Arrived in Austin and checked into our condo last Wednesday. Sadly the unit was on the dumpy, dark, and dirty side (a lot of alliteration already), so we turned on all the lights (that worked), purchased some air freshener, and made do. At least the location was great, smack dab in the vicinity of the very vivacious and vibrant downtown. lol.
Next stop was the airport to pick up our good friends and most frequent travel partners, Bonnie and Peter Landini. The Landini’s have joined us in New Orleans, San Diego and now Austin. Guess they like eating, drinking and walking as much as we do. We moved them into the dump then quickly found a nice restaurant that served great cocktails!
Austin is one of those wise cities that has taken advantage of its location on water, in this case the Colorado River.
We took advantage by starting every day with a run or walk on one of the scenic riverfront trails. We had to hike early in the day due to a nasty heat wave that made any afternoon outside activity almost impossible. Well, we felt the upper 90’s were a heat wave….I think the locals felt it was a nice reprieve from the real summer heat.
Thursday we decided to go to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a hip air-conditioned movie theatre that serves food and drinks right to your seats. What more could one ask for? We saw the movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon. Very entertaining.
Thursday night the four of us joined Garrett Roland for dinner at Terry Black’s BBQ. Garrett is the middle child of our friends Pat and Karen Roland (Pat once worked with Robin at Laventhol and Horwath). We had a really nice visit with Garrett during our trip to Austin last year, and were very much looking forward to seeing him again and hearing about how his last year in law school was going. Happy to say he is doing well, looking great, and we were happy to send him home with lots of yummy desserts.
Friday was spent at the delightfully air-conditioned LBJ Presidential Library located on the University of Texas campus. Now, having been to the other twelve presidential libraries, I would have to say that our preferences in style and format for these museums have definitely evolved. We know what we want to see, we know how we want it presented, and I’m happy to say that LBJ did not disappoint. Our expectations are this: We like a well-defined and easy to follow timeline, creative eye-catching exhibits, a societal gallery devoted to life in America during the presidential terms, a lot of historical film, original correspondence, and thoughtful presentations representing all sides of major controversial decisions and events. Considering those criterion, LBJ’s Library is (our opinion) top-notch.
The Library starts with a short introductory film narrated by one of LBJ’s daughters. The film spoke briefly to his exceptional work ethic, Great Society policies, and Vietnam. From the film studio we were led to the Library’s temporary exhibit, “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles!”. Curated by The Grammy Museum in LA, the exhibit not only told the story of the Beatles, it also provided an excellent segway to the times of LBJ’s presidency. Linda, you would have loved this exhibit.
We left the Beatles and found ourselves in a room largely devoted to LBJ’s and Lady Bird’s life timelines. Did you know Claudia Alta Taylor got her nickname from her nanny? “Well, she’s just as pretty as a lady bird!” The nickname virtually replaced her real name. She even used “Bird” on her marriage license. The timeline plaques did a great job of highlighting significant personal, world, and national events for all pertinent years.
This part of the Library also had an amusing exhibit on LBJ’s legendary story telling. The display included an animatronic LBJ telling some of his favorite jokes and stories…….well, at least those that were deemed appropriate for a presidential library audience.
President Johnson recorded over 640 hours of his phone conversions, and you can listen to selected clips. I listened to a conversion he had with CIA director J. Edgar Hoover discussing the Kennedy assassination investigation.
The next level of the museum is framed by the official portraits of all the presidents and their First Ladies (and the official photographs of the Obama’s). Once inside the presidential exhibit we viewed very engaging galleries on the Vice Presidency, Assassination of JFK, Civil Rights, the Great Society Policies, Space, Vietnam, and the culture of the times. Most exhibits included film, artifacts, pictures, and clips from various speeches and press conferences. Plenty of policy pros and cons were prominently displayed, especially regarding LBJ’s expansion of the Vietnam War. The Library works hard to present Johnson’s war policies as an ethical struggle between stopping the spread of Communism and saving the South Vietnamese vs. prolonging a conflict in which tens of thousands of American youth were being killed or maimed. “I can’t win, and I can’t get out”.
- FDR appointed LBJ as the Texas Director of the National Youth Administration in 1935.
- He created Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 by signing the legislation at the Truman Library in Independence, MO. He presented Harry and Bess with the first two Medicare Cards.
- He signed the Voting Rights Act, Immigration Reform Act, Housing and Urban Development Act, Elementary, Secondary and Higher Education Act, and of course the Civil Rights Act.
- He gave us project Head Start, the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR, and mandatory seat belts.
- In 1965 he signed 350 separate pieces of legislation.
The last floor of the Library includes the presidential gifts, family life in the White House and the Johnson family ranch, Oval Office (entrance not allowed), and Lady Bird’s legacy. Great Library!
From the Library we drove to the shopping district south of the river so Bonnie could visit a couple of boot stores in hopes of finding something stylish yet comfortable…
During our time in Austin last year we learned that the city, and the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in particular, is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed Bats arrive in March, make a home in the crevasses on the underside of the bridge, and leave in November. Unfortunately we were there in February and missed seeing the post sunset ”cloud of bats” emerge from the bridge.
So, once home from the Library and boot shopping, we headed to the Ann Richards Bridge and patiently waited for the bats to make an appearance. Turns out that this late in the season they come out well after sunset, so although we did see bats flying around under the bridge, we didn’t get any pictures. But here we are waiting….
We did get to hear the “colony chatter” every morning while walking under the bridge on the riverfront trail. For those interested, play this video…..and listen very closely for the chirping bats!
We finished the day with a nice dinner at Z’Tejas and a walk down 6th street, the city’s entertainment district, which closes to traffic on weekend nights for block parties. Guess we were there a bit early to see the party in all its glory.
We also got a nice view of the state capitol building at night.
Many months ago, while having dinner with Bonnie and Peter, we discovered that the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Show was to be held at Austin’s 360 amphitheater during our visit. The show was headlining Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari so we quickly purchased tickets. Saturday night was show time!
All I’m going to say about the show is this: We were the oldest people there (out of 14,000) and Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari were absolutely hysterical. The rest has to be experienced in person (very obscene, very offensive, very funny). We had a great time!
Sunday we packed up, found a nice place for brunch that had Huevos Rancheros
and bade farewell to Austin and the Landini’s.
Thanks for joining us guys! We had a great time and look forward to seeing you back home. Sorry about the accommodations!
Sunday we made the long drive to Lubbock (home to Texas Tech….go Red Raiders) where we arrived just in time to watch the Cubs get clobbered by the Mets….again.
And Monday was the long drive to Albuquerque where we were directed to Sadie’s for a big Mexican dinner. “Big” being the operative word.
Today we finally arrived in Sedona, Arizona, but getting here was rather challenging. First we drove through a very nasty hail storm. I honestly thought the Old Home was sustaining substantial damage as the marble sized hail was so intense it was deafening. Almost everyone pulled off the road, but we were in a Range Rover with new tires so…
Once past the storm I was getting ready to exit the highway (to inspect for damage) when out of nowhere an enormous tumbleweed came barreling across the road. There was no avoiding it. Bam! The massive weed was blown into smithereens and sent the traffic behind us into a tizzy. I finally got off the road, pulled numerous shrub fragments out of the grill and relished the sense of relief in seeing that the Old Home made it through unscathed. The rest of the drive looked like this:
Anyway, we found this extremely cool rental house in uptown Sedona and are very happily settled in. Looking forward to Emily’s visit tomorrow.