Nick Russell

Mar 312021
 

Stretching an impressive 140 miles along the Colorado River from the mouth of the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is impressive with its lakes of deep blue water, towering desert and mountain scenery, its wildlife, and its many outdoor activities.

Covering 1.5 million acres, twice the size of Rhode Island, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is big, diverse, and extreme. Temperatures can be harsh, from 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert in summer to below freezing in winter on the high plateaus. Two huge lakes, Mead and Mohave, are the big draw.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers a lifetime of things to do and places to go any time of the year. Its lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen, while hikers, artists, and wildlife photographers love its desert surroundings. It is home to thousands of desert plants and animals specially adapted to survive in an extreme environment where rain is scarce and summertime temperatures soar.

The region’s good weather draws visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area year-round. Snowbirds from states with harsh winters come to spend their days enjoying the outdoors and the sunshine. Sunbathers and water skiers come in the summer to toast in the 110° plus temperatures. The area generally has less than five inches of rainfall annually. Water temperatures range from 45°F to 85°F at different times of the year.

Before the existence of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Hoover Dam, the area was home to early desert Indian cultures, explorers, prospectors, and pioneers looking for cheap land and religious freedom.

Several Native American cultures lived here 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, in an environment wetter and cooler than it is today. They hunted wild game, gathered edible plants, and practiced farming. Archaeologists say that some were hunter/gatherers and lived in caves; other groups lived in pit houses and Pueblo-type structures and practiced early farming. Ranging from present-day Davis Dam north to the Virgin and Muddy Rivers, these early farmers grew corn, beans, squash, and cotton.

In a cave near present-day Lake Mead, the remains of large mammals were discovered, including ground sloths, horses, camels, and mountain sheep. Notches and marks found on the bones of these animals show evidence that they were killed and eaten by humans.

The region became more and more populated by white settlers with the advent of rail transportation and the discovery of gold and silver in the mountains of southern Nevada. Mormon pioneers established communities, and prospectors established mining claims up and down the river.

Construction on Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam, began in 1931, with the last concrete poured in 1935. Rising 726 feet, Hoover Dam is the Western Hemisphere’s highest concrete dam. Its base is 660 feet thick, the top is 45 feet thick, and it stretches 1,244 feet across Black Canyon. 4.4 million cubic yards of concrete were used in the construction of the dam and power plant.

The reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River became Lake Mead. As Lake Mead was filling, it quickly became obvious that it would be a unique resource. A giant lake in the desert offered almost unlimited water-based recreation on a year-round basis. The newly formed lake quickly began attracting thousands of visitors to this wonderland of desert and water. Lake Mead National Recreation Area became the country’s first national recreation area, in 1964. Today, millions of visitors come here each year to enjoy the many recreational opportunities found within the park’s diverse landscape.

Visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area enjoy a variety of water recreation activities in a rugged and picturesque setting. The lakes and the Colorado River boast some of the country’s best sport fishing. Anglers come here to catch largemouth and striped bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and rainbow trout. Boating and water skiing are favorite activities, along with kayaking and canoeing.

To get the most out of a visit to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a boat is essential. Visitors who do not have their own boats can rent anything from a canoe to a houseboat at the many marinas in the region. Although much of Lake Mead must be experienced by boat, the various campgrounds, marinas, and other facilities clustered around the lake make it possible for non-boaters to enjoy it as well. Millions of people use the lake each year, and many return again and again to a favorite cove or campground. Shaded picnic areas with tables, water, fire grills, and restrooms are located throughout the area.

Several paved roads wind through the dramatic desert scenery, offering a variety of day trips by car, motorcycle, or bicycle. Towering rock-faced mountains, high plateaus, desert basins covered with cacti and creosote bush, and steep vertical-walled canyons are around every bend in the road. Bring plenty of water and comfortable hiking shoes because many short desert hikes lead to places visitors will never see from a boat or car.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area has several campgrounds that are open all year, featuring restrooms, both primitive and RV sites with running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables, and shade. There are also concessionaire-operated campgrounds, with RV hookups available within the Recreation Area.

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 – Sometimes, you just have to roll down your car window and bark at people.

Nobody Reads Anymore

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 302021
 

As an author, and as someone who loves to read, I am constantly perplexed why anybody would not want to. And sometimes it’s depressing. All that time spent sitting in a classroom learning how to read, and so few actually do it.

When we were traveling on the road as fulltime RVers publishing the Gypsy Journal RV newspaper, we had vendor booths at RV rallies all over the country for many years. You would be surprised at how many people declined a free sample copy, saying something like, “I haven’t read anything since I got out of school, and I never plan to.” Others would simply say, “I don’t read.”A couple of times when Miss Terry got weary of hearing that response, she would give them her prettiest smile and say, “That’s okay, they have classes for adults to learn how to do that now.”

And even many of those who do read don’t actually take the time to understand what they are looking at. I blame part of this on social media. There is so much to see that they just skim through everything without giving their eyes or their brains time enough to actually absorb the message. The other day I posted the following comment on Facebook: When the time comes, I support mandatory vacations for everyone. If anyone refuses, they should be forced!

The responses left me shaking my head. One person told me I was becoming a Communist and he was never going to read my Facebook posts or the blog anymore. Someone else said that this is America and nobody has to get a vacation if he doesn’t want one. It was his body and nobody was putting that poison in it. A longtime “friend” told me that I was a disgrace to the American flag. I told him to go back and actually read what I had posted, and he replied a moment later saying that he had read it, and I could stick my vacation where the sun don’t shine, because nobody could make him take a shot if he didn’t want it, and it was treasonous to try to push that on anybody. He suggested I might be much happier in Russia. Okay, fine, have a nice day, comrade.

But, fortunately, enough people do read that I can make a living writing my books, and irritate people with words in my spare time. I’ve been working hard on my new Tinder Street book, which is requiring a lot of research to make sure I get the facts right. The other day I read through and corrected several chapters, then printed them out for Terry to proof. Yesterday I started making final corrections to what she gave back to me, and I couldn’t figure out why there were so many errors on my screen that were not in the printed-out proof chapters she had worked on. Then I realized that I had goofed and not saved those chapters once I read through them and made my on-screen corrections before printing them out. That took a while to figure out and get everything back on track!

But I did, along with doing more research, and things are moving right along. By the way, if you need to know anything about the day Harry Houdini died (October 31, 1926), or the death of Rudolph Valentino a few months earlier, or the steps one had to go through to get a commercial pilot’s license in those days, or placenta, give me a shout. I’ve got notes I’ll share with 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.  And I thought my high school girlfriend was weird when she told me she put mayonnaise in her hair!

Thought For The Day – At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time, and nobody knew it.

Mar 292021
 

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 traveled 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 traveled 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.

Congratulations Richard Klein, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. We had 20 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of sending printed books and Amazon restrictions on sending e-book codes to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

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

 

Mar 282021
 

In an online conversation yesterday, somebody asked if anyone had ever heard of a rich guy who had a newspaper column and was famous for letting people write to him asking for money and then giving it to them.

I replied that not only had I heard of him, I knew that man. Born in 1916, Percy Ross was the son of poor immigrants who grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the middle of the Great Depression, he moved to Minnesota with not much more than the clothes on his back, and within eight years had made a small fortune. He invested in several businesses and made millions in the plastic bag industry.

Never forgetting his humble upbringing, Ross believed it was his duty to share his wealth with those less fortunate, and he did so in many ways. He always carried a supply of silver dollars in his pockets to give to kids, along with advising them to always be honest, work hard, and set goals. At a holiday party for children at the Minneapolis Convention Center, he gave away more than 1,000 bicycles. He had so much fun doing it that he decided to do even more, and came up with his famous Thanks a Million newspaper column, which ran in over 800 newspapers coast to coast, from big city dailies to small town weeklies. My small town newspapers were among them.

The columns were very popular, and people would write in asking for money to do everything from getting dental work down to buying a new car or money to start a business. Ross obviously did not grant every request, and sometimes he was downright blunt about it, such as in the case of a young man who wanted $1,500 to bail himself out of jail on his third DUI charge. Ross replied, telling him that as long as he remained behind bars, the streets were a little safer.

Ross obviously could not do it alone, and he had a large staff to handle over 4,000 letters a day that came in. But he enjoyed calling newspaper editors and people who wrote in. About once a month, my secretary would knock on my office door and say, “Percy wants to talk to you.” More often than not, it was just chitchat, asking about my family and how things were in our small town. He had a tremendous sense of humor, and I always looked forward to his calls.

He also asked the local newspapers to help him fulfill people’s wishes, as I did on two occasions. The first was a widow who had lost her husband and was struggling to make ends meet with four children. She was in desperate need of a washing machine and dryer. He had me find new units locally and arrange for them to be delivered to her home and to personally deliver a $5,000 check to her from him. On the second occasion, a gentleman in the Phoenix area was dying of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion while working for a charity in Central America. He said all he wanted was enough to get the clutch replaced in his Jeep and new tires so he could enjoy driving through the desert before he died. Instead, Ross had me find a used Jeep in excellent condition and deliver it to the man.

An interesting thing about that event is that a car dealer in our town had just the right vehicle, but I went there three times to explain the situation and arrange for Ross to overnight him a check, and he was always too busy to see me. So I bought the Jeep in Phoenix. When the story came out in my paper, the local dealer called me and angrily asked why I went out of town to buy a Jeep. I told him because he blew me off three times. He said, “Oh, I thought you wanted to sell me an ad.” Guess what? People who sell ads drive cars, too, and they have to buy them from someone.

Ross gave out $30 million over the years, helping to pay for everything from recreation centers to organ transplants. I was a founder and on the board of directors of a women’s shelter in our rural county, and it came up in our conversation once. He asked me how it was funded, and I said through donations, since the good old boys who ran the county did not deem it “necessary” and worthy of tax dollars. He asked how the donations were going, and I admitted it was a struggle every day to keep the doors open, but we somehow managed to make it. The next day Fed Ex delivered a check for $100,000 to me at my office to be used for the shelter.

Ross said his goal was to give away every penny he had, and he did just that, finally closing down his Thanks A Million column after 17 years. In his farewell column, he wrote, “I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve given it all away. But you have given me so much over the years. In many respects, I’m far richer today than when I started.”

Percy Ross died in 2001, just 10 months after his beloved wife Laurian. At the time of his death, a longtime friend said he had never been himself after she passed away and often talked of their 60 years together.

I still have a silver dollar he gave me, in a holder he autographed, for helping him complete the wishes from those two people. It means so much more to me than its cash value. Rest in peace, Percy. You were one of a kind.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (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 sending printed books and Amazon restrictions on sending e-book codes to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Life could be worse. Milk could have pulp.

Mar 272021
 

After going to the Preston Law Firm in New Smyrna Beach to pick up the binder with all of the documents for our family trust, Terry and I went to Ruthy’s Kozy Kitchen for brunch. This is one of those local places that the tourists never find, and locals like it that way. Nothing fancy here, just good comfort food and fast, friendly service. I had a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream and Terry had avocado toast. Both were good, though I have to acknowledge that nothing compares to Terry’s overnight yeasted waffles.

From there, we stopped at a place to look at some big planter size pots, and when Terry didn’t find anything she liked there, we went to Lindley’s Nursery to check out what they had. We have done business with these nice folks several times, and they always treat us right. While she didn’t find any planters that suited her, Terry did spot some pygmy date palm trees that got her attention. She has talked about removing the banana palms at the edge of our driveway and replacing them with something else because all they do is make a mess. She wasn’t ready to make a decision right then, but I think this might be how things turn out.

My son and his wife have been talking about leaving Tuscaloosa, Alabama and moving to Florida for quite some time now. Apparently, they think we are “old” and they have to be nearby to take care of us. Looking around on Zillow I found a place for sale in Oak Hill, about 6 miles away, that had once been a church back in the early 1900s and then was converted into a residence at some point.

Travis is an avid gardener, and it has a huge yard with plenty of room for a garden, several trees on the property, including a lemon tree, two work sheds, and a huge three-space carport more than 40 feet deep. The price seemed very reasonable, so we contacted the real estate company and set an appointment to see it later in the afternoon. But a red flag went up almost instantly when the agent said, “Oh, by the way, this is a cash-only deal and cannot be financed.” Just about anything can be financed if you have good credit, I would think, unless there is a problem with the property

The outside of the property was great. One of the work sheds needed some TLC, but I could see my son being very happy growing things in that yard. And, to be honest, I could see my pontoon boat living in that carport. But then we went inside.

I have very little sense of smell, but Terry said she could immediately smell mildew. We had asked the real estate agent why the property could not be financed, and she said that there was some issue with a water leak and the water had been turned off, but that’s all she knew. The floors were spongy in several spots, which could have been from age but seemed more likely water damage, and we could see what looked to be black mold along the baseboards, but could have been mildew.

Upstairs, there was a can placed to collect water when it rained, and a couple of places in the ceiling showed water stains. I thought about having my friend Jesse Bolton look at the place since he can fix anything, but the more we looked at it, the more we saw dollar signs upon dollar signs being needed to even make it habitable. Well, that was a disappointment.

I told the agent that it looked like the best thing someone could do was buy the property and knock the house down and start over. She kept telling us about its historical significance as being the first church in the community. Well then, let’s pass the collection plate because whoever buys it will need a really big bank account!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (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 sending printed books and Amazon restrictions on sending e-book codes to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If a turtle loses its shell, is it naked or homeless?

Love At First Bite

 Posted by at 12:46 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 262021
 

Yesterday afternoon Terry and I went to the Preston Law Firm in New Smyrna Beach to go over the paperwork for our wills, legal and medical power of attorneys, and revocable family trust. Braxton Bowen, the attorney handling it for us, was very knowledgeable and took the time to answer every question we had as he explained all of the forms to us, what they meant, and why they were necessary. After initialing in a zillion different places and signing in almost as many, we wrapped it up and will go back today to pick up a binder with all of our paperwork in it. Then we have to go to the bank and fund the trust, then to the Volusia County Tax Assessor’s office to get the deed to our home put into the trust, and some other details that need taking care of.

When we were down at the attorney’s yesterday, we stopped by Mullinax Ford to pick up some touch-up paint I had ordered. While we were there, we talked to Jack Tuthill, the salesman who sold me my Mustang a couple of years ago and who’s been working patiently with me on my decision of whether or not to buy a new pickup. I had some questions about the ordering process, and Jack helped me with that.

Our next stop was back at Uncle Chicken’s, a restaurant I wrote about a while back in a blog titled Badges, Chickens, and Lobster Rolls. Terry liked the lobster roll so much on our first visit that she ordered another one this time around.

I was tempted to order the same thing, but I was intrigued by another item on the menu called The Morning After Flagler Burger. It takes its name from Flagler Avenue, a popular beachside street in New Smyrna Beach that is lined with restaurants, drinking establishments, and tourist traps. The sandwich is a half-pound Angus burger topped with four pieces of cheese, bacon, smoked pulled pork, and served with a fried egg on top, along with fries. It also comes with an onion ring, which I asked them not to put on due to my allergy.

Folks, I have to tell you, it was love at first bite! I’ve had some great burgers in my time, including the Grand Slam at the Relief Pitcher Tavern in Seaside, Oregon, the Double Bypass Burger at the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona, and my favorite up until now, the Five Cheese Burger at Beef O’Brady’s. None of them come close to comparing to this decadent delight. Terry had a couple of bites and also thought it was absolutely amazing.

It was all I could do to finish it, but I soldiered through like a good foodie. I almost wish I hadn’t tried it, though, because now I don’t know that I’ll ever eat one of Uncle Chicken’s delicious lobster rolls again.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (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 sending printed books and Amazon restrictions on sending e-book codes to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I am sick and tired of food having calories!

At What Age?

 Posted by at 12:24 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 252021
 

There has been a lot of talk lately about different proposals made to lower the voting age to 16 years old. The people opposed to it say that a 16-year-old does not have the maturity to make decisions of that magnitude.

I remember back when I was in high school when people were pushing to lower the voting age to 18. A lot of the same arguments were made. No 18-year-old kid has the maturity to make a decision like that. That responsibility had to be reserved for people who were 21 or older Really? Because when I was 18 I was in the military, learning to fight in a war. When I was 19, I was leading an infantry squad. But when I came home, I couldn’t vote for the people who sent me there. I couldn’t legally buy a beer. When I wanted to get married, I needed my parents’ and my company commander’s permission, but my fiancée, who was the same age, didn’t. I guess that’s because girls mature faster than guys. I was a “child” in the eyes of the law. Go figure.

So how old does one have to be to be considered mature? Right now, Miami, Florida, is under a state of near-siege by college-age students on spring break who are defying rules about social distancing put in place to keep them and the rest of the community safe. One of them was quoted as saying, “If they try to stop us from having fun, we’ll burn the place down!” There have been over 1,000 arrests, and police are being forced to fire pepper balls to disperse the wild crowds of revelers.

In New Smyrna Beach, just up the road from us, a bunch of jerks on spring break trashed a local business because they would not sell them alcohol if they were underage, and required those who did come in to wear a mask. These are college students, and most of them are over 18. Aren’t college kids supposed to be the best of the best? Our next generation of leaders? They’re not those losers who couldn’t make it into college and had to go to trade school, or worse, get a job, right?

Then again, this sign was at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, located just a mile or two from my son’s house. Yeah, college students. Travis and his wife have told me about the big parties they have on campus, completely ignoring the rules about social distancing. Nice, responsible, college students.

So t what age can you be trusted to make wise decisions? The traitors who stormed the US Capitol and tried to disrupt the legal process of government were in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older. But we can trust them to vote, right? Well, unless the election doesn’t go their way. Then they want to tear the country down and start over.

So let me get this straight; at 16, a kid can get a driver’s license and handle a 3,000 pound car, but that same kid is not mature enough to fill out a ballot that weighs a few ounces. Interesting.

Someone said a 16-year-old kid is too easily influenced and would believe anything someone told them come election time. Gee, only a 16-year-old, huh? I guess if you’re over 18, you’re too smart to  believe a bunch of BS someone tells you, because you have all of that maturity going for you. Really?

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (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. 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 sending printed books and Amazon restrictions on sending e-book codes to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes the troubles we get are completely different than the ones we prepared for.

Lots Of Good News

 Posted by at 12:49 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 242021
 

After reading yesterday’s blog, I got private messages or e-mails from at least half a dozen people who wanted to know how our first night on our new Denver Mattress went. When I laid down, I didn’t experience the almost immediate backache I have been getting, and when I rolled onto my left side to spoon with Terry, there was a slight discomfort in my hip, but nothing like the piercing pain I had every night with the old mattress. As for Terry, she said she slept well and didn’t have the shoulder and hip pain that has been keeping her awake nights. Lori, our nice sales rep at Denver Mattress, said to give it about a week to fully break-in, because even though it’s an innerspring mattress, it comes completely compressed and takes a while to fully expand. Overall, so far, it’s been a very good experience.

In yesterday’s blog, I also mentioned that I spent many hours on the telephone with a wonderful young lady named Renée at Consumer Cellular, trying to get the Samsung Galaxy S10+ that I purchased in August replaced. She called me yesterday evening to tell me that she had good news and bad news and more good news. The first good news was that she finally convinced Samsung to replace the phone. However, the bad news was that there were no Galaxy S 10+ phones in stock. But the other good news was that they agreed to send me a new Galaxy S 20+ instead and not charge me any more money. That was very nice of her, and I really appreciate Renée going the extra mile and keeping on them until she got action.

When I first spoke to her, after working my way through lesser mortals in their customer service department, Renée told me that she is not one to give up and that she would keep at it until I was satisfied. Even better, as we got to talking during our times on hold Monday and yesterday, I found out that she lives in the Phoenix area, loves to read mysteries, and loves to cook. So guess who was going to order Terry’s cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen, and some of my Big Lake books? It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

And as good as all of that is, even better news was that both our son Travis and our granddaughter Hailey got their Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday. Hailey got the Johnson & Johnson shot at a pharmacy in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona. I blanked out the personal information on her card, but isn’t she just drop-dead gorgeous?

And this is Travis getting his first Moderna shot at a Walmart in Alabama. Look closely at the background of this picture. Are you surprised that my son got vaccinated in the lingerie department? Not me. He’s always been a bit of a boob. Then again, he’s also a chip off the old block. Or is that blockhead?

Besides all that, I managed to knock out another chapter in my new Tinder Street book yesterday, got the previous chapters back from my second proofreader, made her corrections, and sent them off to my third proofreader.

When I was done with all that, I did an interview with my friend Patrick O’Donnell for his Cops and Writers podcast. Patrick is a retired police officer and the author of the excellent Cops and Writers books, which are wonderful reference books for writers, and great reading for anybody interested in how people become police officers and what their lives are like on the job. Patrick also runs the Cops and Writers Facebook group. We had a great visit, shared some stories, and had a few laughs, too. The podcast will air in a few weeks, and I’ll post a link when it goes live.

Thought For The Day – I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know.

Potpourri

 Posted by at 12:23 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 232021
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

***

Since we were out of town all day Sunday on our trip down to Lake Wales to see our friend Chris Yust, I had planned to get a lot of writing done in my new book yesterday. But instead, I spent hours, no exaggeration, hours on the phone with Consumer Cellular, trying to get them to either fix the Samsung Galaxy S10+ phone I got just last summer or replace it. About half the time I don’t get calls, even when I’m sitting next to the phone and in a good signal area, and the other half of the time when I try to make a call, as soon as I push the Send button, it just goes back to the dial screen. Terry got the exact same phone at the same time, and hers works just fine. Once again, as they did a month ago, the techs made me jump through a dozen hoops that didn’t solve the problem, and then had me do yet another factory reset, which did no good. A very nice young woman name Renée was working with me, and the last I heard, they’re trying to get Samsung to replace the phone. I sure hope so because this is frustrating, and I cannot afford to spend any more days messing with it.

***

Though I didn’t get any writing done, Miss Terry was busy. She proofed the last few chapters I wrote, and today I will make corrections to them and then send them off to my second proofreader.

***

How would you like to be reading my new book on a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite? Better yet, how would you like to be reading my new book on a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite that you got for free? My friend, author Ken Rossignol, is holding a drawing for a free Paperwhite, and you can enter at this link. Give it a try, and good luck to you!

***

For a few years now, we have been sleeping on a Serta memory foam mattress and enjoyed it. But lately, both Terry and I have been experiencing a lot of pain in our hips, shoulders, and backs when we go to bed, and we were both tossing and turning all night long. So the other day we went to the Denver Mattress Company and ordered a new doctor-recommended mattress with an adjustable powered base. It was delivered yesterday morning, and so far, we are really impressed.

The nice lady who waited on us was very attentive, had us try quite a few different mattresses, answered all our questions, and actually talked us out of the more expensive model we were going to buy because she felt that the one we got would be the better choice for us. She works on commission, so the fact that she was willing to talk us down impresses me. And, if we decide we don’t like it for any reason, we have four months to return it for a full cash refund or credit toward another mattress. It wasn’t cheap, but as someone said the other day, how much is a good night’s sleep worth?

***

More good news on the Covid vaccine front. I told you last week that our daughter Tiffany and her husband Kenny were able to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine back in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona. Then, we learned yesterday that Tiffany’s eighteen year old daughter Hailey will be getting her shot on Thursday. And even more good news, my son Travis in Alabama will be getting his first Moderna shot today. The only place he could find an opening was about an hour and a half away, but it’s worth the drive.

Both Travis and Tiffany have told us we can expect visitors very soon. That’s fine, we are looking forward to it. Tiffany swears it’s because she has missed us so much, and I believe her. But I know that sneaky son of mine, and I know he has an ulterior motive. He’s got a birthday coming up, and he’s wanting Terry to make him a vegan carrot cake. We can handle that, too!

Thought For The Day – If I can make at least one person smile, or pee their pants a little bit, or maybe spit out their drink, my day was not wasted.

Mar 222021
 

It’s been a long time since we took a road trip, and even longer since we saw our friend Chris Yust. Chris and her late husband, Charles, owned C&C Insurance, and we worked the RV rally circuit together for years. We became close to them, and when we weren’t at a rally someplace, if we were anywhere in the same area, we always got together for dinner, visiting, and exploring.

Chris and Charles hung up the keys and bought a place in Lake Wales, about 120 miles south of us. And, of course, we hung up the keys in October of 2016. Unfortunately, Charles did not get to enjoy the post-RV lifestyle for long, passing away suddenly a year ago.

Covid has kept everybody self-isolating away from others, well, at least anybody with common sense, but now that all three of us have been vaccinated, Terry and I decided to take a day trip to Lake Wales to visit with Chris yesterday.

The trip down was good, no problems at all, and Chris greeted us with hugs and we shed a few tears together. But we also shared a lot of laughs, talking about all the things that we had seen and done as fulltime RVers.

Chris made us a delicious late lunch/early dinner of grilled pork chops, roasted new potatoes and corn for me, and roasted asparagus and veggies for her and Miss Terry. We spent the afternoon visiting, bringing each other up to date on what we have been up to, and talking about our many friends from that time in our lives. And while all three of us agreed that it was wonderful while it was happening, we also all agreed that we wouldn’t want to hit the road again. Been there, done that.

We wanted to be home before it got dark, so we left about 5:30 PM, figuring that would put us home around 7:30. What’s that they say? God laughs when we make plans? About 20 minutes or so after we left Chris’s place, we ran into a horrendous traffic jam on State Route 60 eastbound and came to a complete stop. We sat for a long time, moved a few feet at a time, and stopped again, and repeated the process over and over. It took us over 80 minutes to cover four miles.

When we got to Yeehaw Junction, we saw what we think was the cause of the traffic jam. This boat was sitting at the entrance to a gas station there, there was a large tow truck, and I saw what looked like the fender of a pickup truck laying in the grass. This area is very busy, and I think someone tried to make a turn across traffic into or from the gas station and got hit. I could be wrong about that, but we didn’t see any other evidence of an accident on the road.

By the time we finally hit Interstate 95 and headed north, the sun was fading, and within another 25 miles or so it was getting too dark for me to drive. We stopped at a convenience store in Malabar for fuel and a potty break, and then Miss Terry took the wheel and drove the rest of the way home. It was after 9 by the time we pulled into our garage, tired from our long day trip but still happy we got to see our friend.

Congratulations Judy Rinehimer, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot by Vineet Verma. We had 64 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – When somebody asks me what I did over the weekend, I squint and ask, “Why? What did you hear?”

Well, Hello Spring

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 212021
 

The other day the weatherman from News Channel 6 in Orlando said that Winter is over and Spring is officially here. But you couldn’t prove that by me yesterday.

A cold front came through Central Florida, bringing rain and wind with it and keeping the temperature down in the low 60s all day long. On gloomy days like that, I’m glad I don’t have to work for a living, and instead can spend my days sitting at the computer writing books.

Sometime during the afternoon, the power blipped off two or three times and came right back on. I sure was glad we have our Tripp Lite battery backup power supplies on my computer and printer and our two televisions. It makes life a lot easier when you don’t have to lose your work due to something like that.

My friend Jim called and said there was no power at his house just a block or two away. Another neighbor said that two transformers had blown. Within an hour or so, Florida Power & Light was here with a couple of big trucks trying to restore electricity to everybody. Jim and another friend both said it was cold in their houses. I told him it could have been worse. It could have happened on one of our 90 degree days with high humidity. He didn’t seem to take much comfort in that.

I got another 3,000 words or so written in my new Tinder Street book yesterday and printed out some new chapters for Miss Terry to proof. Once she’s got that done I will make her corrections, and then they will make the rounds to my other two proofreaders, Judy and Roberta.

For a while now I have been looking forward to a road trip, and today we are going to take one, traveling a little over 100 miles south of here to visit our friend Chris Yust in Lake Wales. Chris and her husband Charles were familiar sights on the RV rally circuit with us, promoting their insurance business, and we have known them for what seems like forever. Unfortunately we lost Charles suddenly, a little over a year ago and have not been able to visit Chris since then due to Covid. Now that we all have our vaccines out of the way, it’s time.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Remember, the only thing standing between you and your dreams is your appearance, lack of talent, and general personality.

Twits Can Kill You

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 202021
 

I have mentioned before that I rode motorcycles for much of my life. When Terry was a teenager she had a bad experience with a foolish uncle who took her on a wild ride, and she was understandably never comfortable on motorcycles after that. After we got together, I sold my last bike and didn’t ride for 10 years.

Then I got it in my head to buy another bike, and I purchased a beautiful 1100cc Yamaha V Star. It was bigger than the 650cc and 750cc bikes I had always ridden, and between that and going over a decade without a bike, my skills were very rusty. I kept it a couple of years, but it just wasn’t fun anymore.

Another reason I stopped riding is because there are so many idiots on the road these days. Twice in the time I had the bike, I came close to getting into an accident. Once, someone pulled out of a driveway directly in front of me, and I thought I was going to have to lay it down to avoid a collision. Another time, a girl texting or talking on her phone came into my lane, and I had to take quick, evasive action.

And it’s not just motorcycles that have to watch out for careless drivers. The other day, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was riding his bicycle when a clueless 20-year-old twit ordering something on her cell phone while she was driving hit him from behind. The impact was so hard that her passenger side mirror broke off and was impaled in the sheriff’s back. The clueless woman kept on going, but a trash truck was following her car and the driver’s dashboard camera captured the whole thing. He stopped and rendered aid to the sheriff and called for help.

Fortunately, though Sheriff Chitwood is pretty banged up and in a lot of pain, he is going to be okay. There’s a reason we call him Iron Mike around here. Who do you know that works all day and then routinely gets on his bicycle and goes for a 20-mile ride after work? Iron Mike does. He’s also one of the most outstanding lawmen around. He doesn’t just sit in his office, he is out working the streets every day and he is famous for calling criminals who molest children or assault women and the elderly scumbags in his news conferences. Yeah, he’s my kind of guy.

Using the trash truck’s video, police tracked the young woman down at her grandparents’ house, and she was just as vapid then, saying that she thought she had hit a mailbox. There are two problems with that; the video shows there are no mailboxes along that road, and even if it was a mailbox, you don’t just drive away, you stop and file a report. I hope they throw the book at this girl. Being young and stupid does not excuse actions like that.

No matter if you ride a bike or a motorcycle, or drive a full-size SUV, be careful, folks. There are twits out there who will kill you and keep right on driving.

Yesterday was beautiful, with a high of 72° and a steady breeze blowing all day long. We opened up all the windows to let the fresh air in. My office door opens onto our carport, and then it’s a short distance to the street. While I was sitting here working on my new Tinder Street book with the door open, I could hear Terry having a sneezing fit from the other end of the house. I shouted “bless you” to her, and a woman walking by outside called back, “Thank you.” I don’t know if she sneezed, too, or if she thinks I’m some kind of religious fanatic. Either way, I guess it’s okay.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – You people need to start appreciating the effort I put into not being a serial killer.

FDR Memorial

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 192021
 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of America’s most beloved presidents, and the only man to hold the nation’s top office for four terms. He was a father figure to all of America, pulling us out of the Great Depression and seeing us through the darkest days of World War II. His Fireside Chats were an American institution as people gathered around their radios to hear him bring messages of hope, inspiration, and courage right into their living rooms.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. is one of the most expansive memorials in the country, yet its many shade trees, soothing waterfalls, statues, and alcoves create the feeling of being in a secluded garden rather than a government monument.

Located next to the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin, the FDR Memorial is composed of four outdoor galleries, or “rooms” that cover the highlights of Roosevelt’s four terms in office. The galleries are separated by walls of red granite from South Dakota, carved with words from some of Roosevelt’s most famous speeches.

Each room shows a different period in Roosevelt’s tenure in office. The first room introduces visitors to the early years of his presidency and the inauguration of Roosevelt’s New Deal to pull us out of the economic perils of the Great Depression.

The second room, recalls some of the highlights of Roosevelt’s term in office, including statues depicting his Fireside Chats (top), breadlines (Center), and a rural couple coping with hard times (bottom).

Between the second and third rooms, a grassy berm symbolizes the point at which Roosevelt and America confronted World War II. In the third room, a statue of Roosevelt is draped in a blanket to hide his wheelchair, his faithful dog Fala sitting nearby.

The last room honors Roosevelt’s life and legacy. A relief sculpture of the president’s funeral cortege hangs in a quiet alcove. A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt honors her role as First Lady and her work to further her husband’s goals and promote human rights.

A timeline of important dates in Roosevelt’s life and career is etched into the memorial’s plaza. More than 75 years after his death, Roosevelt’s words call out to us from the walls of his memorial. Throughout the memorial, waterfalls soothe the soul and help convey the message of each room.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is unlike any federal memorial or monument we have ever visited. We came away from our visit with a greater understanding and appreciation for the man who helped shape our nation in the middle years of the Twentieth Century.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I decided I will never get back down to my original weight, and I’m okay with that. After all, 8 lbs. 3 oz. is just not realistic for a man my age.

Five Down, One To Go

 Posted by at 12:29 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 182021
 

So far, our family has been doing very well in getting our Covid-19 vaccinations. The first was our daughter-in-law Geli, who is a nurse at a hospital in Birmingham dealing with Covid patients on a daily basis. She received the Pfizer vaccine soon after it became available. We sure were glad to see her get that and know that she was protected.

A little over three weeks ago, Terry and I got our second dose of the Moderna vaccine, and yesterday my daughter Tiffany and her husband Kenny in Arizona got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Tiffany qualified because of her medical issues, and Kenny because his work brings him into direct contact with the public all the time.

So that’s five of us, leaving our son Travis as the only one still not vaccinated. We are all anxiously awaiting that day, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to get together as a family again. The last time Travis, Geli, and Tiffany were here was in October, 2019 and that’s a long, long time. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, folks, but we can’t get complacent and careless yet. We still have a ways to go.

I was back on Tinder Street most of yesterday, working on my third book in the series. I knocked out over 3,500 words, which isn’t a great writing day, but wasn’t too bad. I much prefer 5,000 word days, but this series takes a lot of research. Yesterday it was on what were called sheeny ragmen back in those days. They were men who went through neighborhoods collecting scraps of cloth, cans, and anything else they could sell to recycle.

The word sheeny is considered a racial slur directed at Jewish people now, and I imagine it may hav e been back then to some people. But I read account after account of how the ragmen would come through a neighborhood, either pulling a cart by hand or with a horse, ringing a bell and calling out, “The Sheeny man is here!” According to many accounts I read, in the days before public trash collection, they served an important purpose in cities across America.

And while many of them were in fact Jewish, there were ragmen of all different races who called themselves sheenies, and there is some debate as to whether or not the word referred to their ethnicity or their occupation. It was a time when people were too busy just living to be able to put a lot of effort into being offended by anything and everything.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Barefoot In The Parking Lot, by Vineet Verma. When detectives investigate the murder of the hotshot CEO of a big AI company, they come face-to-face with the dark and sordid world that lies just under Silicon Valley’s polished and pristine exterior. From jealous ex-lovers to rival tech giants, the victim had powerful enemies, all of whom would be happy to see him dead. The list of suspects seems endless – and deadly.

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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I don’t know what my spirit animal is, but I’m pretty sure it has a plastic cone around its neck.

Mar 172021
 

I bet you’re wondering how I can tie those three things together in one blog, aren’t you? Well, stand by and watch it happen.

Terry had an appointment at Kutryb Eye Institute in Titusville yesterday, and when she was done with that, we ran to Lowe’s to pick up a couple of things. It has been a long time since we have been in Wildwood Antique Mall in Titusville, or much of anyplace else, for that matter. But since we are more than three weeks past our second Covid vaccinations, and since we wear facemasks everywhere we go, we decided to check it out. We were pleased that they had two signs on the door saying not to come in without a mask, and an employee was standing nearby, making sure that happened.

We browsed around for a while, and I mentioned to one of the employees that I collect badges. As it turned out, they had a box of old badges for me to sort through, so I was like a kid on Christmas morning, looking at all the goodies. Most of my collection is police badges, but I also have quite a few chauffeurs badges that were required of taxi drivers many years ago. I think the oldest one I have dates back to 1919. They had several chauffeurs badges, but many of them were ones I already have. However, I did find this nice Kansas badge, and since Miss Terry was born in Kansas, it only seemed right that it went home with us.

I also picked up a police badge from Lawrence, Indiana (top) and one from Orford, New Hampshire (bottom).

But the pick of the day for me was this antique press badge. Press badges are hard to find, and being an old newspaperman, I was thrilled to latch onto this one. It’s the only press badge I have in my collection.

The doctor had given Terry a prescription, and we dropped it off at Walgreens when we got back to town. By then, it was after 6 PM and we were both hungry, so we decided to get something to eat while we waited for the prescription to be filled. Ever since we moved to this area, people have told us about a place called Uncle Chicken’s, on US Highway 1 in New Smyrna Beach. Driving past, it looks like a fast food joint with some outdoor picnic tables. But I’ve never heard anybody who didn’t go on and on about how good the food is, and though I have never met him, I have also heard many times that the owner is a very nice man who does a lot of good things for the community. So we decided to give it a shot.

This may look like a fast food place, but it’s not. Nothing is sitting around under a heat lamp; you place your order at a window and they make your food. Several reviews recommended their lobster rolls, and having lived in Maine a couple of times when she was growing up as an Air Force brat, that is something Terry really enjoys. We each ordered a lobster roll, along with a shared order of French fries.

As I said, every order is made individually, and they were a bit busy, so we had to wait about half an hour. No problem; the tables are spaced far enough apart for social distancing, there was an umbrella over our table to provide shade, and a nice breeze was blowing.

And let me tell you something, my friends, I could tell by the look in Terry’s eyes the moment she bit into her lobster roll that we have found a place we will be going back to again and again. Not only is Terry an amazing cook in her own right, as you all know, but she is also picky when it comes to restaurant food. She knows what she likes, and she doesn’t compromise.

She said the lobster roll was as good as anything she’s ever had in New England or anywhere else. I don’t think I had ever eaten a lobster roll before, myself, but I will definitely be ordering that again! If you’re ever in the area, do yourself a favor and go to Uncle Chicken’s. You won’t regret it.

There, I told you I could tie all this together, didn’t I?

Thought For The Day – When the past comes knocking, don’t answer. It has nothing new to tell you.

 

Mar 162021
 

Yesterday afternoon Terry and I had to have an uncomfortable video conversation with my son, daughter, and daughter-in-law. But it was necessary and one that every family should be having.

While there are no life-threatening physical issues with either one of us, we both will turn 69 this year, and we are not foolish enough to think that we will live forever. Working with a local attorney, we are in the process of setting up a family trust to protect our assets when the time comes. Since they will be the recipients of whatever we have, as well as any future royalties from my books, we needed to talk about that.

We also had to clarify that neither one of us would ever want to be kept alive by machines in a vegetative state if there was no chance of recovery. By making our wishes known to them, as well as stated in our will and the family trust, we are taking those difficult decisions away from them.

Both Travis and Tiffany were a bit weepy talking about things like this, but I assured them that #1 we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and #2, I’m going to work hard to spend my last nickel and bounce the last check in the checkbook the morning of the day I die. It just seems better for everybody that way. If you have not addressed this issue with your family yet, please don’t put it off. We all have an expiration date, and none of us know when that day will come

Another conversation I had recently was not uncomfortable at all. That was when I told Terry, “Yes, I will take a second helping.”

It’s been a while since we have used our Orion convection smoker and we decided we needed to remedy that. So we picked up a couple of racks of baby back ribs and put them in the smoker the other day.

We love the Orion because it is quick and easy to use, cooks a couple of racks of ribs to perfection in less than 90 minutes, and they come out absolutely delicious. Served with Cuban style black beans and fixings, forget Tony Roma’s or Sonny’s Barbecue, or our local favorite, Dustin’s Barbecue. Nobody can make ribs like Terry does in the Orion.

Take a look and tell me I’m wrong. I would tell you to take a bite, but I finished the rest of them off for dinner last night. We both agree that we need to try smoking a couple of chickens, or better yet, a turkey soon.

And what makes a delicious dinner even better, you ask? How about some of Terry’s amazing banana bread? Yes, I know. I am a very lucky man.

Thought For The Day – The CDC is now saying we can have gatherings of up to eight people without issues. I don’t even know eight people without issues.

Jimmy Did Good

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 152021
 

There was a time when gas cans came with a flexible metal spout that made it easy to fill a tank with. But, in their infinite wisdom, someone in the government decided that if something is working, they must find a way to screw it up. So they did, by mandating a new non-flexible “safety spout” that has a little gizmo on the side that has to be pushed into the rim of the tank as you are filling it before the fuel will flow.

These newfangled things suck. First of all, because they are not flexible, you have to hold a gas can almost upside down to get it to work. That’s assuming you can get the little safety mechanism to engage on the rim of the tank you are filling, so it will work at all. The end result is that more gas gets spilled on you and on the ground than ever gets in the tank. Or at least that has been my experience.

A while back, we discovered Surecans, which have a spout on the bottom and a trigger mechanism on the handle. This makes filling a car or portable generator’s gas tank a lot easier, but when you have a 5 gallon can of gas that you’re holding in the air, it gets heavy pretty quickly.

We always keep several cans of gas on hand for our two Honda generators because it is not uncommon to have power outages that last for days around here during hurricane season. I put STA-BIL Storage Fuel Stabilizer in the gas, and it will keep for months at a time.

But every so often, I like to rotate it by pouring the gas from the cans into one of our cars and refilling the cans with fresh gas. Since the tank in the Ford Explorer was getting low, I decided to do that yesterday. We still have a couple of the cans with the government-mandated filler spouts, and it didn’t take me long to start cussing when I tried to use one and made a mess of things.

A while back, my friend Jim Lewis had seen something called a Turbo Pump advertised on TV and bought one for him and one for me. It uses three AA batteries and you put one end in a gas can and the other end in the car’s filler and latch the simple clip to keep it in place, and turn it on. I decided to give it a try, and I’m impressed!

It emptied a 5 gallon can into the Explorer’s tank in about two minutes, with no mess and no fuss, and even less time for a 3 gallon can. Jimmy did good! The Turbo Pump also has an automatic shutoff device, so you can start filling a car’s gas tank or whatever and don’t have to stand there monitoring thing, because once the tank gets full, it shuts off so you and have a mess to clean up. Do yourself a favor and grab one of these, they are available on Amazon and worth every penny!

Congratulations Nancy Cullinan, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series.  We had 43 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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Some people drink from the well of knowledge. Others just rinse and spit.

Mar 142021
 

We live in a society where nobody ever wants to take responsibility for anything they do. No matter what happens, and no matter what role they play in it, the end result is always somebody else’s fault if it turns out bad. Here’s a newsflash for you folks – sometimes it is your fault!

I saw an example of this the other day when I went to a store located in a large strip shopping center. As it so happened, I pulled in nose to nose with some type of nice looking little sports car with the top down. Being a car guy, I noticed it and admired its sharp lines as I walked past it.

When I got inside the store, the woman who owned the car (assuming it was the same car), was yelling at the manager on duty because someone had stolen her purse, which she had left on the front seat. She said she only realized she didn’t have it with her when she went to check out, and when she went out to her car, it was gone. She was berating the manager for not having better security in the parking lot. Think about this – she left the top down on her car, and she left her purse sitting on the front seat. The store manager didn’t do that. The company that owns the store didn’t do that. The checkout clerk didn’t do that. She did it. But it was everybody else’s fault but her own that it got stolen. That’s the kind of mentality I’m talking about.

I got a comment from someone who read yesterday’s blog, Oil Change Required, telling me that I was wrong when I implied that motorcycle riders need to be more careful and mentioned a couple of incidents I observed the day before. According to this person, it is always the car driver’s fault when there’s an accident that involves an automobile and a motorcycle. She mentioned that she lost a family member and a good friend in motorcycle accidents, and while I’m sorry for her loss, and I don’t know the circumstances of those tragedies, the reality is that she is wrong. Yes, there are careless car drivers, and yes, sometimes their inattention has led to fatal accidents with motorcycles. But that’s not always the case.

One of my best friends in high school was a kid named Joe Camara. There were four of us that were inseparable, and if you saw one of us, you usually saw the other three. I went into the Army after graduation and Joe joined the Navy. We met up a couple of times when we were both home on leave and were looking forward to further adventures when we were out of uniform. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. A couple of weeks before he was due for his discharge, Joe was riding a motorcycle at a high rate of speed, lost control, and hit a tree. He was killed instantly. Was that the tree’s fault? I still remember my friend with love, and I still miss him. But I don’t think we should be cutting down every tree in the world to keep the same thing from happening to someone else.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth 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 high the shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Remember when we had to smack the TV because the channel wasn’t coming in clearly? I feel that way about far too many people.

Oil Change Required

 Posted by at 12:57 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 132021
 

The last time I drove my Mustang I got a message on the dashboard that an oil change was required. This surprised me because even though I bought the car in November of 2018, it still only has 1,150 miles on it. So how could it possibly need an oil change?

I had a few errands to run yesterday, including dropping off some paperwork at an attorney’s office for an upcoming telephone consultation on Monday about making our wills and possibly setting up a family trust. I decided that since I was out and about, I would run by Mullinax Ford and ask their service department about that or if there was some kind of error causing the message. I was surprised when they told me that even if the car is not driven much, the oil can break down over time. So I guess I will be making an appointment to get that done, too.

Of course since I was already there, I had to spend some time looking at trucks and Expeditions. I am not one to buy things on impulse, I do a lot of research ahead of time and once I make a decision I don’t cut corners or compromise. If I’m going to get a new pickup, it will be an F-150 Lariat, and they don’t have any in stock. But they did have a brand-new crew cab (four-door) Lariat that had just arrived as a special order for a customer. Though I couldn’t drive it, obviously, the salesman did open it up and let me check it out. It’s the first time I’ve actually been in one of the new models, and I’m definitely sold.

However, since our daughter Tiffany insists that instead of the pickup, I need to buy Terry an Expedition, I spent some time looking at those as well. One Expedition they have in stock is a King Ranch model, which is about the top-of-the-line, but it had too much in the way of adornment for my taste. But they had several others that were definitely nice. I may have to drag Terry down there and get her to drive one. Then again, if I do that, I might not get a pickup after all!

We have a 5-gallon propane tank left over from our RV days that we now use on our stainless steel barbecue grill. I didn’t know how much gas was left in the tank, but I wanted to get it filled up, so I took it with me yesterday. I was driving the Explorer, and we have a bar with a heavy-duty net stretched across the back of the cargo area to keep groceries and such in place. I put the propane tank back there, figuring it would stay put, but I was wrong. At some point, it rolled under the bar, snagging the net by the carrying handle in the process. After that, every time I turned a corner, it tangled itself in the net more and more. It took a little bit of time, a whole bunch of aggravation, and some words that my mama would be ashamed of me for even knowing before I got it eventually untangled and was able to get the tank refilled. I found a different way of carrying it on the way home.

The annual Daytona Beach Bike Week ends on Sunday, and there are motorcycles everywhere around here. Having ridden my share of miles on two wheels, I am very conscious of motorcycles and try to drive in such a way as to avoid any danger to them. But I swear, some of those fools must love tempting fate. Twice yesterday I had bikers pull out of parking lots directly in front of me, and if I wasn’t paying attention, there would have been a collision for sure. I also saw three of them racing down US Highway 1, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting off cars, almost asking to get themselves in trouble.

Every year two or three bikers get killed during this event, which is tragic. I think there have been three fatalities so far this week, and I hope there are no more. I know we are all supposed to share the road, but some of the bikers need to share some responsibility and use common sense, too. We’re not talking about kids hyped up on adrenaline and testosterone, we’re talking about people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and older who should know better. I hope they all make it home safely.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth 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 high the shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Most people don’t think I’m as old as I am until they hear me stand up.

Mar 122021
 

I have mentioned before that I love doing research for my books, but it can become quite addictive and a time waster if one is not careful. Then again, if you’re learning new things, is it ever a waste of time?

I spent much of yesterday working on my new Tinder Street book, knocking out another 2,500 words. I was aiming for twice that much, but at one point I needed to look up some things on the Internet about Roaring 20s gangsters. That was definitely the era of the gangster, and it’s a period of time I’ve always been interested in. From Al Capone and Bugs Moran’s feud in Chicago that led to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to Yonnie Licavoli, who played a violent role in Ohio and Michigan, there was a lot of bloodshed and mayhem spread around.

This was also the age of the flapper, when women wore dresses that were so short their calves showed and made their grandmothers’ hearts ache, and did scandalous things like drinking in public, smoking, and using language that just was not proper. We’re talking about big-time party girls.

Somehow in that research, a link led me to stories about flagpole sitting. This fad in the second half of the 1920s began when Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly, a stuntman and former sailor, sat on a flagpole for 13 hours and 13 minutes in 1924. There’s some debate as to whether he did it as a publicity stunt or on a dare from a friend (or maybe he was just trying to get away from all of the gangsters and flappers). For whatever reason, it caught on, and soon records were being set, anywhere from 12 to 21 days. In 1929, old Shipwreck decided to reclaim his title and sat on a flagpole in Atlantic City, New Jersey for 49 days. A year later, a gentleman named Bill Penfield broke that record by sitting on a flagpole in Iowa for 51 days and 20 hours, only coming down when a thunderstorm forced him to.

I was running out of time or I would have done some more research because there are questions that just have to be asked. Of course, the first question is why would anyone do such a thing? But then I remembered that we have people these days who swallow Tide Pods, so there is that. But how do you sleep when you’re sitting on top of a flagpole? Who climbs up and brings you food? And how do you go to the bathroom? Look out below!

While there were a few other incidents of flagpole sitting, for the most part, the fad died out about the time the Great Depression hit. I guess all the flagpole sitters wanted to come down and join in the misery.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth 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 high the shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.


Thought For The Day – I envy people who grow old gracefully. They age like fine wine. I’m aging like milk, getting sour and chunky.