For SHSU’s Moot Court team members, this weekend promised to be a full one. We headed to Lubbock on Thursday, leaving campus around 1:00pm. With a tournament on Friday and Saturday, the weekend was sufficiently stressful, but half the team members were also set to get their LSAT scores, adding a bit of stress and spice to a long weekend.
The weekend’s tournament is being held at Texas Tech Law School. Thirty teams from Texas (plus the powerhouse US Air Force team) will be on hand to compete. As a sign of the rigor involved, 43 teams originally signed up, but more than a third of these teams dropped out in the week prior to the competition, despite having already paid admission fees. Preparation for this competition involves reading 19 cases (approximately 20 pages each), and practicing extensively on body language and speech delivery. We may not win, but all of us are better speakers and more knowledgeable about the law as a result of our work.
With that in mind, we headed west after our Thursday classes. There’s not a lot between Huntsville and Lubbock, Texas, and that made for a long drive, although this did give us some study/prep time, helped on by our coach, Jean Loveall.
The drive was made longer by bad weather most of the way.
And then the drive got more stressful around 6pm, when our three senior members got emails indicating their LSAT scores were available. Well, this made the drive much more interesting! After some group discussion, the three seniors decided to postpone opening their emails until they got to the hotel.
Around 8pm, we pulled in to Perini Ranch steakhouse, which is in Buffalo Gap, Texas (about six miles south of Abilene). The steakhouse’s origins date back to 1973, when Tom Perini began catering for private affairs. He opened his steakhouse in 1983. The restaurant did well, but business took off in 1995, when the New York Times recognized his steaks as the “mail-order gift of the year.” With that recognition, profiles in Texas Highways and Texas Monthly followed, and at the beginning of the G. W. Bush presidency, Perini was asked to serve steaks to members of congress from the White House lawn. It was a memorable day–not because of the steaks, but because it was scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The “steakout” didn’t happen, at least not on that day, as the history-altering terrorist attacks forced a cancellation. More happily, Tom and Lisa Perini were invited back to the White House the next year, and the event proved successful.
Thankfully, our dinner lacked international dramatics and, despite the looming LSAT score discovery process, we were able to try some new foods and enjoy the steak. For appetizers, we all tried “Quail Legs,” which was a new dish for about half of us. For the entree, we all ordered steaks, which we split. The steaks have a great flavor, a product of, among other things, a great “streak rub” (which, incidentally, is for sale online and in the restaurant store). For dessert, we had bread pudding (great!), chocolate cake (I didn’t sample, but it got good reviews), and in an experimental flourish, “Jalapeno Cheesecake.” It was very good!
Special mention should be made of the fact that Austin ate three whole jalapenos during dinner. There was no real explanation for this act of self-torture, other than some sort of behavioral distraction from his impending LSAT discovery. On a related note, Austin also drank six glasses of water at dinner.
After the obligatory pose at the giant armadillo outside of Perini Ranch…
…we settled in for our final stretch. We got in at midnight, when the students wasted no time accessing their LSAT scores. The students have worked hard to position themselves for law schools, and their work has paid off. Armed with solid to strong LSAT scores and excellent grades, their work has been a model for the younger members of the team.
And on that happy note, we moved on to our rooms, hoping to get some rest prior to our competition on Friday!
After a roller-coaster weekend at UNT Law, we had a half of a day left in Dallas before returning to SHSU. We decided to use it by having a little fun and enjoying good food.
We could have had both in Klyde Warren Park, one of Dallas’s newest success stories. Known as the “front lawn of the arts district: for its proximity to the arts district, the park provides an interesting 5-acre public space for families to enjoy a morning or afternoon. It also has a ring of food trucks, offering fare of every kind, making it a great place for a group as diverse as ours to go. But because we like to explore, we had our fun at Klyde Warren Park, before moving elsewhere for lunch.
There are large green spaces at Klyde Warren, with a .45-mile walking trail around it. Along the trail or mini-recreation areas: a kids’ park, a board-game station, a reading library station,
a putting green, a Foosball table, and an amphitheater. The amphitheater can be used for bands and such at night, but is used for yoga at 10am daily. The day we were there, almost 100 people were participating in the yoga relaxation/exercise techniques.
But our primary purpose was to throw the frisbee around, and we soon learned who could catch.
Austin, for example, can catch. In the picture above, notice the Jordanesque-shadow. Of course, he played college football until this year, so we expected him to be athletic.
As it turns out, though, Kaitlyn Tyra can also catch, and she may be a dark-horse for our Spring 2015 Charity Football game.
Professor Yawn is getting up there in age, but we let him play because he grades us.
We think Megan can catch, but we aren’t really sure. She had a strict rule to only move one step in any direction, which earned her the name “One-Step Chapa.” Here she is impersonating a stork.
But the day wasn’t particularly intense for any of us.
Notice the halo over Professor Yawn’s head.
Following some more fun, we had to call it a day at the park…
…and return to the hotel. As we preparing to check out, the hotel went dark. The electricity went out. The LEAP Center Ambassadors pride themselves on adaptability, but this was difficult for Constance Gabel, who was stuck in the hotel elevator. The fire department was called…
…and Constance was extricated from the hotel elevator.
Just in time for us to eat at Twisted Root, a restaurant that specializes in burgers and root beer. Their burgers are wonderful, and their root beer is interesting. The flavor of the day was “Irish Creme Root Beer,” which was better than the root beer from the last time we were there: Grape Root Beer. Of course, that was better than their “Coconut Root Beer.” Their regular root beer is excellent. And their burgers are great.
One of the interesting aspects of their restaurant is that, when you order, they provide you with a name from popular culture as your signal that your burger is ready. In our group, we had Eva Mendes (Kaitlyn), Serena Williams (Beatriz), Apollo Creed (Austin, of course), Matlock (Yawn), Mike Modano (Brian Aldaco), and others. It was interesting to see who knew which references, a process that led Austin to say, “Son, you need to watch more television” to one of the newer members.
With a general consensus that Twisted Root is a good place to lunch, we allowed Constance one more groupie for the weekend…
…and headed home.
But not for rest and relaxation! The week ahead involved our weekly meeting (Monday), a law-school application workshop (Wednesday), a Moot Court Practice (Thursday), a volunteer meeting (Thursday), the showing of Nosferatu (Thursday, whew), a Mock LSAT (Saturday), and a volunteer event (Saturday).
It was a fun second week for participants in the LEAP Center’s heART of Huntsville program. The week involved a behind-the-scenes tour of David Adickes’ “Big Sam” at the Huntsville Visitor Center, a bus tour of the city’s outdoor sculptures, dinner at the new Eclectic Studio, and a wonderful tour of the Adickes’ Foundation.
Jamie Matthews at the Visitor Center offered an informative and welcoming environment for us beginning at 6pm, with snacks and water on hand. We were treated to a viewing of the short animated feature introducing the building of the Sam Houston Statue (and Sam Houston, the man)…
…which was produced by SHSU students in the animation program of the University’s art department. Following the video, we visited the statue, gathered for a group picture….
…and learned cool facts. Did you know, for example, that there is a door to the interior of the statue, allowing people to climb to the top of Big Sam?
We also had an hour-long bus tour of Huntsville’s outdoor sculptures. We would bet that most Huntsville residents don’t know the city has more than 30 such sculptures, including work by world-renowned artists such as Charles Pebworth (“Totem Number One” behind City Hall), Jesus Moroles (two outdoor sculptures on SHSU’s campus and four on the Wynne Home grounds), and Pompeo Coppini (Sam Houston’s grave monument)? While those sculptors may be some of the more famous, there’s also the abstract Christ statue by Brother Melvin Meyer, who completed more than 10,000 sculptures (mostly from recycled materials) before passing away in 2013? Or that one of Stuart Kraft’s two Huntsville sculptures was lost by Huntsville Independent School District? Or that John Stewart’s “Reclining Figure” was inspired by the work of Henry Moore, perhaps the greatest 20th Century sculptor? Or that the seven trees surrounding the “reclining figure” represent the seven astronauts lost in the 1986 Challenger explosion? And how many people know that architect Harry Payne completed more seven or eight structures in Huntsville (e.g., Smither-Martin law firm, Sam Houston Memorial Museum) that are still standing? The arts are just one of the fun things to explore in Huntsville!
For most of us, our dinner was the first time to visit Eclectic Studio, but the food and the art will be bringing us back for more!
Although normally specializing in vegan and vegetarian fare, the chef (Jennie Dickenson) catered to our meat-eating group with scrumptious ribs, potatoes, pasta salad, and wonderful hummus and chips.
One of our participants, Betsy Maloney, even had some of her art work on the walls, along with art by Lee Jamison and Jennie Dickenson. We’d like to thank the POLS department at SHSU for sponsoring this week’s activities and dinner!
The highlight of the evening was the tour of the Adickes’ Foundation, the old Huntsville High School on Avenue H. Containing more than 300 pieces of art by Adickes, it is a wonderful place to spend an evening….
…although, at times, there were so much art to see, we didn’t know which direction to turn!
Each of us had our favorite Adickes’ painting, and we made sure we got him in the picture with us, whether it was Karla…
…we all had fun. Even Ms. Woodward got into the selfie spirit!
But the most successful was a group selfie…
The LEAP Center Ambassadors have been to many art galleries as a group: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ohr-Okeefe Museum in Biloxi (designed by Frank Gehry), the High Museum in Atlanta, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Ransom Center, and more. But as one of the Ambassadors noted, “We’ve been to art museums all over the country, but this one was the coolest, because the artist is with us!”
He spent time discussing how he made certain pieces (one he used coffee to get the color right!), of how tapestries were made, or the art that was in Elvis Presley’s home…
…the stories were as interesting as the art.
And for students who are political science majors, it was a treat to hear about the night he spent in the White House, when he had the privilege of going to the Kennedy Center with George H.W. and Barbara Bush, followed by a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
After a great night of rest, we made our way to the impressive Biloxi Visitors Center. At the visitors center we were able to sign up for a tour Biloxi’s Lighthouse. The Biloxi Lighthouse was built in 1848 with a cast iron exterior and brick interior. It is 65 feet tall and has been electrically operated since 1926. An interesting fact about the Biloxi Lighthouse is that it was civilian operated and many of its operators were women, including one stretch of 50+ years where only women operated it. As we walked to the lighthouse we noticed another one of its unique features: it is the only lighthouse between a highway thoroughfares.
To enter the lighthouse we had to make our way up a wobbly, metal stair case until we reached the top. Once we all reached the lantern room, our tour guide gave us a brief overview of the lighthouse’s history. As we stood in at the top of the lighthouse we began to feel the intense heat caused by the cast iron exterior of the lighthouse.
We couldn’t imagine what it was like to be the lighthouse keeper in the southern heat!
When all of us had enough of the heat we began our journey down the stairs. It was way easier to go down than up, but still frightening for some. Once we were back inside the visitors center we were able to learn more about the lighthouse and the challenges they have faced on the coast of MS. For example, the lighthouse has endured many storms, most notably Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina caused much damage to the lighthouse. It filled the lighthouse with 21.5 feet of water and four hundred thousand dollars in reconstruction costs. The lighthouse was torn and battered by the destructive storm, but it still stood tall and was seen as a symbol of hope and resilience during the disaster, and the light in the lantern room still lights up the waters every night.
Following our exhilarating climb at the Biloxi Lighthouse, we drove along the shore to the George Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. George Ohr is the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter” whose art was relatively unknown until fifty years after his death.
Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the museum building and grounds provide a stunning man-made counterpoint to the beautiful beaches, which are located directly across the highway.
Since it is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, much of the current museum exhibits are dedicated to commemorating the hurricane. Biloxi, right on the Mississippi coast, was hit hard when Katrina rolled in. The damage to the lighthouse helps visitors visualize the magnitude of the storm in Biloxi.
In the lobby of the museum, there are many statues constructed out of wood.
Marlin Miller, a popular artist who took the dead and destroyed trees left after Hurricane Katrina and carved them into masterpieces that now decorate the once desolate landscaping of Biloxi. The museum contained a few of his sculptures each representing various emotions surrounding Hurricane Katrina.
The sculptures were beautiful and representative of the way Biloxi rebuilt itself after the storm.
The exhibits reminded visitors of how severe Katrina was and the change that has occurred since then. The Mississippi Power Company and the local news each had exhibits in the museum explaining the aftermath and their job when cleaning up. After the Katrina exhibits, we visited the main exhibit showcasing George Ohr’s pottery. George Ohr was born in 1857 and in 1879 he began his pottery career in New Orleans, LA. Ohr’s philosophy was that no two pieces of pottery should be alike because no two people were alike. To create thousands of pieces and not craft two pieces alike illustrates his creativity and support for individualism. Unfortunately, George Ohr’s pottery studio was burned in a fire in 1894. However, when he opened his new studio, it marked a significant change in his pottery with many brighter and bolder colors than his previous works of art. It was amazing to see the shift in his artwork and the transformation throughout his life.
Although not entirely what we expected, we immensely enjoyed learning about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on Biloxi and about the famous “Mad Potter”. The museum marked our last stop in Biloxi and we departed for New Orleans, the penultimate destination of our Tour of the Deep South.
Upon arriving in New Orleans we stopped for lunch at a New Orleans style restaurant, Elizabeth’s. The restaurant was founded in 1996 and their mission has, since then, been to make everything from scratch to provide a great product with the care and creativity that it deserves. We began with boudin balls and praline bacon as appetizers. Kaitlyn went with the special for the day which was Elizabeth’s original, Joe’s scramble. Alex and Karla went with the hot sausage Po’ Boy which was plenty of food for both of them.
It was also something they had never had before. It was a sandwich with a sausage with a soft spice kick to it. The restaurant was also very unique with plenty of colorful art on the walls that is from a local artist named, Dr. Bob. The art featured many NOLA sayings and recycled bottle caps as borders. His shop was located directly down the street from the restaurant.
After days of intense sightseeing and learning, we decided that retail therapy would be a nice way to spend an afternoon in New Orleans. For a few hours we walked the interesting streets of the French Quarter, shopping and absorbing the culture of the great city. There were countless vendors that sold a variety of things. We saw the traditional Mardi Gras beads, souvenirs, and so much art work! I bought a print from a local artist of one the horses that give carriage rides to locals and tourists. All of the artwork was unique. And while the shopping was going great, we were even more amazed by the entertainment that filled the streets. Instruments of all sorts made music that could be heard throughout NOLA. Dancers, magicians, comedians, and many more make a living on the streets of New Orleans keeping folks entertained sun up to sun down.
This was a new experience for all of us – especially Bourbon Street.
Many of us had heard what it would be like, but being there was totally different than any of us expected. It was a diverse place that offers so much to do and see.
For dinner we went to the famous Oceana Grill, we heard great things about this restaurant and couldn’t wait to try the food. We got there and were surprised by a long line of people waiting to be seated outside the door.
After waiting in line, we finally got seated. We began with gator tail bites, Cajun alligator sausage, Oceana’s famous oysters, and gumbo.
For most of us it was our first time trying many of these appetizers. It seemed like a lot for starters, but they were all great and gone in no time. Megan and Alex shared one of New Orleans Favorites, the Taste of New Orleans that came with creole jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, red beans, and rice with smoked sausage. Kaitlyn and Karla shared a crawfish fettuccini pasta with freshly diced green peppers and New Orleans seasonings. We were all so pleased with our food, it was much more than we expected. It added more definition to the culture.
After an appetizing dinner, we walked around the town for a while. The “day crowd” was different from the “night crowd”, but unique all the same.
Dessert was spent at Café Du Monde enjoying some warm and fresh beignets and chatting about the day’s events.
On the walk back to the hotel we enjoyed taking pictures at landmarks and learning a new way of life. We were all very sad that tomorrow would be the last day of our tour, but thankful to have had this amazing opportunity! The South has been great to us.
Sad to leave Savannah, we awoke early this morning before sun rise to begin our travels. Montgomery was our first destination of the day. Before heading into the city, we visited Liger’s Bakery for sweet treats to kick off the day. For a few of us, a doughnut was a perfect way to boost our energy after little sleep.
Once chosen for its central location within the Confederacy and for its easy access to travel routes, Montgomery was the perfect place to build the first Confederate White House during the Civil War. Since then, the building has been moved to its new location on the South side of the Alabama State Capitol. President of the Confederate White House, Jefferson Davis and his family lived in the home from the time it was built in 1835 until the time the Confederate Capitol was moved to Richmond in 1861. The home showcased two bedrooms, the First Parlor, the Second Parlor, the Dining Room, and the President’s Study. The first of the two bedrooms was Jefferson Davis’s bedroom which included artifacts from throughout his life, such as his slippers and Bible.
Another interesting room, the President’s Study contained many pieces of furniture used by Jefferson Davis and was a room where many important decisions were made for the Confederacy. Amidst the current controversy surrounding the Confederate Flag, the Confederate White House in Montgomery seemed unbothered by the dispute and fit in with the surrounding landscape with the capitol.
Against this strong backdrop of confederate history, more modern history also played out in Montgomery–the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks was a thriving civil rights activist along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverend E.D. Nixon. She was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama. Because her mother was an educator, she was taught to read and write and later attended the city Industrial School for Girls.
We had the opportunity to not only visit the museum dedicated to her and the history she impacted, but also the exact spot Rosa Parks boarded the segregated bus…
…and the bus stop where she was arrested.
The Rosa Parks Library and Museum tour began with background history of Mrs. Rosa Parks and her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She was the secretary of the NAACP and worked very closely with Dr. King and Rev. Nixon in the nonviolent protest for equality. Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and was arrested. This was a transition point for the state of Alabama and segregation laws. This also prompted the Bus Boycott that caused the bus companies to lose thousands of dollars. In order to support the boycott African Americans refused to ride the bus, so they walked or carpooled around town. This boycott lasted 13 months until justice was served. Rosa Parks was the perfect example of using educational and spiritual guidance to seek justice. Her and many other Civil Rights leaders have paved the way for many Americans today. Following the tour of the museum, we walked across the street to stand at the spot she was arrested. It was an honor standing in a place where a brave woman had made up her mind to be treated nothing less than equal. With conviction and respect, we stood reflecting upon how different America would be today without Rosa Parks contribution and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. Time was running short so we made our way to visit the Alabama State Capitol, after briefly checking out some of the beautiful architecture, art, and history in the downtown.
Much smaller than the Texas State Capitol, many offices have moved out of the main Capitol building and into various buildings bordering the Capitol building.
Our self-guided tour began in the Governor’s Hall, a common feature of state capitol buildings. Here, we admired the portraits of previous Alabama Governors leading up to the current Governor’s office. Also, on the first floor we were able to see the previous Supreme Courtroom which has now been converted into a World War Memorial. On the second floor, the previous House and Senate Chambers are now open for public viewing.
Reflective of the Antebellum Era, much of the furniture and fixtures were original from when the capitol building was originally built in 1849. Part of the second floor opened up to the rotunda, richly decorated in warm colors with scenes throughout Alabama’s history.
Finally, the third floor consisted of the House and Senate gallery where citizens could come and observe the legislature in session. One of the most interesting locations at the Alabama State Capitol is the location where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederacy. Marked by a bronze star, everyday visitors are able to stand in the same spot Jefferson Davis entered office for the confederacy. The Alabama State Capitol is our third state capitol to visit on our Tour of the Deep South. Not only has it been interesting to learn about their architectural similarities and differences, but also to learn about how the state government works in each state. In order to stay on schedule, we hurried over to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached for six years of his life to read the historical marker and take a quick picture.
Interestingly, the cross-walk in front of the church is marked by painted shoeprints. The shoeprints not only decorate the city scape, but also reflect MLK’s march from Selma to Montgomery, but also the African-American’s bus boycott, which required them to walk rather than take the bus.
For lunch we went to Chris’, home of the world famous hot dogs in Montgomery, Alabama. Chris’ opened in 1917, celebrating their 98th year anniversary May 1st of this year. The restaurant is mostly known for their hot dogs. Their special hot dog comes with 2 dogs, sauerkraut, chili, onions, and mustard. The addition of their famous Chris’ chili gives its world famous recognition. Not only did the restaurant have great lunch food, it also has an interesting history. Hank Williams, a famous country musician often visited Chris’, making it one of the hottest places to hangout in the mid nineteen hundreds.
The restaurant also advertises their support of equality during the Civil Rights Movement where their served African American citizens alongside white citizens. In the end, this was a neat place to have a comfortable lunch in the heart of downtown Montgomery.
After lunch we embarked on our trip to Monroeville, Alabama. Once we arrived in Monroeville we stopped to tour the Old Monroe County Courthouse to learn more about Harper Lee and her friend, Truman Capote.
Harper Lee is the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Truman Capote is the author of “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. The Old Monroe County Court House was restored to its 1930’s appearance. The courthouse is also the model for the courtroom in the To Kill A Mockingbird movie.
Many people think that the movie was filmed in the Monroeville courthouse but it was actually recreated onto a Hollywood sound stage by Henry Bumstead. Fans of the novel and movie visit Monroeville because it is Harper Lee’s hometown which she based Maycomb on. The court house became a famous attraction which prompted Monroeville to build a separate court house and turning the Old Court House into a museum. We were able to wander through the museum and read Harper Lee’s words regarding her book being turned into a movie and learn about Truman Capote’s childhood. One of the quotes that I liked best from Harper Lee was “In an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.” Capote also had much to say about Harper Lee and through his words I learned that Harper Lee longed to become a lawyer like her father and almost did before realizing her calling was really writing. My favorite thing in the museum was a piece of “the famous tree” where Dill, Jem and Scout found the pieces of gum, marbles and a watch left by Boo Radley. Once everyone had the opportunity to look around we hoped back in the van, checked out some of the city’s homages to Lee…
…and to Truman Capote’s boyhood home…
As we arrived in Biloxi, we searched to find dinner. In the end, we chose Adventurous Pub and Spirits. A few members of the group shared the seafood platter with a combination of fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and fries. Biloxi’s location to the Gulf of Mexico, made seafood an easy choice for dinner. Although, it was a much different restaurant than what we expected, the group enjoyed it and headed to check into our hotel to catch up on extra rest. Tomorrow, we have another eventful day of sightseeing and traveling as we head to New Orleans.
We knew that today would be great because we were going to spend part of the day shopping! Early Monday morning we hit the squares to find souvenirs, clothes, and candy. City Market is full of small shops that are all unique. As we were shopping we also had the opportunity to visit many of the areas within the historical district we learned about the day before. After we finished City Market, we also walked down River Street (conveniently named for its location on the Savannah River) to do some last minute shopping and enjoy the view. The group bought gifts for our family members, including lots of candy from the Savannah Candy Kitchen. We all have thoroughly enjoyed the pralines. Savannah has the best by far! With all the purchases and walking around the squares we worked up quite an appetite and we decided to try a local pizzeria called Your Pie.
Your Pie was a welcome break from the heat and humidity Savannah summers offer. We decided to split the ten inch pizzas, which turned out to be the perfect sharing size. However, before the pizza arrived, we indulged in cheese sticks, but we considered them to be more like cheese bread. Megan and Alex decided to custom make their pizza, while Kaitlyn and Karla opted for a specialty pizza called “The Nat”. When the pizzas arrived, we were not disappointed at all. Fresh out of the wood fire oven, the cheese was perfectly gooey.
Rumored to have the best cupcakes in Savannah, we wanted to see for ourselves! After ordering various flavors, we agreed that the Rich Butter Vanilla cupcake was our favorite.
After lunch, we continued our sightseeing of historic Savannah. Our first stop was to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Built in 1863, the cathedral is one of the tallest structures in Savannah.
When walking in, we all paused in amazement of the intricacies and beautiful interior of the Cathedral.
The church brings many visitors every year because of its beauty and Gothic architecture. One of the intricate details of the church included numerous stained glass windows with detailed biblical scenes on them.
The walls also had decorative narratives from the Bible.
The grandeur of the Cathedral can be observed from every angle which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Also, in our free time we visited Chipewa Square where Forrest Gump filmed a scene where Forrest famously says “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” In an effort to recreate the picture, we searched the bench where the scene was filmed, but came to the conclusion that the bench had been moved for the purpose of filming the movie and chose one with a similar view.
Although it sounded daunting, we were excited to begin the 178 step climb up to the top of the light house. The climb up to the light house served as a great workout for us!
We eventually all reached the top of the light house which is 145 feet tall and 154 feet above sea level. Some of us were nervous to step out onto the ledge of the light house but everyone eventually got to enjoy the view despite the phobia of heights. We even got a peek at the lighthouse lens, which was always on and required a 1,000 watt bulb–the brightness of which was amplified by numerous and layered reflectors.
The system that was put in place consists of two lightbulbs, one in use and one ready to light up when the other burns out.
The top was windy, but it didn’t stop us from taking selfies…
…and group shots…
and shots of the view from the top.
After taking many pictures at the top and enjoying the view along with the breeze, we descended down the flight of stairs again. Once we finally reached the ground we were able to tour the homes of the Lighthouse Keepers that were built in 1881. We enjoyed wandering inside the homes and finding old metal irons and telephones that had once been used.
In the museum, we learned about the origin of the settlers and meaning of Tybee. The Spanish were the first to arrive on Tybee and we also learned that “Tybee” is a Native American word for salt. As we walked through the museum, we were able to see how much has changed in the past century. We saw an old diving outfit that had a helmet which weighed 31 pounds! We also walked through an exhibit that showed the evolution of the swimsuit, which we found very interesting. The museum had an exit onto the roof top so we went up and enjoyed the beachfront view for a while before heading to dinner.
After the adventurous tour at the light house and Fort Screven, we headed to the Crab Shack for dinner. Throughout our travels, many people recommended the restaurant to us, making it a must try! The restaurant’s decor was interesting and the food was great (visitors be warned: no air-conditioning). We had their specialty sampler dish for three with shrimp, crab, crawfish, mussels, potatoes, sausage, and corn. Our food was served on one larger tray which brought enough food for the entire group of six to eat.
The restaurant also has a mini-gator farm, where patrons can feed the baby gators with “gator treats” (for $3…).
Since we were extremely close to the ocean, we hoped the seafood would live up to our grand expectations and we were satisfied when we walked away.
At the beach, we enjoyed the waves and the sunshine.
While some of us searched for seashells on the beach, others went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily for us, it was perfect weather for a day at the beach. Of course, before we left, we took some nice pictures on the beach, one with our backs to the beach…
…and one facing the beach…
…and even one of us jumping…
Ending our delicious dinner and fun times at the beach, was time to get back to the hotel to freshen up for the Kentucky Kick off Reception.
As the day came to a close, we joined the other participants of the STL conference on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This was a kickoff social for the upcoming STL Conference in Lexington, Kentucky next year. Governor Beshear of Kentucky, Kentucky Speaker of the House, the Kentucky President of the Senate, and the Mayor of Lexington flew in and gave an introductory speech and expressed their excitement for the upcoming STL Conference in Lexington by formally inviting guests.
The highlight of the speeches was Governor Beshear’s, which highlighted themes of togetherness:
I want to talk about what brings us together. You know about Kentucky’s horses, and the Kentucky Derby; you know about the first Saturday in May; you know about our history; but I want to stress more substantive things, what really brings people together: short, tall, black, white, male, female. Kentucky Bourbon!
He also highlighted the success they’ve had in the production of bourbon. Kentucky has 4.4 million residents and 5 million barrels of bourbon, how fascinating is that? “That’s one barrel for every resident, and the rest is for you!,” he exclaimed, to much applause.As it turns out, Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon, and the other 5%, according to Governor Beshear, “is counterfeit.”
The group closed with a serviceable rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and many in the audience knew enough words to follow along. The song was written by Stephen Foster, the “father of American Music,” who also wrote “Oh! Susannah” and “Camptown Races.”
Sadly, no one offered to sing “The Eyes of Texas” or “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
There were small refreshments for us to enjoy throughout the night. We tasted the ham and beef mini sandwiches. Also, the homemade bread pudding was scrumptious. I think all of us would agree that we have had the best and second best versions of bread pudding we’ve ever tried, although we were in disagreement as to whether the Paula Deen bread pudding (with rum sauce) was better, or whether the Kentucky version (with bourbon and more icing) was the best. Our plan was to wait on the bread pudding until we got to its home, New Orleans, but that plan went out the window.
The others tried the various cheeses that were available and seemed to have been a fan. Kentucky did a great job of putting out the best of the state. We watched the mingling for a while and after a while decided that tomorrow will come early, so it was time to head back to the hotel. On the walk home I reflected in the day and was kind of sad that my stay in Savannah will soon be over. For a few of us, Professor Yawn treated us to a bike taxi which was a fun way to end the evening and see a little more of beautiful Savannah!
Each day, we’ve been having a great time learning and experiencing new things. Tomorrow, we will make the most of the day…for it will be our last day full day in Savannah.
After a long nights rest, we were ready to take on Savannah, Georgia and all of its rich history. Thanks to the Southern Legislative Conference we were able to go on a trolley tour of Historic Savannah. As we drove through all 22 squares, our tour guide, Dotty, gave us a brief history of them and what all the statues located in them represent.
We learned much about James Oglethorpe, the man who founded Savannah. We also learned that he worked closely with Native American Chief Tomochichi who is buried in one of the beautiful squares. We were able to stop and take a tour of the Andrew Low house that was built in 1848. Low was not only a prominent member of Savannah’s business and social classes, but he was the father-in-law of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in the early 20th century. In fact, she founded the Girl Scouts in the carriage house of the Andrew Low House.
The Low house was also interesting because it was designed by a prominent architect in Savannah, John Norris. In addition to the Low House, he also designed the Mercer-Williams home…
…the US Customs House in Savannah…
…and other local landmarks, in a town filled with architectural wonders.
After we left the home tour we settled back in the trolley to continue our tour of historic Savannah and were able to see beautiful homes and learn the history behind local schools and churches. We also had an actress from the local theater tell the story of Fanny Kemble, whose published journals about slavery helped turn British opinion against the confederacy.
It was a long trolley ride (3 hours), but it was fun together time, and a great way to learn the history of a history-rich area.
After all the learning, we were ready to eat a delicious meal at Lady and Sons.
Our historic trolley tour of Savannah ended with lunch at The Lady & Sons, Chef Paula Deen’s restaurant. After spending the morning touring the city by trolley, our group was eager to enjoy traditional Southern food. Our lunch included access to the buffet, the salad bar, and our choice of dessert. Many of us enjoyed the sweet tea, which is not only a staple in the South, but also very refreshing. Among the buffet, our choices included: Paula Deen’s famous fried chicken, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of additional southern sides. For dessert, we chose from banana pudding, peach cobbler, and gooey butter cake. In addition, we ordered the bread pudding to sample. The bread pudding was especially delicious because it was topped with a warm butter-rum sauce. In addition, we sampled the other desserts, with the gooey butter cake winning our hearts, but all were delicious and filling. Keeping with the theme of the Southern Legislative Conference, Paula Deen’s restaurant fit in perfectly! With full stomachs, we left for an afternoon of exploring historic Savannah!
Next, we headed to the hotel to freshen up to head out to the local souvenir shops along the river. Luckily our hotel concierge gave us a map and directions to assist in making our shopping experience easy and enjoyable. He also took the time to warn us about the 200 year old steps that many find intimidating–even he is afraid. We decided to use the historic steps anyway and quickly learned why we were warned. The steps were extremely small and steep! Once we climbed down the steps we began our shopping adventures. It was unfortunate that our shopping ended quickly when a sudden storm rolled into Savannah. We rapidly headed to the closest destination to shelter us from the storm. Luckily we were able to catch a shuttle back to our hotel.
After some time to rest from the long day of tours and shopping, we made our way to the Southern Legislative Convention’s Family Night. The venue was Georgia State Railroad Museum. The railroad station was established in 1833 as only a central system and within seven years the railroad expanded 190 miles.
It is also known as one of the first businesses to have integrated workers in the deep South. The need for skilled workers was more important than prejudice. The train house was lit up with lights and southern style décor.
There were numerous activity stations for us to enjoy as the sun set. Music filled the background and families were participating in the night’s festivities. We started with a bar-b-que dinner and banana pudding for dessert. After, we indulged in more dessert from local King of Pops, they were refreshing and delicious!
The train ride of the museum was our last activity.
On the ride we learned fascinating facts about the history of the railroad.
This particular railroad is one of the only standing Victorian style railroads, and we had fun riding the rails…
It also houses an original turntable and oldest steam engine. The night was perfect and, as always, we learned a lot.
As we began our third day on a tour of the Deep South, we were thankful we had the opportunity to get a full-night’s rest. Our day began with packing up, and heading out to Macon, GA, where we were scheduled to tour the historic cottage where Sidney Lanier was born in 1842.
Our tour guide, Bernard, kindly led us throughout the historic home. An American musician, poet, linguist, lawyer, and mathematician, Lanier was a well-rounded man of the nineteenth century. In addition, Lanier enlisted to serve in the Confederate Military where he was as a signal scout until he was taken captive. During his captivity, he contracted tuberculosis, which ultimately led to his death years later in 1881. Lanier died at the young age of only thirty nine. However, he accomplished much more in his lifetime than most do. Lanier was extremely intelligent and graduated college when he was only eighteen years old. He spoke multiple languages and taught at John Hopkins University. When he was twenty five, he married Mary Day and later had three sons. We enjoyed learning about Lanier’s most famous works are the “Song of the Chattahooche” and “The Marshes of Glynn”. Of particular interest was his work, “A Ballad of the Trees and My Master,” which is inscribed on the Christus Statue in the Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. Just before departing on our Southern Tour, we visited Oakwood to see the statue of Christ and to read the poem.
The home displayed many portraits of Lanier and his family, as well as various artifacts from his life. Among the favorites was Mary Day’s wedding dress. Very different than the average wedding dress today, the dress helped us to visualize life in the nineteenth century. Concluding the tour, we took the opportunity to take pictures in front of the beautiful home.
Following the tour, Professor Yawn gave us the opportunity to choose today’s lunch destination. We were nervous about our googled choice, Tropical Flava, but we were excited to try Caribbean and Jamaican food. The tables were beautifully decorated with lavender flower arrangements and the waitress gave us a warm welcome. The selections varied and though I wanted to try everything, I settled with their famous Jerk Chicken. The plate included Jerk Chicken, with red beans and rice, stir-fried vegetables, and plantains. Delicious would be an underestimate to describe the food. The chicken was tender and had a great flavor. Others tried chicken patties, bar-b-que wings, oxtails, and much more! Each plate was unique and tasted great. Along with the authentic food we also sampled their natural cucumber, watermelon, and pineapple juices. In the end, we were relieved to learn that our spontaneity did not disappoint us.
After lunch we headed over to the Hay house for a tour of its elegant interior and to admire its massive and beautiful exterior.
The Hay House, unlike the Sidney Lanier cottage, did not have any air conditioning, which made us reflect upon how it must have been to actually live in the extravagant home when people resided in it. We had a fantastic tour guide who knew an immense amount about the Italian Renaissance Revival style of the home and all of the renovations made by the families that lived in the home. Our tour guide also revealed all of the tromp l’oeil illusions within the home, some of which included a faux pocket door and a disappearing staircase. The group was amazed by the intricate detail on every ceiling of the home along with the hidden passage that is rumored to have housed Confederate gold during the Civil War. As we moved from the first floor up to the third we began to feel the heat because the air system that the original owners of the home built into the home to keep certain rooms cooler during the hot Georgia summers. Various characteristics of the home conveyed details about everyday life in the nineteenth century–such as the importance of food in a world where even basic sustenance was difficult to come by. As if to underscore that point, the pantry was guarded by burglar bars–the only room in the house protected in such manner. Another interesting aspect of the home was the speaker system within the home that was used to communicate with the servants, which made the home very technologically advanced for its time.
There were many interesting things about the home, but the most exciting part of the tour was our visit to the cupola past the fourth floor. A cupola is a small dome which adorns a building, and this one offered a particularly nice view!
Leading up to the cupola, the thin spiral stair case took us to the top where we could exit through a small door and walk onto the widow’s walk and gaze upon Macon from the highest point of the Hay house.
The group thoroughly enjoyed the tour, but was eager to load back into the car where we began our drive to Savannah!
Excited about finally arriving in Savannah, we admired the beauty of the historic district. After freshening up at the hotel, we headed to the Southern Legislative Conference’s Welcome Reception themed “A Taste of Savannah”. Enjoying numerous h’orderves of Southern delicacies, we listened to the live music and gazed at the Savannah skyline along the river.
Locally owned restaurants catered the reception, so we were able to taste Leopoldo’s ice cream and the world famous pralines from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen for dessert. It was great to watch the pralines made right in front of us and taste them freshly made. They were a group favorite! Overall, the welcoming reception was nicely done, with good music, lots of refreshments, and great scenery.
After enjoying the local food we walked over to the river to take many pictures, including many selfies.
The scenery was beautiful, and we could see the moon with Venus shining above…
…and City Hall across the river…
After many great pictures, we were able to have some fun and join everyone on the dance floor where we joined some very outgoing dancers.
The last song literally ended in explosions with the fireworks that lit up the sky behind us.
It was a colorful way to end the night as we departed back to our hotel to get some sleep.