Today is officially day one of the Memphis in May BBQ Competition, and the park is open to the public. It is considered a little more of a party day, with no major awards being presented, and most teams use it to socialise and entertain! Feeling a little more a more relaxed myself today, I woke up late and it was nearly 1100 by the time we got ready to go! We decided to visit the Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid complex, recommended by Paul and Neil! As I had some gifts for everyone on the team, and didn’t want to carry them inside the shop, Patty offered to drive us to the event via the shop. The ‘shop’ was the largest fishing and hunting store I had ever seen! Not only did it have the worlds largest free standing elevator, it even had an indoor lake complete with fish, live ducks and boats! We decided to pay the $10 fee to ride the elevator to the ‘Lookout’ located at the very top of the pyramid. The view was fantastic, along with a free drink! We stayed there for a while taking in the view, before heading back down. I purchased a cook book and other gifts, before getting lost inside the labyrinth! I finally emerged at the correct car park, and Patty agreed to join us at MIM for lunch. We parked her car at her boyfriend Danny’s work, and we all walked towards the park. We arrived at a smaller gate mid way between the main entrances. Unlike last year, no one even checked my backpack! I walked straight into the park with not only a camera with a detachable lens, but a litre of Bundy rum and ten bottles of beer! Needless to say, we will be using that gate tomorrow! The atmosphere in the booth was jovial, with lunch being served and the booze freely flowing. We added some Aussie ‘bling’ to the booth, before Sam and I headed off to explore. Our first stop was to give Ken Hess from Big Bob Gibson his gift. Ken is a bee keeper, so I bought him a gift pack of honey. I also introduced Sam to Chris Lilly, a barbecue legend! Our next stop was Peg Leg Porker, and I introduced Sam to Carey Bingle and my old mate Steve. Steve was developing a Peg Leg smoker and we had a look at it. We all agreed that we need to import them into Australia somehow! Our final stop before heading back to the booth, was to visit Dr. BBQ, Ray Lampe at the Big Green Egg VIP tent. Whilst there we were introduced to Lee Ann Whippen, another legend in the competition BBQ circuit! It was great catching up with old friends, as well as meeting new ones! I am always amazed at how open and welcoming the BBQ brotherhood is to those that are interested in sharing the love! We caught up with Bruce Rylance from Boofhead BBQ, a team based in Chicago. Bruce’s father was from Brisbane, and ‘Boofhead’ was the affectionate name he gave Bruce growing up! We left the boys with an ‘oil can’ of Fosters each, and walked back past all the great vendor stands at MIM. The booth was still rocking, and I stayed there until early evening! I had bought ten hand selected Aussie beers over for Frank and Dave to sample, and we tried them all! Frank bought a few of his own, and it was a great afternoon! With a few beers in me, I was feeling quite happy with the day! I sat back and enjoyed a great sunset meal on the upper deck. I was finally amongst my BBQ family, both old and new! Tonight was the Miss Piggy Idol, along with the trophy award for the Big Hog Run winner! On the way to the stage, Sam and I joined a team throwing a grid iron ball. I think they were using deflated Tom Brady balls, as one caught me out and bent my finger back! Not a major issue, and as I continued to the stage, I didn’t even cry once! There was a great crowd waiting, and we arrived to find out that Bret Miller my American relation, took out first prize! Our first trophy for Too Sauced to Pork! We met some fantastic people, and we all enjoyed watching the final three teams competing in the Miss Piggy Idol, The sun had well and truly set on day one, of what was promising to be a great MIM 2015! We headed back to the booth to congratulate Bret for his athletic ability! Tomorrow is going to be a little more serious with up to eight turn ins planned in the ‘anything but’ categories. Last year the team won first place in Vinegar Sauce, and the hopes are high for tomorrow!
Today I woke up a little sore, but relieved that I had completed the painting! After dedicating two full days to the painting job, the plan today is to spend time buying BBQ supplies, and a other suitcase to carry them back home!
I have been following Memphis Barbecue Supply on Facebook for some time now, and I was excited to finally visit them!
I had a great time at Memphis Barbecue Supply, and after buying just about half the store, it was time to buy another suitcase to fit it all in! I headed off to the local Wal Mart and purchased a suitcase, some more clothes, and two boxes of cheap golf balls!
Earlier in the morning I had heard from Sam and Rhiannah, my ‘family’ traveling from Australia. They had made it into Los Angeles and on to Atlanta. They we’re waiting to see if they could get standby for the flight from Atlanta to Memphis.
With my shopping completed, I decided to head back to Pattys to connect to wifi to see if they left a a message. As I hadn’t eaten yet, I called into Central BBQ on Summer Avenue just up the road, for take out.
I ate at Central BBQ last year, and I was looking forward to eating there again.
I ordered their famous pulled pork nachos, with a hot link sausage. I wasn’t disappointed, and I can see why they are world famous!
Tonight is family night at Memphis in May. The park is not open to the public, and it is a great time to catch up with old friends with a great family atmosphere! Sadly Sam and Rhi didn’t make the flight to Memphis in time, so I went alone.
It was good to finally be back ‘home’ amongst my BBQ brothers. The booth looked fantastic, and the guys had spent a bit more for a two story booth, WOW!
It was fantastic to catch up with old friends, and we had a great meal on the deck!
After dinner, I had a great chance to walk around and catch up with the other teams.Earlier in the evening Brett Miller, my long lost brother, competed in the inaugural Big Hog Run! He will know tomorrow if he was the winner!
I spent the rest of the evening enjoying being back amongst the whole MIM atmosphere and received the best call ever. Sam and Rhiannah had made the last flight out of Atlanta to Memphis, and we’re on their way to Pattys!
Tomorrow is the first official day of the Memphis in May competition. The plan is to visit the Bass Pro shop at the pyramid, before heading in.
The plan today was plain and simple, finish painting Patty’s hallway!
I had marked up most of the hallway yesterday, and only needed to finish with a roller today! I woke up at 1000, and worked all day with only a coffee break here or there!
The two gallons of paint had just run out as the last roller went on! Feeling tired, sore and hungry, I cleaned up and joined Patty on the porch for dinner.
The day was over, and sadly I had done nothing else all day but paint!
I was asked by someone here about the best way to experience BBQ at Memphis in May, and I remember an article I had written for someone, that was never published!
As I had nothing to write about today, I thought I would publish most of that article as a guide!
For the whole month of May, the mile long Tom Lee Park in Memphis Tennessee, along the banks of the Mississippi River is transformed into the the party centre of the world.
For most of the month it holds various music festivals, however from the 15th to the 17th of May this year it become the BBQ centre of the universe!
The Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, is the largest Pork only cooking competition in the world. You will find around 250 teams competing for bragging rights and trophies in categories such as Shoulder, Whole Hog and Ribs. The title of Grand Champion is a much coveted honour, and it is also compulsory to display all of your BBQ achievements for all to see!
For many of the teams it is a celebration of the previous years hard work and a chance to catch up on old friends. For a first timer, you would be mistaken in thinking that those inside the booths are secluded and a little stuck up! Far from it, in fact if you are lucky enough to break down the barriers, you will find yourself being part of the action, looking out from the inside.
If you picture a little boy in a candy shop and not being allowed to have a lolly, thats what MIM is a little like.
Because the MIM is a competition, local health regulations prohibit teams from serving BBQ to the general public! There are 250 booths cooking great food having a great time, this is the only way you can get to eat the tastiest BBQ on the planet. Because of this you will also find most people will do “whatever”it takes to be part of the action!
The only way you can officially get to taste barbecue is from the vendors that are able to sell to the public. Not all is lost however, I found there are several options to allow you to be closer to the action.
Other than trying to use charm to gain entry to a booth, you could consider purchasing Memphis in May (MIM) VIP tickets, become a judge in the Peoples choice tent,or, join a world championship BBQ team! I chose the latter.
MIM VIP tickets
For around $475 you can purchase VIP tickets to the event, which entitle you to the following benefits.
* Admission into all three days of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest with come-and-go privileges
* Invitation to up to 6 championship teams to enjoy competitive grilling tips and sample great championship barbecue with a complimentary goodies bag
Enjoy cool beverages and hot tips on judging great barbecue from a Memphis in May certified judge. Light snacks, soft drinks, beer and wine in a private area for V.I.Pit Pass holders.
The price is considerably dearer than the cost of the daily general admission ($8), but with all the inclusions and access to the teams, would be a good option for the first timer.
Kingsford Tour of Champions
The Kingsford Tour of Champions allows members of the general public to purchase tickets and taste and judge entries from teams competing in the shoulder category.
It is held on the Thursday and Friday of the competition, and you travel around to the booths of the teams competing and receive a small sample of bbq to taste. The host will provide information on how it was cooked and you may pick up some good tips!
Some of the teams competing may invite you back to their booth after the tasting, play your cards right and they may allow you to stay in their booth!
Being a member of a Championship BBQ Team (Too Sauced To Pork)
During my planning for the trip, I noticed a team competing in the MIM offering a limited number of places to anyone from anywhere, interested in being part of a championship team competing in the event. That team was Too Sauced to Pork.
The team is based in Memphis TN and Buffalo NY, and believe that everyone should have a chance to compete and enjoy the delights of MIM. There are 20 spots available each year with different prices for varying levels of involvement.The cost was much cheaper than the VIP ticket and also included entry to the event, unlimited food and drink. The thing that sold it for me was the Wednesday night ‘family’ night, not available to the general public, along with the number of other teams that TSTP knew and introduced me to.
I was accepted as a BBQ brother by the team from the start, and had a blast. Their motto is that everyone is part of the team, no matter how much or how little you do, thats up to you.
The team had their best results at MIM, finishing first in Vinegar based sauce, and 6th in Ribs!
The plan today and tomorrow is to focus on getting the hallway painted at Patty’s house! Patty has allowed me to stay for free, in return for painting the hallway.
Before I started, Patty had made her famous cornbread for breakfast. It was a fantastic way to start the day, and after breakfast we headed off to the local hardware store for supplies.
At the entrance, my eye was caught by a large number of smokers out front. Like a kid in a candy shop, I raced over to have a look.
Sadly none of the would fit in my suitcase, so I moved on! The saddest thing was that the price I payed for a poor quality smoker in Australia, was the same that these better quality ones were being sold for!
The check was deposited (placed) into a tube, without getting out of the car!
There was even time to check emails while waiting for the check to be processed!
With the transaction completed, a receipt was then sent back in the tube! Banking without entering a bank, who would have thought!
The supplies and paint were unloaded, and the work began! I masked up critical areas and began cleaning the surfaces to be painted. I stopped for a bowl of ‘taco’ soup for lunch with Patty on the porch, which was quite tasty!
The local Memphis Grizzlies had made it into the NBA playoffs. Tonight was game 4 of 7, and it was being played at Fed Ex stadium. As there were some tickets left I decided to go! I paid for the e-ticket online, and just had to print them.
The problem was that Patty’s printer wasn’t able to connect to her laptop, and the tickets needed to be printed out for entry!
There was an air of excitement in Beale street, as the Grizzlies had just won the previous home game! I joined the long lines at the security checkpoint, before taking the long stairway to the ‘nose bleed’ section!
He never showed up and it wasn’t until the end of the game, that I realised that I was in block 230, not 231! Oops!
I must admit that I haven’t brought much good luck to the team’s that I have watched during this trip! As I jumped into bed, I continued the argument with the cat on what side of the bed she wanted!
Tomorrow the plan is to continue with the painting, with the hope that it will be all done.
I had a great nights sleep last night, and actually woke up quite late. It was wonderful sleeping in a hotel that didn’t have smoke wafting through the door, or smell of pets!
The plan today is to drive to Memphis TN, just across the border. Before that I want to visit a casino, hopefully to win enough money to pay for this trip!
I knew that I would have no luck, when the dollar bill that I fed into a poker machine got stuck inside! I called the attendant and he gave me the evil eye as he took out the crumpled note!
I spent an hour at the not so lucky Horseshoe casino, trying to find a ‘lucky’ spot to put down my $10!
I decided to cash it in for two $5 chips and play roulette. The first chip went on black, loss. The second went on red, loss! Stupid game anyhow!
Ten dollars lighter, I headed for Memphis. My accommodation there was back at Pattys house, the Airbnb Farmhouse that I stayed at last year.
The Farmhouse is a great property, and if you are ever looking for somewhere to stay in Memphis, I would highly recommend it.
I suggested to Patty that I take her out for a Mothers Day lunch and she drove me to Huey’s Burgers, a favourite restaurant at mid town.
I ordered the World Famous Huey Burger, and Patty ordered the same as well a side of onion straws.
The burger was quite tasty, a decent size, and they can actually cook the beef patty to your liking!
The highlight of the lunch were the onion straws! Thinly cut onion rings, floured and then deep fried! They had an intense onion flavour and being so thin, almost melted in your mouth!
Patty has agreed to allow me to stay as a guest in return for painting her hallway. We both agreed to start work tomorrow morning, and settled in for a few drinks. Patty made a light supper and it was good to finally be in Memphis!
Today couldn’t come quick enough! After a sleepless night in what I would describe as the worst hotel I’ve stayed in, it was time to finally head towards Memphis!
Today the plan is to drive from Jackson MS to Tunica MS, stopping at a Civil War memorial, BBQ places, and a blues bar!
Vicksburg was the location of one of the major Union Army battles, and ended up being the turning point of the war. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was a strategic location for both armies.
The Confederate army had control of the valuable Mississippi River, the supply line of the South. The Union army sent a large force to take Vicksburg, take control of the river and divide the Confederate army!
The Vicksburg National Military Park is located on the outskirts of Vicksburg and is made up of the actual trench locations of both Armies.
It was hard to believe that thousands of rounds of cannon, musket and explosions filled the air in this place. Today the battlefield has tranquil forests and people use it as a walking track!
The Confederate army lines were highlighted with red markers. Being a Confederate city, they basically held the high ground and were heavily fortified and dug in!
The Union army lines were highlighted with blue markers. The Union force was much larger, had more firepower, and surrounded the Confederate trenches.
The one thing that stood out during the tour, was just how close the trenches were at certain spots!
Basically despite having the high ground, the Confederate forces were isolated and outnumbered. The Union army under Ulysses Grant tried on several occasions to defeat the Confederate army, to no avail.
After 47 days of heavy fighting, limited rations and with no sign of reinforcements, the Confederate army surrendered. The Union army took control of the vital Mississippi River, and the Confederate forces were defeated and the southern states were divided.
Although the civil war was not part of my history, you still gained an understanding of why it holds reverence to Americans today, with the loss of so many men.
I had only planned to spend two hours in Vicksburg, and ended up staying three! I set the GPS for Yazoo City, the home of Ubon’s BBQ.
Up until now, including last year, I have managed to never run out of fuel. There is a gas station positioned all along the interstate and even on some of the highways!
There was, but I had just passed it!
I proceeded along a road that showed no signs of ever hearing of a gas station, let alone having one! I got to the point of no return, and despite all signs saying that I should turn around, I continued! The gauge started getting into single figures, and at 5 miles I turned the air conditioner off, which gave me 4 more valuable miles!
I’m not overly religious, but it’s funny how when things aren’t working out, you ask Jesus for help! Now you may not believe in him, but just as all seemed lost and the gauge hit ZERO, a farmhouse appeared out of nowhere on the isolated highway!
I pulled in and the owner Bill Harris, from Harris Farms gave me a gallon! When I asked him how much he wanted, he just replied” tell them a Mississippi boy helped you out”! What a top bloke, thank you Jesus!
I made it to Yazoo City thanks to Bill, and pulled into Ubon’s BBQ.
Ubon’s is family owned, and upon entering you could tell that the father and daughter combination of Garry and Leslie Roark worked well! They were not in the restaurant, as they were in Memphis getting ready for Memphis in May!
It was late in the afternoon and as I wasn’t hungry, I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with beans and coleslaw.
The sandwich was filled with both dark and white meat and tasted nice just as it was. I decided to add some of the famous Ubon’s sauce, and wow!
After the meal I got to write my name on the wall, and thanked both Miss Mini and Miss Deborah (Tete)!
My next stop was Abe’s Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale MS, about a two hour drive.
As I left Abe’s I regretted not leaving Vicksburg earlier. I would have liked the time to have eaten BBQ here!
The Ground Zero Blues Club is partly owned by Morgan Freeman, and has a reputation for great food and live music.
Upon entering I was impressed by the atmosphere, and ordered a beer at the bar. A welcoming drop!
The beer tasted very nice, and I could have stayed here all night! Sadly I still had another hours drive, and had to leave the live music! Next stop Tunica MS.
The day was turning into night as I finally made it to my accommodation!
It was very pleasing to arrive at a hotel that was neat and tidy with friendly staff!
The plan tomorrow is to wake up late, head out to a casino, and then head to Memphis TN.
Today the plan was originally to drive from Mobile AL to Jackson MS via New Orleans LS and Baton Rouge LS.
I had also originally wanted to visit Red Jacket Firearms in Baton Rouge, and although I planned to go there, I changed my mind! After seeing a post on Facebook by my brother, I decided to visit the Abita Brew house in Abita LS instead.
The Joint BBQ
I had read some great reviews about The Joint BBQ and was lucky to find a park out front!
There was a great smell coming from inside and despite being lunchtime, I didn’t have much of a wait to order.
The sausage was locally made and had a fantastic spicy and smoky flavour! It was all pork with peppers and jalapeños mixed through.
The sides were fantastic, especially the smoked corn grits! Whole corn cobs are smoked and after the kernels are cut off, they are sautéed with butter and then added to the grits! Yum!
The Abita Brew Pub
The Abita Brew Pub is the restaurant outlet for the Abita Brewery. Funnily enough, it is located in the small town of Abita Spring LA. The drive was about an hour away across a water causeway.
As I needed some fuel, I called into a gas station and along with the gas, bought some boudin sausage and other Louisiana favourites! I wanted to collect a fridge magnet, and spent way too long looking for one!
The causeway was 24 miles across the Pontchartrain Lake, very unique!
The pub is not located at the brewery site, and only had a limited range of souvenirs available. As I arrived at around 1500, and the brewery was closing, I bought a t shirt for my brother at the pub, three bottles of beer for me, then left!
After a few hours I arrived at my hotel in Jackson, and wasn’t too impressed!
I actually decided to sleep on the covers fully clothed, and use my shirt as a pillow slip!
I tried the goodies that I purchased at the gas station for dinner!
The boudin was great, with the crawfish being my favourite.
Obviously, both sweets were great and I settled in to listen to the Fremantle v Essendon game on my phone!
Fremantle won, which made staying up until 0800 worthwhile!
The plan tomorrow is to drive from Jackson MS to Tunica MS, stopping at Vicksburg MS to look at a Civil War memorial park. I then intend to drive to Ubon’s BBQ in Yazoo City, and then Abe’s BBQ and Ground Zero Blues Bar in Clarksdale MS. It will be a long day!