Usually, I plan an easy itinerary for the last day of a trip. Not this time. I had a jam-packed day ahead of me, and I got started early.
I couldn’t start without a good, hearty breakfast, though — right? The Best Western Atrium does an especially good one, with eggs cooked to order, biscuits and gravy, sausage and bacon, and other goodies. I wolfed down my food, loaded up the bike, checked out of the hotel and rode across town to the campus of the University of Texas. I had another president to check off my list, and this one was a humdinger.
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum opened in 1971, with President Johnson’s words describing the institution’s mission:
“It is all here: the story of our time with the bark off. This Library will show the facts, not just the joy and triumphs, but the sorrow and failures, too.
“I hope that visitors who come here will achieve a closer understanding of the presidency and that young people will get a clearer comprehension of what this nation tried to do in an eventful period of its history.”
The ground floor of the museum is devoted to the President’s life and career, with particular emphasis on Civil Rights and education. Vietnam gets its fair share of attention, as well. Compared to a newer museum like the GHW Bush in College Station, the LBJ Museum is rather quaint and old-fashioned, with less flash and emphasis on multi-media interactive exhibits. But the collection is refreshingly human, honest and really does tell LBJ’s story “with the bark off.” A multi story, glass-enclosed atrium houses the library’s collection of papers and books, the sheer volume of which is overwhelming and impressive. The LBJ Library and Museum is a must-see for any student of American History, and a remarkable window into the life of one of our great men.
Back on the bike, I hit the superslab to San Antonio. Another day of misting fog made the riding into transportation rather than recreation, but the Electra Glide made quick work of the 100 or so miles between the two cities.
I had a few hours left before I had to return the bike and catch my plane back home, so I headed downtown to visit the Alamo again. I parked in one of the many parking structures nearby, and walked toward the hallowed old complex.
The story of the Alamo is well-known. In 1836, during the Texas Revolution, a group of Texans and others defended the former Spanish Mission against Santa Anna’s army. After a fierce battle that lasted 13 days, nearly all of the defenders were dead. The 189 dead Texans (whether they were actually from Texas or not, Texas claims them as their own) included Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. The main building of the Alamo is preserved as a shrine, and a somber atmosphere prevails inside. The memory of the dead pervades, with lists of the men’s names posted in multiple locations, and on multiple monuments. Wandering through the Alamo and its grounds was a very sobering experience. It reminded me of the human cost of our independence, and I vowed to do more reading about the event when I return home.
I wandered out of the Alamo across the plaza, and returned to River Walk, which I had only seen in the nighttime at the start of my trip. The cafes, shops and restaurants that line the river create a really unique attraction. I could just imagine strolling the area on a beautiful day, dropping in the shops and galleries, and exploring for hours. I selected a restaurant, the Saltgrass Steakhouse , part of a small Texas-based chain. I had a delicious crawfish fondue appetizer, and an Angus Beef Cheesesteak Sandwich for lunch as I sat overlooking the river, and watching the tourboats cruise by. It was a great way to say goodbye to Texas.
After lunch, I rode across town to Caliente Harley-Davidson. I reluctantly handed over the key to my Electra Glide, and unloaded my gear for the plane ride home. Of course, I stopped in the dealership to buy a dealership cap and sticker to add to my collection — you can never have too many hats or stickers, I always say. I hopped a cab to the airport, and a few hours later, I was home again, snug in my house with my wife, two dogs, two cats and Sportster.
All in all, I had put nearly 1,500 miles on the bike, and I felt like I had only put a small dent into Texas. Nearly every city that I visited merits a return trip. I missed way more than I saw, and I had a fantastic time. Folks in Texas were uniformly friendly and polite. After a week in the state, I now understand why Texans are so passionate about Texas, even if they don’t live there anymore.
I learned a lot about Texas during my ride, and I also learned a lot about myself from spending so much time alone on the road. Riding in great weather is always a pleasure; but I discovered that the challenge of riding in adverse conditions is still something that feeds my soul. I have completed a journey that makes me proud of myself, and I’m eager for the next challenge.
Man, I sure do love to ride motorcycles.
So, any ideas about where I should go next?
Miles traveled: 117
Total miles ridden during trip: 1,456