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. 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. 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. 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.
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…. 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. 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.
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.He 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.I 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.
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.There 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!