Truman’s Terrain and the Land of Lincoln

Although our trip’s primary purpose is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with his research, our path to and from Detroit consists of various related (and otherwise educational) stops.  Today, the stops included the World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Capitol of Missouri in Jefferson City, and some historical sites in Springfield, IL.

World War I Museum

With a towering concrete edifice, the World War I Monument was recognized as the national commemorative memorial of the war’s destructive toll.

Liberty Tower, World War I Monument, World War I Museum, Kansas City
Liberty Tower, World War I Monument

Standing at the foot of the tower, we looked up to a blinding peak, which seemed to scratch the sun. With such an admiring sight, we found the elevator to climb the approximately ten-story structure. As we stepped onto the balcony of the memorial our sights were lost among the mesmerizing vista of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Skyline, Union Station, World War I Museum
Kansas City Skyline

Perched on our elevated vantage point, we spotted various spouting fountains riddled amidst the city, appropriately nicknamed the City of Fountains.

After descending the 90-year old elevator–a very cozy metal enclosure hanging over rickety wires-we returned to the ground. We then rendezvoused outside the memorial and returned inside the museum, ready to view the exhibits of diverse aspects of the Great War.

With a brief overview of the complexity of the war’s inception, composed of treaties and alliances among the European nations, we began the tour with relics of the nations’ emperors and rulers.

World War I Museum, Timeline, Kansas City
Paul Examines the World War I Timeline

Such antiquities included marksmanship trophies, luxurious smoking pipes and flasks, and  other royal artifacts. As we followed the museum’s exhibits we also viewed the different models of the combatant’s firearms with pistols and rifles from each of the European countries. This exhibit provided a sense of the period’s need for manufacturing, where each nation used its resources and laborers to mass produce their own firearms. Among the exhibits were showcased other aspects of the war which had not been experienced prior to the Great War, such as chemical warfare. With masks worn by these trench soldiers, grenades which contaminated the air with hazardous gas, and the spray of mustard gas which would burn the flesh of patriotic fighters, the atrocities witnessed in this war were unlike any other. Furthermore, the dugouts in which the military denizens took, what could loosely be termed, refuge, imposed a very deplorable, unsanitary, demoralizing lifestyle for the fighters of World War I. To further exhibit the effects of industrialization on war, there were also maquettes and life-size models of the war’s u-boats, primitive military air-crafts (some made out of cloth and wood!). and missiles.


Most notably, in the American campaign section of the museum, we found two modified Ford Model T’s which would have been used during the war.

Model T, Henry Ford, World War I, WWI Museum, Kansas City
Paul and Ryan Examine the War-Purposed Model T

Even though the war acted as a catalyst for the modern industrial culture and economy, it also began a new age of catastrophic war. No other showcased artifact was able to capture this horror than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we listened to inside one of the museum’s powerful exhibits. It was this poem that spoke the truth of the war’s atrocious effects on the lives of those who died and survived World War I. After this reflective visit to the museum, we went back to our traveling mini-van and got back on the road in order to reach Jefferson City on time for our tour of Missouri’s Capital Building.

Jefferson City, Missouri’s Capital

After the two hour drive into Jefferson City, we hopped on an already-started capitol tour. Our tour began on the second floor, where there are sixteen murals done in a style called three point perspective, where, at different angles, objects in the painting seem to be altered. For example, in one mural depicting a civil war battle, Union forces look to be attacking, while Confederate forces are retreating, but, at another angle, the roles of the opposing sides seem to switch.

On this same level are the House and Senate chambers. On the house side, there is the House Lounge room, where Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, painted a mural covering all of the walls.

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Capitol, House Lounge
Thomas Hart Benton’s Murals in the House Lounge

The murals depict the history of Missouri, both good and bad, from French traders and farmers trading with the natives, to the time of Tom Pendergast, also known as “Boss Tom” (seen in the mural above on the bottom right).

When Boss Tom was arrested on tax fraud and sent to prison, one senator snuck in at night and carved Pendergast’s prison number on the back of his suit. Other congressmen would put out their cigars and cigarettes on his face, and Mr. Benton had to come back years later to repair the mural.

All the faces in the murals are native Missourians, except for one: an Osage Native American who was living on a reserve in Kansas, since natives were removed from their lands in Missouri.

Interestingly and sadly, when Mormons settled in Missouri, they were hated by many, and the governor passed an executive order in 1838 to allow anyone to drive them off of their land by any means necessary, whether that be tar and feathering, burning their house, or murder.

Benton Depicts the Treatment of Mormons in Missouri’s Early History

On the third floor is a hall of famous Missourians, where busts of well-known natives of the state are featured. Two in particular—Emmet Kelley, a famous clown, and Stan Musial, a famous baseball player—are special in that, if you take a picture of them with the flash on, you see features not visible to the naked eye.  With Kelley, for example, you can see his clown makeup when photographed with a flash.

When Stan Musial is photographed with flash, the red “SL” on his cap is visible; without the flash, or by the naked eye, the SL is visible, but not in Cardinal red.

Also on this floor is the grand staircase, a huge staircase which leads from the grounds outside to the third floor, the largest bronze doors cast since the Roman Empire, and a 9,000 pound bronze chandelier suspended from the ceiling of the dome. Having finished the tour of one of the “most interactive capital buildings” (according to Brian Aldaco), our hunger was calling our attention.

Missouri's Capitol Dome
Missouri’s Capitol Rotunda

For lunch we went to a place called Arris, right next to the beautiful Missouri Capitol. Arris is a Greek pizzeria. Every pizza that they serve is named after a different figure from Greek mythology or history, including Achilles, Athena, Atlas, Poseidon, and Plato. Curiously, it seems that the philosopher has determined that eating animals is unjust, as the Plato was a vegetarian pizza.  We went for a meat option.


Between the LEAPsters we split the Aiyaiys pizza, made up of cheese, mushroom, green peppers, and sausage. Professor Yawn got a gyro sandwich of Illiadic proportions in lieu of pizza. We also discovered that Greek pizza bears more resemblance to Italian pizza than American pizza. “Like the Italian pizza, this one had less tomato sauce, and a thinner crust,” commented Paul Oliver. Having tasted among the finest in Greek pie we drove towards Springfield, Illinois in hopes that we would make there on time before the closing of Lincoln’s burial grounds.

Lincoln’s Tomb

After another long car ride we arrived at Lincoln’s Tomb. It is an impressive edifice, boasting a central obelisk that rises to a point high above the rest of the mausoleum.

Lincoln's Tomb, Springfield, IL

A statue of Lincoln adorns the front, his hand outstretched before him. Beneath him various statues of heroes stand. At the base of the tomb is a heavy, metal door that allows entrance into his sepulcher.

The rest of the necropolis was quite beautiful as well. The landscape of lush, green grass and tall trees provided a verdant resting place for the dead. Most curiously, adjacent to Lincoln’s tomb was the old home for the tomb’s caretaker. Due to an edict issued by the governor at the time of the crypt’s construction, all government buildings had to be made in a gothic style. The caretaker’s home is therefore made of stone bricks, and has a presumably faux-watchtower built into its side, as well as battlements upon the roof.

As the tower’s bell knoll marked the time for the cemetery to close, we rode to take a peak of Illinois’ Capital Building. On its grounds stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Capitol Building
The LEAP Guys with Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Capitol

….and Stephen Douglas which we were fond of (he appeared to be strutting). After admiring the very dramatic architecture…


…we rode a few blocks in search of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas home.

Unlike the Usonian homes we had visited in our previous trip, the Dana-Thomas home was designed in a more oriental-inspired design but it still stood as a home far ahead of its time. Even though it was built a hundred years ago, due to its very modern appearance, it could have very well been built yesterday.

To continue on our search for interesting homes, we also went in search for Lincoln’s Springfield home. Situated along South 8th St. and East Jackson St., the homes that surround the former Illinois senator’s residence are preserved as they were in the 19th century. With the street left unpaved, walking towards Lincoln’s home was an enjoyable stroll down a period of American history that is left frozen in time in those few blocks near The Great Emancipator’s home. As we caught the last glimpses of the residence, with the sun already beneath the horizon and fireflies glittering along the dirt road, we hoped onto our minivan ready to make our three-hour ride to Chicago. With a very satisfying day of historical learning coupled with an estimated total travel time of eleven hours we deemed it appropriate to pat ourselves on the back for having enjoyably finished the second day of our trip.


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.


Travel Reflections: Favorites from the South (and Midwest)

The LEAP Center’s mission is to offer unique educational opportunities for students.  An example of this is the Center’s annual trip to the Southern Legislative Conference, to which the LEAP Ambassadors are invited to attend.  While the conference offers the opportunity to learn about policies among 15 southern (and near-southern) states, the travel to and from the conference also presents learning opportunities.

Following the students’ 11-day trip across eight states and more than 20 educational sites, the seven students selected their favorite destinations across categories such as food, historical landmark, museums, and cities.  The results are below:

Favorite Cities:

  • Eureka Springs, AR: This quaint little town proved to be the favorite of the group, with almost every student placing it on their top three.
Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR
  • Lexington, KY: The site of our conference also proved popular.  With its beautiful horse farms, pretty downtown, and attractive parks, students enjoyed four days in the horse capitol of the country.
Triangle Park, Lexington
The LEAP Ambassadors at Triangle Park, Lexington
  • Hot Springs, AR: This was a surprise to our professor, but the students enjoyed seeing the springs, the historic architecture, and meeting other SHSU students by happenstance!
Ozark Bathhouse, Hots Spring Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of Ozark Bathhouse, Hot Springs, AR

Favorite Restaurants:

Little towns ruled the culinary arts on this tour!

Favorite Works of Architecture:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright House (Bachman-Wilson House) at Crystal Bridges was the favorite, edging out some other top designs.  The large living room won the day!
Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home
  • Anthony Chapel at Garvin Gardens, Hot Spring, AR was one of three Fay Jones’ Chapels the student saw, and it proved the favorite.  Although larger than the other two (which are in Bella Vista and Eureka Springs), the three designs are very similar.
Garvin Gardens, E. Fay Jones, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Garvin Gardens by Fay Jones, Hot Springs, AR
  • Honorable Mention should go to several structures.  The students very much enjoyed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Union Station in St. Louis…
Union Station, STL MO
LEAP Ambassadors at Union Station, St. Louis, MO

…the Old Mill is always a favorite stop.

Gone With the Wind, Little Rock, Arkansas, Old Mill
LEAP Ambassadors at Old Mill, Little Rock, AR

…and The Parthenon proved a favorite as well.

The Parthenon, Nashville
The LEAP Ambassadors at the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee

Favorite Works of Art

  • The Turrell Skyscape, “The Way of Color” at Crystal Bridges:

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  • Au Cafe, by Stanton MacDonald-Wright was also popular, providing much head-scratching and discussion.
"Au Cafe," by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
  • George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the Crystal Bridges Museum
George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum


  • Hiking: The students enjoyed both their hike at Pinnacle Mountain…
Pinnacle Mountain, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Abassadors at the Peak of Pinnacle Mountain

…and Devil’s Den State Park…

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at Devil’s Den State Park
  • Ropes Course at Megacavern in Louisville, KY
Megacavern, Ropes Course
Karla Rosales and Ryan Brim at the MegaCavern
  • Tie:  Skeet Shooting…
Brian Aldaco, Skeet Shooting
Brian Aldaco Hitting Targets

…and meeting Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick, authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip.”

Camp Nelson, Blair Hess, Cameron Ludwick, My Old Kentucky Road Trip
LEAP Ambassadors with Authors Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick

It was another enormously rewarding road trip, providing us with the opportunity to learn about history, art, architecture, civil rights, politics, law, and public policy.  It was a happy eleven days!

LEAP Ambassadors, Pinnacle Mountain
LEAP Ambassadors at Pinnacle Mountain

Exploring Northwest Arkansas: Razorback Country

July 15, 2016

Rejuvenated from sleep, we woke ready for our day, which would consist of touring the University of Arkansas Law School, hiking and catching a movie to wind down.

University of Arkansas School of Law

When we arrived at the University of Arkansas School of Law, we met with Ms. Kalesha McGraw, the Assistant Director of Admissions, and she welcomed us to the school before taking us to the student lounge for a quick overview of the law school. We learned about the admissions process, the class schedules and sizes, and the student life in Fayetteville. We also learned about notable (former) faculty such as Bill and Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton becomes elected, University of Arkansas -Fayetteville will be the first law school to have more than one faculty member become President of the United States. The rest of the Q&A section with Ms. McGraw consisted of questions that ranged from the cost and the admissions process to the actual courses and the structure of the classes.

After our informative Q&A session, we walked upstairs to observe Professor Day’s Professional Responsibility class. This is a required course and helps students prepare for the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for taking the Bar Exam and tests law students’ knowledge on ethics. During the summer fewer students are on campus, but classes are still in session. The topic of discussion for class today was on conflicts an attorney may face during their practice. Throughout the class, the Professor explained conflicts using cases where ethical issues arose. To explain a complicated scenario, the Professor and students even role played a scene which presented the situation in an interesting and clear way. We enjoyed the class and our Professor’s informative teaching methods!

Following class, we took a quick tour around the building visiting places like the courtroom and the library. The law school was even nice enough to provide lunch for us! Satisfied, we stopped to admire the Jesus Moroles sculptures in the courtyard…

University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles, Fayetteville, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles’ Sculptures

…and the front of the school on our way out.

Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures
Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures

Many thanks to Ms. McGraw and the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville Law School for their hospitality!

After a morning filled with learning and a long trip, some of us decided to take a mental and physical break.  Others, however, soldiered on, readying ourselves for a brief bit of shopping and a hike in Devil’s Den State Park.

Before driving down highway 170 into Devil’s Den State Park, we stopped to peak into some shops in town. Once everyone was satisfied with what they had purchased, we began our journey to Devil’s Den. As our second hike of the trip, the first being the climb up Pinnacle Mt. near Little Rock, we felt prepared and pumped up for the rugged expedition that we were about to take part of. With the sun falling on the horizon, the weather was a prime condition to explore inside the woods.

Devil’s Den

This 2,500 acre state park offers myriad outdoor activities, from rafting to camping to hiking.  We chose the latter, embarking on the Devil’s Den Self-Guided trail, which is 1.5 miles round-trip.

As we began on our trail we descended down masonry steps. Such modifications to the trails and other man made structures within the state park were once Civilian Conservation Corps projects from the Great Depression. The engineering talent of these laborers is clear when taking these steps and observing how strong they still are, even after almost a century of its construction! The traces of useful man made structures became fewer as we went deeper into the woods.

Ahead of us stood trails traced through the rocky cliffs with trees filtering the sun and casting a serene shadow over the whole scene. Then, the trail neared a river, waters sonorously rushing through and echoing through the woods. This sound at times kept us focused, as we knew that as long as we kept the river at our left shoulders we were going the right way. Along the trail, at times encountering uneven, slippery and rocky ground, we found caves in which the temperature inside would lower presumably by ten-twenty degrees.

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors, Caverns
LEAP Ambassadors in One of Devil’s Dens’ Caverns

The trail also goes by the more descriptive name of “Double Falls” Hike, so named because of two falls that appear about halfway through the trail.  For us, though, the trail could have been named “Triple Falls,” because, hearing water of the main trail, we made tracks over a hill to find a small waterfall.

To get there, we had to cross a log bridge…


…but this only added to the excitement of our discovery.

Having safely traversed the fallen-tree bridge, we frolicked in the waterfalls…


…okay, frolicked may be too strong of a word.  But we did have fun.

We found additional falls further along our hike.

Waterfalls, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambasadors
Waterfalls in Devil’s Den State Park

Only a few feet beyond these falls was another waterfall, equally as delightful.

LEAP Ambassadors, Devil's Den State Park, Waterfalls
Waterfalls at Devil’s Den State Park

From our trek we had worked our selves into perspiration and slight exhaustion. The refreshing, cool water of these natural showers, however, were just the perfect manna we needed to continue on our journey through Devil’s Den.

From the falls, the hike wends it way downhill, which offers another striking view of the falls.


And this perspective provided additional photo ops.

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We even found another log bridge on which to climb.

Tree Bridge, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Enjoy Devil’s Den State Park

As we completed the 1 1/2 mile hike, ducking our heads to evade pesky spider webs threaded from tree to tree…


…we contemplated our accomplishments. We had finished another hike on our trip! With tiring limbs and sweaty backs, we climbed the van with a sense of victory and ready to relax and catch a movie.

But, first, we made two more stops.  We picked up food from Hammontree’s, an excellent grilled cheese specialty restaurant in Fayetteville.  We also made our way to Mt. Sequoyah, the highest spot in Fayetteville, where we watched the sunset.

LEAP Ambassadors, Mt. Sequoyah, NW Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors at Mt. Sequoya

It was, we thought, a fitting end to a wonderful trip.

Movies and Winding Down

Once we had freshened up at the hotel, we climbed back into the van and drove to a near by movie theater to watch the remake of Ivan Reitman’s hit movie, Ghostbusters. Even though the original film is about 30 years old, most of us had previously watched it and waited in anticipation through the previews to see how similar this remake would be to our beloved original.

We found many differences between the new film and the original Ghost Busters film, an obvious one being that women instead of men were playing the lead roles. Most of us focused more attention to the fact that Paul Feig’s film also includes multiple nods to Reitman’s original and Sigourney Weaver, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and even Bill Murray make appearances. After an hour and forty-seven minutes filled with laughs that echoed in the theater (mostly Megan’s), we were ready to turn in for the night to prepare for our long journey home tomorrow morning.


Bridges, Springs, and Mountains: Traveling through the Ozarks

July 14, 2016 –

Even as we entered the homestretch, nearing the end of our trip, we remained excited about our time in Northwest Arkansas.  With trips to Eureka Springs, the Thorncrown Chapel, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ahead of us, we were ready for a day of fun and education.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Written by: Brian Aldaco, Megan Chapa, and Kaitlyn Tyra

After hearing about how great of a little town Eureka Springs was from all of the people that we had met at the Southern Legislative Conference, we were all ready to go see it for ourselves! Before our planned bus tour we visited Fresh Harvest, a fine olive oil shop near the visitors center. None of us had ever been to an olive oil tasting, so this was another “first” to write off in our books! One of the workers kindly walked us through some of the different kind of olive oils and explained the differences among them.

During the explanations of the oils, we were given the chance to taste each one until we had found the ones we loved. They had everything ranging from balsamic and vinaigrettes to jams that contained rich olive oil. We were also informed that they are made in house and are even bottled there. After wandering around the aisles filled with canisters of oil and tasting all of those that sounded appealing (such as white peach and raspberry), we chose some of our favorites, checked out and scurried to our bus tour.

Once we all made it out of Fresh Harvest, we leaped into the bus and began riding through the winding roads of Eureka Springs to tour through a one-of-a-kind city. Eureka Springs is most famously known for its system of freshwater springs that can be spotted all around the town. We began the tour by getting on highway 62, leaving the town behind as the bus snaked it’s way through woods and cliffs. On the roadside one could see various motels curiously built amidst the rocky mountains of what could be perceived as a town of low significance. However, such a statement does in no way describe Eureka Springs. With a rich history of Native American tribes, our guide described the importance of the Osage, the tribe which roamed the area before the Europeans made their way though the hidden Ozark Valley. The tribe, fierce protectors of their territory, would even share their healing spring water with their warring enemy tribes. It was en route to a scenic roadside view of this valley that we could appreciate the rugged terrain these tribes and early settlers of the town would have faced in settling on that land. Through hills of endless forests we continued on to an unobstructed vista of the White River along with its green, vast valley.

The White River, Near Eureka Springs, AR

Doctor Alba Jackson used the Blue Spring waters to treat Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War after discovering it’s “healing effects” from treating his son’s failing eyes. It was after this destructive time period that many sought healing via Eureka Spring’s natural waters. As word spread through the nation of the town’s natural spring water, (which could allegedly be used to treat and cure any type of illness from the common cold down to yellow fever and more) the once forested Hidden Ozark Valley was cleared in order to build what would become Eureka Springs. From one day to another, the small settlement went from a few cabins to Arkansas second largest city in 1878.

On our way back towards Eureka, we drove though a winding driveway, and through the heavy foliage, one could barley see a towering, gray structure which deliberately blended itself with its natural surroundings known as Thorncrown Chapel. Designed by E. Fay Jones (a student of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright), the forty-eight feet tall wooden chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Design of the Decade Award in the 1980’s.

Eureka Springs, Thorncown Chapel, E. Fay Jones
The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, AR

We all sat in awe of the towering chapel that blended with the surrounding nature and compared it to the Anthony Chapel we had previously seen. After leaving the chapel, we went into the city’s historic loop, Kings Highway, also known as Ojo and Summit and about 10 other names, in true Eureka Springs fashion. Home to only three chain restaurants, the city prides itself in keeping it’s commercial culture untainted by chain food. Such an autonomy has preserved the city  as the old town it used to be.

The Crescent Hotel is one of the buildings of the town that has stood the test of time as it still towers over Eureka Springs.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs
The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR

Although the winding roads were scary for some of us, the visit to this historical hotel was the scariest part of the tour. Seated high above “Mysterious” Valley, the hotel is supposedly the most haunted hotel in the country. In 1886 the Hotel was opened at a resort for the wealthy to vacation. Since then, it has changed ownership many times. It served as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women at one point; at another point, a scam artist took over, making it into a fraudulent cancer hospital.

With this history, it’s no wonder that some guests have reported supernatural experiences. For example, each night between 12-3 am a women dressed in white has been reported to fall from the third story balcony. The story goes that during the hotel’s time as a College and Conservatory, a young woman committed suicide after she learned of her pregnancy, which was frowned upon during her time. Today, this is just one of the stories that tour guides tell visitors from all over the country during the many ghost tours given daily.

Eureka Springs, Crescent Hotel, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors on Balcony of Crescent Hotel

After a stop full of fascinating stories (some believable and some not so much) we boarded the bus to visit many of the springs from which the city is rightfully named.

Last week, we visited Hot Springs, Arkansas to learn about the bath houses and natural spring waters. This week, in Eureka Springs, we learned the waters are similar except for one major difference, the temperature! Eureka Springs consists of cold spring fed waters that are much more refreshing than the hot springs whose water is always 100+ degrees. While visiting at least four of the springs (the city is home to many more) our tour guide kindly narrated interesting stories that caught our attention like the reason why doing laundry at the Laundry Spring is now a misdemeanor crime.

Tour Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
Tour Guide John Thomas Shows The LEAP Ambassadors Aspects of the Springs

We learned that the way to spot a spring is to look out for a garden. The tenants of the springs would plant gardens outside to make their cave more home like. We also toured downtown Eureka Springs, which lies partially underground in the tunnel system that benefits the city by adding additional real estate for the tourist shops and restaurants.

Because the city lies within the northwest Arkansas hills, the streets are extremely winding and occasionally bumpy. This created many strange angles for real estate, but it is also a symbol of Eureka Spring’s unique style. We stopped for a few quick photo opportunities and to admire the view one last time before closing our tour.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors View the Crescent Hotel

Many thanks to Mr. John Thomas of Eureka Van Tours for an energetic, informative, and jam-packed tour of Eureka Springs! Following our informative tour, we headed downtown for a quick lunch at Mud Street Café. This cafe was built in 1888 under the city’s surface. The venue’s name originates from the very street on which it was built. Because of the dirt roads and underground spring, floods were habitual and caused the street to become muddy. The cafe had original limestone walls, oak tables, and Victorian carpet making it exclusive. Orders around the table varied. Megan ordered the Cajun wrap and others ordered a variety of burgers and sandwiches. We even sampled the crème sodas and the coffee with peppermint schnapps!

Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs
Burger at Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs, AR

The food and drinks were delicious, leaving some of us a little drowsy. We managed to fight our sleepiness because we wanted to check out the small shops along the historic downtown Eureka.

LEAP Ambassadors, Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR

With menacing rain clouds forming in the sky, we hurriedly boarded our van ready to drive towards Bentonville.

Crystal Bridges Written by: Beatriz Martinez, and Karla Rosales

Upon arrival, the pitter patter of the raindrops on our heads hurried us into the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We navigated through the halls in order to reach our tour guide. We eagerly waited for out tour to start because we all knew that we were about to explore another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces; the Bachman-Wilson home.

Similar to the Kraus house we had visited in St. Louis, the Bachman-Wilson home was designed as a Usonian-style home. Derived from the abbreviation of “United States of North America”, this form of organic architecture was invented by Wright to create homes that would be compatible with nature and stand alone as American without other influences. The original owners of the home were Gloria and Abraham Wilson. Having seen the Shavin house, they implored for Mr. Wright to make them a home of their own. After continuous requests to Wright, one day the Wilsons received a telegram saying, “I suppose I am still here to do houses for such as you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are well-known for their small, yet comfortable size; compression and expansion of spaces; radiant heat; and clerestory patterns (this one being of a Samara design).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Crystal Bridges

The home was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey during the year of 1956, however, after the Wilson’s divorce a year later they decided to sell their home which led to a series of events that ends with the home finding its home at Crystal Bridges. Unfortunately, the location on which the house had been built suffered from the problem of flooding. At one point, the home was 6 feet underwater!

Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino bought the home in 1988.  Recognizing the worth of this wonderful home, they decided to sell it to an institution that would preserve and relocate it to a place where it would not be harmed. Interestingly enough, the blueprints of the building were tracked down and unearthed. The endeavor was a tedious task, one that required the home to be taken apart piece-by-piece, individually marked, and bubble wrapped, and transported to its new location.

Although the home wasn’t built at Crystal Bridges, our tour guide argues that it was destined for the site, as it exemplifies the type of architecture of Crystal Bridges (designed by Moshe Safdie) and that of Arkansas’s most famous architect, E. Fay Jones.

Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home

Enjoying the work of one of America’s most renowned architects, we continued on inside to take a look at the other forms of American art that Crystal Bridges had to offer.

The first exhibit in the museum displayed colonial to mid-nineteenth century American art titled “From the Colonies to the Civil War”. The time frame begins in 1621 when Mayflower pilgrims found Plymouth colony to 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. This exhibit displayed a lot of portraits painted in oil on canvas. In that same mid-nineteenth century we got to see artwork by Roxy Paine called “Bad Lawn;” it is a plant sculpture formed from industrial materials that was then painted by hand.

Roxy Paine, Bad Lawn, Crystal Bridges
Roxy Paine’s “Bad Lawn” at Crystal Bridges

This work, “Bad Lawn,” is very different than her typical stainless steel structures, but like her other work, it is designed to make viewers reconsider their relationship with nature.  To emphasize this point, the Curator at Crystal Bridges placed the work in the same room as many of the 19th century’s foremost nature painters: Asher Durand, Thomas Moran, Tom Cole, and Albert Bierstadt.

Then we moved on to Professor Yawn’s favorite exhibit, late nineteenth-century art titled “American Art Flourishes at Home and Abroad.” The time frame for this exhibit ranged from the Civil War to the founding of the NAACP in the early 1900’s. The exhibit displayed an abundance of landscape paintings because landscape painters were interacting with the outdoors and celebrating the natural world.

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, The Bubble, Crystal Bridges
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble” at Crystal Bridges

A key example of this art is Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble,” in which she pictures a model dancing with an orb.

Before the 20th century exhibit, we stopped to see a small exhibit called “Reel Women, Icons and Identity in Film” which displayed photography of popular actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood between 1930 and 1960. The 20th century exhibit titled “Depicting Change in a Modern World” displayed great events in history the like the roaring twenties in America, the Great Depression, and World War II. The art in this exhibit was much more modern and colorful.

In this exhibit, Karla found her favorite piece of art by artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright titled “Au Cafe.”

"Au Cafe," by
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton McDonald-Wright, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

At first it appears to be simply abstraction, but as you look closer you can see the artist with his wife drinking a martini depicted in colorful shapes. The final exhibit was 1940’s to Now, it displayed a timeline of important events during this time frame. Amazingly, we have visited many of the places where these important events took place.

Two pieces of art that made some students cringe and others awe at the realistic figures were pieces of hyperrealism by Evan Penny and Duane Hanson. Penny’s work was a self-portrait, titled “Old Self,” and it was indeed very realistic.

Evan Penny, Old Self, Crystal Bridges
Evan Penny’s “Old Self” at Crystal Bridges Museum

We were fascinated by the detail that Penny put into the piece; indeed, some of us were even started as we entered the room, thinking that it was a real person we were seeing.


Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” was just as realistic, but more sad.

Duane Hanson, Man on Bench, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” at the Crystal Bridges

It was very interesting how the sculptures looked so realistic!

Another piece that captured the interest of all of us was the “Untitled” piece by Felix Gonzalez Torres that invited us to not only touch, but eat a piece of the art!

Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled, Candy, Crystal Bridges
Felix Gonzales-Torres’s “Untitled” at Crystal Bridges

After making additional stops to see a Picasso…

Crystal Bridges, Picasso, Seated Woman
Picasso’s “Seated Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Jackson Pollock…

Crystal Bridges, Jackson Pollock, Reclining Woman
Jackson Pollock’s “Reclining Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Thomas Hart Benton…

Thomas Hart Benton, Steel Mill, Crystal Bridges
Thomas Hart Benton’s “Steel Mill”

…Lyonel Feininger…

Lyonel Feinenger, Schlossgasse, Crystal Bridges, Cubism
Feinenger’s “Schlossgasse” at Crystal Bridges

…and Andy Warhol…

Andy Warhol, Coca Cola, Crystal Bridges
Andy Warhol’s “Coca Cola”

…we headed outside to see the sculpture garden.

Here, we posed for a photo next to Robert Indiana’s “LOVE,” which we’ve seen in several locations.

Robert Indiana, Crystal Bridges, LOVE
Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”

Another sculptor we have seen much of is Louise Bourgeois and Crystal Bridges has a particularly fine sculpture by her, “Maman,” meaning “mommy.”  “Maman,” like many of her sculptures, is a spider, this one carrying 20 eggs.

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, Crystal Bridges, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman,” at Crystal Bridges

We were especially interested in a sculpture by James Turrell called “The Way of Color.” it is made with stone, concrete stainless steel, and LED lights. The lights inside the sculpture change color as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Luckily, we got there right at sunset and were able to view the different colors!

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Walking around and through the museum was a timeless journey. The students loved being able to chronologically view the art and watch it change over the decades and adapt to its time. Some of us loved walking into an exhibit and immediately recognizing pieces by artists such as Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gilbert Stewart, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.

Moshe Sofdie's "Crystal Bridges"
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Designed by Moshie Sofdie

Even though it seemed like a timeless journey, once we looked at our watches it was a little past 9 PM, so we knew that our dinning options would be limited.

The Foxhole

The Foxhole was our dinner destination and we were excited to eat after a long day of exploring. As one of the highest rated places to eat in Bentonville, we were intrigued by what awaited us.  They offered a twist on the Korean dish “Steam Buns.”  The group was split on the food, with a majority liking them very much, being particularly impressed by the tender and flavorful meat, which one newspaper described as a “flavor-forward, hand-held entree” that “really shine(s).” We also enjoyed the homemade creme sodas, the chips and aioli dip.  After sipping down the little bit of soda left in our glasses, we all gathered into the van and made our way back to the comfort of our hotel for a good nights rest to energize us for our law class in the morning!

Gateway to (Mid)West: St. Louis

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It seemed too soon to reminisce about the first half of our trip, which was filled with fun activities and meeting great people.  But, as we packed for our next destination early in the morning, contemplated the great people we had met and the fun of visiting Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Lexington, and Frankfort.

Ambassadors with Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess, Authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip”

But with St. Louis on our destination list for today, we hastened to pack and headed out at 4am, a bit groggy, but excited for the Midwest section of the trip.

The Old Courthouse, St. Louis

Five hours later, we were able to make our first stop: the Old Courthouse.

Dred Scott Courthouse, Missouri, St. Louis
The Old Courthouse, Where the Dred Scott Case Originated, St. Louis, MO

We were out on the road again until we reached St. Louis, Missouri where our first stop was the Old Courthouse. This courthouse is especially important because this is where the famous Dred Scott case was brought to trial. Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves that filed a suit for their freedom against Irene Emerson, their slave owner. They tried to take advantage of the Missouri law that would allow them to buy their freedom, and after many years of hardship the judges finally came to a conclusion. In 1857, it was decided that they were not to be considered citizens of Missouri; therefore they could not sue for their freedom. Having grown tired of the slave family, the Emerson family sold them to the Blow family where the Scotts were finally set free. Sadly, Dred Scott enjoyed his freedom only for a short while as he died a year later in 1858.

There is an exhibit in the Old Courthouse where the courtroom in which this trial was heard is displayed.  It was filled with chairs for the jury, two desks for the attorneys, a desk for a bailiff, and a clerk, a chair for witnesses, and a chair for the presiding judge. We even recreated the trial ourselves!

LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case
LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case

Apart from its historic value, the courthouse is a beautiful structure, with a beautiful dome designed by William Rumbold.

Old Courthouse, St. Louis, Dred Scott
Old Courthouse Dome, Designed by William Rumbold with Murals by Karl Wimar

As part of LEAP, we are always seeking ways to expand our knowledge. So it is only fitting that we visit the monumental symbol of the westward expansion as our next stop.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Gateway Arch, St. Louis,
Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947

The westward expansion, aided greatly by the Louisiana Purchase, doubled the size of the United States in 1803. In honor of America moving into a more prosperous and hopeful state, The Arch was built as the “gateway to the west.” The Arch proudly stands at an intimidating 630 feet making it the tallest man-made monument in the nation.


The architect, Eero Saarinen, was an immigrant from Finland and was granted this opportunity after winning a contest by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1947. After studying architecture at Yale, he believed this was the opportunity to establish himself as an architect in America and it was. Although the design for this structure was completed in 1947, the real structure was not completed until 1965! We learned that this monument was brilliantly made with 142 stainless steel triangle sections that are each 12 feet in length held together by tension bars and truss. It took 13 years to raise the 13 million dollars needed to fund this project. In 1967, a trans system was built inside the north and south legs of the arch allowing 40 people at a time to view the impressive view. It was through these same legs that we rode through in our capsules.

Gateway Arch Elevator St. Louis
Gateway Arch “Elevator” or Travel Pod

It was tremendously fun to be able to enjoy the arch’s view…

Gateway Arch
Beatriz, Kaitlyn, and Karla at Top of Gateway Arch

…and see parts of St. Louis that we looked forward to exploring.

Gateway Arch, Dred Scott Courthouse, Wainright Building
St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch

Once back on the ground, we were also able to watch an informative documentary about the arch and its history.  Expansion in 1803 meant a hopeful future for some and that is our motivation as we expand our education in college and on our trips.

Originally, we had planned to visit the city garden that was near the courthouse. With its luscious greenery, sparkling fountains, and marvelous art we were all prepared to relax and enjoy the perfect view of the arch it would offer. Or so we imagined. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit a trip to that destination.

Photo Ops in St. Louis

Remaining undaunted, we decided to go on a photo op adventure instead. Our first photo op stop was a Richard Haas mural.  With two of our students having been interns at the Wynne Home, his work has a special meaning to us, and fourteen of his works dot the downtown of Huntsville.

Richard Haas, St. Louis, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors in front of Richard Haas Mural

None of the ones in Huntsville, however, cover the 110,000 square feet of the one adorning the Old Edison Stores Building in St. Louis.

Next, we headed over to the St. Louis Union Station  Building, which is a beautiful structure, now a Doubletree by Hilton.  But its interiors were what we found most intriguing…

Union Station in St. Louis, Double Tree
Union Station in St. Louis, MO

…even the entrance to the bathrooms were interesting!


But the grand hall was the most beautiful part.

Doubletree, Union Station, Grand Hotel, St. Louis
Grand Hall at Union Station (Doubletree Hotel) in St. Louis, MO

Across the street is the Milles Fountain, which is also impressive and offers a nice view of the exterior of the Union Station.

Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza, Union State, St. Louis, MO
Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza

Amighetti’s in The Hill, St. Louis

After a morning of westward exploration and photo ops in St. Louis, we took a quick stroll down The Hill to Amighetti’s.

Amighetti's, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO
Amighetti’s, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO

Located in what could be considered St. Louis’ Little Italy, the restaurant provided a prime venue for a satisfying lunch. Under what seemed an authentic tin-lined ceiling, we looked over the menu which included, but was not limited to, the Amighetti’s Special, a ravioli plate, and Little Bit of Italy sandwich.

Little Taste of Italy, Amighetti's, The Hill, St. Louis, MO
A Little Taste of Italy, at Amighetti’s in St. Louis, MO

As for the Amighetti’s Special, the sandwich accomplished its main goal; completely stuff its eater. Made up of ham, roast beef, and Genoa salami, blanketed with a rich layer of brick cheese on a 9 inch loaf of French style bread, it was a near challenge to take a bite. However, the extra effort to open one’s jaw was worth it, for every bite was an opportunity to taste the delicious sandwich. To improve on the experience, the menu presented St. Louis’ own Ritz root-beer. The effervescent, sweet, and smooth root-beer was an enjoyable company to Amighetti’s Special. To close off our lunch we also ordered a round of gelato. Within the group we were able to enjoy a cup of a sour, but satisfying lemon ice, cherry peach, strawberry, and vanilla, all of which we considered of excellent taste. As we stood up from our seat, with a content belly and a cooled off palate, we regained the energy needed to continue our St. Louis exploration at the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home.

On previous adventures, Alex and Ryan had already encountered this one-of-a-kind home a numerous times. Therefore, Professor Yawn decided to give them the opportunity to explore new land by the name of the St. Louis Art Museum. After dropping them off we rerouted to the Kraus home.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

Hidden behind lush greenery, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home is located in the upscale Kirkwood neighborhood of Saint Louis. Taking a short drive from the art museum, we arrived for a special tour. Normally, tours are not available on Wednesday afternoons, but the staff of the home were generous enough to arrange a tour for us today! Upon arrival, we immediately gaped in awe of the unique architecture and the natural beauty surrounding the home.

Kraus Homee, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

To begin our tour, we watched an introductory video about the Kraus home and its architect. Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 and designed more than 500 structures throughout the United States. Represented in the Kraus home were parallelograms, hexagons, and horizontal lines, all of which accentuated the Usonian vision of Wright. The Kraus home sits on 10.5 acres of land now owned by Saint Louis County as part of its parks system.

In the mid 1940’s, Russell Kraus, a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright requesting him to design a small and less expensive home. Nearly ten years later in 1955, the home would finally reach completion. Mr. Kraus lived there until 2001, when a non-profit raised money to purchase the home and the land was deeded to Saint Louis County.

Throughout the tour, Professor Yawn was quick to point out the horizontal attributes of the home, noting even the grooves between the brick walls were designed to draw the eye horizontally instead of vertically. The Kraus home was designed as two hexagons partially overlapping one another.  The entire home is made up of these two hexagons or its subcomponents  (parallelograms and triangles).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Kraus Home, Ebsworth Park, St. Louis, Architecture

Even the bed, for example, is a parallelogram.

We were fascinated throughout the entire tour. In order to preserve the beauty of the home, we were not allowed to take any photographs inside the home. However, we finished our tour with a few photos on the balcony…

Kraus Home, Balcony, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Balcony of Kraus Home at Ebsworth Park, Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

…and the exterior.


St. Louis Art Museum

Meanwhile, in the St. Louis Art Museum, Ryan and Alex were being exposed to various forms of art.

SLAM, St. Louis Art Museum
St. Louis Art Museum

One of the major aspects Missouri has to offer is the free admission into museums (excluding special exhibits).  On the three levels of the museum, there were paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from as early as 500-600 BCE to as recent as present day and everything in between. There were pieces of art from all around the world including Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe. Several famous artists’ works could be found at the museum including Monet…

St. Louis, SLAM, Art Museum, Water Lillies, Monet
Monet’s “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…van Gogh, Picasso, Seurat…

George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…Degas, Rodin, Kandinsky, Warhol, Segal, O’Keeffe, and many more. Outside, there was a short path through a small sculpture garden, mostly made up of pieces from Henry Moore.

Henry Moore's "Two-Piece Reclining Figures" at St. Louis Art Museum
Henry Moore’s “Two-Piece Reclining Figures” at St. Louis Art Museum

As we were leaving, a huge storm rolled in, cutting out our trip to a sculpture garden in the downtown area. So instead, we headed towards Bentonville, stopping for a photo-op at the world’s largest fork, and afterwards, stopping for dinner.

Dinner at Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO

Being the home of the world’s largest fork…

World's Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO
World’s Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO

…Springfield appropriately offers numerous eateries from which to choose.

We choose Cafe Cusco, a Peruvian restaurant that has all the attributes of good Peruvian food, without the risk of Zika.

With the buildings soaking in the last rays of the day on Commercial St., we crossed the threshold into the Peruvian cuisine restaurant. As Peruvian folk music sounded its harmonious guitar in the background, we looked through the menu. With a variety of “platos” or dishes, from vegan salads to meaty steaks, the appetite of some of us were attracted to the fried rabbit, fajita saltada, BBQ pork panca, and lomo saltado. First, however, we began our taste of Peru with a seafood dip and fried avocado appetizer.

Seafood Dip, Fried Avocado, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
Seafood Dip and Fried Avocado at Cafe Cusco

As the initial dishes were cleared, we readied ourselves for our main course. Soon the table was enveloped in the spicy aromas of the various dishes. As for the lomo saltado, a dish of steak cooked with bell pepper  and onions served with fries and rice, each scoop of the fork brought to one’s mouth the zesty spice of Peruvian flavor. Perhaps the best of the dishes, however, was the rabbit, which Ryan enjoyed immensely.

Rabbit Entree, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
The Rabbit Dish at Cafe Cusco

In all, the restaurant was more than enough to make us go back to the corner block venue as we were forever in love with these flavorful dishes. For the meantime however, it was time get back to our traveling van for we still had half a state left to ride through.



Shaking Things Up Kentucky Style: Shaker Village, Teneia, and The Village Idiot

With a busy day planned ahead of us, we began our morning with a light breakfast at Daily Offerings Coffee Roastery…


…a Southern hipster coffee shop offering several adventurous and traditional options. One of the more daring ambassadors tried the Lavender Honey Latte, and as Alex described it, “it felt like my mouth had just taken a bath.”


Others went for coconut or caramel lattes, and pastries to complement their drinks: coffee cakes, chocolate cookies, and blueberry scones. Once everyone had their fill, we departed for our first destination and activity of the day, a trip to Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill.

The Shakers fled England and first settled in New Lebanon, New York. In 1805, a group of 44 Shakers settled in Kentucky. Today there are no surviving Shakers in Kentucky and only a handful in Maine, but much of their settlement is still intact within the Pleasant Hill site. The historic farms of the village are maintained by the village’s employees, and crops and livestock are used at Pleasant Hill’s restaurant.

Our drive to Shaker Village through the Kentucky countryside was beautiful — a truly pleasant ride to start the day. Upon our arrival, we exchanged our charter bus for a school bus needed to maneuver a narrow, winding road to the Kentucky River a few miles away. There we boarded the Dixie Belle Riverboat for


…a trip downriver through the Kentucky River Palisades, so named for the steep limestone cliffs and scenic outcroppings.


The Shakers used to travel the Kentucky River to New Orleans once or twice a year to trade goods they produced. At the time, this was a significant endeavor and few Shakers actually traveled on behalf of the community. The captain explained that the Kentucky River is 255 miles long and is normally a deep shade of green, but due to the recent rains, the water was a muddy brown (and over 14 feet deep).

We cruised alongside the limestone cliffs and the lush green trees that stood high above the riverbank, ever alert for signs of wildlife. The river is home to many types of turtles (including snapping turtles!) and snakes. Although we weren’t lucky enough to see any river critters, we enjoyed the scenic view and relaxing breeze before traveling back to the Village for the second half of the tour.


The Village tour began with a walk down one of the main streets, the guide noting the limestone buildings among green fields, and explaining to us that during the Shaker’s lifetime in the settlement very little of the land would be left vacant. Shakers did not believe in unusable land, so they worked every plot as efficiently as possible — whether to build family dwellings, grow crops, graze livestock, or build an ice house.

Shakers were a religious group who believed the way to enhance their worship of God was to live as simply as possible and as purely as Jesus Christ. They were not Luddites, though, and believed in using technological advances to help them live simple lives. In their attempts to be close to Christ, one of the sacrifices in joining the congregation was to become celibate. Men and woman stayed segregated among family dwellings, with one half of the buildings dedicated to men and the other half to women. Men and women also maintained an arm’s length distance away from each other and had their own staircase to travel among floors in their living quarters.

The Shakers also preached a need for equality. All Shakers were equal and none deserved more attention than another, a quite different viewpoint in 1805 when several types of groups did not have equal rights. The village’s ministry, the governing religious body for each community, was composed of both men and women from various communities appointed by the Shaker’s central ministry in New Lebanon. This helped remove community ministry leaders’ potential prejudices against other members of the village. The community was further regulated by segregating the leaders to their own living quarters and workshops, both of which we were able to tour. It was an interesting twist to community governing for the political science majors in the group.

"Shaker" Attire Worn by Brian and Kaitlyn, Standing the Traditional Distance Apart
Shaker Attire Worn by Brian and Kaitlyn, Standing the Traditional Distance Apart

Unlike traditional Christian services, Shakers did not believe in one designated leader preaching at all times. Although they did make use of the King James Bible, and participated in prayer, services were led by “whoever was moved by the Holy Spirit” on that particular day. Their religious ceremonies were not constrained by time, with the shortest service in Pleasant Hill recorded at only 15 minutes and the longest at 23 hours!

During worship the Shakers were known to sing songs, especially those who were “filled with the spirit,” and members were encouraged to record their songs (in writing) and share among members of the community and of other villages. Lyrics would come from a member’s need to express their devotion towards God, and reportedly sometimes by God himself, taking hold of a member’s body and using them as a vessel, as our tour guide described it.

Further, Shakers did not believe in using instruments nor in solo demonstrations; they believed that complex musical arrangements only took away from the song’s devotional message. From these lively worships (of which non-Shakers were invited to attend) the group was termed as the Shaking Quakers, for seldom had anyone seen such an enthusiastic mode of worship composed of dancing and singing. After a brief demonstration of a few “Shaker” songs, we were ready for our next Kentucky adventure.

We didn’t have to go far, though.  We met up with the other part of our group and walked the two short blocks from our hotel to the street party the SLC had planned for attendees and their families. We reached the 5/3 Pavilion at Cheapside Park and mingled with other guests. While we were there we ran into two new friends, Chris and Marisela Darminin.  We had previously met Chris during skeet shooting, and were excited to meet Marisela. They were both from Texas and glad to visit with fellow Texans at SLC, as were we!


After speaking to them for a while and learning much about their careers and the great organizations that they support, we headed to our dinner destination, The Village Idiot.

Local Lexington icon The Village Idiot is in a building encompassing part of Lexington’s oldest post office building, dating back to 1825. We were all eager to try their fare since we had heard great things about the restaurant. Before our food arrived, we enjoyed bowls of fries and the cheese and sausage dip. Some of us had their famous (or maybe infamous?) “Idiot Burger,” a burger patty topped with an onion ring filled with pulled pork and topped off with a pretzel bun…it looked like quite the challenge!


Others shared the duck & waffles (on those, Beatriz said, “The sweet taste of the waffles combined with the succulence of the duck was such a great combination that [she] was left drooling for more”); the Village Idiot Cheese Platter; and a Caprese Burger. With great gusto, we savored these delightful dishes, enjoying this picturesque place rich in food and history. We left satisfied that The Village Idiot had been the “smartest” choice for dinner.

After a filling dinner, we were all ready to enjoy another event, the “preview reception” for next year’s conference, as put on by that host state.  In this case, it was – and will be –Mississippi. As soon as we arrived, we were warmly greeted by numerous elected Senators and Representatives (and other representatives) from Mississippi who were handing out warm welcomes (and goodie bags) at the door.

We had arrived in time to hear an enthusiastic, well-written speech from the Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Philip Gunn, who captured our attention and left us wanting to visit Mississippi, the home to great names such as: Jerry Rice, Jerry Lee Lewis, and John Grisham. We even had the chance to chat for a few minutes with him and his wife (who is actually a Texan!)…


and get a quick pic.


We also met up with an acquaintance from the night before, Ms. Leslie Hafner, who was the Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of Tennessee.  She was very nice, and we were grateful to be able to get a photo with her before leaving the conference.


The evening’s entertainment, native-Mississippi jazz singer, Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger, as joined by her husband, Ben Eichelberger, was great to listen to while chatting with other guests.


She had a unique blend of blues, soul, and southern music, and we were able to briefly meet them after their performance, as well.


After an eventful night filled with great music and great people, we left to many cheers of “See you in Biloxi!” as we trudged off toward our hotel, anxious to reenergize for the next day’s activities.