LEAP Center Midwestern Tour: Day One

Little Rock, Arkansas and More

Our week-long trip began with a flurry of motion. Loading up in Huntsville, we embarked on the winding nineteen-hour drive towards Madison, Wisconsin. From discussing the attractive qualities of smart phones to what attracts Sam Houston students to the activities Huntsville offers, we covered many topics along the way.

Stopping briefly in Jefferson, Texas to refuel, we took in the extravagant wood churches and red brick roads the small town boasts. Awed by wraparound porches and Victorian-style homes, we toured the town by car quickly enough to stay on track with our journey without missing much, and soon we were at the Arkansas border.

Constance, Silvia, Ariel, and Arkansas
Constance, Silvia, Ariel, and Arkansas

We also took the first of what would eventually be some 200,000 selfies.

Selfie Sisters
Selfie Sisters

We continued the drive through Texarkana and then on to Hope, Arkansas where we visited the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton_Home_Girls_2

Leaving all Hope behind, we meandered through Arkadelphia and Benton and on to Little Rock, Arkansas, where we stopped for dinner and some more sightseeing.

Priorities on food first, we strolled into Sonny Williams’ Steak Room, our bellies grumbling. We began our feast with a sausage and cheese platter that was mind-blowing – or so our starving stomachs thought. Trying three types of sausage (venison, pheasant, and rabbit), we were wowed by Chef Clay Sipes’ culinary skill and finesse. The beef tips and shrimp, coupled with not-so-ordinary garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, certainly hit the spot. Of all the food, the lamb chops with goat cheese may have been the best.

Lamb Chops at Sonny Williams
Lamb Chops at Sonny Williams

After indulging in dessert, we regrettably took leave of the memorable restaurant to explore all that we could in Little Rock.

Possibly, the best part of the entire day was the opportunity to allow our inner child to emerge while we explored the Riverwalk, played on different playgrounds, and walked through the sculpture garden. The brightly-lit bridges gave off a beautiful glow as we walked through the amphitheater and into the playground.

Junction Bridge
Junction Bridge

The pathways were landscaped and lined with trees and flowers. We guided ourselves through the History Pavilion and found a very welcome surprise on the other side: Peabody Park playground. With rope ladders, slides, and caves…

Silvia Chiapponi
Silvia Chiapponi

…it was, by far, one of the most interesting and fun parks we had ever been to.

Constance Gabel
Constance Gabel

While Peabody Park was fun, we didn’t stop our adventure there! On the path to the music park we came across the sculpture garden. The landscaping in the garden was beautiful, however, the real stars were the sculptures, lining the park and serving as centerpieces along the path. The sculptures ranged from women dancing to brilliantly-sculpted origami statues. As we walked through the garden to the music park, the sculptures became smaller and sparser until we reached our destination.

The music park was equally amazing. There were several large musical instruments – oversized bongos and xylophones – placed around the park that weren’t just art pieces – they could be played. We took turns creating various sounds, some beautiful, some not necessarily so.

Little Rock is famous for its Six Bridges over the Arkansas River that connect Little Rock to North Little Rock. After our playground and sculpture garden experience, we had the opportunity to visit two of the four pedestrian bridges on the Little Rock side.

First, we headed to the Junction Bridge, located in front of the River Market. At night, there’s a beautiful view over the Arkansas River, with the colorful bridge lights reflecting on the water.

Junction Bridge
Junction Bridge

Then, we headed to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Unfortunately, it was closed; nonetheless, we were able to admire its modern bridge-like structure. In fact, the Presidential Library was designed to look like a bridge to complement the Six Bridges, and to serve as a “bridge to the future.” In front of the Library is the Rock Island Bridge, also known as the Clinton Presidential Bridge.

Little Rock at Night
Little Rock at Night

Because we visited Little Rock on a breezy October night, our experience was peaceful and undisturbed, with no crowds. We encountered a few visitors along the way, some interesting characters, and some beautiful sights.

The Old Statehouse
The Old Statehouse

Our short stay in Little Rock was interesting and unique, and reflected the spirit of the LEAP Center.  And with that hopeful spirit, we headed on to Missouri deep into the night, awaiting the adventures of the next day in St. Louis.

Missouri_Sign

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s