So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You, OKC

On Saturday, the LEAPsters had to finally bid farewell to the endless flat land and lustrous skies of Oklahoma City, but not before a few last adventures. Like the tumbleweed in a dust storm, we drifted through the city and down to Dallas, in search of great art, food, and little bit of history.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum (Ashley)

After driving through the city and getting a feel for what 1995 would have been like in that quiet city, we reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Never had we visited an institution dedicated to a single tragedy, being able to capture and include poignant details of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The museum was structured in an interesting way. We started from the second floor and then worked our way down to the first. The facts were presented in chronological order, beginning with the events, down to the minutes, leading up to the bombing. It was this introduction that set the exposition of this heart-wrenching story.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

It can be difficult to relate to an event (such as domestic terrorism) after being born years removed from it. But when you see how other people were impacted by it, the tragedy becomes more relatable. As we looked through the pre-bombing news articles and artifacts, we were amazed how Timothy McVeigh was actually interviewed by a journalist two years before, while professing anti-government propaganda related to the 1993 Branch Davidian Compound attack in Waco, Texas. Apparently these views were what compelled him to attack the Murrah Federal Building two years later. Perhaps the most gripping part of the museum was when we entered the model of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board room.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

There we listened to a recording of the board’s minutes the day of the bombing. In the middle of the recording, the voices die, the recording crackles, and the explosion roars in the background. With the flickering of the lights, and the sounds of panicked screaming and confusion, some of us were close to tears.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

We explored the rest of the museum, reading about the destruction…

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

…rescue, investigation, and miraculous rebuilding of the city.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

After we witnessed the destruction of the bombing through the exhibits…


…we stepped outside onto the memorial and found the survivor tree. The area was really a place of brilliance as it was full of beauty and somberness.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU, Survivor Tree

There were large gates on each side of a pool with the time a minute before (9:01) and after the detonation (9:03) of the bomb.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

Perhaps most gripping from the memorial was the 168 chairs engraved with names representing the people who died during the explosion, with 19 small chairs honoring the deceased children. The museum at first emits a certain mournfulness, but because of the survivor tree and the resilience it shine with its green, resurrected branches, we left with a sense of hope. This memorial deeply touched us, and was definitely one of our favorite places we visited on this trip. With this sense of vitality, we reached the end of the gate and made to get some lunch.

Iron Star Urban BBQ (Kaitlyn Tyra)

Before departing from Oklahoma City, we stopped to fill our growling stomachs at Iron Star Urban BBQ. LEAPster, Ashley Allen immediately described the restaurant as “hipster BBQ.” Rightfully so perhaps, as the atmosphere of the restaurant was very trendy. Regardless of it being hipster, it proved to have tasty food. To experience the restaurant as much as possible, we ordered bacon wrapped quail breast and jalapeño cornbread to sample. Both were surprisingly tasty! For our main entrees, we tried the pulled pork sandwich, the pimento cheese burger, and the smoked prime rib sandwich.  Although the Oklahoma BBQ was different from our traditional Texas BBQ, we enjoyed trying Okie cousins’ delicious bbq!

Our dessert, like a sweet coup-de-grace, finished our meal consisting of a peach crisp, Drunken Turtle Cheesecake, and Double Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Iron Star Urban BBQ, Peach Crisp, LEAP Center, SHSU

Everyone had their own favorites but we enjoyed sampling them all. Iron Star BBQ was a fantastic final meal for our time in Oklahoma City!

With that we piled back into the car and settled in for our drive to Dallas.

Nasher Sculpture Center (Mitchell Sanchez)

At the midpoint between Oklahoma City and Huntsville, we decided to take a breather near downtown Dallas. We took this opportunity to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center. Raymond and Pasty Nasher began the art collection dating back to the 50’s. Together this couple has built one of the finest collections of 20th century sculptures in the entire world. The students had the privilege and honor to walk among some truly amazing pieces, from the quirky Claes Oldenburg…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Claes Oldenburg, LEAP Center, SHSU

…to a couple of Pablo Picasso’s sculptures. One of them was inside one of the three galleries on the interior of the center, where other virtuosos of art were housed.  While the second, much larger, Picasso was outside in the 1.4-acre sculpture garden.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Picasso, LEAP Center, SHSU

The garden contains more than 90 trees, including oaks, elms and crepe myrtles. In the midst of this urban forest were pieces by Henry Moore…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore

…George Segal, and Barbara Hepworth, just to name a few.  A particularly striking theme to the garden was how the nature and sharp cut stone and walk ways complemented each other in a way that demonstrated the ability of artists to enhance nature’s peace and beauty. The Nasher Sculpture Center gave us a wonderful vibe of elegance and peace. Peace much needed after a very momentous weekend.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore


With a last stroll through Klyde Warren Park, among a thong of lively children and mirthful adults, we boarded our van and made the last stretch to Huntsville. With the moon behind the clouds, and an air of tranquility, we ended our trip with a restful chat of all the wonderful adventures we had during the trip. From tripping through the ice, to trying out buffalo burgers, we reminisced on the happy memories of our Texoma LEAP Trip.

OK Bombing Memorial, Survivor Tree, SHSU, LEAP Center

Food on Ice in OKC

Our second day in OKC was a busy one, but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying some food and fun in this Southern/Midwestern city.  In fact, we had a chance to explore Bricktown, Guatemalan food, and even ice skate!

Café Kacao (Ashley Allen)

For lunch we decided to try out some authentic Guatemalan food at Café Kacao. Before being seated, however, we waited outside the restaurant chatting, a result of the eatery’s popularity. This wait, a bit lengthy, was worth it. The music was upbeat and the interior was very colorful.

Looking at the menu, we were mystified by the many options we had before us. Drinks alone were provided by lot of different choices, from juices, to Mexican sodas, and specialty drinks like the Horchata latte ( a sweet mixture of rice milk, vanilla, cinnamon and coffee). In the end, we ordered Migallas, cochinito pibil, adobada, and even crab pupusas.

Cafe Kacao, OK City, LEAP Center, SHSU

Ashely’s favorite dish, the Migallas, was a breakfast dish composed of scrambled eggs, various vegetables, Pico Del Gallo and crushed tortilla chips mixed together, accompanied by a small fruit cup and black beans. The plate was so delicious that she practically wiped it clean, a feat that has eluded many of us during this feast-filled-trip.

Bricktown Brewery  (Ashley)

For dinner, we ventured into the city’s river walk. Following the foot steps of the Sooners, or at least the direction of Paul Moor’s sculptures, we began our trek to the Land Run Monument. With friendly chatter and a shining skyline, we followed the soft, rippling river, and before we knew it, we had reached the city’s Bricktown District.

The historically industrial district turned social district, with it’s bright lights, quirky sights, and lively music, was eye candy so as to make us hungry. After walking a lap around the square, where we saw a Mickey Mantle statue…

Mickey Mantle, Bricktown, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

…and even a statue of Sisyphus…

Sisyphus, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

…we stopped by a restaurant called the Bricktown Brewery. It was  different from the other places that we had eaten during the trip, strictly because it wasn’t an authentic, ethnic-based restaurant. The majority of the group ordered different pizza pies to share amongst ourselves. Ryan’s favorite was the combination pizza which had morning sausage, pepperoni, and ham, topped with additional mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers. The experience here was excellent and if ever in Bricktown again we would definitely go straight to this great establishment. As Ashley commented “every place we’ve eaten in Oklahoma has been such a great experience, and I really appreciate the exposure to the different cultures and the food that goes with them!”

Slipping Through the Ice Rink (Ryan)

After our meal, we walked the few blocks to the Myriad Botanical Gardens, where we took advantage of their skating rink. With Professor Yawn’s instructions all of the LEAPsters and Ryan laced up and took to the ice.

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

Although it was a small rink, it seemed to take some of us forever to make a full lap, whether it be because we were holding onto the rails or we couldn’t seem to get any momentum.

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

Some us, however, performed our very best skating abilities. For example, Brian accidentally did his best impression of Charlie Chaplin while sliding and slipping through the ice.

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

He would seem to fall for about ten seconds and then catch himself on the railing in a cool and relaxed position as if nothing had happened. We only stayed for a little while, as the air grew colder and our feet began to ache. It was unclear as to the professor’s motivation to bring us to the rink, whether it was to expose us to a sport we seldom have a chance to practice or for his own amusement to look at us fall and tumble.

Perhaps his absence at the rink was indication to the latter hypothesis.

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

Ashley, Ryan, and Kaitlyn proved the best skaters…

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

…and Ashley and Ryan even raced, with Ryan’s longer legs providing the edge.

Devon Ice Rink, OK City, SHSU, LEAP Center

No matter the falls on the ice, we all had ice-loads of fun. With iced backs (from those that had fallen on the ring), we walked back to the car and headed back to the hotel. As a day well spent in learning, exploration, and vigorous sport, we welcomed our bed with a tired, melancholy sigh, for tomorrow would be our last day of our Texoma Adventure.


OKC and KC are OK–and More!

Today the LEAP Center got an early start (5:30 in the morning!) to our trip to Michigan. We are heading north to assist author Jeff Guinn in researching a group called the Vagabonds. This team of influential businessmen and geniuses, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, would go on road trips across America during the summer months, just like we are today! Also like the Vagabonds, we not only have a final destination in mind, but we are willing to take in the sights along the way. In the spirit of our mission, we made our first pit stop in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art

As we approached the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were captivated by the building’s clear facade through which we could see a long, colorful glass sculpture true to Dale Chihuly’s style. Upon entering we were able to get a better view of the piece. As we ventured through the third floor, which showcased modern artists, we made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. With the room kept in low lighting, the vibrant colors of blown glass, warped into various shapes and sizes, were accentuated.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly
                                                           Brian Aldaco Admires Chihuly’s Glasswork

This left us in more awe as we admired his works of art,

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly

…which included not only his bowl collection, but also his “Persian Ceiling”….

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling

…and “Reeds.”

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Reeds

Venturing into the lower floor, we were able to explore more American and international art. Exhibited in this floor were works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, Roy Lichtenstein, an Alexander Calder mobile…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Alexander Calder, Mobile
Ryan and Brian (B-Ryan, as we call them) Construct a Mobile

…Charles Willson Peale…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Charles Willson Peale, George Washington
Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington

Thomas Moran…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s “Grand Venice Canal”

…and a nice wing on WPA art…


…just to name a few. Surrounded by the works of such great artists we left with an improved cultural wealth.

Apart from this, during our Oklahoma City visit we also chased after historical wealth by visiting the Land Run Monument. With 38 different bronze frontiersmen (or Sooners) as a representation of the state’s rush of immigrants eager to receive land in the 1889 Land Run, the monument has become the longest series of sculptures in the world. Strolling among the giant rushing horses and wagons, artistically molded by sculptor Paul Moore to keep a perpetual sense of urgency, we were also inspired to get on the road towards our next city of our Midwestern tour.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City

After crossing the Kansas-Missouri border onto Kansas City, we soon arrived at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. With the ground ornamented with various sculptures…

Louise Bourgeois, Kemper Museum of Art, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider Mother”

…from a giant spider to a crying giant, the interior works of art were just as intriguing. We were treated to another Chihuly…

Kemper Museum, KC, Dale Chihuly
One of the Kemper’s Three Dale Chiluhy Sculptures

…as well as myriad national and international artists.  The museum offered a sense of different disciplines practiced within the contemporary arts community. Among the ones included inside the facility were mixed media formats, photography, glass media, and various other forms of unconventional, at times whimsical forms of expression.  Unfortunately, we visited when two of the four galleries were closed for installations, so our visit was only half fulfilled.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This, however, left us more time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is only a short walk from the Kemper. The Nelson-Atkins museum has a copious outdoor green space, populated by pieces of statuary. Perhaps the most renowned piece present on the museum grounds is Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rodin, Thinker
Rodin’s Thinker

Other works included various pieces by Henry Moore…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure”

…a glass maze called the “Glass Labyrinth” (by Robert Morris),

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Robert Morris, Glass Labyrinth
Robert Morris’s “Glass Labyrinth”

…”Three Bowls” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, which, in addition to being three-dimensional art, also possesses a distinctive smell, giving the art a multi-faceted interaction with the senses…

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Three Bowls

We also saw one of George Rickey’s kinetic pieces of art…

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, George Rickey

Most curiously, we also saw four giant shuttlecocks, one of the many quirky creations of sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen…

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Shuttlecock


With just 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we headed inside to take a look at their exhibits. We had the fortune to enter near the Roman and Medieval pieces, giving us a taste of a very different art style from the contemporary and modern works we had viewed at the other museums. After perusing some of the 19th-century masters such as Claude Monet…

Claude Monet, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

…and Vincent Van Gogh…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Vincent Van Gogh

…we headed to the “Naguchi Sculpture Court,”


Isamu Naguchi, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Naguchi Court
“Six Foot Energy Void” by Isamu Naguchi

which showcases seven of the artists’ works in one room.

And with the closing of the Museum, we took one last look around the park before heading back to the van and driving towards out next stop: dinner!

Grunauer and Union Station

To wrap up our first day, we ate at a German restaurant called Grünauer. We started out with Jausenbrettl, a sampler platter of German meats. We split several entrées including Jäger Schnitzel Vom Schwein (pork scallopini with spätzle), Schweinebraten (roast pork loin and shoulder with red cabbage), and Bauernschmaus (smoked pork loin, bacon, and a bratwurst with sauerkraut), but the best part by far was the apple strudel and Nutella crepes we had for desert.

Since Union Station was so near, we decided to walk through and around it to walk off the huge meal we had just ate. It is still in operation to this day and still beautiful…

Union Station, Kansas City
Union Station in Kansas City

and has seen many famous celebrities and presidents come through, such as Eisenhower, FDR, and Truman. As we left the station via a bridge which stood over a system of railways (with a passenger train ready to depart and a resting open-top freight cart anticipating it’s delivery), we took in the city’s nocturnal, tranquil ambiance. Thus we satisfyingly completed the first day of our Vagabond research trip.


Midwest Trip, Day 9: Doing OK in Oklahoma


After nine days on the road, we were limping home somewhat, anxious to get back to our studies and our own beds.  But we ended our trip on another high note, and used the drive for time to reflect on a trip of epic proportions.

The high point was the Oklahoma City of Art Museum, which has one of the largest Chihuly collections in the United States.  You don’t have to wait long at the Museum to see a Chihuly.

OKCMA_Chihuly_Tower_WebIn fact, the Museum entrance has the largest Chihuly in the world.  It is more than 80 feet tall, composed of more than 2,100 pieces of glass, and it weighs more than 20,000 pounds.  It is equally imposing and impressive.

Although it might be difficult to top the entrance, the Chihuly exhibits are all impressive, displying “Reeds”…


OKCMA_Chihuly_Red_Bowls_Web…more bowls…


Chihuly_Row_Boats_Web…Chihuly ceilings…

OKCMA_Chihuly_Ceiling_Constance_Alex_Web…and Chihuly wall art…


Of course, the Art Museum had the traditional art as well…

OKCMA_Modern_Gallery_Floor_Web…including Constance’s favorite O’Keefe…

OKCMA_Okeefe_Calla_Lily_Web…one of the Dallas Nine, Alexandre Hogue…

OKCMA_Hogue_Soil_Subsoil_Web…and for Political Science students, a portrait of George Washington…

OKCMA_Peale_Washington_WebBut following a little play time…

OKCMA_Crafts_Alex_Constance_Web…it was time to go home.

It was a long drive back from OK City, but it gave us time to reflect on the trip and restructure our thinking about food, art, entertainment, livable cities, and life.  In so doing, we came up with a list of favorites we’d like to share.Old_Mill_Alex_Constance_Bridge_2_Web

Favorite Cities:

  1. Little Rock
  2. Chicago
  3. Kansas City (Constance); Madison, WI (Alex)

Favorite Restaurants:

  1. Grunauer’s (Austrian food in the heart of KC)
  2. Q39 (Our favorite of KC BBQ)
  3. DLUX (American food in Madison–great shakes!)

Favorite Attractions (Here, we had real disagreements!):

  • Constance
  1. Richard Haas Murals
  2. Union Station
  3. Lincoln Presidential Library
  • Alex
  1. Lincoln Presidential LibraryLincoln_Statue_Alex_Web
  2. Art Institute of Chicago
  3. Old Mill

Favorite Art:

  • Constance
  1. Red Hill with Flowers, O’Keefe
  2. Yellow Dancers, Degas
  3. Reeds, ChihulyOKCMA_Chiluly_Alex_Constance_1_Web
  • Alex
  1. Monet
  2. Pisarro
  3. Chihuly


Both Constance and I, however, agree that touring Loyola Law School with Daniel North was one of our most rewarding experiences.  He laid out the material very clearly, told us information we haven’t heard from others, and was genuinely nice.

Daniel_Constance_AlexIt was great to connect with a former Junior Fellow!

The whole trip was a great experience, whether walking the bridges of Little Rock…

Junction_Bridge_Sculpture_Night_Web…checking out City Garden in St. Louis…

City_Garden_Night_Constance_Alex_Web…hanging with President Lincoln in Springfield, IL…

Alex_Lincoln_4_Web…jumping at the bean in Chicago…

Bean_Alex_Jumping_Mike_Web…discovering the capitol in WI….

Capitol_Constance_Alex_2_Web…crawling the incline in Dubuque…

…playing American Gothic…

American_Gothic_Alex_Constance_2_Web…learning about a bit of everything in KC…

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Last_Supper_Alex_Web…and chilling with Chihuly in OK City.

OKCMA_Chihuly_Tower_Constance_Alex_1_WebIt was a great ride!

Day 5: Presidents, Politics, & History

On our final day, our travel day, we still got some sight-seeing in.  Although we had spent considerable time in Norman, we had focused our energies on the University of Oklahoma campus.  Today, we visited the downtown area, where we checked out some of the public art…

Norman_Sculpture_Web…which included more aviation themed work.

Plane_Sculpture_Norman+WebMost interesting, though, was the statue of James Garner, the star of Rockford Files and Maverick, who grew up in Norman, Oklahoma.

James Garner
                            James Garner

Another highlight was, strange as it sounds, was getting to see a train go by…


The real highlight of the day, however, was in Denison, Texas, where we visited the birth-home of Dwight Eisenhower.

Ike's Birthplace
                          Ike’s Birthplace

Eisenhower was born here in 1890, and he would be the last President to be born in the 19th century.    His father worked for the railroad, which passed by about thirty yards in front of the house.

The site is run by the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and we had a knowledgeable tour guide to take us through the home.

Interior of Ike's Home
                     Interior of Ike’s Home

Our visit was made all the more appropriate with the arrival of Veterans Day.

Eisenhower Statue
                        Eisenhower Statue

The last day was also a day for reflecting on the trip and the different things we did.  Heading home, we canvassed the group for our favorite activities, which are presented below.

Favorite Restaurants:

1) Cattleman’s (OKC)
2) Greek House (Norman)
3) The Hideaway (Norman)

Honorable Mention: Coriander Cafe (Norman)

Gyros from Greek House
                Gyros from Greek House

Favorite Artifacts:
1) Abraham Lincoln (Cowboy Hall of Fame and OU Law School)
2) Land Run Monument (OKC)
3) Capitol Artwork (OKC)

Artwork in State Capitol
     Artwork in State Capitol

Favorite Destinations:
1) OU Campus, for OPSA and OU Law School
2) Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum
3) Segway Tour

OU Law Courtroom
                      OU Law Courtroom

Favorite Presentations:
1) Southern Politics, by Scott Buchanan
2) Public Opinion, Drug Use, and Depedence, Lauren Reinke
3) Affordable Health Care, Isaac Lutz

Professor Scott Buchanna
              Professor Scott Buchanan

We were very impressed with Oklahoma City, Norman, and the people we met on the trip.  We’d especially like to thank the organizers of the Oklahoma Political Science Association, who were very helpful to us.