Nick Russell

20 Years

 Posted by at 12:40 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 162018
 

Can you believe this beautiful lady has been putting up with me for two decades? That’s right, today is our 20th wedding anniversary. And what a wonderful 20 years it has been!

This was not the first marriage for either of us, and believe me, it was not something that either one of us was looking for or expected to happen. But isn’t that the way it sometimes goes? We often find the best things in life when we least expect them. Here’s our love story, if you care to hear it:

We had known each other for many years. Terry ran a commercial glass shop that advertised in the small town newspaper that I owned. At that time I was in a bad marriage, and since Terry always wore a big ring on her finger, I assumed she was married as well. We were just business acquaintances, though I always admired her because she is that combination of a beautiful and intelligent woman who is very real and never “puts on airs” as my Mama used to say. With Terry, what you see is what you get, and I found that very refreshing.

After my marriage ended, I instructed my friends that if I ever said I was going to get hitched again, please shoot me. I had been shot twice and married twice, and you can get over shot quicker and with less financial outlay.

One week I wrote a silly little column in my newspaper about making the transformation to the single life. I wrote that I had learned that I could survive for a weekend on Pepsi and Toaster Strudel, and that in a pinch, I could wash my underwear in the dishwasher and dry them in the microwave. But I lamented the fact that the bakery in town had closed its doors, and a chubby little cherub like myself needed sweets, so somebody had better send me either a recipe or a woman. Terry responded by sending me a big plate of brownies with a note that read “Quit your sniveling!”



The brownies were delicious, and I got a chuckle out of the note. When I called Terry to thank her, she said “Anytime you want something like that, just let me know. I love to cook and bake and I don’t have anybody to do it for.” I asked her why she didn’t bake for her husband, and she told me she had been single for fourteen years. “I work with contractors and construction workers all the time,” she told me, “I wear the ring to keep guys from hitting on me.” (Now, you have to wonder, after fourteen years, if she settled on me, what kind of troglodytes did she pass on?)

Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so when my secretary told me “Terry is sending you a signal, but you’re too dumb to know it” I didn’t believe her. But over a period of several weeks I began stopping in at Terry’s shop more frequently, and we really hit it off. It was amazing how much we found that we had in common.

Eventually I screwed up my courage and asked her out to a movie and dinner. We snuggled down in our seats at the theater and whispered to each other all through the movie (don’t ask me what movie it was, neither of us can remember). Afterwards we went to dinner, then sat and talked until dawn. I was smitten.

Two weeks later we had our second date, to the Fall Festival in our little mountain town. I was on the board of directors of the battered women’s shelter, and we had arranged a fund raiser in which the town council and other local “dignitaries” were supposed to take turns in a dunking booth. You know the type, where you pay a buck to throw three balls at a target, and if you hit it, the person inside the booth drops down into a pool of water. It was a chilly day, with temperatures about 50 degrees, and suddenly the local luminaries decided it would be “undignified” to climb up onto the dunking platform.

Well, if you’ve ever met me, you know that I’m about as undignified as they come, so I handed Terry my jacket, shoes and socks, and climbed aboard. It took all of about three seconds until some cowboy with a good eye nailed the target and I dropped down into the water. Damn, that was cold!

That’s when I discovered that I was too short and pudgy to hoist myself back up onto the metal platform. The dunking tank was a wire basket with a canvas reservoir full of water in it, so I had to hook my fingers and toes in and crawl back up the side of it and slide myself into my seat. I didn’t have time to get comfortable, because that cowboy had two balls left, and he used them well! Twice more I got dunked and crawled back up. No sooner had the cowboy stepped aside than the local postmaster, a good buddy of mine, took his place. Bill wasn’t quite as good a pitcher, but he managed to dunk me one throw out of three.

The local radio station was doing a live remote broadcast, and the announcer was another good buddy of mine. JJ the DJ announced over the airwaves “Folks, if Nick Russell has ever written something that ticked you off, it’s payback time. Come on out and get him wet. It’s all for a good cause!”

And come they did! It became a competition to see who could dunk me the most. Before long the price of balls went up from $1 to $5, and then $10. I was in that dunking booth for over three hours, and we raised over $3,000 for the women’s shelter. By then my toes and finger were bloody from crawling back up that dumb canvas bag, and I was so blue that I looked like a smurf.

Terry was in tears much of the time, though I never have been sure whether it was sympathy for me or mortification from being out in public with the class clown. Whatever it was, she took me home, dried me off, and kept me. We’ve been together ever since.



Somebody once said that the two of us seem almost codependent because we like to spend all of our time together. Hey, call it whatever you choose, it works for us, and we still feel like we’re on our first date. Being married to your best friend in the world is a wonderful thing.

We hold hands in the car and when we are walking, even if it’s across a parking lot. We even hold hands when we are asleep! More than once some younger person has told us that it’s nice to see an “old couple” holding hands. So what’s the secret that helps newlyweds become oldyweds?

In our case, I think one thing it is the fact that not only do we love each other, but we also like each other. We truly enjoy being together. We communicate very well, we respect each other, we have absolutely no jealousy, we are proud of each other and celebrate our individual accomplishments, and we are very affectionate. We are constantly patting the other on the arm or leaning over at their desk to hug them as we pass by. And we tell each other “I love you” at least 20 times a day. In fact, it’s the very first thing we say when we wake up every morning and the last thing we say as we fall asleep every night.

Happy anniversary, Terry. You have given me 20 amazing years of love and friendship and I look forward to many, many more. I love you.

Thought For The Day – The secret to a happy marriage is falling in love with the same person over and over again, day after day.

Living At Lowes

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 152018
 

When we bought our house last year somebody told me that the secret that new homeowners quickly learn is that you don’t live in your house, you only sleep there. You actually live at Home Depot or Lowe’s. There’s a lot of truth to that statement.

We are constantly doing things around the house to upgrade it and make it fit us better. Some of these have been small things, like a new screen door and lamps, and others have been big items, like furniture, all new appliances, and the new air conditioner that we had installed in September. Another recent project was adding a couple more electrical circuits to the garage, and installing a motion detector light on the outside of it.

One of the things that we have wanted to do is paint the inside. Let me clarify that; one of the things that we wanted done was to have the inside painted. Of all the things I don’t like to do, and believe me there are a lot of things I don’t like to do, painting rates at the top of the list. I’d rather take a beating than paint anything.

Fortunately, Miss Terry seems to enjoy it. I’m not sure if there was some kind of oxygen deprivation when she was born or what, but she likes to do a lot of things that I consider work. Truth be told, I’m not nearly as clumsy as the whole world thinks I am, but she doesn’t know that so she thinks it’s easier if she just fixes things instead of letting me screw them up first.

Terry’s parents are coming here for a visit in a couple of weeks so she wanted to at least get the guest bathroom painted. So the other day we made a trip to the Lowes in Port Orange to pick up some goodies for a couple of projects around the house, including the paint.



There is a Home Depot in New Smyrna Beach, which is a lot closer, but I have found that the help there isn’t much help at all when you have a question. The folks at Lowes, on the other hand, are always happy to offer advice and point out products that might work best for whatever we are doing. Lowes also gives a 10% discount to veterans year-round, while Home Depot seems to do it on a spotty basis from store to store except on Veterans Day. I appreciate the discount, and I like to support businesses that support veterans.

Besides the paint, we also bought several roles of Reflectix foil insulation, which is going to go on the walls of our garage. It’s a metal building, and conducts both heat and cold. There is some insulation in the roof, but the walls are just bare metal. Hopefully with the Reflectix and then more insulation on top of it we can get it a little more comfortable in the garage on hot or cold days.

While we were in that area, we also stopped at Harbor Freight because I wanted to get a digital inspection camera with a long flexible tube. These things can let you see in places you can’t get to with the naked eye, and are very handy.

Of course, I try to turn anything I do into a reason to make somebody laugh. Or at least to make them wonder what the heck I’m talking about. When the woman at the checkout counter said, “You must be working under the dashboard of the car or be trying to find something behind a wall” I told her no, then nodded my head at my friend Jim Lewis, who was standing next to me in the checkout lane and said, “My buddy here doesn’t have health insurance, so I’m going to give him a colonoscopy.” She thought that was really funny, although Jim is still not convinced it’s a good idea.

Painting the bathroom was Terry’s project yesterday, and it came out very nice. When we bought the house there was a tacky medicine cabinet with a mirror above the vanity in that bathroom, so she took it off and ordered a large mirror from a local glass shop. In the next couple of days we will pick the mirror up and she will mount it on the wall.



Knowing that the best way I can help anybody who is actually working is to stay out of their way, while she was doing that, I was busy at my computer and knocked out 3,000 words or so on my new John Lee Quarrels book.

Before I forget, I want to share something with you that I saw on my friend Jimmy Cullipher’s Facebook timeline. Is this not the perfect redneck sendoff!

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Congratulations Barbara Bowers, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Emerald Tears by Stacy Bender. We had 40 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Happiness is never having to stop and think if you are.

Jan 142018
 

In the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, 100 miles east of Sacramento, the Emigrant Trail Museum, located at Donner Memorial State Park, tells the story of one of the most tragic events of the Old West.

In the mid-1800s, lured by the promise of cheap land and a better life for their families, thousands of pioneers left everything they knew behind to travel west in search of their dreams. After arduous journeys across hostile land, many succeeded and helped shape America as we know it today. But others never made it to the promised land, and their busted wagons and bleached bones gave solemn testimony to those who followed of the dangers that lay ahead. One group of pioneers would go down in history as the symbol of just how treacherous the trip west could be.

Brothers George and Jacob Donner and their friend James Reed set off from Springfield, Illinois in the spring of 1846, with nine wagons and 32 members of the Reed and Donner families and their employees. They became part of a larger wagon train as they made their way west. George Donner, a 62 year old farmer, was accompanied by his 44 year old wife, Tamsen, and five daughters ranging in age from three to 13. His older brother Jacob brought his wife, two teenage stepsons, and five children, the eldest of whom was nine years old.

James Reed was a wealthy Irish immigrant who started the trip west with his wife Margret, two daughters, two sons, and his elderly mother-in-law Sarah Keyes. Sarah, who was suffering from tuberculosis, succumbed to her disease early in the trip and was buried alongside the trail.

By the time they left Independence, Missouri, the wagon train had grown to over 50 covered wagons, and several ox carts. Bad weather slowed their progress, and then they followed a short cut that was supposed to take a week, and actually took over 30 days, to reach Salt Lake. They didn’t reach the present site of Reno, Nevada until late in the season, and the locals cautioned them that it was too dangerous to proceed any further because winter storms could block the passes over the mountains.



Many of the wagons decided to wait out the long winter but the Donner brothers ignored the warnings and pressed on, beginning the long, hard trip over the mountains. They had to ford fast flowing rivers, and at some points, the wagons had to be pulled up the steepest slopes by ropes. Indians stole their cattle and killed many of their horses and oxen. Several weaker members of the party died, but their troubles were only beginning.

By the time they reached Prosser Creek in late October, they had lost more than 100 head of oxen and cattle, and their food was almost gone. Then a strong winter storm hit, and ten foot drifts blocked the passes. They could go no further. The group returned to Truckee Lake, at present day Truckee, and set up camp, hoping for a break in the weather.

By now the group was splintered and resentful, with harsh words and accusations thrown back and forth. The main party built crude cabins at the lake, while the Donner brothers camped several miles east. The storm continued to batter their rough shelters, and before long they were low on supplies. The deep snow and continued storms made it impossible to find any wild game.

Hard times bring out both the best and the worst in people. While many of the group worked together to survive, others took advantage of the situation. One man, named Graves, charged the father of several hungry children $25 for the carcass of an ox that had starved to death. In those days, $25 would pay for two healthy animals, but when your children are starving to death, you do what you have to do to feed them.

Facing starvation, a group of seventeen of the healthiest was sent out to seek help. Several died along the way, but 32 days later, the survivors stumbled onto a ranch on the west side of the Sierras. It took a week to organize a rescue mission, and almost two more weeks to reach the stranded pioneers.

What they found shocked and horrified the relief party. Many members of the Donner Party had perished from exposure and starvation, including several children. After eating their oxen, and even their leather shoes, some members of the ill-fated group had resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Although the first rescue party reached Donner Lake in February, it was April before the last of the survivors were strong enough to travel and arrived at Sutter’s Fort. In all, four relief parties made their way to Donner Lake to help the wagon train’s survivors. They found George Donner sick and near death from an infected cut. His wife, Tamsen, refused to leave him, and she sent their children on with the rescue party, choosing to stay and die alongside her husband. In all, there were 87 people in the Donner party when they started their trek over the mountains. 42 of them perished by the time their ordeal was over.

Most of the survivors of the Donner Party eventually did find the new lives that they had sought in California, though they were haunted until their deaths by what they had seen and been forced to do to survive. George and Tamsen Donner’s children were adopted by an older couple who lived near Sutter’s Fort. Isabelle Breen, who was only one year old during that horrible winter in the mountains, died in 1935. She was the last survivor of the Donner Party.



The State of California created Donner Memorial State Park in 1927 to honor those who survived their ordeal, and those who perished. Today the Pioneer Monument, a statue of a pioneer family, stands near the Emigrant Trail Museum. The stone pedestal is 22 feet high, the same depth the snow reached when the pioneers were stranded there.

Exhibits in the museum tell not only the story of the Donner Party, but of all of the pioneers who crossed the mountains in spite of danger and hardships. Other exhibits include the local Native Americans, mining in the Sierra Nevada, and a sawed off shotgun used in the 1870 Verdi train robbery, which was the first train robbery in the history of the West.

The Donner Party’s Murphy family cabin site is near the museum and the Pioneer Monument. A self-guided half mile loop nature trail begins at the museum and leads past where other cabins and shelters from the winter encampment were located.

Donner Memorial State Park is located just west of downtown Truckee, easily accessible from Exit 184 on Interstate 80. The park includes a 154 site campground. The parking lot at the Emigrant Trail Museum can be very tight for large RVs, and if you visit, you would be advised to park on the shoulder of the frontage road at the park entrance. The Emigrant Trail Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Emerald Tears by Stacy Bender. It’s the story of nightclub owner Gabriel Tanner, aka Emerald. Everything comes too easy for him, as if his life is a dream. But his recurring nightmare of a futuristic world where he is murdered seems more real. Then a beautiful cybernetic assassin who knows the truth comes into his life. Is she his savior or here to finish the job? 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 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.

Thought For The Day – Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives. – Oscar Wilde

I Need A Helmet

 Posted by at 1:23 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 132018
 

I’ve spent some time wearing helmets in my life. When I got my first motorcycle, much to the dismay of both of my parents, one promise I made them was that I would never ride it unless I was wearing a helmet.

I know there are some bikers who frown on helmets and say the only thing they’re good for is to carry your head away in after an accident, but I’ve always been a fan of preserving the few gray cells I have up there as much as I could. So, except for two or three slow speed rides around Elkhart Campground on my last motorcycle, a beautiful Yamaha V Star 1100 Silverado, I never rode a motorcycle without having a helmet on.

As a young soldier, wearing a heavy steel helmet wasn’t always comfortable. In fact, it was never comfortable, especially in some of the hot places where I was. And I’ll admit that I didn’t wear mine anytime I didn’t have to. I figured if somebody was going to shoot me in the head, that helmet it wasn’t going to give me a lot of protection. I rethought that position the first time some shrapnel bounced off of it. As it turns out, a headache beats the heck out of a head wound.

Well, I’m not young or a soldier anymore, and I think my motorcycle riding days are behind me. But as it turns out, I still need a helmet. And no, I’m not riding the short school bus, so stop it. Though, after you read this blog post, you may think I should be riding the short school bus.



When we bought our house it had an electric garage door opener, but we could only operate it from a button inside the garage because there were no remote controls for it. So I went to Lowe’s and bought a couple of universal remote controls to have in our vehicles. When I got home and read the directions, it said to make sure the dip switches on the motor unit were in a certain position, so I needed to check them out.

We didn’t have a stepladder at the time, but I figured if I stood in the bed of my Ford pickup truck I could reach it. So I crawled in the back of the truck and straightened up directly under the motor. That’s when I learned that not only was I high enough to reach it, that damned motor was hard when I smacked my head into it! Hard enough that I almost fell out of the truck bed!



You’d think I would learn something from an experience like that, wouldn’t you? Well, in my case, you’d be wrong. In the back end of our garage we have sort of a loft, which is very handy for storing things. The other day I decided I needed to rearrange some of the items we had stuck in the loft, so I opened up a stepladder and crawled up to do just that. Can you see it coming? I had the ladder positioned so perfectly that as I crawled up it I rammed my head on that big steel support beam you see in the front of the loft. Can you say ouch? I said ouch and a whole bunch of other words that my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap for using.

Again, you’d think that would be enough head bonking for one guy, wouldn’t you? Well, once again, you’d be wrong. The orange thing you see under the kayaks in this picture is a T-bone extension rack that goes in the receiver of our short bed pickup, so we can carry our kayaks in it. It’s very handy, but it also sticks out quite a ways. So when we are not using it I lean it up against the wall in the garage.

The other day I decided to check the tire pressures on our different vehicles and top them off with my air compressor. I was doing real well until I got to my 16 foot Key Largo fishing boat. The tire on the starboard side of the trailer (starboard is right for you landlubbers) was low. In fact, it was down so much that I couldn’t get a reading with my air pressure gauge. But there was air in it. I finally figured out that the valve stem was screwed in so tightly that it wasn’t connecting with the gauge. It also wouldn’t connect with the filler from the air compressor hose. So I got my little handy-dandy valve stem tool and tried to back it off a little bit so it made contact. As it turned out, I backed it off too far and the darned thing shot right out and bounced off the wall behind me. The wall where the kayak rack is. Now, I know you can see this coming, right? I was crawling around on my hands and knees looking for the darned thing when I smacked my head right into that rack! Turns out it’s just as hard as the garage door opener! And the loft!

Yep, I need a helmet. And I also need to stay out of the damn garage unless someone’s there to give me adult supervision!

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Emerald Tears by Stacy Bender. It’s the story of nightclub owner Gabriel Tanner, aka Emerald. Everything comes too easy for him, as if his life is a dream. But his recurring nightmare of a futuristic world where he is murdered seems more real. Then a beautiful cybernetic assassin who knows the truth comes into his life. Is she his savior or here to finish the job? 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 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 – Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Jan 122018
 

You can step back into the past and experience the South’s rural heritage at Horne Creek Living Historical Farm in North Carolina.

Once the Hauser family farm, Horne Creek Farm is now a North Carolina State Historic Site, providing visitors a look at farm life in North Carolina’s northwestern Piedmont region in the early 1900s, when Thomas and Charlotte Hauser and their twelve children worked this prosperous 450 acre farm.

For thousands of years before the first European settlers arrived, the area was used as a camp and hunting grounds by the Indians. In 1779, John Horne was awarded a land grant to the property, but never developed it. The land went through several hands before John Hauser acquired it in 1830 and established a small family farm. With the help of his wife, seven children, and three slaves, Hauser cleared the land and prospered.

The Hauser family fell on hard times during the Civil War. The three oldest sons all served in the Confederate Army, and two of them died of disease by war’s end. The war brought financial ruin to much of the South, and the farm’s value dropped from $2,600 in 1860 to less than $1,000 by the time the war was over. With slavery over and only his son Thomas left to help with the farm, John Hauser had to work hard to recover, but he did so much faster than many of his neighbors. Within five years he was producing more crops than he had before the war started.



In 1875, Thomas Hauser married Charlotte Kreeger, and the young couple built the farmhouse that now stands at Horne Creek Farm. Eventually Thomas took over the farm’s operation and continued to prosper, through hard work and dedication.

The Hauser family is gone now, but their traditions and lifestyle live on through costumed interpreters who grow vegetables, wheat, corn, oats, and tobacco, plowing the fields with horses and mules, mending harnesses and fences, and demonstrating old time skills like chair caning and churning butter.

The site includes the Hauser family’s original two story farm house, a tobacco curing barn (below) , corn crib, and other outbuildings, along with cultivated fields, and a heritage apple orchard.

The family home is furnished with period items, including portraits of the Horne family hanging on the walls, and a quilt frame with an unfinished quilt, just waiting for the lady of the house to return and take up where she left off.

The kitchen holds an impressive wood cook stove, and the table is set for dinner.

The Hausers were a happy and loving family who made their own entertainment, as evidenced by the Parcheesi game on an end table, a stereoscopic viewer, and the handsome 1890 pump organ in the parlor.

It took a long time for modern conveniences like electricity to reach this isolated region, but the Hauser family still lived in comfort for their times. Outside, a milk well keeps eggs and milk cool even on hot summer days.

At different times during the year, visitors can watch the costumed interpreters performing routine farm chores as they were done in the old days, and even participate in events like corn shuckings and fall festivals.

The first stop at Horne Creek is the Visitor Center, where you can see examples of rural crafts and equipment, and browse a small gift display. The woman on duty during our visit was very friendly and eager to share information about the farm’s history.



Special events throughout the year focus on farm and domestic life of the early 1900s, such as sheep shearing, pie baking, corn shucking, ice cream socials, musical afternoons, children’s games, and plowing with draft animals. Hands-on activities are available spring, summer, and fall for scheduled groups. Guided tours are available upon request.

From the Visitor Center, a short path leads to the farm buildings, winding past orchards, a tobacco shed, and farm fields where mules work in harness. The quarter-mile long Horne Creek Nature Trail starts at the Visitor Center and passes through the historic area, past the family cemetery, along Horne Creek, and through a beautiful wooded ridge, returning to the Visitor Center parking lot. The cemetery is the final resting place of descendants of the Hauser family, and several unidentified graves are probably slaves.

The Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible from a gravel parking lot. The path to the farmhouse is accessible with wheelchair assistance or by van for groups. Gravel pathways access the farmhouse, and wheelchairs will need assistance. The house itself is preserved in its original state, and is not wheelchair accessible.

Horne Creek Living Historical Farm is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed Sundays, Mondays, and most major holidays. The farm is located at 308 Horne Creek Farm Road, about six miles from Pinnacle, North Carolina.

From Interstate 74/U.S. 52, take the Pinnacle exit (129) and follow the signs southwest on Perch Road, approximately 3½ miles to Hauser Road. Turn right on Hauser Road, and go approximately 2½ miles. Horne Creek Living Historical Farm is on the left. The roads are narrow and winding through here, and large RVs would have difficulty. The parking lot at Horne Creek Farm will accommodate RVs if it is not very busy. Admission is free except during events sponsored by Horne Creek Farm’s support group, when a nominal fee is charged. Donations are accepted and appreciated. For more information on Horne Creek Farm, call (336) 325-2298 or visit the farm’s website at http://www.nchistoricsites.org/horne/horne.htm

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Emerald Tears by Stacy Bender. It’s the story of nightclub owner Gabriel Tanner, aka Emerald. Everything comes too easy for him, as if his life is a dream. But his recurring nightmare of a futuristic world where he is murdered seems more real. Then a beautiful cybernetic assassin who knows the truth comes into his life. Is she his savior or here to finish the job? 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 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 – Middle age is when work is a lot less fun and fun is a lot more work.

Jan 112018
 

Note: This is a repost of a blog from 2014 with advice that I think both new and experienced RVers should always keep in mind.

Over the years I’ve given new and wannabe RVers a lot of advice to help them make the best choices, but today I thought we’d go in a different direction and we’ll talk about some things NOT to do. We thought we had done our research, but starting out we made just about every mistake a greenhorn can make. Hopefully you can learn from us and save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

1) Trusting An RV Salesman – There’s a reason for the saying “If an RV salesman’s lips are moving, he’s lying.” I believe there are some honest RV sales reps in the country who care about putting customers in the RV that fits their needs, but then again, I still believe in the Easter Bunny, too. It’s a sad fact that far too many RV sales reps will tell you anything to make a sale. I’ve had them tell me tall tales that make Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan seem believable, and make claims that are not just wrong, but ridiculous. Not long ago one told me that the four slide 42 foot diesel pusher he thought I really needed to buy would easily get 17-19 miles per gallon cruising down the highway fully loaded and pulling a toad. Perhaps the worst thing they routinely do is sell people trailers that are far too heavy for the trucks they plan to tow them with, assuring the unsuspecting customers that everything will be fine. In my opinion this is not just dishonest, it’s criminal.

2) Buying The Wrong RV – So what’s the right RV for you? I have no idea, all of our needs are different, and the longer we do this the more we all change. My friend John Huggins from Living The RV Dream  always advises newbies to buy their third RV first. That’s good advice. If I could give a newbie one piece of advice on what to buy, it would be to purchase a used upscale model instead of a new entry level rig. No matter what you buy, if it’s new, you lose a ton of money the moment you drive off the dealer’s lot. Let somebody else eat that depreciation, spend those first months running back to the dealer to get things fixed, and have a better quality home on wheels for the same or less money than an entry or mid-level RV would cost..

3) Listening To The Experts – Every third guy on the internet RV forums is an expert. Just ask them. Sometimes I want to shake my head and laugh when I read the advice they so freely dispense, but more often I want to hang my head and cry. Just recently in on online forum a self-proclaimed journeyman electrician claiming to have over thirty years experience assured someone that they did not need any type of electrical management system or surge protector because, “by law, all RV park hookups must meet code and be in proper working order.” Yes, you do need an electrical management system. I can’t tell you how many RV sites we’ve had with bad power.



4) Buying A Campground Membership – In our first three months on the road we listened to a fast talking salesman and purchased an expensive campground membership that was a bad fit for us and a bad choice financially. I always tell new fulltimers to wait at least a year before they buy anything but Passport America, because it will take them that long to slow down and figure out their traveling style and likes and dislikes. And then, if you do decide to buy a membership, consider a used one, or something like a Thousand Trails Zone Pass to determine if membership campgrounds are right for you.

5) Thinking You Don’t Need A Checklist – “A checklist? We don’t need no stinking checklist! I’ve unhooked our campground utilities a dozen times. I got this!” Uh, no, you don’t. Trust me, sooner or later you’re going to pull out of a campsite without unhooking the water hose or electrical cord, or you’re going to forget to secure your fifth wheel hitch and ding the back end of your truck, or neglect to put your toad in neutral if you don’t use a checklist. Trust me, it will happen.

6) Not Knowing Your Height – How tall is your RV? Are you sure? Does the height listed in the rig’s specs include rooftop air conditioning units and satellite dishes and domes? Have you actually climbed up on the roof and measured? And do you have that posted on your dashboard? Sooner or later you’ll thank me if you do.

7) Trusting That Automatic Step – You open the door and that nifty electric step automatically goes out. How cool is that? Until it doesn’t. I know just how much it hurts when you step out into thin air and end up on your butt on the asphalt. If you’re lucky like me, the worst you’ll suffer is a bruised ego. If not, you may find yourself sitting in an ER with a broken ankle or worse, as several RVing friends we know have done.

8) Trusting Your RV Ladder – If you think you can hurt yourself when your automatic step fails, wait until you see how much damage you can do when the ladder on the back of your RV comes loose or collapses. A couple of years ago three of our readers suffered serious injuries while using RV ladders.

9) And Then There’s The GPS – Don’t depend on a GPS made for automobiles. Your RV is wider, longer, and heavier than a car and it can’t go places a car can. Get yourself a good truck or RV GPS. And then don’t blindly trust it, either. A good example is following a GPS to the Harbor View Outdoor World campground near Colonial Beach, Virginia. If you do you will end up on a road where the bridge washed out several years ago and then have to back up on a narrow two lane road to find a way around it.



10) Don’t Freak Out – Sooner or later you’re going to make one of the mistakes listed above, or one of the dozens of others we’ve made. As long as nobody gets hurt and the damage isn’t too severe, laugh it off and get on with your life. Yeah, I know, it’s no laughing matter when it happens. Trust me, somewhere down the road it’s going to make one hell of a good campfire story!

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Emerald Tears by Stacy Bender. It’s the story of nightclub owner Gabriel Tanner, aka Emerald. Everything comes too easy for him, as if his life is a dream. But his recurring nightmare of a futuristic world where he is murdered seems more real. Then a beautiful cybernetic assassin who knows the truth comes into his life. Is she his savior or here to finish the job? 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 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 – Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change. – Confucius

Jan 102018
 

I had high hopes for our SimpliSafe home security system when we bought it, but as it turns out, it’s pretty much worthless. Over and over again when I arm the system I get a message warning me that there is no link to the dispatch center. When I call, after being on hold for a long time, one of their techs always works their magic mumbo-jumbo and has me test this sensor and test that keypad, and then it works again. For a while. But before long I have to repeat the process over and over, again.

It happened again last night when I tried to arm the system. I immediately got the no link to dispatch center warning and called technical support about 11:30 PM. This time I was only on hold for about 10 minutes before a young woman answered. She had me do some of the tests that they always have you run through, then informed me that only two of our five motion sensors were activated, and that neither of our panic alarms were activated. That’s nonsense, because I activated them when I first got the system and they have been tested over and over and it has always shown them as working. She told me I was wrong, they had never been activated. So does this mean the system hasn’t worked all along? Either she’s wrong, or every other customer support tech I’ve talked to has been wrong when they told me that the whole system checked out fine.

After she assured me that everything was now working well, I ended the call and two minutes later I got the same message. No link to dispatcher. I tried to call back at 11:55 PM and got a message that the office was closed. What happened to their claim that customer service is available until midnight Eastern Standard Time? Thanks for nothing, SimpliSafe! I feel so secure with your system “protecting” my home and family!

I wasn’t the only one frustrated yesterday. Terry spent several days putting a new project on her loom and then realized that a couple of the 160 or so tie-up threads ended up in the wrong location or something like that. She spent most of yesterday sitting on the floor inside the loom trying to get things corrected. I spent some time stepping on the different foot pedals to raise the heddles for her, hoping she could figure out what went wrong. By the end of the day she was stiff and sore, and though she made some headway, she still has not completely solved the problem.



While she was doing that, I was busy submitting the audiobook of Big Lake Burning to ACX, the production end of audible.com, and emailing back and forth with Frank Clem, the narrator. I typed up a series of bios of the different recurring characters in the series and sent it to him, along with the manuscript for Big Lake Honeymoon, the next one scheduled to be made into an audiobook.

When I was done with that, I wrote about 3,500 words in my new John Lee Quarrels book. I’ve been goofing off lately and haven’t gotten very much written since just before Christmas, so it felt good to be back at it again.

On another note, Terry has several nice pieces of coral that we picked up at flea markets and shops around town, and has them displayed in our living room.

A while back somebody found two pieces of what looks to be some kind of river coral in the drainage ditch next to our house. I guess they probably washed up during the storm surge from Hurricane Irma. These are coarse and brown, instead of the more delicate white coral that we already have, so I’ve been soaking them in a bucket of bleach for over a week now, hoping they would also turn white. As it turns out, that was a waste of time and bleach. After all that time, I don’t think they are going to lighten up any more. They may wind up going outside as part of the yard décor.

A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that, because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.



Thought For The Day – Many people miss opportunity when it comes knocking at their door because they are out in the backyard looking for a four leaf clover.

Jan 092018
 

An RV fire is a terrible and dangerous thing. Here are some tips from RV fire safety expert Mac McCoy that can save your life and your home on wheels.

At best, a fire in your RV can delay or ruin a vacation. At worst, it can mean injury, financial loss, and even death. Unfortunately, RV fires are one of the largest causes of motor coach loss in America today. The following tips can help you recognize the most common RV fire hazards and protect yourself from the damage and injury fires are notorious for causing.

1 – A pinhole-size leak in a radiator or heater hose can spray antifreeze on hot engine parts. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol concentrate and water. When the water boils off, the remaining ethylene glycol can self-ignite at 782 degrees F. During your monthly fire inspection, check all hoses for firmness, clamp tightness, and signs of leaking.

2 – Rubber fuel lines are commonly used to connect metal lines to the electronic fuel injection system, or to the carburetor in older coaches. Check all the lines and connections between the fuel tank and the engine on a monthly basis. If there is any sign of a leak, have the lines replaced and the entire system inspected by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.

3 – A hard-working engine manifold can get as hot as 900 degrees F. The heavy insulation in the compartment reflects the heat back to the top of the engine, and a fire can easily break out. Inspect your radiator and have any problems repaired by a qualified person as soon as possible.

4 – Grease, oil, and road dust build up on the engine and transmission, making them run hotter. The grime itself usually doesn’t burn, but if combined with a fuel leak or short-circuited wire, a fire could start. Keep your coach’s underpinnings clean and it will run cooler, more economically, and longer.

5 – A dragging brake can create enough friction to ignite a tire or brake fluid. Some of the worst fires are those caused when one tire of a dual or tandem pair goes flat, scuffs, and ignites long before the driver feels any change in handling. At each stop, give tires at least an eyeball check. When tires are cool, tap your duals with a club and listen for a difference in sound from one tire to the next. You can often tell if one is going soft.

6 – Spontaneous combustion can occur in damp charcoal. Buy charcoal fresh, keep it dry, and store it in a covered metal container. Rags soiled with auto wax or cleaners that contain petroleum products or other oil-based cleaning materials can also spontaneously combust if disposed of in a combustible container. Put dirty cleaning rags in a metal container with a lid.

7 – A hot exhaust pipe or catalytic converter can ignite dry grass.

8 – Driving with propane on can add to the danger if you are involved in an accident or have a fire. Most refrigerators will keep food cold or frozen for eight hours without running while you travel. Shut the propane off at the tank.

9 – If you store your coach, be sure to check the flue before starting your refrigerator on propane. Birds and insects can build nests and clog the flue, causing a fire or excess carbon monoxide to enter your coach.

10 – Batteries produce explosive gases. Keep flame, cigarettes, and sparks away. Be sure your battery compartment is properly vented. Keep vent caps tight and level. Check your battery monthly. Replace swollen batteries immediately. Use extreme care when handling batteries – they can explode.



11 – Have any wiring in your coach done by a capable electrician, and use common sense in using any electrical aid. Check all 12-volt connections before and after every trip. Most coach fires are caused by a 12-volt short.

12 – Gasoline and propane can pose an immediate explosive danger. Though diesel fuel is less volatile, it dissipates more slowly, so it remains a danger longer. Deal at once with any leaks or spills, and use all fuels in adequately vented areas.

13 – Even if the flame on your galley stove goes out, gas continues to flow and could result in an explosion. A stove should never be left unattended or used to heat your coach. Open propane flames release high levels of carbon monoxide.

14 – In a compact galley, all combustibles-from paper towels to curtains-are apt to be closer to the stove, so use even more caution in your coach than you do at home. A box of baking soda – the ingredient in powder extinguishers – can be used in lieu of a fire extinguisher for minor galley flare-ups.

15 – Develop a plan of action before a fire occurs.

16 – Make sure all passengers know what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it. Test your smoke detector regularly.

17 – Have at least two escape routes-one in the front and one in the rear of the coach. As soon as they’re old enough, teach children to open hatches and emergency exits.

18 – Review with everyone the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” rule so they know what to do when clothing is on fire.

19 – Make sure visitors can open the front door. Not all manufacturers use the same lock and latch assembly.

20 – Choose a rallying point where everyone will meet immediately after escaping, so everyone can be accounted for.

21 – Show passengers how to unhook electricity (screw-on cords can be tricky) and how to close propane valves in case either of these measures is called for.

22 – Practice unhooking your tow vehicle as quickly as possible to avoid spreading the fire to other vehicles.

23 – Re-emphasize to everyone aboard that objects can be replaced, people can’t. Never stay behind or re-enter a burning coach to retrieve anything.

24 – There are plenty of fire and life safety tools that can save lives, but for them to be effective, they must be in working condition and you must know how to use them properly.

25 – You should have five fire extinguishers for your coach—one by the front door, one in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, one outside of the coach in an unlocked compartment, and one in your tow vehicle. Make sure family members know how to use them and understand which extinguishers are effective on various fires.



26 – During your monthly inspection, check the fire extinguisher gauge to determine if there is pressure in the extinguisher. If the gauge indicates empty or needs charging, replace or recharge the extinguisher immediately. To test non-gauged extinguishers, push the plunger indicator (usually green or black) down. If it does not come back up, the extinguisher has no pressure to expel its contents. If you need help testing your fire extinguishers, check with your local fire department.

27 – Do not pull the pin and expel the contents to test your powder extinguisher. If you use a portion of the powder extinguisher, have it refilled or replaced immediately. When you have a fire extinguisher refilled, ask to shoot off the charge first (most refill stations have a special place where this can be done safely). This lets you see how far it shoots and how long a charge lasts.

28 – Invert and shake your dry-powder or dry-chemical extinguisher monthly to loosen the powder. The jarring of the coach does not loosen the powder; in fact, it packs the powder, which may make your extinguisher ineffective.

29 – Deadly, invisible, odorless CO usually results from exhaust leaks or misuse of heating devices. Be sure to put your CO detector in the bedroom. The proper location is on the ceiling or on an inside wall at least eight inches from the ceiling and at least four feet from the floor.

30 – Liquid petroleum gas, like gasoline fumes, tends to pool in low spots in the coach until a spark sets it off. Newer motorhomes are equipped with an automatic shut-off for when its sensor detects an LPG leak. If you have a leak, be sure to shut the propane off at the tank.

31 – The first rule of RV firefighting is to save lives first and property second. Get yourself and your family to safety before attempting to extinguish a fire. Only if you can do so without endangering yourself or others should you use firefighting aids on hand.

32 – Get help. Adults and older children should know how to dial 911 or 0, and how to get emergency help on any CB, VHF, or ham radio available.

33 – It’s crucial to know your location so firefighters can find you.

34 – If you have a quick-disconnect fitting on your water hookup, it can be unhooked instantly to fight a fire. If a nearby coach is burning and you cannot move your coach but can safely stay close enough to keep it hosed down, you may be able to save it.

Thought For The Day – A car is not the only thing that can be recalled by its maker.

Jan 082018
 

Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery 

We’ve all heard the tale of Paul Revere, the brave Boston silversmith whose midnight ride alerted patriots that “the British are coming!” The lesser known part of that story is that Paul Revere was actually captured before he completed his mission and two other riders went on to warn the Minutemen of the Redcoats’ advance. But did you know that Georgia had its very own version of Paul Revere?

It happened on May 2, 1863, during the Civil War, when Union troops under Colonel Abel D. Streight began moving toward the town of Rome, Georgia with the intent of seizing the Confederate arsenal there, then cutting off the South’s supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Mail carrier John Henry Wisdom was at Gadsden, Alabama when he saw Streight’s men moving forward for the impending raid and took off to rally resistance.

Setting off by horse and buggy in mid-afternoon, Wisdom made it to Gnatville, Alabama, a distance of about 22 miles, before his horse gave out. The only mount to be had was a lame pony owned by a local widow woman. Borrowing the pony, the brave rider continued on his mission. But the poor animal could only make it another five miles before Wisdom had to abandon it and ride off on another horse he managed to borrow.

Through the evening and on into nightfall Wisdom continued, riding one horse until it collapsed and then begging another wherever he could. Some farmers refused to loan him their animals and he continued on foot until he could find another farmhouse to stop and ask for help. At one point he stumbled on for miles before finding a mule he could use. Sometime late at night, an exhausted John Wisdom arrived at the tiny settlement of Vanns Valley, Georgia, where he was able to get two fresh horses and race the final seventeen miles into Rome, completing a journey of nearly seventy miles on foot and horseback in just over eight hours.

It was after midnight when Wisdom arrived in Rome, but his night’s work was still not done. Rousing the citizenry, he helped organize a hasty defense. Since Rome was 60 miles south of the Confederate lines, there were no troops on hand to protect the town. Assembling a motley collection of wounded soldiers, old men, and young boys, a battle strategy was formed.



Knowing the Union troops would have to come across a covered wooden bridge over the Coosa River to enter town, the defenders chose the span to make their stand. Filling the bridge waist deep with straw soaked in oil and barricading it with cotton bales, the plan was to hold out as long as possible in the hope that reinforcements would arrive, and as a last resort, to set fire to the bridge to hold the invaders at bay.

Meanwhile the call went out for help, and planters and farmers began pouring into Rome from the surrounding countryside, armed with squirrel guns and muskets, much as the Minutemen had at Lexington and Concord nearly a century before. But unlike events in New England, this time bloodshed was averted.

At about 9 a.m. an advance force of 200 men led by a Captain Russell arrived at a hill overlooking the town and saw the defenses awaiting them. Unwilling to risk his men against such stubborn resistance, Russell withdrew and reported back to Colonel Streight that Rome was not to be taken easily. Streight began to move his force westward and they soon ran into Confederate General Nathanial Bedford Forrest and were captured. John Henry Wisdom’s midnight ride had succeeded in saving Rome!

As a reward for his gallant actions, the citizens of Rome presented John Wisdom with an award of $400 and a beautiful silver service. Though there is no evidence that the silver service was created by that other midnight rider from Boston, it did not matter to John Henry Wisdom, local hero. His long ride was done and Rome was safe. That was reward enough.



A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Congratulations Deb Heen, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Fly Paper Soup, the first book in my friend Cleve Sylcox’s David Winters mystery series. We had 82 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

Surrounded By Hustlers

 Posted by at 12:43 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 072018
 

Many years ago when we were in high school, my buddy Dan Connell was a pretty good pool player. Good enough that none of us in our crowd would ever play him for money. Back then you could buy 3.2 percent beer at age 18, so three or four of us were sitting in a bar thinking we were all grown up and feeling our oats.

There were two old guys playing pool off in the corner, and by old I mean they were ancient. They must have been at least 60! Some of us goaded Dan into challenging one of them to a game, and as I recall the bet was five dollars. It took a couple of us pooling our funds to come up with that much money, but we did, and I’ll be darned if Dan didn’t win! How cool is that? Of course, it was only fair to give the poor old geezer a chance to win his money back, so they played a second game. And Dan won again. And then he won a third time. Talk about easy money!

Then the old guy told Dan he needed to be heading home to take his Geritol or watch Lawrence Welk, or something like that, and asked for one more game before he left. But this time he laid a $50 bill on the table. Wow! We were going to be eating high on the hog after Dan won that game. We didn’t have $50 between us, but I did have the title to my old 1959 Ford, so I put that up as collateral. (Yes, when I was a teenager you could work a summer job and buy a decent used car for $50.) After all, as poorly as that old guy played and as well as Dan worked that cue stick, we knew we had nothing to fear. You can see this coming, right?

Feeling generous, Dan agreed to let the old codger have the break, and he never got the chance to take a shot after that. That old fart went from scratching the cue ball on just about every shot and missing everything he aimed at to clearing the table nonstop. Yep, we had been hustled!



We stood there looking at each other, sick to our stomachs and with me wondering how the hell I was going to explain to my dad that I had lost my car in a pool game that I wasn’t even playing. That’s when the old guy grinned and took pity on us. He took back the $15 Dan had won from him and told me to keep my damn car. He also told us that we should never forget that there was a hustler in every barroom in the world, and since we weren’t all that smart, we’d best try to avoid them. Lesson learned.

Well, I thought the lesson had been learned, but now that I am the old geezer (and then some), I find myself suddenly surrounded by hustlers. As you know if you read this blog very much, we like to play darts, and spend quite a bit of time out in our garage throwing them. Our friend Jim Lewis introduced us to the game a year or so ago, and he is darned good at it. While I take more of a shotgun approach, throwing wildly and hoping I’ll hit something somewhere, Jim carefully aims his darts and throws some amazing groups. Like this one.

Yesterday afternoon Miss Terry and I decided to throw a couple of games, and she threw two darts in a row into the center bulls-eye, which is the most desirable place to hit since each one counts as two points and you need three points to close the target. Even though she had just won the game and didn’t need to do it again, I dared her to try it, knowing there was no way in the world she would get that lucky again. Wrong! She threw her third dart and hit the same place again. I couldn’t do that in a million years.

I can tell you one thing, I’m no fool and I still remember the lesson that old man taught me so long ago. I’m keeping the title to my car locked up in the safe!



A lot of you do your online shopping by clicking this Amazon link or the Amazon Search box at the top right sidebar of this blog. We appreciate that because when you purchase an item on Amazon any time of the year from one of our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us offset the cost of publishing the blog.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Fly Paper Soup, the first book in my friend Cleve Sylcox’s David Winters mystery series. The story starts with an attorney leaving warm and sunny Florida to go to cold and snowy Missouri to help an old friend whose aunt has been accused of murder. But then he finds out that the woman in question seems to have a history of killing husbands and getting rich from their insurance policies. Buckle your safety belt…you are in for a wild ride! 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.

Thought For The Day – The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.