Heading West, Part II: Texas Hill Country

Bill & Denise Semion
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Discovering A Presidential Past

When we last left you, we were heading south, then west, from Michigan toward Arizona on our first-ever departure from our usual winter respite in Florida in our 2015.5 Leisure MB ‘Lucky Us.’

We made it to San Antonio, Texas, carefully navigating cold fronts, winds, rain, and freezing temperatures. Now, we were hoping for warmer, milder weather. Watching social media posts, we quickly became aware of what was ahead. Interstate 10, which we would be using to cross west in about a week, had shut down due to high winds, and temperatures were dipping close to freezing at night. But we didn’t have to worry just yet, as we headed north out of San Antonio into the Texas Hill Country to visit a historic presidential home, savor some real Texas barbecue and maybe a little country music before we moved on to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Now, if you didn’t already know this, let me say that Texas is one heck of a big state–the second largest in the U.S. and the largest in the lower 48 with 261,914 square miles, second only to Alaska. Texas is divided into five distinct regions–we already touched the South Texas Plains while in San Antonio and the Gulf Coast while at Mustang Island. Now, we’re headed north to the Texas Hill Country, where we stopped in Johnson City for lunch and started our historical tour.

Johnson City

Bill heads into Ronnie’s Pit BBQ for some tasty Texas vittles.
We split the triple combo—three types of meat plus two sides.

After some delicious Texas barbeque, we were on to our presidential destination, where we explored the “Texas White House” and boyhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th president. The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park consists of two separate districts–one in Johnson City, housing a Visitor Center and Johnson’s boyhood home, the other housing the LBJ Ranch, 14 miles west.

LBJ, as he was known, was a lifelong Texan whose political life began serving as a U.S. representativeU.S. senator, and the Senate’s majority leader. He served as vice president to John F. Kennedy before becoming president following Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson created the term “The Great Society” to describe his efforts to expand civil rights, access to health care, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and more. He created the “War on Poverty” to improve life for low-income Americans and signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid. His wife, Lady Bird Johnson, was a leader in conservation efforts; she advocated for creating National Park Service units, lobbied for the passage of environmental legislation, and worked to beautify the nation’s highway system and America. She believed that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Together, the home where the President and First Lady lived became known as the place where “all the world is welcome here.”

LBJ Ranch earned the moniker “Texas White House” as President Johnson spent about 20 percent of his time there while serving as President. Although the interior of his home is closed due to structural issues, our visit was well worth it to discover LBJ’s Texas roots, Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to beautify America, and more.

Our history tour starts in Johnson City to see where Lyndon B. Johnson’s boyhood home is.
We drove the six-mile self-guided tour at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
Descendants of LBJ’s original herd of Hereford cattle live at this national park.
LBJ’s home, known as “The Texas White House.” Although the house is closed to visitors, a park ranger gives short talks throughout the day.
LBJ used this beautiful 1934 Ford Phaeton Touring car as an “all-terrain hunting vehicle.” It’s one of several vehicles displayed.
A wet bar with a water faucet, a rifle rack, a V-8 Zephyr engine, plus a steel plate to prevent damage enabled LBJ to escape the rigors of political life by hunting on his ranch.
The Perdernales River flows through the LBJ Ranch.
Final resting place for LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson.


Drive about a half-hour west of the LBJ Ranch, and you’ll be in Fredericksburg, where we spent two nights at the conveniently located Lady Bird Municipal Park Campground. You’ll hear planes take off at the nearby airport, but the spacious sites at this campground suited us just fine.

Our site is at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park Campground.

The next day we visited the National Museum of the Pacific War, named one of the top five history museums in the United States. Established to honor Fredericksburg’s native son Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Pacific, this six-acre campus provides the nation’s most comprehensive account of this theater of World War II. We only had time to examine some of the displays at the George H. W. Bush Gallery; history buffs will want to spend an entire day there to read the moving narratives and examine the artifacts. Exhibits detail Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Atomic Bomb, and more. Also on campus is the Admiral Nimitz Gallery, Plaza of Presidents, Japanese Garden of Peace, Memorial Courtyard, and the Pacific Combat Zone.

George H. W. Bush Gallery

Once we left the museum, we had a hankering for some local cooking and found Backwoods BBQ. It did not disappoint.

No, we didn’t eat all of this for lunch!
Eating local is one of the highlights of traveling. Backwoods BBQ was mighty tasty.


It’s hard for me to say Luckenbach without adding “Texas” after it, and I can’t say “Luckenbach Texas” without hearing Waylon Jennings singing his tribute to this music mecca in my head. This tiny town, the tiniest in Texas, boasts a population of three. There’s a general store, a dance hall, and, of course, a bar. Plan to grab a beer and hear musicians play during the Picker’s Circle scheduled most days; bigger, ticketed events are held at the dance hall.

Grab a drink and sit a spell while listening to musicians performing at Luckenbach.
The Post Office also serves as the General Store in Luckenbach.

We’re ready now to head north to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. It’ll be about a six-hour drive. Watching the weather, it looks like we will just skirt the freezing temperatures. From Carlsbad Caverns, we hope to make it to White Sands National Park, where colder temperatures and high winds have prevailed. Follow along on our adventures to Arizona and our final destination–California!

Bill & Denise Semion

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