As we headed out on the last leg of our journey, we were lured in by the charm of a small, charismatic town along the way. If you are traveling from Abilene to Dallas on highway 20, as we were, you will surely come across the little town of Eastland, TX. As we entered the city, Professor Yawn was quick at pointing out the multiple murals scattered around the town. He then explained how the city is filled with murals which are done by community members and students from the local high school, to represent history’s most famous painters and culturally educate Eastland’s citizens.
In total, there are 30 such murals in the city. Among the artists represented on the city’s walls were Dr. Seuss, Michelangelo, Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jasper Johns. As we searched through Eastland’s streets, we felt accomplished when we were able to recognize the artist that were being represented by the murals. (All this time of visiting art museums has paid off!).
Since we did not have as much time as we would have liked, we were only able to only spot 21 murals on our artistic scavenger hunt. However, this was an amazing feat for us and we appreciated the pieces of art that we were able to find.
But this art hunt was not the only thing that made our Eastland visit memorable. Before initiating our activity, we visited the town’s courthouse in the heart of downtown. Professor Yawn, a near expert in Texas stories, educated us on a brief history of Eastland. Upon construction of the town’s courthouse in 1897, a time capsule was inserted in the building’s cornerstone. Intrigued by the alleged immortality of the horned toad (it is said that it can survive for years in hibernation) the towns people included one of these mystical creatures in the time capsule. Nearly 30 years later when the city was working on maintenance of the courthouse in 1928, they decided to take a look at their reptilian friend. The legend goes, that as they opened the capsule, they saw the “dead” toad reviving before their very eyes with a clear sounding “Ribbit”! The powers of the horned toad were proven true!
Due to its impressive feat of indestructibility, the toad was celebrated by town and baptized Old Rip, after Washington Irving’s character Rip Van Winkle. Old Rip’s celebrity status escalated to such a degree that the toad toured the nation and was even received by President Calvin Coolidge. Sadly, the cherished lizard perished of pneumonia in 1929. But the city never forgot this amazing creature. Now, Old Rip’s eternal home is a lizard size coffin behind a glass window of the courthouse, where any community member or tourist can pay tribute to this exceptional city treasure.
Old Rip has never been forgotten and he has many statues that are proudly displayed throughout the city as a homage to him.
Twisted Root in Dallas, by Kaitlyn Tyra
The last part of the West Texas Tour included a fair amount of driving. However, we broke up the long journey with various stops along the way. One of which being a late lunch at the Twisted Root Burger Co. A unique burger joint, the menu included milkshakes, twisted burgers, and a variety of sides.
Twisted Root is known for their homemade root beer which was sweet and flavorful. We sampled the root beer, the Fat Elvis milkshake, and the Oreo Cookie milkshake before our meals were served. We each sampled a different burger: the freshman 15, the spicy goat, the verde, the enough said, and the big tex burger.
The burgers were delicious and massive which left us feeling full as we departed for the Dallas Art Museum.
Dallas Museum of Art, by Christina Perez
Before heading back to Huntsville, we took one last LEAP into art. During the trip, we discussed different artists whom the LEAP ambassadors could name. Some of us can name about 35 different artists now!
When we arrived at the Dallas Museum of Art, we were anxious to see what great art pieces that we would get to see.
The museum had the “Visions of America” exhibit, which included three centuries of American art, culled from the National Gallery of Art, which is located in Washington, DC.
This exhibit was from the National Gallery of art, which is located in DC. The Leap ambassadors will be traveling to DC in October, so this was a sneak peek to our art exploration that would later take place in Washington.
We all left the museum with an increased knowledge of art…
…and a couple of new big names!
After a long journey, our West Texas Tour Trip was finally over. Now all the LEAP ambassadors learned and experimented with photography alongside Mark Burns, gained knowledge of art, and traveled to places were not many people had before. It was finally time to go home not only to Huntsville, but also to Sam Houston State University for the first day of school.
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).
Having concluded my first trip with the L.E.A.P program, I must say I’ve already started looking ahead to the next. On this trip I was exposed to a part of Dallas I’d never seen before and I learned an extensive amount of information pertinent to a future career in politics.
The trip revolved around the New Politics Forum, set up to introduce students to different careers in politics, to network with other students and those already in the career field. My favorite panel was the last, the “Alumni Panel” made up of recent SMU alumni who have gone onto successful careers in politics. I liked this panel in particular because they most described what it takes to be successful and gave specific examples of how they’ve gotten opportunities. My favorite speaker was the keynote, State Senator Royce West.
Though he is a Democrat and I may not agree with him on all matters of policy, I liked his speech best. As he I watched him speak impromptu, using different public speaking skills, I learned firsthand how a politician communicates.
While our trip was centered on the NPF while in Dallas we visited multiple sites in the city, my favorite stop of which was the George W. Bush Library. While Bush isn’t my favorite president and I didn’t agree with all his policies, I very much respect him both personally and as the president who shaped my youth. Walking thru the exhibit in the library and seeing images of 9/11 will forever give me chills.
In conclusion, as we wrap up the trip and I look back on the past three days, I can already look ahead to a future that has been positively influenced by this weekend.
Tessa Fendley: Day 3
The third and final day of the L.E.A.P program trip to Dallas seemed to pass by in a blur. We toured downtown Dallas on Segways, seeing a lot of different historical sites. Two of the more notable ones were the Dallas City Hall and Pioneer Plaza“cattle run.” We learned that City Hall was constructed so as to provide shade to the people working in the offices and to pedestrians below. Pioneer Plaza, built by Robert Summers, consists of copper sculptures of a larger-than-life herd of longhorn cattle. Commissioned by the City of Dallas, it is a stunning sight.
We then ate at what was my favorite place of the entire trip, Twisted Root. This wonderful eatery offered a variety of unusual burger options, including kangaroo, ostrich, and buffalo. I chose the vegetarian black bean burger, covered in onions, cheese, and pickles. To accompany my burger, I ordered fried pickles and French fries, which I enjoyed covered in their variety of homemade sauces.
Our last stop before finally heading back home was a small café. We each ordered a variety of cookies and coffee. I got a sandy pecan, a pecan delight, and a chocolate covered praline, all accompanied by a delicious coffee and an original Coke.
This experience in Dallas is something that I will never forget. The Sixth Floor Museum, the NPF Conference, the Segway tour, and the delicious food were all great ways to kick off my freshman year of college, along with making connections with people that I hope to see again.
Ariel Traub: Day 3
As our trip came to a close, I looked back on all of the amazing things we experienced and the great opportunities that we had. While we did much on this trip, my favorite experience was the Segway tour.
We departed the hotel early and headed to downtown Dallas to Nation Tours. We arrived at a large empty building with several Segways lined up along a wall, greeted by a very happy and upbeat tour guide, Doug, who showed us how to properly use the Segway (after handing out helmets).
We ventured outside where we each practiced on the Segway in order to ensure we could handle riding on our own. A few of us had a rocky start but, after all, it was our first time. Once we all got the hang of riding the Segway, the real fun began. We started the historical tour of Downtown Dallas at 9:30am. It was a full and fun experience, plus we got to see a giant eyeball, really!
I even got to eat at a food truck during our tour. There were no Segway accidents or civilian casualties – all the inexperienced Segway drivers made it through the two-hour-plus trip, although some of us did almost get hit while trying to take a picture in the middle of the street.
I had a great time in Dallas with the L.E.A.P. program and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have attended the NPF Careers in Politics Conference. It is great that Sam Houston State University helps students achieve academic success and provide such great opportunities to build their futures.
Jennifer Flores: Day 3
Unfortunately today was the last day of our trip to Dallas, but the fun wasn’t over… We woke up early for a morning Segway tour around the Dallas downtown. It was my first time on a Segway, but after I found my balance, it turned out to be one of the most fun forms of transportation on which I’ve been! The tour allowed us to explore many of Dallas’s historic sites and modern spaces. I especially enjoyed the Segway tour because it really gave me an up close and personal tour of city, allowing me to experience Dallas in whole new way.
We ate lunch at a local restaurant, Twisted Root Burger Co., which might just be my new favorite restaurant! They have everything a burger lover craves, and they make their own tasty root beer. I had the buffalo burger with fried green beans and would recommend that to everyone.
Our next stop was the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.
The museum tells the chronological story of President George Bush’s life and his years of presidency. Artifacts, photographs, and videos details the president’s challenges of global war on terror, education reform, a financial crisis, and the efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS abroad. I was very touched by the piece of steel from the World Trade Center that now hangs in display; it is a part of the museum that triggers emotions for everyone that remembers 9/11/01.
The New Politics Forum Careers in Politics was my first trip with the L.E.A.P program and it was truly more than I thought it would be. Our trip not only offered an historical learning adventure but we also gained networking experiencing at the NPF seminar. We had the pleasure of meeting Texas Representatives Rafael Anchia and Kenneth Sheets and Texas Senator Royce West. It was a great way to get to know fellow SHSU classmates and make lasting friendships, and I’m looking forward to future events with L.E.A.P.
Coby Steele: Day 3
We woke up to a nice cool morning on our last day in Dallas and set off for an early morning tour through downtown Dallas (on Segways). Having grown up not far from Dallas, I was surprised at how much I did not know about the city I had visited when I was younger. We saw fascinating parks around the city, historic sites like the Old Red Courthouse and the JFK Memorial, and Dealey Plaza, the site of JFK’s assassination, where some of us had a scare with Dallas traffic while taking pictures.
After lunch (at the Twisted Root Burger Company, featured on The Food Network), we returned to the SMU campus, this time to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum. The library hosted many artifacts used and presented to President and Laura Bush during their time in the White House and trips abroad. The exhibits were laid out along a timeline starting at President Bush’s first campaign for the presidency. Through the exhibits we were able to step back through the major events that shaped the country at that time as well as hear President Bush’s explanations that led to his decisions. Hearing him explain in his own words his reasons for getting involved in the AIDS fight in Africa, the 2008 economic crisis and, most interestingly, the Iraq War, was the part I found most interesting, and it brought for me more understanding as to what was going on in the country’s executive office during those tumultuous years.
We arrived in Huntsville around 7:30pm, concluding a successful and educational trip. I learned a lot about a city near which I had grown up as well as ideas for a successful career in my chosen field.
Brian King: Day 3
The third and final day of our trip began with a Segway tour of downtown Dallas. Before we could begin, our tour guide gave us a crash course (no pun intended) on how to properly maneuver the Segway. Since this would be my first experience on a Segway, I looked forward to it being the tour of my hometown.
On the tour, my favorite buildings were the Old Red Museum and the Adolphus Hotel. The architecture (Romanesque style) and stone material (made of red sandstone and blue granite) of the Old Red Museum were the main components that caught my attention. Originally, the Old Red Museum operated as the Dallas County Courthouse. I really admired the distinct roof of the Adolphus Hotel, influenced by French architectural design (known as “Beaux-Arts” architecture) and also designed by Adolphus Busch (fun fact: founder of the Anheuser-Busch company). This building was known for some time as the tallest in the state of Texas. We also saw the Thanksgiving Chapel, designed by Philip Johnson (who also did the JFK Memorial)…
We stopped for lunch in the Deep Ellum District at Twisted Root Burger Co. After lunch, we visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of SMU. The museum was very informative of not only Bush’s personal life, but more importantly, what made his character distinct from the other honorable gentlemen who have held the highest elected position in the United States of America.
The Bush Presidential Library was very interactive and engaging with various activities describing how the Bush Administration tackled social and global issues within the realms of domestic and foreign affairs. A distinct part of the Bush Presidential Library I really enjoyed was the father-son statue of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, just outside of the museum. To me, the statue represented two men of faith and noble character.
In all, I really enjoyed gaining insight from various actors in the field of politics: congressmen, political reporters, attorneys, and more. This was a great event for students to gain knowledge of what it takes to get into politics, as well as what to expect within the political field. I look forward to SHSU’s L.E.A.P. program preparing future graduates this type of opportunity.