Justin Beiser: Day 5, JF Spring Trip

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last night the Junior Fellows went primitive, O.K. maybe not, but we did stay in really neat long cabins outside the city of Natchitoches. We edited our blogs by a small fire [editor’s note: It was obvious from the submitted drafts that the fire did not provide sufficient light for editing] before we burrowed in for the night. After sleeping in we had a quick breakfast and headed to the Melrose Plantation, not to be confused with Melrose Place (the early 90’s T.V. show).

Gar, our guide, was nice enough to open up two hours early to accommodate us and was very knowledgeable!

With Our Tour Guide, Gar, In Front Of The African House

The Melrose Plantation was home to legendary folk painter Clementine Hunter.  She worked as the Plantation’s cook until she was about 60 years old, when she came across some art supplies left by a guest.  Ms. Hunter received permission to put the paint to use and the rest is history.  Everything she knew about painting was learned through trial and error and she began offering tours of her home for 25 cents. When her fame spread Ms. Hunter raised the price to 50 cents.  By contrast, the four or five murals she has in the African House (located on the Melrose Plantation’s grounds) are valued at 13 million dollars.

Work by Clementine Hunter

We then went on to lunch at Merci Beaucoup. Fighting the urge to order in French and freak out the waitress, I had a local favorite, the famous “Meat Pie,” and a bowl of gumbo.  Stephanie was gracious enough to let me try a Crawfish Pie and add another tally to the new experiences list.

Zip Nac was the next destination. This is a family-owned zip-line park, which was built by the owners themselves. The course has four lines, finishing with a 900 foot “Race Line” and begins with a training line.

Junior Fellows, Prior to Taking Off

The whole day was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend Zip Nac if you are going through Nacogdoches.

Justin, On The First Line

We all paired up for the final competition, with the marquee match up pinning President vs. Vice-President head to head.  After the first 400 feet Christian had close to a 10-foot lead, but I was gaining.  Finalizing my calculations for optimal aerodynamics I closed the gap. At the 600-foot mark we were in a dead heat, anybody’s race. At about the 750-foot mark I head pulled ahead by about 5 feet and was able to fend off Christian’s advances and take home the gold.

Christian and Justin

3 favorite restaurants:

3. Damgoode Pies (Little Rock, AR)- I had my favorite kind of pizza, the Hawaiian. The crust really set the pizza apart for me. After a kitchen goof, I received hand-tossed crust instead of my usual thin. This was a blessing in disguise and the service was tremendously courteous in attempts to correct the mistake.  In fact, they made me a whole new pizza, which we were able to pass on to some grateful hotel staffers.

2. King’s Palace (Beale St. Memphis, TN)- This Beale St. hotspot featured live blues music while we ate. Christian and I shared the Cajun Feast for two. This consisted of two blackened catfish filets, two “voodoo” chicken breasts, a cup of Jambalaya and Gumbo, and fried green tomatoes. The environment was cool and the food was great.

1. Merci Beaucoup (Natchitoches, LA)- This was our last meal of the group and I enjoyed it the most. As previously mentioned I enjoyed thee “Meat Pie” and a bowl of gumbo, along with a sample of a Crawfish Pie. Now if I had only tried Fillet Gumbo then my Hank Williams song Jambalaya on the Bayou would have been complete.

3 favorite museums and historical sites:

3. Governor’s Mansion (Little Rock, AR)- This was the gorgeous residency of the Arkansas Governor and his wife.  The most intriguing room in the house was also the largest. The Governor’s Ballroom holds 200+ people and serves as the Governor’s favorite venue for formal dinners.

Rear of Arkansas Governor's Mansion

2. Supreme Court Building (Little Rock, AR)- This was especially cool because we were able to sit in the Justices’ seats and act as though we were the final say in the state on legal matters.

Holding Down the Court

1. Sun Records Studio (Memphis, TN)- Music being one of my favorite distractions, this place was awesome. Standing in the exact spot as greats such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison was amazing.

Notable new experiences:

Food wise- Fried Green Tomatoes, Jambalaya, Meat Pies, Crawfish Pies, an Oyster, Gator Chips, and Sweet Potato Fries.

This was my first time to attend a political science conference and it was a very interesting experience. The opportunity to listen to a wide range of topics and expertise is something every aspiring political scientist should have the chance to do.

Things learned:

I furthered my knowledge about the Civil Rights movement in America while visiting the National Civil Rights Museum.  The most educational event for me though was the Susan Eisenhower speech.  She gave great insight into just how instrumental President Eisenhower was in the movement. I did not know that President Eisenhower was able to appoint a staggering five justices to the Supreme Court and he insured all were pro-desegregation. Republicans get a bad rap with regards to Civil Rights, but Democrats fail to mention that two of the most important presidents on civil rights issues were Republican (Lincoln and Eisenhower).

Favorite outdoor activity:

I would have to say Zip Nac was my favorite outdoor activity. It was a total adrenaline rush and allowed my competitive side to come out!

Justin, on the Zip


My favorite city on the trip had to be Memphis, the music history was amazing and it had a special blend of political history as well. On Beale Street music floods the streets out every door and the City has a great upbeat vibe to it! Another reason I know that Memphis was my favorite, was that out of all the towns I really wish we could have spent more time there. I feel the same way about Natchitoches, but if I had to pick only one town to revisit it would definitely be Memphis!


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