gypsyjournal2009

Jan 272023
 

Note: Since I don’t have anything new to tell you about today, here is a blog post from 2018 about a small town with a lot to see and do.

If you enjoy exploring small-town museums as much as we do, make it a point to visit the friendly little town of Wytheville, located in western Virginia at the junctions of Interstates 77 and 81. Here you will find not just one or two interesting little museums that are well worth a visit, but five, with exhibits that are sure to please.

One of our favorites was the Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum, housed in an old gas station built in 1926. Located at 1095 Tazewell Street, the museum commemorates the old rout known as the Great Lakes to Florida Highway. Before the days of limited access interstate highways it was the main route for travelers going from Ohio to Florida. The original gas station started life as a Texaco station, but in 1934, it switched from selling Texaco products to Esso. Sometime in the1940s the owner also started selling candy and snacks, and by the 1950s the gas station was phased out and it became a small grocery store. Today, displays include artifacts from the old days, newspaper clippings, and exhibits about early-day travel through the region.

The Thomas J. Boyd Museum, located at 295 Tazewell Street, is named after Thomas Jefferson Boyd, known as the Father of Wytheville. Boyd was an attorney, surveyor, built a hotel in town, served as Wytheville’s mayor, and in the Virginia Legislature. During the Civil War a lead mine in the area provided as much as one third of the lead the Confederate Army used for their bullets and Union forces invaded the town twice during the war. The museum’s exhibits focus on local history, the Civil War, and the polio epidemic that devastated Wythe County in 1950. Wytheville was hit hard by the terrible disease. Of the just over 5,500 citizens living there, 184 came down with polio, with 17 of them dying. An iron lung on display at the museum honors those stricken with polio. The museum’s Discovery Corner offers ten interactive stations where children can learn math and science, as well as local history.

The Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum at 205 E. Tazewell Street was built as the home of Wytheville’s first physician, Dr. John Haller, who served his community as a country doctor, county coroner, and delegate to the Virginia Legislature. The home was put into service as an infirmary and school during the Civil War years, and later as a boarding house when Wytheville became a popular summer resort. Today it is a museum displaying over 1,400 original artifacts and period furnishings that show how life was in the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace and Museum, located at 145 E. Main Street, is one of only eight historic sites across the country dedicated to the interpretation of a First Lady. The museum tells the little-known story of the important role President Woodrow Wilson’s wife played in the White House during World War I, her childhood in Wytheville, and how she earned the titles “The Secret President” and “The First Woman President.”

Located at the Wytheville Training School Cultural Center, 410 East Franklin Street, the African American Heritage Museum preserves the buildings and grounds of the historic Wytheville Training School and the adjoining Benjamin McKinney house. Photographs and exhibits focus on African-American education from Civil War days to the present.

All that and a lot more are in Wytheville and the immediate area, including impressive mansions that are open for tours, the Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, Fort Chiswell Animal Park, winery tours, historical sites, and outdoor adventures. As you can see, it would be easy to spend several days playing tourist here and not get bored. Click this link for more information.

Thought For The Day – I wish open minds came with closed mouths.

Alabama Q&A

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 262023
 

Since we are still recovering from a nasty bug and have not accomplished much, I thought today I would answer some questions I have received from blog readers about our move to Alabama.

Q. Why didn’t you and Terry hire a moving company instead of doing the job yourselves?

A. I looked into hiring professional movers to handle the job, but the cost was prohibitive and they could not do the move in the time frame we needed.

Q. Instead of hauling everything yourselves, did you consider having a pod delivered to your old place and then transported to the new house in Alabama?

A. Again, the cost was too much for what we would have received. Having enough large pods for everything we moved was not that much less than a moving company.

Q. Now that none of us are no longer spring chickens and healthcare is more important, will you have the medical support you need in Alabama?

A. Yes, Tuscaloosa has a variety of excellent health care providers and a VA hospital, and Birmingham is close by with even more to offer.

Q. You left the land of hurricanes to move to the land of tornadoes. Does your new house have a tornado shelter?

A. In addition to hurricanes, Florida also has tornadoes. In fact, one killed a person in our little Florida subdivision a couple of years before we bought our house there. In answer to your question, our new house does not have a tornado shelter, but we are having one installed within the next two weeks,

Q. Will property taxes on your eight acres and home be significantly more than what you were paying in Florida?

A. Our property taxes here are actually less than what we were paying for our house on a small lot in Florida. Homeowners and automobile insurance are also less here than in Florida. And lower costs for water, electricity, and other utilities.

Q. I know that cell phone coverage and internet can be problematic in rural areas. Will that impact your ability to blog or do the research you do for your books?

A. We have anywhere from 3 to 5 bars of cell phone service here, and sometimes even 5G. We got a T-Mobile hotspot device and have fast internet service as well, for less than we were paying for Spectrum internet in Florida.

Q. I know you had a Florida CCW permit. How hard will it be to get one in Alabama?

A. As I understand it, I have to go the county sheriff’s office and pass a background check to get a concealed carry permit. However, as of January 1, 2023, any adult who can legally possess a handgun can carry concealed in the state without the need for a permit.

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. I wonder what kind of problems this place has had with long-haired girls in the past.

Thought For The Day – Dear middle finger, thank you for always sticking up for me.

Waking Up Tired

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 252023
 

This cold or flu bug we both have is still kicking our butts. I think the worst of it is over because we no longer have the wracking coughs and sneezing fits that make our ribs ache, but our joints still hurt, and we are both weak as kittens and tired all the time. We are sleeping well, but wake up tired, have a light breakfast, then spend much of the day napping. So though we have a lot to do to get settled into our new house, we’re not getting much of it done and I really don’t have much to tell you about today.

We had planned to go back to Florida to get the last of our stuff from our house there so we can get it listed with a real estate agent, but we are just not up to it. So that’s getting put on the back burner for a while yet. Fortunately, we aren’t making payments on it and don’t have a buyer standing on the sidelines waiting to get in. At least we don’t have that pressure on us.

Between naps yesterday, I spent some time reading the operator’s manual for my new Kubota tractor, trying to familiarize myself with all of the controls and what they do. I also answered quite a few emails, including one from someone who is very upset that my new book, Big Lake Drunk, lists several ways people can abuse alcohol without actually drinking it. The woman said kids can find enough ways to get into trouble without authors suggesting new ideas. My response is that I doubt very many “kids” read my small town mystery books, but if they are looking for information on things like that, it’s not hard to find on Google. I know because that’s where I found it.

In other news, the previous owners of our new place had a flock of chickens, most of which were so tame they would eat out of their hands. They rounded them up when they moved out, except for one white hen that was hiding in the barn sitting on a clutch of eggs. I don’t know what happened to the eggs, but the hen is still hanging out here. Crystal, the former owner, has tried to catch her, but Chicken Little isn’t having any of that. She wanders around, hiding in the brush and pecking at the ground during the day and sits on the deck at night. Terry put out a cardboard box with a cotton rug for her to get into, but she ignores it and sits next to it. I go out and feed her every day, but she won’t let me get too close. Our son Travis says she is probably laying eggs somewhere, but we have not had the energy to go looking for them. Hopefully Travis or Crystal will eventually be able to catch her and reunite her with her flock or put her in with his before a fox or some other predator gets to her.

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 – When life knocks you down, stay there and take a nap.

Going Orange

 Posted by at 8:33 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 242023
 

Tuscaloosa is the home of the University of Alabama and the school’s formidable Crimson Tide football team. You can’t drive two blocks anywhere around here without seeing the slogan “Roll Tide” emblazoned on billboards, stores, cars, and clothing. When we moved here, my pal DC Stultz sent me a couple of Roll Tide decals for my vehicles so I could blend in. We wouldn’t want the locals to think I’m a spy for some other collegiate team, after all.

Now, please don’t tell any of my new neighbors, but I have absolutely no interest in football or any other organized team sport. I never have. When I was a firearms instructor at West Point, I could have gone to any of the Army football games at Michie Stadium for free and never did. So I guess I won’t be flying any Crimson Tide banners around here.

Instead, I went orange. Kubota orange, that is.

I said in a blog a while back that I was researching small tractors to use here on our acreage and at my son’s place just fifteen minutes away. After looking at the different units on the market, I settled on a Kubota BX2680, a subcompact four-wheel drive workhorse that will handle any chore we need. A week or so before we moved, I contacted a very nice young man named Brad Bosch at Tuscaloosa Tractor, a family-owned business that came highly recommended. I explained my needs to Brad, told him I knew next to nothing about tractors, and he suggested the 2680, the same model I had in mind.

So Friday we went to the shop and I signed the paperwork to purchase the tractor, a front bucket loader, a 60” mower to keep our pasture and trails in good shape, a tiller for our gardens, and a back blade for smoothing out driveways, spreading gravel, and things like that. Here I am taking the tractor for a spin around the parking lot at Tuscaloosa Tractor.

And what kind of father would I be if I didn’t let Travis have some fun, too?

The next day a wonderful man named Willy delivered the tractor and its attachments to our place, and then spent a couple of hours with me, going over the many controls, giving me pointers on maintenance tips, and a crash course on how to get the most out of the machine. I can’t say enough good about our experience at Tuscaloosa Tractors. No pressure whatsoever, the price was very reasonable, Brad and Willy were very patient in answering my many questions, and you can’t beat Kubota’s 0 Down, 0 Interest, 72-month financing.

This thing has more levers and buttons than a small airplane! I will be spending a lot of time studying the owner’s manual and getting familiar with what all they will do.

One of the reasons I chose this tractor is that, even with the loader and tiller attached, it will fit inside our 14-foot cargo trailer. So it won’t be a problem to take it over to Travis’ place to get his gardens ready for all of the crops he is so good at growing. He says it sure didn’t take me long to go completely country. That’s okay, even if I didn’t go crimson.

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 – At my funeral, take the flowers off the coffin and throw them into the crowd to see who’s next.

Jan 232023
 

Several blog readers have asked why we suddenly decided to leave the central Florida coast to move to rural Alabama and if we are ready to cope with such a dramatic change in our lifestyle.

First of all, this wasn’t a “sudden decision” based on impulse. For quite some time now we had become more and more disillusioned with living in Florida. While it is a great place to go for a vacation, living there proved to be very different for us. Rising insurance rates on our home and cars, even though we never had a claim, were becoming intolerable. The constant development without regard to the infrastructure to support it has resulted in traffic nightmares, crowded schools, flooding with every storm because there is nowhere for the water to go, and higher crime rates. I am allergic to the noseeums, and they ate me alive every time I stepped outside. And while Alabama is also a very red state, Florida’s politics and attitude toward anyone who is not white, straight, and wealthy were something we just could not agree with. So we had been thinking about leaving for a while now, and when this home and acreage became available, we jumped on it. An added advantage is being able to be so close to our son and his wife, who are only fifteen minutes away.

In terms of real estate, the value for the dollar here is so much more than in Florida. Our son and his wife bought a beautiful three-bedroom two bath home on nine acres for the same price that our neighbor in Florida just paid for a new doublewide mobile home on a very small lot.

As for the lifestyle, Terry and I have both lived in cities, small towns, and out in the country. I’ll take a view like this out my back window on a foggy morning over seeing my neighbor’s place just a few feet away. Not to mention the peacefulness. It’s so quiet that we notice when a car goes past our place a few times a day. And when they do, the neighbor always takes the time to wave or beep their horn if they see you outside. As I said in yesterday’s blog, we had neighbors stopping over to help us unload our U-Haul truck and trailer, and others have come by just to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood.

While we are “out in the country” in terms of rural ambiance, and the small town of Gordo doesn’t have much more than a dollar store, a small Piggly Wiggly grocery, a Subway sandwich shop, a post office, and a garage, we are only twenty minutes away from Northport, which has a Lowes, a Super Walmart, Publix, all kinds of restaurants and services, and it abuts Tuscaloosa. With all of the traffic in Florida, it took us that long to drive to the nearest Walmart. Tuscaloosa has just about every kind of retail store and medical service one could ever need, and if you can’t find it there, Birmingham is an hour away.

And best of all, when our running around is done, we get to come home to this welcoming sight. So yes, while it is a lifestyle change, it is a tradeoff we are happy to make.

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 – One of the happiest moments in life is when you make the decision to let go of what you cannot change.

Jan 222023
 

It’s taken longer to get internet service at our new place in Alabama than we expected, but we finally did, and I wanted to post a blog to let you all know we are still alive and kicking, even if barely. I say barely because Terry and I have both come down with nasty colds that are kicking our butts. But the good news is, we’re here and we are slowly getting settled in.

In my last blog post, from a week ago today, I said that I would be driving the 26-foot U-Haul truck pulling a car hauler with my Mustang on it and that Terry would be driving our Ram pickup pulling the 14-foot cargo trailer. In that blog I said we would probably stop in Dothan, Alabama for the night and go on to Gordo the next day, but that didn’t happen.

I have ridden in Army tanks that offered a better ride than that U-Haul, and it about shook my teeth loose every mile of the trip. We stopped at the Flying J in Saint Augustine to fill the fuel tanks on both trucks, which turned out to be a pain because the guy at one of the RV fuel islands that accommodate larger vehicles was inside and hung around there for a long time before he finally came out with some food that he apparently ordered and put it inside his pickup. Then he began to fill his tank. I was in the opposite lane and was able to fill the U-Haul and then pulled to the other side of the parking lot to wait for Terry, who was stuck behind him.

Flying J has several lanes that are specified for RV parking and they were pretty busy, but I found one open spot. There would have been more except for the clowns in this RV, who parked their car next to their motorhome so nobody could get into the space next to them. I think they probably didn’t want somebody to hit their slide-out, but if they had faced the opposite direction, they would have been over a small island and somebody else could have used the space next to them. I call people like this OPOPs because they seem to think that they are the only people on the planet.

Once Terry was finally able to fill the truck, she found a parking spot and we went inside for a pit stop, then got back on the road. About 25 miles north I suddenly saw her behind me, flashing the headlights off and on. I pulled onto the shoulder of Interstate 95, wondering what was wrong, and she came to me shaking and said that somehow she had left her phone in the bathroom at the truck stop. Terry never does things like that, but with the trip ahead of us and then having to wait so long at the fuel island, she was flustered. I called Terry’s phone and a Flying J employee answered and said it had been turned in and was at the front counter. Fortunately, there was an exit just ahead of us and we took it, crossed over the highway and backtracked to Flying J to get Terry’s phone. We lost a little bit of time, but it’s all just part of the adventure, right? I kept telling Terry I wasn’t mad at her, but it didn’t matter, because she was mad enough at herself.

The U-Haul was a dog, and it was all I could do to keep it on the road at 55 mph. Between that and the time lost going back to Flying J for the phone, we didn’t make it to Dothan as planned. Instead, we stopped at the Hampton Inn in Quincy, Florida for the night. It was right off the Interstate, and they had a large grass parking lot next to the hotel where we could park both rigs.

There were no restaurants open close by, and we did not want to unhook the cargo trailer to go find one, so we settled for frozen dinners from the hotel. Not exactly fine dining, but it kept us going. Terry more so than me, as she was up several times during the night.

We were back on the road bright and early the next morning, crossing into the Central Time Zone, and then entering Alabama on US Highway 231. We followed it north through Dothan and Troy to the Montgomery area, where we eventually got onto 82 and followed it west to Tuscaloosa. We arrived at our house in Gordo sometime mid-afternoon, and I sure was happy to climb out of that damn U-Haul!

Our son Travis and his wife Geli greeted us with lots of hugs, and then they got busy helping unload the cargo trailer. We managed to get it about three-quarters emptied before darkness fell.

That was our 25th anniversary, but since there’s not much of anything in the way of restaurants in Gordo, and even fewer choices after 6 PM, we settled for Subway sandwiches. What a way to celebrate our big day! But as somebody said, it’s not about the meal, it’s about the person sitting across the table from you, and I am so much in love with this lady who’s been sitting across from me all these years, through good times and bad.

The kids were back early Tuesday morning to help us, and then a bunch of folks showed up around lunch time – friends of Manara Payne, our real estate agent, and people who go to her church, some young people from the local high school, and some neighbors. I will tell you something; I’ve moved around a lot in my life and have lived all over this great land of ours, and I have never experienced a reception like we got here. Talk about small-town southern hospitality, we experienced it firsthand! By the time it was all said and done, it only took a few hours to get everything unloaded and into the house, with boxes stacked up in every room. Thank you, everybody. We appreciate you all so much.

Actually, we didn’t get everything inside the house. It had been raining for a couple of days, and with so many people going back and forth across our yard, it had become a sea of mud. We managed to get my gun safe out of the U-Haul and into the garage, but at 675 pounds, there was no way it was going to make it through that mud to the front porch, even with the help of our heavy-duty appliance dolly. So it will sit in the garage for a few days while we recover from the trip and our colds, and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to get it where it needs to be in the house.

We have a lot more going on than I have room to tell you about today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with more to share with you.

Thought For The Day – A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

Jan 152023
 

The last few days brought home to us the words of the old Beatles song With A Little Help From My Friends, except that we have received a lot of help from our friends! We picked up the U-Haul truck and car transporter trailer Friday morning and have been working long hours getting everything we could boxed up and crammed into it.

Unfortunately, my back has limited what I can do, so most of the load has fallen on Miss Terry and our friends Jesse Bolton, Dennis Williamson, and Scott Giddings. They all have done an amazing job helping with this backbreaking labor. Here are Scott and Jesse loading the top half of my rolltop desk into the truck. I think it says a lot about me as a person and as a neighbor that so many guys will spend the weekend away from their jobs doing all this just to make damn sure I really leave. 😊

As you can see, there’s not much left in the house at this point. With our bed packed away, Terry and I spent Friday and Saturday night at the local Best Western. This morning we have a few things left to put in the U Haul and the pickup, then we have to reconnect the car hauler to the U Haul, load my Mustang onto it, hitch the cargo trailer to the back of the pickup and hit the road. Hopefully we can have the wheels rolling by noon. It won’t be a fast trip, and we will probably stop in Dothan, Alabama for the night and go on to Gordo the next day.

We still need to return to Florida in a week or so to disassemble Terry’s two big Glamakra looms and pick up anything else that did not make it this trip. And I am sure it will take us a long time to get everything put away and get settled into our new home. But we are sure looking forward to it!

I don’t know if I will be able to update the blog much in the next few days, but I will try.

Thought For The Day – Smiling doesn’t always mean you’re happy. Sometimes it just means you’re strong.

It’s Here!

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 132023
 

Our big moving weekend is here, and I have no idea how it arrived so fast. We still have so much to do, but we’ve made a lot of progress.

We finally finished getting the cargo trailer loaded yesterday, except for a few little spaces that we can poke some lightweight stuff into. As I said before, I’m amazed at how much we can cram into a 14-foot trailer. This trip will include one of Terry’s looms, our two Sea Eagle kayaks, boxes of books and small appliances and housewares, several military-style ammo cans full of various calibers of ammunition, a queen-size mattress, 7 or 8 oak bookcases, and a whole bunch more that I can’t even remember at this point.

We will be picking up the 26-foot U Haul truck this morning, and our friend Jesse Bolton is going to help us get it loaded. That will include our washer and dryer, my Champion gun safe, my roll-top desk, Terry’s desk, the bulk of our furniture, a couple of antique cabinet radios, and whatever else we can get in there. Jesse has several years of experience in moving and delivering furniture and appliances, and we will defer to him on how to load the truck.

I had hoped that we would be able to get everything on this trip except for Terry’s two big Glamakra looms, which we have to take apart, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not. We know we have to come back in a week or two to pick up her Chrysler Pacifica and whatever is left, as well as get the house ready to sell. I had hoped not to have to bring the cargo trailer all the way back again just because it cuts our truck’s fuel mileage so badly, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to avoid it. Oh well, it is what it is.

Several people have asked why we didn’t hire some help for the loading process or hire a moving company. I looked into that, and the quotes I was getting from the moving companies were ridiculous. As far as hiring some day labor to help with the loading, good luck with that. A friend of ours is also moving from Florida, up to Tennessee in their case. U Haul told them they could supply the names of people to do the heavy lifting, but not one person was available. They also posted several ads online locally and called a day labor company. They were offering $25 an hour and there were no takers. They went so far as to approach homeless people standing on street corners with signs asking for money, and again nobody was willing to come and do any work and get paid in cash. So it’s up to us old farts to tote that barge and lift that bale.

Depending on how much we get accomplished today, we may be able to hit the road tomorrow, but more likely, it will be Sunday. It will take us a couple of days to get to our new place in Alabama, with me driving the U Haul and towing the Mustang on a car hauler and Terry driving the Ram, and towing the cargo trailer. If you don’t hear from us for a day or two and I’m not able to post a blog, don’t worry. We just have a lot to get done and may not be able to get online. But I will check in when possible.

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 comeback is always stronger than the setback.

Slowly But Surely

 Posted by at 12:29 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 122023
 

We are making progress on our upcoming move, getting things packed and loaded into the cargo trailer slowly but surely. As I said in the blog the other day, it’s like the only way you can eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

I’m amazed at how much we are able to cram into our 14-foot Spartan cargo trailer. It’s rated to hold about 5,000 pounds, though we are nowhere near that limit. Most of what we have been putting in there are big bulky items.

So far for this trip, I have our two inflatable Sea Eagle kayaks in the nose, along with some boxes of books and weaving supplies, and Terry’s Baby Wolf folding loom. I told her it must be one of the most traveled looms in history since it crossed the country back and forth with us several times in our motorhome when we were still fulltime RVers.

We had four upright metal storage racks in the garage that measured 4 feet wide by 6 feet high by two feet deep. We put two on each side of the trailer and secured them to the trailer’s tie downs. We have been stacking boxes of things on the shelves, paying careful attention to weight so it’s distributed correctly in the trailer. We still have quite a bit of room on the shelves to go, and we also put two 6-foot tall bookcases on one side of the center aisle, Once everything is secured down, they will help keep the things on the shelves in place as we go down the road. We will do the same on the other side, too.

Terry is very good at packing and figuring out what will go into which boxes and where they should go in the trailer so that the things we will need first will be most accessible once we get to our new home in Alabama. One of the things she will be packing is her Aladdin lamps. We’re both a little apprehensive about those because of the large glass globes on them, but we’re going to be very careful with them, and I’m sure they will make the trip fine by the time she is done padding them with bubble wrap.

We didn’t get quite as much done yesterday as we have in previous days because Terry had an appointment with her eye doctor down in Titusville. Every few months, she has to get plugs put into her tear ducts, which help contain tears because she has a severe dry eye condition. While she was there for that, he also did Yag procedures on both of her eyes as a follow-up to the cataract surgery she had a while back.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been researching small tractors online, and since we were going right by the Kubota dealer in Titusville, we stopped to check out what they had. I’m not looking for a big farm-type tractor but rather a small sub-compact, which isn’t much bigger than a riding lawn mower but has a lot more power and can use implements like tillers and bucket loaders and such. It will come in handy for both our place and our son’s once we get moved and settled in.

I think I’ve decided on the Kubota B-Series 2680. It’s more than capable of doing everything we will need and small enough that it will fit in our cargo trailer when we need to take it over to the kids’ house. We won’t be buying it here in Florida because there is a large and well-respected Kubota dealer in Tuscaloosa, and it only stands to reason to buy it from the dealer who will be servicing it if we need something.

A blog reader told me the other day that people with bad backs like I have may find spending a lot of time on a tractor to be uncomfortable. If I know my son and my wife as well as I think I do, that probably won’t be an issue because they will spend so much time on it that I will have to fight them to be able to get in the seat and play with it myself.

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. I guess after they started making us use those self-checkouts at Walmart, we should have known this was coming.

Thought For The Day – Don’t let the past make your decisions for today.

Jan 112023
 

Note: Since all we have done the last few days is fill boxes in preparation for our move to Alabama, I thought I’d repost a blog about how far technology has come since we became fulltime RVers way back in 1999. No, we didn’t always have WiFi and cell phones that work as hotspots, and wireless modems. Life was really hard back in the “good old days.”

When we started out, cell phones were few and far between and access plans were expensive, and outside of big cities, getting a signal was sometimes impossible. E-mail? We would carry our laptop computer to the campground office, pay $1 to get online long enough to download our e-mail, and read it offline. Then we’d write our replies and wait our turn to get back in line to send them out.

I remember our first wireless modem, an air card type thing called the Ace of Spades that was slower than dial-up when it worked at all. But imagine logging onto America Online right from our motorhome! Who’d have thought something like that was even possible?

Then we got a nifty device called PocketMail, which allowed us to hold it against a regular telephone to download and send e-mail. No attachments, but still a big step forward. We were “with it!”

The next step forward was the huge dishes that offered high-speed satellite internet. You could pay many thousands of dollars for an automatic rooftop dish or a couple thousand for a tripod-mounted dish that you pointed manually.

Some of the folks who sold the expensive automatic units spread all sorts of outlandish rumors about the rooftop dishes. They claimed that they were illegal and dangerous in the hands of anybody except a certified installer. They said that if you aimed one wrong, you could “knock an airplane out of the sky.” I always said that was nonsense, because if that were true, every wacko kid and homegrown terrorist would be out in the backyard shooting down airliners. One rumor claimed that a gentleman in an RV park walked by an improperly pointed tripod dish, and it blew the ink pen he had in his shirt pocket clear through his heart! There were stories of SWAT teams from the Federal Communications Commission swarming down on RV parks and rallies, seizing illegal dishes and the RVs of their owners. Yeah, I know that really sounds crazy, but we heard all of those stories and more!

Here’s a fun story about the days of satellite internet dishes. We had a hybrid, a tripod unit that we mounted to a special folding mast on top of our MCI bus conversion. In transit, the LNB arm was removed and stored inside the bus. When we were stopped, I would boost Terry up through the emergency escape hatch in the roof over our bed, and she was so good at aiming the dish that we were usually online as fast as somebody with an automatic dish could deploy theirs.

direcway dish

Once we were at Elkhart Campground in Indiana and I started to boost Terry through the roof, but she had me stop because she forgot the written coordinates to aim the dish and needed to retrieve them. I started to boost her again, and she had me stop again because she needed the wrench she used to tighten the LNB. Finally we were ready again, and it was one, two three, and up through the hatch. Terry was setting the dish up when the man in the RV parked next to us came outside and said, “I’m so glad to see you!” Assuming it was one of our readers, Terry said she was glad to see him, too. The man told her, “I was sitting there having my coffee, and I saw this head coming up through the roof of your bus, and I told my wife to look at it, and when she did, it was gone. Then it came back again! She said that whatever the heck was going on over there was none of our business!” I’m glad we cleared that up for him. Yeah, we’ve come a long way, baby!

Thought For The Day – To be old and wise, one first has to be young and stupid.

One Bite At A Time

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 102023
 

Moving is always a hassle, no matter how old you are or how large or small of a home you have. And I can tell you right now that the older you get, the harder it is. Terry and I are amazed at how much we have accumulated in the six years we have been in this house after living a minimalist lifestyle in a 320-square-foot motorhome for 18+ years. We keep reminding ourselves that it’s just like the old thing about how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And that’s what we’re doing, taking it one bite at a time.

We have been sticking to our new schedule of waking up earlier, which has helped us get a lot accomplished, even if our bodies object to it every step of the way.

One of the biggest chores for both of us has been packing up all of our books. Terry and I are both bookaholics, and while we couldn’t carry nearly as many as we wanted to in the motorhome due to weight considerations, that hasn’t been an issue here. Pretty much all I did yesterday was fill more boxes with books. I’ve been asked more than once why I have so many books and if I have read them all. No, I haven’t read them all, but I love having them around me. Someone the other day said that having books you don’t read is like a wine connoisseur having bottles that he is saving for a special occasion. We feel the same way about our books. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I recall that once somebody who was helping us complained about how many books I had. I remember my dad telling him that someday books were going to change my life in many ways, and they have, including me becoming a successful author. I think my dad was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for when I was a youngster.

And, of course, if you have books, you have bookcases. We emptied several of them yesterday and brought them out to the garage staging area, ready to be loaded when we make the big move.

While I was dealing with books, Terry was packing lots of other things, from kitchenware and small appliances to pictures, to you name it. The stack of filled boxes is growing bigger in the garage all the time.

Meanwhile, my office is starting to look very bare. But that’s only because you aren’t seeing the other side, where I still have my desk and a lot of other stuff.

Besides filling boxes and carrying them out to the garage yesterday, we did a few other things, too. I spent some time arranging to take over the security system that’s in our new house and signing the contract online, we called our doctor here to get all of our prescriptions renewed so we will be covered for a while until we can find new doctors in Alabama, and the real estate agent who is going to be listing our house here stopped by to get some pictures for upcoming advertising.

I’ve also been researching small tractors. We will definitely be getting a riding lawn mower for our new place, but we also think we want a small tractor for bush-hogging the trails through the trees to keep them open, tilling gardens at our place and our son’s, and chores like that. I know absolutely nothing about tractors, but I’ve been doing some research and I am getting a lot of very good feedback on the Kubota compact tractor models. I’ve got a lot more to learn before I make a decision about that.

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 – Your mind is where you stay most of the time. Make sure it’s a good place to be.

Jan 092023
 

Life is all about boxes, isn’t it? We live and work in boxes made of wood, stone, concrete, or metal; we box up our memories, good and bad, in our brains; we check off boxes every time we fill out a form (which will eventually go into a box somewhere), and we are told to think outside the box. Unless we think too far outside of it, then we get criticized.

Lately, boxes have taken over our home as we prepare for our move to Alabama. We have boxes everywhere! Some boxes are filled with small appliances and kitchenware and are ready to go.

I have a lot of boxes filled with books. These are only part of them. We took a load up on our trip last week. And Terry has lots of books that still have to be put in boxes!

At first, it was hard to find boxes, and friends were bringing them home from stores or anywhere else they could find them. We also bought some from U-Haul. Did you know that if you buy boxes from U-Haul and don’t use them, and they still have the little folded tabs on them, you can return them for a refund? We didn’t until now.

I think we have enough boxes now. There is a big pile of them in the garage, but they do get filled pretty rapidly. Our new neighbors in Alabama might think we are alcoholics because I found that liquor stores are good places to get boxes. Some of them even have partitions for bottles, which are good for glassware and such when we are packing.

So that’s what we did most of yesterday, pack boxes. We still have a lot more boxes and a lot more things to put in them, but we keep plugging away at it.

Even though our house and garage are full of boxes, our big concrete parking apron in front of the house is getting emptier, because yesterday I sold my scissor trailer, which we used to use for putting the pontoon boat in and out of the garage. I also found a home for our homemade kayak trailer, which we won’t need now because if we want to go kayaking in Alabama, we will just throw them in the back of the cargo trailer.

All this activity of boxing up stuff takes up a lot of energy and helps work up an appetite. Miss Terry took care of that problem last night with an amazing dinner of her delicious shrimp and grits. The only problem is, I ate so much that I don’t want to move now. Does anybody want to come over and fill some boxes for me?

Thought For The Day – The most dangerous risk we take is not living our lives the way we want to, believing that if you work long enough, you will eventually be able to buy the freedom to do it later.

Jan 082023
 

When I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago that we were going to be making a major change in our lives, I didn’t want to jinx the deal by telling everybody what was happening until we were sure everything was going to go through and we would actually close on our house in Alabama. I have to admit that it’s been interesting to see some of the things people thought the big announcement was going to be about.

Because I had mentioned that we had been back and forth to Alabama several times, at least seven or eight people thought we had been going to the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, Alabama because we were going to buy a new motorhome and go back to fulltime RVing. No, that part of our life is over, and while we enjoyed the 18+ years that we were fulltiming, neither one of us has any desire to go back to it.

Probably as many people thought the announcement was that I had a movie or television deal for one of my book series. While I was approached by a studio a year or so ago about the Big Lake series, and there have been a couple of other overtures, nothing has panned out in that respect. While the money offered would have been nice to have, I turned down the deal for the Big Lake series because they basically wanted to own me and control everything I would be doing for the next couple of years.

Along with people thinking that we were going to go back to RVing, a couple of people thought the announcement was going to be that we were going to at least be holding another RV rally. Wrong again. Our last rally was in Celina, Ohio, back in 2012, and while they were a lot of fun, they were also a tremendous amount of work. We have been out of the RV lifestyle for so long now that I don’t know that we would have anything to contribute to the new crop of RVers out there.

I was surprised by how many readers were afraid that the announcement was that I was retiring from writing my books. As long as my mental faculties hold up and people keep wanting to read them, I have no intention of ever retiring. I may slow down a little bit as time goes on, but I have too many stories to tell to ever stop.

Terry and I both got a big laugh out of one person who thought the announcement was that we were having a baby. Really? At our age? No, the only diapers that will get changed in our household in the future are going to be the ones I may be wearing someday. That Depends. 😊

Of course, quite a few people did suspect that we were buying a house in Alabama near our son and daughter-in-law. I guess you get the prize.

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 – Being a baby must be traumatizing at times. Imagine going to sleep in your house and you wake up at Target.

Jan 072023
 

We were up at 7:30 again yesterday morning and were on the road before 9 o’clock. When we arrived at the Best Western Plus in Madison, Florida the night before, the only place to park was between a couple of 18-wheelers in a back corner of their lot, and the only way Terry could get into it was to pull straight forward, which meant we would have to back out in the morning.

I was a bit apprehensive about that because, as I’ve said before, my trailer towing skills are not great, and my backing up skills are even worse. Whenever we took the pontoon boat down to the water, my buddy Jesse Bolton would back it in for me so we could all go fishing. But we got lucky, and with Terry directing me I was able to back it up a couple of hundred feet through the parking lot until I could get to an exit and pull forward to leave.

Getting on Interstate 10, there wasn’t a lot of traffic and we stayed in the right lane running about 62 to 65 mph until we got to the Interstate 295 loop around the west side of Jacksonville to connect with Interstate 95. Then it was a straight shot south past St. Augustine and Daytona Beach to New Smyrna Beach, and then on to Edgewater. We pulled into our place here about 12:30.

I should not have felt too cocky about how easy it was to back the truck and trailer out of the motel parking lot, because it it took me a lot of backing up and pulling forward and jockeying the steering wheel around to be able to back it up to our garage once we got home. But we finally got it done.

We had not bothered with breakfast, so by then we were both more than hungry. After unhooking the trailer and unloading the truck, we went to Stavros Pizza for a late lunch or early dinner, depending on how you want to look at it. Either way, it was delicious as always.

Back at home, I waded through a big pile of e-mails and dealt with them while Terry did some laundry and caught up on her own e-mails and such. We were both too tired to do much of anything else.

And now the real work begins! We will load the cargo trailer up again, and then move it off to the side, while we pack boxes full of things and get them ready to pack into the U-Haul truck when we pick it up next Friday. We also have some lab work and a couple of doctor appointments to get out of the way while all that is going on. It’s going to be a busy week for us.

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 – Dear middle finger, thank you for always sticking up for me.

Back In Florida

 Posted by at 7:53 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 062023
 

Believe it or not, Miss Terry and I have been waking up at 7:30 every morning for almost a week now. And not to pee and go back to bed, either! With so much to do, we need a much earlier start to the day. But my natural night owl system is not fond of this new schedule.

Yesterday morning we spent an hour or so with Travis and Geli and got the truck packed, then said our goodbyes with a round of hugs and kisses, thanking them for all their help. Then we drove the 15 minutes or so to our new house to drop off a couple of things and hook up the cargo trailer. That proved to be a challenge because for some reason, the brakes on it didn’t want to release. It would back up fine, but going forward the wheels would not roll. We unhooked everything and then reattached it to the truck and then it was okay. I’m not sure what that was all about.

As I have said before, even though we towed vehicles behind our motorhomes for over 18 years, I don’t have much experience towing trailers, and none at all using a brake controller before this trip. We got on the road by 9:40 and I noticed that the trailer brakes seemed to be grabbing up when I pressed the truck’s brake pedal, and a few times we heard the tires squealing a bit when we came to a full stop. This did not happen on our trip up from Florida with the trailer loaded, and I suspected the brake controller was set too high for the now-empty trailer. I called Matt at Wheels A Way Trailer Sales in Edgewater, where we bought the trailer and had the brake controller installed, and he confirmed I was right and had me adjust the gain from 3.5 to 1.5. Problem solved!

We made good time on US Highway 82 and passed around the edge of Montgomery and then drove south down US 231 through Troy and Dothan. By the time we crossed into Florida, I was very tired, so we made a pit stop at the Welcome Center and Terry took the wheel for the last couple of hours as we motored east on Interstate 10 to Madison, where we stopped for the night at the Best Western Plus. We have about 220 miles to go to get back to Edgewater, and then we will continue packing more boxes and getting ready to make the big move.

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 – Nobody ever tells a woman that when she gets a husband, the ears are sold separately.

Jan 052023
 

I was going to say that we are headed home today, but then I had to stop and ask myself if that was accurate. Technically, I guess our house in Florida is still our home, since most of our stuff is there, our mail is still going there, and our drivers’ licenses and license plates are still from Florida. But in about two weeks we will hopefully have most of the moving done and our house here in Alabama will be home. So, are we going home or are we leaving home?

I’m not sure, but whatever you choose to call it, we are headed back to Florida today. We are towing the empty cargo trailer back to refill it for our next trip. We pick up our U-Haul truck on the 13th and I will drive it, towing my Mustang on a car hauler, while Terry drives the pickup, pulling the trailer. Based upon how much we were able to get in the trailer this trip, I think we may be able to get most everything from the Florida house in one trip.

Either way, after that we will still have to go back at least once more to pick up the Pacifica and whatever is left in the house. Hopefully we won’t need the trailer for that.

We spent about half of the day yesterday at the new house, hanging clothes in the closets and organizing some of the stuff we put in the garage from the trailer. It had poured rain for part of the day before and then again much of the night, so the ground around here is saturated. I managed to slip in a muddy spot and go down, twisting my already trashed back in the process, which was not a pleasant experience.

Son Travis and his wife were there to help us, and they wandered around the property for a while and checked out the old barn on the back of the pasture.

They took a picture of this brooding hen sitting on a clutch of eggs in one corner of the barn. Justin and Crystal, the former owners, had a bunch of chickens and a few are still there. Travis and Geli collected sixteen eggs (not from the broody hen) from the coops, which, given the price of eggs these days, will offset some of our moving expenses.

Travis is looking forward to helping Terry put in a garden come springtime. I don’t eat many vegetables, but they have promised me lots of strawberries, so I’m good with that.

I don’t know if I will post a blog tomorrow. It will depend on how the day’s traveling goes. But if not, I will, once we get back to Florida and get a good night’s rest.

Thought For The Day – The best things in life either make you fat, drunk, or pregnant.

Jan 042023
 

Yesterday we closed on our new house and acreage in Alabama as we start a new chapter in our lives. As I wrote a few days ago in my blog post Making A Big Change, we bought a house out in the country on almost eight acres, a half hour west of Tuscaloosa. It is fifteen minutes from our son Travis and his wife Geli, and it’s a beautiful piece of property, half pasture and half wooded.

Here we are after all the paperwork was completed, with Justin and Crystal Abrams, the former owners. They are a wonderful, down to earth couple that Terry and I felt an immediate kinship with. We feel like in the process of buying the house, we also acquired new members to our extended family, and we look forward to getting to know them even better. They have bent over backward to accommodate us throughout the buying process, even giving us a key to the house before closing so we could get in and measure room sizes and such before they had moved out.

We also really appreciate Marana Payne, our real estate agent, who patiently answered my many questions every time I called or texted, and who went way above and beyond the call of duty to make this a smooth transaction. I have bought several pieces of property in my life and interacted with many real estate agents in my career publishing small town newspapers in the Pacific Northwest and in Arizona. I have never met such a complete professional, and we count Marana as a new friend, too. She even went so far as to tell us that since we don’t have any family here except for Travis and Geli, she will round up some of her friends and family members to help us unload our big U-Haul truck when we get here with it. You have to love small town people!

It’s interesting to note that Geli, Marana, and Justin are all from the small town of Reform, just a few miles down the road. Geli and Marana have been friends since they were girls, and Justin’s mother drove the school bus they all rode in.

It took us two days to load our cargo trailer for the trip here, and man, was it packed! I was half afraid that when we dropped the ramp on the back of it once we got here, everything would fall out at once. But we obviously did a good job of packing and securing the load, because nothing moved an inch. And though it wore us out packing it, with Travis and Geli doing much of the work, the whole thing was unloaded in not much more than an hour.

The weatherman had predicted strong storms yesterday, and it was raining with lots of thunder and lightning while we were at the title company for the closing. But we got lucky and it stopped raining while we were unloading. Then later in the evening, it started up again and really poured.

Today we will go back to the house to sort through some of the stuff we brought with us and decide what will go where. Then we will head back to Florida on Thursday and continue packing up the house there to get ready to load it all up in the U-Haul on the 13th.

Somebody asked me if we plan to keep the Florida house, too. No. We have already talked to a real estate agent, and once we have moved out, we will list it. But not until then because we don’t want to have people coming by to look at it while we are busy with the moving process.

We have a big job ahead of us! Wish us luck.

Thought For The Day – I tried to be normal once. It was the worst 10 minutes of my life.

Jan 012023
 

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you had a safe and sane New Year’s Eve, and if you didn’t, I hope your hangover doesn’t last too long.

I’m going to start the new year off with a quickie, but get your minds out of the gutter because it’s not the kind you’re thinking about. At my age, a quickie thrill is what happens when I stand up too fast.

No, I’m talking about a quickie blog post because we spent all day yesterday loading our cargo trailer and the back of the truck with stuff to take up to our new place in Alabama. Terry and I are both bruised, stiff, and sore, and we keep telling each other it’s all going to be worth it. It will be, right? 😊

Thank you, everybody, for your wonderful congratulatory comments on yesterday’s blog announcing our big news, as well as comments on Facebook, e-mails, and text messages. All of you make us feel like we have a huge extended family in every corner of the country, and we love you all.

We will be hitting the road this morning, headed for our son’s house in Gordo. It’s about a 10-hour trip in the truck or van, and we normally break the drive up into two days, stopping in Troy, Alabama, for the night. That leaves us about a three-hour drive the next day. I’m not sure how much longer it will take us with the trailer, because I’ve never pulled a trailer that far on a trip. I’m hoping we can still make Troy, with any luck.

The plan is to arrive in Gordo on Monday, do a final walkthrough of the house Monday afternoon, and close on Tuesday. Once the closing is done, we have to go to a utility company about 25 miles away to get the water transferred over into our name, and then unload the trailer and truck. The way it’s looking, we will probably not be able to finish that on Tuesday, so we will complete that task on Wednesday and then head back to Florida to finish packing for the big move on the 13th. Wish us luck. We’re going to need it!

Thought For The Day – The older I get, the tighter companies are putting lids on jars.

Dec 312022
 

So what do you do when you are 70 years old, own your house in Florida free and clear, and have almost no debt? If you are myself and Terry, you buy another home in Alabama and move there!

I’ll be honest with you, when we bought our place here on the Intracoastal Waterway, we had no expectations of ever leaving. But one thing you can always depend on in life is that things change. For quite some time now we have been disillusioned with living here in Florida, from state and local politics to the constant development that wants to turn every square foot of green space into a condo or a big box store, rising prices and taxes for everything, and the no-see-ums that eat me alive every time I step out the door.

As I mentioned before, our son Travis and his wife Geli bought a home on 9 acres about half an hour west of Tuscaloosa. Terry and I have been up there several times and we really like the area, so when I spotted a place that looked interesting to us, I had the kids go check it out. They were impressed and sent us lots of videos of their walkthrough, and then a few weeks ago, Terry and I went up and toured the property. It didn’t take us long to fall in love with it, and we made an offer. We close on it Tuesday.

It’s a three-bedroom, 2½  bath house with a large garage, a pole barn, and a large barn on almost 8 acres surrounded by forest. And it’s only 15 minutes from Travis and Geli. As we get older, being around family is becoming more important to us.

The place is out in the country on a road that’s not more than two miles long and has about ten houses on it. Half of our property is open pasture, and the rest is woods, with several trails going through it, and it is surrounded on three sides by hundreds of acres of forest.

 

 

Here are some aerial shots of the property taken by a drone.

 

We really like the wide front porch, and we can see ourselves spending a lot of time sitting out here relaxing.

The living room is huge, 30 x 23 feet, and the master bedroom is also very large at 21 x 15 feet, not counting two walk-in closets and an 8 x 7 foot window nook.

 

There is a very nice kitchen for Terry to work her magic in, and this back room looking out on the pasture is all glass on three sides.

I think Terry and I will share this room, one end being my office, and she will have a couple of her looms on the other end. In our 18+ years of fulltime RVing, we were always very close together doing our own thing. But in our current house, her loom room is on one side, and my office is on the other, and we miss that togetherness. You can see more pictures on the property listing at this link.

Terry is looking forward to having lots of room to do whatever she wants, including growing a garden with the help of son Travis, we are both looking forward to going on walks through the wooded lanes on the property, and because it’s out in the country, I can walk out my back door and do all the target shooting I want to my heart’s content. It will be nice to have my own personal shooting range.

The last couple of weeks have been very hectic, between getting my new book Big Lake Drunk out, dealing with all of the loan details and inspections and such, and everything else that goes into a major move like this. Wednesday, we bought a 14-foot cargo trailer, which we have spent the last couple of days stuffing full of things.

 

We will leave here tomorrow, pulling the trailer with the pickup, and get everything unloaded and handle all the closing details the first part of the week. Then we will come back on Thursday or Friday and spend the next week packing boxes and getting ready for the biggest part of the move. We have a 26-foot U-Haul truck reserved for Friday, the  13th, and I will be towing my Mustang up on a car hauler behind it while Terry drives the Ram pulling the trailer with whatever else we need to take with us. It’s amazing how much stuff we have crammed into this place in just six years!

Even if we don’t get everything moved all at once, we have plenty of time because we’re not going to list this place for sale until it’s cleaned out. So if we need to make a few trips back and forth, we can do that.

So that’s our big news. Terry and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary on January 16th, and we feel like this is a pretty darn good anniversary gift to give each other. What do you think?

Thought For The Day – Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.