Our Final Day In TEXAS!!!

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should even post this blog entry since considerable time has lapsed since our last day in Texas, but then I thought, I have to, because otherwise these series of blogs would be like a book without an ending… so here I go. January 14th was sadly our last day in Texas! We were all sad as we packed our last items and headed to the bus for an early breakfast. We quickly stopped at McDonalds to fill our stomachs and then we headed to the National Center of the American Heart Association in Dallas where we met up with the CEO!

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We were able to take a tour of the center, and then we watched a presentation and talked with the CEO, who, we later found out had never met with a group before! Boy, did we feel special! It was incredible when I listened to the presentations and realized how little I actually knew about Heart Disease. I’d like to say I’m a fairy knowledgeable person, however this experience forced me to realize how prominent heart disease is, especially in women, and the different sources of information and resources that are available. After we all asked many questions and gained some great insight into the disease that is rated the #1 cause of death in women, we boarded the bus one last time and headed to the airport. Once at the airport, it was with heavy hearts that we had to unload our bags from beneath the bus for the last time, and say a final farewell to James our bus driver who was so much apart of making our trip meaningful and exciting! After undergoing the typically stressful adventure through airport security (which by the way was significantly more rigorous leaving Texas than coming in), we all found our gate and settled down at an airport terminal Pizza Hut where we enjoyed pizza and bread sticks which if I’m honest, were not even closely comparable to the decadent pizza we got on the River Walk! Once full, we all sat in the terminal as we waited for our flight to board, secretly hoping that none of us would get stuck with middle seats again. To pass time some of us toured the airport, while many others played/blogged on our tablets (thanks again Pat Pierce!).

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Finally we boarded and to our delight we all had early boarding numbers so none of us had the unfortunate position of sitting in the middle seat again!! Once on the plane, despite questioning glances from other passengers, we counted off fairly loudly, aka our last head count of the trip, leaving many passengers questioning why someone near them randomly was shouting out a number. After our count-off, we settled into our seats, and listened to the airplane safety instructions being given by the flight attendants, for the 6th time this trip. Before long, we were heading for the runway for take off, and I stuffed my mouth full of gum (in hopes that my ears wouldn’t pop) and stared out the window as I silently said farewell to Texas! The next two flights (yes, that’s right, we took 3 planes to get home), were luckily uneventful. In fact, most of us don’t really remember them because the majority of the group fell asleep on the last two plane rides due to utter exhaustion! It was around 9:30 when we hit ground on Northern soil, and we quickly de-boarded the plane, and headed to baggage claim to collect our luggage! Once again we were all remarkably lucky and none of our luggage went missing during our voyage home. Once we had all successfully pulled our luggage off the revolving conveyer belt, we took our final group picture before parting ways.

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Once our picture had been taken, we said a heartfelt goodbye to everyone who was getting picked up at the airport and the rest of us loaded onto the Bay Path shuttles to be transported back to campus. Once at campus we said our final thank yous and solemn goodbyes, which in retrospect seemed kind of silly. If you had been an on-looker watching us, you would have thought we would never see each other again based on our farewells, when in reality, we would all be seeing each other in less than a week when we moved back onto campus! Although I was beyond sad to see the Texas trip come to a close, I have to accept that all good things must come to an end! Thanks to this incredible experience I had the invaluable opportunity to stuff my face with Texan cuisine, talk with Texan Natives, stand in the place where JFK was shot, venture through Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch, ride a horse for the first time, visit mission controls at NASA, learn about heart disease, volunteer my time at truly incredible community service centers, walk the river walk, visit a Texan prison, stand on the field of the Dallas Cowboys, stand within the Alamo, immerse myself in the culture and gain a level of understanding of historical events that cannot be achieved in any other way than to physically stand in the place these events occurred and experience it yourself. Thank you Bay Path for an incredible experience. 

Day 7! – “A day in the life of a Texan!”

On Day 7, we were all happy to have a morning to sleep in a bit and catch up on some sleep; however, two friends and I decided to forego the opportunity to sleep in and instead decided to go down to the hotel pool/hot tub early and get in an early morning swim before meeting up with the group for breakfast! Despite lack of sleep, we were all so happy to have the opportunity to relax in the hot tub, which by the way was beautiful! 

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After the hot tub and pool, we went back up to our rooms quickly to shower off and then met up with the group and boarded the bus! Once we completed a head count, we headed off to breakfast at a waffle house!!! Since we don’t have Waffle Houses up North, we were all very excited to have the chance to eat here since we had been seeing “Waffle House” signs all along the way. One of the best Waffle House specials was a cheesy omelet with chili, and home fries with cheese melted over them! The waffles are also delicious and range in flavors such as chocolate chip, peanut butter, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and banana. With full stomachs, we then headed off to what we all though was the stock yards…… however, we were then told James our bus driver had accidentally taken a wrong turn. If you know James, you would know that there is NO WAY he would  accidentally take a wrong turn, however we all took their word for it, UNTIL…….. the large cowboys Stadium came into view!! Once we got off the bus and entered the stadium, we were told our surprise! Even though we were originally told in the beginning of the trip that we wouldn’t have time to visit the Stadium, it turned out they had had VIP tour tickets the whole time!!!! With extreme excitement, we then began a VIP tour of the stadium which included the field, the visiting locker room, the cowboys locker room, the Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleaders locker room, the press room and much more!! 

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After our tour, we then were able to throw a football around down on the field, and we took a group picture on Dallas star located on Center field!!! 

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After our tour, we were able to venture through the gift shop before heading to the stock yards to grab lunch before the 4:00 cattle run! We ate lunch at the world’s largest Honky Tonk called Billy Bob’s!!! At lunch we ate a variety of fried jalapeno peppers,  mozzarella sticks, BBQ beans, hot dogs, burgers, and much more! 

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After a filling lunch, we toured the Honky Tonk gift shop before heading out to watch the cattle run! As people lined the streets, we got a front row view as we waited expectantly to see the longhorn steer be released into the street to walk by us!! Once they came, it was exciting to watch them walk right past you!! This is truly rush hour in Texas! 

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After watching the cattle run, we were given some time to go off on our own and tour the shops the lined the streets! A group of us went in search of cowboy boots! On our quest, we ventured into a number of really cool shops many of which had great Texan souvenirs! One shop was a Texan spice shop where we were able to test taste a number of different types of spices, salts, and sugars with various different flavors! After test tasting, we then went into a cute candy shop where we were able to test taste even more delicious candy, most of which was toffee! 

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After touring many shops, we then met up with the group to eat dinner at an authentic Texan BBQ restaurant!! The food was delicious and even though most of us were stuffed around the main course, many still ordered deserts which ranged from cobblers, to chocolate explosion cake! After dinner, we headed back to the hotel where most everyone went swimming and went in the pool!! 

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While in the pool, we discovered what appeared to be very large black spiders on the bottom on the pool. Since they appeared to be moving, and no one wanted to swim down and grab them, someone went to the front desk to ask them to kindly remove them for us. The front desk told us they would contact and send an engineer to help out……. the “engineer” never showed up, but it was probably for the best since about five minutes later we realized the large spiders were actually plastic spiders probably placed there as a joke. After our group swim, we all headed off to our rooms to pack, and hang out before bed! The next day we would be flying home, and we did everything we could to savor our last night together!! 

Day 6! “And the fun continues!”

On day six we had an early start, eating breakfast at the hotel before venturing off to the first adventure for the day, the IMAX theater. I had never been to an Imax theater before so this experience was incredible! As we watched a movie on the history of Texas, we felt as if we were really back in history as we were engulfed in the images depicted on the wall-sized theater screen! After the movie, we headed out to the center of the Bob Bullock museum where we took part in a guided tour. It’s incredible how much history there is dedicated to Texas alone. As we ventured through the four floors of the museum, it became remarkably evident that even though we had learned so much about the history of Texas, there truly is an incredible amount of history yet to be learned. In fact, based on the information we gained at the museum as well as all the other visual displays on site, one could easily make a year long class dedicated to Texan history and still be unable to fully cover in detail the complex and vast history that Texans will forever treasure. While at the museum, we saw a number of beautiful artifacts, and recreations as well as a large mural that welcomed guests in the entry way of the museum. 

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Before leaving the museum, we ate lunch at the cafe which was actually remarkably good considering most museum food is nothing to write home about. My meal, which was a pasta salad and grilled chicken, was surprisingly good! After eating, many of us quickly visited the gift shop, where both I and my friend purchased “habanero praline”. Although very spicy, and perhaps too many nuts for my liking, the praline was delicious! We then boarded the bus ready for our second volunteer experience of the trip. On our way, we also passed by the Capital Building where we were able to quickly take pictures before heading on. As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, community service is one of the most important parts of the One America trip, and on Day 6, we all volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Once we arrived, we were spilt up into various jobs to help the food bank inspect, sort,  pack, box, and label various food items that had been generously donated by local grocery stores and other organizations. I was an inspector, and as I shorted through the food it forced me to remember how lucky I am! Regretfully, I often eat meals at restaurants and spend lots of money on groceries each week without a second thought of those who do not have such privileges. Similar to our previous volunteer experience, I, much like many of the others on the trip, were reminded of everything in our lives which we should be remarkably thankful for, and in many ways inspired us to try to volunteer more in the future. Although the volunteer experience was certainly a lot of work, we all worked very hard, and felt a great sense of accomplishment by the end of our 3 hour visit. Even more remarkable was the fact that in that short period of time, we were able to inspect, short, package, and label a little over 9,000 pounds of food!!! What a feat!!! With feelings of great accomplishment, we headed back to our bus for a long trip to Fort Worth. On the way, we stopped for dinner at a small restaurant similar to Panera bread where we all enjoyed tasty sandwiches and sticky cinnamon buns! After three hours on the bus, we pulled in to the Fort Worth Stock yard!

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Although we had been traveling throughout Texas the entire trip, Fort Worth was the Texas we had all been waiting for! Stereotypical Cowboys decked out in plaid shirts, hats, and boots walked the streets, and signs for the rodeo were visible on every street corner! We had officially arrived in TEXAS! We quickly de-boarded the bus, and ran to the center of the stock yard where we picked up our tickets and headed for the rodeo!!! The rodeo was incredible! As part of the history class, we were all required to present on one topic related to Texas and since my topic happened to be Rodeos, I was stoked for this experience!! Going in, I was under the impression that I knew everything there was to know about rodeos! Man, was I wrong! The first ten minutes of the rodeo was dedicated to patriotic songs and prayer which reflected to all of us the strong religious and patriotic ways of Texans. Never once during my research of rodeos did I read of such patriotism and religion being present at the rodeo scene so I was glad to have had the chance to experience it myself. As the redo began, we all cheered along as we watched both female and male events of bull riding, Steer roping, calf roping, and barrel racing!

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The level of excitement in the crowd was incredible and it was only then, that I really felt what it meant to be a Texan and truly understood the environment and passion many feel as they partake and watch Rodeo events!! The Rodeo was a whole night event and didn’t end until 10:30. After the rodeo, we headed to our hotel for the night where we checked in, were assigned our roommates, and headed to bed! We were exhausted and very much looking forward to the next days adventures where we would head to the stock yard to see the cattle run, and venture through the authentic Texan shops!!! 

Day five! “On the road again!”

Yesterday we woke to the sound of a cowbell signaling us to breakfast on the ranch! I felt like one of pavlov’s dogs being conditioned, and yet, I loved it! We rolled out of bed, threw on our clothes, and made our way to the main building where a delicious homemade breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausages, eggs and fruit awaited us. After we ate we spilt into two groups. While one group went on a hike, the other went horseback riding. I, despite my longstanding fear of horses, decided there was no better time to face my fear while with such a supportive group of individuals. Consequently, we headed to the pasture where we were to mount the horses. I, initially very apprehensive, asked for the pony aka the horse that appeared to be the smallest and the least intimating. Instead, the ranch owner gave me what appeared to be the very largest horse on the ranch, but he assured me that this particular horse was the most well trained and best for first time riders. Taking his word for it, I continued on with the rest of the group down the rocky trail! We embarked on an hour long horse back ride through a windy and rocky terrain, and I loved every minute of it!

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The feeling of accomplishment that flooded me when I overcame my fear was immense! The scenery was also beautifully break taking and riding along the Texas terrain is a memory I will forever cherish. After our horseback ride we returned to the main lodge where we visited the gift shop (purchased hot sauce) packed our bags, and then set out to explore the surrounding trails and hidden paths. Before long we were called to lunch by the cow bell, and we all rushed into the dinning room to find a delicious homemade meal of spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, squash, biscuits, fresh lemon aid, ice tea, and perhaps the best garlic bread I have ever had! After lunch we all said a tearful goodbye to the ranch, boarded our bus, and began our journey to Austin. On our way to Austin, we stopped at president Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch where we took part in a guided tour of his house “the White House of Texas”, and got the chance to see his cars and other personal belongings.

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As we drove into the ranch, we had seen a helicopter taking off right near our bus, and it wasn’t until later on the tour that we learned that it was actually Johnson’s grandson in the helicopter. We had missed him by minutes!! After the tour, we loaded the bus once again and headed to our home for the night, “the loft” which is a hotel known for its unique furniture, lighting, and visual appeal.

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The rooms were gorgeous, however we didn’t have much time to take them in, because we quickly got dressed and rushed off to our most fancy meal of the trip! We went to a beautifully high class restaurant called Jasper’s where we were given a Menu of decant choices and were told the chef was actually an award winning chef on the famous show, “Iron Chef”. The menu we received is pictured below

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The food was absolutely incredible! The balsamic glaze that accompanied the steak was unreal and perfectly accentuated the garlic spread and seasoning the steak was smothered in. The chocolate cake was rich and smooth and in many ways tasted like fudge melting in your mouth! We all left the restaurant full to a new capacity, and excited to venture the street of shops that lined the vicinity of our hotel. Unfortunately most of the shops were closed since dinner didn’t end until after 9:00pm,  but as we broke off into groups, we all found fun excursions along the way. One such adventure my group went on started as a simple trip to Macy’s. While in the store we were running around trying to look at everything before the store closed in 10 minutes and as we did so, we were startled to all of a sudden see all the lights in the store go off. Realizing that the store much have closed without a final warning, we made our way to the main doors to exit the store when to our dismay we found out that the doors were locked, prohibiting us from getting out. Even though the lights were dimmed in the store we could still see enough to walk around so we went in search of a sales clerk to let us out. Initially we were unable to find one so we ended up texting Dr. Surbrug to notify him that we were stuck in the department store-we were sure he would think it was a joke! On the contrary, he texted back immediately and reassured us that he was on his way and would get us out!! Meanwhile, we had just found an employee who was kind enough to let us out of the locked doors. When we notified dr. Surbrug that the problem was solved and we had now gotten out of the store, we received this reply, “ok. I’m still coming so I can now laugh at you”. Together we all had a good laugh at the ridiculous situation that will certainly go down in the history books. We spent the rest of the night at Starbucks relaxing and talking with one another and then we retired to our hotel to prepare for the next day where we would be going to the IMAX theater, volunteering at the soup kitchen, and attending a Rodeo in Fort Worth!! That’s all for now! Stay tuned! 

Day four!!- “Home, home on the range!!”

Home, home on the range!!

Today we all welcomed the chance to sleep in until 7:50! we then turned in our hotel keys and headed to San Antonio. On our way, we stopped at a grocery store to buy breakfast which we ate on the bus. Although this breakfast wasn’t as rich and indulging as the others, I think the whole group was happy to have a break from fried foods. The three hour bus ride was long, but most of us slept and played small games on the bus. We were all excited when we finally made it to San Antonio where our first stop was the historic site, The Alamo. Directly inside the Alamo we were all excited to find the first cactus of the trip!!
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The Alamo building, although significantly smaller than I thought it would be, clearly captured the historical significance the building reflects. As we toured the Alamo, we were all brought back to the historical facts we leaned in class throughout the semester. We all watched the  Alamo movie in class, and it was as if we were right along side the soldiers as we walked through the old historic arches and buildings. We also were able to view the sword of Davey Crocket and the knife of Jim Bowie, both historical defenders of The Alamo. While in the Alamo, Dr. Surbrug gave us all a recount of the battle. Humorously, during his recount/tour, many other tourists gathered around most likely believing he was a trained/professional guide!  In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t end up offering him a job! Originally when learning about this battle, I was under the impression that the defenders of the Alamo were predominantly Texans, however as we read the names and hometowns of the people who died fighting for Texan independence, I realized that those who fought represented places from all over the world. For instance, over 20 of those who died were originally from Ireland. Additionally, as I read the names I was reminded that each name represents a heroic figure who valiantly laid down their life for the independence that they so strongly believed in. The Alamo is truly a  shrine of Texas liberty and without a doubt embodies the heroism shown that ultimately resulted in the liberty that Texans so clearly Cherish. After the Alamo, we traveled down the street to San Antonio’s most famous pizzeria! We all shared breadsticks that were smothered in butter and seasoning, and numerous different flavors of pizza. Pizza flavors included, BBQ chicken, Supreme, Meat lovers, Cheese, Chicken Alfredo, Spinach Alfredo,  and more! To say the least, it was delicious!! After a magnificent lunch, we made our way to the famous “river walk”.
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The river walk was beautiful and can be described as a river lined on either side by a cobblestone walk way and small water falls/fountains. As we walked we saw many tour boats and quite a few quaint shops along the cobblestone path. One such shop, called “rivers edge” had numerous Texan treasures and many of us bought cowboy hats and some even bought boots!! Once we were all decked out in our Texan gear, we headed to our home for the night, The Dixie Dude Ranch!!!
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The dude ranch was everything you would expect it to be, and so much more! As we pulled in, we had to travel down a 1 mile stretch of dirt road and squeeze our bus through a few very small gates in order to get to the ranch. We were all initially horrified as we slowly began to loose cell service the further down the dirt road we got, however we all soon embraced this as a chance to truly put technology aside for at least a day.  Once there, we were greeted by a friendly dog and a very friendly woman with a heavy southern drawl. We were then assigned rooms which had names such as, “rebel room, yank room, wagon wheel, broken spoke, stirrup, jingle and jangle.” The rooms were beautiful and very traditional of a country cabin.
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They appear almost like cottages, and although they all varied in style, room characteristics included cowboy lamps, warm space heaters, fire places, hand carved wooded furniture, and porch swings. Once we all had a chance to settle in, we all ventured around to take a look at eachother’s rooms until the dimmer bell rang. Yup, that’s right!! The dinner bell!! To signal us up to dinner the ranch owner rang a large cowbell! We quickly piled into the homely dinning area and sat around the beautiful wooden table, which to our delight  was filled with a delicious homemade cuisine! We sat family style around the table as we sipped on our homemade southern tea and freshly squeezed lemon aid. As we did so, we passed around the various food the kitchen had prepared which included, cheesy potatoes, seasoned vegetables, salad, bread, butter, and a deliciously moist pineapple cake. After dinner, we were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride a bull! I was terrified, but I stepped outside my comfort zone, and as usual, I’m glad I did, If for nothing more than a picture opportunity and a great story! Once everyone had a chance to mount the bull, we headed down to a “Bon fire”. They always say, “things are always bigger in Texas”….well, one things for sure, Bon fires aren’t one of them. The “Bon fire” that the ranch owner told us about at dinner was really a small smoldering fire, however, like usual we made the best of it and it actually turned out to be an excellent opportunity to take in the night sky, and man, WHAT A SIGHT! The sky out here is absolutely incredible! The dark night sky provides a perfect backdrop for the gleaming stars that look so crips and pronounced out here. As we took in the stars, we embraced the moment and decided to go around and share personal highs and lows of the trip so far. Some highs included seeing mission control at NASA, going to Dealey plaza, going to the prison,  seeing the purple lightning light up the sky, going to the river walk, and coming to the dude ranch. Just as the night air began to chill us all, a group of us decided to use the remainder of the night to go in the hot tub. The hot tub was beautiful and was decked out with color changing lights and a waterfall. As we got out, my roommate and I realized we made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting our shoes and we had to run around the ranch barefoot to get back to our rooms. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do this….. but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, ESPECIALLY ON A RANCH! Once we showered off, we spent some time snacking and sharing stories before heading to bed in baited anticipated of tomorrow’s Dixie dude ranch adventures!

Day Three!! – It’s never too late to put some spice in your life!

Its never too late to put  some spice in your life! So last night we headed out for an authentic Texan BBQ where we attempted to expanded our stomachs as much as possible in order to relish in the feast set before us! Amount other items, we feasted on BBQ pulled pork, chicken, ribs, sausage, fried oakra (sp?), Mac & cheese, BBQ beans, green bean casserole,  and so much more. ImageWe had a leisurely paced dinner as we exchanged stories and reminisced about the days events. As if that wasn’t enough, we then stopped at a frozen yogurt place… More like frozen yogurt palace! Apparently frozen yogurt is the new ice cream and they are EVERYWHERE!! But hey, I’m not complaining! If I can eat something that tastes like ice cream, but I can pretend it is healthy for me, then so be it!! As we walked in the frozen yogurt place, we were greeted by a variety of various flavors (chocolate truffle, sea salt Carmel,  cake batter, mint, original, pomegranate, peanut butter) and a sea of endless toppings!!

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Can you say heaven? After we were all back on the bus trying to fight off the symptoms of a food coma, we headed back to the hotel for an early night before our early wake up….however, an early night wasn’t exactly what happened. Instead, a group of us congregated in our room to watch Dance Moms (a show many of us were originally devastated that we would be missing). We ended up staying up past 1:00am talking and watching our show. Even though we were all most  definitely tired in the morning, it was a great night! Today we loaded our bags onto the bus, and headed off to breakfast. We stopped at “Jack in the box” which is a southern food chain and could be described as a “high class McDonalds”. After many of us got our morning caffeine fix and some breakfast sandwiches, we headed back to the bus, which we found out had sprung a leak and was now dripping rain water through the front ceiling and front window.  Despite this rather unfortunate turn of events, we foraged on in our leaky bus in pursuit of the Texan prison! There is truly something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone, and today, Im glad I did. One of the most prominent and pivotal aspects of traveling with a group is the undeniable fact that at one point you will be faced will something that tests the boundaries of your comfort zone, and one thing Ive learned from traveling with Bay Path is that your comfort zone will certainly be pushed, but the experience that results always proves to be something remarkable. If I were to travel to Texas myself, going to a Texas prison certainly wouldn’t be on my list of “must do’s”, but today Bay Path set out for the jail and to be honest I was rather apprehensive. When we entered the jail, I was surprised that the only security measure we had to go through was producing a form of picture ID, but it was an easy entrance and before long we found ourselves in between a gated off area being led on a tour of the old cell blocks by the prison’s current warden. He was very charismatic and had a plethora of information regarding the history of the prison as well as present day statistics and information. We learned a great deal of information about the type of prisoners incarcerated, the dress codes, and the typical day and meals for inmates. We also were given a detailed account of what happens for an inmate on their last day on death row. For many, this was an emotional and clearly controversial topic. Regardless of my own personal views regarding the death penalty, some of the questions the inmates are asked on their last day, such as, “who would you like to claim your body” is mind boggling to me. It’s unfathomable to me that someone could truly comprehend this question knowing that they only have a few hours yet to live. After this heavy, and somewhat unsettling information, we proceeded to a cell block known for “being haunted” and in fact has been the focus of at least one ghost hunters tv show. Our last stop was a tour through the current jail cells and although we didn’t walk directly up to each cell, we were able to view the inmates through a clear glass window separating us from their cells. Many a time we also passed inmates in the corridors of the jail, and for the most part they disregarded our presence aside from long, yet harmless stares. I was surprised to learn that this prison releases roughly 60 inmates onto the street a day, weather it be because their term is up or they are released on parol. In fact, we were told we arrived only about twenty minutes after this mornings inmates were released. As we left, we thanked the warden for the fascinating experience, and in return we received Texas Department of Criminal Justice patches to commemorate our time! Now off to a very different adventure!!-NASA!! As we drove into the NASA compound, you could feel the level of excitement building on the bus! We quickly unloaded the bus and rushed through lunch at the museum in order to get in as much exploration as possible before the museum closed at 5:00. A group of us decided to take part in a shuttle tour that brought us “behind the scenes” of NASA to different buildings that are essential to their space program. These tours included a trip to the training center where current and past astronauts receive necessary training before entering the space program,

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an inside look at the Saturn three rocket, and a close up look of Mission controls which played a prominent part in bringing the astronauts of Apollo 13 home  safely.

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ImageThe mission controls room was my personal favorite, due largely to my love for the Apollo 13 movie! Although we all wished we had had more time at NASA it was truly an incredible experience! We then headed to our hotel, the Four Points Sheraton hotel, where we were assigned roommates for the night and given an hour to freshen up. Many of us showered and then ventured to the hotel pool/hot tub to check it all out! Once we re-grouped we headed off to Mamma Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant which is famous for their fajitas!! Man, talk about indulgence! I don’t have words to describe the incredible food we received

Many of us indulged in  Shrimp, on a bed of bacon, and then infused with cheese, beef and chicken fajitas,  guacamole, rice, beans, Mexican burgers, cheesy fritters and so much more! As if that wasn’t enough, we then order deserts that were unreal. Not only were they visually appealing, but the chocolate cake oozed with a thick fudge sauce, and the other deserts proved to melts in people’s mouths. With full bellies and happy hearts we retired for the night in full anticipation of our trip to San Antonio and the Alamo tomorrow!! As usual, stay tuned!

This entry was posted on January 10, 2013. 1 Comment

Day Two!! Farewell Dallas!!

Today we set out early in order to get in as much of Dallas as possible. We rolled out of bed and boarded the bus at 7:20am and headed for breakfast at ihop!! Again, we were greeted by an extensive menu of bacon, homefries, eggs, sausage, pancakes, French toast, and fruit.. Of course all topped with whipped cream and various flavored maple syrup!
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After eating 1/4 of my body weight in delicious cinnamon bun  pancakes, bacon, and homefries, we prepared ourselves for a morning of community service! Community service is a tradition of the Bay Path College One America trips and truly is one of the most powerful and meaningful experiences of the whole trip!! Today’s community service took place at a church affiliated service  called, “The Stew Pot” which is a service center dedicated to helping those who find themselves homeless or in need of care in Dallas. We began a guided tour of the service center where we were all startled by the large number of men, woman, and children that awaited care in the large lounge/waiting room. Most of those who waited in the lobby were posession-less or had a simple trash bag that held all their lifelong treasures and represents the only property they have. This presented us all with a time to reflect on our own possessions and how many trash bags it would take to compile all our belongings! The answer is a staggering reality and reminds us of how fortunate we really are! After a guided tour of the building, I think it’s fair to say we were all touched and amazed by the incredible services this group provides! Among others, services include food assistance, mental health counseling, mail, dental (they had a dentist office fully equipped and beautifully renovated waiting for those who sought after dental health care), medical/health services,  and childcare services! Additionally, they provide free art classes. As we walked through the corridors of the building, we all were in awe of the artwork displayed on the walls!! TALK ABOUT HIDDEN TALENT! We then worked to fold and sort jackets and supplies that were generously donated in the spirit of the holiday season!
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We also learned that Dallas alone has 6,000 homeless! To us, this just sounds like a sickeningly large number, but Im still trying to truly grasp the reality that for each number, there is a person who is in desperate need of services and help. Consequently, I’m forced to ask myself why I haven’t taken the time to devote even a few hours a week or even a a few hours a month to give to others less fortunate than I? It is my intent to begin to volunteer more, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.  The Homeless, being  a very disenfranchised group of people, rarely have a voice, but at The Stew Pot that doesn’t entirely seem to be the case! It soon became remarkably clear the staff of “the stew pot” do everything in their power to provide those they serve with the services they desperately need. They have an incredible variety of programs offered to those in need. One such program that left a lasting impression on me was termed the “Guns off the street” program where “The Stew Pot” staff and local police worked in collaboration to buy back guns from the homeless/people of Dallas and then destroy them in order to help reduce the violence in the community. Although this was an old program, we were told in honor of the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary, they were reminded of the importance of the program and have decided to bring it back into action next month!  After our morning of community service, we traveled to the famous Dealey plaza which, for those of you who don’t know, is the place where JFK was shot in 1963. Despite the rain, we trekked down the street to find the two “X” marks on the road that mark the two different locations on the road in which JFK was shot.
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We then spent a great deal of time exploring the Texas School book building where shooter, Lee Harvery Oswald perched as he shot down JFK. As we toured, we listened to an audio-tour on headphones that narrated a number of museum displays and pictures around the JFK museum. Once the audio tour was over, we went to the top level where we got a birds eye view of Dealey Plaza.  Even though it looks rather typical today, its thought provoking to think about the fact that it was the focal point of the nations attention on that devastating November day in 1963 and for many years afterwards. The nation was in a state of devastation/shock which was remarkably evident after watching the museum’s movie, “The Nation’s Reaction”.
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After a tour of the gift shop, we headed for a late lunch at Chick-fil-A, which, for most of us, was our very first Chick-fil-A experience! As we pulled in, we received numerous awe-invoked stares at our rather large and flashy bus, and excited stares from the restaurant employees. One of us ordered a kids meal which to my pleasant surprise was accompanied not by a toy, but instead by a children’s book. Although your probably wondering why I included that in my blog, this rather trivial detail made my day! As an education major seeing books being promoted and provided to children rather than plastic toys that quickly get forgotten, was one of many of my highlights for the day. Happy and content, we headed back to our hotel to get warm from the rain, shower, and freshen up before heading back out for the night. Tonight we will be consuming some more Texan BBQ cuisine (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life!) and then touring more of Dallas before leaving for Houston in the morning! It will be early to bed tonight so we are all rested for our early wake up, and voyage to Houston where we will be visiting a Texan Jail/prison (YIKES!) and then heading to non other than NASA’s mission control center!! stay tuned!