Sep 092020

I do believe that there are people who have certain gifts that the rest of us don’t have, or at least don’t recognize. I had a friend I worked with at one time who, several times, said he believed something was going to happen to somebody else in our circle, and it did. Two occasions come to mind: Three mutual friends were going fishing on Lake Roosevelt in Arizona, and he told one of them, “I really wish you wouldn’t do that. I’ve got a bad feeling about you being out on the water today.” Unfortunately, that same friend stood up in the boat to reel in a fish and fell overboard and drowned.

The other time I remember, when we both got to work, he asked me in the parking lot if I had seen a female coworker that day. I said no, but I had not even clocked in yet. He said he had a really bad feeling about her. An hour later, when she still hadn’t come to work, he kept insisting that someone go check on her. One of the staff did, and it turned out she had had a heart attack. Fortunately, she survived. Were these just coincidences? I don’t know. Maybe so. Or maybe he did have some kind of special ability, although he never talked about it.

But I have always had a problem with people who run around calling themselves psychics. I put them in the same category as those who have to tell me how religious they are, or what tough guys they are. Are they trying to convince themselves or me? I’m sure there are some of them who really are gifted, but the vast majority I have run into have just been flakes.

Another friend of mine claimed he could predict things with Tarot cards. Every year, in early January, he would call to tell me all of the things that were going to happen to me or someone in our group of friends that year, and he would write it all down for future reference. Usually, two or three, sometimes four of the things would happen. Like somebody would move, or change jobs, or meet a new lover, and Mike would be so proud because this “proved” his ability. But when I pointed out to him that his other fifty or sixty predictions never happened, he would say that nobody’s perfect.

When I was publishing my small town newspaper in Arizona’s White Mountains, an outfit opened up claiming they were the “Psychic Headquarters of Arizona.” They had half a dozen different psychics, Tarot card readers, and such on hand. As it so happened, their storefront was part of a duplex commercial building and a pet store occupied the other side. The pet store advertised with me, so every week, when I went to get their ad, I would see the psychics doing their thing.

They kept insisting I come over and do a story about them but I told them I wasn’t interested. A couple of times I did wander over to their side of the building, just to see what was going on. All it did was reinforce my belief that while there might be some real psychics in the world, these guys were all flakes and fakes. And, being the smart alec I am, sometimes I couldn’t resist jerking their chains.

I made it a point that every time one of them asked how I was doing, I would respond, “I don’t know. You’re the psychic, you tell me.” Other times I was more of a jerk. For example, I was there one day when one of them was going across the street to a fast food joint to pick up lunch for everybody. He asked one of the other psychics what he wanted to eat, and I couldn’t help but respond, “Why does he have to tell you? Can’t you just read his mind?” Another time, one of them didn’t show up for his schedule and the manager said, “I wonder what’s going on with him?” You know I just had to ask, “Can’t you channel him or something to find out?”

I had to laugh out loud when they had a Psychic Fair scheduled one weekend, and it got canceled at the last minute because they had not paid the electric bill and the power company shut off their juice. The next time they were open, I poked my head in to say that I’m no psychic, but even I can predict that if I don’t pay the electric bill, they shut it off.

I have known several professional hypnotherapists, and my favorite cousin is one and she does a lot of good for her clients. But as in everything, there are plenty of charlatans. The “Psychic Headquarters of Arizona” had a hypnotist who specialized in past life regressions. Why do people who do these past life things always discover that they were once an Indian princess or some kind of royalty? What about the streetwalkers and beggars? How come nobody every revisits a past life and finds out they were one of them?

It’s the same with “spirit guides.” Why is it always an Indian named White Feather or Gray Eagle or some such? If I have a spirit guide, I think he’s a drunk named Ernie, who drove a taxicab in Pittsburgh.

Another member of the psychic crowd was a palm reader who called herself Madame Celeste. She wore garish makeup, had her hair piled up high and wrapped in a turban, and wore hoop earrings big enough that I could have put my arm through them up to the elbow. One day as I was going into the pet store next door, she saw me and insisted that she had to give me a palm reading. I told her I wasn’t interested, but she said it was free, and she had a need to do so. I figured what the hell, and I let her look at my right hand. She traced one line in my palm and said, “This line says you will have a prosperous life.” Then she traced another one and said, “This shows that you are going to have misfortune in marriage twice before you get it right.” (I will concede that she got that one right.) Then she looked at two long lines on my palm and frowned and said, “I don’t know what these mean.” I told her they were not lines, they were scars, and they meant I should stay away from landmines because that’s where they came from. My palm reading ended shortly thereafter.

Thought For The Day – Underestimate me. That’ll be fun.

Sep 082020

People always ask me where I get the ideas for my books and the things that happen in them. They come from everywhere. Maybe a snippet of conversation I hear someplace, maybe a true crime show that gives me an idea, and sometimes I just listen to the voices in my head. But as I’ve said many times, truth is always stranger than fiction, and if I wrote about some of the things I see on the evening news in a book, people would think I was really stretching reality. In fact, someone once asked me if the stories I share in my Newspaper Days blog posts are true. Yes, every one of them is.

One crazy story happened when I was a single father back in the mid-80s. I had a woman stalker. She was a volunteer classroom mom at my son’s school, and I met her there. At the time, I was working two jobs, one of which was selling cars on the weekend. She bought a new car from me, and we chatted while the paperwork was being drawn up. Then she called me a time or two, asking questions about the car.

The next thing I knew, she called telling me she understood how hard it was to be a single parent and offering to “help me,” whatever that meant. From there, it progressed to her happening to be at a restaurant or grocery store where I was, “just by coincidence.” It ended with her coming to my house when I wasn’t home and grabbing my nine-year-old in a big hug and telling him she was his new mother. It scared the hell out of him, and rightly so.

I put an immediate stop to that nonsense and warned her never to call or come around again. A few nights later she called me and said since I had “rejected” her, she had taken an overdose of pills and slit her wrists. Even if she was a looney tunes, I didn’t want her to die, so I called the police, and they sent an officer to her house to do a welfare check. He called me an hour or so later and said she was drunk, but that was all, there was no suicide attempt. I happened to know the officer, and he stopped at my house a week later to ask if I had heard from her since. I told him no, and he said, “Lucky you. She has called Dispatch wanting me to come by her place at least five times a day since I was there and sent a dozen roses to me at the police station.”

Florida seems to have so many wackadoodles that the term Florida Man has become something of a pop-culture catchphrase. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A few days ago, the news here had a story about some fool at Jensen Beach who saw a small shark in the water. His buddy dared him to catch it barehanded, so he did. And the shark did what sharks do. It bit him on the arm and would not let go. It wasn’t a big shark, only about three feet long, but that’s more shark than I want biting me! Fortunately, they were eventually able to get the shark to let go of the man’s arm, and it was put back in the water (the shark, not the arm). The bite wasn’t serious, but it just shows how foolish people can be, and how an author does not have to look hard for story material.

Then there is the story about the man who was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a live alligator through a Palm Beach County Wendy’s drive-thru window.

Or how about the Florida man who stole a peacock in Coconut Grove and got chased by a flock of pissed off birds? Do you see a pattern here about Florida men and critters? You just know I’ll figure out a way to get some of these stories into a book.

Thought For The Day – If 2020 were a drink, it would be called “Colonoscopy Prep”.

Sep 072020

I know that as we get older we all get forgetful. I find it happening to myself more and more often. Just the other day I was working on my new Tinder Street book and I needed to verify when chain safety locks for doors were first available, to be sure I had it correct with the time period.

So I went to Google to look it up. But by the time I got there I forgot what I was looking for so I had to minimize the Google screen to go back to the manuscript, and when I did, I noticed that I had transposed two people’s names, so I corrected that. About then, an Amazon van pulled up with an order so I opened the door and took the box from him and then went back to writing. It was only later that night that I realized I still didn’t know when they first started putting chain safety locks on doors. I guess I’ll have to Google it.

When things like this happen I kind of chuckle about them and move on. But Saturday night I realized it’s official. I have lost it. I was at my desk watching something on the Forensic Files TV show, using the Spectrum TV app on my phone, while Terry was taking her shower just before bedtime. Terry got out of the shower and asked me something and I went to talk to her. Knowing we were going to be going to bed soon, I went back to my office and turned off my computer and checked to make sure the doors were locked and the usual routine.

But when I started looking for my telephone, I couldn’t find it. I went to the bathroom, thinking I had set it down there, but it wasn’t there. Nor was it on the headboard, or anywhere else. Terry asked me if I might have left it by my recliner while we were watching TV earlier, and I went to check. No, it wasn’t there either. She picked up her phone to call my phone, and I started to turn down the volume on Forensic Files, and then I realized I’m standing at my desk turning down the TV show on my phone, so I could hear my phone ring and find it. I’m telling you, it won’t be long now, folks

Besides proofing what I write and taking care of all the thousand other things Terry does to keep our house and business running smoothly, we all know she is an excellent cook. One of my favorite dishes is her pizza, which is always absolutely delicious. One bite of it and my taste buds have an orgasm. The other night she tried something new. Instead of the regular pizza that she has always made, she made a deep dish pan pizza. Think of a pan pizza from someplace like Pizza Hut, then imagine it being a million times better. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long, long time. Considering that we have not gone out to restaurants in months and Terry has been cooking every day, and everything she makes is outstanding, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

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 – Once you understand why a pizza is made round, put in a square box, and eaten as a triangle, then you will understand women.?

Clash Of Cultures

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 062020

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site near Walla Walla, Washington represents the early settlement of the Oregon Territory and the role Christian missionaries played in our nation’s westward expansion, but perhaps more than anything else, it tells the story of what happens when two very different cultures clash, and when one of those cultures tries to impose their way of life on the other.

Explorers and fur traders had whetted the appetites of missionaries to venture into the vast West for years, but the very remoteness of the region discouraged them until an article in a New York Methodist publication in 1833 told the mostly fictional story of Indians from the west coming to St. Louis seeking teachers and the “Book of Heaven.” A call went out for missionaries to undertake the long and arduous journey west to explore potential mission sites. Marcus Whitman, a New York physician and missionary, was among the first to respond.

In 1835, Whitman and Reverend Samuel Parker made the trek west. Convinced of the viability of establishing missions in the territory, Whitman returned in 1836 with his new bride Narcissa, and a small group that included Reverend Henry Spalding and his wife, Eliza. Narcissa and Eliza would be the first two white women to travel so far west. Spalding established his mission among the Nez Pearce at Lapwai, while the Whitmans settled in the Cayuse territory at Waiilatpu, near the Walla Walla River.

At first, the Indians were skeptical of these newcomers, but the Whitmans were able to win them over for a time. Marcus Whitman learned the Cayuse language, and the Indians appreciated his medical skills. For several years they lived in harmony, and the Whitman Mission became an important stop along the Oregon Trail. It included a large adobe house, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, and a separate house where emigrants making their way further west could stay to rest up and prepare themselves for the rest of their trip.

The Whitmans were gracious and generous hosts who made welcome all who showed up at their door. Their only child, Alice Clarissa, was born in 1837, the first Anglo-American child born in Oregon Country. Unfortunately, she drowned when she was two, but the missionaries took in a number of orphaned children and treated them like their own, including the seven Sager children, whose parents died along the Oregon Trail. Their story has been told in at least one movie and several books, including The Stout-Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail.

Over time, the Whitman’s relationship with the Cayuse began to deteriorate for a number of reasons, some real and some imagined. While Whitman wanted the Indians to accept the white man’s lifestyle and settle into farming, the Cayuse were accustomed to leaving to go pick berries when they were in season or to catch salmon when the fish made their annual migrations upriver. This frustrated the missionary, and he began to berate the Cayuse for not giving up their traditional way of life to adapt to his vision of their future.

Meanwhile, the Indians were growing concerned about the ever-increasing number of white settlers coming into their homelands. They had heard from other tribes what happened when these newcomers came and stole their lands away from them.

The turning point in relations between the two very different groups was a measles outbreak in 1847. While the people at the mission were able to survive, the Indians, who had no natural immunity to the white man’s diseases, suffered greatly. At least half of the Cayuse died in the epidemic. Many became suspicious of Whitman and wondered why the whites he treated got well while their people died, believing that he had poisoned them.

On November 29, 1847, a group of Cayuse led by Chief Tomahas attacked the mission, killing the Whitmans and eleven others, including the two Sager boys, John and Francis. 47 others, mostly women and children, were taken hostage and later ransomed. Several of the prisoners died while in Indian captivity, including Louisa Sager.

The incident became known as the Whitman Massacre and touched off the Cayuse War, which ended with most of the tribe dead and their lands confiscated. Two other results of the incident were the closing of the rest of the Protestant missions in the region, and the United States Congress officially creating the Oregon Territory, the first formal territorial government west of the Rocky Mountains.

Today visitors to Whitman Mission National Historic Site can watch a video about the Whitmans and tour a small museum with artifacts from the mission days, including a toy cradleboard and doll that belonged to Elizabeth Sager and Marcus Whitman’s Bible.

A life-sized diorama shows the first meeting between the Whitmans and their Cayuse neighbors.

Outside, a comfortable walking path takes visitors through the mission grounds, where signs point out the location of the various buildings during mission days. On a hill above the mission, a 27-foot high obelisk overlooks the Walla Walla Valley. Built in 1897, on the 50th anniversary of the massacre, the monument honors the Whitmans and others killed during the attack. The victims of the massacre are buried in a common grave near the memorial. The mission grounds also include a picnic area with grills for fires. No overnight camping is allowed.

The 98-acre Whitman Mission National Historic Site is located just west of Walla Walla, Washington, at 328 Whitman Mission Road, just a mile or two off U.S. Highway 12. The site is open daily except for holidays, and the parking lot easily accommodated our 40-foot motorhome and toad. For more information, call (509) 522-6360.

Thought For The Day – It’s probably my age that tricks people into thinking I’m an adult.

A Lot Of Work

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 052020

My neighbor, Mike Smith, had my computer up and running again after having had to reinstall the entire operating system. I picked it up yesterday about noon.

Fortunately, because I back up everything religiously, I didn’t have any data losses. However, I did have to reinstall all of my programs. Two of them, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Adobe Photoshop Elements, gave me fits for some reason. I entered the license numbers from the boxes from when I originally purchased them, and with each one I got a message saying that that program was also already licensed to someone else. No, it’s licensed to me. It took a while going back and forth before they finally seemed to get the message that I’m really me.

With those programs and a couple others, as well as my online banking, I had to wait for them to text me a code to enter in before I could go any further. All of that took quite some time.

Then I had to reconfigure my printer, because the computer did not recognize it any longer. And my external hard drive. Same thing. And then I had to reenter the data I use every day, like my current book in progress, the blog, etc. With all of that, it wasn’t any easier than setting up a brand-new computer, to be honest with you.

But just about everything seems to be up and working, except my email. There’s a glitch there, and even though I have it set up and it’s working, it doesn’t show any emails I received in the the last several days. I don’t know why that is, because I get tons of email every day. I also can’t find some emails that I read and saved before the computer crashed. So I’ll have to fiddle with it some more. Otherwise Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Some people sent messages wanting to know why there was no contest this week. As I said, my computer was down and all I did was a short blog from my phone on Thursday, the day we normally start the contest. Someone wanted to know why I don’t start it now and change the beginning and end dates. I just have too much else going on right now. We’ll start another contest next Thursday on a regular schedule. I apologize to anybody that’s inconvenienced by that, but sometimes life happens.

In other news, with everything that’s been on going on lately, I forgot that I had set up the print version of Tinder Street on Amazon. Someone asked me when it will come out and I checked. It still shows its status as pending. I contacted Amazon to see what was going on there, and probably among the emails I missed, there was one telling me that there was an error in the formatting. I know what the error is, it’s one I have made before. I chose white as opposed to cream-colored pages, which for some reason changes the dimensions of the cover. I don’t really know why, because either way, they are all 6 x 9 inches. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix, and as soon as I get caught up on reinstalling all of the programs and data on my computer, I will get to it.

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 – We’re in September, which for you gamers means we have reached the ninth level of 2020.

Shortest Move Ever

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 192016

I’m not quite over my cold yet but I think I have pretty much the worst of it behind me, except for a nagging cough that doesn’t want to let go. But Terry’s a couple of days behind me in the cycle and feeling crappy. I spent most of yesterday working on the new issue of the Gypsy Journal, except for a stop at the campground office to visit with park manager Gary Greene and a trip to the post office to mail off my concealed weapons permit application. Then it was back home and back to work.

Yesterday we made what I think is the shortest move ever, maybe twenty feet at the most. I didn’t even turn the GPS on!

The utility hookups for our pull through site and the one next to us here at the Orlando Thousand Trails preserve are back to back on a little strip of grass between the two sites. The way it is set up, we would park towards the front of our site and the neighbor would be parked facing in the opposite direction toward the front of his, and the rear end of both of our coaches would be close to the utilities.

But they are apparently new RVers and they were parked in the middle of the site and had their sewer hose going into what should have been our connection. Nobody was around their rig, so we had to park further back so I could reach the other sewer outlet. This put us so close to the neighbor on the other side that extending our patio awning was too close. I thought about asking him to move, but what the heck, it’s only for a little while.

Their parking tag said that they would be here until the 22nd, but just about dark yesterday they decided to move to another site, so we decided to move to the proper position and sewer connection so the next person coming in next to us would not have the same problem. It didn’t take all that long to pull in the slides, retract our leveling jacks, move the motorhome forward and repeat the process in reverse. And now we can use our patio awning, which is a good thing since the sun is hitting that side of the motorhome and it will help to keep us a little bit cooler.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Shades of Moloch: Star Borne: 2, an excellent science fiction tale by my friend Sharon Delarose. 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 Sunday evening.

Shades of Moloch

Thought For The Day If you eat sensibly, avoid alcohol and tobacco, exercise regularly, and drink plenty of water, you will die anyway.

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Feb 182016

The Escapees RV Club‘s 56th Escapade rally will be held July 24- 29 in Essex Junction, Vermont, and like all Escapees events, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m not sure of the exact schedule yet, but I’ll be presenting several seminars at the rally and they will have a full lineup of seminars on every topic an RVer could ever want or need.

I have had several people who have never been to New England asking me what to expect because they have heard tales of narrow roads, heavy traffic, and tight RV sites in the campgrounds up there. So for those of you who haven’t spent much time exploring that part of the country, I thought I would share my perspective from an RVer’s point of view.

First of all, a lot of what you have heard is true. Be prepared to deal with some of the most aggressive drivers you’ll find anywhere, and a lot of traffic any place you go. I’ve driven in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, even New York City, and the drivers we encountered in Massachusetts and Connecticut rank up there with the worst of them. If you drive an RV through here, you need to pay attention every minute, and having an alert copilot is a big plus. More than once Terry warned me of another driver who was changing lanes without signaling, failing to yield when coming onto the highway from an onramp, and pulling other kamikaze stunts.

Something we found frustrating is that the mile markers and the exit numbers on the interstate highways are not keyed together like they are in most states. So while you may be at mile marker 35 (if you can find a mile marker), you may only be at exit 4 or 5. It makes it a little difficult to quickly figure out how far you have to go to your next turn.

While fuel is never cheap anywhere, when we went to Connecticut to visit Mystic Seaport, gasoline was 35 cents a gallon more as soon as we crossed the state line from Massachusetts.

Before we set out on our trip, several people told us that the highway tolls in New England would kill us. Actually, we spent more in tolls driving through Indiana and Ohio on our way there than we did while in New England.

Many of the RV parks up there are not built for large motorhomes or fifth wheel trailers so if you plan to visit, be sure that the campground you are headed for can accommodate a rig your size. Also, a lot of the RV sites are not full hookup. Many of them are just water and 30 amp electric, with a dump station. And make your reservations early. Space is limited and fills up fast.

Most of the people we met in the campgrounds were weekend campers or folks who have a seasonal site and leave their RV parked in the same place all summer long, or even year round. We only ran into a couple of other fulltimers. Expect every campground to have a lot of kids, a lot of smoky fires, and don’t be offended if people don’t seem quite as outgoing as those you meet in the Midwest or down South. It’s not that they’re unfriendly, they just don’t seem as open as RVers we have met in other places.

And as can be expected anywhere with a relatively short season, the RV parks have to make money while they can. On our visit four years ago, $45 and up per night was about the going rate. If we didn’t have membership campgrounds to stay in while we were in the area, the trip would have been too expensive for us for the month we spent in Massachusetts. I think we enjoyed Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, which we visited on a previous trip to New England, more than we did Massachusetts. Those other places just seemed a lot more laid back by comparison.

If you’re like many RVers and have a firearm in your home on wheels, be aware that once you leave Pennsylvania it is unlawful to have a gun in most states in that part of the country. Penalties can be very harsh, and can include both steep fines and jail time.

So why are we going back again? How could we not! There is so much to see and do that we could spend years exploring the region and hardly scratch the surface. Quaint villages that look like they should be in a Norman Rockwell painting, the rugged coast of Maine, the most delicious lobster you’ll ever taste, historic sites that date back to the very beginnings of our nation, and a thousand other sights that you will never forget. And did I mention Escapade?

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to kick off a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Shades of Moloch: Star Borne: 2, an excellent science fiction tale by my friend Sharon Delarose. 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 Sunday evening.

Shades of Moloch

Thought For The Day Brushing your teeth is the only time you clean your skeleton.

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Blogs And Brakes

 Posted by at 7:01 pm  Nick's Blog
Apr 012015

For over a year now I have had problems with the blog crashing and being offline anywhere from a few minutes to as long as 22 hours in one instance. Every time I called Go Daddy, our hosting company, they seemed to have a different reason for the problem, and no matter what they tweaked it did not resolve the issue on a permanent basis.

Sometimes they said it was a WordPress problem, other times they claimed it was because of high traffic (last year the blog got over 700,000 visitors), or a problem with their servers, or because they were changing servers. No matter what the excuse was the end result was always the same – the blog was down and it was costing us money in lost advertising revenues.

One solution that was suggested by a couple of people was to switched to a managed WordPress site on Go Daddy. I can’t really tell you what that is, but when I ran it past Greg White, he said his blog is a managed WordPress site and he does not have the problems I’ve continually experienced.

Changing to the managed site is supposed to be quick and easy, but we all know that never really happens, right? So I decided to wait until we were together with Greg and Jan and he had the time to tackle the project. And I’m sure glad I did!

He called Go Daddy yesterday to start the process and immediately ran into a problem with the old blog’s web address. That took him a couple of calls back to Go Daddy and a lot of trial and error, but he finally got it handled. The blog has now been copied to a temporary web address and hopefully will go live today or tomorrow without any problems. As a reader you should not see any difference except for the fact that the blog should load faster and we won’t have any more outages. Thanks for all of your help Greg!

When we were in Tucson Monday afternoon we noticed a metal sound when we applied the brakes on our Ford Explorer. By the time we got back to Apache Junction the sound had changed to a noticeable grinding that we could both hear and feel. Yesterday morning I called Brake Masters in Apache Junction and Steve Weiss, the manager, said to drop it off about 2 p.m. I did and by 5 p.m. he called to say the work was done and I cold pick it up. They installed new front brake pads and rotors, checked the rear, which still have 85% left, changed the oil and filter, and gave the SUV a good inspection for any other potential problems.

A couple of times people have suggested that a 2005 vehicle with 112K miles on the odometer and at least 50K more being towed behind our motorhome might be ready for replacement. But it’s paid for, it runs and looks good, and is very comfortable. So why go into debt for something else? The fewer payments the better, right?

Thought For The Day – You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

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Dec 232010

The RV world lost an icon yesterday, when Joe Peterson, co-founder of the Escapees RV Club, passed away. I have been privileged to meet Joe many times over the years at Escapades and other RV events, and he was always a cheerful, friendly, outgoing gentleman.

When Joe and his lovely wife Kay founded the Escapees, way back in 1978, they had no idea what they had started. Over the years they nurtured and guided their little organization until it grew into one of the largest, and in my opinion the very best, RV clubs around. The legacy Joe has left is something the rest of us will enjoy and benefit from for years to come.

This is a loss for all of us, but a double hit for the family; I’m told that Joe’s son-in-law, Bud Carr, also lost his father just a week or so ago. Please keep them in your prayers.  

We had visitors yesterday! Jim and Dee Walter, who are staying at an RV park a couple of miles up the road, stopped in to say hello. We had a good time talking about the RV lifestyle, sharing a joke or two, and comparing our favorite apps on our Droid smart phones.

After Jim and Dee left, Terry and I drove a mile or so south of the campground to Pioneer Park, a county park that includes a small museum, campground, and boat launch on the Peace River. Here are a couple of pictures, one upriver and one downriver. If we get a chance to paddle our kayaks while we’re here, I think we’ll use the launch at Pioneer Park, because the one at our campground is much steeper and looks like it would be harder to use.

Peace River from Pioneer Park

Peace River from Pioneer Park 2

We booked two weeks here at Peace River, and while the campground is okay, the town doesn’t have much to offer. Yesterday we had dinner at the Panda Chinese buffet, and it being a small town, we didn’t have high expectations. As it turned out, we were still disappointed! If we could change our stay and get back into the Orlando Thousand Trails, we’d leave and head back up that way. There’s a lot more to do and see in that area. We’d like to get some paddling in while we’re here, but the weather report for next week is looking pretty grim, so I don’t know if we’ll get to do that or not.   

I mentioned smart phone apps above,and if you have an iPhone or iPad, you might be interested in a brand new app that the nice folks at Technomadia just brought out, called Coverage?. This is a simple app that lets you see where you can expect to get 3G and roaming signals in the continental U.S. for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. Yes, you can go online to the different carriers’ websites and get the same info, but Coverage? allows you to do so offline, wherever you happen to be.

These are the same folks who put out the excellent State Lines app, which no RVer should be without. Check out Coverages?, I think you’ll find it useful. They also publish an e-book titled Answers to the Common Excuses not to Travel Full-Time that I have heard good things about. I need to order a copy and check it out.

One final thought on technical things before I close. I have been having  e-mail problems for quite a while now. Sometimes e-mails never get to me,  other times they show up, but disappear from the server before I can read them, or ones I have saved for future reference go missing. 

While we were in Fort Lauderdale last week, Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour, switched me over to G-mail, but since our websites are still hosted on Yahoo for the time being, our e-mail first goes through the Yahoo servers, and that is where we seem to have the problem. So if you e-mailed me and I didn’t get back to you, please try again. Also, I lost some e-mails from folks who asked us to stop by while we were in their area, and I had no way to re-contact them. My apologies.

Bad Nick has been busy posting a new Bad Nick Blog titled Armed Citizens Fighting Back. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – Why be difficult, when with a little bit of effort you can be impossible?

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Dec 222010

We are into our annual slowdown in our printing schedule.

We try to have each issue of the Gypsy Journal printed and mailed by the middle of the month preceding the issue date, and five issues a year, we are usually able to meet that deadline. But every year, when it’s time to print the January-February issue, that schedule goes out the window. No matter where we are in the country or which newspaper we are using to do the printing, and no matter how far we plan ahead, we run into scheduling problems.

This is caused by several factors, including heavier than usual printing schedules, as stores are printing and mailing out special holiday advertising inserts, at the same time that press rooms are shorthanded as employees take vacation days. Because we are not a weekly or even monthly job on their schedule, we get shoved to the bottom of the pile while they take care of their regular customers’ needs. We understand it, we expect it, but it’s still frustrating.

So, like every year, the newest issue of the paper is going out later than we want it to. It’s at the printer now, and hopefully they’ll have it back to us early next week so we can get it mailed out. In the meantime, we appreciate everybody’s patience.

We have made a change to the way we do our printing, starting with this issue. Until now, we have used different printers in different locations around the country, wherever we happened to be when it was time to go to press. This has been problematic at times, and with the changes in the industry, it has only gotten worse. We never know what kind of quality we’re going to get with a new printer.

Another major problem is that the size of most newspaper pages is getting smaller and smaller, and we have resisted going to the newest size reduction. But, it has been increasingly hard to find newspapers that continue to print on our size paper at times. Last year we had to leave Alabama earlier than we had planned and drive all the way to south Texas to get printed, after last minute changes at the printer we had used in this region in the past. This year we thought that we’d have to go all the way back to Indiana from Washington, DC to get printed, when the newspaper we had planned to use switched paper sizes on us. Fortunately, we found a printer in Virginia at the last minute, but it was stressful.

So we have contracted with one of the newspapers who prints us in Michigan when we are in the Midwest to do all of our printing in the future. They have recently upgraded their systems and added the ability to allow us to upload our files to them via the internet, and once each issue is printed, they will ship it to us by truck.  They could actually handle our mailing too, but in addition to the papers we mail out, we also have several thousand extra printed of each issue, which we distribute as samples at RV rallies and RV parks we visit in our travels.

This will add quite a bit to our cost for each issue, but it will give us consistent quality from a printer we are comfortable with, and who understands our unique needs.  I’m sure we’ll have a glitch or two along the way, but we’re confident that in the long run, it will all work out.

I’m still adding new seminars to the schedule for our Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally, March 7-11 in Yuma. I still have quite a few time slots to fill in, but it’s coming together. I have posted a very preliminary seminar schedule on our rally registration page to give you an idea some of the offerings we will have. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and check it out. We’ll have over 60 different seminars by the time we’re done, so there’s sure to be plenty to meet everybody’s interest. As I said, this is just a preliminary schedule, and there will be lots of changes and additions by the time the rally starts. Be sure to register early, we’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Thought For The Day – We can’t go back in time and have a different beginning, but we can start today to make a new ending for ourselves.

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Dec 212010

When we checked into the Peace River NACO campground on Sunday the office was closed, so the ranger said to go up to the office anytime Monday morning and pay for our stay. Apparently “anytime” is first thing in the morning, because at 10 a.m. somebody was knocking on our door.

Since we seldom get to bed before 2 a.m., we don’t get up early, so by the time I threw on some clothes and got to the door, the person was driving away in a golf cart. After I brushed my teeth and combed my five or six hairs, I went to the office and paid for our stay. Geez, we’re here for fourteen days, it’s not like we were going to stiff them out of $70.

Over the years, we have gotten a lot of flack from other RVers who seem to be offended by our sleeping schedule. More than once some older RVer has said something about “lazy” people sleeping the day away. I usually tell them I’m not lazy, I was up late working hard so I could pay into Social Security so they can get their check next month. I mean, really, is it anybody’s business when we go to bed or get up, as long as we don’t make any noise or disturb them when we’re up and they’re in bed?

Since the rain had stopped and we had a nice blue sky overhead, even if it was still rather cool, we went down to check out the boat ramp to the Peace River, here at the campground. The river was nice and calm, and if it warms up some more, we want to get our kayaks wet.

Peace River

Okay, maybe we want to get our kayaks wet! I saw a sign about alligators at Lake Hancock at the Orlando Thousand Trails, and that didn’t bother me. But snakes? That’s taking things a little bit too far! I’ve heard of people wrestling alligators, but this fat boy don’t do snakes!

Alligator Snake sign

The Spanish moss that hangs from the live oaks trees all over Florida is even on the palm trees here at the campground! 

Trees with moss

Our South Dakota license plates and registration for the Explorer came yesterday. The nice folks at our mail service in Sioux Falls, Alternative Resources, handled all of the paperwork, got the plates and registration, and sent them to us by Priority Mail. Since the 30 day temporary plate from the dealer where we bought the SUV expired Saturday, I was glad the plates arrived.

After picking up the license plates in the office, we drove into town to make a stop at the post office to mail off an order, then on to WalMart for a few things, and back to the campground. As we were driving back to our RV site, we stopped to take a picture of this motorhome with steer horns mounted on the front end. I wonder if this guy is from Texas?

RV Steer Horns

We spent the rest of the day at home. I answered e-mails, had a long exchange with a lady in Oklahoma who is looking at a used RV and was asking my advice because she had some concerns. After hearing them (105,000 miles on a 1999 gas powered Class A, many stains on the ceiling from obvious roof leaks, a musty smell inside the coach, a generator that would not start, and a broken windshield), I told her to run, not walk, away. She still wasn’t convinced, because at only $25,000 the seller tells her it’s a heck of a deal. Yes, it is. I’m just not sure if it’s a heck of a deal for him, or for her!

Thought For The Day – Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

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Dec 202010

Okay, just what the heck is going on here? I came to warm, sunny Florida so I could sit on a beach and leer at all of the pretty girls in their skimpy bikinis, just like they show on all of the travel posters. And what happens? I get here and it’s so darned cold that the only creatures on the beach are penguins, and the girls are at home wearing sweat suits, bundled up in down comforters, huddled around space heaters! Where are those bikinis I came here to see? I was promised bikinis! Heads will roll!

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, we scrubbed our plans to go to the Keys, and instead drove from Fort Lauderdale to the Peace River NACO preserve at Wauchula. We left Paradise Island about 8:30 a.m., stopped for fuel and to hook up the Explorer to our tow bar, and were on the highway before 9.

We retraced our route back up US Highway 27 through the Everglades to South Bay, around Lake Okeechobee, and through Clewiston, Moore Haven, and Lake Placid. Just before Sebring, we turned west on State Route 66 and followed it 25 miles to Zolfo Springs. From there it was only a mile or two north on US Highway 17 to the campground.

Most of the way we ran in a light mist that occasionally became rain, and under a heavy overcast. It’s harvest season in Florida, and we passed trailers being loaded with oranges all along the way.

Oranges trailer

In  Moore Haven, the police were escorting a long convoy of trucks and tractors pulling sugar cane trailers in the right lane.


US 27 is a well maintained divided four lane highway most of the way. When we left it, State Route 66 was a two lane road, but in good condition. You can see in these pictures what a gray, ugly day it was.

Gray driving day

Gray driving day 2

We got lucky and the rain stopped a few minutes before we arrived at the campground, so I didn’t have to park and get hooked up in the rain. The campground has 200 full hookup 30/50 amp electric RV sites, and another 200 30 amp water and sewer only sites. We had been told that this time of year, the full hookup sites go fast, and to expect to have to settle for one of the water and electric sites. But we got lucky again, when we arrived they still had several full hookup sites available to choose from.

The campground has both open sites, and sites in the beautiful live oak trees that we see all over the south. All sites are back-ins, on grass. We chose an open site to be sure we could get a good signal on our rooftop TV dish.   

Peave River TTN RV

Peave River TTN RVs

Under our Thousand Trails membership, we are entitled to 50 nights camping a year for our dues, and any nights over that are $5/night. This is the first year that we have gone over 50 nights, but we’re more than happy to pay $5 a night for a full hookup campsite in Florida, even if it is cold and dreary!

The trip was 175 miles, and we arrived at the campground at 1 p.m. Once we were settled in and hooked up, we ran into town for an early dinner, then stopped at Sweetbay grocery store so Miss Terry  could pick up some things.

While Terry was in the store, I talked to Greg White on the phone. Before he ran away from home to become an RV gypsy, Greg ran an IT computer company, and when he’s back home in Houston, Texas, where he and Jan are now, he keeps busy solving problems for his former customers. Greg and I were talking about all of the ways people can get into trouble online, and we decided that he should do a seminar on the Do’s & Don’ts of Computer Security at our Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally in Yuma, in March. I’m going to arrange the schedule so I can sit in on that one!

Looking at the 10 day weather forecast, it looks like we may have a couple of decent days this week, with temperatures in the 70s, and then another cold front will drop it back into the 60s. I think the only way I’m going to see bikinis this winter is if I buy a calendar!

Thought For The Day – A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

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Dec 192010

The old saying “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” dates back to the story of the Trojan Horse, when the Greeks besieged the city of Troy during the Trojan War. According to legend, after a long siege, the Greeks built a huge wooden horse, and concealed a small force of their best soldiers inside. Then they boarded their ships and sailed away.

The besieged Trojans thought that they had outlasted their enemies, and opened the gates to the city and pulled the horse inside as a victory trophy. That night, after the Trojans all went to sleep, the Greeks hidden inside the horse force crept out and opened the city gates to the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back, under cover of night. The Greek army entered and seized the city of Troy, ending the war.

The purpose of this history lesson is to tell you that while you might want to avoid Greeks bearing gifts, Geeks bearing gifts are something else altogether!

Yesterday evening Jim and Chris Guld, from Geeks on Tour, showed up at our door with grilled lobsters that Jim had caught while scuba diving just off the beach, here in Fort Lauderdale. Those things were huge!

Lobster 2

Terry Nick Lobsters

Jim and Chris supplied the main entree, and Miss Terry filled out the menu with wild rice pilaf, stir fried mixed vegetables, and fresh sliced Heirloom tomatoes. Everything was delicious, and I guarantee you nobody went hungry!

After dinner we sat around visiting for a couple of hours, and Chris showed me a trick or two with G-mail, Windows Live Writer, and Microsoft Streets & Trips. And, of course, we swapped a lie or two, and solved a good number of the world’s problems in the process.

Jim Chris Nick visiting

It’s been wonderful having this one on one (or actually two on two) time with Jim and Chris, away from all of the hustle and bustle of an RV rally. Thanks for all your time, help, and especially your friendship, Jim and Chris! It’s been a lot of fun!

Since the weather is supposed to cool back down next week, we have scrubbed our original plans to go to the Keys, and instead, today we’re leaving Fort Lauderdale and are traveling to the Peace River NACO preserve in Wauchula, Florida.

We’ll hang out there until we get the new issue of the Gypsy Journal back from the printer and mailed off, and hopefully we’ll get in some kayaking on the Peace River, if the weather cooperates during our stay.

We’ve only got a few weeks left in Florida before we have to start west to get ready for our Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally in Yuma March 7-11. During that time, we want to get back to Pinellas Park for a family gathering, and we’d love to spend a few days around Crystal River, and maybe at Cedar Key, if we can.

Bad Nick has been busy posting a new Bad Nick Blog titled Blame Your Parents, Not Us. check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you have changed.

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Dec 182010

Today is our last day in Fort Lauderdale, and it sure has been a fast week! Between bad weather and getting the new issue of the Gypsy Journal wrapped up, we haven’t gotten to see much during our stay.

But last night Jim and Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour took us for a quick tour of some of the city’s highlights when we went out to dinner, and it is obvious that they have a lot of affection for the place. Chris went to high school here, and Jim lived here from 1985 until they went on the road a few years ago. Since Chris’ mom and Jim’s dad and son both live here, they spend a lot of time here at Paradise Island RV Resort.

We drove along the waterfront, where we saw the lights of huge ships making their way down the coast, and stopped to walk on the beach for a few minutes. Since it was dark, we didn’t get to see a lot, but anytime I’m on a beach, I’m a happy camper! We had a very nice dinner at an outside table at a restaurant called Coconuts. On our way in, we stopped to check out this huge pot of paella, a concoction that included saffron rice, lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp, onions, peppers, and assorted vegetables. It looked delicious, but at $26 a serving, we all decided we weren’t quite that hungry! Paella Jim and I had blackened mahi sandwiches, while the ladies had fish tacos, and we finished off with delicious key lime pie. Yummy! While we ate, we watched large boats cruising up the Inland Waterway, and smaller boats coming and going as people stopped at the restaurant’s dock. One of the waitresses took this picture of the four of us at our table. Don’t we look well fed and happy? Chris Jim Guld Terry Nick Coconuts The restaurant is located right next door to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which honors the achievements of famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers, and people involved in life saving activities. Did you know that the late radio and television personality Art Linkletter was  a world-class swimmer, or that if it weren’t for a bad bout of poison oak, he would have participated in the 1932 Olympic Trials. A college backstroke champion, Linkletter might well have earned a spot on the US Olympic swimming team. I wonder what direction the famed humorist’s life might have taken, if it weren’t for a bad rash?

We had a good time visiting with Jim and Chris at dinner. Besides being the world’s best mobile computer geeks, they are also accomplished kayakers and scuba divers. Miss Terry has always wanted to learn how to dive, which I had hoped she could do this winter. I think hearing all of Jim and Chris’s stories of their underwater adventures really whetted her appetite to try it!

Even though we didn’t get to play tourist very much, we did get some things accomplished in our time here, or rather, I should say, Chris got some things accomplished for me. Over time we will be moving all of our websites off the Yahoo servers, and she has a lot of the groundwork done for that. She also helped me with an ongoing problem I’ve been having with e-mail messages disappearing after I open them, or not getting to me at all, another problem that seems to have its origins with Yahoo. Thanks Chris, I really appreciate all of your help.

Thought For The Day – Why is the man you hire to invest all of your money called a broker?

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We Never Know

 Posted by at 5:08 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 172010

I got a call from my daughter Tiffany the other day, telling me that her grandfather, Jim Zipf, had passed away. Even though I had not seen the man in almost 25 years, and even though Tiffany’s mother and I had parted company long, long ago, I was still sorry to hear the news. I always liked Jim, and we got along very well.

Tiffany and I were talking about families, and how she has now lost all of her grandparents, her aunts and uncles on my side of the family, and other people she loved. I hated to tell her that as she gets older, it will happen again and again. We never know when our own, or somebody else’s time on this earth will end.

One of the things I love about the RV lifestyle is that it gives me the freedom to visit family and friends in every corner of the country. Since we hit the road over twelve years ago, I have been able to reestablish relationships with cousins I had not heard from in years, high school and Army buddies I had lost contact with, and recently, my nephews and a niece, right here in Florida, that I had not seen in over 25 years. It is amazing that so much time can pass, yet with many of these people, we have been able to pick up right where we left off, and the connection is still just as strong.

In one case, I’m glad I did, because I was able to visit with one of my best friends from high school several times before he died suddenly earlier this year. Like I said, we never know.

The RV lifestyle also has allowed Terry and I to see places and do things that we had only dreamed of before. How many people can say that they have paddled their kayaks in the Florida Keys, or ate fresh lobster in Maine, or watched the leaves turning on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or been serenaded to sleep by coyotes in the Arizona desert?  How many have been able to walk the hallowed ground at Arlington, or roamed the narrow streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans? Many RVers have done all that and more in the same year!

Sometimes I burn Miss Terry out, because I want to be going and doing all of the time, and once in a while she needs some down time to recharge her batteries. I need that too, but I have known so many people who were always going to do something “someday” and never made it, because their calendar ran out before “someday” arrived.

I know that we need to stop and smell the roses now and then, but there are so many new adventures and old favorite places waiting for me just around the next bend in the road and over the next hill. I want to get to them all while I still can!

Thought For The Day – Making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’.

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Dec 162010

Never underestimate the power of positive sniveling! It actually warmed up a bit in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, and it looks like the worst of this cold spell is about over. The forecast for the next three days is for highs in the mid-70s, and sunshine! Whatever will we do?

Yesterday morning J.C. and Beverly Webber came by to say goodbye and pick up a bundle of Gypsy Journals to drop off at their next stop, then they headed on down the road toward Marathon Key.

After they left, Terry and I ran some errands, stopping at the post office, bank,  and WalMart. I have to be honest and say that even if the weather was good, this area is just too darned busy for our taste. We much prefer a slower pace, and this is a big city, with all of the hustle and bustle that any big city has.

Paradise Island is a clean RV park, and the staff are all very friendly and helpful, but it’s an older place, with very tight spaces, and for us it’s really just a convenient place to park while we visit our friends Jim and Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour. If we wanted to play tourist in this area, it would be a good base from which to do so.

Fort Lauderdale is called the “Venice of America” because of the more than 300 miles of waterways that wind past parks, estates, and luxury hotels. If it was warmer, I’d have my Sea Eagle PaddleSki in the water doing some exploring while we’re here!

For some reason, I had started feeling really puny while we were out, and it felt like my cold or flu from a couple of week ago was returning. Back at the motorhome, I took some Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Formula and took a nap. I woke up an hour or so later, and felt better, so whatever it was seems to have passed.

I called my daughter Tiffany in Arizona and we talked a little bit about what the grandkids wanted for Christmas, and then I went online and ordered a couple of items for them. Isn’t online shopping great? No parking places to find, no crowds pushing and shoving, no packages to wrap, and no long lines at the post office to stand in. Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?

So many people seemed to enjoy the link I posted to a You Tube video about Florida snowbirds in Tuesday’s blog that I found a new one to make you giggle. This isn’t a video, just a funny holiday parody that appealed to my warped sense of humor, so turn up your sound and enjoy!

Chris has been working hard on our website relocation, and tells me she’s making headway. I’m glad she’s the one doing all of this confusing technical stuff, because I get a headache just thinking about it!

Chris and Jim are a real RV success story. When we first met several years ago, they were in the early days of operating their mobile computer education business, and since then we have watched the Geeks on Tour grow into the recognized experts in the RV world. Their seminars are popular at RV rallies nationwide, and they have taught literally thousands of RVers how to get the most out of their computers. They also offer online education for those who can’t make it to one of their seminars. Check out their website to learn more.

Thought For The Day – Wealth is a crutch for those who can’t handle poverty.

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Dec 152010

Today is the last day to take advantage of our Two For One Holiday Special. So if you haven’t clicked the link above, there’s still time. You can enter a new subscription to the Gypsy Journal for yourself, or renew your subscription early, and we’ll give someone on your Christmas shopping list a free one year subscription, with a note that it is a gift from you. All you have to do is enter your mailing address, and send me a separate e-mail with the name of the recipient of your gift subscription at and we’ll do the rest. The special ends tonight at midnight, so if you snooze, you lose!

It’s still unbelievably cold here in Fort Lauderdale, but at least the wind has stopped. We’d like to do some sightseeing while were in this area, but between having to get the new issue of the paper finished, and the weather, I don’t know if we’ll do much of anything but stay home and work.

I got an e-mail from my friend Tom Owen down in Key West yesterday, and he said they tied a record low, set in 1952, and that folks on that tropical island are running around in winter coats, gloves, mufflers and longshoreman caps. Tom said that the wind chill was 30 degrees in Key West! We won’t be going to the Florida Keys this year after all! 🙁

Speaking of the cold weather, I have been exchanging e-mails with a couple who are staying in their RV, in a relative’s driveway in the upper Midwest, until after the holidays. They wrote to ask for advice because their water lines were frozen, and I suggested that they put a droplight in their utility bay with a 25 watt bulb. That’s what we did when we were stuck in northern Michigan years ago during Terry’s battle with cancer, and it kept it toasty warm in the water bay.

They replied that their son didn’t want them to do that, because it would run up his electric bill. I also suggested they use heat tape on any exposed water lines, but the lady wrote back and said that was an “awful lot of trouble” and asked me if there wasn’t a simpler way to solve the problem. Uh, yeah, there is. Turn the key and get the heck out of there!

My friend Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour spent most of the afternoon yesterday helping me make some changes in our e-mail program, laying the groundwork for migrating our websites to another host, and talking about where we want to go with our online business in the future. The technology is changing on a daily basis, and it is amazing what we can now offer our readers online.

Later in the afternoon, Chris and her hubby Jim treated us to a wonderful seafood dinner at a restaurant called Catfish Deweys,  that is a local landmark. I had the blackened seafood platter and Miss Terry had blackened catfish, and both were excellent. Thanks Jim and Chris!

Bad Nick has been quiet for a while because he has been on strike, protesting the cold weather. But he finally got of his duff yesterday and posted a new Bad Nick Blog titled Snappy Comebacks. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

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Dec 142010

I think we missed a turn somewhere along the way south, and instead of Fort Lauderdale, we ended up at the South Pole! I mean really, 33 degree overnight lows just 30 miles from Miami? Really? Isn’t that just a little bit ridiculous? Uh huh, global warming, sure. Would somebody get that damned penguin off my patio!

Yeah, I know, they are having blizzard conditions in Indiana and Michigan. I don’t care! I’m not in Indiana or Michigan! I left Indiana and Michigan and came to warm, sunny Florida!  Did I mention it was 33 degrees here overnight?

Yes, I’m sniveling. Get used to it. I intend to snivel until it hits at least 72 degrees and stays there. And don’t be surprised if I throw in a pout, a tantrum or two, and some serious bitching until it warms up!

Yesterday my friend Chris Guld, from Geeks on Tour, spent several hours with us, going over a lot of technical issues with our websites and e-mail. I would really like to move all of my websites off the Yahoo servers and to some other hosts. Over the years, Yahoo has messed things up so many times, and their technical support is terrible when you call with a problem. But I didn’t want to try moving to a new hosting company until Chris was available to help deal with any problems that might come up.

Chris has some concerns about moving the websites, and I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing yet. I defer to her in things like this, because that lady has more computer knowledge in her little finger than I do in my whole pasty, flabby body.  

Late in the day we went to the post office to mail out some orders, and when we came back, we stopped at J.C. and Beverly Webber’s beautiful Country Coach motorhome for a tour. Wow, what a palace on wheels!

The four of us went out to a great Chinese restaurant for dinner, called the Dragon Gourmet Buffet. The selection was huge, and everything was hot, fresh, and delicious.  

Even with the unseasonably cold weather, this is still snowbird season in Florida, and this great You Tube video pretty much sums things up. It’s just as applicable if you’re in the Rio Grande Valley; Yuma, Arizona, or any other snowbird roost. check it out, I guarantee you’ll get a giggle.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that something inside our door lock got out of synch, and we had to have a mobile tech fix it. Yesterday when we started out the door, I stuck my key in the lock to turn it, and the entire lock cylinder fell out! We can still secure the door with the deadbolt, but I think it’s time to just replace the entire thing and be done with it.

The door’s been acting flakey ever since I slammed it on the burglar’s hand last year, even though the RV repair shop took it off the Winnebago and put it in a jig to straighten it. Apparently you’re not supposed to use your door as a weapon. Who knew?

We still don’t know where we’re going when we leave here on Sunday. The weather still looks funky, so we probably won’t go down to the Keys after all. I want to spend our time there kayaking and playing in the water, not sitting inside shivering.

I had better close for now, before I launch into another rant.

Thought For The Day –The measure of a man is not whether he falls down, but whether he gets up again.

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Dec 132010

Even though I knew it was going to work, and even though the folks at the Ford dealer who reprogrammed our Explorer’s computer brain so the four wheel drive transfer case would go into neutral for towing assured me it would, I still wanted to be sure everything was working properly before we took off, towing the SUV behind the motorhome for the first time.

So, once we pulled off of our site at the Orlando Thousand Trails yesterday morning, we hooked the Blue Ox tow bar to the Explorer, I went through the steps to put the transmission and transfer case in neutral, then had Miss Terry sit in the front passenger seat while I drove through the RV park, so she could let me know if the Explorer was making any nasty noises, or if the rear view mirror or wheels fell off.

Everything went fine, though Terry said some people we passed acted like they had never seen a guy stick his wife back in the dinghy when he hit the road. Don’t those people have any appreciation for peace and quiet? 🙂 (You just know I’m going to pay for that one, don’t you?)

We pulled out of the  campground a few minutes before 10 a.m. and followed U.S. Highway 27 south down the state, passing through the small towns of Avon Park, Sebring, and Lake Placid.

As we passed the M RV Resort, just north of Moore Haven, I told Miss Terry that the place sounded familiar for some reason. A mile or two down the road it hit me – that’s where our good friends Stu and Donna McNicol are spending the month of December! Well, duh! By then it was too late to turn around and go back, and we didn’t know if they were home or out riding their motorcycles anyway. I guess we’ll have to catch them next time around.

We battled a very strong wind all the way south, that alternated between hitting us head on, to slamming us broadside. The wind really took a toll on our fuel mileage; according to our Silverleaf VMSpc engine monitor, we were only averaging about 5.8 miles per gallon.

We passed through mile after mile of sugarcane fields on both sides of the highway, which is a major crop in this region.


There were canals alongside the highway most of the way, turning off here and there at right angles back into the cane fields. I told Terry they might be fun to kayak in. Shortly afterward we noticed several cars pulled off the road on the other side of the highway, their drivers and passengers all out and looking down over the guardrail. Terry said they were probably checking out the alligators that surely live in the canals. Here in Florida, any body of water bigger than a kid’s backyard wading pool probably holds a gator or two.


In different areas, we noticed several huge plumes of smoke off in the distance, and when we passed by close to one, it looked like the farmers were burning off their fields. As windy as it was, I sure hope they were being careful, because if one of those fires got away from them, it probably wouldn’t have stopped until it hit the Atlantic beaches!

Crop fire 2

Crop fire 3

Eventually we reached Interstate 75 and tuned east for a few miles, and then got onto Interstate 595. Traffic was noticeably heavier, and by the time we reached Interstate 95 it was really hectic. We pulled into Paradise Island RV Resort in Fort Lauderdale about 2:30 p.m., with 220 miles behind us. I sure was glad to be off the road after our windy drive south!

When I got out of the Winnebago and headed for the office to check in, I was met by Gypsy Journal subscriber J.C. Webber, whom we had spoken to briefly at the Thousand Trails last week. Once we were in our site, J.C. and his wife Beverly came by to check out the custom desk units that Carlyle Lehman from Focal Wood Products made for us a while back.

Later in the evening, Jim and Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour also came by to visit. It’s nice having friends everywhere we go!

We’ll be here a week or so, and then, depending on the weather, we hope to get down to the Keys. But if it stays windy and cold, like it has so far this winter, we may scratch that idea and go to Plan B, whatever the heck that is.

Thought For The Day – Even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

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Dec 122010

Today is moving day for us. We are leaving the Orlando Thousand Trails preserve this morning, headed for Paradise Island RV Resort in Fort Lauderdale, about 220 miles south.

The “quicker” route is to get over to Interstate 95 and take the superslab south, but what fun is that? If you’ve been on one interstate highway, you’ve been on all of them. We prefer the “blue highways” that show us small town America, and where we can travel at a slower pace.

So instead, we are going to take U.S. 27 south, through Sebring and around Lake Okeechobee, hook up with Interstate 595, and take it to 95. Then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump north to the campground.

Our friends Jim and Chris Guld, from Geeks on Tour, are staying at Paradise Island this winter, and we’re looking forward to spending some time with them, away from all of the hectic activity of an RV rally, which is usually where we cross paths.

We have had a very good time here at the Thousand Trails, and this is one campground we’ll be returning to again. Now that we have used up our allotted 50 nights per year that we get “free” under our Thousand Trails membership, any other stays are $5/night, which is a darned good price on a full hookup RV site! We do have to come back to this area in the next few weeks to have the nice folks at Camping Connection do our latest Norcold refrigerator recall, but during the winter the Thousand Trails keeps pretty full, so I don’t know if they will have an opening for us.

A while back, a gentleman named Ladd Lougee, an outdoor and fitness enthusiast, wrote me that he came up with the idea for a better travel chair when he was camping in the Mammoth Lakes area of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ladd said that after squirming around in his chair in discomfort for the hundredth time, he asked if anyone else had a sore back from using the typical camping chairs. He was very surprised to hear that nearly everyone else in his group did as well. So Ladd said he set out to build a better chair, the result being the Strongback Chair.

Strongback Chair

Okay, a lot of companies and people contact me, telling me that they have come up with the newest and best whatever, from computers to books to widgets, and I have to admit that usually I’m a skeptic. Most of these outfits simply send me an e-mail press release and expect me to publish it, but I don’t do things that way.

I write back and tell them that if they want to send me one of their products to review I’ll look at it. But, they must be willing to accept the fact that if it is good I’ll say so, and if I think it’s crap, I’ll say that too. I seldom hear back from them after that. I’m never sure if they are just looking for free publicity, or if they don’t have enough faith in their product to let me try it. But Ladd offered to send me a chair to evaluate in his first e-mail. That’s always a good sign.

The chair arrived a couple of days ago, and after sitting in it a while, folding it up and stowing it in its nylon carry bag, and pulling it out to sit on again on different types of terrain, from grass and gravel to blacktop, it is absolutely the most comfortable camp chair I have ever sat in.

The chair is big and roomy, it has solid padded arm rests, a drink holder, and can hold up to 300 pounds, and best of all, its design incorporates a frame-integrated lumbar support that gives my lower back excellent support. Strongback Chairs come in two models, the Zen for smaller people, and the big, roomy Elite model that Ladd sent me.

My only problem with the chair is that Miss Terry likes it just as much as I do, so now we have to fight over it! Or maybe there’s going to be a new chair in her Christmas stocking this year?

Thought For The Day – Stop global whining!

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