If you’re planning a trip to Texas, what should you see? For
the boys of Troop 229 of Winamac, Ind., the answer was simple: everything!
Twenty-one Scouts and 12 Scouters took off on the 11-day
trip that sent the group through seven different states, with most of their
time spent in the Lone Star State. From the Alamo to the Johnson Space Center
to the site of President Kennedy’s assassination, these boys saw it all.
Boy leaders in the troop, with the adults serving as
advisers, spent the past two years planning the trip and raising money for
expenses. Richard Conn, an assistant Scoutmaster with 229, told us that boys were responsible for raising $550 of the $750 cost per participant. The money was used for transportation in two rented
15-passenger vans, meals, lodging, and activities.
Several boys raised their share entirely through money-earning
programs. For others, contributions from parents and generous donations from
local companies made up the difference.
You’ll read about the fun time the group had below, but
people in the northern Indiana town of Winamac already know all about it. In
fact, the post-trip publicity for Troop 229 has been a valuable recruiting
tool. Three new boys joined the troop after hearing about the Texas adventure.
Follow the jump for the story and photos from Part 1 of
the three-part series about their exciting journey.
Day 1: Winamac, Ind., to Memphis, Tenn., about 550
The trip opened with a travel-heavy day, but a stop at
Lambert’s Café in Sikeston, Mo., made it memorable. The restaurant’s sign tells
the story of what to expect inside, letting visitors know it’s the “Home of
Throwed Rolls.” And the servers do just that, tossing rolls at hungry customers
from 30 feet away. We envisioned a roll bouncing off an unsuspecting guest’s
head, but that wasn’t the case. Conn told us that the throwers’ accuracy
resulted in a surprisingly low number of rogue rolls. The day ended in Memphis,
Tenn., where the group slept at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Day 2: Memphis, Tenn., to Baton Rouge, La., about
Another day on the road and another great stop for dinner.
Boutin’s, which bills itself as “A Cajun Music and Dining Experience,” served
up some fine food—including fried alligator—for the hungry travelers. After
letting the food digest, of course, everyone stopped at a local YMCA pool to
work off that big meal and cool down. The Scouts and leaders stayed the night
at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Baton Rouge, La.
Day 3: Baton Rouge, La., to Houston, Tex., about
The day began with a quick stop in Lafayette, La., where the
boys and leaders toured the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, home to alligators
(living, not fried) and other wildlife. The group got back on the road toward
Houston, Tex., where they arrived at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The overnight
program included a chance to build model rockets.
Day 4: Houston, Tex., to Corpus Christi, Tex.,
about 225 miles.
The troop spent the morning learning more about space
exploration. They toured the Space Center and watched a short film about the
extensive training and preparation needed to become an astronaut—great
inspiration for the next Neil Armstrong of the group. That night it was back on
the road, this time heading southwest toward the coastal city of Corpus
Christi, Tex. Once there, they stayed at First United Methodist Church and led
a Sunday evening church service before calling it a night.
Day 5: Corpus Christi, Tex.
The troop planned to see a lot on this day, but a local
hospital’s emergency room wasn’t on the schedule. Here’s what happened: The
group boarded the U.S.S. Lexington, a World War II Navy aircraft carrier, and
checked out where they’d be staying the night. After this, some of the boys and
leaders decided to cool off in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s where the group
encountered some unplanned excitement. Jeremy, one of the boys in the troop,
was in waist-deep water when he screamed, “Ouch! It bit me!” A small stingray
had stung him on the ankle.
Jeremy, Jeremy’s swimming buddy, and two leaders went back
to the Lexington to find the ship’s medical officer. The diagnosis? Better take
him to the emergency room. Two leaders and Jeremy drove to a nearby hospital,
while the rest of the adults stayed back to supervise the troop.
The boys were concerned about Jeremy, of course, but they
soldiered on. Scouts got the official tour of this massive ship, but the real
highlight came when the group got to pose for a photo on the wings of an F-14
Tomcat fighter jet. Next up was a two-hour scavenger hunt that had boys combing
the ship from top to bottom for clues. One thing they didn’t expect to find on
their search, though, was Jeremy. He had made it back from the hospital just in
time to join the fun. While Jeremy got back into the action, Troop 229
Scoutmaster Steve McKinney called Jeremy’s mom to let her know that her son was
fine. But sorry, Mom, Jeremy can’t make it to the phone—he’s already back on
his feet and having too much fun.
This stressful day for leaders on the trip—and parents 1,400
miles away—had a happy ending.
The fun continued in Days 6 through 11, including stops in Scouting magazine’s backyard and at two
important places in the history of Texas. We’ll post the details about the conclusion of their trip on Wednesday.
And then the three-part series concludes on Sept. 23, when we'll bring you the behind-the-scenes story of this massive trip. You'll get the inside scoop from Troop 229's adult volunteers—info that will surely help you in planning a similar adventure.
For more photos and info on Troop 229's trip, check out their comprehensive Web site.