Our World Tour 2005
news - BBQ News 2005
Our World Tour

Well—Our World—BBQ, Eleven states, 7 wheel bearings, a stolen purse and the adventure of a lifetime. This is the kind of opportunity that rarely comes along. You must take the time if it does!

The 17th Annual Jack Daniels Invitational

After we returned from the American Royal we had very little time to get everything together for our journey. We purchased a house and had to close escrow one week before we had to leave for the Jack. We moved everything over to the new house and left it all in boxes. Then loaded up the truck and smoker and headed out on our big BBQ adventure.

Day 1
We drove to Laughlin, NV and spent the night at the Hilton. "Kim Gambles."

Brent riding Jack RabbitDay 2
The next day we drove thru Arizona. We rode the giant Jack Rabbit about midnight. "Really!"

When we got to Tucumcari, NM we noticed the wheel on the smoker needed some attention. (Before we left we had all 4 wheel bearings replaced) The wheel was falling off! We had that repaired along with 2 new tires. Three hours later in Amarillo, TX we had to have the same bearing replaced at 9:00 pm. This was going to cost $30.00 extra because it was after hours. This was the deal of a lifetime! Believe me I thought I was going to get hosed again.

ArkansasDay 3
Arrived in Pea Ridge, Arkansas and spent the next couple of days with my dad. "What a good son".

Day 4
Gathered the meat needed for the Jack and just hung out.

GracelandDay 5
Headed for Memphis, TN to see Graceland (home of Elvis), Beale Street and have some good BBQ. We arrived at Graceland about 3:30pm and got the front parking spot. How lucky was that? It being the most visible spot in the lot (with security). Took the tour of Graceland Ðway cool, checked out the jet (the Lisa Marie) and headed back to the truck. We had not been gone for more than 1 1/2 hours and some *** broke into the truck and stole Kim's purse which was in a suitcase under a bunch of things!!!! It was gone, cash credit cards, atm cards with all of our access to money. What a disaster. We had to close all of our banks accounts and cancel all credit cards. They did already use 2 of the cards by the time we got there. We decided not to go to Beale Street or have BBQ. We got out of there and headed for Nashville.

Day 6
Arrived in Nashville, TN. A new day. We started out with breakfast at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. (They do not serve food) Tootsie's is famous among the country singers. After breakfast and some really good music we headed for the Country Music Hall of Fame two blocks away. I really enjoyed this. I think Kim liked Tootsie's better. Off to lunch at Jack's BBQ, it was pretty good stuff. The owner hooked us up with a meat distributor for beef ribs as we could not find any in Arkansas or any where else in Tennessee. We wanted to cook these for the "Cooks Choice" at the Jack. We picked up the ribs (not as good as what we get in Ca. but they would have to do. I think we took 14th place) we also went into Hatch's Show Prints. They do the posters for the Jack and all of the old country concerts. Hatch's still use the old print block method, no high tech here at all. We decided to head south towards Lynchburg.

Day 7
Rolled into Lynchburg about 11:30 am. What a great place! Like a postcard, picture perfect.

We were among the first teams to arrive. They welcomed us to the Jack and took us to our spot, a perfect location. I was anxious to get set up and go take a look around Lynchburg. We had family coming in Friday afternoon. We needed to have the game face on as we needed to start Q'n Friday night and Saturday all morning. I knew what was left of Wednesday and Thursday would be our only time to look around and take the tour of the distillery. We met David Roper Wednesday and arranged to take a tour with him on Thursday afternoon. David is not only a KCBS judge but a legendary tour guide at the Jack Daniel's Distillery.

Miss Mary Bobo'sDay 8
We had reservations at the other famous place in Lynchburg, Mary Bobo's Boarding House. They have 2 seatings a day and the food is served family style in one of the 4 dining rooms with a hostess at each table. The hostess knows the history of Mary Bobo', Jack Daniels and Lynchburg so the conversation is very interesting as you are seated with about 15 people. Soon everyone feels like an old friend. Mary Bobo has the distinction of being the oldest woman to ever appear in Playboy magazine. ( hey, get your mind out of the gutter) Although she doesn't drink, she appeared in a Jack Daniels ad that wished her a happy 100th birthday as a prominent citizen of Lynchburg and encouraged people to send her a card wishing her a happy birthday. Needless to say she received thousands. In Lynchburg and surrounding counties she was known for her fantastic southern meals served at the boarding house. Fantastic is how I would describe the food. You have to experience this place. They always have a dish that has a little "Jack" in it. I do remember having a couple of shots of baked apples, uh, I mean helpings.
Brent & Kim at Mary Bobo's

Day 9
Legendary is a word that describes a lot of things and people around Lynchburg. This is why every BBQer aspires to cook here and wants to come back. I get it, I know, it's amazing and almost surreal to be here. Everyone here feels the same way.

Day 10
Friday, one of the town's folk stopped to talk with us. His name was John Nolan and he had been a Master Taster at the Jack Daniels Distillery for 57 years. He had a lot of history about Jack and the area. Anyway when we returned home I happened to look at the Belle of Lincoln bottle that I bought in 1979 and lo and behold the master taster that had signed my bottle was J Nolan.

There are a bunch of neat stores in the town square. The Jack Daniels hardware store has everything "Jack Daniels" that you could imagine. This store front has been in a lot of Jack advertising and there is a bronze statue of some gentleman playing checkers. I am not sure that they ever sold much hardware there but it probally helped during prohibition to have a nice store.

SamplingWe were also lucky enough to meet Jimmy Bresford, the Master Distiller for Jack Daniels. He is only the 6th master distiller ever. We had seen him doing some photos with country singer Aaron Tippin at the statue in the lobby at the distillery. Jimmy was gracious enough to sign our bottle of 1954 Gold Medal Jack. For Kim and I this is a special souvenir.

Friday afternoon family started to arrive, luggage and all. They were just in time for the parade where all the teams line up and march thru the town to the distillery.

We were asked to bring our state flag and something to represent our state for the booth and the parade. We received a flag form our state assemblyman that actually flew over the capitol. I thought that was really nice.

I had a stroke of genius when it cam e to something to represent our state. What better than "Arnold"? Being that the Jack was right around Halloween it was not difficult to find an "Arnold" mask. We dressed up my brother Kent and stuffed his shirt to pump him up. It was hilarious. Everyone wanted their picture with the California team and "Arnold". We had about 16 foreign teams at the contest and I think we posed for pictures with all of them. As we marched thru town people were taking pictures and cracking up. It turned out great and Kent played it perfect. We had a riot!

We all loaded on to a bus for a ride up to the BBQ Hill, Jacks place to entertain people. This place was unbelievable! By the way, the distillery is in a dry county, no liquor allowed. But BBQ hill is in a different county just over the line and the "Jack" flows here. They had dinner and "Jack" if you dare waiting for us. Knowing that I had to cook that night I had to forego the Jack but the rest of our gang made up for it. This place is really beautiful. It is a giant lodge that sits on a hill with a breathtaking view. Picture 66 BBQ Teams with a few hundred friends and family sitting on this hill with their stomachs full of BBQ and sipping whiskey. That's truly BBQ heaven.

Well we had to sneak away because it was time to start BBQ'n and this is why I was here. My one chance to take a bite of the BBQ apple. I was really looking forward to cooking against the best teams in the world. Teams that I had heard of, champions all, legends some. These guys are the best.

Our BBQ GroupDay 11
I had decided before we arrived not to try to do anything different than we have been doing. Sort of a "dance with the one who brought you" method. And that is exactly how we did it. We were pleased with all of the BBQ that we cooked. We didn't have anything that we thought was outstanding but we liked the chicken, ribs and pork the best. To win here you need to have those truly outstanding entries. These guys are the best and do not leave anything to chance.

We cooked next to the "Dizzy Pigs", Chris Capell, aka Nature Boy. What a really great bunch of guys. They really have fun at BBQ'n and Chris is very interesting and successful at making BBQ a business and keeping it fun. We really enjoyed spending time with him.

KentOn the other side of us was team "Senator" from New Jersey. I believe anyway that we had a constant one upmanship & smack talk sort of gig with them all in good fun. They were a lot of laughs.

After the cooking was done it was time to relax, finally! It seems like we have been going, going, going for days and now we had some free time. We went down to the awards and that was exciting. We kept hoping to hear QN4U called out as they moved through the categories. Then it happened!!! Pork 9th place, QN4U!!!! We got a call at the Jack; we placed among the gods of BBQ at the JACK!!! This was surreal. Damn it man!!

Our BBQ SiteOn our way to the stage we passed by the Babe Ruth of BBQ, Myron Mixon (Jacks Old South). He is the Best. I pointed to him and said thanks. He came over and offered his congratulations to me. I had taken a class from him earlier in the year so I know he was glad to see his student score well. Myron is the man.

Day 12
We packed up and met family for a late breakfast to say good bye to everyone before they headed to the airport. It was an amazing experience being at the Jack and is always fun to have family join in. I have said it before " BBQ has magical powers and really brings family together. I really want to do this again.

For me and Kim the adventure continues...

We headed for Chattanooga to stay with Kim' sister. Our plan was to drop off the smoker and equipment and head off to North Carolina for a week, being the big NASCAR fans that we are.

Day 13
We spent the day cleaning the smoker and the equipment. Did the laundry and spent the evening with Kim' sister.

Day 14
Drove to Gatlinburg, TN and spent the night in a cabin in the beautiful Smokey Mountains. It could not have been better with a light mist falling and a hot tub on the deck. It was so relaxing.

Dale EarnhardtDay 15
We drove on to Mooresville, NC to visit all of the NASCAR shops. First on the list was Ricky Rudd (Kim's favorite Driver) then to many other shops. We also started our quest for North Carolina BBQ. I think we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week.

Richard Childres RacingDay 16
We visited more race shops including Childress Racing, the guy who owned the cars Dale Earnhardt drove. We watched Kevin Harvick's crew practice pit stops for Sunday's race in Atlanta. That was very interesting to see. We went to the Garage Mahal, the late Dale Earnhardts race facility in Kannapolis, NC. We also made a stop the Childress Winery (glad we live in California). We ate more BBQ.

Richard Petty RacingDay 17
Again we went to more race shops including Richard Petty Museum. This was very impressive. (Did you know that Richard collects hundreds of things that come off the line always numbered 43- same as his famous race cars.)

Biltmore EstateDay 18
Time to head back west. We stopped to visit the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC, the largest residence in the US. Wow, it was really amazing. No BBQ today!!!

Day 19
Took a long drive back through the Smokies to Pigeon Forge. We had to make a pit stop at the NASCAR Cafe to watch the Atlanta race.

Day 20
We arrived back in Chattanooga to get ready for the contest in Douglas, Ga.

Outlook MountainDay 21
We spent the day sightseeing in Chattanooga. Took in Ruby Falls with its underground waterfall and Rock City's Lookout Mountain where you can see seven States. It was all very beautiful. We spent that evening with Kim's sister and her nieces and nephew.

World's Biggest PeanutDay 22
We headed out in the morning for Douglas, GA to compete in the Best of the Best Competition on Friday and Smokin in the Square on Saturday put on by the National BBQ News. I had to stop and see the giant peanut on the way. I kept trying to imagine what it would look like. I am a sucker for weird road side attractions. Can't miss those kinds of things!

We then headed for one of the most anticipated stops for me, "Jack's Old South". A restaurant in Cordele, Ga. (this is a new location, moved from Vienna, Ga.). We have stopped at every mom & pop bbq shop on this trip and ate a lot of bbq to get a feel for the flavors back there. It is definitely different than the west coast. Along with Big Bob Gibson's, this is one of the places I really wanted to see and try. Now I realize it would not be his contest stuff but after all it is Myron Mixon. I expected it to be good. The restaurant was in a new strip mall behind another restaurant (not what I envisioned). I could see his old competition cooker in the parking lot and as you walk up to the restaurant it looks more like a trophy shop. I am not kidding! Trophies are everywhere, huge trophies, unusual trophies and carved trophies. It had some miscellaneous stuff on the wall and a few photos. In my opinion it needs more photos. It is the decor for the restaurant. I guess it doesn't explain or convey the importance of all of the trophies or who Myron Mixon and Jack's Old South BBQ Team is.

I was really hungry and we ordered a lot of food. Kim ate chicken and ribs and piles of sweet potatoes from the buffet. She seems to be on a sweet potato binge ever since she had one baked about 10 days ago. The food arrived and we were not disappointed. It was all real good especially the pork although the ribs were pretty good too. For me this was the second leg of a bbq tri-fecta, Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Jack's Old South and Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL. But you have to read on for the final restaurant of the Triple Crown of BBQ joints.

After leaving Jack's Old South, there was one more side attraction that I had to see. I thought "what are the odds that I would pass by here again". So we made a stop at the Jefferson Davis Memorial. Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the civil war. The memorial is where he was caught by the union trying to sneak away. I found this very interesting as he was wearing a woman's dress when he was caught. (This information was not in my history book.)

Georgia has Sycamore trees growing as crops. Just seems odd, groves of telephone poles.

I never really thought about it before but it is one of those things that just make sense.

Along the highways and back roads were billboards and signs for "boiled peanuts". I never had these before and made a note to myself to try these boiled peanuts. We did not stop to get any because we had a busy day and wanted to get to Douglas.

Finally we arrived and drove right to the contest area. Grant it Douglas is not that big but somehow we seemed to know right where it was at. We pulled up to a trailer that was parked there and were greeted by Kell Phelps of the National BBQ News. He was very busy getting the last minute details finished for the contest but took the time to welcome us and make sure that we had everything we needed. The people in Georgia are so friendly.

We headed for the hotel for the night to get some much needed rest as the next two days were going to be very busy with the two contests. We had the Best of the Best Invitational and Smokin on the Square.

Day 23
We were up very early and ready to get going on another busy day. We headed for the contest to get set up. I was ready and wanted to get BBQing. After competing at the Jack I felt like I understood exactly what I needed to do, give these boys a run for the money.

I just felt like we could compete at their level and we could beat any of these teams on any given day. And this was going to be a good day.

Randy Gille from the Burbank Bad Boys, one of the top teams out west called me a couple of days ago and said he was trying to arrange to come to Douglas to work with one of the top teams and wanted to make sure that I would not be offended in some way as a fellow California team. I appreciated him talking to me about it. I encouraged him to do it and believe me I would jump at the chance to cook with one of these guys given the opportunity. I would not have been so thoughtful about it. So it was good to see Randy here, a familiar face from home.

The Phelps family has really put together a great contest here. The entire city, its workers and the community in general are involved in this contest. They are very proud of their community and are among the most fantastic people I have ever encountered.

Ms. Johnnie CrewsEach team was assigned a BBQ Ambassador to take care of us. They were there to answer questions and in general get us just about anything we needed. It was great. Our ambassador was Ms. Johnnie Crews, one of the most genuine women you could ever meet. Within five minutes we felt like we had met a new best friend. Johnnie is a gracious, classy, firecracker of a gal that has been around awhile and knows a few things. She is a true southern belle. Johnnie belongs to a group of women called the Red Hat Society. Women that you know can have some fun. You could see that in the twinkle in her eyes and her unique smile. Johnnie had brought us some goodies from the area including fried peanuts (that was a new one), they were good. I had asked her about the boiled peanuts and soon she had them delivered to us! I preferred the fried but was glad to have this experience. She made us feel like we were already the grand champions and we will never forget her. We hope to see her again in Georgia next year.

The Best of the Best was like getting a second bite at the apple. Almost every team at the Jack was here to compete again. I felt like we were ready for them and felt like I knew what adjustments we needed to make to get these judges to go our way.

It was exciting to meet some of the people that I hadn't met before or to say hello again to the ones we met at the Jack like Bill and Barbara Milroy. They were vendors at the Jack and again here. They are the hardest working couple in BBQ. They both keep working like the energizer bunnies, around the clock. It was nice to get to know them a little better. Of coarse Jacks Old South comes in and people gravitate towards their spot. Myself included. It's a riot to hear Myron & David do their show. Everyone was trying to catch a little secret of their success. There is no secret; they do 40 contests a year! They work their butts off and expect to win!

Well the witching hour was upon us and I was ready to rock. I had bought all of the meat locally trough Kell Phelps butcher and everything looked good. I was ready.

Day 24
Everything had gone smoothly and all of the food looked and tasted good as we prepared for the first turn in. My first clue that the chicken was good was the fact that we were under attack from the bees. Kim was trying to put the box together while spazzing out about every 10 seconds. It was funny to watch although she would not agree. Now I know why they gave us the bee stings kits in our packages. The bees had us under attack all through the turn in but we survived unscathed. Bees love BBQ.

After all of the turn ins we thought we did pretty good and actually swerved into a new idea to improve one of the items and we couldn't wait to try it tomorrow at the other contest. The awards ceremony was set for 5:30 and it was exciting. A lot of towns people, all of the teams, live music. This was fun.

Award time can be a little nerve wracking. It's almost like you seal your fate not to get called up if you think you sent in the best stuff. On the other hand it can go the other way. Something you think is pretty ordinary can score big. You can never tell. But if you cook well and stay consistent you will get your call.

We did get a call to the stage, 2nd place in chicken. Besides a generous check we received a cool brass bell. I think Johnnie; our ambassador was as excited as we were to get called to the stage. We took her with us to the stage to get our prizes. Johnnie was the ambassador for two teams, us and Jacks Old South. She would get good at going to the stage with Mr. Myron. Tonight would belong to BBQuau, they won 3 first places out of 3 categories. This is unheard of to dominate like this. We ended up 17th overall which was pretty good. I am really enjoying being here in the south and getting to cook against the Best of the Best.

Day 25
Today is the open portion of the contest called Smokin in the Square. I think it totals around 90 teams. Again we felt like everything we cooked was up to par. I thought we would score well today and we did. I feel like I am getting the feel for the flavors of the south. It is different but not so different that I couldn't figure it out. Subtle and simple which I think is the secret to good BBQ. Barbecue is comfort and regions have their own flavors. You need to give that to them.

It was deja vue all over again as Yogi Berra once said. Twenty four hours we were at the awards again. We were thrilled to be called up for chicken again (4th place). And the item (Pork) we had a specific improvement in got us to the stage in 8th place. That was exciting. We did hit on something that really helped. We ended up 7th overall and that was a thrill. We outscored some heavy hitters. Jack's Old South was Grand Champion as they scored right near the top in all categories. They have won many championships before but they were really excited to win this.

We packed up that night to start our journey home. It was kind of sad to think we would have to go back to reality. In the meantime we did not waste a minute in finding things to do and see on our way back to California.

I could have stayed and cooked here all week, we had such a good time. The people were extraordinary. It just could not have been any better.

Day 26
Sunday, mid morning found us in Plains, GA, at one time, the hub of world politics. Now that's a memory and the town has remained as it has always been, I suppose. Gone are the press and the curious, well not all of the curious, but it seem almost like a ghost town. I remember seeing all of these buildings on TV. Like the gas station where Billy would dispense all of his wisdom along with a lot of beer. Of course we had to check all of it out.

Our next stop was Montgomery, AL to see Hank Williams museum and of coarse visit his famous gravesite. The museum had a lot of interesting items. Hank is an amazing man that left an impact on his trade that consumed him. He seemed to be fighting demons that he was never able to get a handle on. Sad, a man with so much talent. I am glad he was around even if it was a short while as his songs are among my favorites of all time. He left a huge impact on the music business and a legend that all country singers aspire to.

Day 27
Today we will stop in Decatur, AL at Big Bob Gibson's for lunch. I was looking forward to this. We pulled into the parking lot at high noon. It was packed, there were all kinds of wood stacked out back, a good sign that they BBQ here. As we entered the restaurant, they were busy. It had a friendly family feel. The first thing I noticed was the Memphis in May trophies and Chris Lilly and Don off to the left. We had met them in Georgia and mentioned we would be stopping to eat lunch at Big Bob Gibsons on our way back. They came out to greet us and found us a table. They were the most gracious hosts and sat with us as we started into the bbq tasting adventure. It was real nice to get to sit and talk with them as we ate our lunch. I could tell right away we were in for a real treat. The food here is fantastic. The first thing I had to have was the "white sauce" chicken. I liked it, sort of. A peppery, vinegar and mayo taste. Actually it would be popular in California if you added yogurt and raisins or chipotle mango -- Nah! just kidding. The ribs & pork were as good as I have ever had and the brisket was perfect. No wonder this place was packed. I ate a ton and Kim was digging in too. The side dishes were fantastic and the homemade pies were outrageous. I can see why they have been in business for 80 years. This is a first class and quality operation and Don & Chris treated us like royalty. I will never forget that.

With our belly's full we thanked them and hit the road again. We headed to Arkansas to my dads for a pit stop and headed for home - the long way.

Brent and Kim, Best FriendsDay 28
Waking up today I could tell a little depression was setting in. This was the beginning of the drive home and I did not want it to end. I am grateful that I got the chance to do this little road trip with my best pal and loving wife Kim. I know she had as much fun as I did. As a matter of fact after we hit the road, Kim says to me "Why don't we do a contest on our way home, maybe in Texas or something?" I'm thinking "hell yes, she is really hooked on this too". All the way through Oklahoma (and another wheel bearing) we did try to find a contest somewhere for that weekend. We even called our favorite Texan, Jerry King to see if he could find something on the internet. It was not meant to be.

Day 29
We drove through Texas to El Paso.

Day 30-31
Drove on to Tombstone, AZ where we spent the afternoon at a cool saloon and then headed to Phoenix to spend the next couple of days with my sister.

Day 32
We drove into Nevada and spent the night in Laughlin. The last night of our great BBQ experience!

Day 33
Arrived home safe and sound—Ready to BBQ