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. I know that you and Terry taught for Life on Wheels for many years and it was a great learning opportunity for new RVers. Unfortunately, Gaylord Maxwell passed away and the program closed down before we got the opportunity to attend. People tell us your Gypsy Journal rallies were just as good, but we were still in the working world and couldn’t get away to attend one of those, either. Now we’re ready to begin our new adventure and need to learn everything. Do you ever see Life on Wheels being reborn or your rallies starting up again? If not, can you recommend a replacement basic education program for new RVers?
A. Life on Wheels was a wonderful program, and sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again. The caliber of the instructors that it brought together in one place at one time was amazing. Unfortunately, I think it’s in the past and I don’t see it ever being resurrected. As for our rallies, we have entered a different stage in our lives and don’t have the time or the energy to put on any more rallies. I strongly recommend new RVers attend an RVers Boot Camp put on by the Escapees RV Club. It’s a great way to learn the basics and interact with some very skilled and experienced RVers, as well as meeting lots of other like-minded new RVers.
Q. I’ve been eagerly awaiting your new Big Lake book along with thousands of other fans, I’m sure. Will it make it out by Christmas?
A. Sadly, no, I don’t think so. I’m more than halfway through, but even if I finished it in the next week, by the time it went through the various editing and proofing stages, there would be no way to get everything done in time. That’s why I never announce a hard and fast publication date. Too many things can get in the way.
Q. We have spent three winters in Arizona and really liked it, but it’s a long way from our home in Pennsylvania for these RV snowbirds. I would love to try Florida one winter, but my wife is afraid of alligators. I told her not to worry, they don’t come around people or RVs. She says I’m full of horse pucky and she’s not going anyplace where the local wildlife can kill her. Have you ever had a problem with gators there in Florida, Nick?
A. I guess she never heard about the mountain lions, rattlesnakes, gila monsters and other things that live in Arizona that can put a hurt on you. But getting back to Florida, first of all, you’re wrong. We have seen news footage of lots of gators that get in people’s yards and even in their garages here in Florida. And here’s a picture I took of one that was hanging out under a fifth wheel at the Orlando Thousand Trails preserve a few years ago. You can read about that in my blog post Gary The Gator Guy. And yes, people do get attacked, and even killed by alligators on rare occasions. More often than not when that happens it’s because they were messing with the critters instead of leaving them alone and calling trained professionals to deal with them. But overall, they would rather leave you alone and be left alone. We have paddled past them in our inflatable Sea Eagle kayaks and they have ignored us. And I’m sure that for everyone we saw there were a dozen that we missed. And if worse came to worst, I’m usually more heavily armed than your average alligator. Seriously, you are in more danger driving to the local grocery store here in Florida than you are from an alligator.
Q. I laughed out loud at your story about smoking out the rude neighbors at Kentucky Horse Park and the one about falling on your rear end in Arizona. You said in that blog that you might someday do a book called Nick Happens about your adventures and misadventures. I would be the first one to buy a copy! I hope you’ll share some more funny stories like that.
A. Those stories only seem funny in hindsight. But I do have a lot of them, and I’ll be sharing some more from time to time if people are interested.
Q. We stayed in our first, and probably last, KOA campground on our trip west to Arizona. I couldn’t believe how much the final bill was for two nights compared to their stated price. I know you don’t pull any punches, so what’s your opinion of KOA, Nick?
A. I’m not a fan. I don’t believe we ever stayed in a KOA, which I’m pretty sure stands for Keep On Adding. Every time you turn around there’s a fee for this and a fee for that tacked on. But one time years ago when Terry was undergoing follow-up treatment for cancer, we really needed to dump our holding tanks on our way to my cousin’s house in Traverse City, Michigan, where we parked in the driveway during her treatments. The KOA south of Traverse City charged us for a full night in a 50 amp full hookup site just to stop there midmorning and dump our holding tanks.
Q. What is your New Year’s resolution going to be, Nick?
A. I never make them. I’ve given myself too much disappointment in my life already, I don’t need to add one more failure to the list.
Q. My brother’s life was recently saved by a double lung transplant. This reminded me once again of the importance of being an organ donor. I hope you remind your readers of that from time to time. And just out of curiosity, Nick are you and Miss Terry organ donors?
A. Yes, we are organ donors, and I urge others to become donors as well. Giving the gift of life at the end of yours is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. Now, in my case, I have had a couple of heart attacks so they probably don’t want that, had cataract surgery in both eyes, so not sure they can use them, but I do know that they can harvest skin, as well. I’m pretty sure that will be my biggest contribution, because I’ve got a lot of skin to give.
Q. I know that you said when you and Terry were fulltiming you sometimes had Christmas dinner at campground activity centers, and other times you would go to a restaurant for your Christmas dinner. Now that you have that big house and Terry has lots of room for cooking, what’s the plan for this Christmas?
A. To be honest, I don’t know. We had a small, quiet dinner at home for Thanksgiving. We may do the same, or maybe we’ll follow our tradition of going to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner. That would make me very happy.
Q. A while back you had pictures of two old-time Speed Graphic cameras that you had acquired. I always thought they were the coolest cameras around back in the day. Have you actually used them to take any pictures, or are they just for display?
A. In today’s digital world, I don’t even know where I would get the film developed and printed. I’m sure it wouldn’t be any place local. So the cameras are just part of the decor in my office.
Q. I know you must get asked this question thousands of times, but here it is again. Which cell phone service you think is best for fulltime RVers?
A. Overall, we found that Verizon has the best coverage nationwide, with AT&T close on their heels. We have been some places where Verizon was great and AT&T didn’t exist, and other places where it was just the opposite. Here at our home, Verizon service is terrible and AT&T is slightly better. But half a block from our house Verizon is great again.
Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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.
Thought For The Day – I spend a lot of time stuck between “I need to save money” and “you only live once.”
Yes, please, to more Nick Happens stories.
I attended Life on Wheels rallies before we purchased our first rv which really helped us. We also attended a Gypsy Journal Rally in Yuma. Both of these were very informational as well as fun and I agree with Nick’s recommendations . ” RV Dreams” is also a good source of information for beginning rvers. They also taught seminars at Life On Wheels. They hold rallies with seminars as well as a website full of rv related issues geared to those considering full-timing. I’m not trying to advertise for them, just passing on a help site for those that need one.