gypsyjournal2009

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.

So Much Going On

 Posted by at 1:25 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 302022
 

We were up early once again yesterday because we have so much going on right now. This is a trend I need to put a stop to before it becomes a habit I can’t break. 😊

The first order of business was to get our pontoon boat out of the garage and onto the scissor trailer with the help of Terry Sheppard, one of our neighbors, and his friend Jerry. Then we took it down to the boat launch, which was quite an experience. The new mismanagement company that has taken over our community has rebuilt the dock and fishing pier. With the old dock, we could step directly onto our pontoon boat once it was in the water. The new dock is much higher, so we had to step down onto a seat or live well and then to the boat’s deck. I can’t imagine what someone with a flats boat or something like that will be able to do. A kayak? Forget it!

At any rate, we took the boat for a short drive, and then I said a sad goodbye to it. I love it and have enjoyed it tremendously the few times I had it in the water. But one of the rules here is that it is not supposed to be sitting in our driveway. The few times I have done so, I had complaints from the overlords here, which is why I have to keep it in the garage. But since the garage door is just barely high enough to get the boat in and out with the scissor trailer cranked all the way down, every outing is hard work just to get it outside and then back in again. We have some major life changes coming up very soon, and it was just time to let it go.

With the boat on its regular trailer and gone, back at home, I put ads on the local Facebook Marketplace pages for the scissor trailer. Then I finished sending out my free author’s newsletter to my subscribers, announcing my newest book, Big Lake Drunk. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, send me your e-mail address at editor@gypsyjournal.net and I will get you set up. I never share your information with anyone and don’t inundate you with spam. Just an announcement when every new book comes out, and sometimes some other interesting information about the writing life to go along with it.

About the time I finished that chore, I got a message from our friend Gwen McMichael that she and her hubby Jay were going to be passing by and asked if it was convenient to stop in. Sure, it’s always a good time to see friends! We know Jay and Gwen from our mutual days as RVers roaming the country, and now they live just a couple of miles away from us here in Florida. They had new electric bikes, which looked like they would be a lot of fun, and so far, they seem very happy with them.

After Jay and Gwen left, I spent some time answering questions from authors, readers of my books, and blog readers. One question I have been asked several times was from Wednesday’s blog, when I said that the character of Roberta Jensen, the blind judge in my Big Lake mystery series, is based upon my dear real-life friend Roberta Jensen, who is blind, and was my attorney before she retired. Now she is one of my proofreaders. People were asking me how a blind person could proofread a book. She is an excellent proofreader. She uses a program for the blind called JAWS that reads text to her, including punctuation, and she finds a lot of typos in punctuation that we all miss.

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 – Even duct tape can’t fix stupid, but at least it can muffle the sound.

Seaside Salt Works

 Posted by at 12:19 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 292022
 

Note: We were pretty much nonstop busy from just after 9 a.m. yesterday morning until past 10 p.m., and I don’t have the energy to write a new blog post, so here is a repost of one from our travels on the Oregon Coast as fulltime RVers. 

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean, the bedraggled group of explorers was exhausted and desperate for a break from their long overland journey. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark established their winter quarters at Fort Clatsop, just south of present-day Astoria, Oregon, in December of 1805, but it was not going to be a pleasant respite. The weather was often harsh, supplies were low, and many of the men were ill.

Their diet ranged from elk to fish and dog, whatever they could hunt or purchase from the neighboring Clatsop and Tillamook Indians. Knowing that a supply of salt was necessary to improve the taste of their food, five men were sent to the coast to establish a salt works to boil seawater to obtain its salt.

They found a spot fifteen miles southwest of Fort Clatsop, in what is now Seaside, that was suitable for the operation. They reported back to Clark that the seawater had a high salt content, and game and wood were abundant. The crew camped in tents near the mouth of the Necanicum River and the ocean.

There is no written description of the structure the crew built for boiling ocean water, but oral testimony about the site reported that stones were placed in an oven or rock cairn with one end left open. Working through the open end, a fire was built inside the stone oven, and the kettles were placed on the top.

Boiling the seawater in five brass kettles and working around the clock in shifts, the crew was able to produce nearly a gallon of salt a day. Over a period of several weeks, they produced almost four bushels of salt to last through the winter and on the expedition’s return trip east. Captain Clark applauded the men’s efforts and wrote in his journal that the salt they produced was “excellent white and fine.”

Keeping the fire hot enough to boil the salt water and maintaining the supply of firewood was hard physical work. Records report that the salt camp was always short of food and that a hunting party was dispatched from Fort Clatsop to hunt game for the salt camp.

By the beginning of February, the nonstop labor, lack of food, and bad weather had taken a toll on the men stationed at the salt works, and all were sick. One of the men, George Gibson, was so sick that he had to be carried back to Fort Clatsop, and William Bratton suffered from back pain for the rest of his life.

With sufficient salt to last through the rest of the expedition, the camp was abandoned on February 20, 1806. Over time, nothing remained of the salt works except a stack of fire-blackened rocks which were once the furnace.

The Oregon Historical Society created a memorial at the old salt works in 1900 to honor the Corps of Discovery. Since there were few records, much of it was based upon the memory of a Clatsop Indian woman who was born in 1816 and remembered her mother’s stories of white men boiling water to make salt. In 1979, the site became an addition to Fort Clatsop National Memorial.

Today visitors can see a re-creation of the original salt works inside a fenced area on the south side of Seaside. From U.S. Highway 101, turn west on Avenue G and follow the green signs to South Beach Drive and Lewis & Clark Way. The narrow residential streets are not suitable for an RV. Leave your rig at one of the nearby campgrounds and drive your tow vehicle when you visit.

Thought For The Day – My priest said the demon really wants to leave, but I’m too clingy, so the exorcism didn’t work.

Wednesday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 282022
 

Q. Does the Amazon signal booster you wrote about in your blog have any indicator of signal strength from the tower or do I just need to find the tower visually?  I know they aren’t far away but sometimes there are more than one and they might not be in the same location. Some places have trees impeding sight as well.

A. It does not come with an indicator, but there are a couple of phone apps to help. One is Network Cell Info Lite. That’s the one I used at my son’s house.

Q. We tried to make a reservation at an RV park, and when they asked if we had any pets and I told them we have a Husky/German shepherd mix, they said our dog would not be allowed. Can they do this legally?

A. Yes, it is legal and probably required by their insurance company. Many insurance companies do not allow certain breeds of dogs for liability reasons, and the campgrounds have no choice but to comply.

Q. Can my wife enter your free drawings too, even if I have already? She has a different e-mail address.

A. Yes, that is not a problem.

Q. How come you run old blog posts from the past sometimes? Are you losing interest or just running out of things to write about?

A. Coming up with something to write 500 words or more about day after day can be a challenge. Sometimes I repost an old blog because readers have asked for it, or for information on the subject. Other times it is because I have been working on a book and really don’t have anything new to say that I haven’t already said more than once. Or I may have been busy all day and just don’t have the time or energy to write a new blog. But no, I am not losing interest. As long as I am mentally and physically capable of blogging and as long as people are interested in reading it, I plan to continue.

Q. I have contracted you four times now offering to write a guest post for your blog with valuable information your readers can benefit from, and you always say no. Why?

A. Your “valuable information” is nothing more than a thinly veiled advertisement from companies who pay you to write and distribute it. Sorry, not interested.

Q. I am about halfway through your new book Big Lake Drunk and I always wonder if the characters in your books are based on real people, or it you just make them up in your head? I ask because I know some people who are so much like the ones in your books that sometimes I wonder if we know many of the same people.

Q. Some of my characters share traits with people I know or have known in real life, some are a combination of different people, and others just show up unannounced out of nowhere and take up residence in my head. The one exception is Roberta Jensen, the blind judge in my Big Lake series. My dear real life friend Roberta Jensen is blind and was my attorney before she retired. Now she is one of my proofreaders.

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 – Don’t waste your energy stressing over things you can’t control.

Dec 272022
 

As the old saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait half an hour and it will change. That’s seems to be true here in Florida. We had freezing cold temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and snow was falling in southern Brevard County, south of us. Yet the weatherman says it’s supposed to be in the 60s Wednesday and near 80o on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. From one extreme to the other.

But it could be worse. Watching the terrible situation in Buffalo, New York, and across so much of the country, we have no reason to complain. I heard from a blog reader on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who said it was so cold his pickup wouldn’t start even with a block heater plugged in. And a long haul truck driver e-mailed me to say thanks for releasing Big Lake Drunk on Christmas Eve because he was stuck in a truck stop in North Dakota, and the highways were all blocked, but at least he had something new to read.

Speaking of Big Lake Drunk, I have heard from several readers who have already completed it and say they enjoyed the story very much. Like many authors I know, even with 50+ books out, I am still anxious until the feedback starts coming in. I am currently reading Tied Up In Knotts, by Karen Knotts, daughter of revered actor Don Knotts. She writes that even with all of his success on the Andy Griffith Show and in movies, her father still fretted over every performance, wondering if the audience would accept it.

Terry was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday. I told her to just relax and take it easy, but we all know that never works with her. She still made breakfast and did a load of laundry. She was feeling a little better by evening, and we went to Beef O’Bradys for dinner and then stopped at Publix to pick up a few things.

Today I will finish sending out my free authors’ newsletter and then I have some errands to run. It’s going to be a busy week for us because we plan to make a quick trip up to our son’s place in Alabama on Sunday or Monday. I’m glad it will be warmer there than it was a few days ago.

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 – Why is it called rush hour when traffic moves at its slowest then?

Dec 262022
 

How was your Christmas? I hope it was filled with love and fun with family and friends. Is there a better way to celebrate the holidays? If there is, I don’t know what it might be.

On Christmas Eve we went across the street to Jesse and Jennifer’s house for a little gathering, nibbling on snacks, telling jokes, and just enjoying being together. We expected we would be there an hour or two, but I think it was probably four or five hours before the party finally broke up.

After busting our butts to get my new book out and take care of a lot of other things we have going on at the same time, Terry and I had a very relaxing Christmas yesterday, doing absolutely nothing. Terry made French toast for breakfast, then I answered a few holiday e-mails and didn’t touch my computer until after midnight when I sat down to write today’s blog.

We spent part of the day watching television, I snoozed off and on in my recliner, we talked to our kids on the telephone, and Terry’s mom also called from Arizona, and they had a long conversation.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we had planned to go to Hibachi International Buffet in Daytona Beach for Christmas dinner, but neither of us felt like taking off our warm, comfortable sweats, getting into real clothes, and going anywhere. Instead, we had some of the delicious chalupa that Terry made the other day for dinner, then watched the Call The Midwife’s holiday show. We’ve been hooked on this English series about midwives in the East End of London since the very beginning. Before that, Terry read several books by Jennifer Worth, which were the basis for the program.

Speaking of TV series, we’ve been hooked on Yellowstone, as well as the prequel 1883, and we just started watching 1923, all created by Taylor Sheridan about the life of the Dutton family, pioneer ranchers in Montana, and their struggles from the earliest days to present time. All three are well worth watching.

My new book, Big Lake Drunk, just came out Christmas Eve night, and it is already off to a good start and has one 5-star review on Amazon. Thank you everybody, for your continued support, and for telling your friends about the new book. This is number 23 in the Big Lake series, and somebody asked me the other day if I was getting tired of it or running out of plots. Are you kidding me? Those people in that quirky little mountain town are never going to let me get any rest. They’re always up to something, and they keep giving me more to write about.

However, before I get back to Big Lake, I have to start writing A Changing World, the 5th book in the Tinder Street historical family saga. Those books take a lot of research, which is time-consuming, but I love it. And judging from the many wonderful comments I get from readers, a lot of you love it, too. 😊

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

Thought For The Day – The older I get, the more I understand why a rooster screams in the morning.

Dec 252022
 

Merry Christmas, everybody! Did Santa bring you everything you wanted for Christmas? If not, who wants a drunk for Christmas? We’ve all been to Christmas parties where there is an ample supply of them, haven’t we? And let’s don’t even talk about my family reunions!

Those kinds of drunks can be obnoxious, but I’ve got a special Christmas drunk for you today. My new book, Big Lake Drunk, is now available on Amazon. This is my 51st book, and the 22nd book in the Big Lake series. Amazon seems to have the book description scrambled, and I have sent them a message to correct it, but the book itself looks good. I’m sorry it took so long to get it out, but sometimes life happens.

So what is your Christmas Day like? Are you celebrating with family or getting together with friends? Are you one of those people that have to work today? That’s no fun at all, but know that you are appreciated.

We plan to go to Hibachi International Buffet in Daytona Beach for an early dinner. I don’t know where I got the idea of going to Chinese buffets for Christmas, and I’m sure it’s far from original, but it’s become a semi-tradition for Terry and I. And the food’s good too!

Last night was another cold one here on Florida’s Central Atlantic Coast, with temperatures dipping down into the high 20s. Today we’re looking at a high of 47o. But by this time next week, the weatherman says we’ll be looking at 79o. What a change!

I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas and that the new year brings you health, happiness, and joy.

Thought For The Day – You know you’re getting old when Santa starts looking younger.

Keep Checking

 Posted by at 12:42 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 242022
 

As I write this, Big Lake Drunk is not live on Amazon yet, but keep checking because it will be sometime today, just in time for your Christmas reading pleasure. Thank you to Miss Terry, Roberta, and Judy, for all of your hard work in editing and proofreading and getting it ready to go. I appreciate you ladies more than I can ever tell you.

Besides making last minute final changes to the book yesterday, Terry and I had to run some errands, including some banking and a couple of other chores we have been putting off but wanted to get done before Christmas. When we left the house at about 1 PM, I was surprised that the roads weren’t very busy. I guess everybody was at Walmart and the mall doing their last minute Christmas shopping. I can’t even imagine what the stores will be like today, but it doesn’t matter to me because I’m not going out.

If I lived up north someplace like Michigan or Minnesota, I probably wouldn’t go out until at least June. Our son sent me this picture of the thermometer on his back porch, half an hour west of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, yesterday morning. He said he didn’t stay out there very long.

Besides all of the hard work that she does editing and proofreading my books, tracking our expenses, and everything else that goes into keeping our home based business running, maintaining the house, and a million other things, we all know that Terry is an amazing cook. We have been in the mood for some good Mexican food, so last night, she put a big pork butt in the crock pot, smothered it with chopped tomatoes and green chilies and all kinds of spices, and let it cook overnight. Today she will add hominy and more spices, the end result being some of the most delicious chalupa you will ever taste. I’m really looking forward 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 – Be patient with the clerks in the stores today. It’s not their fault that you waited until Mary’s water broke to begin your Christmas shopping.

Dec 232022
 

Battling computer problems all the way, yesterday I managed to finish all of the read-through and corrections to Big Lake Drunk and print the rest of the pages out for Terry to edit and proofread. Then I wrote the teaser chapter for the next book in the series, Big Lake Assault.

Terry is past the 2/3 mark in the manuscript now, and I am making changes as she completes the pages. Once that is all done, I still have to format it and upload it to Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Then they have to check it for quality before it goes live. Will today be the day? I sure hope so, but if not, it will definitely be available to purchase tomorrow. A big part of it depends on how fast it goes on their end once I upload it. I have had books go live in less than an hour, and other times it has taken over a day.

Even after 50 books, there’s always a sense of accomplishment when I finish a new one. But at the same time, there’s also that nagging bit of self-doubt as I ask myself, “Will my readers like it? Is it as good as the other books in the series?” I guess I’ll know once your feedback and the reviews start coming in. Please let me know what you think, good or bad.

Our son Travis called a little before midnight last night to tell us that the wind was blowing and it was bitterly cold there at their place in Alabama, and the lights were flickering on and off. They may be in for an uncomfortable night, but he and Geli have sleeping bags they can zip together and plenty of blankets to pile on top of themselves to keep warm if the power goes out.

I told him about the time when I was a firearms instructor at West Point, and we were building new rifle ranges. It was in the winter, when outdoor training was over with for the season, and an engineer company attached to us would come out and pour concrete into 4×8 foot forms during the daytime. Then they would erect a huge canvas tent over six of the forms and turn on a large gasoline-powered heater with a hose that fed into one end of the tent to keep the concrete from freezing overnight before it had a chance to set.

The heaters would run about half the night, and then their gas tanks had to be refilled. The job fell to me and whoever they assigned to help me to stay there overnight and make sure they didn’t run out of fuel. The Quonset hut we had at the time was also being rebuilt, so we would sleep inside the tent, where it would stay about 45 degrees or so.

One particularly cold night, the young soldier they assigned to help me was an absolute dud, a goldbrick who was always looking for some way to get out of doing whatever he was supposed to. I was inside the tent wearing a field jacket and with my sleeping bag draped over me, trying to keep warm, when he lit a cigarette. Since we had several cans of gasoline near us, I told him to go outside and away from the tent if he was going to smoke that thing, and he did. Just a few moments later, I heard someone screaming and went out with a flashlight to investigate. The damn fool had tried to walk across a small pond, and the ice broke and he fell in. I can’t swim, but I knew the water was only about waist deep at most, so I waded in to help him get out because he was panicked and flailing around in the dark.

So picture this, we’re both soaking wet, the only vehicle we have is a Jeep with a canvas cover, a heater that barely put out anything, and headlights that were as dim as my assistant. All we have is the tent with its heater for shelter. I was pretty sure we would die of hypothermia by morning, and I really didn’t want that to happen. At least not to me. As for the kid with me, I figured if God wanted him, he could have him because I damn sure didn’t.

Trying to figure out what we should do, I finally decided that the only thing we could do was strip off our clothing, zip our sleeping bags together, and try to let our combined body heat get us through the long, cold winter night. I remember telling him that if we lived through the night, I would probably beat him to death anyhow. But no matter what happened the next day, we needed to wake up before everybody else arrived at the range.

Yeah, you guessed it, that didn’t happen. After shivering for what seemed like hours, we finally fell asleep, and the next thing I knew, Captain Edgerton was gently shaking my shoulder and saying, “Wake up, you two lovebirds, it’s morning.” Try to explain why two guys are naked in a sleeping bag. This was long before Brokeback Mountain ever hit the big screen. Seeing our clothes that were still damp and cold, I think everybody finally accepted our story. But that didn’t mean they didn’t make life miserable for us for a long time after that.

Wherever you are, I hope you stay warm over these next few frigid days.

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

Thought For The Day – Surprise sex is great to wake up to, unless you’re in prison.

Dec 222022
 

Note – This is a repost of a blog from our fulltime RVing days about some of our favorite two lane roads.

Interstate highways make it quick and easy to get from Point A to Point B anywhere in the country. But what fun is that? A Denny’s or a Pilot truck stop in Tucson looks pretty much just like one in Paducah or Toledo. All too often we find ourselves traveling the interstates because they are convenient, and sometimes they are the only choice if you travel in an RV, but whenever we can, we love traveling the two lane roads instead.

Some call them blue highways, or back roads, and some curse them when they find themselves stuck behind a farmer’s tractor moving at a snail’s pace. But the real America can be found on the slower paced two lane roads that wind their way across the country, passing through small towns where folks wave at you from their front porches as you go by, where you will find diners where the locals all have their own coffee cups waiting for them, and where it’s not uncommon to stop in a small town park for lunch and have the locals come by just to say hello and welcome you.

We’ve driven a lot of two lanes roads in our years as fulltime RVers, some just once and others over and over again. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.

Route 66 – Unfortunately, much of the old Mother Road has disappeared, covered over by superhighways, but there are still some nice stretches left here and there between Chicago and Los Angeles. My favorite is between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona, which coincidentally happens to be the longest intact stretch left in the country.

RV Route 66 website cover

Natchez Trace Parkway – If you haven’t traveled the Natchez Trace yet, what’s keeping you? They called it the Devil’s Backbone back in the days when Indians, outlaws, and renegades prowled this historic route, preying on unwary travelers. But today the Natchez Trace Parkway is pure heaven for RVers! Picture 450 miles of good two lane road that meanders through hardwood forests and past charming small towns, with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour and with no commercial traffic allowed, with frequent pullouts large enough for any size RV, and you can see why we love this historic highway that winds from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. If you haven’t put this trip on your travel itinerary, do it now. You’ll be glad you did!

trace entrance sign 4

US Highway 101 – From Eureka, California to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, US 101 has to be one of the most spectacular drives in the country. It’s not a fast paced road, but that’s fine since you will want to take your time because you’ll be treated to dramatic ocean views, charming small towns, lighthouses, fishing villages, and if you’re really lucky, even whales passing by just offshore!

Haceta Head lighthouse 3

LoLo Pass Trail – If I had to choose my very favorite route in America, in terms of scenery, it would be a hard choice between US Highway 101 and US Highway 12 between Missoula, Montana and Lewiston, Idaho, which locals call the Lolo Pass Trail. The excellent two lane highway follows the route explorers Lewis and Clark took on their epic trek west, with towering mountains on one side and the beautiful Clearwater River on the other. Keep your camera handy for an opportunity to photograph deer, elk, moose, eagles, and whitewater rafters.

US Highway 60 – I could not begin to tell you how many times we have driven this great road. Beginning at an intersection with Interstate 10 in Quartzsite, Arizona, and stretching all the way to Virginia Beach, Virginia, we love to take this slow, scenic highway when we travel east from our old hometown in Show Low, Arizona. Sure, we could go north a few miles and jump on Interstate 40, but what’s the rush?

Lincoln Highway – The Lincoln Highway was America’s first transcontinental highway, stretching from New York to San Francisco, and though the old route has been replaced by Interstate 80, you can still drive much of the original route, especially in the east and Midwest. It’s a slow paced trip to remember.

Thought For The Day – Don’t worry about what people think. They don’t do it very often.

Dec 212022
 

With one delay after another, I said that I was going to try to get my new book, Big Lake Drunk, out by Christmas. Then Roberta, one of my proofreaders, started having computer problems, and I was afraid that would postpone things even more. But she managed to pull it off and got the last of the chapters to me last night. Today I will read through them and make her changes, print the entire manuscript out for Miss Terry to give a final read-through to, and finish the teaser chapter for the next book in the series. Then as soon as Terry gives it back to me, I will make any other changes she happens to find, format it, and hit Publish. Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise, I’ll make it by the skin of my teeth.

I usually put out four books a year, sometimes five or even six, but I feel like a slacker because I think this will only be my third book for the year. Hopefully, I can get back on track in 2023.

Some of the responses I got to yesterday’s blog, I Miss Global Warming, were downright funny. Several people left comments on the blog about temperatures where they are, which are all going to be much colder than here in Central Florida, and two people e-mailed me to tell me to stop my sniveling. Are you kidding me? I have built a career based upon sniveling and I’m damned good at it, if I do say so myself!

Then I had a person who sent me about an 8,000-word essay on how global warming is real and I shouldn’t joke about it because it’s not a laughing matter. Apparently, he has an alter ego because I also had someone send me something almost as wordy telling me that global warming is all a hoax put out by those damn leftist tree huggers. I guess folks don’t understand what sarcasm is all about, do they?

I can’t believe Christmas is just a few days away, followed by New Year’s. And though I’m sure it will upset a few people, I’m going to suspend the free drawings again for a while until we get past the holidays and some other things we have upcoming. Response to the drawings over Christmas and New Year’s is usually very slim anyway, and we’ll be out of town for a while in that time period. It’s just too hard to maintain the drawings when we are on the road. But I promise they’ll be back, and we’ll have some more good prizes for you. Just be patient.

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 – Everybody needs a friend they probably shouldn’t be allowed to sit next to at a serious function. I am usually that friend.

Dec 202022
 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Move to Florida, they said. The sun always shines and it’s always warm and comfortable, they said. Throw away those long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, you’ll never need them, they said. They lied!

The cold snap that is raging through the country is even affecting us here on the Central Florida coast. The weatherman says it will get down to 31o degrees Friday night, with a high of 43o on Saturday, and then down to 33o Saturday night. The weatherman also says this will be the coldest Christmas Day in Florida on record.

Our citrus trees are not going to like that one bit! Even though we covered them during a cold snap last winter, we still almost lost them, and I’m hopeful that they will get through this one.

Yes, I know you are all shaking your heads and telling me to stop sniveling. We have no excuse to complain compared to much of the rest of the country. A blog reader who lives in Spokane, Washington, will see 3o tonight, 8o degrees tomorrow, and -3o tomorrow night. My friend Jill in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, will be dealing with 5o today and -5o tonight. Even our son Travis in Gordo, Alabama, will be keeping the water in his faucets running at a trickle the next few nights and worrying about his chickens when it will be 13o Thursday night and 15o Friday night. At least we won’t be dealing with that kind of nonsense or seeing highway signs like this.

But then again, none of those people will be dealing with falling iguanas. Yesterday one of the local TV stations told people to watch for falling iguanas. Yes, that’s really a thing here in Florida. Check out this link. https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/29/us/falling-iguana-warning-south-florida/index.html Which is worse, frostbite or being bonked by a falling iguana? I’m not sure I want to deal with either!

Most of yesterday was spent working on corrections and other pre-launch chores for my new book, Big Lake Drunk. Meanwhile, in addition to everything else she handles, Miss Terry is dealing with all of our end-of-year paperwork. She takes on so many duties like that to allow me the time I need to research, write, and promote the books. It truly is a team effort, and I couldn’t do it without 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 – The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.

Dec 192022
 

Note: This is a repost from December, 2015 that I think is just as appropriate today.

When people ask me how I come up with all the plots I use in my mystery novels, I tell them I’m not really all that creative, I just write down what the voices in my head tell me to.

What? You don’t have voices in your head? Sure you do!

Maybe your voices don’t give you literary advice, but I learned a long time ago that it’s a good idea to listen. Call it what you will, a guardian angel, a sixth sense, intuition, judgment, or whatever works for you. But listen to it, because sometimes it can keep you out of trouble, or even save your life.

I think I first became aware of it when I was a young soldier. There were a few times when I was going to move in one direction, or put my foot someplace, and something told me not to. Maybe it wasn’t a verbal “voice” but it was something that made me rethink what I was about to do.

It’s happened in civilian life too, as I’m sure it has to you, even if you weren’t aware of it. Sometimes you just get a feeling that makes you more aware and alert, or convinces you to make a last-minute change of plans. Maybe you were going to hit the road but for whatever reason woke up that morning and decided to stay put an extra day or two. You might never know what could have happened, but other times it may be very clear.

I remember when we were shopping for a motorhome to replace our old MCI bus conversion. We found one that looked good online in Las Vegas, and since we were only a couple of hours away we drove up to check it out. Though we had called the night before to set up a time to see the rig, when we got there nobody was home. I called the seller and he said something had come up and he wanted us to meet him in a parking lot several miles away. That didn’t feel good, but we went there and waited for half an hour, and he never showed up. That little voice was whispering that something was wrong but we thought that maybe we had gotten our directions wrong, so I called back and this time he gave me a different address to go to in a residential area.

But when we got there, the woman at the house said no, he was someplace else. By now that voice was not whispering, it was shouting “forget this deal” and we were ready to head back out of town when he called us back to say he was on the way. So we pulled into a parking lot and a few minutes later somebody else, not the original seller, showed up in the motorhome. It was a total piece of junk, and though he had told us he was selling it for a family member who was in poor health, the salvage auction paperwork was still lying on the dashboard. Needless to say, we were in and out of the thing in minutes.

When on the road from Point A to Point B, we didn’t always want to pay for a campground just to pull in and sleep for a few hours. We did a lot of blacktop boondocking in our 18+ years as fulltime RVers. I could not begin to count the number of WalMarts, truck stops, highway rest areas, casinos, and vacant parking lots where we spent the night. We used common sense in where we chose to park overnight, and in all of those years, we never had a problem. But there were times we pulled into a place and something just didn’t feel right. There was nothing obvious that made the little hairs on the back of our necks stand up and made that little voice say “keep on driving,” but we heeded the warning anyway. Would something bad have happened if we stayed there? Again, we will never know. But I’m still glad we listened.

A couple of times we have been in our SUV and gone into a parking lot of a store, and spotted somebody lurking about that just didn’t seem right. They may have been wonderful, upright citizens, but we didn’t feel good and we went someplace else to do our shopping.

Does this make us paranoid? Maybe so. But then again, ignoring that voice could get you into a world of hurt. Why take the chance?

Congratulations Peggy Freeman, winner of our drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader. We had 244 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I have stopped asking, “How stupid can you be?” Too many people were taking it as a challenge.

Another Step Done

 Posted by at 12:50 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 182022
 

Note: Several readers who have entered this week’s drawing have reported that they are getting e-mail notices every time somebody else enters. At the bottom of the drawing page, just above the Submit Comment tab, there is a box that they apparently checked that says Notify Me Of New Comments. If this happens to you, you should be able to go back to your entry comment and click Edit Comment and then uncheck that box.

Terry has finished the first editing and proofreading stage of Big Lake Drunk, and it’s now in the hands of Roberta and Judy, my other two proofreaders. As soon as they get it back to me and I make their changes, I will print the entire manuscript out for Terry to go through once more. While she is doing that, I will write the teaser chapter for the next book. Usually, there aren’t too many typos that have slipped past everybody, and once I correct any Terry does find, I will add that teaser chapter for the next book in the series to go at the end of this one. Then I will format the e-book and get it uploaded to Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. And once that’s done, I plan to take a big breath and then relax for at least ten minutes!

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into bringing a new book out, even once it’s written. But I’ll be far from done once I hit the Publish button. That’s when the real work begins. I’ll be busy sending out my free author’s newsletter, promoting the new title on social media and in online authors and readers groups, e-mailing notices to book blogs, and a dozen other things. And then, I have to get the print edition formatted, have the full print cover designed, and get it uploaded. The fun never stops. 😊

So what’s next on the agenda? I plan to start working on A Changing World, the fifth book in my Tinder Street historical family saga. But that won’t be until after the holidays. We have something big pending, but I am holding off on announcing it until after all the contracts are signed and I am sure it’s a done deal. It may delay the start of the new book, but it will be worth it.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models. You are going to love this or make somebody on your Christmas shopping list very happy.

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

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

Dec 172022
 

The small southern Alabama town of Andalusia is a friendly place where southern charm and hospitality reign supreme. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows their neighbors, where people say hello when they pass you on the street, and where you can always satisfy your hunger for boiled peanuts, grits, or fried catfish. And don’t forget the sweet tea!

The handsome Covington County Courthouse downtown, which was built from 1914 -1916, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While the courthouse itself is a good photo op, a small monument on the courthouse lawn has become a tourist attraction for those with a literary bent. Shaped somewhat like a headstone, the tablet bears the inscription “In memory of PHILIP NOLAN, Lieutenant in the Army of the United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserved less at her hands.”

Who was Philip Nolan, this Army veteran who loved his country, and what does his strange epitaph mean? They say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and it’s true in this case because Philip Nolan never lived.

He was the main character in the short story The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale that was first published in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in December, 1863, and was required reading in many high school classes for generations.

In Hale’s story, Philip Nolan is a brash young Army officer who finds himself on trial for treason simply because of his friendship with Aaron Burr (who in real life was tried for treason in 1807 and acquitted). In the story, Philip Nolan does not fare as well. At one point the impetuous young man angrily shouts, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!”

This shocked the entire courtroom, and Nolan was quickly found guilty and convicted. Angered by his treasonous outburst, the judge sentenced him to exactly what he had wished for. Philip Nolan would spend the rest of his life as a prisoner at sea on warships, never allowed to set foot on his homeland again and never allowed to hear the name of his country again or any news of what was happening in the United States.

At first Nolan doesn’t care, but as the long years go on, he comes to realize how much he really does love and miss his country. He begs for any snippet of news, but the sailors and officers on the ships he is held on are strictly forbidden from saying a word about what was happening at home.

Denied access to his homeland, Nolan created a shrine to the United States in his cabin on the USS Levant. It included a flag draped around a picture of George Washington, and a bald eagle painted over the head of the bed. Shortly before his death, Nolan tells a visitor, “Here, you see, I have a country!”

After more than half a century at sea, Nolan dies aboard the USS Levant and is buried at sea. He wrote his own epitaph, the same words that are inscribed on the memorial at the courthouse in Andalusia, which was placed there on July 4, 1975. It’s one of those little bits of history awaiting travelers who get off the interstate highways and explore America’s two-lane roads. Check it out the next time you’re in the area.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models. You are going to love this or make somebody on your Christmas shopping list very happy.

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

Thought For The Day – Getting old sucks. Yesterday I threw my back out when the microwave beeped and startled me.

Dec 162022
 

Late yesterday afternoon I finally finished Big Lake Drunk, the 22nd book in my Big Lake mystery series and my 51st book. It came in at 89,300 words before final editing and proofreading are finished. Although it is far from my longest book, I believe it took me more time than any other book I have written. I started it on August 26th and I can usually knock out a book in six weeks to two months. But due to some medical issues, some traveling we needed to get done, bad weather that left us without power for several days at a time, and some other things that were going on, I just could not get it wrapped up. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Today I will read through the last two chapters I wrote and correct any glaring errors I find in them, then print them out for Terry to edit and proofread before we send them on to Judy and Roberta, my other proofreaders. The cover is already finished, so I’m really hoping we can get it out before Christmas.

Speaking of books and writing, two of my favorite authors have new releases out. My pal Donna McNichol just published a short, titled Slay Ride, the third book in her Holiday Corner Christmas Cozy mystery series about a scenic small town tucked away in Vermont. With candy canes, garlands, ornaments, wreaths, and more – who would expect to find a dead body? Certainly not the owners of Candy Cane Carriages, provider of winter sleigh rides, nor their twin granddaughters, Candi and Mandi Winter, who have come to help them run the business. It’s only 99¢ on Amazon. Order your copy today!

And if you’re in the mood for something with more grit to it, check out Field Training, the first book in retired police sergeant Patrick O’Donnell’s new Brew City Blues action thriller series about Army veteran Michael Collins, fresh out of the police academy and beginning twelve weeks of field training in the most dangerous part of Milwaukee, where he will have to deal with gangsters, sex workers, murderers, thieves, and twenty-hour workdays as he tried to overcome his own personal tragedy. The author is a cop’s cop and writes with an authority that comes from a career working the very streets he writes about. Patrick’s books are as real as it gets.

And what better way to enjoy all those new books than with a brand new kindle e-book reader? So far, over 100 people have entered this week’s Free Drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models. You are going to love this or make somebody on your Christmas shopping list very happy.

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

Thought For The Day – No one wants to hear about your diet. Just eat your salad and be sad.

Dec 152022
 

I shared this story a few years ago, but a couple of readers have asked for it again. I have no idea what they intend to try to do from my example, but whatever it is, I don’t want to know.

Okay, I know everybody deserves their fifteen minutes of fame. This is the story of mine. But before I write another word, I have to warn you: Do not try this at home (or anywhere else, for that matter)! Unless, of course, you think you can get away with it. If you can’t pull it off, I don’t want to hear from some TV shyster you may have on retainer saying I led you astray

We had made a long run south on a cold, rainy fall day from Elkhart Campground in Indiana to Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (no, not all of my adventures and misadventures took place there, but some did). It had been a while since we had dined in a nice restaurant, and when we arrived Miss Terry informed me the kitchen was closed for the night. It was time to take my pretty lady out to dinner. We decided where we wanted to go (a restaurant that will not be named, to protect them and because we may want to return again some day), and I called to get directions from the campground.

The manager started out giving the directions, realized he was getting both me and himself confused, and transferred me to a nice lady named Susan, who gave very good directions to the restaurant. I asked if I could make a reservation and was told that they do not take reservations, it was first come, first served. The wait would be about 45 minutes. No problem. Susan then told me to check in with her when we arrived so she would know we got there in one piece, and asked for my name.

Well, if you know me, it may not surprise you to know that I can be a smart aleck on occasion. Sometimes you just have to be silly because you can. I told Susan my name, than said “Yes, Susan, I’m that Nick Russell. But please. I don’t want a big scene when we arrive. No reporters, no camera crews. I get enough of that on Jay Leno and all the other TV talk shows. Tonight I don’t want to be the famous celebrity, I’m really not up to interviews and signing autographs. I just want to be a guy enjoying a quiet dinner with his wife.” Susan assured me that we would not be bothered.

So I got a chuckle as I hung up the phone, and we hopped in the pickup and headed out to the restaurant. Sure enough, Susan’s directions were great and we found the place without a problem. There was a big crowd standing around waiting for tables, and I told Miss Terry we should check in and let Susan know we had arrived.

When I introduced myself, Susan immediately led us past all the people in line to a waiting table and assured me that no reporters, photographers, or autograph hounds would show up to interrupt our meal. As soon as we were seated our waitress was at my elbow and told us that the manager had ordered her to give us special treatment, and our appetizers and drinks were on the house.

Right behind her came the beaming manager himself, who shook my hand, told me he was a huge fan, and thanked us for coming to his restaurant. He assured us that no one had been allowed to leak the news of our arrival. The service was excellent, with our waitress hovering nearby to attend to our every need, the food was superb, and all through our meal we noticed the staff whispering among themselves and pointing to our table or whispering to their customers about the celebrity in their midst.

Now, I have to think that sooner or later somebody had to say “Wait a minute, who the hell is Nick Russell, anyway?” But it didn’t happen while we were in the restaurant. After leaving our waitress a healthy tip we left, but not before the manager, Susan, and our waitress again gushed over us and thanked us for coming. As well as this worked out, I think next week I may be Nick Russell, the world famous movie producer. I wonder if Miss Terry would let me have a casting couch…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. As promised, this week’s prize is a big one, and just in time for Christmas. It’s a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models. You are going to love this, or make somebody on your Christmas shopping list very happy.

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

Thought For The Day – Never give up on something you really want. It’s difficult to wait but worse to regret.

So Much Going On

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 142022
 

We are wrapping up this year with a lot going on, and it seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new project or chore that has to be taken care of. But that’s okay, it keeps me from getting underfoot while Miss Terry is doing the real work around here.

Monday, we drove into Port Orange to have dinner at Salsas Mexican Restaurant with our good friend, fellow author Frank Butterfield. Frank is an amazing guy, and every time we get together, the time just seems to fly by as we talk about books, places we’ve traveled, and so much more.

Besides writing another chapter in my new Big Lake book and reading through and making corrections to the last two chapters I wrote to get them ready to print out for Terry to proof, I spent a lot of time yesterday playing telephone tag with insurance companies, bankers and other service providers, getting things in place for the first of the year.

I’ve also been doing some research on Windows 11. I need to buy another computer, and it seems that very few are available anymore that meet my needs and have Windows 10. All of the models I want have Windows 11. Some of the people I’ve talked to love the new version of the operating system, and other people hate it. The jury is still out as to what I’m going to wind up doing, but I’d better make a decision soon because my accountant wants me to buy it before the end of the year for tax purposes.

Of course, we all know that Terry never lets any grass grow under her feet. Besides handling a lot of paperwork and receipts from our recent trip to Alabama and cooking a delicious pork roast along with mashed potatoes, gravy, and veggies for dinner last night,  she made some cashew melt Christmas cookies. I felt kind of bad about slapping her hands when she reached for one since she’s the one that made them, but they’re almost too good to share!

Now we all know that part of what I just wrote is a lie. Yes, the cookies were amazing, but I would never slap Terry’s hands. My mommy and daddy raised me better than that. And besides, I’ve seen her shoot! 😊

The time has gone by so fast that I can’t believe Christmas is already on top of us! Thanks to the nice folks at Amazon, we haven’t had to fight our way through the crowds at the big box stores, and the grandkids’ gifts will all be delivered in plenty of time before Christmas. Did you know that as grandkids get older, the things they want cost more money? But that’s all right. We like to spoil them on birthdays and at Christmas.

Several people have asked when I’m going to resume our weekly free drawings, and you can look for one this week. Trust me, this is going to be a prize you want to get in on! The drawing will start tomorrow, so be sure to check back and get your name in the running.

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 don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.

Getting Shot

 Posted by at 1:11 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 132022
 

In a blog post a few days ago titled Jack Was Impressed, I told you how I made a once in a lifetime shot while target shooting with my dad, older brother, and a friend. Today I will tell you about another target shooting experience in the same place at another time.

As I said, when I got out of the Army in 1974, my brother Jack had a farmhouse on some land outside of Toledo, Ohio, where we used to do some informal target shooting. That winter, my old high school buddy Dan Connell and I were out there shooting, even though there was over a foot of snow on the ground. A kid from down the street showed up with a Marlin .22 semi-automatic rifle and asked if he could shoot with us, too. We said fine, as long as he was careful.

If you’re not familiar with firearms, .22 ammunition comes in three sizes – Short, Long, and Long Rifle. They are interchangeable in some firearms, but most semi-automatics require the higher-powered .22 Long Rifle ammunition to make them function properly. The other types of ammunition do not have enough power to make the action work, and they will jam. This kid had some .22 Short bullets, and every time he fired his rifle it would jam and he would have to clear it manually. He was very good about keeping the barrel pointed downrange or at the ground.

After a while, we had knocked over all of the tin cans we were shooting at, and I went up to set them back up. I never heard the shot, but I felt something thump me in the back, and I thought Dan had thrown a snowball at me. When I turned back around to look at him, he was standing there with his mouth hanging open, and the kid was running away. “He shot you,” Dan said. I asked what he meant, and he said the kid had been messing with his rifle and it went off and the bullet hit the ground and came up and hit me. He said he actually saw it hit my jacket. I thought he was joking, but Dan insisted it had happened, and even though I didn’t feel any pain, I stuck my hand up on my back and when I pulled it out there was a small spot of blood on my finger.

Now, a couple of things were in my favor. A .22 Short is a low-powered round. According to Dan, the bullet ricocheted off the ground and came back up to hit me, which meant it had lost a lot of velocity. And due to the cold, I was wearing a heavy Army field jacket, a flannel shirt, and thermal long johns. After I touched the wound, it began to sting a little bit but didn’t really hurt, and I told Dan that I had been shot before and this didn’t feel like being shot at all.

I had known my buddy Dan since I was 13, and even then, he was a big kid. In 6th grade he stood over 6 feet tall and was very husky. His size intimidated a lot of people, but Dan was a gentle giant. And in spite of his size, as it turned out, he couldn’t handle a crisis very well at all. We went up to the house but nobody was home. Dan thought we should break in and call an ambulance but I told him that we weren’t going to break into the house, and I didn’t think I was injured very badly. I suggested he just drive me to the local emergency room.

That might have worked if Dan hadn’t dropped his car keys in the snow and we had to spend 15 minutes or so looking for them. When we found them we got into his car and he was so rattled that he couldn’t start it, and he told me I would have to drive. So we switched places, and then Dan asked me not to lean back against his white seats because he didn’t want to get blood on them. I said a couple of things to him that probably weren’t very nice.

Driving away, I just did not feel like I had been seriously injured and decided that we would stop at my house because we would pass it on our way to the nearest ER. We went inside, and I stripped off my jacket and shirts, and then, standing in front of the big mirror on our bathroom wall, with Dan holding a smaller mirror behind me, I felt around my back and discovered a lump. I squeezed it like one would a zit and heard the bullet pop out and hit the floor. A second later, I heard Dan hit the floor. In the process of passing out, he smacked his forehead on either the toilet or the bathtub, I’m not sure which, but he gave himself a heck of a gash. Yes, folks, it was a circus.

It didn’t take me long to get Dan to come around, and I told him to call my dad and ask him to come over and take a look at things, just to be sure. So Dan called my dad and said, “Frank, can you come to Nick’s house real quick? He got shot.”

It was probably a 15 or 20 minute drive from my parents’ house to mine, but I think it wasn’t much more than 10 minutes before my dad came whipping into the driveway, taking out our picket fence in the process. Now picture this, he rushes into the house and bathroom, and I’m standing there acting normally while there is blood everywhere, and Dan is sitting on the edge of the bathtub holding a sanitary napkin to his forehead to stop the bleeding. My old man was shocked, to say the least, and once he determined that Dan wasn’t going to die anytime soon, he looked at my wound and said, “You idiots called me for that?”

I had tried using some Q-tips and Scope mouthwash to clean it out, just in case there was any infection, but Dad decided that we might want to get something a little better than that, so he told Dan to call my wife, who worked at a hospital, and to tell her to bring home any kind of antibiotic cream or gel that she could get her hands on. When she asked why, the fool said, “Frank wants to put it on Nick’s gunshot wound.” Of course, that resulted in another frantic drive to my house.

When it was all said and done, we wound up taking Dan to the emergency room to get stitches in his forehead. My dad suggested we not tell them about the gunshot wound. It just seemed better that way.

The good news is that Dan got a new nickname out of it. From that day on, my dad called him Tex. It took a while for Dan to ask him what that was all about, and my dad told Dan if he was an old west cowboy, folks would call him the Kotex Kid.

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 wins the rat race.