This week, we talk to RV salesman who has become a celebrity video star with a huge following you’d never have expected from the first video shot almost a decade ago

He is Dean Corrigal, from Leisure Travel Vans, who shares with us how he became a YouTube star in his own right and therefore the most popular RV Salesman in all of North America

We have lots of RV News for you, answer your questions, share some RV tips and trips, including a great off the beaten path report from the Burketts.

Show Notes for Episode #263 October 9, 2019 of The RV Podcast;

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

We’re just back from the California RV Show, held at the California Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. We met so many of our followers and really enjoyed this show, the biggest in the West. Look for a full video on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel this Thursday.

This week we head up to Mackinac Island n a short family vacation.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Dish Outdoors, which lets RVers pay as they go and watch HD satellite television from wherever they are camped with easy to set up gear made with the RVer in mind. Just go to https://rvlifestyle.com/dish for details on the service and special deal just for listeners of this podcast.

RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK

JENNIFER
Growing popularity of Glacier National Park triggering new plans to manage crowds 
Long time readers know we love Glacier National Park, so it was with great interest we read a story out last week about the Park Service’s concern in how to deal with the growing popularity of the park. Nearly 3.5 million people visit the park each year, which is three times the population of Montana. The growing crowds are causing extreme gridlock, parking lot congestion, and many other challenges. One of the options under consideration is a shuttle system. Glacier is one of our favorite national parks, with wildlife and views that are spectacular. To get a glimpse of what makes it so special, see one of our videos of a gathering we held at Glacier here.
MIKE
Man severely burned after falling into hot spring near Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser 
A man was severely burned at Yellowstone National Park last week after he fell into a hot spring at the Old Faithful geyser. The man told rangers he went for a walk after dark without a flashlight and fell into the thermal water. But rangers found the man’s shoe, hat and a beer can and footprints leading to and from the geyser. The matter is now being investigated and the man is recovering at a local hospital.
JENNIFER
Park service seeks to know why so many wolves relocated to Isle Royale die
We have shared with you before the year-plus effort by the National Park Service to repopulate remote Isle Royale National Park in Michigan’s upper peninsula with wolves. The island is overrun with moose, which are wreaking havoc on its ecosystem, and its once thriving wolf population which used to keep them in check is dying out, down to just one male and one female, both aging. But as the park service has captured and released wolves from Minnesota, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, on the island, three have died shortly after their release and one walked across the frozen ice to return to the mainland last winter. This interesting article explores what scientists are doing to try to determine why.
MIKE
Man dies at Idaho campground after fifth wheel falls on him 
A 71-year-old man died last week in an Idaho campground when his RV fell on top of him. The man was jacking up his fifth wheel trailer when it fell on top of him, trapping him underneath. Others at the campground freed the man and started CPR until first responders arrived. He died at the scene. The man was camping at the Snake River RV Park and Campground. 
JENNIFER
Wildfires in New Mexico’s Carson National Forest burning near El Rito  
Wildfires in New Mexico last week were reported near the El Rito Campground in the Carson National Forest and were still burning as of this writing. The cause of the fires is unknown and is near the city of El Rito. If you’re planning to head that way to camp, be sure to check ahead. 

 This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping  

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

QUESTION: I am going to purchase a Class A RV in the near future and after reading your guide about the loss of value as soon as you drive a new rig off the lot, I want to buy a low time used RV.  My question:  Are there “buyer brokers” that could find me the best value for the money that I could “contract” with, that would really just represent my best interests?   Are there knowledgeable buyer  brokers out there  that will be completely subjective as to my needs and not have a “seller” agenda?  If you know, I would appreciate your advice about this and how I would find one.  Thanks, Gary

ANSWER: I know of no such person or company that does that, though some dealerships may claim to do so, their first interest is always in selling their company’s inventory and not that of a private seller or the units on a competing dealers lots. There’s no way t get out of doing your own careful shopping and searching for TVs that meet your needs. We can help with ur RV Buyer’s Guide ebook and once you narrow your search down to a coiple of prospects, our best advice is to hite a qualified RV Inspector. Go to the National RV Inspectors Association website https://nrvia.org/ and you’ll find a search form that will locate the closest certified inspector to you.

QUESTION: Ran into your youtube channel and love you both!!  I’m probably 10 years from purchasing a new RV, but hope to rent one for some upcoming vacations.  I’m intrigued by Leisure Travel Vans, but my question would be is demand going to outweigh supplies?  All the research I do says that finding a LTV is going to be a long wait – and renting one seems even more unlikely. Thanks for your work – you guys are very informative and oh so cute! Dan

ANSWER: For popular RVs like those made by LTV, it is a seller’s market, Demand really outstrips supply. It takes 8 to 10 months from the time you put in your order until the RV is built and delivered to you. There are several private companies that do rent out RVs. To see if you can rent one of the make and model you want, try https://www.outdoorsy.com/ or https://rvshare.com/  But let me also tell you that there is also a huge demand for RVs to be rented. That’s one of the reasons we have our RV Renting School course. More info can be found at https://rvlifestyle.com/rentingschool  Finally, you say you won’t be buying for 10 years. A lot will change in the RV industry in that time. But by buying an RV now, and then renting ot out, you can literally have the RV pay for itself. That then gives you the enjoyment of using it now, whenever you want, then renting it out and earning income from it when you’re not using it.

Do you have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990.  If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at https://rvlifestyle.com/lithium

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK

One of our most favorite characters in the RV industry is Dean Corrigal, the very enthusiastic on camera spokesman for Leisure Travel Vans. Over the past few years, Dean has become the most popular RV Salesman in North America. His on camera tours of his company’s RVs have been watched more than 31 million times and the channel has over 136,000 subscribers.

Dean has become not only the best-known RV salesman in North America, but a full-fledged celebrity in his own right.

He’s also a terrific guy who we’ve gotten to now well over the years as we’ve encountered him at various RV shows. Last week at the California RV Show in Fontana, we got him to come in to the display a little earlier, before the public arrived, and to sit down for an interview about how it all began and what it’s like being a celebrity salesman.

Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Mike Wendland:           Well, we’re sitting in a brand new Leisure Travel Van, and this is the first time I think I’ve ever seen Dean sit down at an RV show, but we had to come early because once it starts, there you go.

Dean Corrigal:               That’s right.

Mike Wendland:           Thank you for spending some time with us.

Dean Corrigal:               No problem. Thank you for having me. Sounds fun.

Mike Wendland:           What we want to know is about Dean. Tell us about Dean Corrigal. How did you get into this business and how did you become this guru of doing RV video tours?

Dean Corrigal:               You know, kind of a funny thing, I started selling RVs at a retail lot back in the ’90s and the factory reps would come in and I thought, oh, they were pretty cool. They didn’t have to set up the show, they go out, drinks for the guys after the show. I thought, “Oh, I should be an RV rep, that’s way more fun.” Be careful for what you wish for, right, because then you get it. The video thing just came out of necessity, we were coming out of that recession, ’08, ’09. I mean, half the RV dealers in the US went bankrupt, GE cut off all the flooring plan money. We had just come out with the new Unity model and we didn’t know how we were going to sell it. So Ryan, our general manager.

Mike Wendland:           Ryan Elias, yeah.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, third generation ownership of our company, he said, “Hey, we’re going to do a YouTube video.” I said, “Okay.”

Mike Wendland:           This is how long ago?

Dean Corrigal:               This was in 2009.

Mike Wendland:           Okay.

Dean Corrigal:               So he says, “We’re going to do a YouTube video and that’s how we’re going to sell the Unitys, because nobody can see him, dealers have no flooring plan, they can’t floor him.” I said, “Okay, yeah, sure. Whatever.” And then he says, “And you’re going to do the video.” And I said, “Oh, no, I’m not.” We had built the very first Unity MB for Al Yoder, which was one of the founders of Jayco. He actually came to us with that and said, “Hey, will you build this for me?” We said, “Well, why don’t you get Jayco to do it?” Once again, everybody’s in that recession, which really killed the RV industry. He says, “I’m retired now. They don’t listen to me.” So we built it and it turned out to be fabulous and built the second one, and we shot the video in January at minus 22 in Winkler, Manitoba.

Mike Wendland:           Now, we should tell everybody that you live in Winkler.

Dean Corrigal:               I do, yep. Work right at the factory, yeah.

Mike Wendland:           Winkler, Manitoba, we’ve been there. It’s pretty cold.

Jen Wendland:              Oh, it’s very cold there. Nice small town.

Mike Wendland:           In the winter time.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah.

Mike Wendland:           Tell us a little bit about Winkler.

Dean Corrigal:               Winkler is a great community, Mennonite community. We’ve been building there since 1965, same family ownership. Great people. I wouldn’t want to work for anybody else. I think they fired me five or six times now, but I just keep coming back to work.

Mike Wendland:           How big is Winkler?

Dean Corrigal:               We have about, what, 11, 12,000 people I think roughly.

Mike Wendland:           So this is one of the big employees in [crosstalk 00:02:43].

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, Triple E Canada. We own a few different companies. We own Low King Industries, Triple E, Leisure Travel Vans.

Mike Wendland:           Now, it’s across the border from North Dakota.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, we’re about 10 minutes.

Mike Wendland:           And about an hour south of Winnipeg.

Dean Corrigal:               Winnipeg, yeah.

Mike Wendland:           You did your first video, you said you shot in January?

Dean Corrigal:               It was January, yeah.

Mike Wendland:           What was that like for you? You’ve never done video before?

Dean Corrigal:               Never, no. It was awful. I remember we shot the video, the slide out was going out, it was screaming because it was so cold. Sounded like a cat got caught in a alternator, you know, one of those noises, and you can see me do a double take, like, “What was that?” We edited the video, we shot it with a Hitachi camera, we edited it, we watched it. I went to the bathroom, threw up and said, “Well, nobody will ever watch that thing.” You know? That’s how it went.

Mike Wendland:           And you’ve done how many videos now?

Dean Corrigal:               Oh, I don’t even know now. I mean, product videos, I guess there’s got to be a hundred at least on YouTube.

Mike Wendland:           Now, the hundred is an important number here because we should proudly point out that you are one of the few YouTube stars that have reached over 100,000 subscribers, and that is phenomenal for what is essentially a corporate YouTube channel.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah. You know, it’s really, I can’t even… My daughter’s very excited.

Mike Wendland:           I was going to, did you know that this was a big milestone?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, no I didn’t, but she told me. I got the plaque and she was so excited, because she follows lots of YouTubers on hair and nails and whatever it is. She was very ecstatic, and I’m like, “Yeah, okay. Whatever.” But I mean, they’re such long videos, I cannot believe. I mean, they’re 30 minutes long. Sitcoms on TV are shorter, because they have commercials. We don’t have any.

Mike Wendland:           Well, it’s kind of fun to watch people as they come to Dean and they say, “Are you really six one?”

Jen Wendland:              Oh, people are so excited to have their picture taken with Dean. It’s really fun to watch.

Mike Wendland:           And they all want you to go stand in the shower, as you do in the video.

Dean Corrigal:               Shower, yeah. The reason we did the height thing was because of, you know, just to try and give some concept, because on the video you can’t tell how big it is. On the first video, this is the funny running joke on the six one thing, is that in the video I first say I’m six feet tall. Then I go into the shower of the Murphy bed, which we’re in right now, I’m in the shower and I go like, “I’m six one, six two,” right? Then all the emails started coming in and going, “Well, does the guy not know how tall he is?” So it’s been a running joke, that’s why now I will say I’m six one, or I’m six, or I’m six two. We kind of have some fun with it.

Mike Wendland:           How much time do you spend preparing for one of those videos?

Dean Corrigal:               Do you really want to know?

Mike Wendland:           I really want to know.

Dean Corrigal:               Not much.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah?

Dean Corrigal:               Nope.

Mike Wendland:           How many takes do you do?

Dean Corrigal:               There’s a few takes, but we want it to be real. We don’t script it, we just go with it. I mean, I work at the factory. I’m a factory rep, I’m one of the few reps that work, a factory rep. A lot of reps work outside their home, but I work at the factory.

Mike Wendland:           What is a factory rep?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, factory rep means that you work at the factory. I’m a factory rep, so I work at the factory and then I travel to the shows or to my dealer network.

Mike Wendland:           And you kind of are on the West Coast?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, I look after all of Canada, just because I looked after all of Canada for Triple A. I’ve been with the company since 2001, so I do all of Canada and I do the West Coast, I do Washington, California, Oregon. I forgot that one. Arizona. That’s kind of my territory.

Mike Wendland:           Have you realized that you are a celebrity?

Dean Corrigal:               No, no.

Mike Wendland:           Come on.

Dean Corrigal:               No, it’s funny, I get a kick out of it, but I’m just shocked that people watch the videos as much as they do. I think we’re at 25 million views, I think total.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah.

Dean Corrigal:               It’s crazy.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah, I mean it’s just amazing.

Jen Wendland:              I know I’ve watched a lot of your videos and learned a lot, and they’re fun. You make it fun.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah.

Mike Wendland:           Now, you said you did the first one back right out of the recession. I mean, that was pretty experimental for then. What was their reaction?

Dean Corrigal:               Like our company?

Mike Wendland:           Yeah.

Dean Corrigal:               They weren’t too happy. Some people in the company, because we were a very private Mennonite company, we weren’t really out for the splash. They’ve never came to me and said, “Listen, what’s our market share?” They don’t care about that. Are our employees happy, are our customers happy, are our dealers happy? Those three can be interchangeable in any direction. They do not care about market share. They do not. They’ve never come to me and said, “Hey, your market share in California’s terrible,” ever. Never. Just can we make money? Can we be profitable? Are the employees happy? Are our customers happy?

Mike Wendland:           Do you need a hair and clothing allowance?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah. No, yeah, I should get one. Yeah, I need some.

Mike Wendland:           Well, Dean, I know you’re not going to probably want to talk about this, but I know from covering the industry that you have had several job offers from other companies who would like you to do the same thing.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, once in a while somebody will.

Mike Wendland:           Does that surprise you?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah.

Mike Wendland:           That this is, I mean-

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, it is.

Mike Wendland:           This happened all by happenstance.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, it all happened by whatever, by fluke or whatever, by just out of necessity, right? Because we had a new product line as I said earlier, and how are we going to sell it in the middle of a recession? The weird thing was that we were busy all through that recession. Everybody was like, “Oh man, Fleetwood went bankrupt, Monica went bankrupt.” Some big companies really suffered, but we were like, wow, this thing is just, you know, we’re busy, we’re busy, we’re busy. It’s been crazy.

Mike Wendland:           When did you first realize that there was a market and that this was an effective marketing tool for selling RVs?

Dean Corrigal:               You know, probably, and I kept, I think I still have them, I probably have a hundred emails from customers that said, “I bought the motor home,” this is 2010, 2011, we didn’t have much product and the dealer’s gone. “I bought the motor home sight unseen, I’ve never seen it. I watched your video, I dropped $130,000, $150,000 on the motor home. It better to be as good as you say, or I’m going to come up to Winkler and straighten you out.” I probably have a hundred emails like that, where people just bought right off the internet, and even today because we have the new RL, we have over 60 retail solds on that new RL, and we had only built one that we were kind of touring a little bit around, but people ordered it right off the internet.

Mike Wendland:           They saw it. When you say right off the internet.

Dean Corrigal:               Right off the internet.

Mike Wendland:           They got it right off of your video.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, right off the YouTube video.

Mike Wendland:           They saw you demonstrate that and bought it.

Dean Corrigal:               Called the dealer.

Mike Wendland:           Without even touching it.

Dean Corrigal:               Without even touching it. I know, it’s really quite amazing. That part probably surprises me more than anything else, the fact that people trust us and they put their money down. I mean, they don’t know us really, right?

Mike Wendland:           So there’s got to be some pretty funny stories about doing these. I mean, 30 minute video is a pretty… And you’d do them all, I know you did several takes, but you basically do them all one shot all the way through.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, we go out in the units, we stay in the units, me and my camera guy. I have a great, by the way, it wouldn’t work without Josiah and Steve. They’re just, they’re probably two of the best. They could work in Hollywood, I honestly believe that, but they’re good and they kind of keep me straight.

Mike Wendland:           Tell us about your family and your background and how did you end up selling RVs?

Dean Corrigal:               You know, just I’ve always been in sales all my life. I’ve always liked sales. I like people, I like to be with people, and I love my dealers, love my sales guys. Having played a lot of sports, I think it’s one thing about sales, you’re kind of with a team, right? It kind of feels that way, so I’ve always liked that part of it. I’ve always been in sales, got a good family, I’ve been on the road 140, 150 days a year, so everything has to be calm at home.

                                    My daughter just turned 19, she used to do videos with me. She was in some of our earlier videos when she was young. It’s kind of funny to watch her grow up. Now she doesn’t want to do it anymore, but it’s kind of funny. So yeah, good. We all live in Winkler, we have a good little life there and a great company, good product.

Mike Wendland:           Now, Winkler is a small town and you’ve told us a little bit about your family, but I’m really curious about as you travel around, and here’s this guy that’s a sales rep, he’s the factory rep, he’s doing these shows and there are people standing in line to take their pictures with you.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, yeah.

Mike Wendland:           I mean, I don’t know of anybody, any other RV person in the industry that that happens to know.

Dean Corrigal:               No, I know. It’s surreal, you know?

Mike Wendland:           Do you find yourself getting recognized at restaurants and out shopping?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, sometimes. My daughter especially gets disgusted by it, so the best one ever, we went to Cuba maybe six years ago. First time, we’d never been to Cuba.

Mike Wendland:           This was a vacation?

Dean Corrigal:               Yep, holiday.

Mike Wendland:           Family vacation.

Dean Corrigal:               Yep, Christmas time, and we get to the resort a little late at night, get up the next morning about 10 o’clock. We’re going for breakfast and we’re walking through this huge area where everybody’s eating, maybe 250, 300 people, and somebody screams out, “There’s Dean from Leisure Travel Vans.”

Mike Wendland:           In Cuba.

Dean Corrigal:               In Cuba. I have to admit, I just cracked up crying laughing, because it was probably the funniest, because we’re in another country. I mean, that one was-

Mike Wendland:           That’s-

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, that one was-

Mike Wendland:           Well, with great power comes great responsibility, Dean.

Dean Corrigal:               Well, I don’t know about that. But you know, we build such a great product, it’s fun to represent the product.

Mike Wendland:           You see, he’s always selling. He’s always selling. This is all about you now. I know it’s a good company, but we’re talking about you because you really are, I think, a treasure in the industry. It’s not because of the product. They’re very lucky to have you, but I want to point out one thing. You’re a Canadian guy and everybody says, “Oh, you know, all the Canadian people are nuts about hockey,” but you’re actually nuts about an American sport, and a particular team.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, I’m a big football fan, I’m a big Patriot fan. I’m sure everybody’s seen my Patriot shirts.

Mike Wendland:           How did that happen? In Canada, that’s like sacrilegious.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, funny story. Growing up was, you know, mostly are Minnesota fans where we are, because we’re six hours from Minnesota, Minneapolis. My parents were more Vikings fans and they were playing the Raiders in the Super Bowl, and this black and silver team came running on the field and I said, “Oh, that black and silver team’s going to win.” They were like 21 point underdogs or something crazy, and my dad and my mom are like, “Oh, you don’t know nothing.” I was just a kid then, and so they won of course, and then I was a Raiders fan. So then I was cheering for the Raiders and that tuck rule thing happened, which we’re in California, so they’ll understand that, and I’m going, “What the heck? The Raiders should be going to the Super Bowl.”

                                    So their next game they’re playing Pittsburgh, and my brother was a huge Pittsburgh fan and I said, “If the Patriots beat Pittsburgh, I’m getting rid of all my Raiders stuff and I becoming a New England Patriot fan,” because Tom Brady was a brand new young quarterback, and sure enough they beat Pittsburgh. So then I said to my brother, “Okay, well, if they lose in the Super Bowl, I can go back to being a Raiders fan,” and he goes, “Sure, but if they win you have to give up the Raiders and you have to be a Patriots fan.” And sure enough they won the Super Bowl. Now, whatever it is, 20 years later, I’m still a Patriots fan.

Mike Wendland:           And on the RV sales circuit as well, you said you’re on the road 184 days?

Dean Corrigal:               No, probably want 125 to 145, 150. Somewhere in there, it just depends on the year.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah. Well, that’s great. But you know, you are typecast, even if those other companies do come for you, you could probably never leave because you’re always going to be, “Hey, I’m Dean form Leisure Travel Vans.”

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, I’ll probably be saying that in the video-

Mike Wendland:           “Hi, I’m Dean from Winnebago.” No, it’s not going to work. “I’m Dean from Thor.”

Dean Corrigal:               No, I don’t think it would work. No.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah. Last thing, of course this is the RV Lifestyle. You’ve met so many people over the years, heard their stories, had great stories. Why do you think this is such an attractive lifestyle for so many diverse type of people?

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, you know, that’s a great question. There’s been so many great stories. We do a rally every year, we get a hundred coaches to our rally and you listen to all the stories from the people, and some people that you have had cancer or beat cancer, or some people that have terminal cancer and buy a unit, they’re going to go for one last rip around North America. Those stories.

Mike Wendland:           It’s very humbling, yeah.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, those stories are just so cool. Everybody worked hard for their lives, let’s be honest, these are not cheap units, so these people have worked hard, they’ve raised families, they’ve had great careers and now some of them are in their back end of their career, their lives, and they want to go RVing, they want to go out and just gypsy around. Because they’ve had structure all their life, this gives you unstructured. You can do anything. Like you have an RV, you can stop anywhere. I was driving from, I took the new RL out for the summer and I was going to Portland and I stopped in, I don’t even know where I was, somewhere in Montana and stayed there for a couple of days, you know?

Mike Wendland:           Yeah. You’re there.

Dean Corrigal:               It’s so much fun, and if you have the means and you have the health, you’ve got to do it, because there’s no expiring date on your health, or you don’t know when it is, so don’t wait. People wait too long to do it, and really it’s only money.

Mike Wendland:           It’s only money we haven’t spent yet.

Dean Corrigal:               Right, exactly.

Mike Wendland:           That’s it. Dean Corrigal, it has always been a pleasure to watch you, and I’ve known you now for eight years, [crosstalk 00:15:46], and this has been a really fun. You are one of our absolute favorite people.

Dean Corrigal:               Thank you.

Jen Wendland:              I’m so glad that you gave us this time today.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah, we want to thank you for having a Leisure Travel Van. We really appreciate all the work you guys do. I mean, we get so many customers from you guys. It’s exciting.

Mike Wendland:           Hey, we’re Mike and Jen from Leisure Travel Van.

Dean Corrigal:               Yeah. Yeah, you’ll be taking my job.

Mike Wendland:           No, we can’t even come close.

Dean Corrigal:               That’s great.

Mike Wendland:           Thank you, Dean.

Dean Corrigal:               Thank you.

 

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Patti and Tom Burkett

By Tom and Patti Burkett

One of the best tours I ever had was at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Ranch outside Johnson City, Texas.  This was where the President conducted business during his term in office and where he retired after his Presidency.  What made the tour so good was the chance to see into both the day to day workings of government out here far from Washington, and the look at the personal interests of this unusual man.  For example, Johnson was an early adopter and lover of technology.  Every room of the house had a phone, and in his study were three televisions, so could watch all three major networks at the same time.  It was inspiring to think of the deals the had been made and the world leaders entertained under the spreading oak trees on the front lawn.

LBJ’s boyhood school

Johnson loved a good joke.  He often took his guests, including Nikita Khrushchev, out for a ride and pretended the car’s brakes had failed as it headed downhill toward the river.  They’d be floating with the current before the guest realized they were in an amphi-car, designed to work equally well as a boat.  In the hanger adjacent to the house, you can see this and other Presidential vehicles, as well as his personal plane.  He was fascinated by gadgets.  He especially liked to give gifts, and had a room devoted to presents of all kinds, many related to the ranch or his personal interests.  Among his favorites were electric razors and Stetson hats.

LBJ’s boyhood home

Johnson was serious rancher, and raised prize cattle,  Though you can’t go through it on the excellent auto tour, the main cattle barn is designed so he could drive through it, showing the stock to his guests form the comfort of one of his convertibles.  His family continued to live here after his death until the death of Lady Bird Johnson, and continues to be a working ranch today, despite the thousands of visitors who pass through it.

In the nearby town of Johnson City, we explored Johnson’s boyhood home.  The small frame house, where he grew up sharing a bed with his brother Sam, is a marked contrast to the elegance and spaciousness of the ranch. In the nearby visitor center, a film explores the times and accomplishments of LBJ.  A second film chronicles the life and work of first lady Lady Bird, whose campaigns to eliminate billboards and plant wildflowers along US highways paralleled her husband’s conservation legacy and continue to brighten the travelers way.

These two attractions are right in the middle of bluebonnet country, so if you visit at the right time of year, you’ll not only enjoy stellar weather, you’ll also get to see this Texas native wildflower putting on its annual show along the fields and roadsides.  The last time we were there we ran into the Wendlands and had a chance to sit down to dinner together.  So keep your eyes open,  You never know just exactly what, or who, you’ll see out here off the beaten path.

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