“Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it”
This past weekend was our first competition of the year and this first one in about 10 months. So to think we felt a bit rusty and a bit anxious, was an understatement. This competition was a 1st year event and when I signed up, hoped it wouldn’t be too stacked with top teams. It is located in an area of several great teams, but I still crossed my fingers that may have had other plans. No such luck, 39 teams signed up for this event and 38 of them seem to be able to win on any given weekend. This was a field of competitors that I would be happy to hear my name called just once in. This was going to be a competition that the littlest of details would make or break you from getting called.
Leading up to the event I managed to injure my right knee, possibly tore my Meniscus, and was hobbling around pretty good. This is not a good thing for a competition, considering I may have a 2-3 minute uninjured walk ahead of me. I waited a few days and without a lot of relief in the soreness I asked the organizer if I could possibly get placed closed to the turn in area. Without a question they said they would work something out. The only thing, I earned a nickname, “Meniscus”.
Our drive to the CCS Springfest and BBQ Competition was nothing short of a pain in my butt, the wind was ridiculous and pushed us all over the road for the 1 1/2 hour drive. I couldn’t wait to pull in to the competition and relax. We pulled in and were the 3rd team to arrive on Thursday night. I tried to play the “1st team to arrive onsite has to buy dinner for the rest of the teams that night” card on Pappy Q, but I seemed to have been a little late for dinner. I’ll drive faster next time.
Aaron was on site to guide us to our spot and give us the run down. This event was sounding like it was going to be one to remember and to be talked about for a while. The teams were going to be treated like kings and queens. If you needed something all you had to do was ask. Friday was going to consist of a continental breakfast, snack area, sandwich lunch table and a prime rib dinner served on china by servers. We didn’t have to leave our seats to get anything.
We decided not to set up our site until the wind died down as we didn’t want to start a canopy graveyard. The winds, despite what WU reported, had to have been 15 mph with frequent 25 mph gusts. They were literally rocking the motorhome because we are currently unable to lower our stabilizer jacks, thank you again to Bob Ellis for spending your afternoon trying to locate the problem and finally getting the jacks to retract.
So Thursday night was a relax night and to watch who we were going to be neighbors with. It tuns out that the area we were setup in was “Michigan Alley”
everyone of the teams along this area, is from Michigan. Guess I should have mentioned I was from Illinois when I asked to have a spot near turn ins.
The team in front of us was Smokin’ Aces and had a sticker on their trailer that made me chuckle, because he asked how close he could get to us.
Friday morning started our day of the competition routine. Normally we pull everything out and set up our canopy, awning, banners and tables, but the wind was still punishing us. We agreed that we would hold off on any set up until it died down. According to the weather reports that would be late at night or early Saturday morning. It wasn’t too big of a deal, as I had most of the trim work already done before arriving. We ended up spending most of the day inside sheltering ourselves from the temps and the wind. **Note, remember to bring a jacket and/or sweatshirt when the weather is forecasted to be cold and windy.
Lunch was served with a variety of sandwiches. It was pretty much an eat what you want lunch.
Cook’s meeting was @ 5pm and then a top notch (or as my wife called it, a romantic BBQ competition dinner) Prime rib dinner @ 6:30pm
The only thing missing were candles. During the dinner the organizer handed out a few small useful prizes. Our name was called for one of them. I really hoped that wasn’t the “This was a field of competitors that I would be happy to hear my name called just once in” wish coming true. I should be a bit more specific in my wishes next time.
After dinner we hurried back to the site to start the prepping of the meats. Normally we do this outside, but as it was the wind was still howling. If only the wind would die out, this would be a perfect night. I figured my other wish came true maybe the wind wish would come true also.
But for the time being we needed to improvise. I got the idea that a folding table would fit in the kitchen area of the motorhome and figured we’d give it a shot and see. Guess what?
BAM!!! I have an indoor prep area. Not how I would do it all the time, but when the weather won’t cooperate we have an alternate plan.
Well, low and behold, my wind wish did come true late in the night. The wind died out and the fire began. To my surprise the pit heated up quickly and the meat was on on time.
For those of you that compete, take note that the Michigan boys have a Michigan Offense if you didn’t know. Around 0:dark 30, while catching a short nap in between feeding the fire, I hear what sounds like a digital thermometer going off only it sounded like it as in our bedroom. Well one thing was accurate, it was in our bedroom just not a thermometer. It was our carbon monoxide detector going off. Funny how the two of those items sound identical. The inside of the motorhome smelled like charcoal burning so I walked outside to investigate. Sure enough Smokin’ Aces had started their pit up and without the wind blowing, the smoke was hovering low and around our site. Well played Mark, well played. So after trying to shut the alarm up, opening the vents and confirming that the detectors are hardwired. I had to turn off all the power to the motorhome to reset it. Problem fixed. *** Note next time a Michigan team asks if the can park close to you, check to see where their exhaust is facing.
Back to taking my naps.
Later on in the morning, I was standing by my pit talking with one of our neighbors, Cal Coop. I hear someone’s thermometer going off and chuckle a bit thinking, someone needs to wake up and check their meat. After thinking for a while I am reminded that our carbon monoxide detector sounds like that. Sure enough it was me, again. Good thing I was there, because my wife was out like a light and never heard it going off. So once again, vent the area and reset the detector. Damn you Michigan boys and your offense.
Other than the big meats starting off by cooking somewhat fast and nearly being poisoned by CO, the morning went well. I even got the chance to attend a cook’s church service, which was a nice addition. We decided not to set up the canopy and only had a table out to work off of. Ribs cooked a bit fast and luckily we caught it in time to hopefully salvage them.
Turn ins began and the only meat that really made us happy was our chicken. Everything else seemed to not be our best. Ribs tasted average, not bad just not a WOW! Our box contained ribs from only 1 slab. The others seemed to still be a bit overcooked. Pork started off with a money muscle sample, but there seemed to be an after taste that was off and we decided not to add it in and had to make a box with chunks only. The brisket flat was too tender and the burnt ends were great. We struggled to find the slices that we could use.
As always it was a relief to get that last box turned in and to know that there wasn’t much cleaning up to do.
It seemed like it took forever for the 4:30 awards to start, once they began the anxiety really hits and the hopes that I didn’t burn my wish for a call too early.
As the awards were called out it was odd not hearing some teams that you’d expect to hear called. It seemed like there were very few that received multiple calls and it made it hard to guess who would win it. The exception was team Hug Hogs, with 3 calls. Looking back through it there were some others with multiple calls, but it seemed it was all over the place.
At the end of it all what we thought was a bad cook turned out to be a pretty decent one.
Chicken 16th place – 168.0000
Ribs 8th place – 170.8456 (woohoo and heck yeah, that is a call and an award) From somewhere in the crowd I heard “Way to go Meniscus!”
Pork 17th place – 164.5600
Brisket 20th place – 164.5256
Overall 13th place – 667.9312
The kicker of it all? Had we paid a bit more attention to the little details we could have had an overall top 10 call. Our appearance scores prevented it. But for us being rusty and our first event of the year, I am totally happy and walked away holding my head high with our results. We’re steadily making our way up the ranks and will soon be a team that others see and think “Damn ’82’s BBQ Crew’ signed up”.
This is an event that I hope we get to return to every year. Really had a blast with the volunteers. They were a great bunch of people that went out of their way to make everyone feel important and valued. Next year I predict they may have to turn teams away.