Instead of rolling up the stake and heading back across the country, Bob and the girls headed home on Monday, while Luke stayed back in KC and did some real life work, and prepared for the next episode…the Sams Club Finals in Bentonville, Arkansas. 50 teams from across the country, vying for $125k of prize money.
This was going to be a battle royal. With cheese. A who’s who of the barbecue world, put on by the best promoters and organizers in the country, Mike McCloud and Michael McDearman. We were damn glad to be going. And looked forward to seeing some of our BBQ friends from the east coast there as well.
Luke made the drive from KC to Bentonville on Thursday afternoon. There’s really nothing between the two, and your thoughts can wander. Firstly, no wonder that place gets wrecked by tornadoes. Secondly, people drive really fast. Luke was daydreaming down the road, when he sees a truck in the rear view towing what looks like a BBQ trailer behind it.
It was closing fast.
And then WHOOSH. The trailer screams past, causing the Creeper to sway a bit. As it darted off down the highway, Luke made out who it was. Iowa Smokey D’s.
Luke got to the hotel, checked in, and then had a fantastic dinner with Terry and Stephanie West from 270 Smokers. Friday was check in day. Some beverages were consumed in the hotel lobby while the Pittsburgh Pirates got crushed, then off to bed.
Another thing Luke is known for is showing up balls early for things because, well, he’s a child. He arrived at the Sam’s Club headquarters at 730 a.m. and drove in circles for 30 minutes trying to figure out where to go. Soon, other teams would arrive and load in would get started.
And we would be surrounded by friends! Rockin’ Robyn’s right beside us….Insane Swine and Checkered Flag 500 right across from us. This was going to be fun. We’d also meet new neighbors and make some more friends…Knife Pork Spoon, Cajun Blaze and Big Poppa Smokers. Good times.
Luke was by himself for most of Thursday, setting up and waiting for The Little General to arrive. She got there at 5 pm, and they headed to the banquet at the headquarters hotel. It was a very cool event, being amongst all of the best teams in barbecue. We had a great time with friends, and then headed to the hotel for some shut eye.
Friday was game time. The site was set up…Leigh Anne arrived and we all set forth on the task at hand. We got everything trimmed and ready to go. The weather was pretty nice, and everything was dialed in.
Everything went like clockwork. All turn ins looked great. And the Sam’s Club people were awesome. They blocked off the turn ins and made it real nice for the cook teams. We got through all of our turn ins, including the chicken breast turn in for the Tyson Chicken Challenge, and then started packing up the Creeper for the long track back to Virginia.
Unfortunately, Leigh Anne had an early flight. So she could only be here for the beginning of the awards. Tyson Chicken Challenge was first…and OVS GOT CALLED UP TO THE STAGE! We were one of the top three, which also included our friends from 270 Smokers. It came down to the two Virginia teams…and Old Virginia Smoke took 1st place in the Tyson Chicken Challenge!
It was still a fantastic experience, and hopefully we can qualify again next year. Huge thanks to Mike McDearman, Mike McCloud and the entire Sam’s Club crew for an absolutely fantastic summer. It was a long ride home, but we would definitely do it again.