LBJ Ranch: National Historical Park

Have you ever heard of Air Force ½? This is one of the many interesting facts we learned when we were on the road in Texas. Beyond Luckenbach, we traveled to the Enchanted Rock once again, (to prove we could still climb it), and to visit a few places we missed last time.

We had intended to only drive around the LBJ ranch on National Park Property, but changed our minds and took the last tour of the day. We were greeted by a winter volunteer that took her job seriously and answered any questions she was asked.

The ranch once belonged to family, and when Johnson’s uncle Frank Martin died, the “dilapidated” ranch was given to Johnson, with lifetime use of the house for his widow, Johnson’s aunt.

With endless energy, Johnson grew the ranch to 2,700 acres with 400 head of Hereford cattle. As you drive around the ranch you will see herds of cattle grazing. The show barn is where the animals are primped for competition. They still take great care in breeding and showmanship at the ranch.

Deer grazing with cattle
Showman barn

Hereford Cattle

Just outside the ranger station, there sat the Air Force ½. We were able to look inside and it is smaller than anything I have been in, except a bush plane. I wonder how well Johnson fit into the plane.

Air Force 1/2

The garage housed several cars, including two Lincoln convertibles, a Thunderbird and a “floating” car he drove on the Pedernales River on the ranch property.

In the house we saw the office where former President Johnson worked. No photography was allowed, but the walls were covered in brown panels. I found it interesting that several people worked in a rather small room together. There were two things that fascinated me: probably the first “radio” phone, or old mobile phone with a box. A 60’s television set with old turn dials was built high up in the wall, across from Johnson’s desk. How did he turn it on? I know he was a very tall man, standing 6’ 4”, but this TV was very high up. Johnson had a remote! Who knows, but it might have been the first one invented.

Sometimes referred to as the Texas White House
Johnson’s favorite place to sit.

Each room was tastefully done, 60’s style, but a welcoming house. It was comfortable and lived in. We toured the kitchen with its large appliances and its colors took me back to my childhood. The Johnsons entertained their guests in the family room, which they made a cozy place. I was pleasantly surprised it was not a huge overdone mansion proving the wealth of the successful rancher/Senator/President. All of the rooms had that family lived-in look.

One of LB’s favorite places was to sit under the huge live oak in front of the house. Many times he would arrange meetings there with officials from Washington, D.C.

The Johnson family loved the ranch and added on to it, eventually putting in a pool and pool house after he had a heart attack. It seemed that Lady Bird, his wife used it more than he did.

When LB was sworn in after President Kennedy died, suddenly the ranch was surrounded by security. A building was built to house the personnel. They began calling the Johnson home the “Texas White House.”

During these times, a war was on in Vietnam and many times Lady Bird would wake to find officials talking to the president at 5 am in the morning while they were still in bed. Lady Bird put a stop to that and had her own bedroom built across from his.

Johnson never stopped while he was awake. He was a man full of energy and worked long hours. Even his bedroom had three televisions in it, and they were all on whenever he was there.

While he was president he signed into law 60 education bills, and almost 300 bills of environmental and other conservation issues.

Lady Bird cofounded the wild flower preservation with the actress, Helen Hayes. Together they planted and preserved the native plants of Texas. Lady Bird had a large flower garden in her back yard. I remember seeing native plants along the highways of Texas when Johnson was president.

We visited a Wild seed farm in Fredericksburg earlier in the day. You could purchase wild flower seeds for climate zones all over the U.S.A.

Out back there is a brick patio with cement bricks that hold the names of famous people who attended the Johnson’s famous BBQ’s. Here are a few of them:

As for why his plane was named Air Force ½: as a Senator, Johnson had his own plane to fly to Washington. Later when he came president, there was not enough room to land Air Force One, so they continued to use his plane, which they renamed Air Force 1/2.




Magnolia Market: A Man’s Perspective

I’m skipping ahead on our travel blogs to include Friday’s trip, written by a guest –the Umpire, my husband. Here we go! (Here’s hoping this doesn’t put me out of business…)


I consider the Writer to be a very accomplished photographer. As a matter of fact, her blog is usually photo related. She has “the eye” for what makes a good picture – especially in nature. Don’t you agree? Me, I like to take pictures of her taking pictures. A lot of the time, she’s so engrossed in her subject; she doesn’t even realize that I’m taking her picture.

The writer

We recently visited a place that has become a sort of Mecca for HGTV fans: Magnolia Market. This unique place, located in downtown Waco, Texas, has become “the” place to go for home furnishings since Chip and Joanna Gaines cable program “Fixer Upper” has risen in popularity. We went with our daughter and grandson who have recently moved to Texas. After we arrived, we all quickly came to the conclusion that it was time for me to guest write a blog for this really special location.

Reasons? First, I’ve wanted to show all of you that I’m much more than “the Umpire.” I know my way around a mall. I’m not talking about “getting in touch with my feminine side,” whatever that might mean. I’m just saying that I know the difference between a jar and a vase (about $40).

Second: Chip and Joanna have shown that a husband and wife team can figure out how to work together; so, at least this once, “we” could do it.

Third: the Writer is busily working during our vacation to get some other writing projects done and I volunteered to stand in.

So…Magnolia Market from the Umpire’s perspective.

First impressions? Parking is in a small gravel parking lot (free). Other locations nearby (church parking lots) charge. The gravel lot goes with the rustic, old factory setting.

Why does everyone get so dressed up to go shopping for picture frames? One lady had on cowboy boots (it’s Texas, OK, I get that). They looked like the kind Dorothy might pick up in Texas on her way back to Kansas from Oz. Ruby cowboy boots. Only in Texas. To a guy who thinks dressed-up means socks that match, I definitely felt a little shabby. Then I saw a couple of girls wearing jeans that were all ripped up and I felt better – until my daughter told me that they wear them that way on purpose and that they’re really expensive. Who knew?

Favorite part? It’s a tie between the food court and the Silos Baking Co. (My choices should come as a surprise to no one.) Outside around a large, turf-covered play area there are several food vendors: “Second Best BBQ in Waco (First isn’t here!)”, hot dogs, gourmet popcorn, pizza, crepes and more. This is a very family friendly area with restrooms (baby changing area is available only in the ladies room), balls and corn hole game for the kids and lots of space.

The Silos Baking Co. is in a separate (small) building. The line was long, but moved quickly. They have a very efficient and super-friendly crew. As a matter of fact, every employee on site was extremely friendly. They didn’t seem hurried and talked to us as if we were long-time friends. The cupcakes in the Silos are beautiful and tasty, but my favorite was the cinnamon rolls. They have gluten-free offerings that my daughter said were excellent.

What about the “stuff”? Yes Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia Market has stuff – picture frames, kitchen gadgets, coffee mugs, linens, cookbooks, knick knacks and knack knicks galore. They have hats and tee shirts. They have mirrors and buckets. If it hangs on a wall or decorates a kitchen, they have it. I was interested to see where the items they sold were made and noted that they come from all over the world: China, Pakistan, India, South America and especially the U.S.

Lasting impressions? Not the place to go on a date. She and her friends should go. Family outing? Sure and there are several other places nearby (Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, Waco Suspension Bridge, Gulf Historic Gas Station, and several parks). You and the Missus? Absolutely. It earns you all kinds of sensitivity points and the food is great.


I give the place four and a half silos.