July 28, 2015


“The nature that we are concerned with, ultimately, is human nature.”  Lady Bird Johnson

Carol writes:   The Fredericksburg area’s most proud claim to fame is the fact that it was home to two very famous men from mid-20th century American history—Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and President Lyndon Baines Johnson—and we planned to learn a lot more about both during our stay in Fredericksburg.  The irresistible draw of the Hill Country is also due to the ambience created by a special blend of Spanish and German culture,
plus the natural features of its unique topography which provide an endless variety of outdoor activities.  We noticed that most of the license plates we encountered in our campground were from Texas, so we can vouch for the fact that many Texans vacation in the Hill Country. 

As we entered Fredericksburg, I must admit it seemed a little strange to see welcoming signs in German, in addition to restaurants with Bavarian-style architecture, 
complete with outdoor beer gardens.  German food was featured on almost every posted menu.  Al felt like he was in bratwurst heaven!

As for the origin of the German influence...

In the 1800s, thousands of German immigrants, mostly in search of cheap land and political and religious freedom, were among the first Europeans to establish permanent settlements in the Texas Hill Country.  Fredericksburg was named in honor of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the heavy German connection continues to this day.


I have said many times that Al and I are unapologetic “presidential library junkies.” Some of our most interesting days during our travels have been the ones spent at a presidential library, which we find to be the best source of the memorabilia and history that we find so compelling.  In addition to the 9 presidential libraries that we have visited, we try to make an effort to visit other sites that have a presidential connection.  And here we were in LBJ country!

Just outside of Fredericksburg is the little town of Stonewall, which was center on the world stage from 1963 to 1969 as home of the so-called “Texas White House” during the term of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The driving self-guided LBJ Ranch Tour held great expectations for us.  We headed straight to the Texas White House,

our main point of interest.  We were fortunate to get on a ranger-guided tour that included just one other couple—practically a private tour!  Photographs were not permitted inside the house, but plenty were available on the Internet, so that is what I have used here.  All the rooms, with exception of Lady Bird Johnson’s bedroom, had been restored to the 1960s era with genuine period pieces owned by the Johnson heirs. 

We started in the President’s simple rustic office,

then into the den area where many world figures were entertained throughout the Johnson Presidency.

Notice the presidential recliner in its position of honor, with the set of 3 TVs on which President Johnson would often listen to all 3 network newscasts simultaneously.  LBJ had very strong feelings about how his administration was viewed in the press, and he didn’t hesitate to make a heated phone call to a network executive if he felt he was being treated unfairly.

After seeing the kitchen and dining room, the tour concluded in the bedrooms—first the President’s simple bedroom where LBJ died of a massive stroke in January 1973,

then Lady Bird’s separate bedroom, which her will stipulated should remain as it was when she died in 2007.

It was a fascinating visit to the home of an important historical figure from an era that was so pivotal in our nation’s history.  How generous of the Johnson family to allow us this most intimate peak inside...

LBJ was sworn in as President within an hour after the gruesome assassination of President John Kennedy. Rightfully so, he deserves credit for holding a grieving nation together after such a traumatizing event.  However, the relentless protests over LBJ’s subsequent Vietnam policy, as well as the horrendous loss of American life, eventually doomed the Johnson presidency. During this time, it was at his Texas ranch where LBJ found solace and rejuvenation.  He threw famous Texas barbecues for friends, as well as world leaders, under the stately live oaks that lined the grassy banks of the Pedernales River which flowed peacefully along the front yard of the ranch. 

Many a cabinet meeting was held beneath this ancient live oak.

The seminal ideas of many of LBJ’s Great Society domestic programs were born right at the LBJ ranch.

Outdoors there was much more—
the simple swimming pool,

Johnson’s historic cars,

a smaller version of Air Force One for flights to the ranch,

and the simple one-room schoolhouse where young Lyndon first attended school.

The Johnson Family Cemetery was elegant in its simplicity--no fancy presidential monument, just simple individual headstones fittingly large enough for a president and his wife, once again joined with the Johnson ancestors,

and just in sight of a re-creation of the home where LBJ was born.

Wow!  It had been a hot day on the LBJ ranch, much like the thousands of summer days President Lyndon Baines Johnson had savored in the Texas Hill Country over nearly 7 decades of life.  Certainly, LBJ was a complicated man, his presidency much debated at a time of tremendous national upheaval, but it was interesting to follow his meteoric rise from a simple Texas classroom teacher to the ultimate office of world power in the presidency of the United States.  We thoroughly enjoyed our detailed glimpse back into the history of his life.


As a lover of naval history, when Al discovered that the National Museum of the Pacific War was located in Fredericksburg, that museum rose to the top of Hill Country attractions that we wanted to visit.  The museum was right next door to what was once the historic Nimitz Hotel, built by Admiral Nimitz’s grandfather.  Today the hotel has been restored to reflect its historic ship-like superstructure from an earlier time.

Chester Nimitz was a German Texan whose grandfather was a seaman in the German Merchant Marine. 

Young Chester with his grandfather

Unable to obtain an appointment to West Point, young Nimitz studied hard and was rewarded with an appointment to the Naval Academy.  During WW I and between the wars, the Nimitz naval career blossomed to the point that just days after Pearl Harbor he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. He was truly God’s gift to a nation at a time when the stakes could not have been higher.

The Pacific War Museum

is dedicated to all those who served in the Pacific War.  The chronological recounting of horrendous battles on land and sea, along with stories of individual heroism and bravery, caused one to reflect long after the museum visit was over.

Everything about this museum was first class and deserving of at least a full day’s visit.  The Memorial Courtyard

was filled with over 1800 plaques dedicated to those who served in the Pacific during WW II.  Many of the plaques were sponsored by family members honoring loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Particularly touching were the plaques honoring our nation's battleships and the submarines on eternal patrol.  They truly are not forgotten.

After learning so much more about these two bigger-than-life figures who were called upon for service to the country during some very bleak times, my final thought was to give a silent prayer of thanks for the Texas soil that created and nurtured their leadership.

 “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

July 17, 2015


“When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get them, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”  Leo Burnett

Carol writes:  As we headed toward Texas Hill Country, our route through West Texas took us through one of the least populated areas of the immense Lone Star State.  Smack in the middle of this desolate area lies the “large little city” of San Angelo, home to Goodfellow Air Force Base, Angelo State University, and historic Fort Concho.

Frankly, we didn’t expect there would be a whole lot to see or do during our week’s stay in San Angelo, so we chose the Goodfellow Air Force Base Recreation Camp on the shore of Lake Nasworthy as our home for our brief visit, knowing that at the very least we would have access to a swimming pool that would surely come in handy as the combination of temperature and humidity climbed ever higher.

To serve as our orientation to San Angelo, we opted to do the much praised river walk along the Concho River, essentially now the centerpiece for the entire city.  A super-deluxe, Texas-size Visitor Center

led down to the water where we saw the first of over 60 sheep statues that were scattered throughout the town.  Each statue was uniquely designed and decorated by a local artist to commemorate San Angelo’s heritage as a wool marketing center.

We started to sense the artistic flavor of the river walk as we passed underneath the first bridge overpass and came upon this VW bug decorated in mosaic tile.  The VW was my very first car and will forever remain dear to my heart.  Hello!  The girl in the windshield looked familiar; back in my VW days I also had long brown hair.

San Angelo developers have done a marvelous job bringing out the artistic side of their city’s river walk.

Our ultimate goal toward the end of the river walk was a tour of Fort Concho, established in 1867 to protect frontier settlements against hostile threats.  Today Fort Concho is one of the best preserved of the early frontier forts west of the Mississippi.  Among the 23 original and restored buildings were those that served as  officer housing,

the hospital, with its gruesome display of a coffin in the corner (not real encouraging for the sickest patients),

and the church, which doubled as a classroom.

On the advice of the volunteer at the Visitor Center, our walk then took a brief detour into town so we could see some of the restored buildings that certainly captured the historic flavor of early San Angelo.  With the unrelenting heat, we were hungry and thirsty by then anyway…  What a delicious and refreshing lunch we had in the delightfully cool and fully renovated “Miss Hattie’s Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge” with its original brickwork and original tin ceiling.

After lunch… a quick stop to see the inside of the restored Eggemeyer’s General Store.

In town we were also on the lookout for a series of murals created to showcase the history of West Texas,

and more of those adorable sheep statues.

What a great river walk that provided lots of exercise and plenty of interesting things to see,  However, by noon it was HOT.  After 25 years of living at an altitude of 7500 ft in a house with no need for air conditioning due to the dry, moderate Colorado summers, we still weren’t totally acclimated to high heat plus humidity.  Now…how soon could we get back to the campground for a dip in that pool just across the parking lot from our campsite?

One thing we didn’t expect to see in San Angelo was an attraction preceded by the words “world-wide acclaimed,” but that is just what we saw when we paid an early morning visit to San Angelo’s International Waterlily Collection.

We were suitably impressed!

One variety had incredible lily pads up to 3 FEET in diameter!

One of the gems of the collection was the highly sought after Australian hybrid named “Blue Cloud.”

San Angelo is home to Angelo State University, one of four schools in the Texas Tech University System.  ASU boasts that it has the fourth largest university planetarium, and after a recent remodel it was quite a high tech operation.  We attended an evening show titled “Saturn, Jewel of the Heavens.”  I felt fortunate to learn where Saturn was located in our present-day night sky and actually felt a bit of a thrill when, back at the RV, I was able to locate the jeweled ring planet in the constellation Scorpio in the southeastern sky.
(Not my pic, but wish that it was)
One of the things we are enjoying immensely this summer is the local Farmers Markets.  The bing cherries, fresh corn, and vine-ripened tomatoes have been heavenly.  We are just on the outskirts of Texas Hill Country, famous all summer for its many varieties of peaches.  The peach vendor could barely keep up with his customers.  If I do say so myself, our first sample of sweet freestone peaches from the Farmers Market made a mighty tasty homemade peach pie.

We have also developed a habit of fitting in a commissary run and a visit to the base library whenever we are camped at military facilities—the commissary for staple food items, and the library to replenish our supply of books.  At Goodfellow AFB, we found a beautiful library with a large collection of books for trade, and a commissary that had everything we needed.  To our eyes, for a small training command, Goodfellow looked quite modern and well kept.

Of course, we found another adorable sheep, this one posing proud in his Air Force bomber jacket, greeting visitors at the gate.

This sheep gimmick going on in San Angelo had become rather amusing… Well done, San Angelo!  We had to admit that we found this friendly little city much more interesting than we had anticipated.  We wouldn’t mind at all stopping in again if our travels find us heading along the southern route.

Our travel gnomes on the Michelins

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”  Agnes Repplier