museum. Then walking path, about a mile, takes you to his grandfather's property, which is where he was born. Or you can take your car and drive about 1/4 mile.

LBJ's Texas Ranch aka the Texas White House is about 14 miles.

So, LBJ was born, worked, owned his ranch home, and died, and buried within a 14 mile radius.

Start with LBJ's Museum. It's run by the National Park Service, and is FREE. A huge area filled with artifacts and displays. A letter from Lady Bird telling LBJ that she doesn't want him to go into politicts. That was before they were married. Obviously, he had a one tract mind.

Walk down to his boyhood home. The home is decorated as it would have been during the 1920's. LBJ's mom had a teaching degree, and taught her children, along with other neighborhood children in her home.

It was here, as a youth that LBJ found "politicts." His father and friends would gather in  his fathers' bedroom to discuss local, state and US politics. Why the bedroom? Remember, LBJ's mom was a smart lady. To make sure these meetings wouldn't last late into the night, she would walk into the room and announce it was her bedtime. And good night to all.

As a youth, LBJ wasn't permitted to listen in on the conversations due to some off -colored remarks of the participants. So, LBJ would go outside and discreetly crawl under his parents bedroom and listen to their conversations Which wasn't difficult with gaps in the hardwood floors. Eventually, he was "caught in the act." But was now addicted to the Political world.

The lay out of the house has a East Front porch which borders the Girl's bedroom, office and Parlor. The West Front Porch also borders the Parlor, plus the Parent's bedroom and boys bedroom. A porch is on the other side of the Parents room. The Sleeping porch borders the opposite side of the girls room. These porches were designed for air circulation in the hot summers.

So what was his first job? Shoe shine boy outside the Johnson City barber shop. At age 8. He persuaded his mom to run an ad in the paper touting his services. Shoe shining allowed LBJ to earn money and also be privy to gossip and political talk that he would love all his life.

The Johnson Settlement is just down the path (or road) from LBJ's boyhood home and the Museum.5 buildings and the windmill still stand.

In the late 1850's Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr, President Johnson's grandfather, and his brother Tom, bought 320 acres in the newly formed Blanco County and built a one room log cabin. They sold horses and cattle to the Confederacy. The "dog-trot" cabin still stands in the settlement,

Ok, I've never heard of or seen a dog-trot cabin. So that was one reason to go to the settlement, other than it just being a stone toss away.

What's a dog trot? A cabin that has two rooms BUT the rooms are separated by a covered breezeway. The information we learn on vacation!! Heck this just might one day be a TV game show question.

The National Park service also has the Witners Spauldings general store exhibit, but we've just got too much to cram into today, so this will be a miss.

Want a little "scent" on your vacation? Johnson City hosts a Lavender festival on the first Saturday in October.

Getting to the Texas Whitehouse aka LBJ Ranch isn't easy. You have to go thru the State Park, where you get the audio tape and pay the $1 fee per person, then go to the National Park. We weren't the only ones that were confused by the oral directions.

Once you find the right entrance, you really aren't there ...yet.

LBJ liked to bring his visitors "the long way in." So you keep riding on a one way lane that circles almost back to where you started. The plus side is you get to see his air strip and the cattle barn. It's still a working ranch, so for city folk, who have never been this close to bovine, it is a unique experience

On August 27, 2008 the Texas White House was officially opened to the public

Your first stop is the museum, which reminds me of an old airport hanger. Nothing fancy here, but inside is so many photographs and information on LBJ including his famous BBQ's that he hosted for his guests.

Yep, messy BBQ state dinners on picnic tables and sittin' around the campfire. So much better than the tuxedo and gown dinners.

There is also bathrooms, which you need after the drive.

This is where you get your tour ticket which costs a whopping $1.00. And kids under 17 are free.

Figure 20 to 25 minutes for the tour. We were in the "off season" so didn't get the full house tour, which was a disipointment.

There is nothing "formal" here. It's a ranch house on a working ranch. LBJ even wrote a "Welcome" in the cement sidewalk. Many important meetings were held near his pool. Yep, sitting around on lawn chairs in shirts and ties. This was the Texas Whitehouse. It was also where many meetings produced important legislation bills. The Texas Whitehouse had the most sophisticated communications system in the world.

Next is the Sauer-Beckman Farm. This isn't an LBJ thing, except, the State Park service lists it with the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site info. The farm was settled by Johann and Christien Sauer in 1869.

The Beckman family purchased the property in the 1900's and constructed most of the buildings. The barn was built in 1915.

Why, other than the fact that this is a perfect property to make into a living museum, would the Park Service want to make this into a State Park?

Well, it has a connection to LBJ. Agusta Sauer Lindig was the midwife for LBJ's birth.

This working farm was in existence from 1855 -1966. Volunteers in period clothing carry on their daily chores exactly as they would have done 100 years ago.

It sounded really good. Both in print and from the State Park Ranger who said it was a must do. And it would have been...EXCEPT. It's a field day for elementary school kids. Yep 4 busses of them. So, we didn't get to tour the houses, or talk to one of the guides, 'cause they were taking care of alllll those kids.

We walked around and got a few quick peeks into some rooms. This really is a fantastic facility...without kid group tours. This is the place to "see how to and sometime be able to do." Everything from soap making, shoe a mule, feed chickens, make cheese, wash clothes, churn butter, milk a cow, plow the garden, harvest vegetables, preserve meat, all ;in one area. And all without electric. ;We'll come back here...after we call in advance and see what days will not have large tour groups.

We like Hill Country. Probably because it feels like home. Out in the country, clean air, not much traffic, and no large town in site. It's about 45 minutes to an hour from both San Antonio and Austin. We stayed at Canyon Lake, which is a man-made lake. Tried to do some river tubing here also, but it's that darn drought. If we had another day, then we could have done it. But we promised Benice and Tim that we were coming to Austin.

We're heading to the Capitol building. There are free tours that explain about the Capitol and the founding of Texas. It is the fourth building in Austin to serve as the seat of Texas government. It houses the chambers of the Texas state legislature and the office of the governor of Texas.

It was originally designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, who was fired in 1886, and was constructed from 1882–88 under the direction of civil engineer Lindsay Walker. Of; course we didn't find out why he was fired.

A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It is the largest state capitol building in the United States.

The "lady" on top of ;the dome is a replacement. We saw the original "lady" at Bob Bullocks Museum. We all agreed that the first one was much nicer looking.

We got into the Senate, since it wasn't in session. Pretty impressive, and the artwork is fantastic. Two monumental paintings by noted Texas artist Henry Arthur McArdle, Dawn at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, anchor the west side of the Senate room. The "monumental" comes from the huge size of these masterpieces.

The Capitol building is a design gem. From the dome down to the door knobs, stairways, and door hinges, each shines with craftsmanship.

Tim says we HAVE to go to Threadgills to eat. I am agreeing with him. Good ol' comfort food and the chance to sit in history. This was the site of so many performances from accomplished musicians including Janis Joplin.

The restaurant is filled with photos of the performers and lots of beer signs. Pearl is a favorite hear. And Lone Star.

I got lazy again and stole this from their web site.


Threadgill's original location (6416 N. Lamar)

Perhaps country music lover and bootlegger Kenneth Threadgill had more in mind when he opened his Gulf filling station just north of the Austin city limits in 1933, for the day that Travis County decided to "go wet " in December of the same year, Kenneth stood in line all night to be the first person to own a liquor license in the county. Soon, the filling station became a favorite spot for traveling musicians since it was open 24 hours for drinking, gambling and jamming. Kenneth would sing songs by his beloved Jimmie Rodgers nightly. Musicians who came to play were paid in beer. Such was the atmosphere at Threadgill’s, it was only when a curfew was enacted in 1942 that its owner had to get a key for the front door, before that it had yet to have been locked.

The quintessential Austin beer joint continued to flourish into the sixties, and changed with the social climate of the era by inviting the folkies, hippies and beatniks to his Wednesday night singing sessions with open arms. Threadgill’s love for people and music smoothed out the conflicts that usually occurred when longhairs met with rednecks at the time, and because of this, a new culture tolerance emanated from the club, which had a profound effect upon its patrons and the music that came from it. It was here that Janis Joplin developed her country and blues hybrid-styled voice that would blur the lines between country and rock n’ roll.

In 1974, when Austinites and the nation were extolling the benefits of living in the heart of the Lone Star State, and the "Cosmic Cowboy" movement, which had its roots directly planted in the history of Threadgill’s and Armadillo World Headquarters, was at its peak, tragedy struck Kenneth Threadgill when his wife Mildred died, and he decided to close his club.

After nearly succumbing to the city of Austin’s desire to demolish the original Threadgill’s site, which had become an eyesore, it was purchased by Eddie Wilson, owner of the Armadillo World Headquarters, a sister venue of a kindred spirit. Wilson’s idea, however, was to make Threadgill’s a Southern style restaurant, based on the success of the menu that he offered at his kitchen at the Armadillo. So, on New Year’s Eve 1980, the Armadillo closed, and on New Year’s Eve 1981, Threadgill’s opened as a restaurant. It was an instant success.

In 1982, the main building burned down, but Wilson reopened only three months later with an added commissary kitchen and banquet hall, which has evolved into the Country Store Museum and Eddie Wilson Memory Archive and Upstairs Store.

Threadgill’s World Headquarters

In 1996, Threadgill’s World Headquarters was opened in south Austin, right beside the residence of the Armadillo Headquarters. Wilson has made a distinction between the two locations: the original, north location has the theme of Austin between the 1930’s and the 1960’s.

The south location celebrates the history of the Armadillo and its salad days of the 1970’s. The memorabilia of the Headquarters represents the hey-day of this era from the juke box which contains many of the artists who played the Armadillo to the piano that hangs from the ceiling which has been played by artists as diverse as Jerry Lee Lewis to Captain Beefheart. At either venue, Wilson is proud to boast that “in matter of music and food, we represent a time before disco or microwaves”.

Threadgills was still a popular hangout in the sixties when folkies from the University of Texas—among them, Janis Joplin—discovered the Wednesday night sessions and joined in. Eddie Wilson was also a regular then.

In 1970 Wilson opened his own music venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters, where the beer and nachos became as legendary as some of the acts Wilson booked. Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Cliff, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Bette Midler, and Kenneth Threadgill all performed there.

Threadgill’s Southern Comfort Food

Eddie Wilson knew the type of T.L.C. that is a main ingredient in Southern cooking well before opening the kitchen at the Armadillo Headquarters. Everyday, his mother Beulah, would cook for 50 children at the nursery that she opened. With the taste of his mother’s cooking forever imprinted on his taste buds and the knowledge that goes into creating it, Eddie opened the kitchen at the Armadillo where touring acts were as attracted to the food as they were to the packed and frenzied concert goers.

With the incredible food, overflowing plates of it and at generous prices, along with his touch at hiring only the friendliest wait staff, the opening of Threadgill’s in 1981 was a smash. Bon Appetit thought the food was so good that they ran a story about it, as did Gourmet Magazine.

Then over to the riverfront Park to walk off that Comfort Food that has us uncomfortably stuffed. Tim says there is a statue that I really want to see.

Oh, my gosh it's Stevie Ray Vaughan. The guitarist. From my era. What a surprise. Someone left him a guitar pick. The Park is for runners, skaters, dogs, and people like us. There is free water containers and cups near the entrance. Nice touch.

Benice says we have to see the famous Austin bats.

I'm thinking we're going to a zoo or an aviary. Nope, this is Austin. You go to the bridge or the "Bat Park” beside the bridge.

The largest urban bat colony in North America lives under the Congress Avenue Bridge from late March till early October.

How many Mexican Free Tailed bats can fit under a bridge? Only about One and a half million.

The bats are very welcome in Austin. So welcome that in early March everyone holds their breath until they come back from Mexico.


The bats provide a free service to Austin. Each "night on the town" they devoure10,000 to 20.000 pounds...yep pounds of insects. So if they are here for 8 months how many tons of insects would they eat? And if they are only eating "on the river" how many more tons of insects does Austin have??

Do you wonder how that affects the sail of Raid in the grocery stores?

Just remember that the bi-product of the bats eating all those delectable insects is guano. And while the bats are flying it just might end up on your head.

So what time do these insect consumption machines appear? Call the BAT HOTLIKE for their E.T.A. 512-416-5700 ext. 3636. Or find a space on the bridge or in the Park around 8:15pm to "see the show."

I will admit that I am not a bat person. We've had them at camp and once in our house. But to see swarm after swarm of bats fly out from under the bridge was amazing.

Make you wonder how each separate swarm know when to leave.

Beside the bridge and park is a "bat sculpture" created by Dale Whistler.


 The "moonlight" was originally provided by a then relatively new device called a carbon arc lamp. These original carbon arc lamps illuminated a circle approximately 3,000 feet in diameter with a blue-white light. The light was intended to be bright enough that you could read an ordinary pocket watch on midnight of even the darkest of nights. The city electric department employed one person whose sole responsibility was to maintain the carbon arc lamps and light the towers each day. In 1923, the city replaced the carbon arc lamps with incandescent bulbs and switches were installed at the base of each tower. During World War II, the need to quickly black out the city dictated that the switches be replaced with one central switch. The towers now use 6,400-watt mercury vapor bulbs and the illumination is automated.

In 1990-91 the city refurbished the tower located at South First and Monroe. The construction of the new Austin Convention Center forced the relocation of one tower to First (Cesar-Chavez) and Trinity. An errant automobile damaged the tower at 22nd and Nueces forcing the dismantling of the tower. These two towers were refurbished before being put back up. In 1993 the city began a two-year long project to restore the remaining 14 towers at a cost of $1.3 million.

Locations of the remaining 17 towers....

1.) East Side Drive and Leland
2.) South First and Monroe
3.) 4th and Nueces *removed due to construction
4.) 9th and Guadalupe
5.) 12th and Blanco
6.) 12th and Rio Grande
7.) 15th and San Antonio
8.) 22nd and Nueces
9.) 41st and Speedway
10.) Zilker Park (used for Zilker Park Christmas Tree)*
11.) Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Chicon Street
12.) 13th and Coleto
13.) Leona Street and Pennsylvania Ave
14.) 11th and Trinity
15.) 11th and Lydia
16.) First (Cesar-Chavez) and Trinity *removed due to construction
17.) Canterbury and Lynn

*This tower was removed from Emma Long Metropolitan Park and replaced the replica tower used for the Zilker Park Christmas Tree.

Yep, I’ve added to my collection…moonlights.

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