BBQ Adventure Day 21: Tuesday 20th May (Charleston SC to Atlanta GA)

The main reason why I planned to visit Charleston SC, was to visit Fort Sumter.
The fort was involved in the first shots of the American Civil War, and I was fascinated by it’s involvement. I planned to take the two an half hour cruise to visit the National Park site, before driving five hours to Atlanta GA.

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The ferry departed from Patriots Point, home of the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown.
I paid for my $18 ticket, and bought some souvenirs whilst waiting.

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The trip was around half an hour, with one hour at Fort Sumter to explore.

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The whole experience was fantastic, and it was hard to imagine living on the Fort during the war, with constant bombardment from the enemy! The remains of the lower level of the outer wall is all that remains.

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The one hour passed quite quickly, I was the last one on the ferry for the return trip home!
The commentary on board the ferry gave a great insight to the involvement of Charleston during the civil war, and the half hour trip was over in a flash!

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It was around 1330 by the time I hit the road, and I wasn’t looking forward to the five hour drive! At least it would be the last ‘long’ drive for my trip.

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I arrived at my Atlanta accommodation, DoubleTree by Hilton, Atlanta Airport, just after 1830.

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I had met Bennett Hollberg, who was a friend of Carey Bringle from Peg Leg Porker, at the Memphis in May BBQ event.
He was the director of culinary operations at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q in Atlanta, and he had invited me to come and check out their operation on the last day of my adventure.
I rang him to arrange a visit after checking in, and he said that he would try to fit me in, and told me to come straight away as it gets busy soon!

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He wasn’t joking and when if arrived there, the car park was full! I ended up parking in the street around the corner, about 600m away.

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There was a line waiting out front, which meant that it must be good BBQ!

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The place was full inside, and while I was waiting for the staff to get Bennett, I was impressed by the atmosphere and energy of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.

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The staff all looked happy, and they were certainly kept busy. The tour went everywhere, and I was looking forward to eating after seeing behind the scenes!

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Bennett suggested a Combo Plate, two meats with four chicken wings, and two sides.
I chose the brisket and ribs, along with Brunswick stew and fried okra as the sides.

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My first impression was how huge the meal was, but being my last taste of BBQ on this trip, I was pleased with what lay before me!

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The brisket was moist and full of flavour and the ribs had a great bite and taste.

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I had never tried Brunswick Stew before, and after the first mouthful, I was hooked! The fried okra was fantastic, made even more special after seeing it being prepared.

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For me, the wings were the winner on this dish, plump, a fantastic smoky taste and succulent! I could have eaten a dozen just by themselves!

Bennett came by to see how the meal was going and during our chat, it turned out that he was off to Peg Leg Porker in Nashville for a book launch event.

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He bid farewell and left me to enjoy my meal. As I finished the last of those magic wings, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the last BBQ meal on my fantastic BBQ adventure. I was feeling pleased with myself, and paid my bill before heading back to the hotel. If you are ever in Atlanta, and looking for BBQ with atmosphere, head to Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, you won’t be disappointed!

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BBQ Adventure Day 20: Monday 19th May (Augusta GA to Charleston SC)

I had always wanted to say that I have played golf in Augusta, the home of The Masters!

As I don’t know any members from the Augusta National Golf Club, I was on the search for a good public course to play on!

My plan today is to find a store here in Augusta that sells Masters merchandise, and after a game of golf, drive to Charleston SC.
The drive should take about three hours, and all of my plans this morning will be based on arriving before 1800.

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I wasn’t in a rush to wake up this morning, and it was just after 1000, when I woke up.

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After my now routine cup of Starbucks coffee, I contacted two public golf courses, to see if there was any tee times available.
The first, Forest Hills Golf Course, was closed until the afternoon due to a college tournament being held.

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It had been voted as the best public course in Augusta, and I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t play. The pro shop did give me a good tip on a place that sold Masters memorabilia.

As the second course that I contacted was out of town, I headed to the place suggested by the golf pro.
Trends and Traditions Antique Mall was nothing to look at from the outside, but as soon as I walked through the door, I was blown away by the large number of Masters memorabilia!

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I spent way too much time in there, and if I wasn’t in a hurry, I could have spent all day! The cost of the products that I bought was double what you would pay during the event, the main reason is because of the fact that due to the limited sale time, it becomes a collectable item the day after the Masters!

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I packed away my items, and headed for Gordon Lakes Golf Course.
It is located within a military base, and open to the public.

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I only had time to play nine holes, and after paying about $30 for golf, cart and club hire, I set off.

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I paired up with a great bloke called Ken, and he looked a bit like Jack Nicklaus! He played like him, and I enjoyed playing the nine.

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It was about 1530 by the time I finished, and after grabbing a couple of hot dogs, I headed towards Charleston.

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The GPS took me on the back roads through small country towns.

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I finally arrived in Charleston and after driving over the quite impressive and long , Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, I checked into my hotel at Mount Pleasant.

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I had always wanted to try shrimp and grits, yet was too tired to drive back over the bridge into town.
I was able to find a restaurant nearby that looked good.

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I arrived at Page’s Okra Grill, and I was blown away by how busy it was!
As I have learnt on this trip, that is a good sign.

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I ordered the shrimp and grits and crab cakes as an appetiser.
They were both fantastic, and the grits was presented as a cake, not the traditional way.

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For mains I ordered a combination of fried oysters and shrimp, with sweet potato fries and collard greens.

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The whole meal was sensational, and the food along with the friendly staff, made for a great night.
I left very full and happy, and returned to my accommodation to plan tomorrow.

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Tomorrow I plan to take a ferry from Patriots Point, to Fort Sumter. I will then drive five hours to Atlanta GA, my last night on this BBQ Adventure.

BBQ Adventure Day 19: Sunday 18th May (Memphis TN to Augusta GA)

It was hard waking up today, knowing that my BBQ Adventure was coming to an end.
The next few days of my BBQ Adventure, were planned for my relaxation, before flying home!

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The plan today, is to drive from Memphis TN, to Augusta GA.
Along with BBQ, I also love golf, and have always wanted to see the home of The Masters, Augusta National Golf Course!
The drive is planned to take around eight hours, with favourable traffic!

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I had a quick look at the door closer that I fixed for Patty, just to make sure it hadn’t broken again!

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Staying with Patty, has been like a home away from home and I’m sure she will miss me, as much I I will miss her and her fantastic house.

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I woke up early, had my regular cup of coffee, and then had my photo taken with Patty and old mate, Elvis!

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It was raining quite heavily and not very pleasant, so I took it easy driving. It pretty much rained the whole time, and at one stage I couldn’t see ahead of me.

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I normally have been struggling to stay focussed and awake when driving long distances. Today, driving the longest distance yet, I felt wide awake.

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I took advantage of this and I thought that I could make the trip on one tank. Unfortunately, I had to stop about 100 miles out of Augusta to top up, probably due to all the trucks hogging the road!

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The drive itself was quite boring, and to fill in time, I was already planning my next trip in my mind, this time it will involve less driving!

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I arrived at my accommodation in Augusta, and after settling in, I decided to try and get a look at Augusta National golf course.

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I set the GPS, and I drove straight past the main gate! I couldn’t believe that the gate is on a busy road.
I only knew where it was, by watching a group of golfing fans run across the road to take pictures.

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After taking whatever photos I could get, I headed back to the accommodation.

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It turns out that you can only buy Masters merchandise, the week of the event.
The only way you can purchase anything out side of then, is to pay double the price from anyone who bought it during the event, to then sell later.

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It was the end of a very long and tiring day, and after a quick bite from the Scottish American chain, it was time for some sleep.

The plan tomorrow is to search for a place in Augusta that sells Masters merchandise and also to try and get a game of golf in.
I will then drive to my last stop before Atlanta, Charleston SC, to visit Fort Sumter. This was the place where the first shots of the American Civil war were fired.

BBQ Adventure Day 18: Saturday 17th May (Memphis TN) MIM Day 3

Today is the last day of MIM, everything has been leading up to this day!

At the end of today, a team will be crowned Grand Champion MIM 2014, along with winner of whole hog, shoulder and ribs section.

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I woke up a bit later this morning, as the weather had turned nasty. There was also no point getting in too early, as the team were in ‘game mode’, and I would just be in the way.

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Patty had left a nice surprise on the table, and also made a fantastic corn bread breakfast. A nice start to the day.

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I fixed the front door for Patty, so she kindly drove me to the event. The booth was quiet, and the atmosphere was more serious than the last two days, as everyone was focussed on the reason for being here, producing the best ribs!

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The booth was being partitioned in half to allow for a presentation area to be set up for one on one judging.

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The judging process involved two steps. The first was judging of the ‘blind box’. Your ribs were judged without the judges knowing which team presented them. The blind box judging forms one half of the total points, with the booth visits making up the other half.

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The ribs were taken off the smoker, carefully selected and then cut with the precision of a surgeon!

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Once everyone was happy with taste and presentation, off they went, accompanied by a huge cheer!

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The second part of the process was by a personal visit by three judges. They are welcomed into the booth, sit down, and are presented with your entry.
Not only is it about tasting, it is also about the team, how the product was cooked, and anything else that will help win the judge’s vote.

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The only team members allowed in the booth during judging are the senior members. The rest of the team wait outside, looking in.

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It was quite tense watching the judging, and everything had to be perfect!
Neil started the presentation, followed by Eric talking about the smoker.

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John brought out the ribs for tasting, and Shane explained how they were cooked.

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Once the judge’s time was up, everyone shook hands, and then everything was cleared ready for the next one to arrive.

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With the judging over, there was a sigh of relief! There was nothing to do now but wait, if we made it into the top three, the judges would return.
Neil filled out the feedback form for each judge.

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The judges did stop at our booth, but only just to allow another vehicle to pass!

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We didn’t make the top three, but that was not the end of it. At Memphis in May, you get a trophy for being placed in the top ten. There was still hope for this, and that would be just as much an accomplishment as winning!

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To fill in time, I decided to walk around the park, and I was lucky enough to bump into Ray Lampe, ‘Dr BBQ’. Nice bloke and even though he was busy, he was able to stop and talk.

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I had promised the guys from Peg Leg Porker a visit, and caught up with Carey and Steve.

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Whilst there I met Bennett and Bill from Fox Bros. BBQ in Atlanta GA. We organised a visit for the last night of my BBQ Adventure, nice!

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The crowd numbers seemed down, and most of the corporate booths were empty today. The weather was getting worse, with rain threatening, not a great way to end the festival.

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It was time for the results to be announced, and space was at a premium. There was a buzz of excitement as teams listened with hopes on getting a placing.

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Whole hog and shoulder winners were announced. My mates at Big Bob Gibson did very well, they not only won the Kingsford tour of champions, but also, whole shoulder!

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The ribs section was last, and a light shower was falling. The place winners were announced, and just like yesterday, it was not looking good.

The teams from tenth to seventh were announced, and then, “sixth place ribs, Too Sauced To Pork”!

WOW, our team just erupted into uncontrolled joy, and we all ran towards the stage, flag proudly flying!

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Just like yesterday, the feeling was hard to describe. My first MIM, and I was up on the stage twice! Some teams have never been up on the big stage.

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The team returned back to the booth, with many teams cheering as we returned.

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Some seemed not all that happy that we did well!

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It was a fantastic feeling returning back to the booth, a well deserved first placing in vinegar based sauce yesterday, and a special sixth place in ribs today.
Too Sauced to Pork is a big ‘family’, and we all congratulated each other, to the senior team members, it was well deserved!

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Dinner and drinks was served, and despite the park closing at ten tonight, the team celebrated!
Not too hard though, as they still had to pack up.

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I went home very happy and pleased with myself. I had been part of a special team who have the ability to allow an average backyard BBQ pundit, the opportunity to be part of a championship team.

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I was always made to feel welcome, and felt privileged to be part of the whole experience.

Sadly this is the end of my BBQ Adventure ‘proper’, as tomorrow I am driving from Memphis TN to Augusta GA.
The drive will take all day, and as I leave for home on Wednesday, I will be using the last two days to sightsee!

And the team that won Grand Champion? My mates at Big Bob Gibson, well done guys!

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BBQ Adventure Day 17: Friday 16th May (Memphis TN) MIM Day 2

If you have ever been to a three day event, you will understand how I am feeling this morning!
Yesterday was a fantastic start to the event, and looking at the weather this morning, so should today.
Today is day two of MIM, and we are entering almost all the categories for ‘anything but’ ancillary competition.

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As part of my package, I was able to get 6 wrist bands, that allowed me to bring some guests into the booth. I invited Pat, Celine and her husband along with Patty to visit.
After a quick cup of coffee, Patty drove us all into downtown and we caught the trolley car to Beale St landing.

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We entered the gate, and as I had left my camera in the booth overnight, there was no problems getting in today!

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There was a hive of activity in the booth, and as we arrived the atmosphere was a bit more serious.

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Patty and the others went for a walk, and I suggested they return for lunch, as we were having a crawfish boil!

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The team were busy preparing boxes for judging of the ancillary items, and thanks to the WhistleStop Rocket city event, it was not new to me!

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The different category items were prepared, and again it was like a racing car pit stop! Each person had a job to do, and no one dare get in the way of boxing up!

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It was great watching the amount of work that went into preparing each item, any imperfections were removed, before everyone agreed that the box was right to close, and send to the judges!

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The lids were sealed and the runner’s delivered the boxes for judging!

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The judging would be announced at 1800, and before lunch at 1500, the booth was set up for the Kingsford tour of Champions tour. Four groups of around 30 people that paid to taste BBQ, visited the booth.

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Neil and the team handed out a sample of shoulder, and answered any questions on how it was made. There was a prize awarded to the team that provided the best presentation, and it was well done by the boys.

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The addition of a sample of the Bourbon slushy went down well!

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With the presentations complete, it was time for lunch! The highlight today was a crawfish boil, something I was looking forward to!

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Lunch was over, and some teams entertained themselves, before heading down to the main stage to watch the results being announced.

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The crowds built in anticipation of the results, and there was excitement building in the air.

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As the trophies for the different categories were announced, things weren’t looking good for Too Sauced to Pork!

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Third and then second place for Vinegar based sauce was announced, our last chance.
Suddenly over the PA, I heard the words…”winner of vinegar based sauce, Too Sauced to Pork”!

WINNER, first place, number one in the world!

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This was my first Memphis in May, and not knowing if it would be my last, I took my chance and joined the team up on the main stage!

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It’s hard to explain the feeling as I walked up the stairs onto the stage. It went quite quickly and I remember turning around to face the crowd.
My first thought was a sense of pride for the boys, I also thought that this is what it has been all about.
Up on stage, a rare treat, at the world’s premier BBQ event, nice!

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Everyone was happy, and we headed back to the booth for the celebrations!

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It was great to see the team on a high, and whilst the drinks and food flowed freely, so too did my bowels!

I wasn’t feeling the best and decided the best thing was to head home early!

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Tomorrow is the main category competition day for whole hog, shoulder and ribs.

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The party is over, time for the work to begin!

BBQ Adventure Day 16: Thursday 15th May (Memphis TN) MIM Day 1

Today is day one, of the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Competition, (MIM) the biggest BBQ competition involving pork, in the world!

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This event is the main reason for my trip, and I would be telling a lie if I didn’t say I was a little excited!

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The weather was much nicer than yesterday, and I was treated to freshly made waffles, with all the trimmings, by Patty.
I called a cab, and still excited, I arrived at the Beale St gate just after 1100.

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My excitement was soon short lived, when a bald headed p***k, inspected my backpack and the informed me that I couldn’t bring my camera in, as it had a detachable lens!
To make matters worse, when I asked him if he was “serious”, he replied with “yes I am, mate”! Tosser!

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I rang Neil and he sent down Paul, who was getting some alligator meat from some biker mates!
After picking up the meat, I handed him my backpack and being a gold band holder, he just walked it in right past old mate who said I couldn’t bring it in?

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I was a happy little porker, and was now in the right mood to enjoy the festival!

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Today was a bit of a meet and greet for all the team members, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

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Neil presented a session on judging criteria and how each category is scored.
The booth was then set up for lunch and drinks were served!

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After a sumptuous meal, I decided to go for a walk around the park to get a feel for the atmosphere.

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The crowd was building, and you could feel the excitement building. The teams treat this event as a huge party, and today was judging for best booth display, best t-shirt and the Miss Piggy Idol competition.

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Our booth was right on the banks of the Mississippi River, and it was fun to sit inside, or on the seats out front, and watch the crowds passing by!

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At the beginning of my BBQ Adventure, I spent some time with Ken Hess from Big Bob Gibson BBQ in Decatur AL. I had a great time, and although Chris Lilly was not able to meet me there, he did say that he would be at the MIM event.
I spotted their booth, and was pleased to not only meet Chris and Ken, but also Don McLemore, the grandson of Big Bob Gibson!
I enjoyed my visit with them, another special moment on my adventure!

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It was time for the Miss Piggy Idol competition, and up until now, the weather today had been fantastic!
Just as the show was about to start, a small but intense shower, hit the event!

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The upside was that it produced a magic double rainbow!

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The Miss Piggy Idol, is a talent show with a difference! It is a chance to ‘ham’ it up, and fully grown men dress up and perform in front of eager crowds!

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Our team competed, but didn’t make the final three! We also missed out on the best shirt competition.
The booth next to us, did come second in the best booth competition.

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Shane prepared some ribs for all to try, and he gave me some great tips to try when I get home!

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As the sun set on a fantastic day one, the partying began! I tried two different types of moonshine, and feeling quite content, I headed home.

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Tomorrow is day two, judging for anything but pork!
Such things as sauces, meat, seafood, wings and exotic are up for grabs, it should be a good day!

BBQ Adventure Day 15: Wednesday 14th May (Memphis TN) MIM Family and friend night

Last night, I had fully intended to drive to Clarksdale MS, to make up for missing out yesterday.
I slept in today, partly due to getting to bed late, and also as the temperature had dropped to about 45f (7c), and the rain was non stop!

Not very inviting weather to wake up to!

The Memphis weather site, suggested that the front stretching from Mississippi to Arkansas, was not going away, and there were also several weather warnings out!
If I was to drive to Clarksdale, it would not be nice.

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I sat in Patty’s kitchen, and over a hot coffee made an executive decision. I still needed to return to Graceland to do some souvenir shopping, and I also wanted to call into Central BBQ.

It was also family and friends night at the Memphis in May. I could not get into the event until 1730, so the rest of the day was planned around that.

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(Central BBQ)

As it was approaching lunch time, I decided to visit Central BBQ , despite having three locations, I decided to visit the original store on Central Avenue.

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I had make contact with Central BBQ during the planning for this trip, and I wanted to catch up them before I ran out of time. I had originally planned to spend some time at a store, sadly, it will just have to be a visit.

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Upon entering the restaurant, I was impressed with the assortment of local beers that they served, along with how colourful the interior was.

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They do have a patio out front with tables, but sadly due to the poor weather, it was not in operation!

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I was introduced to John, who was the manager, and we had a chat about the restaurant and my BBQ Adventure! He was kind enough to give me a pulled pork sandwich and a sample of ribs to try.

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The pulled pork sandwich was delicious and the meat was juicy and tender. The sweet, yet spicy sauce took it to the next level.
The mayonnaise based coleslaw was delicious, and mixed with the pork and soft bun, worked very well.

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The ribs looked fantastic, and tasted even better! They had a nice bark and smoke ring. The meat fell off the bone with little effort, and had a great smoky flavour.

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There was a shaker of season all on the table, so I tried a bit on the ribs. Wow, it enhanced the flavour and I ended up buying some to try on my ribs back home!

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The great thing about Central BBQ, is that they have three locations, meaning they are only a short drive from anywhere in Memphis.

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I thanked John, and my next stop was Graceland to purchase some gifts.

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You can visit the gift shops located at the Graceland site, however they are a little pricy due to the fact that they are sanctioned by the Graceland Foundation.

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There is a shop located on the mansion side of Elvis Presley Blvd, called Boulevard Souvenirs and Gifts, which has heaps more interesting Elvis memorabilia.
The products may not have the official mark on them, but worth a look if a fan!

I drove back to my accommodation the Farmhouse Blue Room, and prepared
for the family and friends night down at the Memphis in May event.

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I had no sooner settled in, when I received a phone call from Neil, letting me know that Fox13 news wanted to interview me!

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I called a cab, and as soon as I arrived, I was being interviewed by Kristin Tallent, from the local news team FOX 13 Memphis!
(Video)

It was family and friends meet and greet, and it was fantastic to meet some of the other team members from Too Sauced to Pork. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, and I was one of twenty people that had signed up for a BBQ experience like no other!

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It was a little like the first day of school camp, with everyone meeting each other and sharing BBQ stories. The permanent members of the team are regulars at this event, and it is great that they allow other ‘family’ members to share the experience.

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The booth soon filled up, and there was plenty to eat and drink, a good sign of things to come!

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The team started of their journey by winning awards for the best drinking team, and best cocktails!

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Some of the team members had been following each other on Facebook and easily recognisable, although never having met!

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I decided to take advantage of the park being quiet, and took a quick walk around.

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Sadly the temperature dropped even further, and a strong wind and rain swept through the park!

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I headed back to the booth, and the music started, the booze flowed, and the dancing began!

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The park was due to close at 2230, so I finished my drink, and after saying goodbye, headed home.
The wind and rain did not let up, and hopefully the weather forecast for tomorrow was for fine weather!

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Tomorrow is the first day of competition, and there is a team lunch and meet and greet planned. The plan is to arrive around 1100, and the day is a bit relaxed. Being a non competition day, many teams catch up with each other.

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Let’s hope the weather is better!