We left Huntsville excited about the prospect of learning more about our great nation’s past and being present for history in the making-Governor Greg Abbot’s Inauguration. We split up the three-hour drive by stopping in Elgin, Texas for some lip-smacking Meyer’s barbeque. Here we enjoyed a large variety of different meats, including brisket, sausage, chicken, ribs, turkey, pulled pork, and chopped beef. To accompany the excellent protein options, we tried their tasty sides, of which potato salad was a group favorite. The wooden furniture and rustic décor made the food taste even better, as the atmosphere transported us back in time to the Wild, Wild West. The staff at the restaurant was very friendly and respectful; we could not have asked for a better pit stop during our journey.
Finally we made it to our first stop in downtown Austin, where we visited the LBJ Presidential Library. Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th president of the United States. The museum was fascinating in that every aspect of his life was displayed. His greatest impact on the political system was the Great Society, as the legislation covered issues such as Medicare, Immigration Act, and voting rights. President Johnson impacted civil rights and worked directly with Martin Luther King Jr., while their movement continues to prevail today. Following an interesting eleven minute video…
The infrastructure of the library consisted of ten levels, some of which contained the presentation of the Whistle Stop Tour, The Oval Office, and The Tragedy and Transition of President Kennedy, as well as hundreds of thousands of documents related to his presidency.
Throughout the museum we observed many unique historical artifacts tied to LBJ and his family.
Along with these artifacts were audio recordings of LBJ’s phone calls, serving as perfect examples of the “Johnson Treatment”. Before departure, we stopped by the gift shop to purchase a souvenir to commemorate this portion of our Austin trip.
We rushed from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum and Library to arrive at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum about two hours before closing. Located just down the street from the Capitol Building, the Texas history museum welcomed us with much commotion as the staff prepared for one of the many inaugural celebrations. We navigated through the hustle and bustle to reach the main event, three floors of dense Texas history.
The first floor covered much of early Texas history, from the Native Americans that originally settled the Lone Star State to early Mexican conquests. From movies to interactive recordings, we learned of early colonial life and of the hardships that living on the land created. Strolling through each room, we journeyed through time to study the different Indian tribes that originally settled the land we now call Texas. From the Alabama-Coushatta tribe to the Cherokee people, it was evident that the “white man” took unabashedly what was not his to take. Both white settlers and Mexicans alike wronged the Native American people.
Leaving the first floor behind, we made our way upward to discover the history behind the Republic of Texas and later the State of Texas. Finding much information on our great former President and later Governor, the honorable Sam Houston, we studied mission life in Texas during the early 19th century, when Texas was recognized as independent from Mexico, only after defeating Santa Anna at the 18 minute-long Battle of San Jacinto. This section of the museum particularly struck a chord in LEAP Center students, as Sam Houston stands as the namesake of our school.
We also saw a model of the intriguing “Goddess of Liberty,” the statue that sits atop the Texas Capitol. Up close, her features are exaggerated, even grotesque, but this is necessary to give definition to her features from hundreds of feet away, which is how she is typically viewed when atop the Capitol Building.
With just a few minutes to spare, we made it to the third floor. Here, we explored the more modern aspects of Texas history, like ranching, oil, rice, NASA, and woman’s rights. Interestingly enough, most Texans know of the ranching and oil history, but most do not understand the role of rice in the Texan economy and the national impact Texas made on woman’s rights. Rice fields added value to marshy lands in the Beaumont area, where many thought hope was lost to cultivate and prosper. Also, Texas was the first state in the South to adopt the 19th amendment and give woman the right to vote. We finished exploring the third floor after quickly reading up on the Women Air force Service Pilots, who legally flew in the military during World War II, and perusing the exhibit about the place space exploration holds in Texas history.
We left the vast history museum after just barely quenching our thirst for knowledge and in search of the Driskill Hotel for a coffee pick-me-up. We were awed by the grace and majesty of the 5 star hotel. The selections on their menu were delectable to read, much less enjoy. After giving our multiple options much thought, we decided on things like caramel lattes and decadent chocolate cake. Some of us even indulged in The Driskill’s smooth and savory banana split. The architecture of the hotel complimented our afternoon snack perfectly, with ornate ceilings and plush floors.
While in Austin, we had the chance to network with fellow Sam students who are interning at the Capitol this legislative session. They met us on the corner of Lavaca Street to participate in a downtown Segway tour. What an exciting opportunity, to tour downtown Austin on a Segway, after such a history intensive day. Each LEAP Center adventurer was personally trained by an expert on how to maneuver a Segway. Although we all were coerced into wearing protective gear, that did not stop the fear of possible injury. Throughout the tour, we learned about the history of downtown Austin. We bore witness to the State Capitol…
…the Governor’s mansion, and many other historic buildings, such as the first ever “sky scraper” in downtown. After about 2 hours of dodging traffic, we finally mastered the skill of segwaying and headed to Fogo De Chao to soothe our aching stomachs.
For our group’s final savory food stop we dined at an all you can eat Brazilian steak house, Fogo de Chao, in downtown Austin. This restaurant was fine dining, quite a treat for everyone in attendance. Dinner began with a visit to the world class salad bar, consisting of many delectable salad ingredients. Once we finished our salads, we began the meat portion of the dinner. By showing a green or red card, we signaled to the wait staff whether we were ready for the next option. The green card caused all of the wait staff to ambush us with their signature cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Once the cut was presented to us, we had the option of choosing the way the meat was cooked. Once we finished with the main course and had all of the meat that we wanted, it became time to choose which coffee and dessert met our fancy. The desert menu was just as overwhelming as the main course, but we handled ourselves appropriately and ordered cheesecake, crème brule, chocolate mousse cake, and papaya cream. Fogo De Chao defied all expectations and left us feeling stuffed beyond imagine.
And it was in that full and exhausted state that we retired to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s inauguration.