Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Jack, Along For The Ride

Before the 2009 barbecue season got underway, I had one of many conversations with Mike Boisvert of Lakeside Smokers. he's one of my best friends, and we often have long conversations about BBQ. I'm not sure when it was, but we were lamenting our inability to get to the Jack Daniel's Invitational BBQ. I had gone in 2006, my 5th contest ever was the Jack, but have not been able to get back. Mike had come real close several times, but grand championships had eluded him.

We made a pact, if one of us made it to the Jack this year, the other one would come too.

I had an off year, only cooked three KCBS contests and didn't come close to winning any of them. Lakeside Smokers took off, and won three grands. I told Mike that he didn't have to hold me to the deal, as I know the thought of a week with me around all the time is enough to scare most people. But Mike absolutely made me feel like he wanted me to be there, and it was settled, I was going to the Jack!

Departure was Tuesday morning from Mike's place in Methuen, Mass. Driving down in the motor home would be Mike, Kris, Brendan of Transformer BBQ, and Kris' parents, Al and Phyllis Eastman. Everyone was easygoing and just enjoying the ride, which not only made it go by quickly but also made it very enjoyable.

The crew...

The motor home....

So we headed down I-90 to Interstate-84 through Connecticut to Scranton, PA. Then down Interstate-81 for the next 800 or so miles through PA, made an unsuccessful drive through downtown Scranton looking for Dunder Mifflin on the way, through Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Spent the first night in Lexington, Virginia, had a mediocre breakfast at "Aunt Sarah's" finished Virginia and Tennessee, a quick dip into Georgia before coming back up into Tennessee and into Lynchburg.

We rolled into town Wednesday afternoon, planning to stay at a nearby RV park before heading over to the Jack site Thursday. However, we decided to check things out at the Jack site first. Good idea, as more than half the teams were already there, and with a 31 foot motor home and a 15 foot trailer the sooner we could get set up, the better. So we did the right thing and set up our home for the next four nights in Wiseman Park.

The Site....

Thursday was setting up, hanging out, visiting with friends and meeting our neighbors. Directly behind us was a team from South Carolina, Butts and Breastts. Behind us was Spitfire BBQ, a team from South Dakota. Competition teams know how important good neighbors are at a contest, and these were really cool neighbors. On the other side was Home BBQ from Florida, who we didn't see much except the back of their trailer, but they were cool too.

Lynchburg is in Moore County, which is a dry county. This means no drinking, no open containers of alcohol. I had always heard "just keep it in a cup, no big deal."

Fast forward to late Thursday night. Mike, Brendan and I were sitting around the site with one of the members of the Butts and Breastts team. Brendan and I actually were drinking ginger ale, and Mike decided to have a late night beer, pouring it into a cup but leaving the empty bottle on the table. Our site was off the beaten path, and nobody even gave it a second thought.

Well, until the sheriff quietly rolled up and spotted the single bottle and slammed on his brakes. He storms into the site and hauls Mike out of the site to the front of his cruiser. He then calls for backup! At first it seemed like a joke, but it turns out the guy was dead serious. The handcuffs were out, and the guy was yelling at Mike that he was going to jail when cooler heads arrived in the form of backup. The supervisor warned us that if he even smelled alcohol on any of us for the rest of the weekend, we were gone.

We were so scared that we didn't have another sip of alcohol the rest of the weekend. Wink...

Friday's lunch was a treat. We went to Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House, the historic and famous Lynchburg family style restaurant. Mike, Brendan and I were guests of Stephanie Wilson, who had organized a group of BBQ cooks and friends to eat in the basement dining rooms. The meal was awesome, with fried catfish, meatloaf, fried okra, Jack Daniel's apples and more, finished with a chocolate pie to die for. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, and thanks to Steph for including me.

Friday afternoon the Jack festivities fired up. There was the parade....

Roscoe smelled our cups on the parade route too!

The parade was followed by the trip up to BBQ Hill for the cook's dinner. This was a huge improvement from 2006 when I cooked the Jack, when they only served chili. This time it was fried chicken, washed down by exactly two Jack & Cokes. Good stuff.

Saturday was contest mode. Mike and Kris have their routine down, so I just wanted to pitch in and help out whenever possible. I thought things went great. Brendan's chef's choice entry was awesome, and everything seemed to cruise along.

I do operate a mean dish station....

The awards ceremony, for us it started slowly. After the long speeches, the awards finally began. call. Sauce, no call. Chef's choice, you guessed it, no call. Chicken, ribs, pork. No call. Ugh. Everyone was keeping positive but I was starting to deflate, getting that feeling I have had many times myself in having to accept not getting a single call at a contest.

Until brisket came around. 3rd place....Lakeside Smokers! Mike and Kris were so happy, and it was so great to see them get what they had worked so hard for.

Then, as the celebration started to die down, they again called Lakeside for 7th overall, which is an awesome accomplishment for a team at the Jack for the first time, or any time for that matter.

Then, to top it off, our New England friends iQue won the Grand Championship, to repeat, a New England team won the Jack!!! Just a euphoric moment for all of us, and I am so happy that I was there for it!

It got even better. When Mike went to get his score sheets, they said, "we made a mistake, you also won 3rd place chef's choice." While I was bummed that Brendan didn't get to have the moment during the real awards, I know it meant so much to him to get the call for Mike and the team. The I Smell Smoke guys did something really cool at this point, telling us to come back to the stage. We gathered a crowd along the way, and as the crews cleaned up held our own awards ceremony for the chef's choice call.

By 10:30 at night, we were all asleep in the motorhome. It was one great day.

Sunday we packed up and drove to Nashville. We went out on the town, partying hard with the I Smell Smoke crew and others at the honky tonk bars in the entertainment district. I was sexually harassed the entire evening. I've learned that when you're this sexy, that's bound to happen. It's like the paparazzi, you just learn to deal with it.

The night was capped with a late night trip to the Waffle House with Brendan, Steve of ISS, Steph and Val of the Slabs. The food was god awful, thus the name "awful waffle," but we had a great drunken time.

Monday, we hit the road for home. We drove (well they, I didn't drive on the ride home either) all the way home straight, arriving at Mike's house in Methuen at around six a.m.

While it was really hard being away from Sheila and Max for so long, this was an awesome trip that I wouldn't have missed for the world. It has given me a new found motivation to try and get Q Haven back to the Jack in 2010!


WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Thanks for a great story. I really enjoyed every word.

Stephen said...

Thanks for telling. I am glad it was such a great time.

Meat at Slim's

Lakeside Smoker said...

Great recap Ted. Thanks for sharing.


Transformer BBQ said...

mustard? Mustard!!!!!!!

Chris said...

Excellent write up and photos. My guess is the overbearing cop was trying to make a scene on the first night just to keep everyone in line for the weekend. Still an a-hole though :)

Sports Chump said...

Love the site, love the stories.

And I LOVE that JD barrel.

However, I had a bad experience with barbecue for breakfast lately...