Hampton Roads area does suck for BBQ. When I started to BBQ I would hit the local joints to find a comparative baseline and discovered either I don't know Q, or I make the best bbq in the area (at least to my taste). I always found the best pulled pork in the area to be from a dive bar called Footer's sports pub. very basic East Carolina traditional style.
In regards the OP's story, I remember totally screwing up a shoulder for a poker game trying a new cooker in the middle of winter and apologizing to my guests before serving (I had to rip meat off the bone, instead the usual twist and slide) and they commented on how great it was.
So I know the feeling, but hey, next time you cook a brisket and it comes out to your standards and the same guests attend, imagine how impressed they'll be.