Driving to Mediocrity, is 500 miles too far?
The trailer was loaded and ready to go when Erich arrived at my house Friday morning at 3:30 AM. We were meeting Bobby and Al down near the interstate for the 5-hour drive south. It had been raining steadily most of the night and the forecast for Chesapeake was for possible showers until around Friday midnight, we hoped they were wrong.
The trip went off with out a hitch and we arrived at the contest site pretty much when expected. Skip, the contest organizer greeted us and he quickly showed us to our site. The rain had stopped and we set up camp in short order, it almost gave the impression that we knew what we were doing. Quite an illusion.
It was not long and we met our neighbors Steve Farin and Dirty Dick who had flown down to compete under the name of Dirty Smoke. Next to Steve was the gang from the BBQ Guru. (Bob tells us that Shotgun Fred is doing well considering what he has been through and is continuing with his rehab) On our other side were the Virginia BBQ Pirates, Tom and Christy, fresh off a great finish down in Salisbury. A very nice neighborhood.
On the bright side, it wasn’t raining and the sun actually came out after lunch, it was a really nice day, so far. We had decided we were not going to enter the “anything Butt” category that was to be held on Friday night. But, after some prodding from Steve, Al and I drove over to the Food Lion to see what we could find. We were thinking seafood but after a look at the seafood section, we opted for bratwurst, yea that’s close.
Our contest meats were prepped and in the cooler by mid afternoon, we cooked and entered the “anything butt”, the weather threatened, but never rained, all in all it was a very enjoyable evening. Well, until we decided to try to get some sleep. As the threatening weather blew out, the winds increased, with gusts in my estimate, 20-30+ mph at times. Our canopies stayed put, but a few teams were not as lucky, nothing as bad as Dover, but windy for sure. I usually bunk in the trailer near the cookers. Due to the direction of the wind, when a big gust would come, the roof of the trailer would buckle sounding similar to someone hitting the aluminum roof with rocks, and that was on the outside, you should have heard it inside. Between the rocking and the banging due to the wind, I thought I was in the haunted hold of a ship all night, needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.
Some teams complained later of the noise made by a few partying teams, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t hear them over the noise my trailer was making, The Pirates next door were treated to my trailer noise as well, sorry guys! The big gusts finally subsided around 3:30 and I was able to get 2 hours sleep until my alarm sounded at 5:30.
The sun rose and it was a beautiful day. The meats came off on time and at temperature, it was if the Gremlins from Salisbury didn’t even make the trip. My guess is it was the rising cost of fuel, but who knows.
The chicken was prepped and went into the cooker on time. When we were finished we had bite through, moist chicken for the third week in a row, wow, I could not believe it! It’s amazing what a little practice will do. Did I say a little?
Everything went well, we were not behind, not rushed, no panic, no problems. I was even happy with all of the entries for the first time ever. That had me scared. This was a first. I felt that this thought alone was enough to sink us to the deep. After brisket was in, we broke down the site in record time, packed up the trailer and even had time to sit around and talk with Steve and Dick before the awards.
We wondered over to the stage area and were not in our seats long when we heard our name called for 8th place chicken. We also took a 4th place call in brisket. The rest of our results, well, let’s just say, not too good. This was a 29-team field, our pork was 20th and our ribs were a resounding 28th place, one away from DAL. Woohoo! We finished 14 overall. Mediocre. We received our first score of 4 ever from a judge, for rib tenderness. Which is hard to understand when another judge gave us a 9 in tenderness, (the highest possible score), but, that’s the way it goes. I hope not to make it a habit of collecting scores of 4. I think that maybe one of those Salisbury Gremlins might have a cousin living in somewhere in tidewater Virginia, but who knows.
Overall, we had a ball, even with the long drive. Congratulations to everyone that walked, especially to our neighbors Tom & Christy, the Virginia BBQ Pirates who won the grand championship while cooking in their forth contest ever. Way to go matey’s!
We had traveled over 500 miles in 2 days, spent a ton of money, gone with little sleep, cooked some good and some mediocre meat, (per the judges). Some might question our sanity, well, we already know I am not all there. Are we nuts? I guess a little. Will we go back next year? Better ask me later after I catch up on my rest. Will we try to improve our product? I think that’s the only thing you can count on, I am already working on that one!