Dec 012021
 

Note: I was busy writing all day and ran out of time, so here is a blog post from our fulltime RVing days about some uniquely named Pennsylvania communities.

No, that’s not a reference to my sex life. Blue Ball and Intercourse are two communities in Lancaster County, the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country. 

We spent yesterday playing tourist and getting to know this beautiful area of Pennsylvania a little better. Our first stop was in Lancaster to do some banking and then we drove through Circle M Outdoor World Resort to check it out. In addition to the Hershey Thousand Trails preserve, our membership gives us three more preserves in this area, Circle M in Lancaster, Pennsylvania Dutch Country in Manheim, and Gettysburg Farm in Dover. We haven’t checked out Gettysburg Farm yet, but of the others, our favorites so far are Hershey and Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Circle M looked nice, and it was clean and well maintained, but there was nothing special about it.

From there, we drove to Bird In Hand, another small Amish town we discovered on our first trip through the area several years ago. We always enjoy poking through the Old Village Store, where they have everything from Amish souvenirs to antiques, and a lot of things you won’t find at your local Walmart. Need a butter churn, a roll of flypaper, or some Fels Naptha soap? They’ve got it, along with washboards, straw hats, and cane fishing poles.

Bird in Hand Store best

We also stopped at Labadie Looms so Terry could drool over all of the yarns and fibers they had on display, as well as several models of looms. Donna Beaver, the nice lady who owns the store, is a direct descendant of Lege de la Bouchelle, a French Huguenot who arrived in the Colonies in 1683 with a Pietist group known as the Labadists. We had a nice visit with Donna, and she shared a lot of information on weaving with us and gave Terry some good tips.

Our next stop was Intercourse. Someone asked me how the town got its name, and I suggested that maybe when the settlers were trying to choose a name, somebody got frustrated and said, “Screw it!” That’s probably not the way it actually happened, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Intercourse Village

It’s harvest time, and we stopped to admire this orchard as an Amish family was picking apples.

We drove through Blue Ball (all I can think of is a Smurf who experienced a horrible injury) and stopped for dinner at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, which is kind of like a buffet on steroids. They have a huge selection for any appetite and by the time we were finished we could barely waddle out to the parking lot.

The sites here at the Hershey Thousand Trails are not very level, and the only way we could get level was to have the front tires off the ground, which we don’t like to do. So we have been listing to the driver’s side since we got here. We think that is part of the reason we have had such a bad leak in all of the rain we’ve had. The water seems to channel down to a small gap in our bedroom slide seal and right inside. So we stopped at a Lowe’s on the way home and bought an eight-foot-long pressure-treated 2×10 and had them cut it into 16-inch lengths. Back at the campground I extended the jacks to get the wheels off the ground, we put the wood under the front tires and let the jacks back down, and we’re level. Hopefully, that will help until it dries out enough to let us caulk the hole. Which may be a while, because today we’re supposed to have more rain.

It was a fun day, and I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to get back to work on the new issue. Only five pages to go!

Thought For The Day – If there is a way to read a woman’s mind, I wouldn’t want to. I hate shopping, gossip, and cats, and I already know how annoying I am.

Nov 302021
 

We watch a lot of true crime television shows because even though they have a lot of inaccuracies; showing a picture of a revolver when they’re talking about a semi-automatic pistol, for example, I do occasionally pick up an idea to use in one of my mystery books.

We were watching one last night showing police body camera video, and as a suspect in a Ford Explorer drove by several officers, one of them said it was a Ford F-150 pickup. You wouldn’t think a trained police officer would make a mistake like that. We have both a Ford Explorer and an F-150 pickup, and they don’t look anything alike. In this case, I think the officer was confused because a Ford F-150 had been seen in the area when the incident was going down.

Watching it reminded me of something I always told my reporters during my newspaper publishing days; never believe anything a witness tells you because there’s a very good chance it could be wrong. Not necessarily because the witness is lying to you on purpose, but because it’s way too easy to miss details or totally misconstrue what you saw.

I remember covering a house fire in Aberdeen, Washington many years ago when a fireman went into the burning building and carried out an elderly woman who was bedridden, then returned inside and brought out her two grandchildren after another family member said there were three kids inside. That same brave fireman and two others went back inside, looking for the third child. When the intense blaze finally forced them out, you could see on their faces how devastated they were not to be able to save that last precious little life. Then the family member realized that the “missing” child was standing right next to her, and had been all along!

Another time, one of my reporters was on hand when the Coast Guard brought in the crew of a commercial fishing boat that had lost power in rough seas off the Washington coast. It had been a dangerous rescue mission, and both a helicopter and a Coast Guard cutter responded. Once on shore, the captain of the fishing boat was praising the Coast Guardsmen for risking their lives to save him and his crew and said that one injured crewman had been lifted aboard the helicopter while the rest of them had been transferred from their vessel to the cutter. The commander of the Coast Guard crew looked at him and said nobody had been picked up by the helicopter, it had just stayed overhead with its lights on to provide visibility and backup if needed. Everybody had gone directly from the fishing boat to the cutter. The fishing boat captain was shocked because he absolutely believed he saw the chopper swoop down and pick up one of his men. He wasn’t lying on purpose; in his mind’s eye, that’s what happened.

As I’ve mentioned before, during my time in the Army, I was a firearms instructor at West Point. We kept very busy during the spring and summer and into the fall, training cadets and National Guard and Army Reserve units. But the rest of the time we had to find a job or they would find one for us, and it usually wasn’t something fun. My commanding officer and I got along very well, so instead of having to shovel snow or something like that, he would send me to schools all over the country, usually someplace warm during the winter. I went to everything from truck driving school and photography school, to demolitions school, military police school, and a criminal investigation course, among others.

During the criminal investigation course, a couple dozen of us were in a classroom listening to a lecture when the door opened and a naked woman stepped halfway in and asked, “Is Howard Johnson here?” then said, “Oops, wrong room” and quickly closed the door. The whole thing didn’t last more than 30 seconds and then she was gone.

The sergeant teaching the class asked if we had seen that, then went to the phone on the wall and called somebody and said that there was a naked woman running down the halls, and said, “she was blonde, right?” as he looked at the class. Three people nodded their heads and said she was a blonde, a couple said she had black hair, and someone else said it was brown. Don’t ask me because I never looked at her head. Then he hung up the phone and said we needed to go find her.

We went out into the hallway, where they were five women wearing coveralls, all with brown hair. The sergeant asked if they had seen a naked woman, and they pointed in several different directions at once, basically saying, “she went that-a-way.”

While the class was deciding which direction to go, the sergeant said, “Okay, everybody stop.” Then he turned to one of the women and said, “drop your coveralls.” She did and we realized she was wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit. The whole thing was a setup designed to teach us that just because you think you see something or because a witness tells you what they saw, it doesn’t make it real.

As the old saying goes, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – The supply-chain crisis may be one of the best gifts this Christmas.

Friends New And Old

 Posted by at 12:58 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 292021
 

I can’t tell you when we first met Jay and Gwen McMichael. It may have been way back in 2010 when they were fairly new to the fulltime RV lifestyle. We were staying at Fisherman’s Landing RV park in Muskegon, Michigan and they were parked near us and introduced me to their pet turtle, Randy. I had met a lot of interesting animals sharing the RV life with their owners, but Randy was the first RVing turtle I had ever met. In fact, I did a blog post about him, titled Randy The Traveling Tortise. Unfortunately, Randy was the victim of a turtle kidnapping a few years ago and is no longer with them.

We stayed in touch with Jay and Gwen, and they went to at least one of our Gypsy Gathering RV rallies, where we conned Jay into being part of our Hoosier Honey beauty contest. If you want to have your morning laugh, click the link to watch that bit of insanity. Just be sure don’t have a mouthful of coffee or orange juice when you do.

So when Gwen reached out to me a week or so ago and said they were in the area and wanted to know if we could get together for lunch, we were thrilled to do so. She asked if her cousin Kim Long and Kim’s guy Ken Cartisano could come along, too, and I said sure, the more, the merrier.

So yesterday, we met at Red Robin in Port Orange and had a wonderful lunch and a good time visiting and getting to know Kim and Ken. As it turns out, they live not far from us here in Edgewater, and then Gwen dropped a bomb on us and told us that she and Jay had just purchased a home just a couple of miles up US Highway 1 from us, also in Edgwater! While they have enjoyed the fulltime RV lifestyle, they had reached the point that many fulltimers do when they decided they wanted a home base. We are looking forward to having the opportunity to get together with them again sometime once they get settled into their new abode.

Here is a picture of the six of us after we spent a couple of hours at the restaurant. That’s Ken on the left, then Jay, Gwen, Kim, Terry, and I don’t know who that fat guy is standing next to her, but he looks kind of sketchy.

Since it was such a nice day, I decided to take the Mustang, and I have to tell you, it’s a lot of fun getting out on the Interstate highway and letting that thing zip right along. It is amazing what a turbocharged four-cylinder engine can do these days. In a review back in 2018, Motor Trend magazine said these things would go from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds, and it’s true. I really do need to drive it more. It has been almost exactly three years since I bought it new, and believe it or not, it still has just under 1,600 miles on the odometer. It’s my garage queen.

Congratulations Howard Krakower, winner of our drawing for an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. We had 39 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – These days kids in elementary school have iPhones. When I was a kid I put glue on my hands just so I could peel it off when it dried.

It’s A Truck

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 282021
 

As some of you know, back in late May or early June, I put in an order for a new Ram Laramie pickup. I was promised it would be here months ago, but it’s still on order at the factory waiting for parts, even though dealers are getting lots of 2022 models in. The hangup seems to be the V-6 engine. Apparently, they won’t even start making trucks with them until sometime early next year. So I decided to go to Plan B and put in a search through the Ram dealer network for any truck that met some basic criteria of mine.

I specified that I want a new 2022 two-wheel drive truck, not a four-wheel drive, and I want the upgraded Laramie model, not one of the lower trim packages. Since I could not get a V-6, I said I wanted a gas-powered V-8 Hemi, not a diesel, that I wanted the multifunction (split) tailgate, and I wanted either the Firecracker Red or Billet Silver exterior color. I specified in the search that those were the options I would not compromise on, and that I did not want to be bothered with calls from anybody who did not have what I wanted or anyone offering to order it for me, since I’ve played that game before.

Then a couple of weeks ago I found a listing for pretty much the exact truck I wanted, in the Billet Silver, with the Hemi and all the other options I want. The online listing said the truck was in transit to a dealer about 80 miles away, so I called and talked to someone there, who said it should arrive any day. After a few days, I talked to him again, and he told me that it was at the port in Jacksonville, waiting to be loaded onto a  transport truck to be brought to their dealership.

He and I stayed in contact, and when the truck still didn’t come, he called to find out what the hang-up was, and it turned out it had a flat tire. That shouldn’t be any real problem, right? Wrong! Apparently, it had to be a mechanic from a union shop or who had some kind of certification who came out and changed the tire, and they couldn’t find one. Then, when they finally did, the part of the port we are dealing with was closed for the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend. So who knows when they’ll get around to delivering it? I told the gentlemen at the dealership that I want it and we’ve agreed on a price, so it’s just a case of getting it in and going there and signing the paperwork and picking it up.

Meanwhile, the other day I got a call from a salesman at a dealership in Tampa who saw my search online asking if I was still in the market for a Ram. I told him I had already located one and was waiting for it to get delivered to the dealer, and he basically said stop the presses, there was no need to wait because he had exactly what I wanted. A 2021 Ram Bighorn (a lesser grade trim package than a Laramie). I asked if he had read my listing, and he said yes, he did, he had it right in front of him. Then went on to tell me that the four-wheel drive truck he has on his lot is blue, has a diesel engine, and admitted that, no, it does not have the multifunction tailgate. So it’s the wrong year, the wrong trim package, the wrong engine, the wrong drivetrain, the wrong color, and the wrong tailgate? I get it. It’s a truck.

I told him not to waste my time calling me again since he was too dense to even understand that when someone specifies these are the things they want and will not compromise on, I had no time to waste with him. His response was that sometimes you have to bend a little bit. Have you seen me? Is this the body of a man that can bend even a little bit? But I did. I pushed the disconnect button and bent over and set my phone down on the desk.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Why look for conspiracy when stupidity can explain so much?

Back To Work

 Posted by at 12:21 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 272021
 

With Thanksgiving out of the way it was time to get back to work yesterday, if for no other reason than to work off the tryptophan from all that Thanksgiving turkey. My Mom used to always say that’s what made you tired after you got done eating on Thanksgiving, although some experts would disagree.

I don’t know about all the chemical aspects of things, but I think the reason all the women are tired is that they busted their butts for days getting all that food ready to eat, then spent hours cleaning up afterward. As for us guys, let’s face it, we’ll use any excuse for a nap.

At any rate, I spent most of the day at my desk yesterday, and by the time Terry told me dinner was almost ready I had another 7,500 or so words done in my new book. But wouldn’t you know it? Those darn characters threw me a curveball and took things off in a completely different direction than where I saw the story going. As one of my author friends said a while back, we don’t really tell the stories. We just watch what our characters are doing, and when it is all out over, we write the incident report.

Speaking of stories, last night we finished binge watching the first three seasons of Yellowstone on Peacock. And boy, what an ending it was for season three! Right now, they are streaming the whole series on Paramount for free, and we can also watch what there is of season 4 so far with On Demand to catch up. And we definitely will be!

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.


Thought For The Day – The world is not full of idiots, but they are strategically placed so that you run across at least one every damn day.

 

 

Beyond Stuffed

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 262021
 

If you are like us I’m sure you were beyond stuffed by the end of the day yesterday. I wasn’t able to step on the bathroom scale this morning because when it saw me coming it started running.

Friends invited us for Thanksgiving dinner, and what a meal it was! They provided the turkey and mashed potatoes and the rest of the main meal, while Terry made German stuffing, cranberry relish, homemade dinner rolls, and three pies – pecan, pumpkin, and apple.

We had a good time eating and visiting, and by the time we waddled out the door we both swore that we would never eat again. Well at least not until breakfast this morning! I hope your Thanksgiving was just as good.

Besides her Aerogarden, which is producing lots of different herbs and some kind of leaf lettuce, Terry also got a couple of big planters to put outside. She planted cucumber and tomato in one of them, and those cucumbers are really starting to grow!

When I came out the door the other day I noticed that they had all kinds of yellow flowers on them, and they’re sending out climbing vines that wrap themselves around the tomato cage stuck down into the planter.

My dad always said he was a farmer at heart, and my son Travis inherited his green thumb. I think my dad would have been very proud of my son and my wife. I know I sure am!

With Thanksgiving out of the way, everybody is already looking forward to Christmas. But for us folks here in Florida, there’s another special event coming up in just four days. November 30th marks the end of our annual hurricane season, and though this year has been very good for us here on the Atlantic Coast of the Sunshine State, it’s always a time for a huge collective sigh of relief. Until next year.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – With all these self-driving vehicles becoming available, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a country song where some guy’s pickup truck leaves him.

Happy Thanksgiving

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 252021
 

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Whoever you are and whoever you are celebrating the holiday with, I hope you have a wonderful day filled with good food, good companionship, and love.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. Over all, our health is good for a couple of old farts, we have a comfortable home, we laugh every day, and we are very much in love with each other. Really, what more could anybody want?

I remember a Thanksgiving a long time ago when I was eating a C -Ration turkey dinner, and all I really wanted for Christmas was a long, hot shower. As you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal today and get into all of the holiday activities to come, please remember that there are young men and women who won’t be with their families this year. They may be eating MREs instead of C-Rations, or hopefully, they’ll at least get a mess hall meal someplace. But wherever they are and whatever they’re eating, they are doing it so that you and I and the rest of us can enjoy the day however we choose to. Those people are among what I am most thankful for this year and every year.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Apparently, it’s only appropriate to say “Look at you! You got so big!” to children. Adults tend to get offended.

Nov 242021
 

Yesterday was a wordy day for me. I started out by making a bunch of corrections to chapters that had been proofread by Judy and Roberta, and then I wrote another 2,500-word chapter in my new Big Lake book. I’m getting there, slowly but surely, but I still have no idea who the bad guy (or girl) is.

After reading about all the problems I’ve been having with dictation, a couple of blog readers suggested some things I might want to try, and I’m experimenting with them to see if it makes any difference. So far, I would say there is some progress, but not a lot. I have also been copying everything from the old external mechanical hard drive I was working from and using as a backup to the solid-state hard drive in my computer, hoping that will speed things up a bit.

While I was doing all that, Terry was busy making a couple of pie crusts and taking care of some other pre-Thanksgiving tasks. Instead of going to a Chinese buffet for dinner, which I had talked about, some friends have invited us to have Thanksgiving with them, and Terry volunteered to make the stuffing and some other goodies to share.

Then, yesterday afternoon we got word that Terry’s sister Lisa and her husband Jim in Arizona both have COVID. Lisa was vaccinated, so hers seems to be a breakthrough case and we are hoping it won’t be too bad for her. Jim is not vaccinated and is having a bad time with it. This scares the hell out of us because we have lost four family members and five or six friends to COVID. Folks, please, please, please get vaccinated! We need you, and your families need you.

In another bit of bad news, although it could be worse, my friend Patrick O’Donnell, author of the Cops and Writers books and founder of the Cops and Writers Facebook group, told us yesterday that he lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where a maniac drove through a Christmas parade, killing six people, including a child. Patrick’s precious little granddaughter was injured, suffering some cuts and bruises and a concussion, but he says she’s a strong little girl and will make it.

The maggot who did this has a long criminal history and was out on $1,000 bail for running the mother of his child over with the same vehicle a few weeks ago. This time around, he was fleeing the scene of a domestic violence assault (but was not being pursued)  when he drove into the parade crowd. Why was he even allowed to be on the street in the first place? He’s a career criminal who has no place in society.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Remember to turn your bathroom scales back 15 pounds tonight for Thanksgiving.

How Do You Holiday?

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 232021
 

Note: This is a repost of a blog from November of 2017 that I think a lot of my RVing readers will still find interesting. 

This time of year I always seem to get a lot of emails and see a lot of comments on social media from new fulltime RVers and RV snowbirds wondering how to handle the holidays. For a lot of newbies, and even for some experienced road warriors, Thanksgiving and Christmas provide a certain amount of angst.

After all, those are supposed to be the important family holidays. An email I got yesterday from a new fulltimer said she and her husband don’t think it will feel much like Thanksgiving sitting alone at the table in their motorhome with a couple of frozen turkey TV dinners. So what do you do when you’re living in an RV far away from your family at the holidays?

We have met some people who travel back to where their family is for the holidays, sometimes in their RVs, and sometimes leaving the RV behind and driving in a car or flying. That’s never been our preference, but it might work for you.

But if you don’t do that, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be all alone. Just about every RV park we’ve ever been at over Thanksgiving and Christmas has a group dinner in their activity center. Often the park supplies turkey and ham, and everybody else brings plates to pass around. So you’re not alone, you’re with a wonderful extended family of like-minded people. Folks just like you who are living their dream.

Besides the food, there is usually entertainment of some kind. It might be a jam session, it might be a program put on by people in the park, or it might be entertainers brought in to perform. There’s usually a room with a big screen TV for watching football, and always lots of friendly conversation. For many RVers, volunteering to help out with these group dinners is their way of having a good time. And if you’re a newbie, it’s also a great way to make new friends.

Some people prefer to go out to a nice dinner someplace and leave all the cooking and cleaning duties to somebody else. We have done the RV park group dinners, and we have also gone out to dinner at restaurants on the holidays. Sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with another couple or two. There is something to be said for having a great meal, leaving a nice tip, and going home to take a nap.

Of course, Terry and I are always the oddballs, and for many years our favorite Christmas dinner was at a Chinese restaurant. Who needs turkey when you’ve got fried rice and General Tso’s Chicken?

No, Thanksgiving and Christmas in an RV are not the same as being at home surrounded by your family. But that doesn’t mean they have to be gloomy events. Make the most of it. Have a good time. Meet some new friends. And if you do decide to follow my lead and go to a Chinese restaurant, you just may see us there!

With Thanksgiving and all of the Black Friday sales just around the corner, how about a good mystery? What would you do if you braved the crowds of shoppers on Black Friday and suddenly your whole world had changed? Read Black Friday and find out how a simple shopping trip changed one man’s life forever.

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Thought For The Day – There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.

Nov 222021
 

Yesterday was our friend Jennifer’s birthday, and the original plan was to go to Mount Dora for the Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza, which is held three times a year. It’s one of our favorite events and Terry and I have been there a couple of times browsing acre after acre of vendors selling everything from antique furniture and tools to small household items.

Unfortunately, it had rained a lot Saturday, and the weatherman said we could expect more rain off and on yesterday, so we decided to put that on hold. They will be holding two other Extravaganzas, one in January and one in February, so we’ll get to one or both of those.

With that off the table, since Jennifer and her guy Jesse enjoy antiques as much as we do, we decided to go down to the Titusville Antique Mall, which is another favorite for Terry and I. They had never been there and were just as impressed with it as we always are. The place is huge and filled with all kinds of goodies.

This time around, Terry found a small storage chest and an end table she liked. The vendor was just bringing them into her booth and gave us a heck of a deal on the pair. This little chest is cool because it’s got a leather top that opens to a small storage area and a slide-out tray that is also covered in leather. It needs a little TLC, but for $15 we thought it was a heck of a deal.

If you have been reading this blog for very long, you probably know that I like to laugh and to make other people laugh, and I got an opportunity when we were checking out at the antique mall. When the older gentleman at the counter admired our purchases and said, “I really like your chest” I felt it was only appropriate to tell him thanks and that I thought he had a nice butt, too. He didn’t have much to say to me after that, but everybody else laughed.

Since it was Jennifer’s birthday, she got to choose where we would eat and decided on Victorio’s Oyster Bar & Grille, which is on US Highway 1 on the north side of Titusville. We have driven by the place many times and talked about stopping but never got around to it, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

I ordered a combo of shrimp, clam strips, and scallops, Terry ordered shrimp and fish, Jennifer tried a couple of different samplers, and Jesse went with this seafood combo that included crab legs, shrimp, and scallops.

We all agreed that the food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t outstanding enough to make us want to rush back, either. We also all agreed that we could have gotten a better meal at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville for about the same money.

The restaurant has a couple of resident peacocks and I managed to get a picture of them in the parking lot as we were leaving. Peacocks are beautiful birds, but they sure are noisy. When I lived in Tucson years ago, I had a neighbor who owned several of them and I woke up one night to what I thought was a child screaming in terror. I went outside to see what was going on, and it turned out it was just the darn peacocks making noise.

We made a quick stop at Tractor Supply on our way home so Jesse could pick up a couple of things he wanted, and then it was back to the house, where Terry and I spent some time answering e-mails before settling in to watch a little bit of television to round out our day.

Congratulations Joyce Space, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. We had 67 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – When bad things happen, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, destroy you, or strengthen you.

Plugging Away

 Posted by at 12:23 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 212021
 

I’ve spent the last couple of days plugging away at my new book, Big Lake Ranger, which I had hoped to have out by the end of the month. But I am way behind schedule and I’m not going to make that goal. At least maybe I’ll have it done by the end of the month, but it will still be going through the proofreading and formatting process.

Part of the problem is because I’ve been goofing off, running around to doctors and things like that, but another part of the problem is that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my dictation program work better and how to get more performance out of my computer. Unfortunately, the reality is that all I have done is slow my progress instead of increasing anything.

I came to a realization yesterday, but I’m not technical enough to know if it has anything to do with my problem or not. When I had this Dell computer built for me a couple of years ago, I included 32 gigabytes of RAM and a 1.8 terabyte solid-state hard drive. But I also took the mechanical hard drive out of an old computer that I had a tremendous amount of data on and put it in an external case and plugged it into a USB port on this computer.

The plan was to use that external hard drive to back everything up, but I realized yesterday that the solid-state hard drive has absolutely nothing on it because everything has been going into the old mechanical hard drive, which is almost full. So now I’m wondering if that old hard drive is slowing me down and not giving me the benefits of the speed that was supposedly built into this computer. I know so little about computers that I’m going to do some research into it or pick someone’s brain who does.

Meanwhile, Judy Rinehimer, one of my proofreaders, has just returned from an extended cruise in the Mediterranean. Friday evening, I sent her the manuscript to date to have her go through it, even though Roberta and Terry already have. She found some things wrong, which doesn’t surprise me because gremlins always sneak in at night and change things, and when she returned it to me yesterday morning, she said she was hooked already. That’s a good sign!

I probably won’t get much writing done again today because it is our friend Jennifer’s birthday, and we’re going to spend some time with her hitting some local antique shops and then taking her to dinner. And if her guy Jesse plays his cards right, we might let him ride along, too.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I am writing a diary full of lies. I want my loved ones to read it after I die and be like “wait, what?”

It’s Almost Time

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 202021
 

It won’t be long now, it’s almost time. Before you know it people will be climbing over each other to get into stores to get the best deals for their holiday gift shopping. Let the insanity begin! Of course, these days it seems like retailers are pushing Christmas before the last echoes of the Independence Day fireworks have died down.

If I had to count all of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving would be near the bottom of the list. A bunch of people all get together and stuff themselves with food that the women spend hours cooking, everybody eats in thirty minutes or less, and then the men go watch a ball game or sleep on the couch while the women clean everything up. That hardly seems fair! Besides, I’m not a huge fan of turkey, and I don’t care for dressing or cranberries or most of the other things people traditionally eat for Thanksgiving dinner. Add in the fact I don’t like watching sports on TV, and I drool when I nap, so I don’t want to wake up with everybody watching me do that, and I’d much prefer to go to a Chinese buffet.

Everybody has their holiday traditions, and one of mine is to try to avoid every big box store on the planet from Thanksgiving Day until sometime in mid-January, staying as far from the maddening crowd as I can. We haven’t been in a Walmart in two years now and I’m in no hurry to rush back. For the most part, I prefer to buy locally from smaller businesses if I can, or if I need to send something to my kids or grandkids, there’s always Amazon. The mega online retailer has made it possible for me to live a very good life selling my books, and I don’t hesitate to send some of that money right back to them every month. So don’t expect to see me cruising through parking lots looking for an empty space anytime soon. Yeah, I know, bah humbug!

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, and the beginning of the holiday rush to max out everyone’s credit cards, now would be a great time for you to read my book Black Friday, the story of an everyday man living an everyday life until he goes shopping on Black Friday and meets a mysterious woman. Suddenly he finds his world turned upside down. Accused of murder, his family and friends turn against him, he loses his job, and it looks like he’s headed for death row. It’s enough to make me stay home and shop online come Black Friday! Check it out on Amazon, available in both print and e-book, or read it for free with your Kindle Unlimited membership.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I’m really getting into the Thanksgiving spirit. I’ve given the bird to at least a dozen people in the last couple of days.

If I Only Had A Heart

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 192021
 

Wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours is no fun at all, I can tell you that. Terry gave me a little fabric bag that closes with a drawstring and attached it to a neck lanyard to put the monitor device itself in, which helped a little bit. But no matter what I did, the five cords always seemed to be in the way. I was more than happy to take the electrodes off yesterday and take the darn thing back to the cardiologist’s office, where I was sure to have them sign it back in so that I would not be charged $3,000 for it!

Then we had to wait for a few minutes before they took me back and did an ultrasound of my heart. And yes, I do have one, no matter what my ex-wife may have told you. I saw it on the screen and heard it beating myself.

We went to Big Joe’s Subs on Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach for lunch when we left the doctor’s office. This long-time community favorite has never disappointed us, and they didn’t this time around, either. Terry had to smile when a bearded man on a motorized scooter wearing a T-shirt, his arms covered in tattoos, came in wearing a Santa Claus hat. A little boy at one of the other tables talked to Santa for quite a while, I guess telling him everything he wanted for Christmas.

It reminded me of my days publishing small-town newspapers in the White Mountains of Arizona. I would dress up as Santa and visit the kids at the women’s shelter every year, and myself and a couple of my “elves” would also go to the homes of children with families that were having a hard time and drop off toys my staff had donated. That was always one of my favorite events of the year.

I hadn’t slept well the previous two nights because of the darn cords on the monitor and Terry was not feeling up to par, and we were both pretty wiped out, so back at home we didn’t do much of anything.

A while back, I put an alert online for any RAM Laramies that might come close to what I ordered, which seems like it will never get delivered since it’s been six months now, and it’s still in the holding pattern waiting for parts. A notice popped up yesterday afternoon for a dealership in Palatka, about 80 miles away, saying a truck close to what I had ordered was in transit. I called the dealership to see if it was there yet, and the salesman I talked to said that it’s in Jacksonville and headed their way and should be there any day now. We talked a little bit, and even though it’s not the color I wanted, and it has a couple of other little differences, it’s pretty close. So when it comes in, we may take a ride up there and take a look at.

Besides that, there’s not much going on. The sky was gray and ugly most of yesterday, and during the afternoon a light rain started coming down. It was a good day to stay home and not do much of anything, which was just fine with me.

Before I close, several blog readers have asked me to contact them if I ever need another proofreader, or asked how to get into proofreading. I don’t need anyone at the present time, but I have also been asked by a few authors if I know of any proofreaders who might be available. You have to have excellent English skills and be able to work on a schedule. If interested, please email me at editor@gypsyjournal.net and put Proofreader in the subject line and I’ll let them know.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I give, not because I have much, I give because I know what it’s like to have nothing.

Five Quick Q&A

 Posted by at 12:27 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 182021
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally.

Q. Is it true that Walmart has changed their policy and no longer allows RVs to park on their property overnight?
A. No, that’s not true. As I understand it, the decision has always been up to the local store managers. However, many towns have rules prohibiting RVs from parking anywhere but a campground overnight, and you can be told to leave or even ticketed. But this is due to local regulations, not the company.

Q. Nick, my father decided to write his memoirs and now wants to get them published. He contacted some outfit online and sent them a copy and paid them a $250 “reading fee.” They are telling him it is best-seller material and promising him all kinds of things, but they want him to pay them a $3,500 fee to “help cover the costs.” I told him this sounds wrong, but they are calling him every day, trying to get him to let them publish his book and telling him he will make a fortune from it. My dad is a great guy, but he was a tool and die maker who never served in the military or did anything memorable to make his life story best-seller material. You’re the only author I know, and you’re a best-selling author, so you tell me so I can tell him, is he being scammed?
A. No question about it, these guys are only interested in his money. In the industry they are called vanity publishers or subsidy publishers, but they are nothing more than conmen feeding someone’s ego so they can rip them off. There’s nothing they can do for him that he could not do for himself or pay to have done for $300 or $400 if he wanted to farm it out and self-publish his book. Please don’t let him be taken advantage of.

Q. After reading your blog post about Veterans Day and how you were treated when your dad took you to his VFW post when you came home from overseas, I wonder if you belong to the VFW now?
A. No, I don’t. I’m not much of a joiner. I’ve been invited to join various VFW and American Legion Posts, but I don’t drink and have no interest in sitting around telling war stories. I know both organizations do a lot more than that and provide many wonderful services for veterans and to their communities, but it’s just not something I have the time for or interest in.

Q. What happened to the new truck you were going to order, Nick? Did you change your mind or hasn’t it come in yet?
A. After canceling the order on the Ford Lariat pickup because they could not deliver it due to chip shortages, in June I ordered a new Dodge RAM Laramie and was promised that it would be available sometime in late July or no later than the end of August. I just received an e-mail yesterday from RAM saying they still have not started production and don’t know when it might happen. I’m not holding my breath.

Q. I know that COVID kept you and Miss Terry close to home for a long time, but things seem to be easing up now and you both have your vaccines and boosters. Do you have any travel plans for the future? If so, and if you make your way through Arkansas, we would love to have you stop in for a visit. We have a guest house on our farm and you could stay as long as you want.
A. I appreciate the offer, but we have no travel plans at this time. However, we are both suffering from a bit of hitch itch, so who knows? After I get my new book out, I would really like to sneak away for at least a few days.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. In this case, it might be nice if they could hire somebody who could spell, too.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

Nick Got Wired

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 172021
 

We’ve all seen the TV shows where a police informant is wearing a wire to get the bad guy to confess to whatever the crime of the week is. Sometimes that goes well for them, and sometimes it all blows up in their face. You never know what those darned writers are going to do.

I don’t plan to be hanging out with any gangsters in the next day or two, but I did get wired yesterday. I had an appointment with a cardiologist, all part of the treatment plan for the stroke they said I had last year, and was outfitted with a heart monitor which I will be wearing for 48 hours. It consists of a small little gizmo about 3 inches long that connects to five wires, which in turn connect to five electrodes attached to my chest.

It has a clip on it that you can supposedly hook to your belt. However, we decided it was easier to put in a small pouch connected to a lanyard that I can wear around my neck. When I received it, they made it very clear to me that the cost of this little dohickey is around $3,000 and that I was responsible for it if it were to become lost or damaged. As small as it is, I can’t fathom how much these gadgets cost per pound. You can bet I’m taking good care of that darned thing!

When we were done at the doctor’s we stopped at Publix and stocked up on another month’s worth of groceries. Shopping was not our favorite thing to do even before the pandemic, and though we are both vaccinated and have our booster shots and wear masks when we are in the store, we prefer not to take any chances. I can’t tell you how often people not wearing masks have reached over us as we are getting something off the shelf in the somewhat narrow confines of the grocery aisles. So we try to do it all at once and not have to go back for a while.

Back at home we unloaded everything and put it away and then decided to go to Goodrich Seafood for dinner. The small local favorite located on the water has never let us down. Unfortunately, when we got there we found them closed because the entire place was rented for some meeting. No problem, the same owners recently opened a new place called Elliott’s Steakhouse, which is just down the road from our house, so we turned around and went there instead. I had their prime rib, which was delicious, and Terry had the steak kebabs, which she liked very much.

People have been telling us about Kevin Costner’s modern-day western television series called Yellowstone, which seems to have everybody raving and binge-watching. So Monday we watched the first episode, and when we got home from the restaurant last night we watched two more. It’s got a lot of violence, and the language is not for the timid, but so far it’s off to a good start and has caught our attention.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times – G. Michael Hopf

Nov 162021
 

Note – This blog is about a day trip we took to the charming Gulf Coast city of Galveston a few years ago.

Visitors to Galveston, Texas may be confused because the friendly little city seems to have a split personality, it being both southern and western. The residential neighborhoods with their stately Victorian homes are brightened by oleanders of every color. The island’s beaches and luxury hotels draw visitors from around the world. And yet, Stetson hats and boots are just as common as tanning lotion and flip flops. There’s a reason many residents refer to it as the Republic of Galveston Island because it is so unlike the rest of Texas.

Galveston has a long and colorful history. Home to Akokisa and Karankawa Indians who camped, fished, and hunted here, the first Europeans landed on the island in 1528. Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked on the island and lived among the Karankawa for several years as a medicine man and slave. In the late 1600’s, French explorer Robert Cavelier La Salle claimed the area for King Louis and named it St. Louis.

The Spanish ousted the French, and renamed Galveston for colonial governor and general Bernardo de Gálvez. In 1817, pirate Jean Lafitte established the colony of Campeche on Galveston island, which numbered about 1,000 residents at its peak. Tired of him preying on shipping throughout the region, authorities eventually forced Lafitte to leave, and he burned the town behind him. Lafitte would not be the last colorful rascal to call Galveston home.

Incorporated in 1839, Galveston quickly became the most active port west of New Orleans, and the largest city in Texas. The city was home to the state’s first post office, first opera house, first hospital, first golf course, and first country club, to name just a few.

For generations the rich and famous came to Galveston to do business and to play, but the island has seen its share of hard times as well. By 1900, Galveston had a population of 37,000 and was the fourth largest city in Texas, following Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. On September 8, 1900, Galveston was battered by what stands as the most deadly natural disaster to strike this country. A third of the city, more than 3,600 buildings, was completely destroyed, and over 6,000 people were killed. There were so many bodies that they could not all be buried. Many were weighted and buried at sea, and later the corpses washed ashore. From that point on they were burned on funeral pyres all over the city.

Those who survived the storm were determined it would never happen again, and they raised the entire level of the city by eight feet, slanting the ground so water would run off into the bay, and erected a seawall to hold back future storm surges. In 1915, another vicious storm hit the island, but due to the improvements, only eight people were killed and no major damage occurred.

While Galveston rebuilt, it never returned to being the city it once was. Its busy port fell into disuse and Galveston’s economy was hit hard when Houston dug its Ship Channel in 1917.

Prohibition brought an unsavory reprieve, and bootleggers turned Galveston into a gambling and drinking resort town. The good times continued after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, and during the swinging era of the 1940s and ’50s, the Balinese Room was legendary as the Gulf Coast’s premier nightspot. The swanky club was situated at the end of a 75-foot pier over the Gulf of Mexico and drew famous performers such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Sophie Tucker, and the Marx brothers to its stage.

Gambling flourished in the fancy nightclubs frequented by high society and the cheap saloons that attracted sailors and roughnecks, in spite of the best efforts of lawmen to shut it down. The Texas Rangers tried repeatedly to bust the gambling at the Balinese, but every time they raided the place they had to make their way through six heavy glass doors and down the long length of the pier, which was nicknamed “Ranger Run.” By the time they finally made it to the nightclub, all the gaming tables had been converted to backgammon, the slot machines folded into the wall like Murphy beds, and the poker chips were hidden in the kitchen The house band would even play The Eyes of Texas in honor of the frustrated Rangers, and the club’s patrons would rise to their feet as a show of their Texas patriotism.

The good times came to an end on June 10, 1957 when the Texas Rangers raided the entire city, shutting down the gambling halls and chopping up the slot machines and gaming tables with axes.

After years of languishing, Galveston underwent a rebirth in the early 1980s, and the marvelous old homes in the Historic Downtown District were restored. Currently, more than 2,000 buildings in town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These days, more than half a million people flock to the island for the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.

 

Tragedy struck Galveston once again in 2008, when Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston with winds of over 110 mph that destroyed everything in its path. At least 40 people were killed and ten feet of water stood in the downtown area, severely damaging or destroying many homes and historic structures. But once the winds died down and the water receded, the folks in Galveston rolled up their sleeves and began rebuilding their city once again.

Many trees were killed by the hurricane, but instead of simply chopping them down, artists created beautiful sculptures from the stumps of some of the trees and they can be seen all over town. When you live in a town as cool as Galveston, you learn to roll with the punches and accept what many people would consider a tragedy as nothing more than a speed bump in the road of life.

This monument, located near the sea wall, honors the victims of the 1900 storm, but I think it shows the resilience of all the good people of Galveston.

We spent quite a bit of time in the old downtown area a few blocks from the beach, admiring the handsome commercial buildings and the many beautiful homes. This oversize coronet is attached to the side of one building but I haven’t been able to figure out why. Was the place once a dining hall or nightclub? Who knows?

One of Galveston’s grandest buildings is the Bishop’s Palace, with its carved ornaments, rare woods, stained-glass windows, bronze dragons, and tower. Built by Colonel Walter Gresham in 1886, this Victorian castle has several fireplaces, including one lined with pure silver! The American Institute of Architects named it one of the 100 most important buildings in America.

Galveston Island is one of the top locations for birding in the nation. More than 200 species of birds pass through during the fall and spring migrations.

Other than the beach, another top destination for Galveston visitors is the 242 acre Moody Gardens. Part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden, Moody Gardens is lush with tropical plants and boasts three glass pyramids that house a ten-acre rainforest, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and an educational discovery museum.

Other museums include the art deco Railroad Museum at the foot of The Strand, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum on Pier 20, the Lone Star Flight Museum, and the Texas Seaport Museum on Pier 21, featuring the tall ship Elissa.

RVers can find campsites at Galveston Island State Park and several privately owned RV parks that range from comfortable to rustic.

There was a lot we didn’t get to see and do in our day trip to Galveston because there just wasn’t enough time. But Terry and I always say that’s a good thing because it gives us an excuse to go back! And you can bet Galveston is one place we will return to again.

Thought For The Day – Whatever you do, give 100%. Unless you’re giving blood.

Reviews Good And Bad

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 152021
 

Getting an e-mail like this, especially from someone like retired police officer TW Robinson, who wrote The Retirement, will make any author’s day: “I am almost done with Dog’s Run. I can see why you are a bestselling author. To date, this is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the way you make each character so unique. I can just see and hear these people. I love the relationship between Robert and Elizabeth the most. I also love the way you end each chapter. Several times I have been pressed for time and said, “One chapter and I’ve got to go.” I’ve ended up reading several more. You have a true gift. I’m actually taking notes of your style. I am on Chapter 43. Elizabeth is telling Robert she has a bad feeling about everything that’s going on after Les arrested Councilman Collett. I figured this would be my favorite book so I saved it for last. It is. Dog’s Run is the best book I have read in the past a very long time… and I’m not even done yet. You’ve definitely made a loyal fan for life. I’m going to buy all your novels. Thanks for the great story!

I always appreciate reviews and hearing back from my readers, whether their comments are good or bad, and I’ve been at this long enough to know that you can’t please everybody. While I have been fortunate in that the majority of my reviews have been four and five stars, occasionally they are less, and that’s okay. But sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder if the person leaving the review read the same book I wrote, as in this one-star I got a while back: It’s obvious that English is the second language for the author of this book or else he dropped out of school in the third grade. There are numerous misused words throughout the book, along with many basic errors that leave you shaking your head wondering why you wasted the time to read this far. Two examples are that he has the sheriff driving a Ford Explorer, which no police department in the world uses, and the setting for his story is in northern Arizona where he claims there is snow and even a ski lodge. Duh, it’s Arizona not Colorado, you idiot! Who skis in the desert?

I learned a long time ago to never respond to reviews, but it was hard not to reply to this one, letting the reviewer know that according to a CNBC report: Ford controls more than half the police vehicle market in the U.S., and has since at least 2014, the company told CNBC, citing IHS data. The Ford Police Interceptor Utility, which is the police package version of the Ford Explorer SUV, accounts for a great deal of that.

Or that many areas in the mountains of Arizona get snow. Even the Catalina Mountains near Tucson get a covering now and then, and the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is popular with people from Tucson who can spend the day skiing and go home and relax in their swimming pools that evening. Or about the popular Snow Bowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff or Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains, where my granddaughters go snowboarding. But what do I know, being a third-grade dropout?

Of course, any business can get goofy bad reviews. I saw a one-star review for a popular steakhouse once that said: I never ate here, but it’s where my girlfriend broke up with me, so I never would.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. This is another one courtesy of Jim Harper.

Congratulations Doris Cunningham, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Watching Over Me: A Psychological Thriller, the first book in the heart-racing Crime After Crime series by M K Farrar and M.A. Comley. We had 42 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I have to say that, in my opinion, Dove chocolate tastes a lot better than their soap.

Nov 142021
 

I have really been slacking off in the writing department lately. I started Big Lake Ranger, my 5th book for this year, on September 30th, and I should be wrapping it up by now and looking at a publishing date. But between keeping busy with some medical and technical issues and more than a little bit of laziness on my part, I’m only at about 51,000 words.

But I got back into it yesterday and proofed and corrected several chapters, wrote another one, and printed them out for Terry to edit and proofread. If I keep my nose to the grindstone, I can still finish it by the end of the month, if being the keyword here.

A friend asked me if I’m burned out and tired of writing, but that’s not the case. I’m usually fairly prolific, but sometimes I just need to back off of things for a while. I don’t always do that when I should, but when I do, I feel that my work is better when I get back to it.

Since we spent most of the week at home, when Terry asked me what I wanted for dinner last night, I told her we should go to Dustin’s Bar-B-Que. I’m a big fan of their baby back ribs, and Terry likes their pulled pork. We got there a little before 6, and the place was a bit crowded with the Friday evening trade, but it had thinned out quite a bit by the time we finished our meal. Assuming the snowbirds start flocking South this year, which they didn’t do nearly as much last year due to COVID, things should start getting busier. I know the local business community will appreciate that.

After doing a lot of research on the problems I’ve been having dictating with Dragon, I ordered a Phoineikas USB soundcard hub, which was supposed to be delivered on Monday. But it went missing somewhere between Amazon’s warehouse and the delivery truck, so I had to reorder a second one. It came Friday and I decided to see what it would do. I had some problems getting it to work at first, but when I finally did, I tried it with my Yeti Nano microphone, both with Dragon and in Microsoft Word’s dictation feature. I also tried a lavalier microphone and with my Zoom H4N pro, as well as trying to transcribe from my Sony digital recorder through it. I did not see any improvement over having the microphones or recorder plugged directly into the computer. I’ll give it some time and see what happens, but so far the jury is out on it. It may be headed back to Amazon in a few days.

I also ordered a copy of Dragon Professional Individual For Dummies since I certainly qualify for that description. Like all of the Dummies books, it’s loaded with information, and I’m hoping that it will help me get more accuracy out of the dictation software. I am becoming more and more convinced that the issue is not the software or the microphones, but rather my enunciation. I’ve been accused of being too soft-spoken and even mumbling more than once. I wonder if I can learn to talk again at age 69.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Watching Over Me: A Psychological Thriller, the first book in the heart-racing Crime After Crime series by M K Farrar and M.A. Comley. Trust me, this British crime writing duo know how to keep readers on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last! To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I would like to thank my middle finger for always sticking up for me when I needed it.

Getting Technical

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 132021
 

I spent yesterday getting technical. Yeah, right, we both know I have as much chance of doing that as I do getting skinny, don’t we? But I do have my moments now and then, believe it or not.

Maybe I’m paranoid, and that’s possible since we have been burglarized twice, once coming back to our motorhome and finding the intruder there armed with one of my own handguns. I have been looking for a good security system for our home since we bought it five years ago. Longtime readers may remember that we tried the SimpliSafe system and were not happy with it at all. We could never get it to connect reliably to their monitoring system and had more time downtime than it was ever online.

From there, we went to Ring doorbell cameras, and they work so-so. The problem with them is that even when they do work, somebody may ring the doorbell but it doesn’t always record the video. Many times people have walked up to our door and we see them coming and open the door, or a delivery person drops something off, but the Ring never alerts us or records anything at all. However, while they’re not good at that, they do alert to every car that drives down the street and beep to let us know about it day and night, which can be a real pain at times. At first, I thought we were having an issue due to poor cell service or something, but I have friends all over the country who have Ring systems and many tell me the same thing, the latency is a problem no matter what kind of signal they have.

I also bought several Arlo security cameras and have them installed inside and out. Again, they work part of the time, but there is also a latency. I can be sitting in my office and see the UPS or Amazon driver pull up, go outside to greet them and get the package to save them walking up the driveway, come back inside and close the door, and walk to Terry’s loom room/office on the other side of the house before we ever get an alert of motion on the cameras. In that time, a porch pirate could come and make off with whatever was left there, or an intruder could make his way in. Neither is a good idea.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine in law enforcement recommended the Cove home security system, and after doing a lot of research I decided to give it a try. It’s a self-installed system and their reviews are very good. I found out that they give a veterans discount that added up to six months of free monitoring, and there’s a 30-day return policy on all equipment and service, so what did I have to lose?

I ordered a system that consisted of five motion detectors, three door detectors, two remote control key fobs, a panic alert button (Think “help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”), and the control box. It all arrived the other day, and yesterday I decided to see if we could get it installed and working.

Overall I’m very impressed so far. Installation was easy, and even out in our metal garage, which is attached to our manufactured home with two additions built onto it, the motion detector communicates with the base station easily. I had a couple of questions during the installation and called technical support, and while English is obviously the second language for both of the techs I spoke to, they were efficient and knew their business and answered my questions quickly and professionally.

The base station can either be set on a countertop with an included support bracket or hung on the wall. It plugs into a regular outlet but also has a 24-hour battery backup. And you can push a button and talk to someone at their monitoring station immediately.

The door sensors are easy to use and simple to install, and in the normal (Disarmed) mode, they alert you any time a door is opened and tell you which door it is. Besides the Disarmed mode, there is a Stay mode and an Away mode. The Stay mode activates the door sensors, as well as glass break sensors if you have them, but not the motion sensors. This is to be used when you’re at home and don’t plan to go outside, for example, at night. The Armed mode also activates the motion sensors.

The motion sensors are just that, motion sensors, and like the door sensors, they are mounted with sticky tape that is definitely sticky. Be sure you know exactly where you want to place them before you slap them on the wall because that’s where they’re going to say. You don’t have to worry about them coming down.

According to Cove literature, they will not be activated by an animal under 45 pounds, so you don’t worry about pets. One of the motion sensors we installed is in a bedroom with a ceiling fan and I called technical support to see if that would be an issue and they said no, it wouldn’t.

You can activate the system from the control panel or from the fobs that you can carry in your pocket and are similar to a key fob. The fobs also have a panic button, which is a nice feature to have.

In addition to all that, Cove also has indoor and outdoor cameras, smoke and CO2 alarms, flood alarms, and freezing alarms, all of which can be incorporated into your system. The base station also has a very loud siren. I know this because I tried it. Just the one time was enough for me. That thing is loud!

We’ve only had the system active for a few hours and so far, I am impressed. It works anywhere there is a good 4G phone signal, and it is certainly affordable. You can tailor-make the system for your own needs, adding the smoke alarms and things I mentioned above, or not if you don’t feel you need them. We already have good smoke alarms, so I did not go with that option. Altogether, the total cost was $190, and that includes six months of free monitoring I received as a veteran. After that, the monitoring options are $15 or $25 a month depending on what you need. I went with the more expensive option because it also includes lifetime warranties on all the equipment.

And that’s about it for me today. All of this high-tech stuff has given me a headache. I think I’ll go see if that delicious apple chunk cake that Miss Terry made the other night will help ease it a little bit. I bet it will!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Watching Over Me: A Psychological Thriller, the first book in the heart-racing Crime After Crime series by M K Farrar and M.A. Comley. Trust me, this British crime writing duo know how to keep readers on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last! To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Always sit with the winners. The conversation is different.

I Accomplished Nothing

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 122021
 

Yesterday was a complete washout for me. I accomplished nothing. Not one thing. The most I did was take up space in the world and breathe up valuable oxygen that a gerbil probably deserved more than I did.

I had a bad night the night before, with a lot of back pain keeping me tossing and turning. Sometime not long after daylight I finally got out of bed and sat in my recliner and managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Then I woke up and talked to Terry for a little while, but I was still feeling worn out and hurting. After a while she told me I was falling asleep sitting at the table and sent me back to my recliner.

The evening before, our friend Jennifer Smith-Sommers had been telling us about some relaxation and meditation deep healing music she had been listening to on YouTube and I had asked her to send me a link. When I went back to my recliner I logged onto it with my phone, and before I knew it I was asleep again and woke a couple of hours later feeling more refreshed. The audio is about six hours long, and I will definitely be listening to it again. If you’re interested, here is the link.

While I was doing that, Miss Terry made a delicious chunk apple cake, and although I had no appetite at all, I knew by the time it cooled down it would make a delicious dessert after dinner.

I really needed to get some writing done but I just was not motivated. So instead I sat around being a wimp all day. The only excuse I have is that I am a guy. A woman could have a baby, lose a limb and bandage the stump by herself, then fight off a Sabertooth tiger and go on about her business and make dinner for the family without giving any of it a second thought. Guys get a headache or a tummy ache, and we want to be admitted to the intensive care unit at the local hospital.

Unlike me, some folks were accomplishing a lot in the last few days. Some were literally reaching for the stars. The other night when NASA launched a rocket carrying a crew headed to the International Space Station, we were able to step outside and get a couple of pictures even though it was cloudy and visibility wasn’t all that great. Trust me, there’s not a wimp aboard that spacecraft!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Watching Over Me: A Psychological Thriller, the first book in the heart-racing Crime After Crime series by M K Farrar and M.A. Comley. Trust me, this British crime writing duo know how to keep readers on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last! To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Whenever a bird craps on my car, I eat a plate of scrambled eggs on my front porch just to let them know what I am capable of.