Words And A Super Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 262021
 

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

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

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

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

elkhart campground 6

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

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

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

Bushnell RVs Spanish Moss 2

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

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

TTN Verde Valley entrance 2

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

country roads

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

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

ttn Hershey hillside

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

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

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

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

A Kitchen Queen?

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 252021
 

I said in a blog post the other day that my Mustang is a garage queen that doesn’t get out much, and that’s just fine with me. Now let me tell you about our new kitchen queen.

Now don’t go getting all excited, I didn’t replace Miss Terry. We all know she’s irreplaceable. But we did replace the old LG microwave oven that was in our house when we bought it.

I don’t think Terry has used a microwave a dozen times in the 23+ years that we’ve been married. She uses her Breville Smart Oven all the time, just like she did when we were in the motorhome, and after we bought the house and new major appliances, she uses the oven in her Samsung gas range a lot. But the microwave was just there, hanging above the range, and was used as a bread box more than anything else. The only part of it she did use was the vent fan. A while back, the handle broke on the microwave, and Terry debated whether or not to just leave it like it was or replace it.

But our kids are coming for a visit at the end of May, and they do use a microwave. Besides, Terry wanted a different vent fan since the one on the LG was incredibly loud. So she did some research and decided she wanted a Whirlpool low profile Model WML75011HZ microwave with a vent hood.

Once she decided on the model she wanted, she looked online, and neither Lowe’s nor Home Depot or Amazon had them in stock, and it would take several weeks to get one. It wouldn’t arrive until after the kids’ visit was over. I told her I would do some looking around and see what I could come up with, and lo and behold, I found the same model in stock on Whirlpool’s own website. Not only that, it was cheaper than I could have bought it from Lowe’s with my 10% veterans discount and included free shipping. You can’t beat a deal like that. So I ordered it, and it was delivered Friday morning.

Yesterday afternoon, our neighbor Jesse Bolton came over to remove the old microwave and install the new one. Getting the old unit out was quick and easy, and I thought the job wouldn’t take long at all.

Jesse mounted the backing plate for the new microwave to the wall and then started running into trouble. He and Terry had both measured where the mounting bolts would come through the bottom of the cabinet above the microwave, and Jesse drilled the holes. Then when he went to put them in place, they didn’t fit.

I did what I do best in a situation like that, I sat down and stayed out of the way. After a couple of attempts, he and Terry had things figured out, and the new microwave was mounted and hooked up. Thanks, Jesse, I don’t know what we would do without you!

Because this is a low profile unit, several inches shorter than the original microwave, we’re going to have to add some more of the backing on the wall. Terry said we could get the same kind of brickwork that is on there now and it should match, or she’ll figure out a different option.

Terry really likes the new microwave. It has a four speed vent fan, several cooking options that she will probably never use, and some other bells and whistles. What the heck, if you’re going to get a kitchen queen, get a good one, right!

Speaking of Terry and her culinary abilities, check out the scallop linguine she made for dinner the other night. Believe it or not, the picture doesn’t do it justice. It tasted about a thousand times better than it looks.

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

Thought For The Day – Why were we taught to fear the witches, and not those who burned them alive?

Neighbors I Never Knew

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 242021
 

We live in a friendly little subdivision called Terra Mar Village on the Intracoastal Waterway, halfway between Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral. While it’s not a 55+ community like so many here in Florida, and there are some families with children, most of the neighbors we’ve met are in the 50+ age range. Besides two swimming pools, an activity center/clubhouse, and our 300 foot long fishing pier and boat launch, there is shuffleboard and some things like that. I think they have bingo one night a week and occasional potluck dinners and such, but Terry and I have never taken part in things like that. We seldom did when we were fulltime RVers. And since I spend much of every day writing, we just don’t mingle all that much. We know some of our neighbors fairly well, and others enough to nod and say hello to, but that’s about it. Yesterday, I found out that there are a bunch of neighbors I never knew.

If you have been reading this blog for very long, you know that Terry and I are both night owls. I usually write for several hours during the day, then we knock off for dinner and watch some television in the evening. After the 11:00 o’clock news, I go back and write my blog, sometimes do research on whatever book I’m writing, jot down any story ideas that have come to mind, and answer e-mails that came in during the day. So it’s seldom that we get to bed before one or two AM, and by the time we snuggle for a while it’s often 2:30 or 3:00 o’clock before we fall asleep.

Just as there are night owls like us, they are also early birds, those people who are up and about at the crack of dawn doing their thing. Yesterday morning I was an early bird myself, because Terry’s new Whirlpool microwave oven was supposed to be delivered at 7:45 AM. It was still somewhere around 3:00 o’clock by the time I fell asleep the night before, so when the alarm rang at seven, I was pretty tired. But I got up and got dressed to await the delivery man.

It was a little after 8:00 AM when they arrived, and by then, I was wide awake. It was a comfortable morning with just a slight breeze blowing, so I checked on the perennial peanut plants we had put in to create ground cover along the canal that runs down one side of our property, pulled some weeds, and rolled up and stored away the two soaker hoses that I’ve been using since we planted them. We’re coming into the rainy season soon, and I’m not watering as often as I was.

Then I checked on our citrus trees, which are coming along very well. A while back, I posted a picture of some of the small fruit buds I had pulled off the trees because until the branches get stronger, they really can’t support the weight of fully grown fruit. I left a couple of key limes and lemons on the trees just to see what they would do, and they are all getting bigger. I hope to be able to leave them on until my kids come to visit at the end of May because son Travis is a gardener, and I want him to see them.

Before we planted the citrus trees, we had to take out a big old dead water oak tree, and it left a big patch of dirt where it was. We filled that in with topsoil, and I planted grass seed, which is coming up very well in some areas but not at all in others. So I figured that while I was at it yesterday morning, I might as well spread some more grass seed and water it.

While I was doing that, several neighbors who were out for their morning walks said hello, and I noticed that some of them were people I had never seen before. One couple stopped and asked me if we were just here for a short time before we went back up North (quite a few of our neighbors are snowbirds), and when I told them that we live here full time they said they did not know that because they had never seen either one of us before. I laughed and said that that is because we live on very different schedules and that we were usually sound asleep this time of the morning. They looked at me like I was a lazy lout and wished me well before continuing with their morning walk.

When I back went back inside at about 9:45 or so, Terry was just waking up. We snuggled for a few minutes, and then I jumped in the shower because I’d gotten sweaty as the morning warmed up. I’d only had about four hours of sleep, and Terry asked me if I was going to go back to bed. I told her no, I was wide awake. Apparently, that didn’t last long because right after breakfast, I fell asleep sitting at the kitchen table. Terry woke me up and suggested I go take a nap in my recliner, and I told her I was just fine. She disagreed, so I got in the recliner and slept for almost three hours. I woke up feeling guilty for sleeping half the day away, but she reminded me that I was just catching up on the sleep I had missed earlier and probably had the same amount of hours I normally get.

Those neighbors I didn’t know I had seemed like nice folks, but I think in the future I’ll just stick to my regular sleep schedule, even though I may never see them again.

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

Thought For The Day – I have the RIGHT to remain silent. I just don’t always have the ABILITY.

Well, I Did It

 Posted by at 12:43 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 232021
 

Yesterday was another busy day for us, but we still made time for a half-hour of morning snuggling when we first woke up. We try to do this the first thing every morning and again at night before we go to sleep, and it’s very seldom that we miss the opportunity. Some people say that marriage is hard work, and I don’t know that I agree with that, but it does take effort on both parts, and we enjoy making the effort.

Terry had a dentist appointment in the early afternoon, and she has not been happy with the level of care she’s received from the dentist. He replaced one of the two original dentists that were there when she first started with practice, and more than once, she has walked out of there frustrated. So she went back yesterday loaded for bear, ready to give him a piece of her mind if she didn’t get satisfaction. It turned out that she left just as frustrated, because she didn’t get to talk to him. When she arrived, she found out that it was his last day with the practice and she wouldn’t be seeing him. But she did let the office staff know how she felt.

She is going back Monday for an appointment with the original partner. I sure hope things go better with this guy because if not, she will be finding a new practice. Too many people hold doctors and dentists in awe, feeling like they can’t question them because they are the “professionals.” I had a doctor friend many years ago tell me that was nonsense. You are paying them to perform a service, just like you pay a plumber or an electrician, and if they don’t do the job to your standards, you fire them and find somebody else who will.

As for me, I left a while before Terry did to go to the Volusia County tax and title office in New Smyrna Beach to pick up the title to the pontoon boat since the lien release finally came through. I had hoped to be in and out fairly quickly, but it was a little over an hour.

From there, I drove to Mullinax Ford and had the oil changed in my Mustang. It only has 1,300 miles on it since I bought it new in 2018, but the oil change light kept coming on. Several mechanics told me I didn’t really need to do that, but just as many others said yes, I did, because oil starts to break down over time. And in looking at the maintenance schedule for the car, it said that to preserve the 100,000 miles extended warranty, the oil needed to be changed at certain intervals of either mileage or time.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was convince the girl at the desk that a three year old car actually only has 1,300 miles on it. She was sure that the odometer was not working. No, dear, it’s a garage queen and doesn’t get out much.

The quick service lane was not all that quick because there were several vehicles ahead of me, but that was okay because I had other business to do while I was there. For quite a while now, I’ve been going back and forth about buying a new pickup truck to replace both our 2005 Ford Explorer and our 1999 Ford pickup.

I have not been able to find what I want on a dealer’s lot anywhere, and I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t like to settle, so I’ve been doing a lot of research before ordering a new truck from the factory. I finally have all my ducks in a row, so I hooked up with Jack Tuthill, the same salesman who handled the purchase of my Mustang, and I have stayed in touch with. He double-checked the specs of what I wanted, and I placed an order.

Jack told me to expect a three to possibly four month build time, but that’s all right, I’ve waited this long already. It will be an F-150 Lariat Super cab, not the four-door Crew Cab that is so popular these days. I just don’t like the looks of them, and we seldom have anybody riding around with us, and if we do, it’s usually in the van.

I figure this will probably be the last truck I buy, so it’s coming with a lot of bells and whistles. Besides, my accountant says I have to spend some money or pay a whole bunch more taxes next year. I’d rather it be me riding around in a new truck than some senator or congressman.

A crew of four astronauts is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral early this morning, and I didn’t plan to be up that early to watch it. But we have a delivery scheduled for 7:45 AM, a new over-the-range microwave oven that I ordered for Terry, so who knows? I might be awake early enough to wave at them as they fly over.

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


Thought For The Day – I can’t wait until I’m old enough to pretend I can’t hear.

Apr 222021
 

From the time I was a kid I always wanted to be a writer, and especially a newspaperman. I consider myself very lucky that for most of my life I’ve made my living with the written word and been able to own and publish quite a few small town newspapers.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of reporters come and go, many of them enamored with the idea of seeing their byline on a newspaper page. Some of them watch too much television or movies and actually think it’s a glamorous profession. It isn’t.

I always made it a point to have openings for college interns studying journalism so they had the opportunity to get hands-on experience, and I saw a lot of them at my different operations. Some were excellent, some were good and probably found a home on a newspaper someplace, and a few of them really should have considered another line of work. But all of them soon learned that it’s not all fun and games.

One of the first things I would tell new interns was that if you want to make a million dollars in the newspaper business, the easiest way to do that is to start out with five million. You can whittle a whole bunch of that away in a hurry. Then I would seriously tell them that if they wanted to work in this business, the best way to make money was to become an advertising salesperson. I never had a newspaper where my ad salespeople who worked hard didn’t make more money than my reporters. That’s just the reality of the business.

And I’d tell them not to start out thinking they were going to be the modern-day version of Woodward and Bernstein. (Does anybody even know who they are these days?) While small towns may not have all of the action of the big city, there’s still plenty to cover in the news. And big paper or small, a new reporter is going to spend most of their time doing the not-so-fun stuff like writing obituaries, covering meetings of the garden club and American Legion and organizations like that, researching things for the “real reporters,” and getting frustrated. It’s all part of the learning process.

But sometimes a newbie finds themself in the middle of a big story and wishes they hadn’t. A very nice young woman named Tracy came to work at one of my newspapers, and on her very first day, she literally walked into a big, bloody story. A pickup truck with several members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe riding in it was broadsided on the highway right in front of our office. Tracy heard the crash and looked out as debris was still flying through the air. She was the only reporter around, and Melissa, the office manager, told her to grab a camera and go cover it.

It was a terrible accident as I recall, with at least four fatalities, and two of them were children who had been riding in the back of the truck. This was before the days of cell phones and Melissa paged me, and I headed back to the office as quickly as I could. By then, the first responders were on the scene doing their thing. To give Tracy credit, she had gotten pictures and all the important details of who was driving what vehicle, witness statements, and comments from the police officers.

When I walked up to Tracy where she was standing on the side of the road, she looked like she was in a trance. I spoke to her twice before she even realized I was there. I took her by the arm and walked her back to the office, where she ran to the restroom and lost her breakfast, lunch, and anything else she had eaten in the previous 48 hours.

Then I  had her lie down on the couch in my office with the lights out to give her some time to decompress, because she was completely traumatized by what she had seen. An hour so later, Melissa drove her home, and I was pretty sure we’d seen the last of Tracy.

But she was back the next day, and when I asked her how she was doing she said, “Nobody ever told me that this job was going to suck so much. But I guess if I got through that on my first day, I can handle anything.”

And she did. Tracy went on to be an excellent reporter whose byline became frequent in my newspapers. I lost track of her over the years, and I don’t know if she stayed in the newspaper business or went in another direction. But wherever she is and whatever she did, I’m sure she did it well.

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

Thought For The Day – They told me I couldn’t. That’s why I did.

Now You Tell Me

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 212021
 

We were up and out the door early yesterday morning because we had a lot to get done. Our first stop was at Chase Bank in New Smyrna Beach to make a deposit, and we chatted for a couple of moments with one of the employees who is interested in RVing and follows me on Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, I paid off my pontoon boat, and I received a letter from Huntington Bank saying that they had sent an electronic lien release to the state. So when we left Chase, we went to the title registration office in New Smyrna Beach to pick up the clear title. It was pouring rain, so Terry waited in the van while I ran inside. I had about a fifteen minute wait, and when it was my turn to come to the window, the young lady looked things up and said that the electronic lien release had not been received yet, or else it had not been processed on Volusia County’s end. She suggested I call back in a day or two before making another trip there for nothing.

It was still raining hard when I went back outside, and I opened the driver’s door of the Pacifica and was trying to close my umbrella before I got in, but meanwhile, the driver’s seat was filling up with rainwater. Poor Terry was trying to keep up with it but there was no way to do that, so I told her not to worry about it, got the umbrella closed, and just sat in the wet seat.

My semiannual appointment at the VA medical center in Daytona Beach had been scheduled for 12:30, but they called first thing in the morning wanting to know if I could come in earlier. I told them I had a couple of things to do, but that I would get there soon as I could. As it was, we arrived at 11:30, and not two minutes after I checked in, I was called back.

The first stop was at the nurse’s station, where I was weighed, my blood pressure and temperature were taken, and she asked all the standard questions – Was I in any pain? Was I sleeping well? Was I depressed? Do I have any thoughts of suicide or of harming myself? Am I being abused at home? Terry always goes with me for my appointments, and we know this nurse well and know that she has a great sense of humor, so I told her yes, I am being abused at home and that Terry hits me all the time. Then I looked at Terry and said, “Please don’t hit me again! I promise I’ll behave!” The nurse laughed and looked at Terry and said, “I can’t blame you, honey. I’d beat him, too if I were in your shoes.”

Then she asked if I wanted a shingles shot. I told her that we had gotten the first of the two shots at Walgreens a few weeks ago, and we are due for our second shots the end of May. As I mentioned before here in the blog, the shots are $198 each, which comes to almost $800 for the two of us in both rounds of shots. The nurse said that I should not have done that because the VA gives them to vets for free. She told me to e-mail her the receipt or something from Walgreens showing that I’d gotten the first shot, and they would schedule me for the second one there at the VA at no cost. Darn, I wish I’d known that before. I could have saved some money.

It had stopped raining by the time we left the VA, but the closer we got to New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater, the harder it began to rain again. I had to make a quick stop at the post office to mail off something, and then we went to the Blue Moon Deli for their delicious Cuban sandwiches, which we have not had in over a year. They only have a few tables and are spaced wide apart, and the food was as good as we remembered.

They are doing some remodeling, and a couple of workmen were trying to bring in a big bench type seat that must have been 15 feet long. Our van was parked right in front of the door, so I offered to move it to make their life easier. The rain had let up, and it was only sprinkling a little bit when I went out to move the van. By the time I got that done, they already had the bench halfway through the door but were having problems with it because it barely fit.

By grabbing the door and pulling it towards me just a little bit past its normal open position, I was able to give them another inch or so, which helped, but they still had to struggle. Meanwhile, the rain started coming down in buckets again, and by the time they finally got it forced through the doorway, and I got back to the table, I was pretty wet. Miss Terry looked at me and shook her head, laughing, and said, “No good deed goes unpunished, does it?” When I heard her say punished, I was tempted to say, “Please don’t hit me again! I’ll be good” but I didn’t. It’s one thing to be a smart ass when there are trained medical professionals on hand to save me, but I wasn’t pushing my luck in a deli where they have sharp knives.

Thought For The Day – A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

Photo Ops Everywhere

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 202021
 

Note: I was busy working on my new Tinder Street book most of the day yesterday and time got away from me. So here is a blog post from a while back about another of our favorite places.

We love the Pacific Northwest, and Washington state’s Olympic Penisula is one of the most scenic places you’ll find anyplace. We spent yesterday playing tourist around Port Townsend, and Miss Terry’s digital camera got a real workout. As she said, there’s a photo op everywhere you look!

We started out with a visit to Fort Worden State Park, which is perched on a point of land jutting out into Admiralty Inlet. Fort Worden was one of three Coast Artillery installations built in the late 1800s to protect the cities along Puget Sound from attack by enemy ships and was an active military base until 1953. It became a state park in 1973.

Fort Worden sign 2

Today visitors can tour the old fort, whose barracks and buildings have been preserved. If you get a sense of déjà vu, it may be because the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere, Debra Winger, and Lou Gossett, was filmed here.

Barracks

Park office

In addition to two museums on the old fort, the park also includes beaches, hiking trails, a kayak rental, and historic Point Wilson Light. Entering service in 1879, the original lighthouse was replaced with the current structure in 1914. The tallest lighthouse on Puget Sound, it was automated in 1976 and is no longer open to the public.

Point Wilson light tall 4

Even though it was a pretty day with lots of sunshine, for a while there was a strange, almost surreal fog bank obscuring the shore of Whidbey Island.

Fog on water

Fog and mountain

But that didn’t keep boaters off the water. Everywhere we looked there were sailboats and motorboats of all sizes, as well as a couple of ferries, and even folks in kayaks.

Boats and log

Sailboat and log

Sailboat and mountain 2

Sailboat and mountain

Sailboat

And then there were boats that have seen better days and will never float again.

Old boat 

This fellow wasn’t catching anything, but he was still having a good time. How could you not with that view?

Fisherman

Eventually we left Fort Worden and drove into town where a group called Locust Street Taxi was performing on Water Street. I think the ’60s were very good to this fellow in the red shirt, who never stopped dancing, song after song. But he sure was having fun.

Hippy dancer

A couple of blocks away we came across this trio of street performers doing their thing.

Street performers

Between the town’s wonderful views across the water, beautiful old Victorian buildings, eclectic shops, live entertainment everywhere you look, festivals, and friendly people, you would have to work very hard to have a bad time in Port Townsend.

Victorian hotel 2

Eventually, we decided we couldn’t ignore our growling stomachs any longer and went to Golden Ocean for dinner. This nice little Chinese restaurant came highly recommended and for good reason. The service was good and the food was delicious.

Back at the campground, I ran into Nick Vacca, who attended several of our western Gypsy Gathering rallies and we visited for a while. Nick has a lot here at Evergreen Coho and one at the Escapees co-op in Casa Grande, Arizona, and divides his time between the two when he’s not off exploring somewhere in his RV.

As if playing tourist and doing all that great photography wasn’t enough for one day, in the evening Miss Terry made me a batch of her delicious peanut butter cookies. Is there anything in the world better than fresh hot cookies washed down with a big glass of ice-cold milk? If there is, I’ve never found it.

Thought For The Day – It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. – Mark Twain

Apr 192021
 

Note: This is a repost of a blog from 2014, about a visit to our favorite city.

Miss Terry says I am head over heels in love with the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia, but I think that’s an exaggeration. Enthralled? Yes. Enamored? Sure. But head over heels? Yeah, that’s an exaggeration. A tiny exaggeration maybe, but an exaggeration nonetheless.

But even if I am, who could blame me? What’s not to love in this historic city? Settled in 1733, Savannah has seen wars, wealth, poverty, drama, and comedy in her history, and like the classy Southern lady she is, she has handled it all with grace and dignity. With its beautiful park-like squares shaded by live oaks and magnolias, its historic waterfront, and streets lined with beautiful mansions, I don’t think anybody could help but be impressed.

During the Civil War, when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in Savannah after burning Atlanta and everything in his path on his “March to the Sea,” he was so impressed by its beauty that he could not destroy it. In December, 1864, he sent a telegram to President Lincoln, offering him the city as a Christmas present.

We could not be this close to Savannah and not visit, so yesterday we spent the day playing tourist. Our first stop was the Visitor Center to pick up a map, and then we set off to explore Savannah, just wandering around the streets admiring the grand old homes that have been so carefully restored. This handsome brick mansion is the Mercer House and belonged to General Hugh Mercer, the great-grandfather of singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer, and was made famous in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. If you have not read this classic by John Berendt, check it out. It really gives you a feel for Savannah.

Mercer House2

Savannah is laid out around 21 squares, small shaded islands where people can relax on a park bench and admire historic statues, chat with a friend, or just watch the world go by.

Jphnson Square

The riverfront, with some of the oldest commercial buildings in Savannah, is a popular place with tourists and residents alike. The old cotton warehouses and ship outfitters now house shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Waterfront 3

The whole city is an artists’ and photographers’ delight.

Balconies

Eventually, we left Savannah and drove a few miles to Tybee Island. The beaches were not nearly as crowded as on Hilton Head Island, but the people who were there all seemed to be having a good time.

Tybee Island beach 2

Tybee Island beach 3

Tybee Island beach

We wandered out on the pier, which has a nice pavilion and is free to the public. There were a few fishermen, but nobody seemed to be getting any action.

Fishermen

The last time we were in this area we ate at The Crab Shack with Greg and Jan White and Peggy Krepelka and Dave Koehler. It was one of the most fantastic meals we ever had and we’ve looked forward to going back ever since.

CrabShackentrance

They have several alligators in a pool at the entrance, and we had to stop and watch them for a while. A sign said they were born in captivity and will live in an exhibit for the rest of their lives, and also warned people that it is both illegal and dangerous to feed wild alligators. You might think that would go without saying, but again, we’re talking about people.

Gator face on

Two gators

Gator sunning

We sat outside, with a nice view of Chimney Creek.

River view from table

Nothing is fried at The Crab Shack, which is usually my first choice for seafood, but that’s okay. The last time we were there we had the Captain’s Sampler for two, a low country boil that included Alaskan king crab, stone crab, shrimp, mussels, crawfish, sausage, corn and potatoes. And by the way, this picture was taken after we each took our first helping! It tasted even better than it looks, and there’s no way we could finish it all, but we sure had fun trying. Smile

Crab Shack boil

By the time we got back to Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort, after a stop at Barnes & Noble and WalMart, we were both worn out. But it was worth it for the memories we made on a beautiful day in a beautiful city. And I think Miss Terry was right after all; I am head over heels in love with Savannah.

Congratulations Howard C. Gordon, winner of our drawing for a USB drive loaded with all of the digital back issues of the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper for the years 2003 through 2017. We had 82 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Your bank account can be overdrawn, but it can never be overfilled.  

Terry Can Fix Anything

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 182021
 

A while back one of the hinges on the drop-down front of my desk’s keyboard drawer broke. It was just cheap pot metal, and Terry was able to Mickey Mouse it together for a little while to give us time to search for a new set of hinges. And as always, Amazon came through for us.

Actually, the first set of hinges we ordered from Amazon were some cheap things that looked good but didn’t fit. Then I found a set of Rocker Fully Adjustable Concealed Fall Flap Hinges and ordered them. They were here the next day, and then Terry went to work removing the old hinges and installing the new ones.

I thought it would just be a simple case of out with the old and in with the new, but there’s a reason they are called adjustable hinges. Terry had to play with them a bit to get the adjustment right, so the keyboard drawer would sit level when open and then fold up properly to close at the end of the day. But, like with everything she does, she made it seem easy.

With my keyboard tray working properly again, I’ve been working, too, knocking out 5,000 to 6,000 words a day in my new Tinder Street book. As I have said before, it seems like with this series I am spending as much or more time researching than I actually am writing. Yesterday it was Wright Whirlwind radial engines, airplane crash investigations in the 1920s, zombies (don’t worry, this isn’t science fiction or horror, so there won’t actually be any zombies wandering around the neighborhood), and whiskey flasks. Hey, it was the Roaring 20s, what do you expect? I plan to be back at it again today. I’m past the halfway point, and while I’m not at the home stretch yet, it’s getting closer all the time.

After reading yesterday’s blog, She’ll Be Coming Off The Airplane When She Comes, a reader emailed to ask why we would take a chance on having our kids visit when Covid-19 numbers are starting to rise again. We have all been vaccinated for quite some time now, stay as isolated as possible, and wear masks and practice social distancing when we do go out. I think we are as safe right now as we are ever going to be.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for a USB drive loaded with all of the digital back issues of the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper for the years 2003 through 2017. They are in PDF format and will provide you with weeks of great reading about places to visit from coast to coast and our adventures as fulltime RVers. The normal cost of the back issue collection is $75. 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 printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – You can’t always control who walks into your life, but you can control which window you throw them out.

Apr 172021
 

Sung to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes. Yes, our daughter Tiffany will be coming to visit us next week. Or the week after. Or in early May. Or mid-May. Or maybe the end of May. Who knows? But I believe she will arrive eventually.

Tiffany was originally scheduled to arrive here around the 26th of this month and stay for a week or two. But something in the airline schedule would have made it almost 24 hours from the time she left her small town airport in northern Arizona until she arrived here, with long layovers in Phoenix and Charlotte, North Carolina. So she did some finagling with the schedule and announced that she would be here on the 24th instead, two days early. No problem, looking forward to it.

Then when her brother Travis and his wife Geli said they planned to visit toward the end of May, things went into a tizzy. Travis lives in Alabama and Tiffany lives in Arizona, and they don’t have many opportunities to get together. So Tiffany decided she might only spend a week with us during her first visit, then fly back again when Travis and Geli were here. Okay, fine, it would be great to have everybody together again.

Then, a day or two later, Tiffany called to say that she was in a quandary because her kids are being schooled at home due to Covid-19, and she wasn’t sure about leaving them on their own this close to the end of the school year. She asked if we would be terribly upset if she canceled the April visit altogether and came when Travis was here and then stayed a few days after he and Geli left. Again, whatever works is fine with us.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story because the first flight she booked would have had her arriving just after midnight, which was no problem for us to pick her up at the airport in Daytona Beach since we are night owls anyhow. But Tiffany hoped to revise the schedule to arrive at a more reasonable hour. The last I heard is that she will be flying into Daytona Beach on Friday, May 28, at 11:03 AM. Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. She’ll Be Coming Off The Airplane When She Comes

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive loaded with all of the digital back issues of the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper for the years 2003 through 2017. They are in PDF format and will provide you with weeks of great reading about places to visit from coast to coast and our adventures as fulltime RVers. The normal cost of the back issue collection is $75. 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 printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I watch so many true crime programs that when I turn off the TV, I wipe my fingerprints off the remote control.

A Lot Of Options

 Posted by at 12:39 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 162021
 

Ever since we hung up the keys and bought a house on the Space Coast, I’ve had RVers asking how to find affordable winter RV sites in Florida. One couple said they had just returned to Indiana after spending four months in a very nice RV Park in the Tampa area, but the cost was over $800 a month, plus electricity. Another couple said they had moved around to several different places in the Fort Lauderdale area, but that the cost averaged over $300 a week. All of them were asking me if there were more affordable options.

Yes, there are. Florida is loaded with comfortable, affordable RV parks that welcome snowbirds. But you are usually not going to find them right on the coast in places like Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. The further south you go in Florida and the closer to the water you are, the more you’re going to pay. But move inland a few miles and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save. We have seen a number of very nice RV parks with monthly rates around $400 or less.

Of course, for that kind of money you are not going to be in a “resort.” I’m talking about friendly, comfortable mom-and-pop type RV parks. Or, age 55+ mobile home parks that also have RV sites. We found a couple in the Titusville area, one of our favorite places in Florida, as well as plenty in central Florida around Clermont, Winter Haven, Bushnell, Lakeland, etc.

The good thing about Florida is that no matter where you are, you’re never more than about a 90-minute drive from either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. And if you like fishing or kayaking, central Florida has lakes and rivers everywhere. Pay no mind to those alligators, they don’t eat much. 🙂

For people who don’t want to sit in one spot all winter, there are also options. While a lot of Passport America campgrounds blackout the busy winter months, the last two or three winters we’ve been in Florida we have seen several that were still welcoming members at the discount price.

If you belong to the Elks or the Moose, both of those organizations have lodges all over Florida that offer everything from blacktop boondocking for a night or two, to full hookup RV sites. There are also some city and county parks scattered around with RV sites.

On the other hand, you have to be realistic. You can’t expect a campground in a busy area to turn people away at the full rate and let you in at the reduced rate of Passport America or one of the other discount camping outfits. You’re not going to go to the Keys and find an RV site during the wintertime without paying a premium price for it. You’re not going to find an RV golf resort and pay discount prices. If you want an ocean view, it comes with a premium price tag. You get what you pay for.

But if you can be happy in a comfortable, smaller RV park, away from the premium tourist areas, there are lots of options available. Do your homework and spend a little time researching, and you might be surprised at what you can come up with. But be aware that you are not going to be able to just show up without a reservation, or book a site for the winter the week before you get there. Be prepared to book up top a year in advance.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive loaded with all of the digital back issues of the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper for the years 2003 through 2017. They are in PDF format and will provide you with weeks of great reading about places to visit from coast to coast and our adventures as fulltime RVers. The normal cost of the back issue collection is $75. 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 printed books and parcels, and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Every time a bird takes a crap on my car, I eat a plate of scrambled eggs on my front porch just to let them know what I’m capable of.

Apr 152021
 

We have found many interesting stories while exploring old cemeteries in our travels around the country. So many, in fact, that I  created a seminar that I presented at RV rallies called Cemetery Stories. Some of them have been heart-wrenching, some were actually funny, and some were downright bizarre. This is one such story of a woman many believed was a witch.

The oldest public cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida is known, appropriately enough as the Old City Cemetery, which was established in 1829. Here are interred the remains of politicians, war veterans, farmers and tradesmen, slaves and scoundrels, in a place where death does not discriminate.

But the grave that gets the most visitors is none of those. It’s the grave of a young woman named Elizabeth Budd-Graham, a kindly and much-loved wife and mother of two, who died in 1889 after a brief illness, at just 23 years old. Her newspaper obituary described Elizabeth, affectionately known as Bessie to her family and friends, as being possessed of rare personal beauty and excellent traits of character. Her grieving husband had an elaborate fifteen-ton headstone made of grey French granite erected over her grave.

So how did the story of such a seemingly proper young woman being a witch come about? Entirely by imagination, speculation, and rumor, it seems.

While Elizabeth had many friends and admirers, not everyone in Tallahassee was counted among them. Some women, perhaps jealous of her beauty and popularity, whispered that she must have bewitched her handsome and prosperous husband into marrying her.

However, even among those who might have believed Elizabeth was a witch, many thought of her as a “good witch” and that if she did have the power to cast spells, they were surely only to bring love and happiness to others.

The young woman’s grave itself added to the story of her being a witch. It faces to the west, and some have claimed that this was proof because the graves of all Christians face east. That is not true, of course, and anyone touring any cemetery might find graves facing every point on the compass. Many other graves in the cemetery also face west. One family member tried to refute the nonsense about the grave’s position by saying Elizabeth loved watching the sunset at the end of the day.

But there is no doubt that the strongest argument for the claims of her being a witch is the inscription on Elizabeth’s grave, taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s Lenore, itself paying homage to a woman who also died young: Ah! Broken is the golden bowl. The spirit flown forever! Let the bell toll! A saintly soul Floats on the Stygian River; Come let the burial rite be read The funeral song be sung; An anthem for the queenliest dead That died so young A dirge for her the doubly dead In that she died so young.

Many have claimed the words about a soul that floats on the Stygian River actually refer to the River Styx in Greek mythology that forms the boundary between earth and the underworld, and that as a witch, Elizabeth’s spirit could never cross over. I don’t know about you, but that’s far from a convincing argument about her witchcraft to me.

At any rate, Elizabeth’s grave still draws many visitors every year. They come to pay their respects or out of curiosity, and many leave tributes or mementos at the grave of Tallahassee’s famous witch.

The Old City Cemetery is located at 400 W Park Avenue in Tallahassee. The next time you’re in Florida’s Capital city, stop and pay a visit to Elizabeth’s grave. Who knows? She might put a spell of love and happiness on you, and the world needs all of that it can get.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive loaded with all of the digital back issues of the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper for the years 2003 through 2017. They are in PDF format and will provide you with weeks of great reading about places to visit from coast to coast and our adventures as fulltime RVers. The normal cost of the back issue collection is $75. 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.

Thought For The Day – I’m a leader, not a follower. Unless it’s a dark place. Then you go first.

Apr 142021
 

A friend who reads the blog asked me the other day how I wound up owning seven newspapers on the Oregon and Washington coasts by the time I was 30 years old. Well, I didn’t plan it that way. It just sort of happened.

My first paper was in Aberdeen, Washington, on Grays Harbor.  When I started out, I knew that I had to have something worth reading, and I also knew I needed to have enough advertisers to support it because I started on a literal shoestring. A very short shoestring. Getting the material to fill the pages wasn’t all that hard. But what about the advertising? Well, I came up with an idea that worked so well it surprised me.

I went to the largest car dealer in town, introduced myself to the owner, and told him I was starting a weekly newspaper and offered him a deal. I said, “Look, you don’t need me. You’re doing fine already. But I need you. So I would like to offer you a free full-page ad every week for a month – no cost or obligation at all. I only ask two things from you. Number one, if you feel the ads were worthwhile, you consider advertising with me on a paid basis once your free month is over. And number two, don’t tell anybody else that the ads are free, because obviously, I need to sell somebody an ad to make enough money to keep going.” How could he resist that?

Then I went to the next biggest car dealership and introduced myself to the owner and told him about my new newspaper, and asked if he would be interested in buying an ad. I knew he was going to tell me no. I didn’t have any kind of a track record, and he didn’t know who I was, so why should he take a risk on me? And when he did say no, I told him no problem, I understood completely. But so-and-so Ford dealership just took a full-page ad, and I wanted to give him the courtesy of paying a call on him so he didn’t feel left out. He asked, “The Ford dealer’s doing a full-page ad?” I told him yes, a full-page for a month. Guess who bought a full-page ad? Then I went to the next biggest dealership and ended up selling him a half-page ad.

Next, I went to the biggest real estate company in town and offered them a free full-page ad four weeks. They took it, and I repeated the process at several other real estate companies telling them all that their biggest competitor was going to have a full-page ad for a month. Then I hit the biggest grocery store in town.

By the time the first issue of my newspaper came out, I had enough advertising to pay the printer for the next three issues and to impress a lot of other businesses in town, who then jumped on the bandwagon.

A year or so after I started out, the same car dealer who took those free full-page ads and I had become good friends. One day he said he wished I would expand my circulation to the next county over because a lot of people from that area traded in our town. I thought about that, but then I got an idea. I started another newspaper in that county and did the same thing I had with my first paper to fill the ad pages. And to sweeten the pot, I offered any business that ran an ad in one paper the same ad in the other paper for half-price. The work of selling the ad and putting it together was already done, so that was pure gravy. Six months later, I went to the next county on the other side and did the same thing, offering free ads, offering half-price ads in other papers in the next counties, and before you knew it I had a small chain of newspapers, just like that.

My overhead was low because all of the layout and composition was done in our main office in Grays Harbor, and in the other places I rented very small offices, hired a woman to work the counter and answer the phone, and put a couple of salesmen on the street on commission. Each of those papers had one reporter who covered the local news, and the rest was filled in from news from my adjoining county papers plus syndicated material.

I had been at this for about three years, and by that time I had five or six newspapers going. But then  I made a big mistake. I went to my first national newspaper conference. There was a high-priced consultant there who was giving a talk on the newspaper industry, and he said that one could expect to spend $1 to $3 million to start a newspaper and could expect to run in the red for five years before they turned a profit.

Sitting and listening to that “expert” talk was the worst thing I ever did! I didn’t have that kind of money to start a newspaper, and I had started all of those already. What had I gotten myself into? When I returned from the conference I could not function. I literally could not figure out what my next step should be. He had convinced me there was no way I could succeed with even one newspaper, let alone seven.

Finally, after a week or so, I called him and told him my situation, and he told me that I was only fooling myself if I thought I was really making any money. That didn’t help either. It turned out he had a daughter who lived in Seattle, and he was coming to visit her in just a few days. He suggested he might drive out to Grays Harbor County, where I was, and spend the day with me. I’m sure he was hoping to get an expensive consulting gig out of it, and I was just as sure I didn’t have any money to pay him for it.

But on the appointed day, he showed up at my office. We talked a bit and I showed him my books and told him about the way I was running things. He scratched his head, and he looked at the books again and said it didn’t make any sense. He suggested that he would be happy to stay an extra day or two if I would spring for a motel room because he really wanted to know more. In exchange, he would give me a report of where he thought I was and where I was going.

At the end of three days, he handed me a letter that said he had no idea how I did what I was doing, and that I had broken every rule there was when it came to starting a community newspaper. But whatever the hell I was doing, keep doing it! So I did.

Along the way, I made a pretty good chunk of money, and I learned a lot. Eventually, I sold out and moved back to Arizona, and started three newspapers there. But that’s another story for another time.

Thought For The Day – It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.

Apr 132021
 

Free land! 160 acres of prime farmland to any man who wanted it! Who could resist such an offer? To millions of Americans stuck in crowded, dirty cities, many of them recent immigrants, it was the chance of a lifetime.

The Homestead Act of 1862 has been called one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. Signed into law by Abraham Lincoln after the secession of southern states in the Civil War, it turned over vast amounts of public land to private citizens. Between 1863 and 1974, over 270 million acres, or 10% of the area of the entire United States, was claimed and settled under the Homestead Act.

Why would the government give away free land? The idea began long before it was ever signed into law. As early as the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson had proposed a similar plan, and support grew in the 1840s among newspaper editors, politicians, and railroad companies. Many in the industrialized north hoped that homesteading would reduce poverty by luring people away from overcrowded cities. Newspaper editor Horace Greeley urged “Go West, young man, go West and grow with the country.”

Many Americans in the 19th century believed in Manifest Destiny, the idea that the United States had a God-given duty to expand westward and tame the continent. The government saw homesteading as a way to push America’s boundaries further west, while creating landowners and eventual wealth.

The Homestead Act was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting free land it allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American dream of owning their own land. A homesteader had only to be the head of a household and at least 21 years of age to claim a 160 acre parcel of land.

Settlers from all walks of life, including newly arrived immigrants, farmers without land of their own from the East, single women, and former slaves came to meet the challenge of “proving up” and keeping this “free land”. Each homesteader was required to live on the land, build a home, make improvements and farm for five years before they were eligible to “prove up”. When all requirements had been completed and the homesteader was ready the take legal possession, the homesteader found two neighbors or friends willing to vouch for the truth of his or her statements about the land’s improvements and sign the “proof” document.

A total filing fee of $18 was the only money required, but sacrifice and hard work exacted a different price from the hopeful settlers. The railroads and promoters painted the West as paradise, with advertisements that promised perfect soil, abundant rain, and guaranteed success. Of course, the truth was often much different. The land could be harsh and unforgiving. Clearing forests and raw prairie by hand was hard work. The weather could be extreme. Locusts and grasshoppers destroyed crops, as did hail and wildfires. In some areas, the Indians who had inhabited the land for centuries violently resisted the flood of settlers. Many of the hopeful homesteaders who boarded the trains back east, headed for paradise, proved unable to accept the challenge and soon moved on. For those who persevered, years of backbreaking labor, with often nothing but failure or a lonely grave as their reward, awaited.

Still, many did succeed in carving a new life out of the wild land for themselves and their families. They overcame hardships, learned to adapt, and built not only cabins and barns, but communities that eventually grew into some of our greatest cities.

Settling a new land could be both exciting and lonely, and the homesteaders needed to be resourceful people. Homesteads were often far from town, far from the next neighbor, and far from family and friends. Despite the distances often involved, neighbors helped fill the void. People cooperated to build barns and repair fences, they delivered each others’ babies, celebrated births and mourned deaths together. They socialized with picnics, dances, quilting bees, and barn raisings.

Once they had established themselves, the homesteaders joined together to create communities. Most homesteaders placed a great value upon education, and schoolhouses were often the first public buildings erected. One family might donate the land, while others pitched in to help with construction. Early schools were usually simple one room affairs, where children in several grades learned together, the older students helping the younger ones with their lessons. Most teachers were young single women, often from local homesteads themselves.

Homesteading changed the face of America. Not just our landscape, but also our culture and industry. The Homestead Act began an agricultural revolution. For thousands of years, people relied on animals and their own muscles to work the land. But between 1860 and 1910, steam and gasoline engines took over the burden. Homesteaders created a huge new market for farming implements.

Two inventions from the 1830s revolutionized farming. In 1831, Cyrus McCormick introduced the first successful horse-drawn reaper (top photo), which could cut as much grain in one day as ten men. In 1837, John Deere developed a steel plow (bottom photo) tough enough to break the hard prairie sod. Soon their companies, and others, were mass producing new farming equipment. The law of supply and demand tied the agricultural West and the industrial East together, making each dependant on the other.

Daniel Freeman has been recognized as America’s first homesteader, filing his claim to 160 acres of land in southeast Nebraska near the present town of Beatrice shortly after midnight on January 1, 1863. The last citizen to file a homestead claim was Kenneth Deardorff, a 29 year old Vietnam veteran, who homesteaded on land in southwest Alaska in 1974. The Homestead Act expired in 1976 in the lower 48 states, and in 1986 in Alaska.

Daniel Freeman and his family prospered, becoming prominent Nebraska citizens, and today their original farm is the Homestead National Monument of America. The monument includes the Homestead Heritage Center, where visitors can watch a film on the homesteading experience and see displays on the Homestead Act and how it changed America.

Exhibits include pioneer artifacts, oral histories, and many photographs of early settlers. The impact of the Homestead Act on Native Americans is also recognized, with displays on how the westward movement displaced them from their traditional lands.

Adjacent to the Heritage Center are several acres of tallgrass prairie that have been restored to the time of the first homesteaders. A mile from the Heritage Center, the carefully preserved Freeman School was a center of education for prairie children from 1872 until 1967. During its long history, the school was also a meeting place for the First Trinity Lutheran Church, the polling place for Blakely Township, and a gathering place for many debates, socials, and clubs. Today visitors can slip into a desk and get a feel for what it was like to be a pioneer schoolchild, or step to the front of the classroom and see things from a teacher’s perspective.

The nearby Education Center houses early farming equipment, a display of barbed wire, and the cabin George W. Palmer built in 1867, which was home to his family, including ten children, until 1895. The one room cabin was sold to Lawrence and Ida Mumford Epard, who lived in it for nearly 40 more years!

The Homestead Act of 1862 was a pivotal event in American history and was responsible for much of our nation’s growth, and there is no better place to learn about this important time in our history than at the Homestead National Monument of America.

The Homestead National Monument of America is located four miles west of Beatrice, Nebraska, on State Highway 4. From the U.S. 77 and U.S. 136 intersection in downtown Beatrice, take U.S. 136 approximately 1½ miles west, turn right onto Nebraska Highway 4 and follow the signs.

There is room for any size RV to park at the Heritage Center, but parking at the Education Center would be for smaller RVs only, and the Freeman School only has room for conventional cars and pickup trucks.

The Homestead National Monument of America is open Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday – Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outdoor trails are open from dawn to dusk. Homestead National Monument of America is a No Fee park. Admission, parking, and special events are all free of charge.

The Heritage Center and Education Center are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs, assisted listening devices, and special assistance are available upon request at both facilities. Service animals are welcome. For more information, call (402) 223-3514 or visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/home/index.htm

Thought For The Day – I’m not lazy, I’m just very relaxed.

And The Rains Came

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 122021
 

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the blog that rainfall totals for our area of Central Florida are way down this year. We have something like a 5 inch deficit where we are, midway between Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral. So we have definitely been needing some rain, and we got some yesterday. In fact we got a lot of rain yesterday!

At 9 AM it still looked like it was dark outside, and by 11 AM it seemed more like just barely after dawn because the sky was so dark. And when the sky opened up, it dumped rain throughout the region. Along with the rain was thunder, lightning, golf ball sized hail in some places, and strong winds. This was the weather map at 12:27 PM. Our house is that little blue dot low on the right side of the screen.

The storms kept rolling through the area for most of the day, with a few pauses between them. But the crazy thing is that last night on the 11 PM news, Daytona Beach was still nearly 4½ inches below their normal rainfall amounts for this time of year.

During one of the lulls in the storms I went outside to check our citrus trees and my pontoon boat. The trees were doing fine, and the full cover on the boat was holding up well. The extra support arms that Terry put in kept most of the water running off instead of pooling on the canvas.

I spent most of the day working on my new Tinder Street book, with my office door onto the carport open because I love to watch it rain. By the time I knocked off around 6:30 PM, I had another 4,500 words under my belt. I’m trying hard to keep up the pace so I can get the book finished before my daughter Tiffany comes to visit on the 24th of this month. It’s going to be a race to get it done, but I’ll do my best.

Several people have asked me if I will be doing audiobooks of the Tinder Street series. I doubt it. I have eight audiobooks out now, plus Tantor Media bought the rights to create audiobooks of the first four books in the John Lee Quarrels series. And while some authors I know do very well with audiobooks, I don’t. While my print and e-book sales are always healthy, if I sell 10 or 15 audiobooks in a month, I consider that very good. For the time, effort, and cost put into creating them, they are a losing proposition for me.

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. This seems like a laid-back kind of place, doesn’t it?

Congratulations Carsten Wiemken, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 37  entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I know the voices in my head aren’t real, but sometimes their ideas are awesome!

Apr 112021
 

Our friend Stu McNicol is on a motorcycle trip from his home in Tennessee down to southern Florida to visit his daughter and some other family members and friends along the way. We were fortunate to be among those friends, and we met Stu for lunch yesterday at Uncle Chicken’s in New Smyrna Beach.

We met Stu back during our fulltime RVing days and have been friends ever since. We’ve actually been friends with his wife Donna even longer, first meeting her when she was a solo RVer. If you’re not familiar with Donna, she is the author of the popular Klondike mystery series, along with the C’Mon Inn cozy mysteries and other excellent books.

Stu was delayed a bit, but we didn’t mind waiting for him, sitting outside at a table with an umbrella to shade us. After the requisite round of hugs when he arrived (we have all three had our COVID-19 vaccinations), he and I ordered the huge Morning After Flagler Burger, while Terry opted for the Cheesy Smoked Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwich.  It was all delicious, and we talked for a couple of hours. Stu was a career firefighter and first responder in Maryland, and I picked his brain when I was writing Big Lake Burning, the sixth book in my Big Lake mystery series. He’s always got some great stories to tell, and we definitely did some laughing while we ate.

Eventually, we had to part company because Stu was headed further South and wanted to get to his destination before it was too late in the day. We said our goodbyes and got another round of hugs and had one of the restaurant employees take a picture of us before he climbed on his trike and headed on down the highway.

On our way home, we stopped at Publix to pick up some things, and by the time we got home and got everything put away we were both washed out. It had been a pretty warm day, and I think setting outside so long, even with the umbrella, got to us. So we didn’t have energy for much of anything else the rest of the day.

In the early evening, a line of storms came to the area, bringing a lot of thunder and some lightning and some much-needed rain. This area is something like five inches below its normal rainfall for the year, and there have been a lot of brushfires throughout the state due to the drought-like conditions.

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 the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.


Thought For The Day – When you die people cry and beg for you to come back. But when you do there’s all that running and screaming.

The Gun Thing

 Posted by at 1:04 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 102021
 

After my recent Newspaper Days blog post when I talked about buying classic cars and guns that people came to my newspaper offices to advertise for sale, I have had several conversations with readers about the whole gun thing and gun violence. Some feel that we need to ban all private firearms ownership or ban the so-called “assault weapons.” Others say our founding fathers guaranteed us the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution. Then again, those same founding fathers only wanted white male property owners to have the right to vote and believed slavery was acceptable, so there’s that.

My friend Cindy Kingma asked me what I thought the answer was, and I told her I honestly don’t know but I wish I did. Let me preface what I am about to say by acknowledging that I am a lifelong gun owner and a former gun shop owner. Let me also add that while I believe every law abiding citizen of this country should have the right to possess a firearm, I also believe there are a hell of a lot of them that have no business with one. Or even a sharp pair of scissors.

I believe in sensible gun control, including background checks, not allowing people convicted of violent felonies and those convicted of domestic abuse to possess firearms, and red flag laws that give authorities the power to remove guns from somebody who poses a true threat to themselves or others. But note that I said true threat. The problem with laws like these is determining who gets to decide if somebody is a true threat.

But along with that, we have to understand that the problem really isn’t guns. Guns have been a part of America since the Mayflower. I can hear people saying, “But you can’t mow down a classroom full of kids with a muzzleloading rifle.” Before the 1968 additions to the National Firearms Act, you could go down to your local hardware store and purchase a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun or order one through the mail. I remember the one my dad kept in a closet and another that an uncle owned. They are as deadly as today’s AR-15s, if not more so. So why didn’t we have mass shootings back in the good old days when there were so many fully automatic weapons around?

Given our long history, mass shootings are a fairly recent phenomenon. Nobody did things like that when I was in high school, which seems like a long time ago but really wasn’t.

I do believe that part of the problem is our culture. When I was in Army basic training right after high school, we were taught to kill, kill, kill! The enemy was not a person with a family he loved and who loved him. He wasn’t a human being. He was a target. In eight weeks, we were desensitized to the point where killing was not something deplorable. It was our duty, and we were damn sure going to do our duty. Many were eager to do it. For most, that quickly changed when it actually happened.

I believe that TV, movies, and video games, along with social media, have now done the same thing. I forget the number of on-screen deaths an average teenager is exposed to in a given month or year, but it is sky high. They mow down a hundred zombies on screen and see blood and gore splattered all over and love it. Slasher movies emphasize the same thing. I think that the same desensitization I was exposed to as a teenage Army recruit is a large part of what is happening today. Killing somebody isn’t real, it’s just a thrill, a game.

I also think that the lack of a core family unit is a contributing factor. Either the parents are not there because one or the other has left, or they are dysfunctional, or they are working two jobs each to pay the rent and put food on the table. So their kids are left to fend for themselves and don’t grow up with a strong set of moral values. Nobody is there to tell them to put down that nasty game and turn that disgusting movie off. But there was somebody there when I was growing up, back when mass shootings were unheard of. There has to be a connection to that.

And let’s not continue to ignore bullying. We’re too nice or too afraid to call out bullies. Some school officials try, but I know more than a few who are overworked, underpaid, burned out, and don’t have the energy to deal with parents who can be as big a bully as their children. Many times that’s where the kids learned it. Then a bully decides to take it a crazy step forward, or a bullied outcast who wants revenge on the whole damn world does something terrible, and we shake our collective heads and ask ourselves how nobody saw it coming.

Something else we have ignored for far too long is mental illness. Our government needs to step up to the plate and provide real treatment for those suffering from psychiatric problems. Yes, it is expensive, but what is the cost we pay by doing nothing? I remember hearing somebody once telling a friend about a neighbor who was obviously unbalanced, “Stay away from him, he’s crazy.” No, get him some help, so he is not a danger to himself or anyone else.

But what about those darned guns? A total ban and confiscation of all firearms in the county would never work. Remember, heroin is illegal too, but you can buy it in every city and town across the nation if you know who to ask. There are millions of guns out there, and it is literally impossible to make them all go away. But what if you could?

As I have told more than one person, if you truly think taking every gun away from everyone will make you safe, tell your wife and daughters to spend 24 hours in a maximum-security prison. After all, the convicts are not allowed to have any kind of weapons. How safe do you think they would be?

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 the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – When life gives you mold,  make penicillin. 

Apr 092021
 

You know you have lived on Florida’s Space Coast for a while when you don’t even pay attention when the news announces a rocket launch and are not aware of it until you hear the sound of the booster rockets on reentry. That was the case on Wednesday when SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with 60 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral. This was the company’s tenth rocket launch this year. Between that and NASA activity, I can’t keep track of everything that’s happening down there. But I did go out and get a picture of the trail the rocket left in the sky on its way to outer space.

I mentioned a while back that our citrus trees are beginning to produce fruit, and the folks at Lindley’s Nursery said to pluck them off before they get too big because the branches are not strong enough to hold the weight of growing fruit yet. I took these off of our key lime tree the other day and just as many off of the lemon tree afterward. I don’t have much of a sense of smell, but holding a handful of them to my nose was delicious.

Quite a few blog subscribers have been having a problem getting the daily blog feed lately, while many others receive it just fine. We have been using an RSS feed called Feedburner, which was a Google product that they have apparently stopped supporting. So I changed to a new RSS feed that seems to be working much better. If you are still getting the old feed, you can unsubscribe from it at the bottom of the e-mail when you get it. Then, please go to the blog subscription link in the upper right column of the blog and re-subscribe, which will start sending you the new feed with the next day’s blog.

After reading yesterday’s blog, Let’s Talk Turkey, three or four readers inquired about the Meater Plus wireless meat thermometer that Terry recently purchased, asking what she thought of it. She has only used it once so far, and there is a bit of a learning curve to it, but overall it does what it’s supposed to. The timer was spot on to the minute, alerting her to take the turkey out of the smoker at just the right time and then how long to let it rest before serving it. The only drawback so far is that it lost the signal several times. This could be because the smoker and sending unit were outside, and we were in the house, which is covered in metal. But all she had to do was walk close to the window, and it would reconnect automatically without losing the settings or the elapsed time or temperature. Overall, she likes it and says that she is looking forward to getting more use out of it.

By the way, we had more of the smoked turkey, along with more of Terry’s black beans and rice with andouille sausage for dinner last night, and it was just as delicious.

Yesterday was another writing day for me and I got in around 4,500 words in my new Tinder Street book by the end of the day. This puts me close to the halfway point, and I am having a great time with the story.

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.

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 the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I sat quietly with my own thoughts today. Remind me never to do that again!

Let’s Talk Turkey

 Posted by at 12:37 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 082021
 

Smoked turkey, that is. For a long time now, we have been talking about smoking a turkey in our Orion convection smoker, but we never seemed to get around to it. On our last shopping excursion to Publix grocery store a couple of weeks ago, they had turkey breasts on sale, and Terry asked if she should get one, and we would give it a try. The price was good, something like $7 for a seven pound breast, and I told her we should. Yesterday was the big day.

But before she started on the project, we looked at YouTube videos on smoking turkeys, and one of the things they recommended was a wireless digital meat thermometer. So Terry did some research on Amazon and decided on a MEATER Plus smart wireless unit. It connects to a smartphone with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and supposedly has a 165 foot signal range.

Yesterday she prepped the turkey breast by seasoning it with a rub made up of butter, smoked paprika, thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic powder, parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and pink Himalayan salt.

With that done, we took it outside to the Orion, where we had already added applewood chips to the smoker’s inside pan to enhance the flavor. Then we lit the charcoal on the outside of the smoker and waited to see what happened. What happened was amazing!

Ninety minutes later, the app on Terry’s phone said that the turkey was at the proper temperature and ready to come out of the smoker. Then she tented it with foil and let it rest for the time indicated by the timer. Tell me that doesn’t look delicious.

And if you think it looks good, you won’t believe how it tasted! Especially with Terry’s homemade red beans and rice and andouille sausage. My taste buds jumped out of my mouth, ran across the table, and gave her a high five. Then they ran right back where they belong because they wanted more of that!

The turkey was moist and delicious, and the smoke flavoring was indescribable. We both agreed that we would definitely be doing that again sometime soon.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new 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 the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with U.S. addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – It’s been six months since I joined the gym and I have not seen any progress at all. Tomorrow I’m going to go there and find out what the problem is.