When I was a dorky teenager trying to figure out how the world worked, I met another dorkier teenager that was equally lost. It was a strange time in both of our lives, being the sons of Bible school students, trying to learn about life and girls and sports and balance. Mostly sports and girls. Screw balance when you're fifteen, you know?
Over the years, my friend and I got into all kinds of situations, our parents would probably call "trouble" but when measured against other teenagers from the same era, I seriously question the comparison. (Like the time we VERY SNEAKILY watched "White Men Can't Jump" -- a rated "R" movie, sure to corrupt us to the core!) I won't even mention the fact that this was the summer after we graduated high school, because that would make us sound even less controversial.
Through the years, our friendship has grown and deepened. In the late 90's and early 2000's we worked together at a couple of different places. The most famous was probably Planet Hollywood in Dallas. The stories and adventures continued, even through marriages and kids. Spanning three decades and multiple cross-country moves, we always managed to keep in touch.
Now that we're living in the RV, the idea to visit friends that have moved away is always in the conversation, if the logistics would only cooperate. Sometimes the planets do align, and that happened last week! My friend lives a scant 12-hour drive north of where we're staying for the summer. The timing worked out and the reunion was nothing less than epic.
In celebration, and in line with our history of doing stupid things at the encouragement of one another, we decided to tackle the insurmountable Redwoods River Resort Giant Redwood Ice Cream Challenge.
I have personally built two of these ridiculous monstrosities, and watched 10 people fail at finishing during my time here. Whatever fantasies I may have entertained when first hearing about it were destroyed by watching other "more worthy" contestants get humbled by this mountain of sweets and dairy.
Until my friend came.
Let me be clear: I am an adult. I am a grown man. I have a wife and two children. I have a job and I use that money to pay bills.
"Dude," says my friend, "we should totally do this!"
"Dude," says adult me, "we TOTALLY SHOULD!"
Donning our server shirts from Planet Hollwood, circa 1999, we entered into the contest. We had plans and strategies that we had worked out over the course of the entire preceding day. We had read articles about food contests, and took notes. We weren't just going to beat the challenge, we were going to beat the challenge TOGETHER!
And then they built the sundae.
The distressed look on this child is for my health and safety
The judge (who also happened to be my boss) read us the rules, had us sign the disclaimers, and then set the clock for 45 minutes.
This is the last picture I took
The atmosphere of the gathering crowd was a mixture of excitement and disbelief. The tension was palpable as we prepared for this adventure of a lifetime. And then the the judge said, "Go!"
All strategies and plans flew out the window. I started shoveling this frozen mess into my mouth as quickly as possible. I was making a HUGE mess, with sundae all over my face, in my beard, on my shirt, dripping to the ground. I furiously scooped and swallowed until the warnings of a brain freeze started, and then I remembered the sage tip from Randy Santel at Foodchallenges.com: drink warm water. Refreshed, and saved from a pain worse than death, I plunged back into the morass. I ate, and ate, and ate.
I swear they used some magical portal bowl or somesuch, because I had steadily eaten more than I thought I could and barely made a noticeable dent in the damn lake of frozen dessert in front of me. I knew that I had to hurry because we only had a limited time. Glancing at the clock revealed: I had been eating for 7 minutes.
I thought I was going to die.
My friend was not doing much better. The frantic spoonfuls had been reduced to more thoughtful scooping, trying to dig out the frozen bricks that were once brownies, or candy bars. What once passed as ice cream now looked like a pool of Pepto Bismol past its prime. There was enough ice cream in my beard to make a nice sundae for a small child. And we still had more than 37 minutes left.
The mood of the crowd had shifted from morbid curiosity and excitement, to disappointment bordering on disgust. Parents were whispering explanations to their children: the cautionary tale of the overzealous old guys whose eyes were much bigger than their stomachs. Random strangers were taking pictures to immortalize this gross display of hubris and folly.
"Dude, this isn't going to work," my friend confessed.
"How much longer do you want to keep up the facade?" I asked.
We suffered through another 15 minutes of petulant toying with the spoons before finally declaring the challenge to be over. We rose from the table, the still-full bowls mocking my bleeding tongue. A collective groan from the crowd did nothing to boost our injured egos. Limping home, I swore I'd never want to eat ice cream ever again. Or at least not for a couple of days.
My friend and I now have another story to add to the growing library of Remember That One Time. And I love him deeply for it.