The Devil’s Chair

 Posted by at 1:04 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 122021
 

Long-time readers of my blogs or the Gypsy Journal know that Terry and I enjoy visiting old cemeteries. Some people might think that’s morbid, but to us, it’s always interesting. It puts your own life in perspective when you see how many people, especially women, died at early ages back in the “good old days.” In fact, one of the many seminars I presented at RV rallies around the country was one called Cemetery Stories, where I shared some of the odd and interesting things we have seen in graveyards in our travels from border to border and ocean to ocean.

We really needed to get away from home for a little bit, so yesterday, we visited a cemetery not too far away that definitely has a story associated with it.

The 10-acre Lake Helen-Cassadaga Cemetery here in Volusia County, Florida, is said to be haunted. Of course, people say that about a lot of cemeteries, but this one may have a couple of extra reasons for that claim to fame. The first is that one of the communities it serves, Cassadaga, is home to many spiritualists and professional mediums and is known as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp was founded in 1875 by George Colby, a New York medium who made his living traveling around the country giving readings and séances. Colby is buried in the cemetery, and his spirit is one of several that are reported to be seen wandering the grounds.

The cemetery’s other special feature is a brick bench known as the Devil’s Chair. Legend has it that if someone is brave enough or foolish enough to sit in the chair at the stroke of midnight, the Devil will speak to them for the rest of their life, a torment that many supposedly have not been able to endure. It wasn’t midnight, but you just know I had to go sit in the Devil’s Chair, don’t you?

Another part of the legend is that if you leave an unopened bottle or can of beer at the chair, when you come back the next day it will still be sealed but will be empty. We found this empty beer bottle at the chair, and it did not look to either one of us like the cap had ever been taken off. What happened to its contents? I don’t know, but if I hear somebody with beer breath whisper in my ear, I’ll let you know.

If you want to visit the cemetery, it is located between the two small communities at the intersection of Root Street and W. Kicklighter Road. And if it looks familiar to you, that might be because scenes for the 1981 movie Ghost Story, based on the Peter Straub novel by the same name, were filmed there.

I have to tell you one funny thing about our trip to the cemetery yesterday. It was Terry’s father’s 91st birthday, and while we were driving home, she was talking to him on the telephone and he had the speaker on so her mother could hear, too. Terry was telling him about the Devil’s Chair and the story behind it when I interrupted her and said, “He knows all about that honey. He’s been listening to your mother for a long time.” Her dad got quite a laugh out of that, but I think her mother is probably sticking pins in a voodoo doll named Nick right now.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll have some more to tell you about Cassadaga and a delightful little park there where we spent quite a bit time.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Dastardly Deeds & Last Words, the first book in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials 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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – The term “domestic housewife” implies that there are feral housewives, and now I have a new goal.

That’s Frustrating

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 112021
 

Thank you to everybody who purchased my new book Fresh Out Of Mojo, downloaded it to read for free on Kindle Unlimited, and told their friends about it. The book is off to a good start, thanks to all of you.

One person did say they had a problem with the language and violence in the book, but there is a disclaimer on the book’s page on Amazon saying that says it contains violence, strong language, and adult situations some readers might find objectionable. Unfortunately, when you’re writing about criminals, in this case, drug dealers, to tell the story accurately, you have to include the ugly world they live in. I do apologize to anybody who is not comfortable with that and encourage you to pass on this book if it would offend you.

There is a lot of work that goes into promoting a new book release, including announcements on social media, e-mails to book bloggers, asking my friends and fellow authors to help spread the word, and updating my BookBub and Goodreads author pages. Along with doing all of that yesterday, I also got my author’s newsletter sent out to all my subscribers with an announcement about the new book, and a great short story from my friend Donna McNichol from her new Red Line Coffee Mystery Series. I can already tell that I’m going to like these stories! If you would like to be added to the list for the free newsletter, just send me your e-mail address to [email protected] and I’ll get you added to the list. I promise I’ll never spam you.

All of that was the easy part of my day. Then it got frustrating. Back in August, Terry and I both got brand-new Samsung Galaxy S10+ smartphones, and for the last couple of months, every once in a while, my phone will not call out. I could get incoming calls, but when I tried to call out, the screen would just go back to the main screen when I hit the dial icon. So I called the customer support number for Consumer Cellular yesterday, and a very nice man walked me through several attempts to diagnose the problem and then had me do a factory reset.

That seems to have resolved the issue, but in the process, I lost all of my stored phone numbers and apps. That’s always frustrating. So I spent the next several hours trying to get everything back to where it should be. By the end of the day, I think I had most of it straightened out. I sure hope so.

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.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Dastardly Deeds & Last Words, the first book in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials 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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – My goal is to be that old person that everybody is afraid to take out in public.

And That Makes 44

 Posted by at 12:32 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 102021
 

My new John Lee Quarrels book, Fresh Out Of Mojo, is now available on Amazon. This is my 44th book and my first book for the new year. I normally publish four books a year, but the pandemic kept us home more than usual in 2020, and I had a lot of time to write, so I ended the year with six new books out. I’m not sure what this year will bring yet. I have lots of books rolling around in my head waiting their turn, but I would really like to get out and play now and then.

Besides finishing the teaser chapter of my next John Lee Quarrels book to go in the back of this one yesterday, and then formatting the e-book and getting it uploaded, I spent some time working on my author’s newsletter, which will go out today. Then I helped Terry with a couple of little projects around the house, which means it only took her twice as long to get them finished than it would have if she had done them alone.

She needed some more storage space in her office, so she purchased a couple of racks from Amazon. We (she) actually put one of them together the other day, and the second one, which fits in a corner,  came pretty much assembled and ready to go. Here they are on her desk, ready to be filled up.

She also ordered a Rush Creek fishing rod rack from Amazon, and we mounted that to the wall in the garage. This will keep our fishing rods organized and hopefully not getting all tangled up like they did when they were all piled together in the corner. That’s happened a couple of times now, and it’s always a mess to sort out. Now, if we could just get out and use them!

About the time we were finishing up with all that, our neighbor Jesse Bolton from across the street stopped by and we chatted for a few minutes. Jesse is going to repack the wheel bearings on the kayak trailer sometime this week and then has a couple of ideas about how to reconfigure it to hold two kayaks instead of one, which will make it much easier to get them down to the water and launch them.

Besides all of that, I also received some print copies of my last book, Big Lake Hoarder, yesterday. I need a couple more bookcases in my office, but I have no idea where I could put them. This place seemed so big when we bought it, especially after 18+ years of living in a motorhome, but now it seems like we are running out of space! I read once that stuff expands to fill the available volume, and apparently, that’s true.

Thought For The Day – A friend suggested putting horse manure on my strawberries. I’m never doing that again, I’m going back to whipped cream.

Feb 092021
 

Given all the deaths from COVID-19 and how rapidly the virus spreads, along with all the mutations we are now seeing, how far would you go to protect yourself and your family?

It seems like everybody has their own take on the virus and what they will or won’t do about it. I know some people who are completely sequestered, who pay by credit card to have groceries delivered to the house and only go out to get it after it is dropped off and the driver leaves. I know other people, like us, who don’t go to that extreme, but who do stay home as much as possible, wear masks when we have to go out, use hand sanitizer, wash their hands frequently, and social distance as much as possible. I also know people who leave their homes and families to go to work every day and take every possible precaution they can, and still fear what might happen. And then there are those who don’t believe the virus is real or think they are somehow magically immune, and go on like always, ignoring it completely.

Someone asked me back in April if we are going to spend the rest of our lives hiding in the house from something we couldn’t see. I told him that I didn’t survive jumping out of airplanes and getting shot and stabbed, not to mention a couple of bad car wrecks, only to risk my life acting like a fool.

I’m asking you all this is because of the situation an acquaintance found herself in. She is a single mom with a 19-year-old son, a 17-year-old daughter, another daughter age 12, and a 9-year-old son. She said that her oldest son told her he was going to spend the weekend helping a friend move, which she wasn’t happy about, but then she saw pictures of him on Facebook at Super Bowl parties in Tampa. There were crowds of people hanging on each other and not a mask to be seen anywhere. She sent him a message saying that whenever he wanted to come by and pick up his clothes, they would be in a box outside and that he was not welcome in the house anymore.

Some people have told her that is way too harsh and suggested she have her son get tested first and allow him back in the house as long as he is negative, or else have him self-quarantine for 14 days before he comes home. But her feeling is that if he did something like this once, he would do it again, and she is not going to endanger her life or the lives of her other children because this irresponsible fool wanted to go out and party and then lie about it.

This is not the first parent I have heard from in the same situation. What would you do if you were in her shoes? I know that I would do the exact same thing, and I have some family members who were faced with that choice who also did the same. Is it too harsh, or is it simply survival?

Thought For The Day – Once, my son asked, “Can I have a book mark?” and it broke my heart. The kid was eleven years old, and he still didn’t know my name was Nick.

A Tense Night

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 082021
 

A series of severe thunderstorms came through Central Florida Saturday night, with tornado warnings in several counties, including ours. As usual, the brunt of it went north or south of us, leaving us with periods of heavy rain off and on, but that was about it. But it was still a tense night around here.

It has been dry for the last several days, and I told Terry on Saturday that I really needed to water our citrus trees and perennial peanut plants, but she advised me to wait and see what the storm did. I’m glad she did because they definitely got plenty of rain!

In response to yesterday’s blog, Stupid Bowl Sunday, someone sent me an e-mail saying that if I would just take the time to watch two or three professional football games, I would be hooked. Why would I want to do that? It’s like beer. I don’t drink and haven’t since I was a young man in the Army, but even then, I never could stand the taste of beer. People tell me that it’s an acquired taste. Why would I want to acquire a taste for something that I don’t like in the first place? What would I gain by that?

Terry has spent the last two days doing one final readthrough of my new book Fresh Out Of Mojo, and as happens so often, even though it’s been through three excellent proofreaders, she’s still picked up on some things that need to be changed. Most of them are small things like misplaced commas, but in two places, I have people’s names wrong, and in another, I just left a blank space where there should be a name. I’m absolutely convinced that sometimes gremlins go in and change things in the middle of the night.

While Terry has been doing that, I’ve been making corrections as she gives them to me, working on my author’s newsletter, and writing the first chapter of the next John Lee Quarrels book, which will go in at the end of this one as a teaser. People keep asking me when the next book in my Tinder Street historical saga will be out. I will start writing it as soon as this new John Lee book goes live sometime later this week.

Today makes two weeks since we had our first round of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccinations, and in another two weeks, we will get the second injections. We know that’s not going to change the world, but it will make us feel much more comfortable. We will still wear masks and social distance because even though we are protected, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t spread the virus to somebody else. We are not out of the woods with this thing yet, folks, but we are seeing more and more shots going into more and more arms, and that’s the first step.

Of course, it would help a lot if we didn’t see crowds of fools getting together in bars celebrating sporting events with no concern at all about the danger they’re placing themselves and other people in. A friend of mine said the other day that maybe COVID is Mother Nature’s way of thinning the herd to get rid of the idiots, and while I don’t totally disagree, sadly a lot of innocent people have died and will continue to die before this is over.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I thought it appropriate since tax time is coming.

Congratulations Darhl Stultz, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series. We had 46 entries this week. 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 – Cooking tip: If you mix a little coconut oil with your kale, it makes it easier to scrape into the trash.

Stupid Bowl Sunday

 Posted by at 12:26 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 072021
 

Well, the big event is here. Stupid Bowl Sunday, or whatever they call it. I never understood why people get so excited about a bunch of spoiled, rich athletes playing ball. It’s just not my thing. Even when I was stationed at West Point, with our barracks just a short walk from Michie Stadium, I never saw an Army football game, or cared to. Once, when I was Soldier of the Month, I received two tickets to the Army-Navy game and traded them to a guy I knew for a couple of fishing rods.

I know, I know, saying you’re not a sports fan in America is blasphemous, but there it is. Many years ago, during our days as fulltime RVers, we were at the Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, and headed to Arizona to visit Terry’s parents and sisters, and my daughter and her family. We were checking out on a Sunday morning and one of the people working behind the counter asked how we possibly travel that day. I asked why not. It was a pretty day, the weather was nice, and I had a full tank of diesel in my MCI bus conversion. Why wouldn’t I be traveling? She asked if I didn’t know that it was Super Bowl Sunday. I told her that I was trying to lose a little bit of weight, and even eating a small sundae would ruin my diet, let alone a super big bowl. The people in the office looked at me like I was some kind of commie pinko. Oh well.

A few years ago, I did sit and watch the Super Bowl when our friend Jim was staying with us, but only because he wanted to watch it. That was four hours of my life I’ll never get back again!

It’s not just football that I don’t like. I’ve never been a fan of any team sports. I had a brother-in-law once who was a scout for the Dodgers, who lived and breathed baseball. I’m not talking fan, I’m talking about a guy who’s made it his life’s work and obsession. He had half a dozen televisions in one room in his house and all kinds of satellite dishes so he could watch games from around the world at the same time. We were visiting once, and in one of the games, a guy hit a home run, and I yelled, “touchdown!” Turns out a touchdown isn’t part of baseball. Who knew?

So what sports do I like? I used to like stock car racing back when it was just rednecks hauling ass and turning left, but then NASCAR turned it into a big business, and I lost interest. We live about 25 miles from the Daytona International Speedway, but just like that Army-Navy game years ago, if somebody gave me tickets to the Daytona 500, I wouldn’t go, I’d trade them for something worthwhile. I do sometimes try to watch the Indianapolis 500 on TV, not so much because I care about the racing, but they do have some pretty amazing crashes, and crazy things happen so many times, where the driver you know is going to win spins out or runs out of fuel or something in the last lap before they get to the finish line.

I guess if I had to choose my favorite sport, it would be boxing. Once in a while, when there’s a match on and nothing else on TV, I will turn it in. But I would much rather be fishing or kayaking or something like that than sitting watching someone else do whatever it is they do.

Anyway, if you’re a fan, enjoy the Stupid Bowl, but please, do it safely. Don’t get together with a bunch of people and participate in the next Covid 19 superspreader.

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.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series, which are an excellent reference for authors and screenwriters. Patrick recently retired from a big city police department, and he runs the Cops and Writers group on Facebook. This new book covers how a rookie detective is trained, and divisions within a detective bureau, including Homicide, Sensitive Crimes, Robbery, and Arson. There is also information on firearms and other weapons used in law enforcement, and much more. Whether you’re an author or just someone who is interested in how and why the police do the things they do to protect and serve, Patrick’s books are well worth the read.

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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Two silkworms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Feb 062021
 

Even though I am enrolled in the VA healthcare system, now that we both qualify for Medicare I get most of my treatment through civilian doctors. It’s quicker and easier, and frees up the VA system for veterans who need it more than I do. Yesterday Terry and I had our regular routine checkups with our physician at Island Doctors in New Smyrna Beach. They always schedule our appointments together so we don’t have to make two trips.

The doctor went over all of our lab results from a week ago, and the good news is that for an old fat guy, I’m in pretty good shape. He said my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are perfect, though my A1C has gone up a bit. I need to get back on my treadmill. Terry’s report was also good, so I guess we’ll be hanging around for at least a while longer.

Terry had a couple of skin tags that the doctors took off with cryotherapy, and then he zapped a few on me as well. That’s some cold stuff!

When we were done at the doctor’s office, we stopped at Publix to stock up on groceries for the next three weeks or so, made a quick stop at Walgreens across the street to pick up a prescription, and then we were glad to get back home. By the time the groceries were all put away we were both wiped out, so we settled for a light dinner of cold cut sandwiches and some TV before bedtime.

Yesterday I received all of the chapters for my new book back from the proofreaders, so today, I will start making their last corrections and print it out for Terry to do one final overall proofreading before I get it ready to launch this coming week.

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. We saw this place in Edgewater today and I just want to know how in the hell I can get a donut!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series, which are an excellent reference for authors and screenwriters. Patrick recently retired from a big city police department, and he runs the Cops and Writers group on Facebook. This new book covers how a rookie detective is trained, and divisions within a detective bureau, including Homicide, Sensitive Crimes, Robbery, and Arson. There is also information on firearms and other weapons used in law enforcement, and much more. Whether you’re an author or just someone who is interested in how and why the police do the things they do to protect and serve, Patrick’s books are well worth the read.

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 – If I was a plastic surgeon, I would absolutely put a squeaky toy in every breast implant.

Feb 052021
 

Wednesday night I finished Fresh Out Of Mojo, my 9th John Lee Quarrels book. It was about 86,000 words before final edits began. The writing took seven weeks and three days. It is in final editing and proofing now, and it will be out next week. It’s a gritty tale with violence and some strong language, so be forewarned if those kinds of things offend you. Here is a sneak peek at the cover.

While Terry was busy editing and proofreading the final few chapters, I began working on my author’s newsletter, which will go out once the book is live. The newsletter is free and a good way to keep up to date on new book releases, my activities as an author, and occasional short stories from my author friends. If you want to subscribe, send me your e-mail address at [email protected] and I will get you added. And I promise not to share your information or bother you with spam.

The last few days have been cold here in central Florida. How cold? Real cold! The weatherman said Wednesday night was the coldest night here in over three years, with the overnight temperature dropping down to 33 degrees, and daytime highs the last few days have been in the low to mid-50s and windy. Today we are looking at a beautiful 78 degree day, perfect for boating. So, of course, we both have doctor appointments. Go figure.

Some people have commented on the photos of the alligators I posted in a recent blog titled Visiting the Neighbors, asking if we weren’t afraid of paddling our kayaks where we might encounter a gator. As I told them, any body of water in Florida bigger than a birdbath probably has an alligator or two in it. We have paddled our kayaks past a lot of them over the years, and they have just ignored us. We’re probably more in danger of some fool driving and texting taking us out on a trip to the local Publix than we are of an alligator.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series, which are an excellent reference for authors and screenwriters. Patrick recently retired from a big city police department, and he runs the Cops and Writers group on Facebook. This new book covers how a rookie detective is trained, and divisions within a detective bureau, including Homicide, Sensitive Crimes, Robbery, and Arson. There is also information on firearms and other weapons used in law enforcement, and much more. Whether you’re an author or just someone who is interested in how and why the police do the things they do to protect and serve, Patrick’s books are well worth the read.

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 – Whatever you must do, do it with the confidence of a four year old in a Batman cape.

 

Feb 042021
 

As much as Miss Terry likes to cook, you would probably think she has just about every kitchen gadget ever made. And you would be right when it comes to spatulas and knives and whisks and stainless steel bowls and all kinds of other kitchen utensils, along with her beloved KitchenAid mixer and her Vitamix, and things like that. But she’s really not into a lot of the newer gadgets that have come out in the last few years.

A bread machine? No way. She said she likes to knead the bread by hand because it helps her work out her frustrations. The way she looks at me when she says that, I’m kind of glad that she does things that way because I think I know where a lot of those frustrations come from. A while back we got an Instantpot, and I think she’s used it once or twice, but it’s just not her thing. Part of that is my fault because I don’t really care for stewed foods.

But I do like fried food, as bad as it is for me, and for a while now, we’ve talked about getting an air fryer. Her beloved Breville Smart Oven has an air fryer setting, but Terry hasn’t been that impressed with it, which is about the only she isn’t impressed with about the Breville. A while back, my buddy Jesse Bolton mentioned that they have a Ninja air fryer and really like it, so I decided to order one for Terry and see what she thinks of it.

It arrived the other day, so yesterday she decided to make chicken wings, one of my favorite meals. Terry looked up a couple of different recipes and one called for 20 minutes in the air fryer and another one called for 40 minutes, so she decided to compromise at 30.

Unfortunately, somewhere toward the end of the cycle, our credit union called to report that they had made a mixup in our account and that a car payment had not been credited the right way. By the time we got that sorted out with them, the wings were done and had been sitting in the air fryer for a while. Terry took them out and they were a little too done. It’s a learning curve, and I’m sure she’ll get it right before too long. As for me, I had no complaints. They still tasted great.

Since she was already in the kitchen getting used to the air fryer, Terry decided to bake some fresh whole wheat oat bread at the same time. She made two loaves and they taste even better than they look. I definitely want some more!

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series, which are an excellent reference for authors and screenwriters. Patrick recently retired from a big city police department, and he runs the Cops and Writers group on Facebook. This new book  covers how a rookie detective is trained, and divisions within a detective bureau, including Homicide, Sensitive Crimes, Robbery, and Arson. There is also information on firearms and other weapons used in law enforcement, and much more. Whether you’re an author or just someone who is interested in how and why the police do the things they do to protect and serve, Patrick’s books are well worth the read.

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 – A lot of people are alive only because I shed too much hair to get away with murder.

Tragedy At Terra Mar

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 032021
 

We love our little community of Terra Mar Village, here on the Intracoastal Waterway halfway between Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach. It’s nothing fancy, but we have access to the water and amenities that include two swimming pools, a clubhouse, boat launch, and a 300-foot fishing pier. Not to mention a lot of nice neighbors. But unfortunately, tragedy can show up anywhere, even in our little corner of paradise.

Just after midnight yesterday morning, I was working on my blog when I heard a big boom. There were some storms in the area, and my first thought was that it was thunder or possibly a transformer. But then there was a rumbling sound like when a booster rocket from a launch from Cape Canaveral re-enters the atmosphere, but it went on and on. Terry came to my office to ask me what that noise was, and I told her I didn’t know. I stepped outside and saw flashing blue lights down the street. Then Terry noticed a lot of smoke coming up from Ash Street, the next street over from us. That is where our friend Jim lives, and I was concerned about him, so I put on a jacket and walked down to see what was going on.

A manufactured home across the street from Jim and about 3 or 4 houses down had exploded, and there was a torch of flame still shooting into the air from either a propane tank or gas line or something. One of the neighbors said that the initial blast shot up 60 feet into the air, and I don’t doubt it.

The place was a total loss, and the one next to it was scorched. Unfortunately, it was only after firefighters were able to finally extinguish the blaze and make their way into the rubble that they found the body of the 70 year old man who lived there.

They haven’t determined the cause of the fire yet, though several people said he was a heavy smoker and that he had either oxygen or propane tanks inside with him. There was definitely something inside because that’s where the torch of flame was coming from. Such a tragedy and we are thankful that nobody else was injured

This is a reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow. We never know when someone driving the other way who is drunk or texting might hit us head-on, or when a tiny bit of plaque in an artery might break loose and kill us, or when COVID-19 might strike, or when our house might explode out from under us. We all have an expiration date, and none of us knows when that is. You can take all the precautions in the world but when that expiration date rolls around, it’s going to happen.

Sometimes I think about my own mortality as I get older. I am the youngest of eight siblings and the only one still alive, and I have lived to an older age than any of them did. My parents both died in their early 70s, and our family history is not a testament to longevity. Yes, that expiration date is out there, and that’s why it’s important to spend every day I can doing the things I want, with the people I love.

Stay safe, my friends.

Thought For The Day – Before I got married, I didn’t even know there was a wrong way to put the milk back in the refrigerator.

Feb 022021
 

In a Newspaper Days blog post last month, I talked about a fellow who got busted for fleeing from the cops and how he proved just how dumb he was when he got to court. Several readers thought that was funny, and someone who watches the TV show Court Cam asked if I had any other tales like that from courtrooms. Oh, yeah!

I was covering a case once where a fellow was accused of shoplifting a number of frozen TV dinners. The manager of the grocery store became suspicious when he saw the person, who had been a regular customer, walking strangely and noticed that he seemed to have put on a considerable amount of weight since he had been there two days earlier. It turned out he had something like 10 or 12 of the frozen dinners crammed down the front of his sweatpants. He was detained and police were called, and he insisted that the large rectangular shapes inside of his clothing were just his abs from working out. When the officers finally got him to pull them out, he swore he didn’t know how they got there. After the prosecuting attorney explained the charges against the defendant, his defense attorney got up and said that was impossible, how could someone even do that without getting frostbite or something? The defendant quickly piped up and said, “It wasn’t that bad, I had thermal long johns on.”

Another time I was in court when they were selecting jurors, and there were the typical questions about whether any of the jurors knew the defendant, victim, or arresting officers. One woman said she had known the defendant all of his life, he grew up next door to her house and played with her kids. She was asked if that would influence her opinion of any testimony. She replied with words to the effect of “Nope, he was a lying, sneaky little shit growing up, and he still is.” She was dismissed from the jury pool.

One guy had a good explanation for his crime when he testified in court that he did not set out to steal the Ford pickup truck police found him in, and it wasn’t his fault. He had planned to steal a Camaro from the same used car lot, but once he got the door open, he discovered it was a standard shift and he didn’t know how to operate the clutch. I guess it was a good thing the pickup had an automatic transmission.

You have to appreciate the efforts of those who think they know the law. When I had my newspapers on the Pacific Northwest coast, I covered the case of a man who had robbed a business a year earlier and was finally caught and arrested. Against the judge’s advice, he insisted he would represent himself and sat with a smug look on his face as the prosecutor explained the charges against him to the jury. When it was his turn to talk, the defendant got up and said there was no case because it had been 369 days since he robbed the store and the “statute of elimination” in Oregon was one year. As it turned out, not only was his knowledge of the law not all that great, since the statute of limitations was six years, but his grasp of the English language wasn’t anything to brag about, either.

And finally, this was not in criminal court, but it was hilarious. My first wife took me to court to get child support for our son, who we had shared custody of, and who had always lived with me. I guess her feeling was that even if he did not live with her, she gave birth to him and was owed something for that. This was twelve years after the divorce was final, and he was 18. In the meantime, she may have been involved in some shady stuff that she was afraid my attorney would bring out in court. After my son and I both testified that he had always lived with me, not her, my attorney started to question her, and she said, “I can’t answer any of your questions because I have amnesia.” The attorney asked her how she got amnesia and she said it was from post-traumatic stress from Vietnam. My attorney then asked when she had been in Vietnam or in the Army and the ex said she never had been. When asked to explain how she had PTSD from Vietnam if she was never there, she pointed a finger at me and said, “He was in Vietnam and I caught it from him!” The judge was laughing so hard he had to take off his glasses and wipe his eyes before telling her that PTSD was not like a sexually transmitted disease and she could not “catch it” from me. Needless to say, her case was dismissed.

Thought For The Day – My emotional support animal is a fried chicken.

Feb 012021
 

I have had a bad case of cabin fever for a while now, and since it was too windy to take the boat out yesterday as I had planned, we drove down to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville to see if we could see any of our neighbors of the wild variety. The wildlife refuge is part of the Canaveral National Seashore and is home to more than 50 or more species of animals, from birds to deer, raccoons and armadillos, and even bobcats and alligators.

There is an entry fee of $10 per car, which is waived if you have one of the National Park Passes. At this time, the Visitor Center is closed due to COVID-19, but the beaches are open, as was the Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

We always enjoy meandering along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, a well-maintained dirt road that makes a seven-mile loop through the refuge. There are many pullouts with interpretive signs where you can stop and check out the wildlife as you make your way slowly around the loop. It being a weekend, there were a lot of other vehicles out there, and I told Terry a lot of them remind me of someone we talked to once who drove to Alaska and back in 31 days, saying they never saw a wild animal on the whole trip, though they did pretty much destroy their motorhome because they were driving so fast. I think our average speed wasn’t more than about seven miles per hour at the most, stopping often to take pictures of animals and let everybody in a hurry get past us.

Parts of the refuge are grasslands, some wetlands, and there are some areas that have a lot of trees, which makes it a perfect home for all the different critters who live here.

Everybody who goes to the refuge wants to see alligators, and there are plenty of them to see. This little guy was the first one we spotted, and maybe twenty yards away, we found a much bigger one.

And then another good-sized one.

While most were on the banks soaking up the sun, we did see one in the water.

I think this was the biggest gator we saw all day.

Terry loves taking pictures of birds, and there sure are a bunch of birds there to take pictures of! Lots and lots of egrets everywhere you look.

And plenty of herons, too.

I think this guy looks like too many of us who have been cooped up in the house for so long and haven’t had a chance to go to the barber of the beauty shop.

In some areas, there were huge flocks of birds on the water. What you see here is maybe ten percent of just one of the large flocks out there.

There were also lots of ducks.

This is a Hooded Mergsanser.

We’re not bird watchers, so I don’t know what this particular wading bird is.

And here are a couple of others that we couldn’t identify. If there are any birdwatchers out there who know what they are, please clue us in.

Terry’s favorite birds are the roseate spoonbill’s, and this one was interesting because he kept his bill in the water and swept it back and forth from side to side, coming up every so often with a small fish to eat and then going back for more.

By the time we got home, I think Terry had taken something like 137 pictures, and it was hard to decide which ones to use here. I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of our wild neighbors.

Congratulations Deb Myers, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Camp Timber View by my friend Jason Deas. This children’s mystery about two best friends at an amazing summer at camp is a rollercoaster of fun, suspense, and escape that the youngsters in your family will love. We had 33 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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – The butcher backed into the meatgrinder and got a little behind in his work.

Jan 312021
 

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day here on the Central Coast of Florida, with temperatures in the mid-70s, a gentle breeze, and lots of blue sky. As I have said several times now, I really want to get my pontoon boat in the water and do some fishing. We have several fishing rods that have been standing in the corner of the garage unused for the last two years, so Terry and I spent some time going over them and seeing what needed to be done before they could be used again.

The first order of business was to separate them because they had gotten tangled up, with their lines crisscrossed among them in a big snarl that took a while to straighten out. At one time, some of the rods belonged to my dear friend Tim Moran, whom we lost a few years ago, and they have been sitting even longer. I needed to check them out and see if they were serviceable, and if not, what they needed.

Unfortunately, a couple of the rods had nice reels on them that have frozen up, and I don’t know if they’ll ever be serviceable again. The eyes that the fishing line goes through on a couple of the rods that we normally use have come apart, so I will have to order a repair kit from Amazon to fix them. But even with all of that, we still came up with five or six serviceable rods and reels, and I was ready to go fishing today.

Unfortunately, my timing sucked, as usual. We should have done all of that on Friday and gone fishing yesterday because the news last night said that today is going to be in the mid-70s again, but with quite a bit of wind. Probably too much to take the pontoon boat out. I should have known better than to get my hopes up, darn it.

I guess it could be worse. Here is snow on our daughter’s patio in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona. Yes, Arizona. It’s not all desert. Show Low, in the White Mountains, gets a lot of snow and has a popular ski area nearby. No, thank you. I have a clause in my contract that says when it snows, I go somewhere else.

Terry has been working hard to make sure Tiffany and her family stay warm. Here is another one of the turban headbands that she knitted for Tiffany. She loves it.

Terry also knitted this cap for Tiffany’s son Travis, and that will be going out to him with some other stuff soon.

Yes, I have a son named Travis and a grandson named Travis. I guess we could call them Big Travis and Little Travis, except that Little Travis is over 6 feet, and taller than  Big Travis. Or we could call them Old Travis and Young Travis. But I don’t want to acknowledge that I have a kid that is old. I think I’ll just refer to them as “Hey, you!”

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Camp Timber View by my friend Jason Deas. This children’s mystery about two best friends at an amazing summer at camp is a rollercoaster ride of fun, suspense, and escape that the youngsters in your family will love. 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 US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – My wife managed to open a jar of pickles herself and now I am nonessential.

A Town Named Sandwich

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

We have hitch itch, but since we are not able to travel due to the pandemic, I thought I’d occasionally share some of our previous adventures, such as exploring a uniquely named town in Massachusetts in the summer of 2012.

We spent yesterday visiting the Cape Cod town of Sandwich. How can you not like a small seaside town named Sandwich? I mean, it’s a small town, it’s on the water, and it’s named after food! What more could you want in a town?

Actually, Sandwich, incorporated in 1639, was named after a town in England with the same name. Settled by European immigrants nearly 150 years before the American Revolution, Sandwich is the oldest town on Cape Cod and one of the oldest towns in the United States.

Our first stop was at the Corps of Engineers Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center. Dug between 1909 and 1914, the Canal provides safe navigation for boats and ships so they can avoid the treacherous waters of the open ocean off Cape Cod. The Visitor Center has displays on the history of the canal and its role in navigation, including the retired Coast Guard patrol boat Renier, a collection of nautical knots, and a video that tells the story of the canal.

Renier

Knots

It’s also a good place to watch boats and ships traveling up and down the canal. Visitors can sit on the rocking chairs on the porch, or on the grass, to watch the parade of vessels.

Rocking chairs

While we were there we were fortunate enough to see the Amistad pass by on the Canal. A replica of the La Amistad slave ship that was seized by its captive cargo in a revolt in 1839, the ship was headed for Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, she wasn’t under sail, which would have been an amazing sight to see, but it was still pretty awesome.

Amistad 5

Our next stop was at the Sandwich Glass Museum, housed in the building that once was the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. For much of the 1800s, Sandwich was a major glass-producing town, and several glass factories operated here.

Sandwich Glass Museum outside

The museum has a wonderful display of art glass, blown glass, pressed glass, fused glass, etched glass, and any other kind of glass you could ever want to see. The galleries hold decanters and other items dating back to the early 1800s that were made locally.

Colorful glass

We watched a young lady demonstrate the art of glassblowing, starting with heating the glass in a kiln at over 2300° and then working it into a decorative glass pumpkin. As she worked she explained the process, and when she was finished she answered questions from the audience.

Glass blower

In oven 

Stretching glass

By the time we left the museum, it was after 5 PM and we were hungry. And if you’re on Cape Cod, how can you not have seafood? We drove back to a place called Seafood Sam’s, which has some good reviews. It was almost across the street from the Canal Visitor Center. The food was very good and plentiful, although I wasn’t impressed at all with the service. The self-serve soda machine was putting out flat drinks because they needed to recharge the carbonator, they had run out of ice, and the iced tea was just water, not tea. Myself and several other customers complained to the folks at the counter, but 20 minutes later they still hadn’t done anything. So I went up front to where they had a cooler with bottled drinks and brought two of them back to our table. I’m not sure what they were supposed to cost, but when I told one of the young ladies behind the counter what I was doing because I was tired of waiting for them to do nothing, she just shrugged. So the place gets a B+ for the food, and a D- for the service and employee attitude. Though I do have to acknowledge two young ladies doing a bang-up job of bussing tables and managing the trash containers.

Of course, if you’re going to go to an island, you have to either take a ferry or cross a bridge. There are two bridges across the canal, one is high, and the other is even higher. Traffic was horrendous, which was probably a good thing because it kept me from noticing I was driving over a very high bridge! Somebody told me that some of the most aggressive drivers in the world are in this region, and I have to agree. If people aren’t changing lanes and cutting in front of you without signaling, they are tailgating you, or flying up on-ramps and into traffic without even a glance backward in their mirrors. I bet insurance rates here are really high!

Bridge traffic

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Camp Timber View by my friend Jason Deas. This children’s mystery about two best friends at an amazing summer at camp is a rollercoaster ride of fun, suspense, and escape that the youngsters in your family will love. 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 – Your friends love you anyway.

Buds And Berries

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 292021
 

When Jake from Lindley’s Garden Center planted our citrus trees, told us that we might see some fruit as early as February, although that was no guarantee, and he added that it might be as much as eighteen months. But when I went out to check the mail yesterday, I noticed buds on our key lime tree.

And on our lemon tree, too.

Still nothing on the tangelo tree, but I think we will see something there eventually, as well.

I have mentioned before that Terry has done very well with her AeroGarden, already harvesting some of the sprouts and herbs she’s been growing.

The strawberry plants are doing well, too, and are producing quite a few strawberries. I want to see how big they get before picking them.

Yesterday was a yucky overcast day here on the Central Florida Coast. The high was only in the mid-50s, and it was very windy. Which made it a perfect day for staying inside and writing, and by the end of the day, I had another 6,200 words under my belt. At this rate, in another two or three days, I should have my new John Lee Quarrels book done. My proofreaders have been working on a few chapters at a time as I print them out, and Elizabeth Mackey is working on a cover design now. Unless something really crazy happens, it should be out sometime in the first or second week of February.

Several people have asked if we have had any reaction from our first rounds of Moderna Covid 19 vaccinations. Nothing to speak of; the first day, Terry had a slight bump on her arm at the injection site, and we were both aware of a certain amount of tenderness but no real pain or discomfort. People tell us that we will see more of a reaction with the second dose, but that’s okay, we can handle it. Just knowing we are moving forward makes us feel good.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Camp Timber View by my friend Jason Deas. This children’s mystery about two best friends at an amazing summer at camp is a rollercoaster ride of fun, suspense, and escape that the youngsters in your family will love. 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 – My wife said I need to grow up. I was speechless. It’s hard to say anything when you have 45 gummy bears in your mouth.

Jan 282021
 

We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch, you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.

Just a short distance from all the hustle and bustle of big city life in Toledo, Ohio, the friendly little town of Perrysburg, on the southern bank of the Maumee River, is a small town gem that shouldn’t be overlooked. Founded in 1816 and named in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who won fame defeating the British on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, Perrysburg is a welcoming community of 18,000, with award-winning schools, a historic downtown, and plenty of hometown charm.

Whether you are a history buff, enjoy beautiful old architecture, relaxing in a park where kids can play without the fears of children in large cities, or symphony concerts and shopping, you will find everything you’re looking for in Perrysburg. During the summer and fall, you can shop an open-air farmers market featuring local vendors, admire the work of talented artisans, and tap your toes to live music.

The streets in the old downtown business district are lined with handsome commercial buildings from long ago that now house interesting shops, restaurants, and pubs. A  couple of blocks away, the historic district is home to many beautiful old homes.

A pivotal battle of the War of 1812 was fought at Fort Meigs, which has been rebuilt and is now the largest reconstructed fortification in North America. You can read about that battle in a blog post here.

Another favorite stop for history buffs is the 1823 Greek Revival Spafford House Museum, Perrysburg’s local history museum. Once the home of Judge Aurora Spafford, today the museum tells the stories of the Native Americans, the early settlers to the region, and the entrepreneurs who survived innumerable hardships to build a town in the formidable Great Black Swamp.

If you don’t want to go back that far in history, check out Retrogaming at 6140 Levis Commons Boulevard, where you can play over 60 vintage arcade games and enjoy any of 40 draft beers on tap, as well as a full-service bar. And if you need a laugh, the Funny Bone Comedy Club is right next door!

If all this exploring made you work up an appetite, you can’t beat Swig, located at 219 Louisiana Avenue. I love their Cleveland Dog, a delicious, whole beef frankfurter with bacon, all beef coney sauce, shredded cheddar, and stadium mustard. It is so good one is never enough!

The next time you find yourself traveling through northwest Ohio, make it a point to spend some time in Perrysburg. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Camp Timber View by my friend Jason Deas. This children’s mystery about two best friends at an amazing summer at camp is a rollercoaster ride of fun, suspense, and escape that the youngsters in your family will love. 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 – The Algebra teacher confiscated my rubber band pistol. She said it was a weapon of math disruption.

 

Jan 272021
 

Terry and I have been paddling kayaks for a long time now. We started out with rotomold Native Watercraft kayaks, which we carried in the back of our Ford van when we were fulltime RVing. We use them everywhere from lakes and rivers in the Midwest to the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico.

Then we switched to Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks, which we could store in one of the bays of our motorhome, and which we very much enjoyed. They are comfortable, easy to inflate and deflate, and bulletproof. We were in our Sea Eagles when we paddled with the manatees at Crystal River that I wrote about in a recent blog post.

Now that we’re not traveling anymore, we wanted to get back into hard-shell kayaks again, and a while back, we bought a pair of Old Town Predator kayaks. I think I like my Predator more than anything else I’ve had. It is very stable and has the most comfortable seat I’ve ever experienced in a kayak. The only drawback to them is that they are heavy, and as we get older, loading and unloading them into and out of the back of our pickup is a problem.

When we bought our kayaks, our friend Jim also bought an Old Town Predator PDL, which is similar to ours except that it has a pedal drive system, so you can either use a regular paddle or a set of foot pedals. This is an excellent kayak for fishing because it’s hands-free, and you can go forward or backward or keep yourself steady right where you’re at just by using your feet. As it turned out, Jim decided that kayaking wasn’t for him, so I bought his Predator PDL and trailer, thinking I would like it for fishing.

Then I started having all my back issues and could hardly walk, let alone get in a kayak. And about the time I got that issue resolved, the summer was so hot that I never wanted to leave the air conditioning. But yesterday was a beautiful day and I figured it was time to try the darn thing out and see what I thought of it. As it turns out, I’m a paddler, not a pedaler.

I took the kayak down to the water and launched it, and immediately found out that short fat guys just don’t do very well in a PDL. The big bulky pedaling system right in the middle is too hard to get my short fat legs around getting in and out, and I just couldn’t make it comfortable for me. After paddling it around for a while, making some adjustments here and there, I decided that I much prefer my regular Predator and using a paddle.

Back at home, I logged onto an online Predator PDL Group and related my experience, and someone said that being short isn’t the problem, being fat is. He said his 5’2” tall wife has a PDL and loves it, but she is currently seven months pregnant with twins and find it’s impossible to use it comfortably. He said she can’t wait to get back on the water after she gives birth. I don’t think I’ll be giving birth anytime soon.

This news delighted my son Travis, who is not all that tall but is definitely not fat or pregnant, and when he comes down to visit, I know what he’s going to spend part of his time doing!

So the game plan now is to just hang on to the PDL along with our two other Old Town kayaks and our two Sea Eagles, so whenever somebody comes to visit, we’ve got lots of them to choose from. I have seen a lot of do-it-yourself kayak trailer videos, and there are even a couple of Facebook groups for them, and my neighbor Jesse Bolton across the street, who is a great guy and always willing to help us out, thinks he can modify the trailer the PDL is on to hold both of our other kayaks, making it much easier for us to transport and use them. I’m really looking forward to that when Jesse has the time.

Thought For The Day – I’m more round than tall. I think of it as directional multi-tasking.

We’ve Been Shot!

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 262021
 

They say that it’s always good if a couple have things in common. Miss Terry and I have many things in common, from the type of music we like to the kind of television shows and movies we enjoy, the books we read, traveling, and things like kite flying and fishing. Something else we have in common is that we have both been hit by ricocheting bullets, although that was decades apart and not the topic of today’s blog. Today is going to be about us getting shot together.

No, don’t worry, we’re not engaging in armed robbery or insurrection or anything like that. Yesterday we went out to the Volusia County Fairgrounds and received our first round of Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shots.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the way everything was done compared to what I’m seeing on the news and hearing from friends in a lot of places around the country. The folks here did a good job.

Our appointments were in the 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. time slot yesterday. We arrived at the fairgrounds at 2:38, and they had a very efficient setup, including signage of where to turn in. Someone walked up to the van and greeted us, asked to see our appointment slips, and then directed us to follow a line of vehicles ahead of us. We were stopped a little farther on, where they greeted us again, asked if we had any allergies or if either one of us had had any kind of vaccinations in the last 90 days or had had COVID-19. It was all handled very safely, us wearing our masks and the people working there all masked, too. They would come up to the driver’s window, stay far enough away for safety, ask their questions, and get our answers, and direct us to continue following the vehicles ahead of us.

At the next station, someone asked to see the medical and consent forms I had printed out from the Internet and we had filled out ahead of time, and before long, we were up to one of several shade shelters where they were administering the vaccinations.

The nice lady who was doing ours came to my side first, wiped my shoulder down with an alcohol swab, and I never felt her give me the shot. The next thing I knew, she was putting a Band-Aid on me. Then she went over to Terry’s side of the van, vaccinated her, we were given cards for our follow-up appointments and sent to a parking area to wait at least 15 minutes in case there were any reactions. There were none, and 54 minutes from the time we pulled into the fairgrounds, we were pulling out. I was impressed.

While we’re relieved to get the first vaccinations out of the way, I feel guilty with how easy it was for us, from making the reservation the first time we tried, to getting in and out of the fairgrounds in such a short time and not having any discomfort whatsoever from the shots. I wish it was that quick and easy and comfortable for everybody else.

Since we hadn’t been out of the house in quite a while, we took the long way home, driving down Interstate 4 to Daytona Beach and cruising down International Speedway Boulevard to see what businesses were open or closed. We were surprised that except for one or two small restaurants, everything else seemed to be open and doing well, and our favorite Chinese buffet was open for takeout and delivery orders.

Back at home, my son Travis called to ask how we were feeling and if we had any weird reactions. I said that neither one of us had any pain or discomfort and that the only thing different I had noticed was that my new third nipple was lactating. Travis sometimes regrets asking me questions, and I don’t really blame him.

Thought For The Day – Kisses have germs and should be hated, but you can kiss me because I’m vaccinated.

Busy Creating

 Posted by at 12:21 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 252021
 

I had planned on watering our citrus trees and perennial peanut plants yesterday, but sometime early in the morning, we had a pretty good rain and woke up to big puddles in the street, so that saved me one chore.

However, it gave us another one to deal with. My Bennington pontoon boat has three stowable upright braces that can be set on the deck and then extended into special receptacles in the boat cover. I guess this is supposed to protect the upholstery from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and keep things dry. It seems to do a good job in sun protection, but after the hard rain we had it was sagging under the weight of the water that had accumulated on the cover. So Terry unsnapped the cover at the back of the boat and opened the gate and crawled inside. Then she pushed upward on the cover from the inside, forcing the water off. And there sure was a lot of it!

While we were doing that, our neighbor Jesse Bolton from across the street came over to chat for a few minutes, and when he went back to some project he was working on we went inside. I spent most of the day writing and making corrections in my new book, and printed out several more chapters for Terry to proofread. Then I made corrections to the previous chapters I had received back from Judy Rinehimer and Roberta Jenson, my second and third proofreaders.

While I was busy doing that, Miss Terry was busy creating. She finished three Shetland wool blankets that she wove for our daughter Tiffany and her family. Three blankets down, and three more to go. As many projects as I have seen Terry take off of her loom, I’m still in awe of the beautiful things she makes.

With that done, she packed three turban style headbands she had knitted for daughter Tiffany and a book order to go to the post office today.

Due to the pandemic, we try not to go out very much, just trips to the grocery store and doctors’ appointments when necessary. But today, we will be driving out to the Volusia County Fairgrounds to get our first COVID-19 Moderna vaccines. We are really looking forward to that, and getting the follow-up ones four weeks from now. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are going to start running around without masks, and ignoring social distancing and other common sense precautions. Someone asked me why I’m going to wear a mask if we get a vaccine. Because nothing is foolproof, and we all know that. That’s why our cars have airbags and seatbelts even though they’ve got brakes. As any experienced pilot will tell you, there is safety in redundancy

Congratulations Ronald Zack, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last one of the first printing of this book with the original cover. We had 69 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island but turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

Jan 242021
 

Note: I was busy adding another 7,200 to my new book yesterday and ran out of time to do a blog, so I thought I would share one from 2012 about one of our favorite experiences.

We crossed something off our bucket list yesterday, and made memories that will stay with us forever! For years we have wanted to paddle our kayaks at Three Sister Springs in Crystal River. Every year, manatee come into the river and hang out in the warmer water from mid-November until late March.

We launched our Sea Eagle kayaks from the marina at Pete’s Pier, and paddled about 1/4 mile to the entrance to the channel that led us back to the Springs. There was a pretty stiff wind blowing in King’s Bay, and we had to work hard to get across the open water to the channel. Once we turned into the channel, we were more sheltered and it was a little easier paddling.

We had only gone a few hundred feet down the channel before we saw our first manatee. It passed directly under my PaddleSki, and to be honest, I was apprehensive, wondering what would happen if it surfaced directly under my boat. By the second or third time it happened, there was no worry, only delight at seeing these magnificent animals so close.

When we got back to the entrance to the springs, it was crowded with tour boats, and the water was full of kayakers and people using snorkels. There was a roped-off area with a large number of manatee lounging about in the incredibly clear water. But they weren’t just hiding in the roped-off area, they were everywhere! These huge, gentle animals seem to crave human contact. We saw several people petting them as they swam by, and some of the manatees just stayed motionless, seeming to enjoy the contact.

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Another Sea Eagle owner had told us that the manatee seem to be attracted to the inflatable boats. She said she believed it was because they are gray and almost shaped like the manatee themselves, with their large air chambers. I wasn’t sure about that until it actually happened to us! Several times manatee would swim right up to our boats, and a few would rub against the side, or pass underneath and rub their backs, almost like a cat will rub against your leg. Every time, they were very gentle and didn’t even rock our boats.

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Barriers are erected to the entrance of the deeper springs, to prevent powerboats from going back and disturbing the manatee. It was a tight fit for Miss Terry’s Fast Track 385, but she managed to get through and paddle back to the springs, where the water was crystal clear and she could see all the way to the bottom. Unfortunately, my PaddleSki 435 was a little too wide to fit through the barrier. So I contented myself with hanging out at the entrance of the springs, where there were plenty of manatee and a lot of activity to keep me occupied.

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Terry said the water inside the springs was incredibly clear.

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There were two volunteers on hand to make sure nobody molested the animals by doing something stupid like crawling upon them, feeding them, or anything else that would cause them harm. I talked to the volunteers for a while and commented on how busy it was for a weekday. One of them said “You should have been here the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was a zoo! There were so many people that you could almost walk across them to shore and never get wet.” I’m glad we missed that circus!

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Can you tell Terry is having a good time?

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We spent about three hours at the springs, seeing everything from huge old cows with scars across their backs from boat propellers, to babies nursing from their mothers. One of the volunteers said this baby is an orphan, and they’re watching it. Sometimes one of the cows will adopt an orphan and allow it to nurse. If that doesn’t happen, authorities will remove it to a refuge where it will be cared for until it can go out on its own.

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On our return trip to the marina the wind had really picked up, and while there were no whitecaps on the water of the bay, it was pretty close, and we got quite a bumpy ride! Terry was very impressed with how her kayak tracked, even with the wind and choppy water. By the time we got back to the marina and pulled our boats out of the water, got them wiped down and deflated, then packed away, we were pretty worn out! But it was worth it to have memories like this.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last one of the first printing of this book with the original cover. 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 – When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.