Bush-Kennedy-Bush

This pretty much describes our last few days here in the belly of Texas. Our history lesson has been combined with sketchy weather that has followed us around – changing up from gray, cold and crappy to warm and sunny, then back again. The damned “wintry mix” is in the forecast for the weekend. What!!?

But, back to the history lesson. We are closing in on completing our grand tour of the Presidential Museums. The George W Bush Museum in Dallas was the first one this week. 20170105_210854.jpg It’s the newest of the Presidential Museums, having opened in 2013. Did you know that a President must be out of office for five years before his Museum/Library can open? We didn’t know that either – hope that doesn’t mean that we’ll never get to the Obama Museum in Chicago, since it can’t open before 2022. That sure sounds like a long time away – we sure aren’t getting any younger.

We decided to drive to the Museum from our campground at Lake Lewisville, about 20 miles north of Dallas.20170104_184921.jpg Then, we parked the truck and left it there, taking the commuter train into downtown Dallas to explore for the rest of the day. What a great stress-free way to explore. Our full-day tickets were $2.50 each. Love being a tourist on public transit!

The Bush 43 Museum was interesting, but not really very informative. We left, feeling like we had a better idea of Laura Bush as a person and First Lady than we had of W. 20170105_213025.jpg The introductory film was not working, so we missed our favorite way of acclimating ourselves to one of these Museums. Of course 9/11 and the horrible  events and videos of airplanes slicing into the WTC dominate. The capture of Saddam Hussein (the pistol he had with him is also enshrined there) is featured. Hurricane Katrina. Missing were clips of momentous speeches and personal notes. Few charming (or damning) letters from constituents. We both felt that the Museum was gorgeous, but lacking personality. Gifts from foreign heads of state were breathtaking, especially those from countries in the Middle East.

The stunning Christmas in the White House display was still up as well.20170105_211145.jpg

The Texas Book Depository, from where the shots were fired that killed JFK in 1963, was the other Dallas landmark on our must-see list. (The window on the second from the top story on the right side is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired. That corner, inside, is blocked off by glass, and preserved exactly as it was). No photos are allowed inside….wp-1483563797113.jpg As with the JFK Museum in Boston, we were were surprised to see the variety of people there. Many had thick foreign accents, and most were too young to have been around for Kennedy’s presidency, but here they were – queued up with their $16 in hand to see this site. What a rush of emotion and remembrance this visit released. I was in 7th grade when Kennedy was shot, and I still remember being in Mr. Gardiner’s geography class when another Mrs. Chaffee (Aunt of Apollo astronaut Roger B Chaffee) burst in with the awful news.

The Museum is set up on the sixth floor of the TBD. Every aspect of the Kennedy assassination is covered – logistics of the motorcade, the excruciating frame by frame sequence of the Zapruder film, news broadcasts of the funeral, and Oswald’s assassination by Jack Ruby, and Ruby’s trial. The Warren Commission. There were films of the funeral from all over the world, and I was again struck by Kennedy’s universal popularity. For me, however, the real power of this place was outside. On the street in front of the TBD are two large white Xs – marking the position of Kennedy’s limo when he was struck by each of the two shots.wp-1483563796881.jpg The grassy knoll….it’s all there. Wow – I was surprised at the emotional impact of all this on me, more than 50 years after the fact.

We wandered around Dealey Plaza and downtown Dallas. Lots of interesting sights.wp-1483563796954.jpg

No new city tour could possibly be complete without us seeking our a brewery, and we found a good one – Braindead Brewery. It was a good day to play tourist. We hopped the train back to the truck, and got back to our campground without incident. Dallas is a huge web of expressway construction – our relative ease of passage was no small matter. They are laying tons and tons of new roadway out there – it’s astonishing.

But hey – there’s another Bush Presidential Museum in Texas.The George HW Bush Museum is located on the campus of Texas A & M University in College Station, about 225 miles from Dallas. Although we had to camp in an RV park, with limited space (NEVER our first choice), we found a great one at RV Haven. It gave us the option to break out our bikes, and ride to the Museum and around town on a chilly, blustery day.

The George HW Bush Museum was very different in feel than the GWB Museum. GHWB had a pretty illustrious life before the Presidency -US Congress, Ambassador to China, UN Ambassador, CIA Director and Vice President. There’s lots of material there, and it left me with a positive feeling for the man, himself. He did begin Desert Storm – heard the term “scud missile” which I hadn’t heard in years. 1000 Points of Light. The dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. It was an interesting day.wp-1483563796702.jpgHe spent an average of three weekends a month at Camp David, so there was a replica of the office there – first time we’ve seen that.wp-1483563796657.jpgI was taken by this photo of GHWB in 2013 with the son of one of his Secret Service Agent’s kids who had leukemia. Bush shaved his head in support of his struggle. wp-1483563796378.jpg

Texas A & M is a pretty uninteresting-looking campus. With few exceptions, the buildings are constructed of a blondish stone. They have an astroturf hedge near some of the engineering labs.wp-1483563796377.jpgThere is every kind of engineering department you never heard of located there. We cycled through an area where training is done for advanced firefighting techniques (we didn’t notice the No Trespassing signs). Rainroad tanker cars piled on top of each other, an old 737 laying on its belly with the bottom burned out, a chemical pipeline labrnyth. Crazy stuff which requires different techniques than fighting brush or house fires.

All this is enough to make a girl thirsty – Blackwater Draw Brewery to the rescue. John had an amazing burger there, while I feasted on Nemo Nachos – sashimi tuna with cucumber+avocado+ponzu sauce on chips made from wonton wrappers. omg

We’re now camped on the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston Island State Park. Beachside. If the wind ever dies down and the temp goes up 20 degrees, our next five days will be fantastic. Right now, it’s howling!

25 thoughts on “Bush-Kennedy-Bush

  1. I have been to the TBD many times after dinner in downtown Dallas while shopping at the Dallas Markets. Always at night, always the same creepy, sad scary reaction looking at those x’s and down the street. A light in the window where the shot was fired haunting.Downtown Dallas not very scenic, sorta chopped up and grey. Thanks for the history lesson, agree about Laura and even like some of W’s art. Safe travels. Pat

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    • We only saw one of W’s paintings – a prickly pear cactus in bloom. My feeling was that he should practice for another few years before hanging any more art publicly. But, I’m glad he’s at the ranch in Crawford, and off the political stage. And Laura? I’d like to have coffee with her someday.

      See you in the spring.

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  2. I just read “Crisis of Conscience” and in it the uniformed secret agent who wrote the book describes how he genuinely liked GHWB and Barbara Bush. From what I read about them it seems right in character for GHWB to shave his head to show support for the son of one of his secret service agents. Unlike many presidents who take the secret service for granted, the Bush’s truly liked and respected their secret service agents.

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  3. I would like to visit Dealey Plaza and see it for myself. I have to admit though, I don’t remember how I learned that JFK had been shot, other than the news.

    I’ve met both of the former presidents named Bush, and you won’t find a more decent human being than George H W Bush. In many respects, he is too nice to be a leader. His son, on the other hand, struck me as the jerk he turned out to be as president.

    All of Texas is a maze of new highway construction, I think that Houston is worse than Dallas, but I didn’t care for either.

    I hope the weather gets better for you, you’re sure missing out on the cold and snow here, would you like some of it as a reminder of what you’re missing?

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    • Dealy Plaza looks the same now as in the 60s – its probably instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen the Zapruder films a few times. But, it is truly sobering to see the marks on the street, which have probably been repainted a dozen times.

      Agree with your Bush assessments. So happy that W has gone dark since 2008, and that we don’t have to worry about Jeb, at least for the time being.

      I’d be happy to trade weather with you, Jerry. Although its probably colder in Michigan, at least you’re not getting lashed by freezing rains. Going to dip below the freezing point tonight, so we’ve cut off our water supply, and are trying to keep our pipes unfrozen. Happy that it’s not cold enough that we have to winterize (antifreeze). But, when it’s gray and stormy, beach camping is not all that it’s cracked up to be. 😕

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  4. Interesting……we all remember where we were when news of JFK’s shooting reached our ears. For me, Romeo Michigan, South Grade Elementary School, 6th grade. One of the boys on the safety squad flung open the classroom door and blurted out “the president’s been shot”!
    Safe travels my friends, watching the snow coming down at a furious rate her on the Cape!

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    • Hi Sandi. Why don’t you pack up that big ol’ Airstream and make a run for nice weather, before you have to dig yourself out? Don’t come here though….Winds in the 25mph range. Temps in the 40s and gray skies. Fabulous camping weather! Think we are going to try to Dutch oven some comfort food for dinner today to bring some kind of warmth to our setting. Guess it can’t be wonderful every day. ;-))

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  5. Hope you enjoy Galveston as much as we did. It’s cold, windy and gloomy over here in Rockport but next week should be nice again. Safe travels and stay warm :-)

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    • This is our fourth time at Galveston, but the first time with such crappy weather. We were outside last night at midnight, trying to wrestle down our awning – the wind was whipping it around so much the Fireball was lurching from side to side. Makes a stroll on the beach a bit less pleasant!

      We are headed to Mustang Island SP next week. Have you camped there?

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      • Weren’t we all boat camping last night? With all the rocking and rolling from the wind it sure felt that way LOL. Yes, we’ve stayed at Mustang Island SP. It’s ok. Its about the location. Next week the weather should be nice. Let me know if I can offer any recommendations or if you’d like to meet for lunch.

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      • The worst part of this weather is having Jezzy along. For her wind=rain=thunder=terror. It’s a simple progression, and it’s just awful to witness. There is no comfort.

        I would love to meet you for lunch. We will be at Mustang Island Tues-Fri. Are you at Goose Island? My email is bikejudy@gmail.com. That’s probably as easy as anything. We have no plans – any day or time will work.

        Hope tonight (Friday) is the worst of the weather. Uncle!!

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      • We are in a private park down the road from Goose Island SP. I joke and call it “La Dive” but it works for the guys and I get to ride my bike around the neighborhood and state park with my camera, thus no complaints. Everything is temporary. I don’t expect you to like Mustang Island SP. The restrooms are some of the worst I’ve seen and you’re basically backed in in a parking lot setting, BUT there’s lots to see in the area. I’ll email you.

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  6. i heard Laura Bush speak at a conference recently, lucky to be seated pretty closely (under SS scrutiny) and she was much more interesting to listen to than expected and I also learned so much more about her than expected. Her quiet support, in addition to the larger campaigns, of literacy and reading were just as interesting as her reminiscences of the White House – none of which were political. She was gracious.

    In the 1980’s I made many trips to Dallas with friends to visit other friends…always loved the city and there was always a lot of road building then. I remember visiting the book depository at that time and how I was moved. I have those hazy memories about the JFK assassination that you don’t really know if what are actually yours or those of the news coverage or other people’s stories. I have clearer recollections of MLK, Jr. and RFK; mine was of the teacher at the 2-room school house Churchill Elementary…

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    • Thanks for your comments, Don. It’s been interesting to visit the Museums and see the roles that the various First Ladies have played. Laura Bush certainly does seem to have been a gracious, warm person. Videos of interviews with Barbara Bush also depicted a woman with a big smile, an easy laugh, and a sense of humor – an image I certainly never had of her. Being First Lady is not an easy gig.

      I have so many Kennedy memories. My mom always worked when I was a kid – the only working Mom I knew. At school, we watched the Kennedy funeral on little black and white TV’s that they rolled into the classroom on big RV carts. We spent the whole day doing that. When I got home, I was amazed to find my mom had taken the afternoon off, and was sitting in a darkened living room, watching the service on TV, and quietly crying. Don’t know why, but that really surprised me, and that image has stuck all these years.

      It’s good to be reminded of these things. Sad that it’s the really awful parts of life that have left the most vivid memories.

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