Craig called on Friday night. “Dad, do you mind if we have a change of plans?” Of course I didn’t mind. He went on to say, “Instead of meeting you and Mom in Bastrop in the morning to handoff the kids to spend the week at your house, Becky and I are planning to meet a friend in Austin. He is retired from the Marine Corps and lives in California. He is temporarily in Dallas on an internship. He and I were in Afghanistan together. I just got off the phone with him and he said he’d like to see Austin. He wants to tour the State Capitol. It was an easy decision. Picking up the kids in Austin was easier for us than meeting in Bastrop. I also told Craig if his friend needed a place to stay on Saturday night, we’d gladly provide lodging.
Later in the evening, Craig sent me a text. “Dad, would you mind identifying places of interest in Austin? We’d also appreciate it if you’d agree to be the tour guide.” I was grateful to be included, but how long has it been since I’ve provided anyone a tour of Austin? The General and I initially moved to Austin in the mid-1970s. Austin was a big country town back then. Needless to say, much has changed over the past forty years. Has it really been forty years?
Negotiating a tour of the Capitol was an easy assignment. I’ve made many trips to the State Capitol to both show folks the architectural grandeur and also to attend public hearings for legislative sessions. Craig had absolutely no idea that underground office space below the capitol now extends as far North as the Reagan Building on 15th Street. At one time, the General worked in that building.
How does one identify areas of interest in Austin? I quickly made a list of things I like about Austin. The list included the hike and bike trails around Lady Bird Lake, the LBJ Library, the Botanical Garden at Zilker Park, the view of Lake Austin from Mount Bonnell, the Congress Avenue Bridge, a drive through SoCo on South Congress Street, the architectural beauty of stately neighborhoods, the University of Texas and the University Tower. Obviously the list extended the availability of time, but I was willing to make a run for it and run we did.
It has been a number of years since we’ve visited the LBJ Library. I remember when we first moved to Austin, I took my paternal grandparents and my granddad’s brother and his wife on a tour of the LBJ Library. They were so appreciative and favorably impressed. The displays were impressive, so was the reproduction of the Oval Office.
Forty years later, in some respects the Library is the same, but the exhibits and layout of the space is very different. For one thing, I was surprised that there is now a fee associated with visiting the LBJ Library. Of course, I found that fees associated to touring what was once open, available and free to the public throughout Austin has radically changed. There is now a fee associated to touring the Botanical Garden at Zilker Park. There is also a $6.00 per vehicle parking fee at Zilker Park.
I watched as my grandchildren processed information related to the displays at the LBJ Library. Perhaps most attention getting is the duplication of the Oval Office on the tenth floor of the LBJ Library. That captured their attention. The six year old, picked up one of the telephones to listen to a recording of President Johnson sharing information. At some point, our group was ready to move to a different location in the library, but Jake was intent on listening to the recording. I got his attention and said, “Jake, we’ve got to go.” He replied, “I can’t, I’m listening to the President.” He didn’t budge. I walked around the corner out of his sight. He didn’t follow. He was determined to hear all that the President had to say.
In contrast to the interest my grandchildren displayed in the exhibits, I was also surprised and curious about the General. There is currently a display in the Library related to the Beatles. Would you believe it, the General expressed an interest in seeing that display? Honestly, there are days I’m not even sure that I know her. I guess I missed the Beatlemania. I was hooked on C&W music back then.
As we were leaving the LBJ Library, Jake ran to the statute of President Johnson and gave him a hug. I asked that he hold that pose while I took his picture. He gladly accommodated me. Later in asking about his day, the LBJ Library took top billing over the quick exposure and view of Lake Austin from Mount Bonnell. Jake only had two recommendations that could have made the experience better. “For one thing, when I was talking to President Johnson on the telephone, he never gave me a chance to talk.” Secondly, “We didn’t shake hands”. He then articulated something he’s heard me say, “Hello, I said and we shook hands”. He then added, “Actually, we didn’t.”
Saturday proved to be a full day. We ended the evening with dinner at the Salt Lick. What were we thinking? If you like country charm, the ambience is great. I first ate there in the early 1970s. I’m not sure much has changed since that time except the crowd. Arriving at the restaurant, finding a parking space was problematic. I’m estimating 800 cars were already parked, but that is obviously an exaggeration. In addition, there were three vehicles that needed to be parked. My daughter and son-in-law were also meeting us. They had found parking and the die-was-cast. We were staying for the evening.
The projected two-hour wait was an accurate assessment. Actually, it may have taken longer. The evening proved to be delightful, but in a perfect world, I wouldn’t do it again. When it comes to waiting, an hour is my self-imposed limit. At my age, why vary at this point. After all, I’m already on borrowed time.
All My Best!