Awkward Milestones: Smoke on the Mountain (Galax, VA – July 18-19, 2014)

In Galax, Virginia, the big trophies are musical instruments. They give out customized guitars, mandolins, and fiddles. The awards table was making a couple of pickers like Luke and Leigh Anne drool. Smoke on the Mountain has been holding their competition in the Virginia highlands for 10 years. For the first eight of those years, it was a Memphis BBQ Network event. Last year, they made it a dual-sanctioned event by adding a KCBS competition.

That Memphis BBQ Network thingie . . . that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Competitors not only create blind boxes for judges for pork shoulder, pork ribs, and whole hog, but there are multiple on-site judging sessions as well. For each meat a team turns in, they get three on-site judging visits. Teams have to discuss their cooking process, show off their cooking equipment, and serve the judges. It is a full-fledged pro-duck-shun!!! When you add that in to the standard KCBS competition cook, things get a little wonky. For example, KCBS chicken turn-in was scheduled for 9:25. Brisket wasn’t due until 2:25 p.m.. Cook schedules had to be adjusted, and heaven help those teams who took the bull by the horns and competed in Memphis and KCBS!

Luke and Kim rolled into Galax late on Thursday evening, parking the Old Virginia Creeper next to fellow Dizzy Pig team (and Memphis competitor) Serial Grillers (“Wanted in every state!”). After getting the trailer situated, they turned in for an early evening. Leigh Anne showed up on Friday afternoon, and everyone dug in for meat prep and general set-up. After a deep-fried dinner from the event food court (fried gator, fried frogs legs, fried green tomatoes, and fried pickles), we started the fires and got ready.

At multiple times over the weekend, the team had to check their calendars. After all, cooking in July usually means copious consumption of Gatorade to combat dehydration under an unrelenting sun and downright hostile humidity. Instead, there were sweatshirts, long-pants, and arguments over who got to use the Snuggie as the mercury struggled to stay above 65 degrees. And of course, since we were cooking, there was rain — an inconsistent dripping with occasional sightings of a distant sun.

The cook itself felt great! The extra time between turn-ins started off feeling like a luxury, but it made for a damn long day. Our clean-up and tear down process got boiled down to a science. The Creeper was all packed up and ready to roll in just over an hour after brisket turn-in — that’s a world record, dear readers!!! The team retired to the local Hampton Inn to shower and prepare for awards at 7 p.m.

After listening to two local high school boys flail out a version of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on the respective grand champion awards (banjo for MBN and guitar for KCBS), it was time to get down to business. KCBS awards were first, and we were proud to get three calls — 8th in ribs, 7th in pork, and 3rd in brisket. However, the score sheet showed Old Virginia Smoke its very first DAL (Dead Ass Last) — 30th place in chicken.

It happens. It hurt like hell, but it happens to all of us. Over Mason jars of ‘shine and bottles of cold beer, our friends and fellow competitors have told us war stories about that dreaded ranking. Sometimes it’s how the numbers just add up . . . especially when the numbers are small. We took some risks with our chicken here, and there are no regrets — only opportunities and lessons learned. Moving on . . .
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Dave, David, and Richard over at Serial Grillers were amazing neighbors. We hope to find another dual event so we can all hang out again. Much love to the other folks in our little corner of the Virginia mountains — Grillin’Thyme, Cammo’s BBQ, and Contagious Q. Congrats to our ol’ buddy Rock at Rock’s Money Pit on the RGC and Boar’s Night Out on the GC. Victory Lane BBQ — you’re welcome for the butter that you used to beat us in brisket. In hindsight, we should have let you pay us for it. To our new buddy Phil, thanks for all the help cleaning up on Saturday; drive safe back to Cajun country. As always, thank you to Dizzy Pig, BBQ Guru, and our Kickstarter supporters for their continued sponsorship.

As a final note, if you can ever attend a competition where those boys from The Shed BBQ present whole hog, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It is . . . we don’t have the words. Running pig. Pink pinstripe suits. Cooking in a woody wagon. Just . . . holy smokes.

Next — the Southern Maryland Brew & BBQ Music Festival in Leonardtown, MD on August 1-2, 2014.