Monday, April 30, 2018

Moving RGV Life to Travel.Write.Money

When I first started RGV Life, it was tilted towards a little bit of tourism, a little bit of local news, some politics, and a lot of online exploration. It was hard work. But, it was also fun. It allowed for the exploration of new media, which included online video, podcasts, and even live streaming. Being naturally shy, opened up a lot of doors for me. It gave me a topic of conversation with others. When I would visit people, they already knew about RGV Life and welcomed me as if I were an old friend.

Unfortunately, when I started the blog, I did not expect that it would become what it did. I would have put more thought into the name. It turned out that there was already an without the hyphen. While our paths did not cross where people would confuse the two websites, we have different circles, it makes it difficult to say that I have things locked down in terms of name recognition. They were first.

Recently, I saw that there is an RGV Life printed publication, which further muddies the waters. I can't complain because I should have been more mindful when choosing the name of the blog. This would have also prevented me from doing the Twitter account, Facebook page, and other online accounts using RGV Life.

More than anything, my interests have shifted towards personal finance, travel, and writing. Thus, Travel.Write.Money was born. Because the new blog does cover travel, I will begin writing about local tourism and the occasional travel outside the region. The geographic focus on RGV Life has always been a constraint on expanding my sights outside of the Rio Grande Valley.

I am not sure what to do with this blog. If I let go of the domain name, then this will revert back to a Blogspot address ( Or, I could forward the domain over to the new site. I might even consider selling off access to @rgvlife on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube if the right offer came around. For now, I would like to direct your attention to the new blog.

Please visit:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You Have to Check Out CEED in Mission

I was just writing a post over at the blog regarding the new CEED building in Mission. They have still not completely opened up for business; but, already great things are happening there.

Give the blog post a read and visit the links to the items referenced. I hope to be able to share more as their activities start to pick up speed.

The gist of it is that Mission is preparing to make some great things happen for the Rio Grande Valley. The CEED building has garnered much attention from other cities in the region and throughout the state. The RGV is on the cusp of something big.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

RGV Profile: J. D. Davidsmeyer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Smokin' Aces North Barbecue adding Pitmaster J.D. Davidsmeyer to their team in order to offer some of the best barbecue in the Rio Grande Valley. Yes, you can go have some drinks at the bar; but, you absolutely must have a steak while you're there. Today, we are going to focus a little bit on the Pitmaster himself, J.D. Davidsmeyer.

The question is, how does one become a Pitmaster? We all fancy ourselves great barbecue makers. We all have some technique to give us fairly edible barbecue, whether it be a barbecue sauce, a marinade, a rub, smoke, or some other trick to try to make the meat taste good. Does that make us Pitmasters? No. You don't just declare yourself a Pitmaster. To be a Pitmaster, you have to win competitions, consistently.

What we are talking about is the difference between puttering around the driveway with your skateboard and winning skateboarding competitions with cash prizes. It's the difference between playing 18 holes with your friends over some beers and winning the PGA circuit. It is the difference between grilling for your family on the weekend and winning on the competitive barbecue circuit. Yes, it's a thing.

It's not enough to simply compete on the competitive barbecue circuit. You have to win, and then win some more.

This is why J.D. Davidsmeyer is a barbecue Pitmaster. The man has competed and won repeatedly. He has paid his dues by competing and going home empty-handed on more than one occasion. He worked his way up and finally is able to compete to win or place in one of the top levels.

Humble Origins

J.D. Davidsmeyer's first introduction to barbecuing was. like most of us, the family barbecue. He would help his father around age 14 and eventually took over the grill for family events. It was his family who first suggested that he enter into barbecue competitions. J.D. first teamed up with a neighbor to compete. He admits that for the first six years, he had team members come and go. For the most part, they would drink and goof off, yielding them exactly zero wins.

After six years, something changed. J.D. decided that he needed to start winning competitions. His game plan got serious. He started learning all he could about methods, meats, and the competitive circuit. He also found a mentor who helped J.D. learn how to be a Pitmaster. Specifically, his mentor taught Davidsmeyer how to run a team, how to be humble, how to be a family-oriented cooker, and more importantly, how to be a competitive cooker. Their relationship lasted 8 years until cancer took his friend.

All the work paid off. After six years of losing, Davidsmeyer's first win was at The Battle of Medina in San Antonio, where he took first place. After that first win, it was easier to win ensuing competitions, or to at least place in the Top 5. His experience has also taught him a variety of foods to make on the grill, such as pizza, vegetarian, cake, and other things you would not normally associate with barbecue.

After reaching success in the competitive barbecue circuit, J. D. Davidsmeyer's family encouraged him to try getting on TV shows. He eventually landed on the BBQ Pitmasters TV show, from which he gained much notoriety.

The Present Day

These days, J. D. Davidsmeyer is working the kitchen at Smokin' Aces North and doing other things that revolve around barbecue. For example, he likes to volunteer to cook for veterans organizations and even teaches barbecue classes over the weekend. The only non-barbecue activity he enjoys is riding his Victory motorcycle on his own or with his motorcycle club.

Given his work obligations, J. D. does not compete as much as in the past. However, that doesn't mean he's not working his craft. He puts his best into every plate he serves up in the Team Xtreme kitchen inside Smokin' Aces North. You don't have to follow the barbecue circuit to find some of the best grilled meats. All you have to do is stop by Smokin' Aces North to have a taste of real Pitmaster fare.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Come Get You Some BBQ at Smokin' Aces North

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Smokin' Aces North at the invitation of a friend. I did not realize what a great opportunity that was. Readers of this blog know that I Forrest Gump my way around greatness. But, before we go into my latest Gump move, know that Smokin' Aces North is currently in a transition. Aces North already had the bar part of "Bar & Grill" figured out. Now, they are working on the grill part of the Bar & Grill in a big way.

Smokin' Aces North wants to bring in lunch and family dining during the daylight hours. They will then transition to the bar focus after 9 pm. The menu is expanding to include many barbecue items such as the Brisket Sundae, Xtreme 1/2 pound burger, stuffed Poblano peppers, steaks, some of those really good chicken wings I tried last time, and also meals for kids.

Local diners are discovering that they can stop by Aces North during their lunch break for some delicious barbecue. Some folks are also taking the family in for dinner. There are plans on developing a food challenge for adventurous hungry types who want to eat a big meal and provide entertainment for other guests.

So here is why I am so excited. Aces North has brought JD Davidsmeyer of JD's Team Xtreme BBQ to operate the Team Xtreme kitchen. You may have seen JD Davidsmeyer on TV episodes of BBQ Pitmasters.

Here is a video of JD working on some Las Vegas Strip Steak for the show.

JD's kitchen is a joint venture between him and the ownership. That means that the other night when I visited Smokin' Aces, the wings were his work. In my own spaced-out mind, I though maybe it was the beer talking, or the cook just got lucky. I didn't realize there was real talent at work.

JD Davidsmeyer has tons of experience with competitive cooking and brings that skill set to Smokin' Aces North. His specialties are chicken and ribs; but, he knows his way around other meats too. In my last blog post about Aces, I wrote that I might have to go back and try the steak.

Well, JD read the post and invited me to try out the steak as his treat. I took the offer, of course. You don't turn down a pit master offering you a steak. At least not in Texas. We spent a good chunk of time interviewing. I'm going to write more about JD Davidsmeyer on another post. The guy has an interesting story about how he wound up making barbecue his passion in life. I don't say that barbecue is his passion lightly. There is a dead seriousness about JD when he talks about barbecue.


It's all about the process, according to JD. You have to really know your meats. At this point, I was really wanting to know my steak, so I asked him to show me how to cook a steak. We went back into the kitchen where he turned on the cast iron skillet and then shuffled through some steaks in the cooler to find one he liked. The steaks are marinaded for 15 hours before they are brought to the restaurant.

That is another thing that I want to point out. JD isn't just some cook frying steaks in a pan. When JD Davidsmeyer cooks, it's a commitment. After shutting down the kitchen at night, JD gets to work on the next day's meats at home. He mans the fire all night, taking power naps and checking on the meat periodically. He is done by 6 am when he finally gets some sleep. When it's time to go to work, he brings the meats with him to the restaurant.

All of JD's dedication pays off. That steak went from the refrigerator, to the grill, to my plate. Not once was it touched by salt, pepper, or a sauce. He did lightly baste the steak with butter to flame sear the steak.

When I started eating the steak, it was amazing. It was as juicy on the outside as it was on the inside. It was tender and a delicious pink. Normally for me, steaks taste good, but they are missing something, which is a steak sauce or a squeeze of lemon. Once cooked, JD takes it personally if you put steak sauce on your meat before you even taste it. I would too, if I could cook a steak like he does. "Sauces are to cover up the f$%k-up", he says. Well prepared meat does not require the aid of any sauce. It is delicious on its own.

I cut off a chunk of the steak and went to town on it. As the steak got smaller, I started cutting smaller pieces to make it last longer. Things got so that started using mental tricks to make the experience better. I chewed slowly. I closed my eyes. And I tasted everything that steak had to offer. Oooh, yeah.

When you do stop by Aces North to have a JD's Team Xtreme BBQ steak, brisket, or chicken, consider yourself on the ground floor of something great. This is the start of a whole new experience at Smokin' Aces North with the addition of JD's Team Xtreme BBQ kitchen. It is going to be a much better experience than you could get at some fancy pants barbecue restaurant. You want to try it out before the crowds show up.

Up next, I'm going to write about JD Davidsmeyer's journey in competitive barbecue.

Friday, August 14, 2015

McAllen’s Own: Remarkable Firefighter

I requested suggestions for interesting people in the Rio Grande Valley. Thanks to David Cruz for sharing this post on Juan Angel Gloria, Deputy Chief at McAllen Fire Department.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

An Evening at Smokin Aces North

Yesterday after work, a friend invited me to Smokin Aces North, a bar in McAllen near 10th Street and Martin. If you're into live music by local bands, you're probably familiar with Aces. Once upon a time, there was an Aces in Mission; but, people started complaining and things got political, so the place shut down. Still, even back then, they were big into the music scene. I think that's what's important here, that there are places for local talent to perform.

My buddy, +Richie Trevino, used have a rock band a few years back. He still writes songs here and there. It's cool to see that even though he isn't performing anymore, he supports other bands when he can. It was interesting to see that some of the other people at the bar were also performers. I didn't know that there was a community of artists in the RGV until last night.

Last night, Radio on Repeat was playing some cover songs. These are some young guys with good sound. The band consists of guitar player Joshua Lopez, vocalist Ray Hinojosa, bassist Joe Anzaldua, and drummer Caesar Elias. They had a good mix of cover songs that even an old guy like myself can enjoy.

If you get a chance to check out live performances here in the Rio Grande Valley, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

One thing I wasn't expecting to find at Smokin Aces was that they have a kitchen. We ordered some of the fattest chicken wings I've ever had. They were delicious. One of these days, I'm going to have to give their steak a try.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Saturday at South Padre Island

Yesterday, my family and I went out to South Padre Island to cool off. The Rio Grande Valley has had weather in the 90s until these past couple weeks, which are the dog days of summer, or as you will hear called around here, "la canicula". If there ever was a time to go spend some time at the beach, it is now.

You have probably heard of people in New York City who have lived there all their lives and never visited the Statue of Liberty, or any of the famous attractions. Living there, they can go any time they choose, so they don't go. I think it's the same here in South Texas with South Padre Island. Our family does not go and take advantage of this great attraction very often. It's there. We could go any time.

In fact, we have typically gone to the beach at South Padre Island during the off season, closer to November. The weather is still warm and the water is still warm. More importantly, we do not have to deal with the traffic.

On the way to the beach during the summer, traffic slows down in Laguna Vista. Then, you are creeping along through Port Isabel, the Queen Isabela causeway, and then the City of South Padre Island to find your favorite beach access. The excitement of getting on the beach makes the trip out less daunting.

After sunset, however, the reverse trip gets as congested as the trip onto the island as vacationers begin their exodus.

But, if you don't mind spending a little more time on the island, you can avoid a good chunk of the return traffic by waiting it out at the bay side.

The cool thing about South Padre Island is that there are two beaches. One beach faces the Gulf of Mexico. The other beach faces the Laguna Madre. So, before sunset, you can drive from the beach access to the bay access and watch the sun go down over the water. The bay side of South Padre Island is much calmer than the Gulf side. You can hang out and picnic as the sun sets and the other vacationers sit in traffic.

Of course, even if you're not that into going to the beach, South Padre Island has much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. What makes the outdoors attractive at the Island is that the outdoor temperature is typically much cooler there than it is inland. So, even without splashing around in the water, you would suffer the summer less.

Rob Nixon of Waiting for the Next Swell, recently wrote a post about sharks. I didn't mention sharks to my family lest they freak out. But, I figured that a little vigilance on my part would suffice. I did see the occasional bird diving into the water after fish; but not many. We weren't exactly getting slapped in the face by fish that would attract sharks. We did see minnows darting around in the water, which was surprisingly less murky than I remember. In the end, we survived a fun day at the beach.

I did spend a couple hours today cleaning the sand out of the car. One thing about going to the beach is that sand gets EVERYWHERE. Despite the extra work, I figure the fun we had was worth the cleanup.

Except for a film camera, I left all my electronics in the car. Sand, humidity, and salt are not kind to electronics. Furthermore, nothing posted online could be as interesting as our little escape. I'll take the film in for developing some time this week. I am not anxious to plaster the interwebs with photos of our weekend getaway, like I would have done a few years back. The only reason I'm writing about this today is to suggest that you take your family to the beach.

It is only a short while longer before school starts up again. It is going to be really hot between now and then, and probably after. But, once school starts, things get complicated. You are less likely to go. Now is a good time to hit up South Padre Island for all the good times it has to offer. They have shopping, restaurants, bungee rides, the beach, a movie theater, boat rides, rental bikes and carts, and, most importantly, stories your family can tell about the good times they had.
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