Within the city limits of Austin, but about ten miles from the city center is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The grounds are amazing. Spring wildflower blooming has begun and it is easy to get caught up in the beautiful, intense colors. We were treated to the great horned owl, Athena, peaking out of her nest as we entered the park. She is patiently waiting for her owlets to hatch. You can make out her ears at the bottom behind the green plant. It is easy to lose track of time while walking through the many areas of the center. The garden uses native plants to create sustainable, beautiful landscapes and everything is clearly labeled. There are also many docents around to answer any questions.
Lady Bird Johnson was instrumental in the passage of the Highway Beautification Act in 1965. She felt that roadside restoration was necessary to bring ecological richness, plant and animal biodiversity, and regional identity to what might otherwise be ugly roads around the country. More than 50 years later, Texas roads are all lined with native plants and flowers. I’m not sure how many other states follows this act.
I can now confidently recognize several wildflowers that I had never heard of or seen before. Their names are as colorful as their blooms. Heading toward the hill country of Texas, we left one LBJ for another. About an hour outside of Austin is Johnson City and Stonewall where Lyndon Baines Johnson was born and enjoyed most of his life on the family LBJ Ranch sometimes called the Texas White House. The property is still a working cattle ranch, but it is a National Park and there are tours of the property. At the moment, tours are not allowed inside the home due to structural issues. There is still a lot to see and learn about the 36th President. The airplane hangar is the visitor center and it is filled with great photos and interesting tape recordings and memorabilia from the LBJ administration. LBJ had favorite guests sign their names in concrete instead of a guestbook. Fun fact; the LBJ Ranch flag has five stars for five LBJs; Lyndon Baines, Lady Bird, Luci Baines, Lynda Bird and Little Beagle.
As we continued through hill country, we learned that the area has the perfect climate and soil for grapes. Who knew Texas wine was a thing? We taste-tested at Becker vineyards and yes, they were lovely wines. The German town of Fredricksburg was so overrun with tourists we continued on our way south and west. No pretzels and beer for us!
The back roads are scenic and vast. As we pass the occasional town, we also pass some interesting road signs.We drove through Sisterdale, Comfort and Castroville, each town smaller than the one before. We chose a local diner with the necessary four different calendars on the wall deeming it a worthy place to eat (I forgot to take that photo). Perfect to prepare us for the next day’s journey.