Sunday, July 17, 2011

Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q (Owensboro, KY)

Bike:  Honda CBR1000RR Repsol - Limited Edition
Route:  Google Maps 

I should start by saying a few words about the guest bike:  AWESOME!

It kinda makes my V-Twins seem heavy and slow, so I don't want to talk much about performance. I'll just say it feels like it wants to go seriously fast to have serious fun. And what it might lack in personality, it certainly makes up for in function. It's a Honda, so it does everything right. You name it -- clutch, gearbox, throttle response, brake feel, suspension -- everything just works proper. I had almost forgot what it was like to ride with functioning mirrors.

Of course, what makes this bike special is the Limited Edition Repsol Replica livery, inspired by the HRC Honda that Owensboro native Nicky Hayden used to win the 2006 MotoGP Championship. Road racing fans are a passionate bunch, and while some were quick to discount Nick's World Championship because he won only two races that year and GOAT-candidate Valentino Rossi suffered some mechanical issues, the truth is that he went into the final race of the season with a broken shoulder and down on points to Rossi. It was a one-race two-man battle for the title, and The Kentucky Kid emerged victorious in Valencia!

All three Hayden Brothers have won national road racing Championships, and whenever I run into any of 'em I always thank them for representing Kentucky so well. On that day in Spain, the middle brother took it to the highest level. He did the impossible -- he stole the biggest prize from the greatest racer alive. He had reached the pinnacle of road racing, and he was bringing that trophy home. That's how you represent!

The well-deserved Championship was built on a foundation of consistent podium finishes and a country-bred work ethic, then topped off with a sheer will that helped overcome some odd late-season adversity. It was a perfect example for my boys of what can be achieved with a positive attitude, hard work, & solid family support. It was epic.

I laughed. I cried. I still believe it was the greatest moment in Kentucky history since about 1792.

I had these paintings made for the home office at about the same time Honda was building our Repsol Replica.
The middle frame contains a print from

Owensboro, KY is not only famous for producing world-class racers like the Hayden Brothers or the Waltrips, but also for producing world-class BBQ. Calling itself 'The BBQ Capital of the World' [a moniker used by several other cities in the South], it hosts the International Bar-B-Q Festival in May of every year.

The best thing about BBQ is that it varies so much from one region to the next, and Daviess County BBQ is known specifically for two things: Mutton & Burgoo. Mutton is the meat from an older sheep and Burgoo is basically a BBQ stew.

It only seemed right to take this particular bike on a pilgrimage to the homeland to sample of a bit of both...

Nice day for a ride.

I started our ride on the Honda and Mark rode my KTM. It's always weird to watch someone else ride your bike. So the dude who let me borrow his Honda must think it's doubly weird watching two people ride his! 
Mark also had his GoPro on head for a second perspective on the day.
The thing about my 'No GPS' rule is that we often miss a few turns along the way. We only had to turn around three times on the way there.

We switched rides early on. Why? Because Mark has a Repsol jacket and I don't.
Finally, some twisties.

(image from Mark's GoPro)

The exact same section of road from two perspectives. This one from my camera...
...and this one from Mark's.

Heading into the OWB on a beautiful day.
Here's Old Hickory. With their famous buffet, Moonlite is the most well-known BBQ joint in town. But most Owensboro natives recommend Old Hickory to me. This establishment has been in business under one name or another for over 90 years while being passed down through several generations of the Foreman family, so they must know what they're doing.
Ain't nothin' wrong with this view when you walk in the front door! They obviously do a healthy carry-out business.
Each plate comes with sliced bread, onions, and pickles.
Clockwise:  Pork Ribs, Chopped Pork, & Mutton.

VERDICT:  I cannot offer a fair verdict in this case, and that's because I made a huge mistake. I should have perused the menu more carefully, or asked the waitress more questions. I should have ordered my meats "off the pit," as they say -- that would be dry with the sauce on the side. To be clear, I did not dislike their sauce. But it did overpower any hickory smoked flavor in the Mutton and Chopped Pork, and I'm sure my experience would have been better had I ordered properly. 

The Pork Ribs were my favorite item on the plate because with a lower sauce-to-meat ratio it was possible to get a true taste of the BBQ. And they really couldn't have been cooked better. Along those same lines, the Mutton was more tender than I expected for such a tough meat. The texture and the taste reminded both Mark and I of a slow cooked beef roast (with BBQ sauce). So it wasn't a big surprise that the Burgoo, which contains plenty of Mutton, tasted much like a nice vegetable beef stew (with BBQ sauce).

There was nothing remarkable about any of the side items, though the portion sizes were just right and I don't think people come here for potato salad or beans or fries, anyway. The meat menu is extensive: Mutton, Mutton Ribs, Pork, Pork Ribs, Chicken, Turkey, Ham, and Catfish. You can choose any three of those meats & two sides if you order the Combination Plate, and you'll definitely get your money's worth.

I look forward to a return visit where I get my order right and I can sample some Mutton Ribs. I shall report back.

These bikes couldn't be much more different, but they do have Orange in common. I'm not sure about Black, because I think the CBR's Black might really be Blue. It's weird.
(image from Mark's GoPro)
They look good together.
And they garnered some attention throughout the day.
Apparently this is the city of Hartford, KY.

Old Scottsville Road I.
The end of The Esses.
Old Scottsville Road II.
Rounding the top of Turkey Hill.
Old Scottsville Road III.
Entering The Mid-Ohio Complex and headin' home...


UPDATE (12/4/12):  A different route in a different Honda going back to Owensboro on a day with very different weather for a different reason.  I wasn't there for BBQ, but I couldn't help but stop by Old Hickory and grab some to take home.  I've become more familiar with Owensboro's black dip since my first visit, and I do like it, but I don't like my meats drenched in it.  I much prefer Old Hickory's BBQ "off the pit" with some sauce on the side.

Old Hickory's Mutton Ribs & Sliced Pork off the pit (to go).
This is great BBQ.

The real reason I was in town was to get my paintings signed by the man himself...

Thanks, Champ!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Split Tree Barbeque (Alvaton, KY)

Bike:  Honda CBR1000RR Repsol - Limited Edition
Route:  Google Maps (Split Tree is at Checkpoint B, even though Google Maps thinks it is somewhere else.) 

It's true that Split Tree is less than one mile from my house. But with a pre-lunch trip to the gas station and a few miles of post-lunch back roads, this trip filled up my lunch break nicely. And it was perfectly timed as I just beat the storm home.

Obviously I'm a sucker for pictures that feature a good fence row.
Split Tree Barbeque.
This is what a BBQ joint should look (and smell) like. There is only one cash register, so the line easily backs up to the door if you get there at the wrong time. Those are business cards on the walls, left by patrons over the years.
I prefer to eat in the glassed-in patio area. There is an obvious hunting motif at work here.
Sliced Pork Sandwich & BBQ Beans.
The legendary House Special. Under all those BBQ Beans is two Corncakes topped with BBQ Pork.

VERDICT:  When I think BBQ, I think Split Tree. Jerome's pulled pork (which they served "Chopped" or "Sliced") is the standard by which I judge all others. It has a perfect smoke flavor and while it's not exactly moist, it is certainly not too dry. Whether you order it chopped or sliced, the texture is perfect. The product at some other places is so finely shredded and so moist that I'm left wondering what kind of machine created it. But here you can watch them slice or chop your order, so there is no mystery.

The house BBQ sauce is a rather thick and slightly sweet tomato & vinegar affair with just a bit of spice. I like it with the ribs or chicken, and I often order extra sauce to take home for other uses. But the pork is so good that I prefer it without sauce. If you order a sandwich, ask for the sauce on the side so you can decide for yourself.

They keep everything simple here by concentrating on just three things: Pork (chopped or sliced), Ribs, & Chicken. Everything is smoked over hickory (only hickory) and the smoker is running seven days/nights per week. The quality is remarkably consistent from one visit to the next.

Of course they offer the typical side items: Potato Salad, Coleslaw, and BBQ Beans. But there is nothing typical about the beans! They contain plenty of pepper, pork, and something else. Magic, maybe? Sweet, sweet, wood-fired magic? I quit trying to figure it out. I just mix a little of the house sauce with these beans and it's a meal by itself.

Located less than ten minutes off I-65, this place is most definitely worth the short detour if you're ever passing through.

Pretty ladies in minivans like BBQ, too.
Speaking of pretty ladies... More about this one in the next ride report when we take this sweet thing to her homeland to sample a different style of BBQ.
I'm also a sucker for the White Church + Cemetery pics.
Y. Why, why, why?!?

Nice fence!
A wide berth.
A storm.
Very similar to my MotoUSA Picture of the Week, probably because it is the exact same section of road.
I know... I know...

I set my childhood bicycle speed record on that hill. Said record has not been surpassed in adulthood, 'cause I don't ride bicycles.
Racin' the storm. Headin' home...


UPDATE:  When I ran out of time to fire up my own grill for dinner, I went back to Split Tree to grab some more BBQ. Is that wrong?  I was hoping to get some chicken, but I got there after closing time and they were all out. Having overdosed on pork in the past and not wanting to do that again, I didn't actually eat more for dinner. But I did take the opportunity to snap a couple more pictures. Update II will show the BBQ Chicken. Soon.

Jerome. He's the man with the BBQ plan. Make sure you say hi.
1/2 pound orders of Spare Ribs, Chopped Pork, & Sliced Pork sans sauce. Nice smoke ring, huh?

UPDATE II (7/13/11):  I had to grab some take-out for lunch from somewhere today, so here's the BBQ Chicken. I ordered two Chicken Halves, and they were just ready to come off the smoker. I'm a white-meat guy, and I was surprised how moist the breast was. And you don't need a fork & knife, as the meat is already falling off the bone.

Whole BBQ Chicken, Arnold Palmer, Coleslaw, Potato Salad, & Corncakes.

So, there it is... the whole Split Tree menu in two days! That was fun.

UPDATE III (12/10/11):  Christmastime Test Ride for BBQ.
Bike:  Honda CRF70F
Route:  Google Maps

It's not quite Christmastime yet, but in a couple weeks somebody in our house is getting his first motorcycle as a surprise gift. It's not brand new because if things go well we'll probably outgrow it next year and be ready for something bigger in 2013, anyway. It just had some engine work done at a local shop and it should be ready to go for Spring, and of course I wanted to give it a quick test ride before I hide it in the neighbor's garage. So, since it was around lunch time and my napping wife was unable to stop me, I present...

The shortest Countryside Food Ride ever!

Trying not to get arrested, I did have to break Rule #3. No worries -- that's a soft rule, and this was fun! And if it's fun for someone running about 80 pounds over the weight limit, it should be a lot more fun for the one about 40 pounds under...

That sign does not concern me today.
Turn signal.
Serious Lean Angle I. 
So the bars are a little bent and the brake lever is partially snapped off, but that's just fine for now. I should be able to fix that stuff before Christmas.
Almost there...
Serious Lean Angle II.
Split Tree BBQ.
Christmas Present.

Now THAT is a sandwich! Chopped BBQ + Slaw.

High Five! I mean, Thumbs Up!
Serious Lean Angle III.
Serious Lean Angle IV.
Headin' home, looking forward to Christmas morning...


UPDATE IV (12/23/11):  Now time for my Christmas present -- a Split Tree Smoked Turkey! I can't tell you how good this place smells while 30 turkeys that just came off the smoker are waiting to be picked up...

Split Tree's Holiday Smoked Turkey (limited number available for Thanksgiving & Christmas).

UPDATE V (4/1/14):  No April Fools joke...

Sunset at Split Tree.