Orion IL, 7-25-15

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There seems to be a theme building for our success. If things are stressful and break the routine, then we tend to do pretty good. This last competition was no exception.

This past weekend we competed in Orion, IL and was suppose to be a pretty relaxing comp. It was scheduled in a way that we were able to arrive a day early and stay a day later if we wanted. Man this could be a little vacation for us.

Leading up to the weekend we had mostly everything packed and loaded, the only thing really left to do was to work 2 days and then load up the few remaining items that couldn’t be done earlier (meats, injections, sauces etc). So it should be pretty easy to head out first thing. The ideal plan was to be on the road by noon, but realistically by 2 pm.

1st day of work ended up having me up after midnight for the most part, so I didn’t get totally rested. Plus I seemed to have an intermittent annoying dry cough.

2nd day of work, again, had very little sleep after midnight. Feeling pretty tired, plus the cough seemed to become more regular. Oh well I guess, there is always that risk and seems like it’s a curse. It always seems as though if there is something important to do the day after a shift, you’ll be busy after midnight.

Friday morning I get off work, rush home and take my son to get his school physical that I forgot about. That will set the timeline back a little bit. No big deal though, some things have to be done. Get that done and head home to get a start on the final details. I go to hook up the smoker to the motorhome and find out that someone “borrowed” my hitch without telling me. Crap! So now I have to go spend more money and time. Oh and now I am coughing more with a bunch of sinus symptoms. This is not the time that I need this to start.

Got home, hooked up the smoker and as I was trying to swing up the jack, the little metal triangle used to pull the release pin out, broke. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? So I start to freak out a bit, thinking how in the world am I going to get it swung up. I did manage to get it swung up. That reminds me I need to get that really fixed.

Once we got everything settled and ready to go, we were on the road by 2:04 pm, Glad I set realistic timelines.

As we were on the road and about 2 miles out of town, a semi pulls out in front of us, causing me to nearly lock up the brakes and pray to avoid contact. Good thing he didn’t hit us, but the yield sign didn’t fare as good.He smashed and twisted into the ground it went.

Onto to the interstate we went, only to be cutoff by another semi and again causing us to brake hard. I’m starting to think either we have the unknown cloaking option or we’re a bigger threat than we thought and the other teams have pooled their money together to prevent us from getting there.

The drive takes about 3 hours, and 1 hour before getting there I realize I forgot an important superstitious item at home. The bottle of whiskey for the good luck shot. Crap again. I literally start to have a small anxiety attack.

Before you judge me, I am superstitious enough that I have certain clothes I bring to wear on turn in day.

I tell my wife if this is any indication of how the comp is going to go, we are going to do pretty good.

When we arrive in Orion, we stop to fill up fuel and like a golden ray luck shining down on us, there was a liquor store in the gas station. Again, don’t judge me.

Back on the road and we arrive at the site shortly there after.

We got unloaded and made our rounds meeting new teams and visiting with old friends. Our only real concern at this point was if the weather was going to hold out. They were forecasting possible severe thunderstorms.

We sat around that evening thinking about how the cook was going to go and agreed that a top 10 overall call was our goal. A top 5 would be great though. It should be attainable as long as we cook a good cook.

So with what seems to be like my routine bout of sinusitis taking hold, and hoping to not include bronchitis, we move ahead with firing up the cooker. The temperatures and weather, made running the cooker somewhat of a breeze.

The meats went on and the 1 hour log feeding began.

About 4 hours in I do a check in the money muscles and they temp at 195 and 201. Crap!!!!! They are overcooked. I hope they will tighten up with some rest.

During all of the cooking, my wife gets a call from my daughter that she is going to the ER because the ear ache that she has has now worsened to no hearing and blood coming from the ear. UGH!! Sure just a bit more stress.

Thankfully she was able to get in pretty quick and was diagnosed with a ruptured eardrum.

As each meat finishes, they all seem to have an issue with overcooking. I’m thinking a thermometer calibration may be in order.

The only meat that we seemed to be good with was the chicken.

Ribs were difficult to keep from falling apart as we cut them.

Pork ended up having no salvageable money muscle, so we had to do a box of chunks and pulled.

Brisket couldn’t get a knife to slice through the bark to save my butt. I have to flip it over and slice it from the bottom. We managed to get the slices we needed and added some pretty good burnt ends.

After we were done I couldn’t stop worrying that we may have just messed up our chance to get a top 10 overall call.

Awards were started about 30 minutes early, woohoo!!

I told me wife I wanted to attempt to broadcast the awards live. In my opinion it didn’t turn out too bad and we may try to do it more often. You can see the video here, Orion Awards.

At the end of the day we hit our goal:

Out of 15 teams we finished:

9th in chicken

9th in ribs

9th in pork

2nd in brisket

8th overall

I still think we could have done better, but we’ll take it for now.

I’m just worried about how much stress it will take to GC a comp. I hope I don’t have to have a vehicle stolen or a major breakdown.

Quincy, IL 6/21/14

There is something to be said when a 3.5 hour drive is a close competition.

This past weekend we competed in Quincy IL considering the previous drives I was actually looking forward to it. I was excited not to have to rush as much getting there. After all it was going to be hot and humid and the RV was pretty comfortably temped while driving.

We left town at about 9 and only had to make a few stops before we were officially on the road. I still needed to pick up butter, chicken breasts and apple juice from the store. As well as stuff to eat for dinner. Then needed to fill up on gas and dump our waste water tanks.

So after getting the apple juice, chicken breasts and stuff for dinner we started driving out of town. It turns out we were driving with a shadow. That shadow just so happened to have a badge and a light bar. So we had an unplanned delay. I instantly felt defensive because I knew we hadn’t broken any laws. The only thing I could think of, from reading about other team’s experiences, is this officer felt that I probably wasn’t properly licensed to drive the RV while towing my trailer.

As the officer walked up I had my license out and window down, letting the cool air out. He proceeded to tel me that he didn’t need that and that he just wanted to take a look at my cooker.

Are you freaking kidding me?

Well to say the least I was a bit relieved and kinda felt a bit important. He even knew who we were and said that he and a friend were going to compete in Danville. It never gets old answering questions, even if it puts us a little behind schedule.

So after getting back in my son thought it was hilarious and was taking pictures through the rear view camera and mirrors. In case you couldn’t tell he can be quite the funny guy.

Nothing to see here

Nothing to see here

We get to the gas station fill up and go to dump our tanks. As I am getting ready to unscrew the drain cap, I remember that I was having a hard time pushing the black tanks closure in all the way. I SLOOOOWLY start to unscrew the cap and notice immediately I was about to have a major problem. Yup brown liquid started to flow out.

I immediately closed the cap as the thought of a horrible movie scene entered my mind.

Rethinking my strategy I attacked the problem with the skill of a ninja. No major spills and the tanks got emptied.

This drive was pretty much a straight shot, but boring as can be. I am pretty sure no one lives between Jacksonville and Quincy IL. They just put seeds in the ground and leave. Heck they don’t even have decent cell service, much less radio stations.

As we arrived we got set up and tried to get motivated to begin working. Even the A/C wasn’t motivated.

After a late cook’s meeting and a much appreciated provided dinner, the prep work got done. I even enjoyed a bit of a nap before firing up the cooker.

The next morning things were going smooth until I trimmed the ribs. It was then that I remembered that I had forgot something from the store. Maybe you caught it, if you said butter you’d be correct.

Good thing competition teams are generous, Peter Wright with Lion Bout The Que, gave us a tub to use. Now I just wish I could have remembered to have injected my chicken.

The rest of the cook went alright, but it seemed like I just couldn’t get into my groove. It was like I was 5 minutes behind and not real fluid. It may have just been the heat taking a toll on me. Whatever the case I didn’t feel like it was going to be my best cook.

After the last turn in we got started immediately on preparing to leave and were done in about 1 hour. What a relief. That gave me about a 1 hour break to rest. I figured I’d get up around 3:30 and head over for the 4:00 awards.

Well apparently we didn’t get the message that they were starting awards at 3:15 instead. I probably should have figured something was up as we were the only team outside at around 3:30.

We made it to awards in time to hear the 4th place overall winner announced.

Kinda disappointing to not be a part of it, even though our name wasn’t called.

In the end we didn’t do as good as we hoped, but we didn’t do bad either.

Out of 25 teams we finished

12th in chicken – pretty sure had I injected we would have gotten a call

14th in ribs – 3 slabs, 3 different stages of doneness, again

19th in pork – scratching my head on this one, thought we had a pretty good product

13th in brisket – didn’t dip my slices before boxing.

15th overall – just goes to show that I need to think about everything I am doing.

I looked over the scores and was frustrated with myself because I saw that had I had more of an average cook we could have easily received a call or two.

 

 

Knoxville TN day 2

After a peaceful night’s rest. I woke up the next morning and had my routine pot of coffee. The day of setting up continued as usual except we weren’t as rushed.

Once the meat inspection was completed, I hopped onto prepping the chicken. I hate working on chicken if it is hot outside, and it was definitely working on heating up.

After we finished our jobs we started walking around and meeting some new teams. That is a benefit of competing in a new area, you get to meet new friends. One of the new teams we befriended was “Nibble Me This” Guess what he has a blog also.

Speaking of meeting friends, that afternoon Erik and his family made it out to visit us. That really made the event great. It’s nice to be able to get a break from the routine and get caught up with friends. Erik had said how he was interested in comp BBQ, so guess what I put him to work for a little bit. Once the big meats were trimmed, they suggested we go out for dinner. Now that is a welcomed invite for sure. It really is nice to get away from the site and some different places. Even if it isn’t very far, it’s still different.

This was quickly becoming the best contest ever.

After dinner we made our way back to the cook site and got back to the routine. The weather was turning out to be perfect for cooking, not too hot and not too cold, with a slight breeze to keep the smoke blowing.

The cook went as normal as could be, for the first part. Then the meats started to stall and not break over.

The ribs which have been overcooking all year, suddenly decided to take their sweet time once I adjusted for their quick cooking. I struggled to get them done enough. I had to crank the temp up on the smoker to try and get them done.

Chicken thighs cooked fast and the breasts cooked slow.

The 4 butts that I brought for the comp were stalled, while the 2 that were provided for people’s choice cooked right on time.

I felt as though I was running around all morning checking temps. This was the first time that I didn’t even really use the Cambro.

Come turn in time I was truly pulling meat straight from the cooker and sorting it then. Not much of it really pleased me, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great.

I wished we had taken more pics, but we were rushing to get something turned in that we were happy with. Pushed one entry to within about 1 minute of the turn in time.

The only category we thought we had a good shot at was the chicken. But as history has shown that isn’t always the case.

4:30 the awards started and we listened to all of the names in the chicken category get called, except our’s. Rib category was the same way, but we didn’t think we had a shot with them.

Pork started getting called out and Leslie was getting ready to head back to the RV to finish packing some things, when suddenly we heard the unexpected.

“Second place pork goes to ’82’s BBQ Crew'”

I am glad that we were the only team with ’82’ in the name because before he could say anymore than that, I had jumped up from my seat gave a pretty good “WOOHOO!!!!”

I really didn’t mean to make a big scene, but the emotion of it caught me first. Tell me this picture doesn’t prove how happy I was. This was a big win considering the caliber of teams that were there.

 

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This definitely made the drive home a bit easier.

We had a fantastic cook, but so did everyone else. At the end of the day here is how we did.

Out of 48 teams

Chicken 27th with a score of 166.8228

Ribs 45th with a score of 157.0744

Pork 2nd with a score of 173.7028 (new high score for us)

Brisket 20th with a score of 165.1200 (new high score for us)

Overall 24th with a score of 662.7200

 

Knoxville TN Day 1

This past weekend’s competition took us to Knoxville TN. This one would make for the longest traveled. It is approximately 445 miles (6.5 hours) from home. Typically I don’t like to drive this far for a competition, but I made an exception. As with most exceptions to things, it suited an agenda.This time the agenda was getting to hopefully visit with some great friends. They just so happen to live in the Knoxville area. 

For some reason I couldn’t get it together to be prepared in advance. Things like prepping my meat and making our boxes at home, in the air conditioning never really made it to the top of my list. I did on the other hand have everything else ready to go days in advance. This was actually more important than prepping because we needed to leave as soon as I got off work. Figuring we could be on the road by no later than 10. That should put us there around 6pm EST. That works perfect with plenty of time to loosely set up, unwind and relax for the night. Heck I might even prep my chicken then.

10:20 – We left town a little behind schedule, but nothing major. This will be a low stress trip.

A quick stop to Restaurant Depot for meats and supplies and we were back on the road. It really is nice to travel without any major problems. 

I spoke too soon, 3 hours in and we suddenly come to a screeching halt. Apparently I-65 south of Seymour IN no longer exists. I am serious, the pavement is gone and from I saw there was only 1 guy hired to work on it. This meant being diverted into the country on a 2-lane highway. Now just think about that for a minute. 2 lanes of cars, trucks and semis are now being rerouted onto 1 lane. I don’t see how this could be a problem.

This created a 9.6 mi major slow down. How slow you ask? We were avg 10 mph. So theoretically we lost 50 minutes +/-.

After we finally got back on the interstate it was smooth sailing again. Heck even the weather was holding out. 

Once we hit Louisville, I realized I made the mistake earlier and said smooth sailing again. The GPS told me I couldn’t go the way that I wanted to and instead sent me on a 10 mile detour, again!!!

At least this time we were still on the interstate. Oh yeah but guess what time it is? Yup 4:30 and rush hour is beginning. 

UGH!!!! I just want to be there already and we are still about 4 hours away. 

Oh yeah while I am thinking about, could someone please put out a memo to the drivers of KY and TN that I am pretty sure you won’t get pulled over for doing 5 mph over. If I am wrong please correct me.

We finally got to the competition location about 1 hour before they stopped assigning spots to the teams for the night and situated. Those guys were awesome for being so understanding. They even had guys still out there working on getting everything ready to go for the morning. 

Unfortunately our plans to meet up with our friends that night fell through due to our late arrival, but tomorrow would be a new day.

 

 

 

 

6 weeks of no competing, makes for a busy time.

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You would think 6 weeks off from competing would be a bit relaxing, but let me tell you.

The bill paying part of my life has gotten busier and less employees to do it. This has been leading to a bit more sleeplessness. This could be a benefit as I may be better prepared to function on no sleep during a comp.

After our last competition our motor home developed an electrical gremlin. I am no electrician by any means, but hate the thought of spending a bunch of money to repair a possible easy fix. So I spent a good deal of time reading forums, talking to friends and outright guessing solutions. This lead me to replace a solenoid, almost the wrong one. But that didn’t fix the problem, so I guessed at replacing the switch. I bet you didn’t know that a switch has 7 very small pieces, not counting the broken pieces (from my doing). That didn’t fix the problem. My wife finally says “Instead of you continuing to spend money trying to fix it, why don’t you spend some money and get it fixed?”. I told her “Because it is probably a small, simple fix”. I conceded and sent it in, guess what? Yup it was a simple fix. I didn’t get a good connection to the fuses of the solenoid. Someone once told me there are 2 days of happiness owning an RV, The day you buy it and the day you sell it. I was starting to see what he was talking about.

This past weekend we cooked for Georgetown Ambulance’s Annual Community BBQ. 162 Lbs of pork, 40 Lbs of chicken quarters and 15 slabs of ribs. Holy cow was that a challenge. At the end of the day it was a success with everything being sold.

Then I had to back out of the Sertoma 48 BBQ competition, because a spot opened up at a much closer event, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour in St. Charles, MO. For some reason this competition has been bugging me. I am trying not to over think or change my normal game plan. The level of competitor is very high for these events and leaves very little room for error in cooking. The goal of this event is to finish in the top 6, by doing so, you move on to the Regional event. No stress at all thinking about that.

Then as if I didn’t have enough to do already, I started an outdoor kitchen build. The progress was moving along pretty swiftly,however, it seems like the weather and free time have been working against me. 

So here I am on a Monday and it occurs to me that I haven’t even gone through my competition checklist. UGH!!! Every 3rd day off just isn’t enough.

I need a vacation.

 

London KY 2014, pt. 2

Ok so where was I?

That’s right the ambulance transported the gentleman to the hospital.

So after they load up, I head back to the motorhome and apologize for the sudden departure and get my turn in boxes.

My son tells my maybe we’ll get some good karma from helping him out. I said to him that’s not why we did it, but if we get some I’m not turning it down.

I am now a bit behind and rushing to get caught up, the cook’s meeting was at 7 pm with dinner immediately following.

During the cook’s meeting, I get informed by the EMS crew that the patient was left at the hospital with a pulse and speaking. This made the hair on my arms stand straight up and win or lose made the comp worth it.

The dinner that we had was probably one of the best so far. We sat down with a plateful of food and dessert. If you went back hungry it was your own fault.

That night we got the fire going and things went pretty smooth. The rain was nowhere to be found on RADAR and the temp was perfect. I had purchased a new thermometer to help monitor the temps while inside and it proved to be valuable. Around 4:30 in the morning I hit my snooze on my phone. At 4:45 the thermometer signaled that the temp had dropped. That got my butt out of bed. So I through a couple more logs on and back to sleep I went.

Once the ribs were ready to go on, the rain had started and the temperatures started to fall. With that so did the ease of running the cooker. I had to finally put a couple extra logs in to bring the temp up, unfortunately it brought it up too much.

300* is where is sat at. This is not where I want to cook at, some teams do, but it hurts my timeline and I have to make adjustments on the fly.

Needless to say the ribs started to overcook and the chicken cooked fast also. So I had to pull each of them early and hold them in the Cambro. I gambled on whether to put the ribs back in to set the sauce and potentially make them too tender or serve them up with a wetter sauce and preserve the tenderness. I opted for the first choice.

Come time for turn ins we had mixed thoughts.

I thought chicken was our best chance at getting a call. Tenderness seemed right on and plenty of flavor.

Ribs I gambled and lost. I struggled to find a slab that I could slice a knife through without pull all of the meat off of the bone. Luckily I found enough to turn in a box. Flavor was good but overdone.

Pork wasn’t to my liking at all. Not sure what happened with it. I actually threw away the leftover because I couldn’t stomach it.

Brisket was ok. I thought the tenderness was good and the flavor was nice. Not one of my better ones by far.

So after it was over we struggled to find the energy/motivation to pack everything up and get ready for the awards. Somehow during the process of unhooking the hose I managed to cut my thumb. Who seriously gets hurt disconnecting the hose? I guess it wouldn’t have been a comp without me getting injured.

As we packed up we listened and watched as teams fought to get out of their spots. It had pretty much rained for 9 hours straight and there was standing water everywhere around us. I didn’t even want to think about how I was going to get out.

As anyone should know, low and slow is the way to go. That includes driving in the mud. I made slow and steady forward progress, at least until I hit the gravel. The road had just enough of a lip to stop me in my tracks and in the mud. I manage to back up about 6 inches and give it a tad more gas. After spinning for a little bit my tires finally gripped some gravel and we found “dry” ground.

We walk into the awards area and find a spot at the top of the bleachers. I figured we’d be nice and let all the teams that were going to get calls have the close seats. As we sit there my son asks “Dad can I go up and get the trophy if we get one?” (sound familiar?).

Little did he know that was the plan all along, IF we can get a call.

I think I forgot to mention that about half the teams there, so approximately +/- 21 teams, are championship teams.

We both agreed that chicken was probably our best chance at a call.

As the winners were announced the final team in chicken was called and it wasn’t us. That was a bit of a let down. My hopes of giving my son a chance to enjoy walking up in front of all these awesome teams and get an award have dwindled.

Ribs was the next category to get called, there was no way we had a shot at this. We knew our tenderness was blown and to make a mistake in this field of competitors was like stumbling while running from a lion. You were done. Gilly’s BBQ went up to claim his 6th place award and as I was congratulating him I hear “3rd place ribs goes to 82’s BBQ Crew”. I may have over cheered a bit, but man that felt good to hear that.

My son walked with a proud stride and a smile on his face. With both of us in shock we gave each other a fist bump.

We didn’t get any other calls, but what we did get was all we needed. If you believe in a higher power, whatever that may be, then you understand what probably happened. If you have questioned the existence of a higher power, then you may now have proof of it. If you don’t believe in it, then I am just one helluva lucky guys that found himself at the perfect time & under a nearly perfect scenario.

Either way because of whatever you believe that was the best comp to date.

Before I finish let me just add a few interesting facts:

I hate changing my plans/itinerary at the last minute, but talked myself into getting a tire fixed before I left. Which could lead you to believe that I avoided a blowout.

I, for the first time ever, asked to be placed next to a team (Gilly’s BBQ). I was initially told it wasn’t possible but then told they could put me across from him. This put me next door to the spot where the guy collapsed.

I was at my spot when he collapsed and not wandering around looking for a meat inspector or socializing.

Everyone did what people should do when someone stops breathing. Yell for help, call 911 and do high quality CPR.

Please if you haven’t already take a CPR class. If you are a business or organization, buy an AED and put it in a highly visible spot.

OK with that said here is how we did out of 42 teams:

Chicken 19th with a new high score of 167.4172

Ribs 3rd with a new high score of 174.8688 (we lost a tiebreaker)

Pork 20th with a score of 165.6800

Brisket 27th with a score of 159.4172

Overall 15th with a new high score of 667.3832