Texas Hill Country LBJ Ranch Tour Fredericksburg, Texas Luckenbach, Texas
Another place Ann wanted to visit was the German community of Fredericksburg which is about 70 miles from San Antonio. With the San Antonio Go Card Explorer Pass, we could do this and I didn't have to rent a car.
On May 16th, we took the one day guided Star Shuttle/Grayline excursion from San Antonio. The highlights were the Lyndon B. Johnson boyhood home, the LBJ Ranch (also known as the Texas White House), Fredericksburg, the musical town of Luckenback and a winery in Texas Hill Country.
Ray, our driver/guide, called the day before to reconfirm the pickup at the hotel. He said it was going to be a long day so we should start with a hardy breakfast before the trip as we would not be stopping for lunch until around 1:00 PM. He also said to bring along snacks and drinks if we needed to.
Ray picked us up at the Westin a little after 8 AM and we didn't return back to the hotel until after 6 PM. from our 200 mile road trip. There were 12 of us on the little bus. Ray wanted to know our names and where we were from so we could be included in some of his stories. The states of New Jersey, Alaska, Colorado, California, Florida, Arizona and Georgia were represented. If you won one of his test "your memory games", you were rewarded with a Hershey's kiss. I won a couple games.
We traveled along the beautiful back roads of Texas Hill Country where we heard about the role of the Texas cowboy and the great cattle drives from South Texas to the mid-western markets.
Our first stop was for a potty break and the second stop was to photograph some cattle by the Buggy Barn Museum. We learned ranchers put weights on young cattle horns to turn them downward.
Besides talking, Ray would pass around different information sheets. Great idea!
The next stop took us to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park Johnson City District. At the visitor center, we were able to tour some exhibits depicting the lives of President and Mrs. Johnson and the events of the Johnson Presidency.
China used for a state dinner
President Johnson's favorite chair used in the Oval Office.
The President lived here from the age of five until his high school graduation in 1924. The home is furnished in the early to mid-1920s period and as such depicts a rural Texas lifestyle of 75 years ago.
The next stop took us to the LBJ Ranch. On the way to the ranch, Ray shared stories about the legacies of both LBJ, America's 36th President, and his wife, Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor.
The Ranch is quite beautiful and quite vast. It is still a working ranch. Lyndon Johnson's life came full circle on this land. He was born here in 1908 and first attended school here. As a U.S. Senator, he returned in 1951 to purchase a home and about 240 acres from his aunt. Over the years, he saw the LBJ Ranch grow and improve, running it as tirelessly as he governed the nation as president. After retiring from politics, he died here in 1973. In 1972, the former President and First Lady donated nearly 600 acres of their ranch to the National Park Service. The remaining land at the ranch (approximately 2,000 acres) still belongs to the Johnson family.
The cattle have the LBJ brand on their horns.
The Presidency of the United States is certainly a demanding job. The need for relaxation; to refresh one’s wholeness, is imperative for the tough days that lie ahead. President Johnson’s daily schedule was at the very least, exhausting. From early morning until long after sunset, Vietnam and his Great Society programs consumed his time and energy. On those occasions when he would have some free days he would retreat to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. This is where he found the peace and serenity that was needed to recharge himself mentally, physically and spiritually. He particularly enjoyed his many vehicles; his presidential toys. Inspecting his ranch in one of his cherished Lincolns; the practical jokes on unsuspecting guests with his Amphicar; hitching up a couple of donkeys to his little wagon and making children smile; ringing the fire bell; yes, these were the types of simple pleasures that re-energized our 36th president. Oh, how he loved his vehicles!
These Lincoln Continental convertibles were the cars probably most associated with President Johnson.
Built in Germany from 1961 to 1968, the Amphicar is the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced. A total of 3,878 vehicles were produced in four colors: Beach White, Regatta Red, Fjord Green (Aqua), and Lagoon Blue--the color of President Johnson's Amphicar.
President Johnson enjoyed surprising unsuspecting guests when taking them for a ride in his Amphicar.
1915 Fire Truck
The fire truck is a 1915-type 12 American La France given to the President by the people of Brady, Texas in 1964. When it was new it carried 1200 feet of standard fire hose and could deliver 1000 gallons of water per minute at any pressure desired up to 400 pounds per square inch. It is electrically equipped throughout, having lights near each gauge on the pump and around the motor, as well as an electric starter. The motor is a six cylinder and provides 105 horsepower.
1934 Ford Phaeton
President Johnson used his 1934 Ford Phaeton touring car for hunting. It's equipped with a V8 Lincoln Zepher engine and a steel plate underneath to prevent damage when going over rough terrain. It was a maroon color with tan upholstery until 1962 when it was repainted red. A bar with running water is mounted on back of the front seat. V.I.P.’s to ride in this car include Hubert Humphrey, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara. The car is believed to have been given to the President by Wesly West.
Cushman Golf Carts
The Cushman golf carts were used by President Johnson to transport the many friends, dignitaries and political leaders that landed on the LBJ airstrip, to and from the Texas Whitehouse. The airstrip, located behind the hanger, is 6300 feet long and 60 feet wide. Some notable passengers include West Germany’s Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Mexico’s President Adolfo Lopez-Mateos and West Germany’s new Chancellor Ludwig Erhart. The LBJ Ranch was becoming the Western White House, where foreign leaders were entertained, advisors consulted, affairs of state were conducted, and the Texas Hill Country was opened to the eyes of the world.
Air Force "One Half"
The following is an article by Denise Gamino, American-Statesman Staff
"LBJ's plane has made its final landing.
A JetStar that flew in and out of Lyndon Johnson's ranch when he was vice president and president in the 1960s is back. The 13-passenger Lockheed plane is sometimes referred to as Air Force One Half.
The historic JetStar is going on permanent exhibit at the LBJ ranch in the Hill Country, with an official dedication ceremony set for Aug. 27, 2010.
On hand to greet the JetStar early this month was LBJ's Air Force One pilot, retired Brig. Gen. Jim Cross of Gatesville. Cross, 85, drove up to the ranch runway in a Cadillac and cried as memories touched his heart.
"I probably couldn't tell a story right now because I'm on the verge of tears," he said as his voice choked. "This is such a proud day for me.
"The National Park Service rescued the 50-year-old JetStar from the Pentagon's "bone yard," an open-air retirement home for more than 4,400 old planes in the dry, desert air of Tucson, Ariz. The government paid $261,000 to bring the plane to Texas, to provide shelter and to restore the exterior of the VC-140 Lockheed aircraft with a sparkling new paint job that replicates the outside of Air Force One.
LBJ traveled on a Boeing 707 for most trips when he was president, but he also had a fleet of smaller planes available to him, including several JetStars. The larger plane could not land at the ranch because the 6,300-foot asphalt airstrip was not long enough. However, a JetStar could land and taxi to within 200 yards of LBJ's so-called Western White House along the Pedernales River.
"They could conduct the business of the country right here," said Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Stonewall. "But without aircraft like the JetStar, it wouldn't have been possible."
This JetStar, tail number 612490, made numerous trips for the Johnson White House, including taking staffers and aides on flights to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic during the Johnson White House years. It also flew to Puerto Rico.
The plane was a flying ambulance at times. It was dispatched by LBJ at least twice in the middle of the night for emergency medical missions. Johnson sent his doctors in the JetStar to assist former President Dwight Eisenhower, who had suffered heart pains in Georgia in November 1965. Cardiologists also scrambled to board the plane in August 1966 to treat the gravely ill president of Nicaragua, René Schick. The Central American leader died while the JetStar was still in the air.
A search of records at the LBJ Library found no documents showing Johnson flew on the JetStar when he was president, although Cross flew him to the ranch and other destinations in the aircraft when Johnson was vice president. Lady Bird Johnson flew on the plane when she was first lady, the records show.
Bringing the JetStar back to the LBJ ranch "is a dream come true," Whitlock said. "We are just thrilled to bring it home."
Visitors will not be allowed to board the plane because the cockpit and cabin have not been restored. Most of the passenger seats are missing, and the presidential blue carpet is littered with debris. Five yellow oxygen masks hang from overhead as if there had been an emergency. A warning is scrawled on the bathroom mirror: "Corrosion Inside here."
"When we found it, it was in pretty bad shape," Whitlock said. "It had been sitting in the sun in the desert in Tucson at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for 23 years, since it had been retired."
Records show it logged nearly 17,700 flight hours during its 22 years with the Air Force.
"This one flew like a sports car," Cross said.
In 2008, Whitlock began scouting for one of LBJ's JetStars after a conversation with Cross, whose memoirs of being the only Air Force One pilot in history to also hold a top job in the White House were published that same year. Cross was Johnson's military aide, a 24/7 job that put him in charge of Camp David; the presidential underground bomb shelters; the White House Mess; the presidential planes, helicopters, yachts and limos; the 30,000 presidential condolence letters to families whose loved ones were killed in Vietnam; and dozens of other duties.
"Russ," Cross told Whitlock, "they've got one of LBJ's JetStars on display down at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. I think you should go down there and talk them into letting you bring it home."
Whitlock visited the air base in March 2008 and was told, "Good try, but no."
As consolation, Robins officials put him in touch with the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio. About six months later, museum officials notified Whitlock that another JetStar used by Johnson was at the "bone yard" in Tucson.
It took Whitlock nearly a year to find restoration funding and to overcome government red tape so the Air Force could donate the aircraft to the National Park Service.
Whitlock located the plane just in time. The Air Force had traded it several years ago to a private company that was going to remove the engines and scrap the rest of it, but the company ended up giving the plane back. "That was my lucky day," Whitlock said.
Last spring, the plane was moved from Tucson to a hangar at Straube's Aircraft Services in Kingman, Ariz. The aircraft exterior was restored and painted there. Both sides of the fuselage say "United States of America" in large letters above the windows.
The jet was dismantled for the 2 1/2-day drive to Texas.
The fuselage, wings and fuel tanks, tail section, and four engines rode in a convoy of flat-bed trucks that traveled on Interstate 10 for most of the 1,180-mile trip. The JetStar, which could fly as fast as 605 mph during its working days, made the highway trip going only 60 mph.
Along the route, the glistening fuselage with its eye-catching presidential seal drew unending attention. Cars braked and slowed. People took photos and videos. Onlookers at rest stops rushed to get a close-up view. Many asked permission to touch the plane.
"I swear, we probably had over a thousand pictures taken crossing the country," said Marty Batura, vice president of Worldwide Aircraft Recovery of Bellevue, Neb. "I'm surprised it didn't end up on YouTube."
The 20,627-pound empty plane was put back together by Batura and his staff at the LBJ ranch under the scorching sun in triple-digit temperatures during the first week of August. They used a truck-mounted crane to lift the wings, tail section and other parts onto the fuselage. The work took place on the south end of the runway at the ranch.
The ranch is a national park 65 miles west of Austin and open daily for self-guided driving tours and a guided tour of the Johnson ranch house.
By the morning of Aug. 6, the plane was back in one piece. Batura towed it about 300 yards to the ranch tarmac, where a shelter with a galvanized steel roof and open sides will protect it from bad weather. The 24-foot-tall shelter was built in the same spot where the JetStar rested when it was at the ranch in the 1960s. The old tie-downs are visible.
The plane rolled along in slow motion as its former pilot walked alongside it in the hot sun. Cross couldn't stop grinning. He gave the thumbs-up sign with both hands.
"Jim, you look like a proud papa," Whitlock called out to Cross.
"I feel like one," Cross said.
Cross was the first Air Force pilot qualified to fly a JetStar. In 1961, he flew the first one off the production line in Georgia to its new home at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C.
As vice president, Johnson couldn't wait to enter the jet age. In December 1961, Cross was assigned to fly Johnson from Washington to Chicago for a meeting and then on to the LBJ ranch. Cross flew to Texas to practice landing on the rural airstrip in a JetStar. On the day Cross flew Johnson, the weather was bad, the ride was bumpy and the landing was late. But when they got to the ranch, Johnson told Cross, "Nice trip, Major. That's a nice little airplane. Hope to see you again soon."
And he did. On Jan. 2, 1962, Cross flew Johnson from Austin to Florida on a JetStar trip that required him to push the airspeed, race the clock and abandon some military rules in order to get a late-boarding Johnson to President John Kennedy's winter compound in time for an important meeting. The next day, Johnson informed Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that he wanted to be the first vice president with his own pilot and plane. He chose Cross as his chauffeur and the JetStar as his bird.
The JetStar that is being unveiled at the LBJ ranch made some memorable trips.
One trip left it stranded in Florida because of mechanical problems. Johnson's labor secretary, W. Willard Wirtz, flew to Miami on July 28, 1964, but had to return to Washington on a commercial flight because the JetStar's "battery blew up," LBJ Library records show.
Ellsworth Bunker, then-U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, used the plane several times to fly to the Dominican Republic, where U.S. troops had rolled in to try to quell an uprising in 1965. Bunker mediated an end to the rebellion.
On March 13, 1965, U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach requested the JetStar take two of his assistants to Selma, Ala., to help with peaceful negotiations in the aftermath of "Bloody Sunday," a violent confrontation between state and local law officers and 600 civil rights protesters trying to march from Selma to Montgomery. Police had used tear gas, dogs and clubs to beat back the protesters just six days earlier.
Now that the workhorse JetStar is back home, Cross has a new assignment for the LBJ ranch superintendent: restore the jet's interior. That would require new fundraising.
The price for the inside story? $50,000."
Marker for the landing strip. "5" for 5,000 feet
They love their BBQ is Texas and LBJ was no different when he was Presiden
The Texas White House was officially opened to the public on August 27, 2008. The entire ground floor is available for public tours. Rooms on the tour include the President's Office, living room, dining room, and the Johnsons' bedroom suites. The majority of rooms have been restored to their appearance during the presidential years (1963-1968) while the bedroom suites retain their appearance at the time of President and Mrs. Johnson's death.
Unfortunately, no photos are allowed of the inside of the house.
For me, the biggest surprise on the house tour was seeing phones in every room of the house. Some rooms had two or three.
It was a short 17 mile drive from the LBJ Ranch to Fredericksburg.
Indian blanket flowers along the roadside. They are also called fire wheel.
There are many well kept horse ranches. I was surprised to learn there were more goat ranches than sheep or horse.
We were staying in Fredericksburg for two hours. That gave us enough time for lunch and some shopping. Before getting into town, Ray gave us a little history lesson about Fredericksburg and some restaurant recommendations for lunch.
Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Old-time German residents often referred to Fredericksburg as Fritztown, a nickname that is still used in some businesses. The town is also notable as the home of Texas German, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English. Fredericksburg shares many cultural characteristics with New Braunfels, which had been established by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels the previous year. Fredericksburg is the birthplace of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. It is the sister city of Montabaur, Germany. On October 14, 1970, the Fredericksburg Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas.
When Ann heard the words German and bakery, I knew that was the restaurant we were headed to. It was a great choice!!! The Old German Bakery and Restaurant serves true German food by using traditional German recipes to make all food from scratch. The owner, Lutz, worked as a German baker for 20 years before coming to the United States in 1998 to take over the Old German Bakery. Since then, his family-owned restaurant has flourished with traditional style foods and baked goods.
Wonderful selection of breads
The ladies from Alaska had the Sausage Plate (3 sausages: Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Smoked on sauerkraut and German pan fries) and the German pancake. They shared a bite of the pancake which was so tasty.
Ann and I had the Jägaerschnitzel with spatzle. The spatzle (noodles) had cheese (Monterey Jack). I usually have had it with butter. Worth the drive from San Antonio, 70 miles away, or Austin, 78 miles away. Michael and I would definitely do it.
She was so excited and overwhelmed; she didn't know where to start.
Ann loves her desserts so we had to go the the building next door for a little bit of homemade chocolate.
Our restaurant was on the opposite end of the street where we were to meet the bus. After that huge meal, the walk was much needed.
We passed the Page Memorial Library
Many stores on both sides of the street. I loved the architecture! Have you noticed the amount of stone used?
Do you like spicy? This store is for you!
More German restaurants
Birthplace of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
The Admiral Nimitz Museum
Michael and I toured the museum over the Memorial Day weekend. Fascinating and educational. Nimitz was quite a humble man!
Luckenbach, next stop on the tour, was a short 13 mile drive.
There is always live music when you come to Luckenbach. One of the people in our group was from Georgia so they played: "Georgia On My Mind."
A live rooster was chilling to the music. Luck for us, he didn't join in.
The cat was purring along softly. Ann isn't very fond of cats and this one wanted to lean over and touch her.
On December 15, 1847, a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. In 1848, the Texas Legislature formed Gillespie County from Bexar and Travis counties. While the signatories were overwhelmingly German immigrants, names also on the petition were Castillo, Peña, Muños, and a handful of non-German Anglo names.
Its oldest building is a combination general store and saloon reputedly opened in 1849 (1886 is more likely, based on land improvement records of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) by Minna Engel, whose father was an itinerant minister from Germany. The community, first named Grape Creek (or more likely a poor transliteration in the records of 'Gap Creek', as Luckenbach comes from German 'lucken' = gap & 'bach' = stream), was later named after Engel's husband, Carl Albert Luckenbach, who was then her fiancé. They would later move to another town which became Albert, Texas.
Luckenbach was first established as a community trading post, one of a few that never broke a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, with whom they traded.
Citizens of the town claim a resident (Jacob Brodbeck) launched the first airplane years before the Wright Brothers.
Luckenbach's population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s it was almost a ghost town. A newspaper advertisement offering "town — pop. 3 — for sale" led Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock. Crouch used the town's rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit.
Luckenbach's association with country music began in the summer of 1973 when Jerry Jeff Walker, backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, recorded the live album Viva Terlingua at the Luckenbach dance hall. The album became an outlaw country classic.
In 1977, after Crouch's death in 1976, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson vaulted Luckenbach in the national spotlight with the #1 country and #25 Pop charting song "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)". In his 2000 book Are You Ready for the Country?, author Peter Doggett recalls that Jennings later told audiences that "he hated the song and had admitted 'The guys that wrote the thing have never been to Luckenbach. The locals hated the song after a while, mainly because it had nothing to do with Luckenbach at all." Jennings' only show in Luckenbach happened on July 4, 1996 at the annual Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic although the set was reputedly marred when he had a near miss with a half full tallboy of Lonestar beer thrown from the crowd.
Between 1995 and 1999 Luckenbach hosted Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic after several years of skipped or irregular Picnic gatherings. Beau Burton, a regular performer in several acts that performed in music events during the 1990s, began a musical partnership with the singing bar tender Jimmy Lee Jones. While acting as band manager/drummer Beau developed a relationship with a Willie manager, Larry Trader. Prior to the first picnic, Beau and Jimmy used all their resources to persuade Mr. Nelson to bring his picnic to Luckenbach. Beau leaned hard to promote the bach, as the locals called it, creating videos from the first picnic, lobbying every year to bring a full video crew for the whole show. In 1998 Broadcast.com provided the satellite link then streamed a massive video production all over the world, via the word wide web. Over 30 acts performed that year. The actual show producer was Jack Yoder a music support and tour manager that worked for decades with lots of named big acts, including Bob Dylan.
The shows were great and filled with diverse talent. Jimmy Lee Jones and the Texas Hill Country Band members, Steve Aamann, Lyndia Day, Randy Rosenbaum, Grant Brown, and Beau Burton played powerful progressive Texas country Rock which Beau and Grant called Goat-Rock. Willie loved their show based on solid Texas songwriter covers along with their original tunes and the act did numerous opening performances for Mr. Nelson. Beau often said he felt bad bringing all the profit to the bach from Willie's picnic, as it caused a great disturbance to the old ways of operating the music sanctuary.
Luckenbach, in the mid to late 1990's was the new center once again for innovative outlaw music. Gary P Nunn, Tommy Alverson, Rusty Wier, Monte Montgomery, Joe Ely, Jimmie Lee Jones and the Texas Hill Country band Billy Shaver and Robert Earl Keen played high energy Texas styled music that Nashville would not even admit was country Music. Texas outlaw country was reborn. The stars of the 1990s were certainly the Billy Joe Shaver Band with son Eddie Shaver on guitar. Never has there been the most pure form of Texas Honky Tonk down home music. You can't have a conversation about the musicians that played there without talking about Robert Earl once fiddle-man Kimbo Keating, the master old school fiddle- guitar guy that train everyone to great heights including Monte Montgomery. Kimbo was the master of swing music inspired by the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Kimbo was schooled by fiddle man Caesar Massey who played for Bob Wills. During that period the radio station KFAN operated by Jay Fritz was a good counterpoint and promoter to the new Texas sound. Country rock artists Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock later covered the Jennings/Nelson song as a duet as well as Radney Foster and Pat Green. It has also been recorded by musician/Christian Kane.
Notable concert appearances in the town include Jennings, Nelson, Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett. The community remains an active home to country music.
Ray brought along some props so we could take silly pictures here. Do you think he looks like the Marlboro man?