Nick Russell

Mar 292017

The Internet is a powerful tool. Simply by logging online, you can research just about anything and everything in the world. Want to know what a harmonic balancer is? We needed to know yesterday because the one in Jim’s Kia Sorrento went out, so we Googled it. Do you want to know when the next high tide will be? Simply download an app called Tides Near Me and it will tell you everything you need to know. Want to meet hot college chicks or lonely housewives? You don’t even have to search for them! Just get an email account and pretty soon they’ll find you. Well, them and that nice man from Nairobi who wants to share his $65 million fortune with me. I need to remember to get back to him with my bank account information and pin number.

The Internet has allowed me to connect with long lost family members, old army buddies, and friends from my school days. But I’ll be darned if it can help me find the elusive Jynx. Have you seen this woman?

Jynx, whose real name is Colleen Baker, is responsible for Terry and I getting into kite flying. We were at the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach several years ago and were admiring the way folks could handle their Revolution quad line stunt kites. Jynx saw us, invited us to fly her kite, gave us a few minutes of quick instruction, and the rest is history. Thanks to her I now have more kites than I do underwear.

Not only that, when we began our search for a home here in Florida, Jynx contacted me and told me that she has a winter place in New Smyrna Beach and suggested we take a look at the area. She told me if we did, we’d be hooked. She was right again, and again, the rest is history.

Jynx flies at the beach just about every day and we’ve tried to catch her three or four times, but as it turns out, we were on the wrong part of the beach. So the other day I contacted her through Facebook and she corrected me as to which of the many ramps in town to use to get to her flying area, and said she’s always there by about 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

So after running some errands yesterday, we hit the beach at the proper entrance ramp looking for her. We drove north along the beach a mile or so looking for any kites in the air, but all we saw were some kiddy toys. At least it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed soaking up the salt air.

We decided that we were looking in the wrong area, made a U-turn, and drove south quite a ways. Again, we saw lots of sand, lots of ocean, and not very many people out playing. But no Jynx.

Eventually, we gave up and went to New Smyrna Beach Sea Shack for dinner. While we were there I got a Facebook message from Jynx saying that it was one of the few days she didn’t make it out to the beach because she had to take her cats to the veterinarian. I don’t know if that’s true, or if she’s really some kind of secret agent off on an assignment in some exotic locale.

Hmmm… I may have an idea for a thriller series there. A female secret agent assassin whose cover is as a kite flyer. She puts one of those little Go Pro cameras on her kite and uses it to spy on her target, then swoops down on him with lethal precision. Okay, got to go, I’ve got a new series of books to write!

Thought For The Day – The older I get, the less time I want to spend with the part of the human race that didn’t marry me. – Robert Brault

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 Posted by at 12:48 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 282017


Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection.

The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog. Just a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’ll share, because I really don’t have anything else to talk about. (Yes, mark this date on the calendar, folks. Nick didn’t have anything to say.)

I’m hearing a lot of good reports from people who attended the Escapees RV Club Escapade in Tucson, Arizona last week. Some said it was one of the best ever. But I’ve also heard a lot of grumbles because the vending area closed on Thursday, while the rally didn’t end until Friday. We always had a problem with that when we were vendors at Escapade. After traveling hundreds, even thousands of miles to get to a rally, paying quite a bit of money for a vendor booth, and donating door prices, we always felt shortchanged when the vending ended before the rally did. Vendors need every opportunity they can to make a sale, and many rally attendees wait until the very last day to make their purchases. I’ve heard from three or four who were upset because they planned to go back to the vendors and buy things they had seen during the week, only to find out that they had already closed the vendor area. Everybody loses in that scenario.

Speaking of Escapade, I have not seen a calendar listing yet but I’ve been told that next year’s Escapade will be back in Sedalia, Missouri May 27 – June 1. Sedalia is a nice little town and Missouri has tons of things to see and do. I hope you can include it in your travel plans.

This year’s Escapade was held at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, and Terry and I have stayed there many times over the years. In the past, the Fairgrounds RV Park closed April 1 and did not reopen until the fall. But since they recently expanded the number of RV sites considerably, I wondered if they were going to extend the camping season. Since we plan to be in Arizona in June, I called to see what I could find out. And as it turns out, except for Fair Week, they are now going to be open year round. The woman I talked to at the RV park office didn’t know what the rates would be, but they have always been less than any of the campgrounds in Tucson.

Yes, I know it’s going to be hot in Tucson in June. Heck, it’s hot there already. But we will be stopping there to see my cousin Beverly before we go up to the White Mountains, where Terry’s folks have a permanent site for their fifth wheel at the Hon Dah Casino RV Park. That’s just a few miles from our old hometown of Show Low, where my daughter and her kids live. And at 6,500 to 7,000 foot elevation, it’s a lot cooler than down in the desert.

Yesterday was another writing day for me and I knocked out about 4,000 words. I need to get as many under my belt as I can, because we’re supposed to have company on Wednesday. Our good friend Al Hesselbart, the world’s expert on the history of recreational vehicles, is planning to come and spend the day with us. We always have a great time with Al, and I usually learn something from him in spite of myself.

Somebody asked the other day how I get the audiobooks and other things we give away as door prizes in our weekly drawings. Except for my books, Miss Terry’s cookbook, or the set of back issues of the Gypsy Journal we recently gave away, everything else is donated by the authors themselves. So please, when you win a book or audiobook, after you have finished it, take the time to leave a review. Leaving reviews is the best thing you can do for an author. Believe me, they help book sales tremendously.

Speaking of our weekly giveaways, some other folks have noticed them, too. A couple of RV dealers have contacted me offering to donate a $500 or $1000 gift certificate to be used toward the purchase of a new or used RV, and a membership camping organization wanted to offer a three day, two night stay as a door prize. The only obligation the winner would have is to sit through an “informal sales presentation.” Gee, such a deal! Just about every membership campground will give you that same three day, two night offer so their hard selling reps can get the opportunity to try to get you to buy in. I don’t think so. And as for the gift certificates from RV dealers, those don’t even warrant a reply.

Well, that’s it for today. It looks like about 860 words. For somebody who didn’t have anything to say, I sure droned on and on, didn’t I?

Thought For The Day – Bigamy is having one husband too many. Monogamy is the same.

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Fish 34 – Us 2

 Posted by at 12:56 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 272017

I spent most of last week writing, and for the last three days I had done over 10,000 words in my new book. So yesterday it was time to take a day off.

Terry had seen some nice pieces of coral at the local flea market in nearby Oak Hill, so we started the day by going there to check them out again. She found two large pieces that look very nice on the hutch in our living room.

Back at home, I called Jim Lewis and asked if he felt like going fishing, and of course he did. So we went to the bait shop and got three dozen live shrimp, came home and hooked the Key Largo to the back of the pickup truck and headed for the boat launch.

It was a perfect day to be on the water, with temperatures in the upper 70s and a nice breeze blowing. Yep, the weather was cooperating very nicely. The fish? Not so nice.

We went down toward the opening to Bissett Bay, stopping just short of it and fishing the edge of the mangroves. Miss Terry started out using one of the Mighty Bite lures I told you about in Saturday’s blog, while Jim used an artificial shrimp lure. Me, I’m a traditionalist, I decided to go with the ever faithful live shrimp.

On my second or third cast I nailed the first fish of the day, a small mangrove snapper.

Meanwhile, Terry and Jim were casting and retrieving, casting and retrieving, and not having any success. Jim decided to switch to one of the Mighty Bite’s as well, but it didn’t work any better for him than the other lure had.

You never know what you’re going to see when you’re out on the water. Shortly after we anchored and started fishing we spotted this raccoon walking along the shoreline of the mangroves, looking for lunch. I’m not sure if he was getting oysters or some kind of small fish, but he sure was a busy little fellow.

The tide was going out and pretty soon we had less than two feet of water under the boat, and we were afraid of getting stuck and having to sit there until high tide several hours later. So we pulled up the anchor and moved down a little ways into deeper water, but staying along the edge of the mangroves.

On my first cast I got a couple of bites before it stole my bait. This happened again. And again. And again. And…., well you get the idea. You’ve got to be on your toes to hook a snapper, they are real bandits! I caught another nice one, and it was big enough to go into the live well.

While I was doing that, something bit the tail end off of Jim’s Mighty Bite and he switched to another artificial, while Terry decided to join me in feeding shrimp to the fish. It seemed like with every cast I got bites, but more often than not, they stole my bait. I did catch one or two more small ones and let them go. Then, toward the end of the day, Terry got another one who joined his friend in the live well.

About then we noticed that the same raccoon had followed us along the shoreline and was still busy searching for something to eat. I wish we would have had a regular camera along, this is the best I could get with my cell phone.

The raccoon wasn’t the only critter keeping us company. Some dolphins went by, and this pelican landed close enough to the boat that I could have reached out and touched it with my fishing rod. I told it not to even think about trying to steal a fish off my line while I was reeling it in, but the bird didn’t seem too impressed with whatever I had to say.

The tide was getting lower as the hours went on, and eventually we ran out of bait. I tied on one of the Mighty Bite’s to see if I could have any luck with it, but the local fish don’t seem at all interested. Then again, they didn’t respond to any of the different artificial lures that Jim was throwing, either. The only thing they hit on consistently were the shrimp. We started out with 36 shrimp and came home with two fish, so I guess they won this one. But who’s counting? It was still a lot of fun.

The water near our fishing pier and boat ramp is very shallow, like it is most places here when you get away from the channel of the Inland Waterway. In the channel we had 15 or 16 feet of water under the hull, but only two at the most at the ramp at low tide, making getting in and getting the boat back up on the trailer a bit of a challenge. I stayed on the boat while Jim got off and held a line to the dock, and Terry got the pickup and trailer and backed the trailer down the ramp and into the water enough that we could get the boat started on it. But then it took a lot of hand winching to get it all the way up. We still need to work on that.

Even though Terry had never backed a trailer up before, she did a good job of it and I was proud of her. She had also never filleted fish before, but we watched a couple of YouTube videos about how to do it the other day, and she did just fine. There’s not much in this world she can’t do when she puts her mind to it.

Today, it’s back to writing. I passed the 50,000 word mark sometime Saturday, so I’m about two thirds of the way through the book, give or take. I never know exactly how many words one of my novels is going to be; most average somewhere between 75,000 and 80,000 words. We’ll see where this one ends up at.

Congratulations Margie Rodgers, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northstar romance series. We had 62 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but also through being the right mate. ~ Barnett R. Brickner

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Mar 262017

Note: This is an expanded and updated repeat of a blog previously published.

Where would we be without the internet? It has changed the world at large, and on a smaller scale, the world of RVers forever. We can shop online and have our merchandise delivered right to our RV site at our favorite campground, do our banking, pay our bills, and manage our investments, all from the comfort of our homes on wheels. And we can do all that whether we are boondocking in the desert in Arizona, relaxing in a luxury RV resort in the Florida Keys, tucked away in a mom and pop RV park in a small town, or blacktop boondocking in a WalMart parking lot.

The internet can also be a great tool for travel planning. Anytime we are visiting a new area I spend some time online doing a bit of research, and it’s amazing how many interesting places we find within an easy ride of our campground. Here are some of my favorite travel resources:

Trip Advisor – This is the granddaddy of all travel websites. Type in any town or city in America and you’ll find links to restaurants, lodging, attractions, and more.

Roadside America – From the World’s Largest Ball of Twine to America’s Most Artistic Giant Toilet to hundreds of other oddball attractions, if it’s anywhere in this country you can find it Roadside America

Historical Marker Data Base – I have never owned a vehicle capable of passing one of those historical markers that can be found on highways and back roads from coast to coast. I just have to stop and read them! But sometimes it’s impossible to stop, as much as I want to. No Problem, all I have to do is log onto Historical Marker Data Base on my computer or Droid smart phone and every historical marker in my area is listed, with photos and complete inscriptions.

Bridge Hunter – Bridge Hunter is a database of historic or notable bridges in the United States, both past and present. I may not like driving over high bridges, but I can spend hours browsing here.  

Haunted Places In America – Do you believe in ghost and things that go bump in the night? If you don’t, you may after spending some time reading this website about some of the most haunted places in the country.

Explore Southern History – From antebellum mansions in Georgia to waterfalls in Alabama to Native American Mounds, this is an excellent guide to all things Southern  

The Milepost – Anybody who has ever driven an RV to Alaska knows that this trip planner and travel guide is an invaluable resource for information on roads, attractions, and services along the Alaska Highway. The website that supports the book is also packed with information to help make your grand adventure a success.

History Here – This app for both Droids and Apple smartphones is an interactive travel guide to thousands of historic locations across the United States, with photos, video and maps that bring history to life anywhere in the country.

Yelp – You just hit town and you’re hungry for pizza or barbeque, or you need to find a good veterinarian or a reliable mechanic. See reviews from real customers on Yelp to help you decide.

U.S. 101 Mile by Mile – I don’t think there is a more beautiful trip anywhere in America than U.S. Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast, and this website is a fantastic guide to every scenic mile. Think Milepost for the Oregon coast.

Legends of America – From Route 66 to ghost towns, legends, myths, historic forts, and more, if it’s out there, you can probably find it on Legends of America. – A fantastic website with links to official travel and tourism websites for every state.

Landmark Hunter – Landmark Hunter is a database of historic or notable landmarks in the United States, past and present.

North Carolina History & Historic Sites – From gold rushes, first flights, disappearing colonies, pirate graves and pivotal battlefields, if it happened in North Carolina, this website will tell you about it!

Only In Your State – From charming small towns to eerie graveyards, fantastic restaurants known only to the locals to funky attractions never mentioned in the guidebooks, this website has it all for every state.  

Discover Historic Travel – You can easily spend an entire day with this portal to a wide selection of travel websites.

Florida Backroads Travel – If you spend any time in Florida, get to know this interesting website that will help you discover hundreds of interesting places to visit on the less traveled back roads.

Civil War Battlefields – The Civil War Trust has a fine website about the War Between the States, including a guide to Civil War Battlefields large and small.

Visit The USA – Another excellent website with travel links for every state that includes where the locals go to hang out, must-see museums, classic road trips, history, and more.

Know Your States – This isn’t a travel guide, but it’s a fun little test of how well you know our country. How fast can you fill in the map?

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northstar romance series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 – Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large fish goes home through an alley.

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Blowing In The Wind

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 252017

The other day our friend Jim Lewis showed up at the house with two sets of Mighty Bite fishing lures that he had just gotten in the mail. Jim said according to the infomercial he had watched, these things are surefire fish killers, so he bought a set for him and one for us.

Looking at them and all of the goodies that came with them, like rattlers and scent sticks you insert into the lure bodies, and reading some of the reviews posted online on various sites, and on YouTube, I think they might indeed attract the attention of some of the local fish.

We were hoping to get out yesterday and give them a try, but with winds in the 15 to 20 mile per hour range predicted for the coast, we thought better of it. Kite flying would be fun, but with all those spring breakers on the beach right now, like the two I had a picture of in yesterday’s blog, I think it would just be too distracting to concentrate on flying.

About 5 o’clock, Jim and I went down to our dock on the Intercoastal Waterway, and though it was pretty breezy, there were some boats out there. The winds were coming from the east, and apparently by the time they crossed over the Canaveral National Seashore and the mangrove swamps between us and there, they had lost a lot of their power. We’ll see what today holds. It’s supposed to be windy again, but if it’s like it was yesterday, we may give it a try.

Instead of fishing, I spent the day writing and cranked out close to 5,000 words in my new John Lee Quarrels book. I’m well over halfway and the story really has me hooked. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out in the end.

I guess we’re not the only place getting lots of wind. From what I’m reading on blogs and on Facebook, folks leaving the Escapade in Tucson were fighting the wind in every direction they went. Somebody reported that one motorhome went off the road somewhere on Interstate 10, but I heard conflicting stories as to whether or not it was somebody who had been at the rally. Either way, I hope no one was injured.

Driving or towing a high profile vehicle like an RV in the wind is no fun at all, and can be downright dangerous. Having spent much of my life in Arizona, I know firsthand how strong the winds can be this time of year. In my newspaper days I covered a lot of accidents that were caused by the wind, and had enough experience driving it myself to know that I want to avoid it whenever I can.

A few years ago we had Redlands Truck and RV install a Safe-T-Plus steering control on our Winnebago, and I feel a lot safer having it. But even with that upgrade, my rule has always been that there’s nowhere I have to be in such a hurry that I’ll drive in wind or any other kind of bad weather if I don’t have to.

So far nearly 50 readers have entered our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northstar romance series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 – Happiness doesn’t belong to those who have everything, but to those who can appreciate what they have.

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Invaded Again

 Posted by at 12:24 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 242017

We are being invaded again. I’m not sure how much more of this we can take. When will it ever end?

Our little corner of the world is usually pretty quiet, and even this time year, with all the snowbirds around, it’s not too bad. Sure, you have to wait a little bit longer in line at a restaurant if you don’t time your arrival right, but that’s okay. I can’t complain about them, because for years we were snowbirds ourselves.

But a couple of weeks ago we were invaded by racing fans for the Daytona 500.

And right on their heels were thousands of bikers flooding the area for Bike Week. Everywhere you went you heard the roar of Harleys. Okay, I can tolerate that to some extent. After all, I rode a motorcycle for years.

But now we’ve been invaded by the spring break crowd. The beaches are full of young men with six pack abs and beautiful girls in tiny bikinis. I was young once, but instead of six pack abs I’m more of a keg for a belly kind of guy. And let’s not even talk about the time I tried to wear a skimpy bikini. Okay, it was a skimpy Speedo, but it was still an ugly sight to see!

Seriously, there are girls running around on the beach in outfits so scandalous that I had to drive by some of them four or five times because I just couldn’t believe my eyes! Scandalous, I tell you, scandalous! I may have to go back and look again.

In response to many requests from my readers, three of my travel e-books are now available in print on Amazon; Overlooked Arizona, Overlooked Florida, and Highway History and Back Road Mystery II. A couple of my librarian friends have already ordered their copies, and I appreciate their support.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northstar romance series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 – Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks, and prefer loud women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags, and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of their time immersed up to their thighs in ice-cold water.

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Rumor Control Says…

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 232017

After reading my blog about all the fun we are missing at the Escapees RV Club‘s Escapade rally, which is going on in Tucson this week, I got emails from two different people who told me they had heard a rumor that I had been fired from the Escapade staff and that we are no longer members of the club.

That’s news to me, especially since I was never part of the Escapade staff. I have been a volunteer speaker at many Escapades over the years, but I don’t think they can fire volunteers. As for us no longer being members of the club, according to my membership card, we are life members. We love being part of the Escapees, and to us the club has always been one big extended family.

Somebody else wrote to say that they had been told we were not at Escapade because of my failing health. Wrong again. We did have to cancel our appearance at last year’s Escapade in Vermont and spent the summer at Elkhart Campground in Indiana instead, because we were still getting our feet back under us from when I was sick the winter before, and I had some medical follow-up needed and we had to be at one place to get it done. Trust me, I’m very much alive and well. At least as much as a mid-60s fat guy can be. Besides the normal aging issues that everybody has at this time in their lives, Miss Terry and I are both doing fine.

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

And back in 2013, there was a rumor going around that Mac McCoy, the RV fire safety expert, was very ill or had passed away. Mac is a good friend of mine, and I was obviously concerned, so I called him and he assured me he was still very much alive and well. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t lying about it.

Sometimes I wonder how rumors like this get started, but then I remember that I was partly responsible for one that had the entire United States Military Academy all fired up many years ago. At the time, I was a soldier stationed at West Point, and it was June Week, which is when the cadets graduate, with all sorts of fanfare. It was midmorning and I was walking past Buffalo Soldier Field, an athletic field on the post. At that time West Point did not have a helicopter landing pad, and when a helicopter came in they radioed ahead of time and MPs blocked off the field so they could land there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northstar romance series To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 love rumors. I always find out amazing things about myself that I never knew before.

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Missing All The Fun

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 222017

The Escapees RV Club is holding its 57th Escapade rally this week at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona, and I’ve been reading a lot of things about it on Facebook and on the blogs of people who are attending. It sounds like we are missing all the fun. Maybe next year we will be able to make it to Escapade. We’ve been to a lot of them over the years and always had a great time.

In fact, it was at an Escapade in Lancaster, California during our first year on the road that I got drafted into presenting my first seminar. Before that I always had a terrible fear of public speaking, even though I was a firearms instructor in the Army. There, they had to listen to me. But this was a different story. What if the audience hated me? What if they all got up and walked out in the middle of my seminar?

I was so nervous that I could not sleep the night before and I threw up three times walking from our motorhome to the building where I was going to be doing the seminar. And once I got on stage I was talking as fast as I could, just to get it over with. Someone in the audience asked me to please slow down, because nobody could understand me. I just blurted out, “I’m sorry, but you people scare the hell out of me.” Everybody started laughing, and suddenly I was completely comfortable. Since then I’ve given hundreds of seminars and spoken to audiences of over 1,000 people many times and love it. Hopefully I’ll be asked to do some more seminars at an Escapade down the road sometime.

Ever since we got Terry’s Glimakra loom set up she has been trying to figure out how to make it work. It’s a huge, complicated thing with hundreds of heddles, a bunch of foot pedals, and more parts and pieces than I could ever understand. And unlike the Baby Wolf loom she has been using, the Glimakra with its shaft switching is rather uncommon and she hasn’t been able to find a lot of instructional stuff on the Internet, like she has with her other looms.

But Terry loves a challenge, and through trial and error she’s getting the hang of it. She’s working on her first simple project now, a rug, and I think it’s going to come out nice. I can’t wait to see how it looks when she is finished.

Have you ever been on a cruise? We haven’t, but many of our friends have, and it’s always been on my bucket list. In fact, a while back there was some talk of me doing some seminars on cruise ships. Who knows? Maybe I’ll give that a shot one of these days.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about some adventures on the high seas on a cruise ship, my friend Ken Rossignol’s The Privateer Clause is currently free on Amazon. It’s the first of seven books in his Marsha and Danny Jones thriller series, about a couple who retired from law enforcement and took a cruise, and the next thing they knew they were working as security consultants for the cruise line, dealing with terrorists, killers, and sinister crewmen. Download a free copy today, I bet you get hooked on the series, too.

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 – Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him. ~H.L. Mencken

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Mar 212017

Note: This story first ran in the July-August 2006 edition of the Gypsy Journal.

In Metropolis, Illinois, which bills itself as the “official home” of comic book character Superman, we discovered a museum devoted exclusively to the Man of Steel. The SuperMuseum is home to the largest collection of Superman memorabilia in the world.

The museum displays thousands of costumes and props used on movie and television sets where Superman’s story was filmed, along with advertising items, movie posters, and vintage Superman toys. Many are rare one of a kind items that would be priceless to a serious collector.

To many fans, George Reeves was and still is the original Superman. Reeves starred in the Superman television series, which aired from 1951 to 1957 and remains in syndication today. The television series was the first to be filmed in color.

The SuperMuseum has an impressive collection of items used in the original television series, including the original costume Reeves wore, along with the suit and eyeglasses Reeves wore as Clark Kent, and the leather carrying case for his glasses, often seen in Reeves’ breast pocket. A mockup of the Daily Planet newsroom where Clark Kent worked includes original radios and desk used as props in the television series.

For comic book fans, there is an outstanding collection of original issues on display, along with an impressive display of Superman artwork. Superman has always been a hit with kids, and the museum displays a countless variety of Superman toys, Halloween costumes, lunchboxes, watches, and other items geared toward the younger set.

If any of the several actors who have played the Man of Steel could give George Reeves serious competition, it would be the late Christopher Reeve. The museum has several items used by Reeve on display, including the cape he wore in 1978’s Superman The Movie, along with the leather and canvas flying harness Reeve wore under his costume in the flying scenes of the movie. Reeve performed these risky maneuvers himself rather than delegate the job to a stuntman.

What would Superman be without his friends and foes? The museum has a nice collection of items featuring the Man of Steel’s co-stars, including the suit worn by Mark McClure when he played Jimmy Olsen in Superman The Movie, and the balsawood camera Olsen carried. Supergirl is also remembered with exhibits, as are super villains like Lex Luthor, whose laboratory is on display.

No self-respecting Superman would change clothes anywhere but a telephone booth, and of course the museum has a vintage phone booth in case mild mannered Clark Kent needs to make a sudden transformation into the Man of Steel.

Every corner of the SuperMuseum, every inch of wall and floor space, is crammed with Superman memorabilia. A serious collector could spend days here, and would drool so much he would need medical attention for dehydration. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help thinking as we toured the museum that if I could only get all of this stuff listed on Ebay, I’d be a wealthy man!

The SuperMuseum also has a huge gift shop where you can purchase anything and everything you could ever imagine related to America’s favorite superhero. Here you will find Superman apparel, books and videos, costumes, Superman window shades for your car, statues, plates, and bobbleheads featuring the Man of Steel’s likeness, posters and photographs, action figures (no, they are not dolls!), and hundreds of other items you never knew you couldn’t live without. If your budget is especially flush, you can also purchase rare items like the Ultrawoman costume Teri Hatcher wore in the series Lois and Clark for a measly $7,500. There were only three of the costumes made and all three were used in the series. One is in the Warner Brothers Television archives in Burbank, California. Another is on display at the SuperMuseum, and you can own the third! Too steep for your pocketbook? How about a swatch from the cape George Reeves wore? That will only set you back $150.

It’s easy to find the SuperMuseum in downtown Metropolis. It’s right across the street from the town’s fifteen foot tall Superman statue that stands in front of the courthouse, at 517 Market Street. You can’t miss it, a life-sized Superman is flying from the front of the building!

Admission to the SuperMuseum is $5, and children age five and under are admitted free with a paid adult. For more information on the SuperMuseum, call (618) 524-5518.

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 – Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend. – Zenna Schaffer

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Mar 202017

Note: At least two or three times a month I hear from readers who are new to RVing and want to know how membership campgrounds work. Here is a blog post from a while back that covers the topic.

The first thing we should do is understand the basic differences between a discount camping club like Passport America and a membership campground like Thousand Trails. A discount camping club consists of a large number of campgrounds owned by different people and companies, who agree to give RVing members a discount, usually 50% off of their regular rates. Membership in a discount camping club is much less expensive than it is for a membership club, no home park is required, and there is usually no long term membership obligation. You just pay your annual dues and use the participating campgrounds.

A membership campground system on the other hand, is usually a more expensive proposition, and (according to the folks who sell the memberships) comes with benefits and privileges not available to the general public.

If you have ever attended a membership campground sales pitch, you probably know that the people hustling these memberships have hard sell down to a science. I’ve known more than one RVer who has walked out of the room after being pushed too far one time too many.

Years ago, after we attended one such sales presentation at a membership campground in Oregon, the sales rep came to our motorhome at 10:30 p.m. asking if we had made a decision yet, and telling us that if we did not purchase right then, we’d be “blackballed” and would never be allowed to purchase a campground membership from any company in the future. Can you guess where we told them to stick their membership?

When you join a membership campground system, you are assigned a home park, and then you can stay at any other campgrounds in the system for a given period of time. Depending on your particular membership, that may be one to three weeks, and again, depending on your membership, you may be able to go directly to any other campgrounds in the system, or you may have to be out of the system for one or two weeks.

Campground memberships can be very expensive, up to several thousand dollars, and annual dues can be more than $500 a year. The salespeople will assure you that your membership is an “investment,” and that if you ever decide that you no longer want it, it is a valuable asset that you can sell. Yeah, and once you do, I have a bridge to sell you with all of that money burning a hole in your pocket.

Used campground memberships are a dime a dozen, and with just a little research and effort, you can pick up a used membership for pennies on the dollar, or sometimes even free, because the current owner is tired of paying the dues. For example, a few years back we bought a used nationwide Thousand Trails/NACO membership with all the bells and whistles for $100, plus the transfer fee of $750.

You have to be careful when purchasing a used campground membership because there are dozens of different memberships out there, and most membership systems have offered many different levels of membership, with different benefits, over the years. Do your homework before you buy any new or used membership.

The biggest membership campground system around is Thousand Trails (TTN). The Thousand Trails website says that between all of their affiliated campgrounds, they offer over 80 camping locations in 22 states and British Columbia. This includes NACO and Leisure Time Resorts (LTR) campgrounds, two smaller memberships that fall under the general Thousand Trails umbrella. (Not all TTN members can use the NACO or LTR campgrounds.)

As I stated above, we picked up a used Thousand Trails/NACO membership, and later upgraded it to the Elite level, giving us access to more of the campgrounds in the system. We have stayed at TTN affiliated campgrounds in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida, Oregon, and Washington. Some of the campgrounds were very nice, and others were outdated and in need of major upgrading.

I always tell new RVers not to obligate themselves to any membership campground system until they have been on the road at least a full year. It will take you that long to get out of vacation mode and begin to define your own traveling style.

When and if you do decide that a campground membership is right for you, research the different systems, and then look for a used membership. We found ours by putting a simple post on the Escapes forum saying that we were looking for a used Thousand Trails membership. I had over 15 different memberships offered to me by the next day.

You can also find used memberships in ads in the back of RV magazines, on campground bulletin boards, and even on eBay. But again, don’t spend a lot of money on a used membership. The seller may believe he really has an “asset” to sell. Wait until you find someone to whom the membership and its annual dues have become a liability and you can get a heck of a deal. With Thousand Trails it seems like no two memberships are the same and what you get all depends on how well the buyer was able to negotiate the original l purchase. Before you by any used membership, contact the main office with the membership number and ask what is included and if anything changes when the membership is transferred. And be sure to ask what the transfer fee is.

So, is buying a campground membership a good idea? That depends on how much you use it. We spent several winters in Florida rotating between Thousand Trails parks every two or three weeks, and it averaged out to about $7 a day for a full hookup site. Two years ago we did the same thing on the Oregon and Washington coasts. That’s a heck of a deal. But like anything else, if you don’t use it you are just throwing money away with a campground membership.

Congratulations Wade Jensen, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Caddo Cold, the seventh book in my friend George Wier’s popular Bill Travis mystery series. We had 63 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Do yourself a favor and learn how to walk away.

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