Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #5

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
Albert Einstein

Thursday, January 31, 2019: Departed the RV Park at Fort Sam Houston Army Base in San Antonio, Texas and headed north on I-35. Wait, what, why back north? Well, we had planned to stay in the area for about two weeks, but we could only score five nights at Fort Sam, so our Maine RV’ing friends invited us up to their wintering over park in the town of San Marcos.

Canyon Trails RV Park is conveniently located and nestled in farming country. We choose an end site that was backed up to a nice meadow where a herd of deer visited each evening.

The high humidity helped the newly mown fields give off the fresh and fragrant smell of the rural countryside and a distant rail corridor added a nice backdrop of trains rumbling through while blowing their whistle at road crossings. Glad we are here…Kit and I are looking forward to exploring more of this interesting corner of America.


Friday, February 1, through Thursday, February 7, 2019-San Marcos, Texas: This town is nestled between the larger communities of Austin to the North and San Antonio to the South. Located on the banks of its namesake River, San Marcos is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in America.

Home to Texas State University, San Marcos is where Texas native son Lyndon Baines Johnson received his undergraduate teaching degree, so its fitting there be a small museum depicting his early life.

Which we toured one day with Rey and Darlene…and, which piqued our interest in roaming afield later in the week to visit the Johnson Ranch, sixty miles to the west.

During our stay, the annual NFL sports spectacle and, generally more entertaining creative television commercial airing, was being televised from Atlanta. Kit and I are not big sports fans, but we are fans of delicious eating which we enjoy during the annual ritual of munching on snack food while watching the Super Bowl commercials.

Our hosts planned a nice Sunday Super Bowl party consisting of great barbeque, produced by some fellow camping neighbors…

…for a nice outdoor feast…

…while watching the game from their outdoor television housed in one of the camper’s storage bays.

Keeping with tradition to photograph the better meals that Kit and I enjoy on the road, here is a photo of my first helping…or was it my second…or, possibly my third?

Yep, it was as good as it looks! The only disappointed, and frankly put out, guest at the Super Bowel festivities was Rey and Darlene’s pooch Coby…

…shown above displaying his displeasure.

A nearby village that Kit and I have enjoyed in the past, and visited again this trip with Rey and Darlene, is Gruene, Texas.

Established by German settlers along the Guadalupe River, Gruene (pronounced green, presumably because of all the green that passes into the local merchant’s coffers) became an important cotton producing region with a small commercial district to support the farmer’s needs.

Unfortunately, the Boll Weevil infestation followed by the Great Depression decimated the area and reduced Gruene to a ghost town. However, fortunately, a young architecture student noticed the dilapidated town while on a kayaking adventure and decided to document the remaining structures for a school project.

During his efforts he also discovered that developers had purchased the town and intended to tear down the historic buildings to build riverfront condominiums. Expanding his study, the architecture student convinced the developers of the economic advantage of a historic center in their development plans and many of the old structures were saved and restored…such as the former water powered cotton gin, now a popular restaurant.

Where we sought food and drink at a riverside table…

…with a nice open-air view of the Guadalupe River…

…while enjoying an incredible meal…

…such as my pasta dish topped with bacon wrapped Gulf shrimp on a skewer. One of the best meals of this year’s trip so far!

Folks in Texas are very friendly to tourists and us snowbirds, which they refer to as Winter Texans. Keeping with that tradition, our very pleasant waitress left this homey greeting on our guest check.

As we waddled out of The Gristmill and into the many antique and gift shops housed in the historic downtown, we were glad that an enterprising college student had the forethought to champion the preservation of the Gruene town center.

In the shops, amongst other items, Kit and I picked out these two souvenirs.

Yep, they just about cover the major food groups and will not likely last the week.

Wandering around one of the shops, I was impressed by the recycling of an everyday object to patch holes in the old wooden floor.

I have amassed almost 55 years of used license plates, might have to use them as a decorative element in our home!

Also located within the town is the famous Gruene Hall.

Built is 1878, it is billed as the oldest continuously active dance hall in the state hosting many well-known country performers throughout the years.

Kit and I had enjoyed an evening at Gruene Hall during a previous Excellent Adventure trip, so we all decided to not wait for the hall to open for the evening and instead make our way back to the campground.

We spent some of our time in San Marcos attending to domestic chores and just hanging around camp with Rey and Darlene. On one occasion, we hosted a picnic meal at our site.

Which featured salad and Kit’s signature chicken with dressing dish accompanied by freshly baked ricochet biscuits.

The meal paired very well with Gallo Red, vintage yesterday.

During our stay, the four of us piled into Rey and Darlene’s truck and headed west toward Johnson City. Founded in 1879 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s uncle, James Polk Johnson, this small village was the ancesteral hometown of our 36th president.

Our first stop was at the nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, which features the visitor’s center for the Johnson Ranch located across the Pedernales River and is the home of the Sauer Beckmann Living History Farm.

Built by the Sauer and Beckmann families in the late 19th century, this authentic working farm…

…is staffed by volunteers in period clothing who work the land, care for the animals, and maintain the property using period tools and technics.

The communal kitchen cooks lunch for the staff using only crops and animals raised at the farm.

Without the benefit of refrigeration, many seasonal food items are canned …

…or in the case of meat products, immersed in lard to preserve them…

…such as these sausage links.

Water for the farm is pumped into an elevated tank by a functioning windmill…

…to be gravity fed to the kitchen and barn when needed.

A curious artifact inside the residence is this human hair wreath.

These intricate works of art were common to the era as memorials to departed loved ones made from the hair of the deceased.

Of the many animals on the farm, this little guy seemed to be very friendly and inquisitive…and took a liking to us.

The young calf was safe for now from being a main course on the farm’s dinner table…however, this little porker was not so fortunate…

…in a day or two he’s slated to be a pile of bacon.

On the opposite side of the Pedernales River from the Sauer Beckmann farm is the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park.

Known during LBJ’s presidency as the Texas White House, this ranch was a place of relaxation and rejuvenation for our Vietnam era president.

From the large porch of his home…

…overlooking the river…

…many important American and international leaders would gather and discuss ways to solve world problems and improve the planet and its people.

Assuming the presidency following the tragic assassination of John Kennedy, LBJ went on to serve as our chief executive for an additional six years. Among his signature accomplishments were the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the formation of the National Endowment for the Arts, establishment of Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and many other examples of progressive legislation. He also oversaw the largest growth of GDP of any president in modern times. Unfortunately, the protracted war in Southeast Asia and decisions made by our country’s leadership tarnished his accomplishments.

LBJ loved the trappings of the presidency and had a private airfield and hanger built on his property to allow quick, secure, and easy access to his beloved ranch. Air Force One was too large to land so a Lockheed JetStar, which became known as Air Force One-half, was used…

…which would land on his 6,000-foot asphalt runway a mere one hundred yards from his home.

Also, on display were some of the automobiles used by LBJ at the ranch…such as this 1934 Ford Phaeton which was highly modified with a fully loaded bar and four fully loaded rifle racks in the back seat…

…which LBJ called the Bullets and Booze car. Below is a photo of the president driving the car across the Pedernales River by way of the Johnson Dam.

A consummate prankster, LBJ would delight driving unsuspecting guests about the ranch and abruptly head for the river and drop down to the roadway at the base of the dam. This Caused the tires to send river water spraying in all directions and the passengers to shriek in terror.

Another of his favorite vehicles, and one he would also use to prank guests, was his 1965 Amphicar.

The German made amphibious automobile could drive on the roads and easily transition into a watercraft by steering it toward any body of water. A favorite trick LBJ enjoyed playing on newly assigned Secret Service personnel was to give them a tour of the ranch using the Amphicar, then parked by a gently sloped riverbank shout excitedly; “I’ve lost the brakes, were going in!” As his security detail was trying to remember if their training included a car driven by the president suddenly rolling toward water. Eventually, the Amphicar would level out, start the rear propeller, and the president would steer the vehicle by using the front tires as twin rudders…

… laughing uproariously about how he pranked the new guy.

A generous man, LBJ kept a storeroom of various gifts to present to guests, such as lighters, fountain pens, watches, presidential seal pins…

…and Stetson hats in a variety of sizes…

…that went to the very special visitors…

…such as the dorky dude shown above.

The nation’s leaders have always been fodder for satirist, and LBJ was no exception. He was skewered relentlessly on late night television and on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour…

…however, unlike more recent politicians, he failed to melt down into a heap of pompous self-importance.

The LBJ ranch is still in operation, now managed by the National Park Service, and is continuing the lineage lines in the cattle they raise and maintain.

When mature, the cattle are auctioned off fetching many times their market value due to their bloodlines and connection to history.

A driving trip around this massive ranch is very pleasant and one can sense why LBJ found solace and rejuvenation in this beautiful place.

The Johnson family cemetery, located at the ranch, contains the remains of LBJ and Lady Bird, as well as other family members.

What a great day exploring the home and ranch of a great Texan who had a significant impact on the welfare of the citizens of our great nation.

Kit, Darlene, Rey and I were so busy touring the LBJ Ranch we missed lunch, so an early dinner was in order. Finding a highly rated restaurant via Google, we made our way top El Charro.

The food was authentic TexMex and very good!

The greens smothering my Carne Asada dish were Nopales …below is a photo of Nopales in its raw form.

A bit unique to our New England palate, but very flavorful!

Kit’s sister and brother in law used to live in this part of Texas before migrating back west to San Diego. However, parents Don and Paulene still live in the area and met us at a local restaurant one evening.

A delightful couple approaching the ripe young age of ninety, Don and Paulene are very active, dancing and socializing many nights a week. Thanks. Folks for treating us to a nice meal…take care and hope to see you again soon.

Well, that brings our stay in this part of Texas to a close. As Kit and I emerged from the restaurant, the South Texas Sky bid us farewell.

Stay tuned as we reverse direction and start heading easterly.

Kit’s Bit’s: Many thanks to Ray & Darlene for showing us so many interesting things in their area. As with many of the places we stay, due to time constraints, we miss a lot of the interesting sights. As with many of our stops, we never get to see as much as we’d like to. Staying in one place for an entire week allowed us to explore some very interesting spots. Also, it was great to see Don & Pauline again, we haven’t seen them in many years. They are still as vibrant and active as they were 50 years ago! Keep on dancing!

14 thoughts on “Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #5

  1. I like dorky dude, kinda funny. I never realized how beautiful Texas is plus finding out the history of LBJ and his accomplishments. Thanks for the history lesson.

  2. The Super Bowl barbecue looked delicious as all your other food stops. The Gristmill River Restaurant looked very inviting…what a great place for a romantic dinner! ..Loved the tour of the living history farm…I love visiting those types of farms. ..The “hair art” memorial was a bit unusual! …LBJ National Historic Park is a beautiful piece of property and I can understand why LBJ loved it so much. …I hope you bought one of those hats!!!

    • Hi Nancy, thanks for continuing to leave comments on our blog…we really appreciate it!
      Nope, no hat…im not much of a hat person, and cowboy hats in Maine look just plain silly!

  3. We ate at The Grist Mill restaurant, too, while in Gruene, and had our picture taken in front of the fireplace. Like your choice of souvenirs. Yummy!
    Enjoyed touring the LBJ Ranch with you. Love his cars! Many years ago when we followed Sterlin s cousin on his boat racing circuit they used an aquacar to manage the race from.
    Keep on truckin’ and postin’‼

    • Hello, thanks for the comment and your personal history with the famed Amphicar! Hope we get to see you folks if we ever get deep into Florida (insert smiley face emoji here)!


    • Hi Chet, thanks for the comment and the great history lesson. Never knew that Maine supplied deer to LBJ…didn’t see any while we visited the ranch, but next time I’ll ask one of the docents.

  5. Wonderful stories, as usual. One of my friends, Scot Miller, is photographer in residence at the LBJ National Historical Park. There seems to be a theme to your meanderings: eat, drive, eat, tour, eat, play, eat, visit friends, eat while touring and visiting with friends….

    • And thanks, as usual! Wish I had know about Scot Miller, I would have tried to look him up! Yea, the eat-tour-visit thing is the daily activity of the active snowbirder, and I don’t write about all the eating we do either!!!

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