Road trips! While these excursions are not mandatory I highly recommend that you attend at least one of our trips. I won't do much lecturing on these except for small lectures on selected topics for those of you who are interested. I'm serious. For those of you not interested you can take a nap, climb a tree, or go visit something else at the site. I really want you to explore these sites, get to know your classmates better, and have fun.
We will do one of the following day trips during the semester:
The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. This is a day trip that begins with breakfast on Erwing's large screened porch at his house before trekking by car and van to the site. Come see where Texans defeated the Mexican Army and won indepenence from Mexico in 1836. The site is marked by the imposing San Jacinto Monument which was finished in 1936. You can go up to the top of the Monument for a look over the Ship Channel and battleground. There is always a small exhibit in the hall at the Monument that is worth a look. The U.S.S. Texas, a famous battleship, is moored close by. She was the pride of the U.S. Navy during her heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. You can go below decks and see where the men slept, ate, and worked. (My wife enjoys going below. She always talks about the barber shop and the soda fountain station.) I will be positioned by one of the forward main gun turrets to offer an explanation about how the sailors operated a turret while you climb up in the turret and see where they loaded 2,000 pound shells into the barrels and then waited for the gun to fire. After a tour of the San Jacinto Monument and the Texas we often have time for a late lunch at the Monument Inn before going home. You can watch ships and barge traffic pass by in the Houston Ship Channel as you eat some tasty seafood. We are generally home by 4 p.m. so that you can diligently study into the wee hours of the morning.
Monument Hill and the Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites. This is an all day trip that usually begins about 9 a.m. for the 100 mile drive to La Grange; we usually are home by 6 p.m. Monument Hill is located just outside of La Grange on a bluff overlooking a beautiful stretch of the rolling Hill Country cut by the Colorado River. We will stop and buy Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch on the way out of town. We can eat in the shade of large oaks. The site is famous because a group of Texans who were executed by Mexican forces in 1843 are interred here. The burial vault is topped by a huge monument with an Art Deco motif that was crafted in the studio of Rodin. We can enjoy a short hike at the site that takes you around the old Kreische Brewery. I will offer you a short lecture on making beer and how beer making differs from making whiskey, vodka and gin. We will then visit a few of the famous Painted Churches of Texas that are close by; they were decorated by mid- 19th Century Czech and German immigrants who settled in the surrounding area when it was on the frontier; you will have a chance to reflect on how they tried to recreate a touch of their homeland as they decorated these tiny churches. Most of the churches are on the National Registry of Historic Places. They are really beautiful. You can go ring the church bell and imagine what it was like for the Czech and German immigrants who brought their traditions and culture to the Texas Hill Country.
Goliad State Park, the UH-Victoria Museum and Edna, Victoria, and Bay City. This is a visit back in time to Texas's colonial past when the French and Spanish vied for control of parts of Texas. We will also learn something about the Native-Americans who lived along the Gulf Coast when the Europeans began to settle in their homeland. On this trip we will travel south along the coast as we pass the remnants of Fort Saint Louis where the French, lead by a famous explorer, René Robert Cavelier de la Salle, established a settlement in 1685. We will have a look at the UH museum at UH-Victoria where you will have a chance to throw spears with an atlatl. What is an atlatl? Come on this trip and find out! From Victoria we will drive to Goliad to see the famous Hanging Tree in the town square and then Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía and Mission Espiritu Santo which are located a few minutes south of town. Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espiritu Santo were important centers of Spanish and, later, Mexican governance in Texas. They played a very important role in the battles for Texas independence too. A group of Texan rebels were executed inside the Presidio during the Texas Revolution. Before there was the cry "Remember the Alamo!" Texans yelled "Remember Goliad!" You can also see one of the oldest continuously attended churches in Texas. It is the intimate little chapel in the Presidio. I will be stationed inside one of the gates of the Presidio to discuss how the Mexicans viewed the upheaval in Texas and exactly how the massacre of Col. Fannin and his men unfolded.
We might also undertake a weekend field trip that you design with your fellow students. One semester a group of students planned the following trip that we took over a long weekend:
The weekend trip takes eleven students on a field trip to learn about Civil Rights and the South with stops in Montgomery, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana. Leaving Thursday night and returning Sunday evening, we will head first to Montgomery, Alabama to learn about the Old South and birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Students will have an opportunity to visit the Rosa Parks Museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Memorial, and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King was the pastor. Our day in Montgomery will end with a stroll around the State Capitol of Alabama for a discussion about history and monuments. From Montgomery, we will then drive to New Orleans for a night and day of the culture of the French Quarter complete with eating beignets, Cajun cooking, and discussions about Andrew Jackson, the Louisiana Purchase and the Mississippi River. On the drive home we will stop at a famous restored plantation called Laura to learn about slavery and its legacy.