“Maybe we should add Blue Ridge even though that would make it four weekends in a row.” That was the discussion we were having as we pulled out of the Sam’s club parking lot after a less than stellar performance. Experienced teams will tell you, although it seems like an unbearable amount of time and effort, it’s almost easier to just keep cooking every weekend because you get into a rhythm that makes everything run more smoothly. We have done three in a row more than once, but never four in a row. After some discussion, we decided to give it a shot. Although we were in a ‘rhythm’ of cooking, a variety of factors made this weekend anything but normal for us.
We signed up only days prior to the event, and I was out of town up until Thursday evening, so we were already out of our routine by having to pack late Thursday night not having trimmed any meat at all. We arrived early Friday to the fairgrounds and had our choice of spots to set up the battle wagon. We chose the nice grassy spot with easy access to electricity and water. The rain was still coming down but appeared to be letting up. We were happy to see our friends from Old Virginia Smoke setting up right next to us as the final rain shower kicked up, then got heavier, and heavier … and heavier. Next thing we knew, water was building around us and then we saw the dreaded flash flood forming. It was moving slowly, but steadily towards the battle wagon. The drainage ditch didn’t have a chance at handling that volume of water and I scrambled to ensure the eggs were off the deck in case it sank into the ground, and I managed to get our electrical cord a foot above ground just in time. 30 seconds later, our grassy spot had been consumed by water carrying all sorts of debris. Thankfully, the rain subsided and the water actually drained off completely within a couple of hours. We did have to wade through some water to help move the Old Virginia Smoke camp to high ground, I ‘m guessing Lucas will add water wings to his packing list after this. Hopefully this was not a sign of how the rest of the weekend would go.
With our new water front property drying up, I rolled the eggs back onto the deck and started prepping them for cooking. The first one I opened was our rib cooker and I found that our plate setter had broken into many small pieces. This is the key piece that allows us to cook indirectly vs. grilling right over the coals and isn’t something we that we keep as a spare part. We decided to wrap a cookie sheet in foil and hope that it was enough to keep direct heat off of our ribs. I finally started trimming meat around 3 pm and couldn’t help but to feel really behind. Between meat trimming and injecting and the cooking we did for Erin’s work function the following Monday, we were busy right up until 9 pm which is usually when we are trying to take a quick nap prior to cooking.
The actual cook went well. There were no surprises and our jerry-rigged rib cooker seemed to be working just fine. We did discover that our ribs came out a little darker than they normally do, which may or may not have been due to the slight change in our set up. They weren’t overdone, just dark. By the time we turned everything in, we felt fairly confident in all categories and knew that regardless, it was in the judges hands. We had made a prior agreement with Old Virginia Smoke to taste each others brisket after turn ins. We both complimented the other on what seemed like a really good brisket cook. Lucas told us he felt we would get second or third and we said they were right there with us.
At awards they only called the top five in each category so we were not sure how we were doing because we didn’t hear our name for a while. Finally when they got to brisket they called Old Virginia Smoke for 5th place … Then we got our brisket call, 4th place! His forecast was slightly off, but we got a kick out of the fact that we felt our brisket tasted similar and then we placed side by side. We ended up getting three top ten places and 5th place out of 28 overall. 9th place chicken, 21st place ribs, 9th place pork and 4th place brisket. Not a bad finish for us in Virginia. We do our best to remain objective and unbiased about the judging because it is out of our control. We must bite our tongues after this competition because it would be very easy to say, based on the information on the score sheets, that there seemed to be some issues with one of the tables of judges and with ensuring some teams didn’t have their food landing on the same table more than once. But, like I said, it’s old news and out of our control. 5th place overall is one of our better finishes in the state of VA so we will take it! Congrats to the Fire Fighting BBQ Team for RGC and hats off to Hollywood N Swine for their first ever Grand Champion. We all know you have put in more than your share of blood sweat and tears over the years and it was good to see you holding the trophies!
Overall, we had a good weekend in the beautiful Virginia countryside with good friends. We certainly laughed a lot and we were blessed with the opportunity to try the “best cheese fries” which interestingly enough have been hiding from us at the Sheetz gas station. It was a memorable weekend to say the least.
With Tracy’s Landing cancelled this year, we will spend a rare weekend at home over the Labor Day holiday. Most likely we will be doing a practice cook or two in hopes of really dialing in our ribs and pork for the remainder of the season. Next stop, West Virginia!