On Tuesday, June 1, I was awakened by Mr. Wonderful’s (MW) hand shaking my shoulder and telling me it was time to get up and on the road. The rain had been coming down pretty hard for a couple of hours and had not let up. Groggy (as is my usual morning state), I came down to the living area, got my protein shake, sat down, and saw that it wasn’t quite 6 AM. My first question was, “When is this rain supposed to stop?” MW replied, “Around 7 or so, which is why I was letting you sleep.” “But you woke me up.” “No, I didn’t.” “You didn’t come up there and shake my shoulder?” “No.” Wow…now I’m DREAMING that MW is waking me up, and waking myself up at a time that starts with a FIVE!! Fudgsicle!!
The rain did, indeed, let up a little after 7 AM, and we headed out. A couple of deer and a turkey came to see us off as we left the park. (We’d heard a turkey several times, but not seen one.) On fresh road, we headed west on TX-72, then turned north on TX-16. Traffic was heavy, but not stopped, as we headed north toward San Antonio. The terrain at the beginning of the day was a bit flatter with some open fields and others with lots of scrub trees and cacti. Some had so much of the latter that I wondered how the cows grazed at all. As we headed north, the land became more rolling, cacti decreased, and small mountains appeared in the distance. Although cloudy, it didn’t rain and the mid-afternoon temperature stayed in the low 80s. We skirted San Antonio on the outer FM-1604 loop and caught US-281 north to Johnson City and our first stop of the day.
THAT REMINDS ME: Ever hear the song “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker? I love his voice and the song and sing along all the time. BUT…the incorrect lyrics drive me nuts. “But he’s a-headin’ west from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee.” To get to Johnson City from the Gap, you’d have to head east. How did the writer get that wrong? The song was allegedly started by Bob Dylan, who left it unfinished with just the chorus. Later Dylan claimed Arthur Crudup wrote it, and Crudup said it’s an old folk song by Big Bill Broonzy from the 1920s. Regardless of the chorus origination, Ketch Secor of the band Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the verses. When later asked about the impossible trip described, Secor said “I got some geography wrong, but I still sing it that way. I just wanted the word ‘west’ in there. ‘West’ has got more power than ‘east.'” Huh?! I’m just going to continue to assume drugs were involved.
One might think that Johnson City, Texas, changed its name after its most famous resident became a Congressman, then Senator, then Vice President, and then President. One would be wrong. The town was founded by James Polk Johnson, a relative of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and a former Georgia native, who donated the original 320 acres along the Pedernales River in 1879. While the original Johnson has a historical marker in town, he has been greatly overshadowed by his later kin. Our first stop for the day was at the site of President Johnson’s boyhood home, which is part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Just after Lyndon’s fifth birthday, the family moved from a small farm about 14 miles away to a home in town where they lived for the next 24 years. (The future President moved out when he married at 25.) While the home and Visitor’s Center were both closed, we were able to take a walk around the grounds. The restored house sits in the middle of a large, lot with beautiful grass. We always try to make things picture perfect, don’t we? There was a sign showing Lyndon’s cousin behind the house back in the day. In that pic, the yard is totally mud, which is reasonable for an area where everything to sustain the household happened…orchard, vegetable garden, woodpile, windmill, barn, smokehouse, chickens, livestock, etc. I would really enjoy these restorations more if they made them more real. (It’s like watching westerns where the streets and sidewalks look clean and the whores are beautiful and have all of their teeth. I don’t think so!) Many of the original buildings in Johnson City still stand, and it is filled with shops and restaurants, too. It would probably be a nice place to explore further.
After walking around for a bit, we headed out to the other part of the park, which is co-located with the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. (Interestingly enough, the buildings run by the National Park Service were all closed. The state park buildings were all open, though. It really is time to stop the foolishness.) The first thing you notice are the fields of wildflowers. Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson was a big fan of the natural beauty of wildflowers, and these fields are a tribute her. (There is also the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin if you want to explore more.)
The Visitor’s Center at the state park honors their favorite son while also giving you a glimpse of the Hill Country and its history. Encompassing central Texas, this area is situated right along the wet/dry line in Texas, which makes it subject to both flood and drought. It was inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Penateka Comanche, the Lipan Apache, and the Tonkawa. Each brought their own distinct culture to the area, and descendants from all three tribes still live in Texas and the surrounding states. President Johnson was fiercely loyal to the area and its residents. Beginning early in his life, his goal was to help ease the hardships he grew up with. He was a huge advocate for rural electrification and by 1939, with his help convincing wary farmers, the Pederanales Electric Cooperative (PEC) was in business. Johnson later said “Of all the things I have ever done, nothing has given me as much satisfaction as bringing power to the Hill Country of Texas.” After checking out the Visitor’s Center, we walked down to try to get a glimpse of Biscuit and Gravy, the two longhorns onsite. No dice there, but we did see the Johnson Statue on the walk back.
Next we drove the ranch tour. The property was donated to the park service by the Johnson family with one stipulation…no one can be charged to tour it. (Although when the Texas White House is open, there is a fee for the guided tour.) It is still a working cattle ranch, and cows are milling about. If walking, you do need to watch where you step. LOL. There are several stops along the route including the Project Head Start building (a symbol of one of Johnson’s legacies) where he was known as “Mr. Jelly Bean” later for popping in to share candy and visit with the students, the Junction School where young Lyndon learned to read, and the reconstructed birthplace rebuilt by Lyndon in 1964 to use as a guest house
President Johnson and Lady Bird are both buried in the Johnson Family Cemetery located just across from the birthplace and overlooking the river. After leaving that stop, we had to weave through the herd. Beautiful!
We continued past the grandparent’s farmhouse and the show barn which is the center of present day ranching operations. Along the way we were surprised to see a pronghorn grazing. The next stop was the airstrip. Wanting to establish a home base where he could continue to work, then Senator Johnson installed a 3,000-foot grass landing strip in 1953. By the time he became President, it had been improved to a 6,300-foot asphalt runway. It still could not, however, accommodate the weight of Air Force One, a Boeing 707 at the time. Johnson solved that problem by landing at a base in Austin or San Antonio, then taking a Lockheed JetStar or a Sikorsky helicopter to the ranch. The JetStar, which he dubbed “Air Force One-Half” is on display at the hanger, and you can even go into it..
The final stop on the self-guided tour is the ranch house. Senator Johnson purchased the house from his aunt in 1951. Over the years it was greatly expanded, and during his presidency, it was referred to as the Texas White House. When his final presidential term ended in 1969, he returned to this ranch, where he lived until his death in 1973. (Incidentally, the third Presidential Library that we will not get to see this trip is his, in Austin.) As Presidents go, Johnson was definitely not one of my favorites, but I do believe he had a harder row to hoe than most of them. He took office just after the assassination of Kennedy and, for many, the fall of Camelot. No one would ever forget the photo of President Johnson being sworn in standing next to Jackie Kennedy in the pink, blood-stained suit. That’s definitely not starting on a level playing field.
It was finally time to get back on the road and find some lunch. I picked a restaurant in Johnson City. Nope…closed. We headed north up US-281, planning to stop at what looked like a chicken restaurant on the app. Turned out to be a gas station with a chicken counter and no seating. Nope. The next option was a Schlotzsky’s in Marble Falls (haven’t had them in years, and they are an Austin-based business). Nope…dining room had just closed when we arrived a few minutes after 2 PM. Okay, dang it…I was getting pretty hungry. In the building next door was a Wing Stop. Great! Nope…we opened the door to find workmen building the space out for a new business. Ugh! Finally, we saw a Subway across the parking lot and headed there. Not unique or local, but at that point, I just didn’t care! After lunch we continued north to Burnet, where we turned east and zig-zagged over to just north of Georgetown and the Jim Hogg Park on Lake Georgetown. We were both surprised when the road into the park came right through a large residential area. At our site we were greeted by a little deer with a damaged leg. He just stood there while we set up. Later we took a walk around the circle and saw about a dozen more deer, so I guess this place is a haven just like the last.
What I haven’t mentioned much about up to now is my choppers. Well actually, just one on the bottom right. You may recall that I had an emergency appointment with a dentist a couple of weeks ago in Savannah, Tennessee. He said that, if the tooth started hurting again after a round of antibiotics, I would have to get it pulled. (It has already had a root canal and is crowned.) Well, this past weekend it flared up again. First a little tingle, then soreness, then an absolute ache. I scheduled an appointment with a dentist in Georgetown for Wednesday afternoon. After a rough night’s sleep, I started the day with a bit of work, and to be honest, a nap. Amazingly, though, my tooth wasn’t hurting much. We left a little early for my appointment to scope out a laundromat, then MW drove me to my 1 PM appointment, because we weren’t sure I’d feel like driving afterwards. While I was in the chair, MW walked over to Target to wander around a bit, then ate lunch at Five Guys. An hour and fifteen minutes after I went in, after confirmation that the infection was back, I came out with one less tooth, new stitches, and a bone graft. (The latter was necessary to ensure I can get an implant in a few months after this all heals.) We picked up a bit of lunch to take back for later, went by Walgreens to fill my prescription, and headed to Petunia where I spent the afternoon reclining in my chair. Oh yes, almost forgot…if you are ever on the north side of Austin, Texas, and find yourself in need of a dentist, call the Wolf Ranch Dental Group in Georgetown. You will be in very capable hands with Michael Young, who appeared to be just that. (Isn’t it amazing how much younger doctors are now?!)
I was still a bit low on sleep on Thursday, but got myself together to get the laundry chore taken care of at the Washatopia in Georgetown. It’s a large, very clean place, with machines that use credit cards or a wash card you load there. Afterwards, I ran by the post office, then popped in at Panera to have some soup and get a little work done. The final stop was Target to pick up a couple of things. While I was gone, MW put the Adobo Chicken in the crockpot, so I cooked some rice and steamed veggies to go with that for dinner. Later in the evening, he felt we should run over to H-E-B and check out their brand of ice cream. Of course, I didn’t turn that down. I picked up pints of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in both H-E-B’s Creamy Creations and Blue Bell for a little taste test. Sorry H-E-B. Blue Bell is still the winner.
Friday morning I caught up on this blog a bit, and did a little work before we headed out to Costco for a protein shake run. Then after another quick post office drop, we found Hat Creek Burger Company for lunch. (Wonder if they chose the name from Lonesome Dove?) We were expecting more of a restaurant, and it is really fast food, but it was a pretty cool place, nonetheless. They have a dining room and a huge outside seating area with play features for the kiddies. Everything tasted very good, and they have their own sauces to use on fries and burgers alike. We’d definitely go again. Full, we headed back to Petunia to relax. Yes, I took another nap. Later MW worked on getting some parks booked in Montana.
On Saturday we headed out in the morning to check out Austin. One thing we’ve noticed about Texas…you are either in ridiculous traffic near town, or in the middle of nowhere. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. In this case, it was the former, although it wasn’t too bad right downtown. Our first stop was the Texas State Capitol. After parking, we passed a cool military memorial called The Price of Freedom. Artist Sandra Van Zandt did an amazing job capturing the intensity of the situation as the soldier is pulled away from his family to serve. Compared to a lot of Capitol buildings, Texas has pretty big grounds (wouldn’t expect anything less) that are beautifully kept with quite a few bronze statues. There were some tourists, but I was surprised at how many locals used the walkways for strolls or exercise. At one point in our walk, I noticed a couple of birds fighting and squawking loudly, and caught a flash of bright green. What kind of bird in Texas is bright green? Well, in the very southern parts of the state, there are green jays, but in this case it was a…parakeet!! Really! No kidding. It seems that in the early 1970s Monk Parakeets escaped from their cages and, with the mild Texas winters, began to thrive. The population has grown so much that Monks are now included in the official list of Texas bird species.
We walked around the grounds enjoying the morning and checking it all out. Just across the street there was a protest going on outside the Governor’s mansion that was interrupting the quiet. Thankfully, it was a peaceful group.
After finishing up at the Capitol, we drove through the downtown area and down to the river. Austin has some amazing architecture, both in houses and buildings. Downtown there are banners with quotes from Governor Ann Richards, who served from 1991 to 1995 and died in 2006. Funny that, in a state that nearly always goes conservative, the downtown is covered with quotes from the last Democratic governor. She was definitely a woman full of one-liners. As we headed down towards the river, we were surprised to see homeless tent communities in public areas and on street corners. (I understand that the city has a big initiative to get it cleaned up and provide solutions for those affected. Hope it works for all concerned, because the current situation is both unsafe and unsanitary.) We circled around down by the river, then headed over to get the birds-eye view from Mount Bonnell. The drive up was through the high-rent district, for sure. At the top, there was a LONG flight of stone steps to get up to the viewing area, but it was totally worth it. Really…a must-do if you are in Austin.
Back in the car, it was time to find some lunch. On our way home, MW saw the full parking lot at Waterloo Ice House and whipped in. The service started out VERY slow. Our waitress finally came over and brought our water and menus, then disappeared. Finally, a young lady working another section asked us if we had ordered after walking by a couple of times. When we said no, she jumped on it and made sure we were taken care of from that point on. (MW heard our original waitress talking to someone about leaving the job, so we assume she just didn’t care too much at that point.) In any case, I had a grilled chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries, and MW had a burger. Both were very good, but pretty expensive. MW’s 8 oz burger was around $16! That’s just a bit too much unless you are in New York City or Hawaii. Well, it’s too much there, but everyone charges it.
The next stop for the day was San Gabriel Park in Georgetown, where the north and south forks of the San Gabriel River come together. The park is HUGE with lots to do, and many folks were out enjoying it with the beautiful, albeit a little warm, weather. You can usually walk out over the river on a foot bridge, but it was closed and looked like it may have been flooded recently. We spotted what we thought were swans on the river, but turned out to be giant, white ducks. We enjoyed a good walk, then headed back to Brutus. It was time to point towards home. On the way MW popped into Ace Hardware, and we grabbed a few things at Randall’s grocery store.
Sunday we headed out before church time for breakfast at Dos Salsas, a small, family-owned chain. I have to admit, it was a first for me. Mexican places in the east don’t serve breakfast typically, and my stomach definitely doesn’t think Mexican at that time of day. They served a variety of traditional American and Mexican breakfast choices. It was very odd, though, to see people eating chips and queso at 9 AM. MW went with Mexican, and I stuck with what my stomach could handle in the morning. It was all good. Full, we parked over near the courthouse in Georgetown to walk around a bit. The town square is beautiful and still has a lot of the original buildings. It is vibrant, with restaurants, coffee houses, and shops, and well worth a visit. From the angle it is hard to see, but the courthouse dome stands tall and you can see it from the interstate a good ways away. There are also quite a few old houses on the surrounding streets that are gorgeous.
SIDE NOTE: While taking pics around the Capitol on Saturday, my camera suddenly said I didn’t have any room left on the memory card. WHAT??!! I only had about 30 pics on it and had not changed any settings. I normally take a LOT of pics, then delete those I’m not going to use as I am writing. To make room, I started deleting as I went. Did that for about 10 minutes, getting completely frustrated. Then…DUH…I pulled out my iPhone. Sometimes my brain is truly slow. Still perplexed about the space issue, I tinkered with the camera later, trying another memory card. Still not good. On the way to breakfast, I ran into Walgreens to get a larger SD and see what happened. Now I can apparently take 6560 shots on 32 GB, while I could only take 1 shot of 2 GB. Try figuring out that math! Either way, problem solved! When I transfer the pics to my Mac, I usually delete them from the camera in the Finder window. I’m thinking now that the camera must not be recognizing the free space when I do that, but I don’t really know. Since I can’t come up with any other logical cause, I’m not going to delete that way anymore, just in case. (The second memory card I used may actually have had the same issue.) If you have other thoughts, please leave a comment.
Next it was time to check out the dam that creates Lake Georgetown. (You know MW likes a good dam, too!) We walked down on the lakeside, then went up on top. The trail over the dam connects to a system that provides miles of biking, hiking, and running area. It was getting good use on this Sunday morning, too. We walked out on the dam a ways, then headed around to see the river side from the road. Then it was time to return to the park for tour pics and relaxation. Did I mention that it is now HOT?! It was in the very low 80s during the past week, but this weekend was almost 90. Yuck! I really don’t like it when the numbers on my weather app turn RED! When we got back to Petunia, we had a new neighbor with visitors. They were all sitting in chairs out in the sun. I just don’t know how anyone does that. Honestly, sitting in the sun, even at 80, makes me feel like I’m going to combust. It doesn’t help that my skin does not like sun at all and really does burn in about 15 minutes.
Jim Hogg Park is one of five parks on Lake Georgetown, about 9 miles from Downtown Georgetown and 36 miles from Downtown Austin. As I mentioned before, the entrance road is through a residential area, and there is a grocery store and Walgreens within about 1-1/2 miles. There are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby, but amazingly, not much road noise in the park. (Well, except for some Jacka**es in a diesel that drives in just about every night after dark going WAAYY too fast for a campground, but I digress.) Amenities include a boat ramp (the steepest one I’ve ever seen!), picnic shelters and tables, and hunting by permit in season. The San Gabriel Trail provides 26 miles of hiking and biking opportunities, too. The campground consists of two loops with 142 reservable sites, including a few doubles and some overnight shelters with electricity. The north loop is a little more wooded and, except for a couple of sites with little glimpses through the threes, you cannot see the lake. Part of the south loop runs right along the lake providing great views, although the sites are high above the lake level and the water is not accessible. The paved sites include small picnic shelters, fire rings, and grills, and are not right on top of each other. There are two bathhouses that are older and in need of TLC. They are not air-conditioned and are pretty darned steamy on a hot afternoon. The main issue, though, is that they have a cleaning schedule of three times per week posted on the wall, but it didn’t look like they cleaned it but once during our week-long stay. One shower drain in the men’s room was clogged from Wednesday or Thursday until we left. Also, MW said the water comes out so hot that you have to splash it on yourself rather than stand under it or risk being scalded. As previously noted, deer are everywhere. There are signs coming in that you are not to feed them, but I don’t think folks are taking that to heart. In fact, on my way out the other day, I saw the camp host near the front gate throwing something out to three waiting deer. The cost for this stay was $156.00 for 6 nights.
I think that covers it for now. Next up…well, I’m not quite sure. I’ve caught up on writing, finally, and we head out this morning for our next site. It’ll be a surprise for all of us I guess. See you on the path!
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