My alarm sounded at 5:15AM, not that I needed it, I had been wide awake for the past hour. In the darkness I find my way to the door, a brisk wind welcomes me as I step outside. It's cold, and is a drastic change from the weather that we've had over the past few days. Everything is damp and dreary. I struggle in the murkiness to finish my final packing before we hit the road. About a half an hour later I'm behind the wheel pulling out of Wiseman Park, driving through Lynchburg Square, and heading down Route 55. In the early dusk's glow I can see the Lynchburg Welcomes You! sign in my rear view mirror. As we move forward the sign gets smaller and smaller...and then it's gone... I get a little sad because I know that that's the last time that I will ever see that sign again. It would be the last time in The Hollow, the last time up on The Hill, and it will be the last time competing at The Jack. And as I drive forward I become content and even at peace with our decision. I smile to myself thinking about the amazing times I've had in Lynchburg over the past four years. Times and memories that I'll always have, forever. And as the daylight struggles to break through the clouds, we press on. Moving forward with limited stops as fast as we can. Because driving directly into the path of a hurricane was not only a great idea, but it made perfect sense.
To do well at a BBQ competition you need two things: you need to cook real good BBQ and you need just a little luck. Over the past few years Lakeside Smokers has definitely received our fair share of luck. But, fortunately, at this years Jack, we were saving our luck for much bigger things. As we drove up route 81 through Virginia, a storm front from the west was closing in and a hurricane to the east was racing us up the coast. Stopping only to gas up, we drove 20 hours straight home. Barely in enough time to watch the two storms collide into what we now know as Super Storm Sandy. From the comforts of my home I watched as Sandy pulverized the East Coast. The New Jersey Shore one of the hardest hit. Where I live in New England had minimal damage and we lost power for a few hours. Very, very lucky. We made it home safe, and had a slight inconvenience. Others, not so lucky.
A day after the storm, the sun was out and we we're cleaning up the RV. I thought to myself just how lucky we were...but I had no idea. I went to work the next day only to find out that we didn't get the job that I had planned to go to that week. Seriously, how lucky am I? I now had plenty of time to relax and recharge. I had visions of chilling Lakeside and maybe brewing up some beer later that week. And then I turned on the news...everything changed. The reports out of New Jersey and Coastal New York was terrible. Facebook was blowing up with pics of the devastation. People, friends, were sharing pics of their homes. Homes that were flooded, hit with trees, or completely gone. Heartbreaking indeed.
A few days go by, a few phone calls were made, and I was on my way to Jersey. Operation BBQ Relief was mobilizing and the the BBQ Community came together to help. Friends, family, and neighbors helped the efforts by donating money and supplies. When Eric and Cindi Mitchell picked me up, their truck was pack with more supplies. We could barley fit it all in. We hit the road, not really knowing what to expect, but just wanting to help. The 7 hour trip to Forked River, NJ turned into 10 because we had to search for gas...I don't think any of us knew just how bad it was.
I spent 2 days on the New Jersey Shore, doing what ever I could do to help. Given the magnitude of the devastation, it seemed insignificant...not enough. I though: some of these people just lost their homes, and I'm giving them a pulled pork sandwich? But, hopefully, it helps. On some level, on a humane level... I hope it helps. On the way home my thoughts were still with the people I had just left. The people I met, the faces of those that lost so much, I soon won't forget. I also thought about just how lucky I really am. I felt fortunate that I even had the chance to offer any assistance, in any way. So many things had to fall into place to allow me this opportunity. I used to think that I was lucky because I've done well at BBQ competitions. But somewhere between Tennessee and New Jersey, I realized just how small that sounds, and I should consider myself lucky for so much more.