Are we hot or are we cool?
We woke to overcast skies and what looked like a breeze outside, but when we stepped out, in that short time between the hotel door and the open door of the car we realised that it was just as hot and twice as humid.
As we set out, we passed the legions of youngsters we’ve been mingling with since we arrived. They wear lanyards with RTX on them and Mary learned this evening that the convention has attracted 60 000 this year. No wonder we feel outnumbered!
We could see the Capitol building as soon as we turned onto Congress Avenue. That was to be the first on our list today.
It’s a fine building and we looked forward to seeing inside, happy to find that it’s open on Sunday morning of a holiday weekend.
We passed through security and walked down a quiet corridor past Senators’ offices, stopping for a minute outside Kelly Hancock’s door to admire the family photo and small succulent arrangement; a small personal touch in an otherwise bland interior.
We came across a staff member sitting working behind bars in the former Treasury. I asked him if he felt secure in there and he smiled, saying that sadly, there was no longer any money there to ensure his security! He was actually a staff member of the visitor service and suggested that if we had any questions, we should return and he’d do his best to answer them for us.
What came as the biggest surprise for us was the sheer number of visitors. The place was really crowded and extraordinarily noisy. We, who have normally had these places, if not to ourselves, very nearly so, were confounded. Apparently this state Capitol receives the highest number of visitors after the Federal Capitol in Washington DC.
And yet, beyond the usual dome, there really wasn’t that much to see.
The star in the dome has “TEXAS” in there too, by the way…not that I’d have noticed that if the enlarged photograph wasn’t hanging on our hotel room wall!
Only a couple of rooms were open for viewing. Here, the State Supreme Court held our interest for a few minutes, mostly whilst I imagined why people might choose to sit behind that pillar!
Lingering in the doorway, I spotted the decorative hinges, pretty similar to those we’d seen earlier in our trip.
I was amused to think that everyone who sat for any length of time in one of those seats would find themselves embossed with the star motif in one or both places.
The House of Representatives was undergoing renovation, so only the Senate was open today. We snapped our pictures before the two or three coach parties arrived, so it looks deserted (but wasn’t!)
The portraits of recent Senate members were interesting, because of those small portraits which were included.
Since 1919, children and grandchildren of Senators have been included there as mascots and an ongoing reminder of who will benefit from state legislature – or not.
Before stepping out of the Senate, I looked up. Sure enough, there were TEXAS stars overhead.
A star on the doormat.
And yes, stars on the fence.
Before we left, though, we took a few photographs of the Tejano monument, which was set in the grounds with a rather busy backdrop. I was reminded of the Lewis and Clark bronzes outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City but felt that this one was more five separate vignettes and didn’t gel quite so successfully as a group.
I liked the detail though.
But that was it for the Capitol. We reflected on our disappointment and thought it strange that what we felt was one of the least impressive interiors attracted the greatest number of visitors. Who knows? Anyway, it was time for us to move right along to #2 on our list today.
This rather brutal building belied the fascinating contents within.
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum was the third Presidential Library of our trip and we hoped for a more enriching experience than we’d had in Dallas the other day.
We needn’t have worried. From the moment we stepped inside we were able to get a grasp of the man and his presidency and I found the whole place very impressive indeed.
I knew very little about the man or his achievements, being the non-historian in our family and having been too young to remember events of that time period in detail. Of course, I knew how he became President so suddenly, even if I don’t remember what I was doing on that day.
I enjoyed reading the annotated speeches, particularly this one, which must have been the speech he least wanted to make. I also enjoyed listening to the man himself, mostly on the telephone, for his conversations were all recorded and now released for the museum. How fascinating to hear the voices of such notable figures and how surprised I was to hear Jacquie Kennedy’s tiny little voice when I’d expected her to speak more confidently.
Whilst reading the Civil Rights story there, I was pleased to catch sight – and hear – John Lewis once more. He seems to have followed us along our Road Trip and it was good to tie up so many threads here as the Civil Rights Legislation was passed by LBJ’s government.
I learned a great deal as I followed the story of LBJ’s presidency. I had no idea how young men were drafted to serve in Vietnam or that a lottery was introduced. (Sorry for the glare in the photograph but I wanted to remember that detail). What a cruel means of selection.
The sombre story of the Vietnam conflict was the last chapter of the exhibit, and it stayed with me as we moved fairly quickly through the “fun bits”; the gifts, the snippets about family life in the White House and so on.
The last corner was Lady Bird’s office. We were told that after LBJ’s death, she continued to come to her office and work here, so her office was staged too, including the “can do” desk motto. More than anywhere else in the museum, the decor said “1970s”. (We’d actually found it hard to believe that the museum was around 45 years old till then)
The one thing I’ll take away with me is the wealth of legislation passed during those six years. Very impressive.
Now, after such a thought provoking few hours, what might we do next? My hero had identified an upscale shopping mall where he thought we might spend an hour, so for our #3 adventure of the day, we went shopping. Or rather, we went looking.
Now, it’s someone’s birthday in a few day’s time and as we got out of the car, I said that if he saw anything he liked, then I’d be glad to have an idea for a birthday present.
So we stopped in the Tesla shop! We oohed and aaahed for some time, had demonstrations of various features, marvelled at the technology and not once was a birthday mentioned. I think I got away with that one
We might have stopped for a little light refreshment.
We certainly noted that in this uber-cool neighbourhood, there are not only food carts but there are pop-up clothes stores in carts too. Buy a suit from the back of a lorry? Not long ago, that would have had an altogether different connotation!
But following a couple of enthusiastic shoppers, we realised that The Domain was not really aimed at the likes of us and heading for the car (a Chrysler, sadly, not a Tesla) we returned to the hotel and cooled down.
We are told by the concierge that it’s forecast to be 108F tomorrow, our last full day here. We’d better make the most of it.