We professionals know instinctively when to throw in the towel. Some stick around just a little too long. Muhammad Ali might be a good example of this. Why tarnish a legend? Go out on top, I say. If only I would heed my own advice.
The real end of the road for me came after a day of driving up the coast with my family. We weren't so tired that we didn't want to walk just a few hundred yards more to Bones Roadhouse for dinner. I had picked it out before our trip to Gualala began. Partly for the name and partly for the menu: Barbeque.
It should be noted here that I was looking at the combination plate with ribs and brisket. It was my wife who pointed out the Bone Daddy Burger. It was their challenge meal. It was my Waterloo.
At first glance, it seemed easy enough: eat a two pound burger and win a T-shirt. What I hadn't counted on was the time element. I am a committed and confident carnivore, but once I saw all four patties, eight slices of cheese, garnished with two green peppers sitting next to a bowl of cole slaw and a fistful of homemade chips, the confidence shrank. Not enough to call it off, mind you, especially with a growing audience of patrons and staff urging me on. After some wrangling, I was informed that the time to beat was six minutes and forty-eight seconds.
I will spare you all the goriest of details, but I can tell you that all that food went inside and stayed there. I did not, in spite of what I was told was solid technique and a great start, manage to beat the clock. I came in somewhere around ten minutes. This meant I had to pay for the meal as well as the T-shirt. The T-shirt I felt I needed to own as a reminder of this experience.
Walking out, I stopped to talk to the Bone Daddy himself. Not one to gloss over gory details, he didn't ask if I enjoyed it, he asked, "Didja puke?"
I assured him that I did not, shook his hand and told him that I had met my match. This is a young man's game, and I should have gotten out years ago. Thanks for the ride.