Thursday came and it was time for the 6 am wake up call to go to Texas! The coaches were driving a luxurious 15 person van, which was big enough to fit all our luggage, and tall enough to stand upright in. Surinder, a post-doctoral student who also worked in Dr. England’s lab, was tagging along to present his poster. We had a 7 person van squad: the two coaches, Surrinder, and the four of us girls competing in quizbowl. On our way down we stopped by Nashville, Tennessee, the great hub of country music. The people we heard singing in the bars were fantastic! We walked down the Honky Tonk Highway, and went up to the third floor of the Honky Tonk Central, a huge pub with a great view. Then we stopped by the Johnny Cash Museum to get some souvenirs before heading off to our next destination: Memphis!
On our way to Memphis we picked up Trey’s girlfriend, who was also competing in Quizbowl, and she took us to dinner at a restaurant her co-worker had recommended to her, Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous. I was really excited for some good Memphis barbecue, but unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. On our way in the hostess pointed us to a spot in the back, and while walking there, we got yelled at for walking in the server’s lane, which was marked by a black rug headed straight to our table. Turns out we’re supposed to weave through other diners’ tables to make our way around the restaurant. Then when we were ordering our food, our server told us that we couldn’t substitute the beans included in the dish for another side. All that, and our food ended up tasting subpar. We enjoyed our walk back to the van though. In the alley outside of the restaurant we took group pictures with some gorgeous graffiti art. As we walked back through Memphis at night, we got a small glimpse of their baseball stadium, and saw horse-drawn carriages lit up like Cinderella’s carriage. It’s a shame we couldn’t stay there longer because I would have loved to have taken a carriage ride. As an added bonus, there were dogs sitting in the front of each carriage! We ended the night at the Electric Cowboy and listened to some contemporary hits. I bore witness to the wonder that is Trey and Surinder’s dancing and had a lot of fun.
After sleeping the night off in a nearby hotel, we drove the rest of the way to College Station, Texas. In the van we quizzed each other on meat science facts in preparation for the competition, and took some short naps. Long drives make me very sleepy, and I enjoyed my van naps. The sensation of being in a moving vehicle, combined with the hum of the engine is soothing and easily lulls me to sleep. Plus with such long rides, napping is a good way to kill time.
Once we got to Texas, we settled into our hotel rooms (I got my own bed) and then went out for some grub with Trey’s friend at World of Beer. Their food is pretty good; plus I learned that on Mondays they have burgers and tots for $5! I can’t wait to try that at Columbus’ World of Beer. Most of that Saturday was spent in our rooms preparing for the competition and going over our notes. We took a break in the evening to attend the judging portion Iron Chef Competition. At this event, students from different schools cook using ingredients given to them like in the TV show and then participants taste and vote for the best offerings. Tori, our other Quizbowl coach, said that last year the event was much bigger and more organized. Oh well; we did get to see a bit of Texas A&M. Their meat lab is much bigger than the one back at OSU.
Sunday came, and I woke up nervous and pumped for Quizbowl. Today was the day when we would see where all our studying and preparation would lead us. Unfortunately, we went up against Texas Tech, Trey’s alma mater and lost the first round, landing us in the loser’s bracket for the rest of the competition. Every time people called our name to lead us away to compete, they would stress the “The” in front of Ohio State University. It was funny because we were the last of the teams to be led out for the second round and our announcer loudly declared “THE Ohio University and University of Wisconsin -Madison please follow me” and then went on to tell the other announcers that we were the last ones waiting to compete in the loser’s bracket. Now everyone knew we had lost the first round and were the school that insisted on the “THE” before our name.
We lost against the fourth team, but regardless I had a lot of fun. I would love to compete in the Quizbowl again if given the chance. Plus, the 2020 RMC is going to be held at Disney World. How awesome would it be to attend a meat science conference at the home of Mickey Mouse and Mulan? After the competition, we had some time to walk around the career fair. One company was giving out free meat thermometers, which was pretty cool, and we met a lot of company and college representatives. Dr. Lyda Garcia, Trey and Tori’s research advisor, took the time to introduce us to her friends and acquaintances, many of whom were at the career fair. It was a great way to network and find a prospective job or even a research mentor, for those of us looking to graduate school. In the evening we attended the Welcome Reception and the Quizbowl finals. It was an aggravating session because the announcer who was asking the questions continued to make mistakes that cost both teams potential points. In the end Iowa State won, so congratulations to them! That night we went to some nearby bars downtown and found the famed bottle cap alleyway. It’s a little walkway between bars that is filled with bottle caps. Unfortunately the dance floor was not open in the bars but it was still a fun time and we had reason to celebrate: Surinder’s visa had been approved, so he could go to Australia to be with his family again and start teaching as a college professor. We were all really happy for him.
On Monday we attended various reciprocal sessions that focused on current news and research in the meat industry. The first presentation I attended focused on the history of the meat science industry. It was a dry session, but I learned a surprising tidbit: the apples found in our grocery store shelves could be 12-14 months old! As such they’ve lost some of those micronutrients (but still have plenty of fiber). It would be interesting to examine this new piece of knowledge in the lab. If I remember correctly, the lecturer said you could date the apples using spectrophotometry.
In the evening we went to a softball game where Texas A&M provided hot dogs and chips and barbecue companies gave out samples of their meat. I had some really good pork and beef ribs, as well as a lamb chop that was out of this world. There was also free ice cream from a local vendor. I would have gotten seconds of everything if I hadn’t been so stuffed. Before we drove out of the baseball field, we took a big group picture with attending OSU alumni, faculty members and students. It’s amazing to meet all these people and realize how big and wide-spread the Buckeye family is.
On Tuesday I attended a few more reciprocal sessions; one on Halal slaughter that was very interesting (especially considering the Muslim population in Columbus), and another on Wooden Breast Syndrome in broiler chickens. In the evening RMC held an Awards Ceremony with a fancy dinner where distinguished members of the meat industry were honored and we were fed Prime Rib. I think the meat was cooked medium rare, and I was a little leery of it at first because I don’t eat a lot of red meat and was not accustomed to the color, but it was delicious and well cooked. Every guest was given an RMC steak knife as a souvenir. Unfortunately I did not know this at the time and sent the knife back with my plate when the waiters cleared the table. Something to remember if I attend a future RMC!
On Wednesday we started the long drive back to OSU and said goodbye to Texas A&M. We arrived home late Thursday night. I enjoyed my brief vacation in Texas, and will cherish the good times and amazing food.