On the Road to Kerrville (April 1-10, 2021)

After waving goodbye to Phil’s fellow pickleball players, we departed our three-month home at Sunkissed Village and began our 10-day journey to Kerrville, TX.  Our first day consisted of a 294-mile drive, almost entirely on interstate highways.  After having been stationary for three months, the drive was rather tiring but uneventful.  We spent two nights at Outback Springs RV Resort in Bonifay, FL.  The weather turned significantly cooler, with daytime highs in the low-60’s and nighttime lows in the upper-30s.

On Friday, April 2nd, we drove 75 miles to Destin and spent a couple of hours exploring the Destin Harbor Boardwalk.  We strolled past lots of yachts and charter fishing boats.  We watched as the fishing boat crews cleaned their catches and threw the scraps to the awaiting pelicans.  When we grew hungry, we decided to stop for lunch at Brotula’s Seafood House. 

After lunch, we left Destin and drove about an hour along the Gulf to Panama City.  We parked at one of the beach access points and then strolled about 2 miles up and down the shore.  Although it was windy and cool, the bright sun made for a beautiful day.

On Saturday, we drove 286 miles to Mandeville, LA where we spent three nights at Fontainebleau State Park.  We had stayed at this state park several years earlier.  For that stay, we had gotten one of the very few full-hookup sites but it had been very challenging to get into and out of the C-shaped pull-through.  We had discovered some other pull-through sites that, at that time, appeared much easier to access but lacked a sewer hookup.  For this year’s stay. Phil selected one of these sites without a sewer hookup.  Although pulling into this year’s pull-through site was easier than the previous stay, getting to our site was no fun at all.  It was Easter weekend and the campground was mobbed.  In addition to having the campground full, there appeared to be many visitors.  Vehicles were parked everywhere and kids seemed oblivious to the traffic.  This made it very difficult to get up and down the roads.  To make matters worse, the park ranger had failed to tell Phil which road to take to have the hookups on the right side.  When we finally got within eyeshot of our site, Phil realized that he was going to have to get turned around.  This necessitated driving through the crowded streets again and making a couple of sharp turns.  One of the turns had us nearly going into a ditch and required having a kind Boy Scout leader move his van (twice!) so Phil could swing our rig wide enough to miss the ditch.  Jan was in the Mazda behind him and was able to watch the close calls and keep Phil informed over the cell phone.  We were happy to finally get set up in our site and, despite it being somewhat of a muddy mess, it was good enough for a few days. Unfortunately, we subsequently discovered that a board we rubbed up against while getting around the ditch damaged some of the fiberglass on our rig and it will need to be repaired.

On Easter Sunday, we drove across the 24-mile-long Mandeville Causeway into New Orleans.  Phil had booked parking in a garage near the French Quarter.  After parking our car on the 4th level, we didn’t see any elevator so we walked down a stairway that was dirty and somewhat scary.  When we reached ground level, Phil realized he had forgotten his mask so he had to return to the car.  The stairway we had come down did not open from the outside so Phil had to find another way.  His first attempt was another staircase but it went up about four levels before coming to a dead end.  After returning down those stairs, he decided to walk up one of the ramps.  Unfortunately, this ramp went all the way to the 7th floor, with no access to the lower floors.  Phil finally found the elevator and was able to get back to our car and then rejoin Jan on the ground level.

Fortunately, the parking garage was only a short distance from Evangeline, the restaurant where Jan had gotten us reservations for brunch.  Jan had learned that Easter brunch is a New Orleans tradition and had had to contact many restaurants before finding an opening at Evangeline.  We requested a seat in the courtyard and, with an umbrella over our table, the setting was ideal.  The food was delicious and the servers made sure that our Bottomless Mimosas remained bottomless.

After brunch, we went for a long walk through the French Quarter.  It was early afternoon on Easter and the French Quarter was appropriately sedate.  After we both achieved our 10,000 steps for the day, we splurged by ordering beignets at Café Du Monde.  These French doughnuts are coated with tons of powdered sugar, making for a messy but tasty treat.

In the fall of 2020, we had been experiencing a problem with our DirecTV signal freezing up.  We had called DirecTV several times for technical support but they had been unable to resolve the issue.  We really needed a service call but, because our account address is our Livingston, TX mailing address, DirecTV will only send a technician to us if we are in Livingston.  Since we had cable service at Sunkissed Village, we had suspended our DirecTV service for three months.  When we restored our DirecTV service at the end of March, we had technical issues and had to reset the connection to two of our TVs.  Somehow, this cleared up the problems we had been having.  Since we really had no other reason to return to Livingston, we cancelled our Livingston campground reservation (and service call) and altered our travel plans.

On Tuesday, April 6th, we drove 268 miles to Beaumont, TX where we spent the night at Hidden Lake RV Park.  This campground was quite a distance from town but was beautifully maintained.

On Wednesday, we drove 290 miles to Johnson City, TX where we spent three nights at Miller Creek RV Resort.  The drive took us along I-10 through the middle of Houston but, fortunately, we timed it so that we hit the city around 10:30 a.m. so it wasn’t too bad.  All but the last 60 miles were on I-10 and they went pretty smoothly, despite being boring.  However, the last part of the trip took us through a number of small towns and was more challenging.  Finding the campground was also a bit of a challenge and we were exhausted by the time we arrived.  The campground was about six miles south of Johnson City but was very comfortable and tidy.  We decided to go out for dinner but found that almost all of the local restaurants were closed in the evening.  We finally settled on El Agave Mexican Restaurant.  The food was only so-so but we were very hungry and just glad to have something to eat.

On Thursday, Phil took the Mazda and the truck to a local tire dealer to get our Texas vehicle inspections.  Texas law had allowed us to renew our registrations without inspections since we were out-of-state at the time but we were required to get the inspections done within three days of re-entering the state. We then drove into Johnson City and visited the boyhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson.  Unfortunately, due to COVID, the Visitors Center was closed and there were no tours of the home.  We were limited to walking around the grounds and peaking in through the windows.  LBJ’s parents had bought the home in 1913.  It was from the East porch of this house that Lyndon launched his first congressional campaign in 1937.

We then walked down a path to the Johnson Settlement where LBJ’s paternal grandparents had lived in a dogtrot cabin from 1867 – 1872.  We also viewed buildings that had been owned by other Johnson kin in the late 1800s, then spent some time communicating with a pair of Texas longhorns.

On Friday, we drove to Stonewall, TX and visited the LBJ Ranch unit of the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.  We began by visiting the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.  This is an authentic working farm, where park interpreters dress in period costumes, demonstrating the lifestyles of a typical German Hill Country farm between 1915 and 1918.

We then drove across the Pedernales River and did a self-guided tour of the LBJ ranch.  Our first stop was at Junction School, a one-room school where four-year-old Lyndon began his formal education.  President Johnson returned to this schoolhouse in 1965 to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which redefined the Federal government’s role in America’s schools.

Next, we visited the nearby Johnson Family Cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson were laid to rest, alongside generations of Johnsons.  Then, we walked around the site where LBJ was born in 1908.  The house was reconstructed in 1964 to closely resemble the original house and was used by the President as a guest house.  We also visited the farmhouse of Sam, Sr. and Eliza Johnson, LBJ’s grandparents.  We had seen their earlier home in the Johnson Settlement on Thursday.

The rest of the drive took us through huge pastures that were part of the LBJ Ranch.  Although it seemed like a large property, we learned that this was only one of nine of LBJ’s ranches and was not the largest. The drive ended at the ranch house which, during the Johnson Presidency, had been known as the Texas White House.  The Johnsons had purchased the house in 1951 and it was home for President and Lady Bird Johnson until their deaths in 1973 and 2007.  Unfortunately, due to COVID, tours of the house had been discontinued.

There is an airstrip nearby and we got to see a Lockheed Jetstar assigned to the White House fleet.  Since the airstrip could not support the weight of Air Force One, President Johnson used this smaller plane to travel to and from the ranch.  LBJ referred to it as “Air Force One-Half.”

That evening, we drove to Austin and had dinner at Hopdaddy Burger Bar with Caleb and Brittany Dickerson, Katie Schlegel and Michael Totty.  This was not your ordinary burger place.  We used our cell phones to order and pay for our meals, without ever leaving the table.  We each had a gourmet burger and we shared huge orders of Parmesan Truffle Fries and Hot Honey & Sage Sweet Potato Fries.  After dinner, we returned to the Dickersons’ abode and played a game of Mexican Train, before making the drive back to Johnson City.

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