The Western White House

This past Saturday, I finally got to go visit a place that’s been sitting on my Texas trip list, the tiny town of Crawford. Thoughts of visiting this place had originally hatched back in March, when I saw a road sign for there while heading back to the airport from neighboring Bosque County. My former coworker Holly, who is from Valley Mills, had also suggested that I check out the Coffee Shop Cafe, a pretty well-known restaurant only 10 minutes from Crawford. The deal was sealed from there!

Best known as the location of former President George W. Bush’s ranch, Crawford sits about 20 miles to the west of Waco. With a population of less than 800 people, this was one of the least populated towns I have seen to date.

Being that Crawford didn’t have its own airfield, I landed at the Waco Regional Airport. The winds aloft were close to calm that day, and combined with a high-pressure system made for a pretty smooth ride in. Upon landing, I was expecting to grab the crew car and head off to see the “Western White House”, but unfortunately another pilot had taken it and wouldn’t be back until an hour later. Not wanting to let this time slip by, I decided to see if I could get a tour of the control tower located at the airline terminal.

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The control tower at the Waco airport.

The controller that I spoke to on the phone was very friendly, and told me to just come over and they would let me in. It took me about 5 minutes to walk from the FBO(private aircraft terminal) to the airline terminal right down the road. Upon entering, I pressed the buzzer at the door going up to the tower, and was escorted in.

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Although this tower shows its age, the equipment inside is very modern and the staff well trained! My tour guide, one of the controllers, first showed me their Terminal Radar Approach Control(TRACON). The TRACON is a small, dark room with radar scopes and about 3-4 controllers. They talk to aircraft that are either departing, arriving, or passing thru Waco’s airspace. Everyone was laid back, and I got to ask them about some of the unique aspects of their airspace, and see the equipment they use to safely guide planes to where they need to go. Having toured the Dallas/Fort Worth TRACON, I have to say that although this is a small facility, they appeared to be just as professional and knowledgeable as the D/FW guys.

After spending about 10 minutes in TRACON, we then went up to the tower cab. The place where the best view of the airport is, only one controller was up there directing traffic. With only 5 airline flights a day, Waco isn’t busy like DFW Airport or even Love Field. The majority of the traffic are general aviation flights, with corporate jets and piston aircraft alike using the field.

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These folks have a nice view..almost as nice of a view as that of a pilot! (;

The controller working up there was awesome and answered all of my questions regarding tower operations, procedures, and how departing aircraft are entered into the system if they wish to be worked by air traffic control. These folks have a sharp mind, as there is little room for error.

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My tour guide and I, with the general aviation ramp in the background.

I didn’t want to keep them away from their job for too long, so I headed back to the FBO after about 30 minutes. A bit after, the crew car finally came back, and I set out on my journey to Crawford.

The drive took about 25 minutes, and was quite pleasant. Not many cars were headed that way, and shortly I had arrived. As I was entering town, I passed by the Crawford Peace House. The Peace House was a residential house that was used as a base of sorts by anti-war protesters during Bush’s tenure. Protesters would eat and organize there before heading out. Before departing on this trip, I had done some research on the current state of the place, and it turned out that the house was on the verge of being auctioned off due to foreclosure. When I passed by it, there were no signs of it ever being a staging ground for people voicing dissent. Only one car was seen outside, and had someone not pointed it out(or done some research), one couldn’t tell it apart from the other houses in town.

As I kept on driving in, I saw their downtown area. Calling it an area is already stretching the word, as it was the smallest downtown I have seen to date! It is comprised of one side of one street.

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This is the entirety of their downtown!

This place was very busy whenever Bush was here back when he was in office, but now it is just short of being a ghost town. I only saw one shop advertising Bush memorabilia, and they were closed.

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The only place in Crawford still selling Bush memorabilia.

Out of the five buildings that make up this area, one of them is their city hall and sole police station. I wonder what the history of the city hall building is – it looked like it was a retail store at some point in time.

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That’s sure a small city hall..and that police station is probably just a room or two!

There was also a nice little mural titled “The Spirit of America”. It went to show the things that represent this little town – home of George and Laura Bush, the Crawford High School Pirates, and the hard work of the American farmer.

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Small town murals are some of my favorite forms of public art.

After getting done seeing downtown, my original plan was to drive to Bush’s ranch, located about 17 minutes away. However, the delay from waiting on the crew car made that a no-go, compounded by the fact that you can’t really see his ranch other than a guard shack. Instead, I decided to break for lunch at the Coffee Shop Cafe, located in the nearby town of McGregor.

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Heading south to McGregor.

The drive south to McGregor took about 10 minutes. Light traffic made driving down the two-lane road quite peaceful. By the time I could feel my hunger, I had already pulled up to the front doors of the Coffee Shop Cafe.

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Opened in 1998, Coffee Shop Cafe is one of the most well known restaurants in the area. In fact, this joint is such a part of local culture that even George Bush, his staffers, and foreign heads of state were known to stop by!

Being that it was lunchtime, I opted for their country buffet line. Since I was vegetarian, I could only get the non meat items. However, I didn’t feel left out in the least. In addition to a salad bar, they had a wealth of different sides, including mashed potatoes, corn, yams, green beans, and rice.

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Plenty of good tasting food left, even at around 2 PM!

The food was delicious, however it was on the lighter tasting side compared to what I usually eat. This is the kind of grub that after a round or two you will be filled up..maybe so full that you don’t have room for dessert!

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Pretty far from containing a lot of salt. Solid country cooking.

Speaking of dessert, that is something they are well known for. Co-owner Valerie mentioned to me that their pies have been named some of the best in Texas by several magazines. On top of that, Holly had mentioned the pies during her recommendation of this place to me as well. Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to get any, but it will definitely be on the table for next time.

Before leaving, I took a few minutes to check out some of their interior decorations. The whole restaurant is themed after ‘W, and they did a great job piecing together memorabilia to provide customers with a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

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They even sell Bush memorabilia and t-shirts.

Upon leaving the Coffee Shop Cafe, it was time to start heading back. The drive to the Waco Regional Airport took around 30 minutes. On the way back, I passed thru the southwest side of Waco, somewhere I had not been to in all my visits to Bear Country!

Once back at the airport, the flight home was quite bumpy due to mid day heating, but otherwise uneventful. In summary, this was a great trip, in spite of the unexpected delay right at the start. I don’t think I really missed out on anything by skipping the drive to the Bush ranch, but it might be something I go see in the future if I am ever in Crawford again(super unlikely). However, McGregor and the Coffee Shop Cafe is now on my list of places to visit should I be in the mood for some delicious country cooking!

Wait…did I just plan my next visit there by saying that?

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