Nick Russell

Housekeeping

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
May 152021
 

Yesterday I was busy with a lot of housekeeping details. No, not the kind where I have to use a vacuum cleaner or a mop, that always turns out badly, but housekeeping details as far as the publishing end of things.

The first order of the day was to contact my brilliant cover artist, Elizabeth Mackey, and have her format the paperback cover for Fresh Out Of Mojo, which came out a while back in e-book format. Elizabeth always does an amazing job and has super quick turnaround, and a few hours later, she sent it to me. I submitted the cover and formatted content to Amazon, now it’s just a case of waiting for the printed version of the book to go live.

With that out of the way, I did some promotion work on my new Tinder Street book, Boom And Bust, sending out notices to several blogs that promote new books. I always tell new authors that writing the book is the easy part. The promotion afterward is what takes most of your time and effort.

Then I wrote three new blogs to be posted later when our kids come to visit in two weeks so I will not have to take time away from our family time to do that every day. I will still have some occasional new blogs while they are here, updating you on the visit, but they are my priority.

I was also waiting on an Amazon delivery to come with a new Kodak PixPro WPZ2 waterproof digital camera. Since I’m a klutz, I don’t like taking my phone on my kayak to take pictures because I’m always afraid I’ll drop it overboard. This small, inexpensive 16-megapixel camera is waterproof down to 15 meters (almost 50 feet), and comes with some nice bells and whistles.

I also ordered this floating wrist band for it since even though the camera is waterproof, it doesn’t float.

Everything I read about the camera seemed positive, and I was excited to get it. But when it arrived, I was disappointed to discover that the battery was swollen so badly that the paper label was peeling off of it, and I could not insert it into the camera. I tried to call Kodak’s customer service number, but they were closed for the weekend, so I sent them an e-mail, hoping to hear back on Monday. Don’t you hate it when you get a new toy and it’s broken on arrival?

To Kodak’s credit, I was really surprised that within less than an hour I received a call from one of their customer service managers, who said she happened to check e-mail as she was leaving the office. She apologized for the problem and told me she would put a new, fully charged battery in the mail to me today by Priority Mail. She also added that once I get the battery, if I am not happy with the camera for any reason, she will send me a brand-new replacement. That’s pretty darned good customer service if you ask me!

While I was doing all that, Terry was busy with some bookkeeping and research on her computer. She is still trying to decide which new computer to go with, but I think she’s narrowing it down. She’s got a birthday coming up soon, and I wish she would tell me so I can buy it for her birthday. Actually, she can get anything she wants any time she wants, but she always says there’s nothing she needs. I keep telling her it’s not about what she needs (though she really does need a new computer) it’s about what she wants. Oh, and did I mention the delicious batch of oatmeal, raisin, nut, chocolate chip cookies she made yesterday? Now, I won’t lie to you, I didn’t need them, but I wanted those!

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

Thought For The Day – I am a multitasker. I can listen, ignore, and forget all at the same time.

May 142021
 

It was a busy day around here yesterday. The local pollen has had my head clogged up, so I took some Benadryl before I went to bed the night before and wound up sleeping later than I usually do.

After a light breakfast, or more like lunch, I started working on my free author’s newsletter, announcing the release of my new Tinder Street book Boom And Bust. For some reason, I just couldn’t get the pages to format correctly. I’m not sure what was going on, but I tried to add a couple more pages to the newsletter, and it just would not let me do it. After about three hours of fighting with it and looking online for solutions, I finally gave up and sent out what I had to my subscribers.

Speaking of Boom And Bust, I really appreciate everybody who bought it and told their friends about it. Out of the millions of e-books on Amazon, in the first 24 hours it was ranked at number 6,967. That’s not too shabby, and I am grateful for all of you.

While I was getting that done, Terry was busy with some projects she wanted to finish around the house before our kids come to visit in a couple of weeks, including hanging up some artwork that we bought at a local antique mall a while back. In her sewing room, which is also our second guest bedroom, she hung up a set of four pictures.

Then she hung up these two in the living room. I guess it’s only appropriate that since we live next door to the ocean that we have a beach theme.

When she was finished with that, she helped me rearrange and hang this case of badges for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I collect police badges, but I also have quite a collection of other badges, including a bunch of chauffeurs and taxicab driver badges from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Now they’re all in one case together, along with some other oddball badges I’ve picked up along the way.

One more project was to arrange and hang up this display of a Texas Ranger badge, some old silver certificates, and an old leather coin purse that I acquired a year or so ago. There’s an interesting story behind this display, and you can read about it in my blog post titled Real Or Not, I Like It. At the time I posted that blog, the jury was still out as to whether or not this was a real Texas Ranger badge. Since then, a fellow named Bart Krackenlow, who has been collecting Texas Ranger memorabilia for over 40 years, has told me his research shows that it is indeed a real badge. He offered to buy the display from me for a lot more money than I ever thought it would be worth. But I like it, so it’s not going anywhere.

Of course, all of that is never enough for Terry, who is like the Energizer Bunny and never stops going.  So when she was finished all of that, she made delicious shrimp quesadillas for dinner. What a woman!

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

Thought For The Day – Everyone has heard of Karl Marx. But no one remembers his sister, Onya, who invented the starter pistol.

Boom And Bust Is Done

 Posted by at 12:12 am  Nick's Blog
May 132021
 

Boom And Bust, the third book in my Tinder Street historical saga, is now available on Amazon. This is my 45th book and my second new book so far this year. And even though this latest book in the series stays with the historical theme of the first two, I have thrown in a bit of mystery based on history. I didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but it did. Hmmm… maybe I should try poetry sometime.

Getting the new e-book formatted correctly was a bit of a bear for me. My other novels don’t have individually named chapters, but the Tinder Street series does, and it took me most of the day to figure out how to do the chapter links in the table of contents. It also reminded me why I usually farm that kind of stuff out. It’s better for me to concentrate on my writing and let someone who knows how to do it correctly and efficiently handle the formatting.

Besides formatting, there is a lot of work that goes into a new book release. Once I had the book formatted, I still had to add the teaser chapter for The Hard Years, the next book in the series, write the blurb that describes the book for Amazon shoppers, then get everything uploaded and ready to go. But I finally got it all done and uploaded the book at about 5:30 yesterday afternoon, and within an hour, it was live. Not too bad at all. I hope to have the print version out within about two weeks if all goes well.

Today I will be busy finishing up my free author’s newsletter and sending it off to my subscribers and doing some promotion for the new book. By the way, if you would care to share it with your friends and family, I would really appreciate it

I’m not the only one with a new book out this week. My dear friend Mona Ingram has just released Only You, the 5th book in her excellent Willow Bend romance series. Mona has a very large following of dedicated fans, and if you read one of her books, you’ll know why. Check it out!

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

Thought For The Day – If you hear me telling the same story twice, just let it go. I only have like six memories and they all take turns.

May 122021
 

You can’t turn on the news right now without hearing about the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline operation that has disrupted gasoline deliveries in many eastern states. But why let facts get in the way of a good rumor, right? Just yesterday, I saw posts on Facebook saying that someone heard that President Biden had shut down the nation’s entire pipeline grid to force us to go green, while somebody else said they had heard a rumor that it was Antifa or Black Lives Matter causing the problem.

I was reminded of the time years ago when Terry and I were traveling in our MCI bus conversion and found ourselves at a Corps of Engineers campground in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This was back when we used a Hughes tripod internet dish for internet access, and the heavy tree cover prevented us from getting a signal. So we were not online for two or three days. When we left and finally did get online, our inbox was flooded with e-mails from people who had heard we had been killed or seriously injured in an accident. Apparently, somebody saw or heard of a bus conversion accident in Oklahoma and decided that it must be us since we were incommunicado.

How do rumors like this get started? It’s not hard at all, trust me. I know because I was behind a rumor that spread like wildfire across the United States Military Academy back during my Army days. At the time I was stationed at West Point, and it was June Week, which is when the cadets graduate with all sorts of fanfare. It was midmorning and I was walking past Buffalo Soldier Field, an athletic field on the post. At that time, West Point did not have a helicopter landing pad, and when a helicopter came in, they radioed ahead of time and the MPs blocked off the field so they could land there.

On this particular morning, that’s what they were doing. A civilian who was on post for June Week asked me what was happening and I told him a helicopter would be landing there soon. He asked me who was on the helicopter and I said I didn’t know. Then he said it must be somebody important. Again, I said I didn’t know. That’s when he asked, “Is President Nixon coming to address the graduating class?”

I looked him in the eye and said, “I never told you that.”

“He is, isn’t he? The President’s coming?”

I put my hand over my name tag and said, “Sergeant Russell never told you that,” and then I smiled at him and walked away.

When I went to the barracks for lunch a couple of hours later, people were running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. The First Sergeant saw me and shouted, “Get your dress uniform on. The President’s here and he’s coming to inspect us!”

So I put on my monkey suit and we all stood around waiting on pins and needles for the next three or four hours. Finally, it was determined that the President was not on the post and we were told to stand down. My Commanding Officer, Captain Edgerton, said something about nobody had any idea how that rumor had started. I replied, “Who knows, sir? Somebody says something and somebody else takes it out of context and the next thing you know, the whole base is in an uproar. Crazy, isn’t it?”

That, my friends, is how rumors get started.

Thought For The Day – My wife says our house is haunted, but that’s just silly. I’ve lived here for 272 years and have never noticed anything weird going on.

May 112021
 

We love finding strange museums in our travels around the country, and in 18+ years of fulltiming we  discovered some real finds exploring this great land of ours. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

Warther Carving Museum; Dover, Ohio – Showcasing the life work of master carver Ernest “Mooney” Warther, this museum displays a one-of-a-kind collection of carved items ranging from tools to steam locomotives.

Spam Museum; Austin, Minnesota – No, not that aggravating e-mail, we’re talking the original Spam, the meat that won World War II. Find out the history of this canned meat product, and the contributions the Hormel Company made to our nation during the war effort.

National Balloon Museum; Indianola, Iowa – 200 years of ballooning history is chronicled here, from the first lighter than air flight in 1783 to present day sport ballooning.

Tow Truck Museum; Chattanooga, Tennessee – At the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum you will find a fascinating collection of restored antique wreckers and equipment.

Yesterday’s Children Antique Doll and Toy Museum; Vicksburg, Mississippi – With over 1,000 dolls dating back to 1843 on display, as well as toys we all grew up with, this is a great place to revisit your childhood.

Mid-America Windmill Museum; Kendallville, Indiana – You will find over 50 historic windmills on display at this interesting small outdoor museum.

Museum Of Appalachia, Norris, Tennessee – This living history museum features dozens of historic buildings and demonstrations of old time skills like grinding corn, weaving, spinning, and chair caning.

Music House Museum; Acme, Michigan – This interesting museum near Traverse City is home to the world’s largest collection of mechanical musical devices.

National Bird Dog Museum; Grand Junction, Tennessee – You can see displays of art, photography and memorabilia reflecting a variety of pointing dog and retriever breeds, hunting, field trial activities, and shooting sports covering more than 100 years of sporting tradition at this small town museum.

Bicycle Museum of America; New Bremen, Ohio – This small town museum is a treasure trove of bicycles and bicycle memorabilia dating back to the early 1800s. Here you will see everything from primitive bikes with appropriate names like the Boneshaker, to high wheeled bicycles that the gentry of another age enjoyed, to modern carbon frame bicycles that one can lift with a single finger.

International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame and Museum; Jackson, Tennessee – Dedicated to preserving and promoting Rockabilly Music, this museum’s displays recognize the pioneers of Rockabilly music with stage costumes, instruments, and memorabilia.

Wheels Through Time Museum; Maggie Valley, North Carolina – If you like motorcycles, you’ll love this place, which has an amazing collection of antique and vintage motorcycles, along with over 25,000 pieces of motorcycle memorabilia, and a nice collection of antique automobiles.

National Watch and Clock Museum; Columbia, Pennsylvania – You’ll find everything from sundials and ancient Egyptian hourglasses to ultra-modern atomic clocks that can measure time in nanoseconds at this surprisingly interesting museum.

World Kite Museum; Long Beach, Washington – If you thought kites were just for kids, guess again! Over the years kites have served mankind as research tools, in hunting and fishing, and even in wartime, and you can learn all about it here!

These are just some of the fun and interesting museums waiting to be discovered in every corner of America. What are some of your favorites?

Thought For The Day – I do not nag, I reiterate.

More Q&A

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
May 102021
 

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

Q. What are the blue pants you are wearing in the picture Terry took of you in your kayak in yesterday’s blog? Are they jeans? I love that color!

A. No, they are hospital scrubs. Terry gets them on Amazon and I have several sets in different colors. They are lightweight and very comfortable to wear around the house and while on the kayak.

Q. Kayaking is fun, but do you ever encounter all those alligators we hear about in Florida?

Q.We have not seen any gators here, though there are some. But our water here is saltwater, which is not their preference. While kayaking on lakes and rivers in other parts of the state, both in our Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks and our hard kayaks, we have seen many, many alligators. They ignore us and we don’t approach them.

Q. The other day you had a blog post about places you love going back to. Of the hundreds of places you visited while you were fulltiming and publishing the Gypsy Journal, are there any you have no desire to go back to?

A. Not many. The one that always comes to mind for us is the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. We have many RVing friends who love wintering there and some who have hung up the keys and live there fulltime. It seems to be the right place for them, but we just don’t care for it.

Q. Is Miss Terry still enjoying her AeroGarden? We haven’t seen any pictures lately.

A. Oh yes, she is busy growing herbs and leafy vegetables all the time. The only things she hasn’t had much success with are the cherry tomatoes, which produce a lot of leaves and flowers but have never produced a single tomato, and the strawberry plants, which produce very small strawberries that are rather bland. Here is a picture of one of her latest harvests, and she’s got more growing now.

Q. I know you have been off the road for a while now, but if you had to choose just one campground membership to buy, what would it be? We have looked at Thousand Trails, KOA, Passport America, and some others and just cannot decide. We don’t plan to fulltime, but we will be on the road for 6 to 8 months a year.

A. Hands down, if I could only choose one it would be Passport America. The annual dues are low and there are over 1,450 campgrounds around the country that will give you half price when you visit. You should be able to recoup your investment on your first trip.

Q. You mentioned that your son and his wife are thinking about moving to your area of Florida. Do you think the crazy real estate prices are going to be a problem for them?

A. It will definitely make things more difficult, and they may have to rent for a while until they find the right deal. The way things are currently, it’s an insane market and I think the bubble is going to burst sooner or later and a lot of people who overpaid for houses are going to be in trouble.

Q. After seven years of fulltiming, we’re going to be hanging up the keys in the next year or so. It’s been a great run, but we’re tired of constant maintenance issues with the RV, campgrounds are busier and more expensive all the time, and the roads are falling apart everywhere we go. Our problem is that we don’t know where to look for a forever home. I love the ocean want to be near the beach, but my husband hates Florida and wants to be near the mountains. I know you spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest, can you recommend any small towns along the Oregon or Washington coasts that might make us both happy?

A. It was very hard for us to choose between the Space Coast here in Florida and the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington state. Even now there are times when we ask ourselves if we made the right decision. Another choice might be Ocean Shores, Washington, or any of the small towns along the Oregon coast. Our favorites are Seaside, Newport and Florence.

Q. Now that you and Terry have your Covid vaccinations and the world seems to be getting back to some kind of normal, do you have any trips planned?

A. We don’t have anything scheduled right now, but we would like to take some short trips, maybe down to the Keys and up to Savannah, Georgia. I also want to go back to Ohio to do some more research on my Tinder Street historical saga. And, of course, there are lots of other places we would love to get to as time allows.

Q. You’ve mentioned your bus conversion a couple of times now, but I guess that was before I found your blog. Do you have any pictures of it you could share?

A. At one time we had a series of blog posts about the bus conversion project, but in transferring from one host to another they seem to have been lost. But I do have some pictures of the bus and the conversion process I might share in a blog post if enough people are interested.

Q. If I recall, it seems like it’s been about a year since you had your RF nerve ablation done to your back. I’ve been thinking about having that done and I’ve been told they last a few months to a couple of years. Do you mind telling me what your status is now Nick and if you would do it again?

A. I had my ablation done in mid-June of last year, and so far, so good. I still have occasional pain, but not the debilitating type I suffered with for so long. When and if the nerve regenerates and the pain returns, I won’t hesitate to have the procedure done again.

Congratulations Sandy Bronstein, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 33 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Here’s a question for all the mind readers out there.

May 092021
 

Friday night the weatherman on the Channel 6 news out of Orlando said that yesterday (Saturday) was probably going to be our last good day in terms of temperature before summer hits us hard. Usually, from mid-to-late May until November, the temperatures here on the Central Coast of Florida are in or near the 90s, and the humidity is God awful.

I told Terry that I know she’s working hard to get the final proofing done on my new Tinder Street book, but this might be our last chance to get our kayaks in the water before it gets too hot, and I really needed to do that. So we did.

It was an excellent day, with the temperature at 76 degrees and just a slight breeze. We launched our Old Town Predator kayaks and paddled across the Indian River/Intercoastal Waterway and into Jones Creek, which winds its way through some mangrove hammocks and then empties into Mosquito Lagoon. It being a weekend, there were a few people camped on the little islands, and we exchanged waves as we passed by them.

There were a lot of fish jumping in the water, and at one point I saw a turtle about the size of a dinner plate swimming past. We had that part of the lagoon to ourselves, which was nice, but it was also low tide, and the last time we were out there in low tide my kayak got stuck. Tides are strange here; at high tide you can have several feet of water below you in some areas and at low tide mere inches. We paddled around out there for a while, dodging the sandbars in shallow areas, then we decided to go back out on the river and paddle along the edge of the mangroves where the water is a little deeper.

Terry said this smile on my face was worth taking a day off proofreading and editing. I don’t think I’m ever happier than when I am when out on the water with her.

There were quite a few boats going up and down the river, and most of them were observing the no-wake rule, which is in effect because of all the manatee we have here. But there’s always going to be a jackass or two speeding by and throwing up a big wake because the rules don’t apply to them. Even though our Old Towns are incredibly stable kayaks, I always try to turn my kayak toward the wake to meet it head-on rather than sideways.

After paddling around there for a while, we crossed back to our side of the river and then down the little canal that often holds 70 or more manatee in the winter. Most of them leave when it starts getting hot here, but there are some that seem to hang around most of the time, and we saw four of them in the canal.

Actually, we didn’t see any of them, we saw the flat circles on the water’s surface they make when their heads come up for air and then go back under. We never want to get too close to these gentle giants and disturb them. Sadly, due to a lack of the seagrass they eat caused by both industrial and residential runoff from yards, manatees are starving to death in horrible numbers. So far this year alone, many more manatees have been found dead in Florida as in all of 2020. That just breaks my heart.

There’s nothing like sitting in a canal off the Intracoastal Waterway surrounded by the bubbles of manatee farts. Of course manatees fart. You didn’t know that? Okay, maybe you did, but did you know that farting helps them maintain their buoyancy in the water? Don’t you learn some great things by reading my blog?

Eventually, we left the canal and paddled back toward our boat launch to call it a day. I’ve mentioned the 300-foot fishing pier in our little subdivision, and here’s a picture from the water. The boat launch is off to the right, and the building in the background is our activity center, which also includes one of the community’s two swimming pools.

We pulled the kayaks up onto a little sandy area next to the launch and headed for the activity center to make a pit stop before loading them back up on the trailer and going home. We spent about three hours on the water and loved every minute of it. I wish the weather would stay like this year-round. Then again, if it did I would probably never get any work done.

Today is your last chance to enter our  Free Drawing for an audiobook copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – When you’re a kid no one ever tells you how many times you’ll whisper “righty tighty, lefty loosey” to yourself as an adult.

May 082021
 

We love exploring new places and seeing new sights but it seems that every time we visit someplace new, somebody tells us we missed something there that we really should have seen. Miss Terry tells them that we do that on purpose so we’ll have an excuse to go back. There are some places we’ve only visited once but really want to return to, and others we’ve been to many times but just can’t get enough of and go back time and time again. Here are our personal Top 15, in no particular order.

Florida Keys – If money were no object I could live in the Florida Keys. We love paddling our kayaks in the beautiful blue green waters, just hanging out under a palm tree watching the world go by, and did I mention all of the delicious seafood?

Fiver Jolly Roger waterfront 2

Port Townsend – Perched at the entrance to Puget Sound on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is a beautiful and historic little town with a picturesque downtown area with fun shops to browse, stunning views of the water and mountains, and lots of events to keep you busy.

Gettysburg – I find it inconceivable that such a pretty place could have been the scene of so much suffering and death as this beautiful little town in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania. Even without all of the history, which we love, we’d still return to Gettysburg any chance we get.

Branson – We’ve been to Branson four or five times and never went to a show until our last visit. We just like the beautiful countryside and the friendly people, touring the Ralph Foster Museum on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, which has been called “The Smithsonian of the Ozarks” and the watersports on Table Rock Lake.

Oregon Coast – Mile for mile, there is no more beautiful place on earth than the wild and rugged Oregon coast. Friendly people, quaint towns, abundant seafood, lighthouses, and breathtaking views around every bend in the road. What more could you ask for?

Washington, D.C. – Our two visits were not nearly enough to see all there is to see in our nation’s capital. There are so many wonderful museums, monuments, and other attractions that nobody could cover them all in one trip.

US Capitol 2

Sault Ste. Marie – Our one and only three day visit to Sault Ste. Marie wasn’t nearly long enough. I could happily spend a week just watching the big freighters navigating their way into the narrow locks and then being raised or lowered over 21 feet in a matter of minutes. And if you get tired of that, there are plenty of things to see and do in town or nearby to keep you busy.

Saginaw coming in

Savannah – I can’t explain the hold this beautiful and historic city has on me, but no trip along the Georgia coast is complete without a stop in Savannah. I could spend days walking its tree shaded streets enjoying views of the old mansions in the Historic District, browsing the shops along the riverfront, and sitting on a bench in one of the city’s lovely squares people watching.

Live oaks

Tarpon Springs – Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tarpon Spring’s waterfront is a living postcard. From the sponge boats to the shops offering everything from clothes, jewelry, and crafts, to the Greek restaurants and bakeries, plan a full day when you visit. And if you don’t get to it all, don’t worry. After one visit you’ll be back.

tarpon springs sponge boat.2

Avery Island – Located in southern Louisiana, you can smell the vinegar from the Tabasco factory the minute you get out of your car. The factory tour is interesting, but the 170-acre Jungle Gardens is amazing with its beautiful foliage, wildlife, and a centuries-old Buddha statue. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Boston – We’re usually not attracted to big cities, but Boston is an exception to the rule. There is so much history to be seen there, from Paul Revere’s home to the Freedom Trail to the old Granary Burying Ground and Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution, to name just a few of the city’s treasures. Not to mention great food, interesting ethnic neighborhoods, and a wonderful waterfront. As you can see, Boston is well worth a return visit.

St. Augustine – Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied European city in America, and you can feel the history everywhere you look. Throw in wonderful shops and restaurants, a beautiful lighthouse, and walking the beach at Anastasia State Park and you will wonder why you would ever leave, but know you’ll be back again.

Mackinac Island – When you step off the ferry at Mackinac Island you step back in time. If you want to get anyplace on this beautiful and historic island you have three choices – on foot, by bicycle, or by a horse-drawn carriage, because no motor vehicles are allowed except for emergency vehicles. But that’s okay because you will want to take your time as you browse the shops along the waterfront, visit historic Fort Mackinac, and marvel at the splendor of the Grand Hotel.

Beaufort – We spent a week in this friendly and historic little town on the South Carolina coast and knew that we would return again someday. Centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees shade the sidewalks in the city’s historic district where pirates and seafarers once lived, there are awesome museums and memorable restaurants, and a fine beach and pier for fishing, kite flying, or just relaxing.

Maine – Terry lived in Maine twice when she was a kid during her father’s Air Force career, and in all of our years on the road we’ve only made it there once. But what we saw impressed us so much that returning is high on our bucket list. There are miles of rugged coastline to explore, wonderful little towns to visit, and lobsters to be eaten. Yes, we definitely need to get back to Maine

What are some of your favorite places that you return to over and over?

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – The life in front of you is far more important than the life behind you.

The Real McCoy

 Posted by at 12:23 am  Nick's Blog
May 072021
 

Florida has seen its share of outlaws, brigands, pirates, cutthroats, and smugglers, too. And I doubt few were as popular as Bill McCoy. Even today, old-timers who spent their life on or near the water remember hearing stories about him.

Born in New York in 1877, William Frederick McCoy was the son of a man who had served in the Union Navy during the Civil War onboard a ship helping to blockade Southern ports. Maybe that’s why McCoy seemed to have been born with the sea in his blood. He graduated first in his class from the Pennsylvania Nautical School in 1895 and went on to serve on several ships as a mate and quartermaster. McCoy was aboard the steamer Olivette in the harbor in Havana, Cuba, when the USS Maine exploded in 1898, prompting the Spanish American War.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, the McCoy family relocated to Florida and settled in the small community of Holly Hill, just north of Daytona Beach. Bill McCoy and his younger brother Ben started a small shipping company, and later a boatyard, in Holly Hill, building upscale yachts for wealthy customers that included the Vanderbilts and Andrew Carnegie

Business was good, and the McCoy brothers seemed to be on the road to success. However, improved roads, trucks, and railroads eventually put a big dent in their shipping business and they could not turn out custom yachts quickly enough to make a living. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), about that time Prohibition began, and Bill McCoy decided that if he couldn’t make a buck hauling cargo for other people, he darn sure could by hauling illegal liquor from the islands of the Caribbean to thirsty customers along the East Coast. The brothers sold their shipyard and purchased a schooner called the Henry L Marshall.

Soon the McCoy brothers were making more money than they could imagine, and they purchased a second schooner and named it the Tomoka, after a river that runs through the region of Central Florida they called home. Eventually, they would add as many as five other boats, and would anchor off the coast in international waters and transfer their illicit cargo onto smaller boats to be brought ashore. Bill McCoy became one of the most well-known and respected smugglers on the East Coast, earning him the nickname The Real McCoy.

McCoy’s popularity drew the attention of organized crime, and gangsters tried to muscle into his operation. But McCoy was fearless and bragged that he never took a penny from mobsters or backed down an inch. Unfortunately, besides being noticed by organized crime, it didn’t take long for the United States government to go after McCoy for violating the Volstead Act.

The Coast Guard cutter Seneca caught up with the Tomoka off the coast of Seabright, New Jersey, on November 23, 1923, and McCoy made a run for it. When the Seneca fired a shot across his bow, McCoy replied with a machine gun mounted on the forward deck of his schooner. He would later claim he had only opened fire because he did not know it was the Coast Guard, and believed it was pirates sent by the mobsters to hijack his cargo. Unable to outdistance the Seneca or her guns, the chase soon ended, and McCoy surrendered.

Bill McCoy pleaded guilty and spent less than a year in jail. Then he returned to Florida and put the smuggling business behind him, focusing on real estate investment and opening another boatyard with his brother. It seems only fitting that McCoy would die at sea, onboard his yacht Blue Lagoon at age 71, on December 30, 1948.

The old smuggler may be gone, but he is not forgotten. In the popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire, actor Pearce Bunting plays Bill McCoy, and author Frederik F. Van-de-Water wrote a now out-of-print biography of Bill McCoy titled The Real McCoy. The Drinking Cup website also has an in-depth article on McCoy, including several photos. But perhaps the best eulogy came from his brother and longtime business partner Ben, who simply said, “When the country went dry, Bill irrigated it.”

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I’m never wrong. I just have different levels of right.

 

https://www.hbo.com/boardwalk-empire

Smuggling with the “Real McCoy”

We Snuck Out

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
May 062021
 

After being tied to my computer for so long getting my new Tinder Street book done, I told Terry I needed to get out of the house for a while. So yesterday we snuck off for a few hours, and it sure felt good.

Our son Travis and his wife Geli have been talking about moving to this area from Alabama, and when they’re here in about three weeks, they want to spend some time looking at houses. There were several they were interested in listed online in the New Smyrna Beach area, so we drove by and checked out several of them. We didn’t make arrangements with any real estate agents to look at them, we just drove by, and if they were vacant, we walked around the property.

The first one was nice and had a big yard in the back with a lot of trees. It was obvious that somebody was a landscaper or gardener because they had some very nice plants growing both in front and in back.

From there, we drove to another house just a few blocks away. Just finding it was an adventure because, for some reason, the Google Maps on either of our phones would not recognize the street name. As it turned out, the street was only one block long, and the neighborhood looked pretty sketchy. It’s amazing how the landscape can change from nice homes on well-manicured lawns to rundown places with junk cars in the driveways and grass that hasn’t seen a lawnmower in years within just a few blocks.

The third place we looked at was a mobile home on about a 1/2 acre of land, and Terry and I were both impressed with what we saw of it. It is semi-rural and has lots of room for a garden, which is a big priority for Travis. If it’s still available when they get down here, I definitely want to show it to them. Is it just a coincidence that the house is located just off of Russell Road?

Terry has been using the same laptop computer for several years now, and it’s on its last legs. I keep telling her she needs to upgrade, but being a frugal woman, she hasn’t wanted to spend the money. However, after what we had to pay in income taxes for 2020 because we weren’t traveling like we normally do, and our accountant telling us we have to spend some money or give it to the government, I think Terry has had a change of mind.

She isn’t sure what she wants and was trying to decide between a new laptop or a 2-in-1 convertible, which can be used either as a computer or as a tablet. So we went to Best Buy in Daytona Beach because they’re the only place around here that has a lot of different models to look at, together. A very nice young man named Cory spent a lot of time with her, and I think she has narrowed it down to either a 17 inch HP Envy laptop or a 15 inch HP Spectre 2-in-1.

Me being Gadget Boy while we were there, I found something kind of cool, Bose audio sunglasses with small headphones built into the frames. They connect with Bluetooth so you can listen to Pandora or something like that on your cell phone through your sunglasses. What will they think of next?

When we left Best Buy, we took Interstate 95 south to look at one more house that Travis and Geli might be interested in. This one was in Mims, just north of Titusville, and it was on a huge parcel of land, 1.12 acres. Travis could darn sure have any kind of garden he wanted there! However, the large house looked very rough and would definitely need a new roof and a lot more investment than it’s probably worth.

Back at home, Terry had a Mother’s Day present waiting for her. Travis and Geli sent her this beautiful metal hummingbird. It’s made to stick in a tree or on a fencepost outside, but Terry said it’s too darn beautiful for that, so she hung it on her office wall so she can look at it during the day while she is working. Those kids sure do love her!

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Girls mature faster than guys because men don’t usually develop their breasts until their mid-40s.

 

May 052021
 

When Terry and I first got together, she was shocked by the way I treated the employees at my small town newspaper. No, I wasn’t Simon Legree expecting them to work their fingers to the bone for nothing. If anything, I went to the other extreme. I paid them well, gave them time off when they needed it, and even had a special room full of toys at the office so working mothers could bring their kids with them instead of paying for a babysitter.

One of the things about the newspaper business is that somebody always owes you money and can’t always pay you. Your choices then are taking them to court and maybe getting some money out of them but never getting their business again, or working out a barter arrangement so you get something, and hopefully, they’ll advertise with you again when things are better for them.

So if an employee needed tires on their car or repairs made, or some yard work or home repairs, I usually had somebody with an unpaid bill that I could barter with to get it done. Come Christmas time or birthdays, I gave them gifts like big screen TVs, jewelry, and things like that. For the most part, my people appreciated that. But there are always some who will stab you in the back the first chance they get.

In a past Newspaper Days blog post, I talked about the small newspaper chain I once owned on the Oregon and Washington coasts, and how the papers had small offices with small staffs, and the weekly editions were all composed and put together at our main office in Aberdeen, Washington. At one of my papers on the Oregon coast, I had a young woman working in the office, two salesmen out on the street, and a reporter. They were all well paid, but apparently that wasn’t enough for them, and they got greedy.

I got a call one day that they needed to talk to me, so I drove to the office to see what was going on. The four of them confronted me and told me that they felt they deserved more than what they were getting and that I had two choices. I could make them all equal partners in that paper, or they were all going to quit and start their own newspaper in competition against me.

A man named Gary, one of the salesman, and I’m sure the one who dreamed up this idea, told me that I didn’t really have any choice because I had taught them everything I knew and they were ready to go out on their own. I responded by taking their keys away from them and wishing them good luck with their new enterprise. Then I called two of my nearby papers and had people come in to take their place until I could hire somebody local, never missing an issue.

Gary and crew, on the other hand, never got the first issue of their newspaper out. I wasn’t the least bit surprised by that. I don’t know what happened to the other three, but I know that Gary found work selling ads for a radio station for a while and eventually went to work for another weekly newspaper in Eastern Oregon.

Fast forward a year or two, and I was at a regional newspaper convention and bumped into Gary. We did the handshake and the “How are you doing, no hard feelings thing,” and then he said, “I have to ask you something, Nick. Where did we go wrong? We spent two months planning what we were going to do and we failed miserably.”

I told Gary that there was no question in my mind about their impending failure, and told him that he himself had told me they were not going to make it. He asked me how he did that, and I replied, “You told me that you had it all planned out and that I had taught you everything I know. No, I didn’t. I only taught you everything you know. I’ve been at this business a long time, and I know stuff that you’re never even going to dream of knowing.”

I would like to think that Gary learned a lesson from all of that, but I heard later that he tried to pull the same stunt on the publisher of the newspaper he was working for at the time, and that gentleman kicked him to the curb. He told me the last he had heard of Gary, he was selling used cars in Portland.

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 – Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.

Better Late Than Never

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
May 042021
 

I usually put out four books a year but last year I did six. Part of that was because with the pandemic we weren’t doing any traveling, and part of it was because I wanted to get my new Tinder Street family saga off and running. I had hoped to maintain that schedule this year, too, but in order to have done that, I should have had my newest Tinder Street book, Boom And Bust, out in April.

I didn’t make that goal, but I did finish the book on Sunday. It came in at just a shade under 100,000 words, and I spent all day yesterday reading through the last few chapters and making corrections. One problem with a historical series that spans several generations is that it’s easy to get the character’s names confused. I’ve done plenty of that and spent a lot of time correcting those errors. When I was done making corrections, I printed the chapters out for Terry to proofread and edit before passing them on to my other two proofreaders. This book takes us from 1925, in the middle of the Roaring 20s, to the end of the decade, the Wall Street crash, and the beginning of the Great Depression. There is a lot going on for the McNally and Wirtz families, and I think you’re going to enjoy it. Hopefully, within a week or so, it will be out, and you can tell me if you did or didn’t.

Besides doing all that with the new book yesterday, I also went to our accountant to pick up our tax returns and get them mailed off. Donna, our accountant, is very good and works hard to find us every legal deduction. She’s been telling me for quite some time now that since we didn’t do much traveling in 2020, we were going to take a big hit on taxes, and we did. I remember years when we didn’t make as much as we had to pay in taxes this year. I guess that’s the price of success, isn’t it?

Yesterday afternoon I was standing outside talking to our neighbor Jesse Bolton from across the street when somebody from the city came around passing out door hangers telling people that there had been a break in a water pipe. Even though it had been repaired, we are under a boil water alert for the next day or two. No problem, we can do that, and we also keep several gallon jugs of water on hand for emergencies. That way, when there’s a hurricane or something predicted to be coming our way, we don’t have to rush to the grocery store and buy every jug of water in sight. I was a Boy Scout and I know how to be prepared.

While Terry is proofreading those last chapters today, I need to start working on my free author’s newsletter to be ready to send out as soon as the book is live. I told Terry that after the book is out, I may take a few days to just goof off. Then again, I may start on my next Big Lake book and see what I can get done before our kids arrive for their visit in about three weeks. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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 – I’ll never forget the look on the cashier’s face when she rang up the bag of birdseed and I asked her how long it takes for the birds to grow after I plant them.

Me And Groucho

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
May 032021
 

There are more groups on Facebook dedicated to all kinds of special interests than there are fleas on a dog. More than there are fleas on a pack of dogs. I belong to and help moderate a few, including three or four authors’ groups and John Huggins’ Living the RV Dream group, and I occasionally check in on a couple of kayak fishing groups and groups for places I’ve lived in the past. But I’m too busy to spend a lot of time in any one group, and there are probably some I belong to that I haven’t visited in well over a year.

One of those groups is a private group for mystery writers, and a year ago, when the person who runs it asked me to join, I had first declined, saying that I just did not have time to participate. She asked me two more times, and then pretty much begged me to join, saying that having a New York Times bestselling author among their group would be a real feather in their cap. I told her to add me to the group but to please understand that I probably would not be an active participant. And I haven’t been. There are only so many hours in a day and so many things I can do. But I don’t have to worry about being in that group any longer. Yesterday I received a message from her telling me I had been removed due to inactivity, explaining that they only wanted people who were going to engage with other members. She did tell me that I would be considered for re-admission if I promised to actually take part and be active. I was reminded of the old Groucho Marx quote, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” People mystify me sometimes.

Someone else who mystified me was the person who sent me an e-mail asking how he could enter my weekly blog drawings without using his e-mail address and if I could enter for him using my e-mail. He said that with all of the internet scams and phishing schemes out there, he guards his e-mail address like his bank account pin number, and the only people who have it are his immediate family members and a few lifelong friends. He assured me that it was nothing personal and it wasn’t that he didn’t trust me, he doesn’t trust anybody with such valuable information. Now, re-read that paragraph and think about it. He sent me an e-mail asking how to enter a contest without revealing his e-mail address because he doesn’t want anyone to have it. Read it again if you still don’t understand.

Congratulations Marlene M Tillery, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, Book 4 in my friend Bobbi Holmes excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about an Oregon seaside bed and breakfast with a resident ghost of a previous owner who has been dead for almost ninety years. We had 36 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Yesterday I tried to pull my sleeve up and accidentally punched myself it the nose. It’s okay, I’ve had it coming for a long time now.

The View Is The Same

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
May 022021
 

Note: This is a repost from a few years back that I think is just as appropriate today.

In a thread on an online RV forum, a woman shared her excitement about her recent motorhome purchase and acknowledged that while the RV was older and small, it fits her needs. I posted a reply to her thread and told her that the neat thing about her little RV is that the view out the window is the same one that the folks in the biggest multi-slide, high-dollar motorhomes have.

For over eight years, we traveled and lived in our 1976 homebuilt MCI bus conversion, and loved it. Yes, it was old, yes, it was slow climbing up the hills, and yes, there were times we wished we had a little more space. But that old bus took us from coast to coast, and border to border many times. And I wouldn’t trade the memories we made in those years for any RV on the market today! 

We have known RVers who owned the newest and biggest and most expensive rigs on the road, and we’ve known folks wandering around the country in older rigs that are held together with duct tape and dreams. And guess what? Sometimes the folks in the older, smaller RVs were the happiest people we have ever met! It’s not about what you travel in, it’s about your mindset as you travel this great land of ours! If you understand that it’s all about the journey, and not about what takes you on that journey, you’re on your way to a successful RVing experience.

I’ve been a photographer for most of my life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have sold enough of my work over the years to help support my hobby. The first picture I ever sold was a black and white image of the old Immaculate Conception church in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio, that I took when I was fifteen, with an ancient box camera. It was snowing heavily at the time, and the falling snow and black and white film gave the picture a very surreal effect. Over the years, I have known people who were sure they could produce excellent photographs if they could just afford the latest high-tech camera or some super-powered telephoto lens. But I think my mom paid a quarter at a yard sale for that old box camera I used to take the church picture.

At another time in my checkered past, I owned a gun shop in Tucson, Arizona. Every year when hunting season rolled around, at least one customer would come in to buy a rifle, and ask me “Are you sure I can kill a deer with this thing?” I always replied, “I have no idea what you can do with it, but I’m sure I can kill a deer with it!”

RVing is the same way. Our dear friends Peter and Connie Bradish have a very nice older Beaver with over 200,000 miles on it, that they love and have taken very good care of. Their motorhome has taken them on adventures all over the country and will continue to do so for many more years. Peter and Connie have worked hard and were careful in their financial planning. If they wanted something new, they could have it, but they are perfectly happy with their rig and I don’t think you could pry them out of it with a crowbar. They know that enjoying life, and RVing, isn’t about having the biggest rig in the campground. It about that view out the windshield, and enjoying every day of it.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, Book 4 in my friend Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle series about an Oregon seaside bed and breakfast with a resident ghost of a previous owner who has been dead for almost ninety years. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – An aging body is a very high price to pay for maturity.

 

Love Lost And Found

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
May 012021
 

Today we take our cell phones and e-mail for granted, but there was a time not too long ago when none of that was conceivable to most people. During my own youth, a telephone was something that hung on a wall or sat on a stand in the living room, connected to a cord. If you wanted to talk to someone, you actually had to dial their number to do so. And if somebody called your number, you who had no idea who it was until you answered. If you wanted to write to someone, you actually wrote a letter on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, stuck a stamp on it, and dropped it in the mailbox. A few days or more later, the recipient would get it, and if they wanted to reply to you, they had to repeat the process. How did we ever survive?

But even those modern conveniences would have seemed impossible just a few generations before us. It was not uncommon for those setting out for the western frontier to find a new life and better opportunities to only receive a letter once or twice a year from the folks back home, and sometimes families and friends would never be heard from again.

Consider the case of Frank Henry Hall, who was born in the Netherlands in 1837 and immigrated to America, settling in Wisconsin. The hard-working young man soon found a job and met a young woman named Annie Rivers. They got married in 1860 and settled down, expecting a normal life in their community of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Little did the couple know that their lives would be far from normal, or of the tragedies that would await them.

When the Civil War began, Frank thought it his duty to fight for his adopted country, and enlisted in the Illinois 42nd Illinois Infantry Regiment less than a year after their marriage. Like many young lovers, they wrote to each other on a regular basis, sharing dreams of the life they would have together once the war was behind them. A few months after Frank left, Annie wrote to tell him that she had given birth to their son. I’m sure he was delighted at the news, even if he couldn’t be there to welcome the baby into the world.

Frank’s outfit saw combat in several crucial and bloody battles of the war, including the Siege of Corinth, and at Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Over time, as they moved from one engagement to another, mail was interrupted, and Frank was no longer receiving letters from Annie. Then one day a letter from a friend back home brought the tragic news that Annie had died.

Unable to get leave to return home, Frank did the only thing a soldier can do, he continued to fight. When the war ended, with nothing to go home to, Frank re-enlisted and served with the 13th Ohio Calvary in Texas for several more years. Eventually, he left the army and moved about for a while, settling in Washington Territory, then returning east to Michigan and later to homestead in Iowa. At one point, he married a woman named Julia Nelson, but the union did not last long, and they divorced.

Many years passed, and in 1889, Frank returned to Waukesha to see if he could connect with old friends. The town had changed so much that he had a hard time finding his way around, but eventually, he made contact with Joe Rivers, the brother of his first wife. It was only after he asked Joe to take him to Annie’s grave to pay his respects that Frank learned the shocking news that she was still alive, but very ill and living in the county’s poor house. The letter he had received so long ago during the war had been incorrect. It was not Annie who had died, but another one of her brothers.

Rushing to the poor house where indigent people were kept, Frank saw Annie for the first time in 28 years. She didn’t recognize him at first,  but when he spoke to her she smiled for the first time in many years and threw her arms around him. Frank took her away from that depressing place that day.

In spite of the years apart, the reunited couple felt the same love they had for each other as young people. Unfortunately, they would not have much time together. Annie died within just a few short years, leaving Frank broken-hearted and alone once more.

He would eventually remarry a third time, in 1894, but then his health failed and he and spent the rest of his life in the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Frank Hall died in 1916, at age 79, and is buried in the Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee. I hope that in whatever afterlife there is, he and Annie found each other once more and are together for eternity.

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, Book 4 in my friend Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle series about an Oregon seaside bed and breakfast with a resident ghost of a previous owner who has been dead for almost ninety years. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.


Thought For The Day – You never run out of things that can go wrong.

Some Quick Q&A

 Posted by at 12:33 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 302021
 

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

Q. When you got your rabies shots that you wrote about in yesterday’s blog, were they in the stomach as I have heard, or in the arm?

A. Fortunately for me, I was not the one attacked by the skunk. Another sergeant was on CQ duty when that happened.

Q.We came across a copy of the Gypsy Journal dated in 2014, and it had a lot of good information in it. I mailed in a subscription and it was returned as the wrong address. Are you still publishing it and how can I subscribe?

A. I’m sorry. We hung up the keys almost five years ago and stopped publishing the Gypsy Journal at the end of 2017.

Q. I sent you a copy of my book to be used in a drawing prize months ago. When will it be in the drawing?

A. I don’t use unsolicited books in the drawing unless I know the author and their writing style. In your case, the book arrived unannounced and was rejected because I do not accept erotica as drawing prizes.

Q. Now that you and Terry have had your Covid vaccinations, it seems like you are getting out a little more but still wearing masks. Is it strange to do so? We will be getting our second Moderna shots Tuesday and are looking forward to actually doing something after the two week waiting period, but we’re also nervous about it.

A. It is a bit intimidating at first, and we still avoid crowds. And yes, it does feel strange after a year of staying isolated, but we are enjoying having a little more freedom to do a few more things safely.

Q. My neighbor said that Biden is shutting down the oil industry and experts are saying there will be gas shortages this summer. Is this true or just more political BS?

A. There is some truth to this, but it has nothing to do with President Biden. There is a nationwide shortage of drivers qualified to drive tankers hauling hazardous loads like gasoline. This is partially due to truck driving schools being closed due to the pandemic as well as drivers who were laid off last year and who have found other jobs. Trucking companies are also understaffed with office personnel and mechanics. Industry experts say we may see gas shortages this summer, but it is not because of politics. Here is a link to one of many stories about it. https://abc7.com/gas-shortages-why-are-prices-so-high-crude-oil-shortage-gasoline/10555914/

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, Book 4 in my friend Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle series about an Oregon seaside bed and breakfast with a resident ghost of a previous owner who has been dead for almost ninety years. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I met a microbiologist the other day. He was much bigger than I expected.

Apr 292021
 

I was on a lot of Army bases during my time in the military, either getting basic and infantry training, or attending different schools and taking cadets from West Point to different bases for specialized schooling. And besides the olive drab vehicles, olive drab  uniforms, standard looking barricks and administration buildings, and close cropped haircuts, every Army base from Fort Jackson, South Carolina to Fort Knox, Kentucky to Fort Huachuca, Arizona and everywhere in between all had one other thing in common. Skunks.

I’m not sure why these odiferous critters seem drawn to military bases. Maybe it’s because of all the mess halls and the big dumpsters behind them. Maybe it’s because of all the green space on most bases. But whatever it is, I’ve sure seen a bunch of them in my time.

When I was in basic training at Fort Knox, there was an ongoing competition between the four platoons in my company to see who could outdo each other in different aspects of training, from marksmanship to marching to hand-to-hand combat. I know that this is all part of the training process to mold you into a unit that operates as one. During my time at Fort Knox, we had an inspection every Saturday morning by the company commander, and whichever platoon passed with the highest marks in terms of personal inspection as well as barracks inspection would get Saturday afternoon off, as well as all day Sunday. As you can imagine, everybody wanted to win. And there were some that would do anything to win.

A couple of guys from one platoon when into another platoon’s latrine and somehow managed to rotate the long pipe that ran the length of the communal urinal 90 degrees. This meant that when everyone went in for a quick pit stop before falling out in their dress uniforms for inspection and the urinal flushed, all of the water that was supposed to go out the bottom of the pipe to wash everything down the urinal drain instead squirted out all over their uniforms. It doesn’t look good to the company commander when you and a bunch of your fellow trainees are standing at attention, soaking wet at the waist. I know because I was one of those wet guys.

Now, I’m not admitting anything, but I will say that a week or two later, one of our guys on sentry duty at night spotted a skunk crawling into a garbage can and closed the lid, trapping the animal inside. And again, I’m not admitting to anything, but when the platoon that had pulled the latrine stunt was standing outside their barracks being inspected, a couple of guys from my platoon snuck in the back door with that garbage can and replaced the one that was there with it.

Once the outside inspection was over, they all went back inside for the barracks inspection. And when the company commander, first sergeant, and drill sergeant heard a noise coming out of that trash can, and someone lifted off the lid, a very angry skunk jumped out and sprayed its way down the length of the barracks and out the door. Needless to say, those boys didn’t get Saturday afternoon off. Actually, since nobody would admit to the deed, the whole company was restricted for the weekend. But except for the guys from that barracks, I think everybody else thought it was worth it.

Fast forward a couple of years and a couple of extra stripes on my shoulder, I was pulling Charge of Quarters (CQ) duty at West Point once or twice a month. The CQ is basically in charge of the barracks during off-duty hours. He’s there to keep everybody in line if there’s a problem, break up fights if there are any, and generally be the go-to guy until the next morning when the officers come to work. This is a routine assignment split up among the different sergeants in a company. The CQ also has a runner, who is a lower-ranking enlisted person, as his assistant.

One of our guys had an unauthorized pet, a de-scented skunk that he had bought at a pet shop someplace and named, appropriately enough, Pepé Le Pew after the cartoon character. Our captain knew about Pepé, but he was a good guy, and as long as there were no problems, he didn’t really care. Pepé had the run of the place and was everyone’s buddy. He would even use a litter box!

One slow summer night, the sergeant on CQ had ordered a pizza, and he and his runner were munching on it while the rest of the barracks slept. With nothing else to do, the sergeant stretched out on a couch in the CQ office, and the runner was sitting in a chair with his feet up on the desk, asleep. Nice to know they’re on the job, isn’t it? The sergeant heard a noise and looked down and saw Pepé eating a piece of pizza crust from the box lying on the floor next to the couch. Half-awake, the sergeant reached down and grabbed the little guy and pulled him up on his stomach to cuddle.

It turns out it wasn’t Pepé. It was a wild skunk who had wandered inside and was getting a free meal. It bit him twice on the face and again on his hand and then ran through the barracks spraying everything in its path. The poor sergeant had to get a series of rabies shots as a precaution and trust me, you never want to do that. Needless to say, after that incident, our captain decided that Pepé had to go.

I’m going to tell you one more skunk story, although this one had nothing to do with the Army. My father was a heck of a musician and could play anything with strings or keys, even though he could not read music and had never had a lesson in his life. Once, when I was a little kid, we were someplace where he was playing for a party, and I had to go to the bathroom. We were was out in the sticks someplace, and they had an outhouse. I was afraid to go out there in the dark, so my dad grabbed a flashlight and went with me. There was a piece of wood nailed to the front that you turned to keep the door closed when no one was using the outhouse. Dad turned it, opened the door and stepped inside, and yelled “Skunk!” as he pushed me backward so I wouldn’t come in, too.

Don’t ask me how or why I did it, but I jumped up and spun that piece of wood sideways so that black and white devil wouldn’t get me. The only problem was, my dad was still inside with it! Things got real ugly there for a while, but it didn’t take Dad long to knock the door of that thing off and come flying outside. A friend of his drove our pickup home with my dad sitting in the back, and my mom made him sleep outside that night so he wouldn’t asphyxiate the rest of us, the way he smelled. Dad and I never talked about that for some reason, but I made it a point never to ask him to take me to an outhouse again.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, Book 4 in my friend Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle series about an Oregon seaside bed and breakfast with a resident ghost of a previous owner who has been dead for almost ninety years. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If one door closes and another one opens, your house is haunted, and you need to move!

Apr 282021
 

We can all blame my daughter Tiffany for the fact that I didn’t get much writing done yesterday. Well, not much narrating done, to be exact. Terry had an appointment at Kutryb Eye Institute in Titusville to get the plugs replaced in her eyes, which she has to have done every few months, and I took my Sony digital recorder with me, planning to sit in the van and record a chapter or two while she was inside. The last time we were there, only patients were allowed inside. They’ve relaxed that rule now, but I still thought it better to do it out in the van so people didn’t hear me talking to myself and think I was a crazy man. I prefer people to come to that conclusion after knowing me a little bit longer. And trust me, it doesn’t take all that long.

However, I only got a couple of paragraphs narrated before my daughter Tiffany made a FaceTime call to me. We talked for the hour or so or so that Terry was in the doctor’s office, but that’s okay. I love talking to my kids. They grew up to be pretty cool people in spite of having me as a father. That says something about them right there.

When Terry was finished, we went to Lowe’s to see if we could find some of the Thinset brick backing that we needed for behind the kitchen stove. They had it, but only in boxes that covered eight square feet and cost something like $78. All we need to fill in is an area 6 inches high by 30 inches wide. We went across the street to Home Depot, even though I much prefer shopping at Lowe’s because they give veterans a 10% discount every day of the year. They had pretty much the same thing at the same prices, so that was out. We went back to Lowe’s and found some other stuff that doesn’t match, but we could buy just a sheet or two tile mosaicsof it to do the job. We’ll have to see how that works out.

If you have been reading the blog for very long, you know that we enjoy browsing through antique shops, and one of our favorites is the Titusville Antique Mall. We decided to stop there before we left town, and since it wasn’t very busy and everybody is required to wear a mask and we have had our COVID-19 vaccinations, we were comfortable wandering around looking at stuff.

I found this sign and was tempted to buy it and hang it in the doorway to Terry’s loom room, but she said something about how I would learn just what happened if I disturbed her enough.

Terry was off doing her thing, and I was in another aisle when I came across an African American lady who was probably in her late 50s or early 60s. We said hello, and she said she had never been in an antique shop before, and it kind of surprised her because so many of the things that were called antiques were things that she had when she was growing up or as a young married woman. Me being me, I asked her if that meant she was old, too. She smiled behind her mask and said, “No, it just means I’m vintage.”

A while later, I bumped into her on another aisle and she mentioned how big the mall was (it’s a good size place, but not all that big compared to some of the antique malls we’ve been in) and that her feet were going to be killing her by the time she finished looking at everything. There was a pair of old roller skates with a skate key in one display next to where she was standing, and I suggested she buy those and she could just skate around. She laughed at that and that if she ever tried to put on roller skates, she would fall down and would need somebody to help her get her back on her feet, and then she would just fall right back down again. She was a nice lady, and I enjoyed chatting with her.

Then, just a few minutes later, we wound up together again in another vendor booth looking at some stuff, and I said, “You know, we can’t keep hanging out together like this. People are going to talk.” She laughed and said it probably wouldn’t work out anyway. I asked her if it was the age thing or the white thing, and she slapped me on the arm and said, “No, baby, it’s the chubby thing.” Funny, she didn’t seem all that chubby to me.

But isn’t it interesting that two strangers of different races can meet casually someplace and form a connection and enjoy a laugh or two, even if it’s fleeting? I think the world needs more of that, don’t you?

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 – It’s okay to fall apart now and then. Sometimes tacos do, and people still love them.

Words And A Super Moon

 Posted by at 12:27 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 272021
 

Yesterday was a wordy day for us. I got in another 3,500 words in my new Tinder Street book, and once I was done with that, I gave the last five or six chapters a read through, making corrections as I went. Then I ran them through Grammarly before printing them out for Terry to proofread.

This puts me more at than 75% of the way through the new book, and if all goes well, I hope to have it finished by the end of the week. Then, after final editing and proofing, it should be out sometime around the first week of May.

It was a wordy day for Miss Terry, too. As I reported in Saturday’s blog, she has not been happy with the care she’s been getting at her dentist, and she went for her appointment last Friday, ready to give them a piece of her mind, only to learn that her dentist is no longer with the practice. She had to go back again yesterday to see the original partner.

Terry is a pretty laid-back person, but she has her limits. When she is getting stonewalled or not getting the level of care she pays for, she’s not shy about letting somebody know. She said she believes the message was received loud and clear, and the senior dentist assured her that her issues would be taken care of to her satisfaction. They did some preliminary work yesterday to rectify the problems, and she has another appointment next week.

When Terry got home from the dentist, she made delicious grilled grouper with baked potatoes for dinner, and it was better than anything you’ll buy in any restaurant, I promise you that.

After dinner, we relaxed in our recliners, watching TV for a while. Then we went outside to check out the first supermoon of the year. Terry got a good picture of it using her Canon SX40 digital camera.

Terry has an appointment with her eye doctor today and then we’re going to go to Lowe’s and Home Depot and see if we can find some of the brick backstop material like we have to fill in the open space behind the range left over when we installed the new microwave oven. Then, when we get home, I’ll be back at it, pounding out more words.

Thought For The Day – Getting older is waking up thinking you’re hungover and then realizing, nope, this is just who I am now.

Apr 262021
 

We stayed at a lot of campgrounds in our 18+ years of fulltime RV travel, some really nice places, and some not so nice. There are campgrounds that we returned to on a regular basis and others where one stop was more than enough.

RVers would often ask us what our personal favorite campgrounds were. Sometimes I feel like that would be akin to telling you where my favorite fishing hole is. What if the word got out and pretty soon the place was so full that they didn’t have room for me?

But what the heck, there’s always Wal-Mart if my favorite campsite is not available, so here are my Top Ten favorites, and why. Please be aware that the reasons I like a campground may not be important to you, just as the things you look for may not meet my needs.

Elkhart Campground, Elkhart, Indiana – No question about it, this is our favorite campground in the entire country. It is centrally located to a lot of places we regularly frequent, Elkhart is the capital of the RV industry, the campground is clean and well maintained, the RV sites are wide, the interior roads are all good, and owners Bob and Gita Patel treat us like family.

elkhart campground 6

Escapees Rainbow Plantation, Summerdale, Alabama – I don’t think we’ve ever been to an RV park with roomier sites than this Escapees Club RV park. We like the Alabama Gulf Coast area, the small towns in the area are all friendly and clean, and the park itself has a lot of great amenities and activities.

Tra-Tel RV Park, Tucson, Arizona – There is nothing fancy about this small RV park, the spaces are tight, and you get noise from nearby Interstate 10 and the railroad tracks on the other side of the highway. However, it’s clean, the staff is very friendly, they have a nice pool, and for us, location is everything. Tra-Tel is a comfortable, convenient place to stay when we visit our family in Tucson.

Escapees Sumter Oaks RV Park, Bushnell, Florida –  I would say that this is our favorite campground in the state of Florida. We love the giant live oak trees that shade the park, they have a great indoor pool, a fine rec room, and because it’s an Escapees park, it’s always friendly. Miss Terry loves wandering through the nearby huge Webster Flea Market looking for bargains.

Bushnell RVs Spanish Moss 2

Escapees Raccoon Valley, Heiskell, Tennessee –  This was a regular stop for us, and another favorite Escapees Club RV park, because we love the area. The campground is just a mile or so from Interstate 75, and close to Knoxville, but has a rural feel to it. Twice a week local bluegrass musicians come to the park and hold free jam sessions. We haven’t been to Raccoon Valley since the recent remodel, and we’re looking forward to seeing the improvements.

Thousand Trails Verde Valley Preserve, Camp Verde, Arizona – Again, location means a lot. We stayed at this large Thousand Trails campground often when it’s too hot to be in Phoenix or Tucson, but still too cold to go to our old hometown in Arizona’s White Mountains. There is a lot to see and do in the Verde Valley, from exploring historic ghost towns and ancient Indian ruins, to riding a vintage steam train.

TTN Verde Valley entrance 2

Country Roads RV Park, Lake Delton, Wisconsin – Our friends Terry and Terri Michael, owners of Country Roads, billed this campground as a place for adults, and if you want a super clean, quiet location that is just minutes from all of the hustle and bustle in Wisconsin Dells, you’ll like it too. Amenities include a pool, very nice RV sites, and a welcome that will make you feel like you just came back home after a long absence.

country roads

Escapees Turkey Creek Village, Hollister, Missouri – Located on the shore of Lake Taneycomo, just minutes from all of the shows and attractions in Branson, we stopped at Turkey Creek many times, and always looked forward to getting back again. The RV sites are nice, the area has more to see and do than you could get done in an entire season, and the local folks are all very friendly.

Hershey Thousand Trails, Lebanon, Pennsylvania –  The campground is a short drive from Hershey if you need a chocolate fix, it has a lot of great amenities, and this is another part of the county that we really enjoyed spending time in. We love the green, rolling countryside around the campground.

ttn Hershey hillside

Fisherman’s Landing, Muskegon, Michigan – I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with this city owned campground. The sites are fine, and it was a great place to stay when we visited family in Muskegon, not to mention that there is a lot to see and do in the area, and we could launch our kayaks right from the campground. However, the downside is that on summer weekends there always seems to be at least one large group of rowdy campers who disturb everybody else, and management never seems to be aware of it.  Still, we went back every year, so I guess the good outweighs the bad.

Okay, now I’ve told you mine, so don’t hold back on the rest of us. What are some of your favorite campgrounds, and why?

Congratulations Patty Gioia, winner of our drawing for a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. We had 51 entries this time around. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.