Day 10: Period.

I’ve said that all good things come to an end right? Well this time, it’s for real. Our time has come to put an end to our adventure. However, we can not depart without making a few more memories.

After packing our things and departing from our hotel, we venture to the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took his last standing breath on earth. Thanks to the state of Tennessee, the motel was turned into a National Civil Rights Museum that now educates the public of Black American history, and MLK’s legacy.

Togetherness
Deeper Look

The National Civil Rights Museum was yet another enriching experience for us. The exhibits either added to what we have learned previously, or added a new perspective to our knowledge! I personally enjoyed the very realistic statues, and their depiction of emotion. Shortly after the viewing, we headed over to a mural of Civil Rights Excellence, and took our last group photo of the trip.

Peep our matching shirts!

Here lies our last supper: The Slider Inn. The food was so delicious that we couldn’t take any photos of our meal as we all ate too fast. This was also our last exploration as a squad.

Jameson Wonderland

That’s all folks! This entire trip felt as fast as the amount of time it took you to read this article. And just so you know, YES, we made it to the airport on time. Thank the heavens, I did not want to see bus 072 ever again.


Honorable Mentions <3

The Phase 10 Veteran

Ms. Hayes, thank you for being the absolute rock and foundation of our trip. From beginning to end, you have provided us with direction, bliss, and truth. We will never forget your beautiful laugh that is unique to you, and I will never forget you for showing me your most authentic and comfortable side. We love you Ms. Hayes!

The Creator of “Circle Up”

Mr. Gipson, thank you for driving our group to stray away from surface-level thinking with your discussions, and providing endless support to our team. We will never forget your boundless humor, and I will never forget your rocking facial hair. We have enjoyed you Mr. Gipson!

Thank you both!
Mr. Phillips and Ms. Debbie

Mr. Phillips and Ms. Debbie have been our unyielding guides throughout our adventure. Mr. Phillips provided us with balance and safe bus rides. “Aight”, Thank you Mr. Phillips! Ms. Debbie provided us with great leadership and historical context. Thank you Ms. Debbie!

I’m forgetting one more thing….


So Long Compton

We will miss you!

On to more adventures…

Day 10: Goodbye Southwest

As I sit here in the gate area waiting for our flight to board, I think back on all the fun times we had and the experiences we went through.

From the very first day, hopping off Spirit flight 759, and immediately seeing slot machines right in front of the gate entrance. Heading to baggage claim and on our way there, a plethora of stores and casino like machines.

We hopped into the bus and our journey began. We got to see a glimpse of a lot of what we’d be seeing over the trip: red rocks. We traveled to Death Valley, Zion National Park, Hopi and Navajo Reservations, Colorado River, Glenn and Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the illustrious Las Vegas.

I hiked more than I ever have in my life and it was a blast. I discovered that I might need better hiking shoes next time, but I did not fall. There were times when we all had doubts whether we wanted to go further, and we always ended up agreeing to push beyond our limits and seek discomfort.

I could not have asked for a better group of schoolmates and teachers to go with on this grand adventure. I think I can vouch for everyone when I say we all learned something new on this trip. Whether it be about Native Spirits, Chinese Rap, neon and argon signs, or the drought running rapid in the Southwest, this trip taught me more than I ever thought I would be taking away.

Thank you all for following along on this blog and have a great rest of your break!

Day 9- SEDONA to VEGAS

Hello All! Today we spent some time in Sedona on our way back to Vegas where we ended the night at the Neon Museum. The drive to Sedona was so beautiful! Our bus driver, Mr. Willie, took us on the scenic route despite the narrow and bendy roads. When we arrived, we took a short hike to an overlook where we learned about the spiritual significance of Sedona. Here people can get different energy’s through natural vortex’s in the area. While none of us were able to understand or personally sense the change of energy, it was visible through the plants (trees are curlier in some areas vs others and plants are more green). Here are some pictures of the hike and some sights around Sedona as we did a little shopping:

Following the hike, we had a lengthy bus ride and eventually ended up back in Vegas. We had a delectable dinner at Planet Hollywood and sat outside where we could people watch and take in the views of other places in Vegas! The weather was super nice so we loved getting to spend our last night in the Southwest outside before returning to the cold and rainy in Indiana. After our dinner, we ventured off to the Neon Museum also known as the Graveyard of Neon Signs. When neon signs of buildings in Vegas need to be taken down or are going to “the dump”, the Neon Museum can take them and show off the details of them within their area. We went on a tour where we learned all about the renovations of the city and how it has changed or evolved overtime. Our guide shared with us how when neon signs were first created, they all had to be completely handmade vs nowadays where companies can manufacture them more efficiently. Each piece of metal had to be welded individually, glass blown and bent, and signs painted- this process was VERY time consuming. Another interesting thing we learned was the color significance: Most neon signs are yellow, orange, or red because they draw our attention. For example, many fast food restaurants are yellow and red- all colors that catch us off guard. Neon signs use these colors and then amplify them with the led or light bulbs. With color, the gasses in the bulbs can be colored as well which can mix with the color of the bulbs themselves to produce shades like green or orange (kind of complicated but kind of cool!). We had a super fun time getting to see gigantic led signs up close. It was also cool to see the adults relate and get excited about the signs they have seen in movies! PICS:

We have had such an amazing trip and it is definitely going to be hard to hop on the plane tomorrow. With people from all grades, it has been so much fun getting to know everyone and to help make a difference amongst communities in the Southwest. I have learned so much about the world around me and I am excited to use my experiences over these 10 days to guide me in the future. Huge thank you to our incredible guide, Ms. Becky for teaching us different landmarks, trails, history, and experiences we can keep in our back pockets. Another huge thank you to our bus driver, Mr. Willie, we appreciate your kindness and flexibility and making it possible to reach and visit all of these incredible places. Mrs. Strobel, Mrs. Barnes, and Mr. Bliss- thank you all for challenging us and supporting us throughout this journey where we can learn to help others and grow as individuals, your enthusiasm and excitement to help others is incredible and we appreciate your support. Parents, thank you for making this trip and opportunity possible and for letting us travel, help others, and hike around the Southwest- the trip has been the root of many lifelong friends, experiences, and memories. Hopefully we can get a post up tomorrow but here are a ton of moments we can appreciate for now, ROCK ON:

Day 9: How Long Can I Stay?

Time has been as fluid as water lately. Although it’s hard for us to believe that today marks the last full day of our GPS trip, we were prepared to make the best of our time.

Our feats include many road trips today. I think I got to know my seat on the bus better than anyone. Here’s a preview of our Blues filled bus:

My girl,

Our first road visit is the township of Money, Mississippi. We pulled up to Bryant’s Grocery, which is the place Emmet Till came to buy candy before he was wrongly accused of flirting with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. Additionally, we saw the court in which Emmet’s case was tried.

Courthouse

It was saddening to see the town where the fight for Emmet’s justice took place. We learned about Emmet’s courageous mother, Mamie Till, whose decision to leave Emmet’s body untouched and uncovered catalyzed the next phase of the civil rights movement. Without the Till family, the spark for activism and resistance could have been unknown.

Next up, we head over to a restaurant named Sumner Grill to eat some lunch.

More Southern hospitality? Count me in! This entire trip, I have been on the search for okra that is cooked correctly. Finally, this restaurant put my search to an end. I had some fried okra that knocked my socks off.

Seconds!

After lunch, we head back into our bus to continue our road trip. We depart on a two hour trip to Memphis, Tennessee, which will be our last state of the entire GPS experience.

Catching Zs

Upon arrival, we visit the Slave Haven museum, a real Underground Railroad safe house owned by an abolitionist, Jacob Burkle. The house provided an interesting experience for us, however, we were not allowed to take photos. Inside, we were able to see an ancient kitchen, crawling space, basement, and so much more. The house has been beautifully maintained. Here is the exterior:

Slave Haven

Our last expedition brought us a huge serotonin boost. We traveled to Beale Street in Memphis, and had dinner at the Blues City Cafe. I’d like to personally thank the person who was on aux because the playlist hit different.

You got it.

Monique and I got a brownie for dessert that grabbed our whole table’s attention. Especially Mr. Gipson! The brownie was full of fudge goodness!

I couldn’t wait.

To end cap off our night, we walked Beale Street to soak up those bright LEDs. It was a very pretty experience, and a great way to end our day.


Featuring… Compton

Are you ready to let me go yet?

Day 8: Open Space For Open Dance ft. An Shooda and Aidan the Kid

Good evening from our last night in Flagstaff, Arizona! We’ve had a wonderful trip so far, and now we are filing down to our final two days. FYI Andy is “An Shooda” and Aidan is “Aidan the Kid.”

The Grand Canyon hike was really an experience to remember as well as a big energy investor. Even though we exerted a lot of energy on the hike we made sure that we would pull through the remaining days of the trip. Making it worthwhile and giving it our all.

We popped on some sunscreen and thehats and started the day with some service work at a Flagstaff open space called picture Canyon. It opens space is open land that is undevelooped at his accessible to the public at anytime. The goal was to fix the pass that were already made. We raked and shoveled dirt and lava rock to make it a nice clean path. There were all these little flies in the air that made a little swarms everywhere, but they did not scare us. The sun was brightly lit And the weather was perfect; cold enough for a quarter-zip, but warm enough to wear shorts. Aidan made sure to keep us entertained with his sick dance moves. Sylvia, a member of AmeriCorps Vista, let us through the entire service. We covered a lot of ground in the two hours that we were allotted, and we sure did gain some muscle and shoveling the dirt onto the truck for Sylvia to drive down to the path where we were working.

After the service, we went on a nature hike through the canyon and saw amazing petroglyphs drawn on the side of rocks that made way to a beautiful waterfall. Past the petroglyphs, was a part of the Arizona Trail, which is a trail that cuts through the whole state of Arizona, from the Mexican border to the Utah border. We now have the pleasure of saying, ”we walked along the Arizona Trail!” We were also able to see the ruins of home dwellings from long, long ago. Pieces of pottery that was made can still be found around the home dwellings.

We took two more stops before it was time to head back to the hotel.


The first being Sunset Crater National Monument. When we got there, many if us immediately headed towards the smooth cement benches to take a break and relax. Once we had a little relaxation, we went off to explore the monument. One thousand years ago, the Sunset Crater Volcano erupted and lava flowed everywhere, erasing the existence of a village that was once there. Now, their sits the remains of the damage caused by eruption. Trees still grow among the blackened rocks and it was a sight to see. To actually step on a land where it had once been covered by lava, to see it preserved and in such good shape was breathtaking.

The second was the Wupatki National Monument. This monument is a nine hundred year old ancestral Puebloan site with over one hundred rooms. It contained a ball court, a blow hile, and a very scenic view. I honestly did not know what to expect in terms of how big the pueblo would be, but it turned out to be very expansive. We went into the ball court and had one person stand on each side of the court. When you speak, it sounds like you’re speaking into the phone no matter how far or close you are. You can hear a whisper or even a squeak! We headed to the blow hole to test how it worked. It could be seen as the equivalent of a geyser without the water. I placed my hat above the hole and it was like voodoo magic. My hat was floating in the air with no help from myself or others. The air was also pretty chill, like an air-conditioner. We found it incredibly interesting how the Wupatki people were able to have this blow hole 900 years ago because it seemed very advanced.

We ended the day with dinner at NiMarco’s Pizza. We splurged in the pizza as well as the drinks. We enjoyed spending quality time with each other at a big, long table. Lastly, I cannot forget the abundance of stars we saw while stargazing in Buffalo Park. We certainly could not control our laughter with everyone going crazy in the darkness of night. I downloaded a night sky app so I could see what stars belong to which constellation. We saw Orion, Taurus, and Gemini, along with many others. It felt good to enjoy our final night in Flagstaff while looking at the magnificence of the stars. It is now T -2 days until it’s time to leave. See you next time!

My hat floating in the blow hole
Aidan the Kid bopping to some Chinese rap

California Day 8: UC Berkely and Golden Gate Bridge

The light and relaxed day it is today. Unlike the first five days when we hurried from places to different cities, today we only visited a few places: UC Berkely in the Morning and the Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon. It’s Lucas here recording our GPS trip.


The tour to UC Berekely took about an hour and many thanks to our dearest driver Junior. We first traveled around the campus on the couch and then walked through. We visited many famous landmarks on campus including the Sather Gate and the Library on Campus. If the past universities were artworks of nature and architecture, then UC Berkely would be a master of contemporary buildings. Each building has its special characteristics which all build to the uniqueness and visual perfection. Many people considered the campus as the best campus we have visited.


In the afternoon, we arrived at the Golden Gate bridge. Its unique name was not because of its color (it is international orange), but because it’s a gate to the Golden State (California). Even though most of us have seen the bridge in the movies (often being destroyed), we didn’t see it in the real life. The bridge was a lot more magnificent than we could’ve ever imagined. In comparison, the bridge was as big as mountains, and pedestrians with cars were like tiny ants passing by. They would not stop going, just like time would not stop flying. I guess that is a classic symbol for those metropolises.

Tomorrow is the last day of the trip. Let’s put a beautiful ending to the story.

Day 8: Four Little Girls.

Today, our squad travels between Birmingham, Alabama and Oxford, Mississippi. We are endlessly grateful for the insightful, and laid-back the atmosphere formed today.

Our experiences start in Kelly Ingram Park. We took thirty minutes to walk around and observe the countless statues depicting sensitive parts of civil rights protests.

Monumentals
The Children’s Crusade

Kelly Ingram Park spurred plenty emotions. After completing our walks, we engaged in an active discussion to compare past civil rights protests with ones today. It was interesting to find that the common denominator between the two was police officers catalyzing violence within these protests.

Following our discussion, it was time to tour the Sixteenth St. Baptist Church, which was by far the hardest part for me. The Sixteenth St. Baptist Church is most notably known for being bombed by Ku Klux Klan members in 1963. The incident killed four little girls named Denise McNear, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carol Robertson.

Inside Church

Whether or not you are a fan of Spike Lee, I strongly encourage watching his production, “Four Little Girls”. The film is a tearjerker, and truly makes you feel attached to the lives of the Angels of Change.

Our last experience of Alabama occurs at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Exterior
Exhibits

The Birmingham Institute, similar to the Legacy Museum, was extremely thorough and precise. While the museum had information we had previously learned other days, the repetition served as a solidification of our new knowledge.

Our time in Birmingham had run dry, and it was time for us to take on a new state. We boarded our beautiful bus, and started off on a three hour drive to Mississippi.

Compton’s brief stop at the Mississippi gas station

Our bus drove towards Ole Miss, or University of Mississippi. We went to view their civil rights monument that honors all who fought for equal educational opportunities in the south. It is very valuable to reflect how the movement for equal education has changed our world today. Try to imagine a world that is missing the modern form of Diversity that society today has worked so hard to initiate.

James Meredith
We came across some little friends as well!

Featuring… Compton!

Compton’s Fun Fact: Did you know that in 1860, Montgomery Alabama had more spaces involved in the trafficking of enslaved people than churches and hotel spaces!

California Day 7: Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown

This morning we went to embrace the ocean once more. Though not for whales, what we headed was also really thrilling: the Alcatraz Prison. The prison was located on an island and classified as one of the most secure prisons in the world. We walked through the abandoned part of the prison that is open to the public and observed the living conditions of the inmates. There is a quote in the jail: you don’t really know a country until you see how it treats the lowest people in a society (prisoners). Passing over the cells and facilities with a provided phone giving information made us feel as if we traveled back in time and became part of the prison. We learned some rules and consequences such as anything besides food, sleep, and medical attention are privileges. The prisoners who didn’t behave were put into the so-called Holes with no light and accompaniment. It was indeed a very interesting visit.

After the visit to Alcatraz, we went to the Fisherman’s Wharf for food and shopping. The restaurant which served us was called Wipeout and everybody get to choose if they wanted either cheeseburger, taco salad, or barbeque pork burger. No matter what the choice was, it would always lead to a satisfying lunch. Then we get to go shopping in that area, which consisted of many shops in different areas including clothes, snacks, and grocery stores. I am sure our group had a great time over there.

In the evening, we arrived at Chinatown for dinner. We were served traditional Asian food like dumplings, Chaomein, and rice. Those food were perfect with seasoning and opened our appetites, ending up in a splendid dinner. Walking for a short distance, then we were dismissed at the San Francisco Chinatown and shopped around at stores selling diverse products ranging from milk tea to animation products. Eventually, we returned to the hotel and another day ended.

Day 7: Getting Our Feet Wet.

Hi all! Today, our squad went on a journey that tested our abilities to have open-mindsets, and deeper-leveled thinking.

First stop is Selma, Alabama, the setting of the three notable marches of Selma to Montgomery. We took a brisk walk to the First Baptist Church, one of the principal historic sites of the Civil Rights movement. It was a place where doctrines of non-violent doctrines were taught to children and adults. We had a brief discussion about the planning process of the Selma protests, and the bitter trail of Bloody Sunday.

Discussing
>.>

Our walk must have neared ten-thousand steps as we walked adjacent to the National Historic Highway, and walked through the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Did you know that the total length of the Selma to Montgomery trail is 54 miles? That’s like walking across almost 800 football fields!

Glance upon the scenic views through our eyes:

The walk through the Edmund Pettus Bridge initiated solemnity and reflection among us. I found myself mediating over our past visits to several Civil Rights Museums, and absolutely captivated by the length of the bridge itself. Can you believe that roughly 25,000 people walked the same path we did?

At the end of our walk, we were met with a memorial that honored several prominent leaders and organizers of the Civil Rights protests.

Honorable Mentions
King family
Commemorating Black Excellence

After our time of thoughtfulness, the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute awaited us. We toured the museum and were introduced to both Black people in politics, and Black victims to politics. My favorite exhibit of the museum touched on Black legislators of the Reconstruction era. While viewing the exhibit, I felt that all students should be taught of these men that raised the bar set for them.

“Separate But Equal”
James Armstrong

The last memorial site of the day was a shocker. Our squad visited the Confederate Memorial Circle, which is a privately owned space maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. We were disappointed to see that the memorial included more propaganda than history. It truly spoke volumes.

One of the most interesting aspects of this memorial is the absence of the American flag. If you look closely at the flag poles, you will find that the only two raised are the Confederate battle flag, and the flag of the Confederate states.

Our group had the chance to hold civil discourse over what we would do if we could remove, keep, or replace this memorial. The unanimous decision amongst our group was to remove the memorial from public space and place the statues and propaganda into a museum to preserve history.

Now, what we all have been waiting for: We finally got to swim! If you did not know, many of us have been waiting to get our feet wet since the beginning of the trip. It went well, and it was extremely hilarious!

Today our adventure ends in downtown Birmingham, where we visit the Pizitz Food Hall to dine out. I think by now we are totally conditioned to urban areas.

The best wings of my life.

Featuring… Compton!

No one will ever know.

Day 7- GRAND CANYON!!!!

Hello All! The day finally came- we got to hike IN the Grand Canyon! After a good breakfast at the hotel, we headed out of Flagstaff on a 1.5 hour drive to the Canyon. When we arrived, we were all overwhelmed by the amount of people there were at the visitors center. Very quickly we found out that most visitors only venture to the rim to take pictures and see the Canyon. Lucky for us, we got to actually hike in it. When we arrived at the trailhead, we were taught about the two checkpoints: Ooh Aah Point (.7 miles in) and Cedar Ridge (1.4 miles in). The trail was at the edge of the mountain the entire time. In addition to a narrow trail on the side of the mountain, it was slippery, rocky, and steep! Despite the challenges, everyone was able to make it down to Cedar Ridge. This was a HUGE accomplishment for our team as not everyone had planned to go all the way to Cedar Ridge- the hike was very challenging and the hike back up was even harder. Those who initially planned on just reaching Ooh Aah Point persevered and challenged themselves more than they thought the could and absolutely crushed the entire hike to Cedar Ridge and back to the top! Overall, the experience of hiking in the grand canyon was AWESOME and everyone dominated the trail. We also had incredible guides, Eric and Cassidy, and they led us through and taught us some interesting facts about the trails…

FUN FACTS:

  • The Canyon is 6,000 ft deep
  • Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon for those who are doing overnight, rim to rim, or down and back hikes
  • The Canyon was roughly 17 miles in width from our trail head (from the start to our trail, directly across)
  • Lots of switchbacks: “a 180° bend in a road or path, especially one leading up the side of a mountain”
  • Mules are used to bring people and goods to and from the bottom of the Canyon
  • Plants such as Sage, Mormon tea (good source of caffeine) , Cacti, and Banana Yucca (succulent, fibers used to make baskets) are all found along trails
  • The California Condor is an endangered species of bird which we were able to find TWO of these birds during our picnics

After the hike, we walked for awhile along the rim and went to the Geology Museum where we got to learn about the rock formations, Colorado river, and the details within the canyon. People were able to do some shopping in the village after the museum and prior to dinner where we waited until it was time to go see the sunset. I am a sucker for a good sunset. I have spent a lot of energy revolving my days around when to see or catch a sunset, but no sunset will ever beat the one we got to watch. Drowsy and fatigued from the day, we headed out to a spot along the rim of the Canyon which was PERFECT to watch the sunset. Not a cloud in the sky, we watched as a spectrum of reds, oranges, and yellows illuminated the skyline as the sun tucked behind the mountains. It was incredible, a truly “happy” and “peaceful” moment we got to experience tonight.

An experience I get to check off my bucket list- Visiting the Grand Canyon. No view will ever beat the one we all got to see today, we had a blast and conquered the tricky trail. Yet again, a day full of challenges, laughs, water breaks, and incredible views, it does not get much better than this! Hope you have a wonderful night, Happy Thursday!