Nick Russell

Jul 282014
 

I love getting e-mails from RVers and wannabes and I try hard to answer their questions if I can, or else point them in the right direction to get the information they need. But sometimes I get one that just makes me shake my head in wonder at the things people ask. As a cop once told me about an oddball case I was interviewing him about, you can’t make this stuff up.

I’m constantly amazed at what people will do to save a buck. They really do prove the old saying about being penny wise and pound foolish. I got an e-mail from a lady who said that she and her husband had recently purchased a used motorhome and that the sidewalls of the ten year old tires were weathered and cracked. She wanted to know if I thought they would be safe. I referred her to Roger Marble’s excellent RV Tire Safety blog and told her I wouldn’t want to drive the motorhome any further than the nearest tire store.

A couple of days later she wrote back to say that after pricing tires for their 38 foot diesel pusher, her husband wanted to know if they could safely get by with just purchasing four tires, two for the front and two for the rear, and if so, should they have the rear tires mounted on the inside of the dual axle or the outside. I replied that they would still be stuck with two very old and possibly dangerous tires on the back and she quickly assured me that he wasn’t going to use any of the old tires, he planned to only put two new tires on the back in place of the four the motorhome was designed for. She assured me that her husband planned to drive very slowly in the right hand lane. Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

I was reminded of the MCI bus conversion owner who manually pulled up and chained his tag axle to keep those two tires off the pavement when he drove through Chicago to avoid paying extra tolls, since they charged by the number of axles. He admitted that the bus drove squirrelly because it was designed to have the tags down except when the driver needed to put all of the weight on the drive wheels for extra traction to get going in ice and snow. And he added that he had a lot of arguments at the toll booths because they still sometimes wanted to charge him for three axles instead of two, but damn it, he saved money! How much? A couple of bucks? Five at the most? Was it worth all the hassle?

A few years ago when we were planning a trip to New England, somebody we know was appalled that we were going to use the Indiana Toll Road and the Ohio Turnpike and pay all those tolls. They suggested an alternate route that would have added close to 125 miles to our trip, much of it through small to medium sized towns. Sure, we’d have probably spent just as much money on fuel, but we wouldn’t have to pay any tolls!

On John Huggins’ Living the RV Dream Facebook group the other day, somebody wanted to know how much an RV payment was. John replied that there was no single number because RVs can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand, so she replied that she just wanted an “average” payment. There’s no such animal!

I had an e-mail the other day from a couple who want to spend next winter in Yuma, Arizona, asking me which route to take from Jackson, Michigan, where to stay and eat along the way, where to stay in Yuma, and how much fuel was going to cost. Not general suggestions, these folks wanted the names of each campground to stay at along the way, which place to stop for fuel, where to eat, and then where to stay in Yuma. And I guess I was supposed to look into my crystal ball and predict fuel prices several months in advance too. As Miss Terry said, I’m good, but I’m not that good!

Oh well, what can I say? My e-mail keeps things interesting.

Thought For The Day – Women marry men hoping they will change and men marry women hoping they will never change. Invariably, they are both disappointed.

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Jul 272014
 

They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and I guess it works that way in small towns too. So yesterday we joined half of Wilmington and went to the Caesar Creek Flea Market, which is only a couple of miles away from the Thousand Trails campground. The venue bills itself as Ohio’s largest year-around indoor/outdoor flea market and it certainly was large enough to merit the title.

We enjoy wandering around flea markets and swap meets, and as flea markets go this one was somewhere between the excellent Webster Flea Market in Florida and the disappointing Shipshewana Flea Market in Indiana. There were some outside vendors offering trash and treasures, and indoor vendors offering all kinds of Avon decanters, cheap tools made in China, and other imported junk. But there were also vendors inside selling used merchandise like books, fishing equipment, and even firearms, though every gun I looked at was way overpriced.

There was also a huge Lego exhibit with very elaborate displays made from the small plastic toy blocks. Can you believe all of this stuff was made from Legos?

Lego Skyscraper

Lego castle

Lego airport

Lego Ferris wheel

It took us about three hours to make our way through the entire place, and by then we were all hungry, so we drove into town and had dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant called El Dorado. It had a good rating on Yelp, which turned out to be well deserved. It definitely deserves to be included in our Favorite Restaurants guidebook.

Included in The 100 Best Small Towns in America, Wilmington, Ohio is a nice small town of about 13,000 people and we have yet to meet one that has not been friendly. Maybe because many of the early settlers in this region were members of the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. The folks here claim that the first banana split was created right here at Hazard’s Drug Store in 1907. Well that was certainly friendly of them!

We like driving around the streets near downtown admiring the handsome architecture. There are some beautiful old homes here.

Wilmington house 2 copy

Wilmington house 4 copy

Wilmington house

Several of the downtown businesses have colorful murals painted on them.

Wilmington mural

Back at the campground, we spent the evening watching movies on TV and I did some more writing. There are a lot of weekend campers here, and as we were driving in I saw one fellow dousing himself with what looked like at least half a can of mosquito spray. I don’t like those nasty little critters either, but how healthy can saturating yourself with that much poison be?

A few years ago we discovered the Off! Clip-Ons and they have really worked well for us. We just turn them on and clip them to our belts, or if we’re sitting outside we put them on the arms of our Strongback chairs and we’re not bothered by skeeters!

If you’re looking for something to read today, how about the story of a Romany Princess who must choose between her people and the myth of love at first sight? Check out Not Juliet, part of Ella Medler’s Addicted To Love romance collection.

And if southern California is in your travel itinerary, my friend Randy Morris has a new book out; Traveling the U.S.: San Diego, with lots of photographs that I think you’ll find handy in planning your trip.

We’re supposed to have a lot of thunderstorms today, so we’re going to stay home and I’ll get some more writing done. I’m eager to find out how this latest Big Lake mystery winds up.

Thought For The Day – You don’t see faith healers working their miracles in hospitals for the same reason you don’t see psychics winning the lottery.

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Did You Miss Me?

 Posted by at 12:49 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 262014
 

I know I sure missed all of you over the last couple of days. It’s good to be back, and hopefully we’re here to stay. I’m keeping my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed just in case.

The problem started Monday night when I tried to post Tuesday’s blog. It would not load up no matter what I did, and when I called customer support at Go Daddy, where our blogs and websites are hosted, they said it was a WordPress issue. I was able to get Tuesday and Wednesday’s blogs posted through a back door method, and then everything crashed sometime Wednesday evening. First I couldn’t log into the blog to post, and then it just disappeared and I got an error message.

Greg White did some research online and discovered that Go Daddy had some kind of major server crash and customer’s websites and blogs were down all over the world. I made repeated calls to Go Daddy and each time they answered with a recording saying that they were aware that many customers were offline and they were working to fix the problem. Yet, when I jumped through all the hoops and finally got to talk to a “customer service” representative their immediate response was that obviously the problem was on my end, not theirs.

That nonsense went on all day Thursday and Friday; sometimes the blog would come up for a few minutes and then disappear again, until finally Greg got on the phone and explained to the last customer service dweeb reading a scripted answer instead of actually providing customer service that he wasn’t buying the current line of BS and they finally got us back up Friday afternoon. Hopefully we’ve got all of that crap behind us.

This was the first time in years that I didn’t post a daily blog and I appreciate all of the e-mails and Facebook messages from people who were worried about us and feared that something bad had happened. Well, worse than our blogs and websites crashing.

The outage cost us a lot of time and money, because with no blog or websites, our AdSense commissions dropped like a lead balloon. Go Daddy says their company policy is to not credit customers for downtime or lost revenue. Hey, it’s only money, right? Who needs it?

I guess after jerking us around for so long, fate decided to make it up to us with a nice surprise. We got a call from Tom and Diane Owen, two of our favorite people in the world, telling us that they were in the area and wondering if we had time to get together for dinner. For those two, we always have time. We met at a barbecue place in Wilmington for dinner and sat talking until the place closed, then they came back to our motorhome at the Thousand Trails campground and we visited for another couple of hours before they climbed on their Gold Wing and rode off into the night in search of new adventures. Thanks for stopping by, Tom and Diane!

I’ve been working away on my new Big Lake book and thought I was almost done, and then one of the characters went and got themselves shot and screwed up my entire timeline! I sure didn’t see that coming. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I think I can still meet my deadline of finishing by the end of the month, but this will complicate things a bit.

Speaking of books, we usually start our free drawings on Wednesday and choose the winner on Sunday evening. Of course that’s when the blog crashed and now it’s too late to get one going, so we’ll start over again next Wednesday. Thank you for your patience.

I’ve been reading an interesting book called The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less. It’s the fascinating story of Evelyn Ryan, an enterprising woman who kept the bill collectors at arm’s length and a roof over her family’s head by entering drawings and prizes during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s. If you’re part of the Boomer generation and grew up in a working class family like a lot of us did, I think you’ll enjoy it.

If you’re in the mood for a good time travel romance, my friend J.L. Jarvis just released a new book called Highland Passage that I think you will enjoy. And if you haven’t downloaded The Kiss – An Anthology of Love and Other Close Encounters, be sure to do so. The cross-genre anthology contains stories by some of my favorite author friends, including Kate Aaron, Saxon Andrew, Alison Blake, Shirley Bourget, Jason Deas, Sharon Delarose, Brandon Hale, Colleen Hoover, Anna J. McIntyre, C. A. Newsome, Molly Snow, Cleve Sylcox, Robert Thomas, Chris Ward and George Wier, to name just a few. And it’s currently free on Amazon!

Thought For The Day – The sole purpose of a child’s middle name is so he can tell when he’s really in trouble.

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So Far, So Good

 Posted by at 3:29 pm  Nick's Blog
Jul 252014
 

Things seem to be stabilizing with Go Daddy and readers are reporting that the blog is loading faster and they are not getting any more error messages. Hopefully they have finally got things resolved on their end. If the blog stays up through the rest of the day I’ll publish a new full blog post about midnight local time, as usual. 

We’re Back! (I Hope)

 Posted by at 12:08 pm  Nick's Blog
Jul 252014
 

After being offline more than we were on the last few days, Go Daddy seems to have fixed the problem on their server and our blogs and websites are back. We appreciate your patience. Believe me, this has been more frustrating for us than you, and we are hoping things are are back on track.

Jul 242014
 

The weatherman was predicting thunderstorms, some potentially severe, for us yesterday. But the storm came and went before we even got out of bed. It rained off and on all night long, sometimes pretty hard, but by the time we were up and dressed it was just overcast with a few scattered sprinkles during the day.

Except for a quick trip to the village of Clarksville to mail out some orders, I spent most of the day writing. When I get close to the end of a new book I don’t want to stop, and it was 11:30 p.m. when I finally stopped to write the blog, with a little over 3,500 words done for the day.

After my blog a few days ago about the reasons why fulltimers come off the road, a reader posted a comment saying that was the third or fourth time I wrote blogs about exit strategies and hanging up the keys and that he couldn’t help but feel that I was preparing readers for an announcement of our exit from the RV lifestyle, I replied with something Mark Twain was quoted as saying, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. As I said in that blog, we are still having fun and don’t have any plans to stop. I write about a lot of things in the blog that relate to the RV lifestyle, and hanging up the keys is eventually part of that lifestyle for all of us. It doesn’t mean we’re doing it anytime soon. And judging by the number of comments on that blog (32), the topic is of interest to a lot of our readers.

Will we hang up the keys someday? I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. We hope to be able to continue fulltiming for a long time. We still love this lifestyle as much as we did when we started out fifteen years ago. All the more so now that we’re not teaching at Life on Wheels or hosting RV rallies and have a lot more time to enjoy it. For too many years of our life on the road we had to be someplace all the time, and if we weren’t busy at a venue we were busy driving to the next one, or planning the one after that. Now there are very few places we have to be, and we can pick and choose them.

The next few days look to be pretty nice and I think we’ll take advantage of them to get out and do some exploring in this area. There are several places I want to visit to gather stories for the Gypsy Journal.

If you like a good thriller that will keep you turning the pages to the very end, here’s a deal you can’t pass up. K. W. Jeter has combined the first three books in his excellent Kim Oh suspense thriller series into one money saving package called Real Dangerous Girl – The First Three
. I just downloaded it from Amazon and it’s got my attention already!

Thought For The Day – I’m not the type of person you should put on speakerphone.

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You Could Be A Star!

 Posted by at 1:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 232014
 

You may have noticed that the blog has looked  a little different the last couple of days and the links may not be working properly. Monday something crashed at Go Daddy, where my blogs are hosted, and it took a while to get them back up. Only later that night, when I tried to post the blog, did I find out that it was giving me log in errors. Two hours of fighting with it allowed me to finally post, but the links and photos are not working right. Greg is working on getting things back to normal now.

I got an e-mail yesterday from a fellow named Glenn Somodi asking me if I knew anybody who might want to appear in a new reality show on cable TV. Glenn wrote, “We don’t want just anybody, we want a fun-loving RV couple that laughs, jokes and has a personality anyone would love to be around. You must be a mature couple who own/have owned an RV or have experience with the RV lifestyle. You must have no medical conditions that would preclude you from traveling, or demonstrating any RV products. You must have the time to travel (you will be compensated for your time and expenses).” I don’t know anything else about him or the program, but you can find out more at http://www.rvtalentsearch.com.

It’s true what you’ve heard, getting old isn’t all bad. As I wrote a while back, Terry turned 62 last month and applied for Social Security, and I will reach that age in October and I just applied. That magic number also means that our Thousand Trails dues are now frozen for life. I called Member Services yesterday and told them Terry had turned 62 and the nice lady put me on hold for a couple of minutes, then came back and said it was taken care of. How cool is that?

Good news out of Texas! The Escapees RV Club sent out a news release yesterday saying that state legislators have recognized that the recent decision requiring all vehicles registered in the state having to be inspected prior to renewing their registration would place an undo hardship on RVers and others who are out of state, and are amending things to allow travelers to renew while on the road wait until they return to the state to have the inspection done.


I have some interesting books to tell you about today. My friend Mike Meyer has a new fun little title, The Sir Rodney Vignettes: Literary Laughter that is available for only 99¢ on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

If you like some chills with your thrills, The Amazing Morse is a novel of psychological horror by another author pal of mine, James Rozoff.

And if you’ve ever wondered if there is a book inside of you but don’t know how to get started, check out Randy Ingermanson’s How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, a series of ten steps that jump-start your creativity and help you quickly map out your story.

Thought For The Day – I think my guardian angel drinks.

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Move To Wilmington

 Posted by at 2:13 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 222014
 

Yesterday we had a short, easy move to the Wilmington (Ohio) Thousand Trails preserve. It was only 78 miles from our site at the Indian Lakes Thousand Trails to our site at the new campground, and even with a couple of narrow construction zones going around the top side of the Cincinnati metro area, it was a quick trip. We left at 11 a.m. and were standing in front of the registration desk at Wilmington by 12:30.


This is a nice park and everybody we’ve met on the staff has been super friendly. Rose Mary, who checked us in, went out of her way to be accommodating, and manager Amy Henke also made us feel welcome. Soon after we got parked, Sandy, one of the rangers, pulled up in a golf cart to say hello. Her husband Mike was with her, as well as their dog, so I even got a puppy fix!

When we checked in, Rose Mary said there were not a lot of full hookup sites available, but both Greg and Jan and Terry and I managed to find back in, full hookup 30 amp sites. And we have a great line of sight to the sky for our rooftop TV dish.

Winnie at Wilmington 2

 

The RV sites are close together, as with most Thousand Trails campgrounds, but that’s to be expected.

Motorhomes at Wilmington 2

 

We booked two weeks here but when we arrived we learned that the road in front of the campground is going to be closed starting August 4th for five days, which is the day we’re supposed to leave. I guess there will be a detour, but we may depart a day early due to that. Our next stop will be the Hershey, Pennsylvania Thousand Trails, which is about 460 miles from here, so if we leave a day early we can stop somewhere along the way to break up the trip.

What I was glad to see is that there doesn’t seem to be any pipeline workers staying here. I’ve shared before how some of the pipeline workers at Indian Lakes have been an ongoing problem, especially one guy who kept parking his truck and ATV on a pull through full hookup 50 amp site he had blocked off for his personal use. I posted about the situation on the Thousand Trails Facebook page and they did respond and made him remove them from the member site. But as soon as the ranger left he was back again. Meanwhile, paying members were passing the site looking for someplace to park.

On Sunday blog reader Sandy Dealy left a comment suggesting that I go to www.ttlistens.com and leave feedback. I did that Sunday night and at 8:30 Monday morning the park manager was on the phone apologizing and telling me she had moved him to the KOA section and acknowledging that he has been an ongoing problem she is aware of. So apparently somebody does listen at TTlistens.com.

Today is going to be a stay at home day for us. I want to get my new book done by the end of the month and I’m getting close. Terry has been planning a new project on her loom and may get started on that. And there is a rumor that if I am very good, there may be one of her special pizzas in my future!

Thought For The Day – The man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man who is busy doing it.

Why Would You Stop?

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 212014
 

In the past I’ve published several blogs about hanging up the keys and getting off the road, and talked about where we would settle down. Looking back at those blog posts it’s interesting to me to see how our interests have changed, yet how they have also stayed the same.

In blogs in 2009 and 2010, I said that if we ever settled down it might well be in the Rockport/Aransas Pass area of the Texas Coastal Bend. A few years later we discovered Florida’s Space Coast and as I wrote in a blog on exit strategies a few months ago, that’s probably where we’d want to live. Though the location has changed, our reasons are much the same – a moderate climate, opportunities for fishing and kayaking, and the cost of living is affordable.

Today let’s talk about why we (or you) might hang up the keys and stop fulltiming. We’ve been living the fulltime RV lifestyle for 15 years now and have no immediate plans to stop.

However, Terry loves to weave and spin and, and though we have found ways to incorporate those interests into our lifestyle, space can be an issue. I know there are times when she wishes she had more room to spread out and work. I’d love to have a 22-26 foot boat and spend time fishing in Florida, but it makes no sense to own something like that if we’re not going to be around to use it. I’d be lying to you if I said the thought of getting a place to settle down and pursue those interests hasn’t crossed our minds a time or two.

However, the flip side of that coin is that we still love traveling and can’t imagine being tied down to a house, mowing grass, and all of the other chores that go along with that. Besides, as it is now, if our neighbors have a yappy dog or insist on having a smoky campfire every night, we know that it won’t be long before they, or we, go on down the road. What if we bought a place and had to put up with rude neighbors all the time?

We’ve seen a lot of fulltimers come and go over the years. Some knew going in that this lifestyle was not going to be permanent and when they had fulfilled their reasons for fulltiming, they stopped. Others discovered that they really weren’t suited for living on the road or just got tired of it and decided to do something else.

We’ve also known many fulltime RVers who planned to keep on traveling forever and only got off the road when illness or death forced them to. And we’ve known a few that stopped traveling to take care of aging parents or grandchildren when family issues created a need for them to do so.

Terry and I have always said that we’d stop fulltiming when it stopped being fun, and that hasn’t happened yet. I think for us it would be a health issue or when age makes it unsafe for us continue. We hope that will be a long time yet.

How about you? Did you enter the fulltime lifestyle planning to keep on going until you wore the wheels off your rig, or did you have a point in mind when you’d stop? Has that changed over time? What would cause you to hang up the keys?

Congratulations to Linda Risinger, this week’s winner of an autographed copy of Highway History And Back Road Mystery. We had 255 entries in this week’s drawing. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I am under no obligation to make sense to you.

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Jul 202014
 

Before we left this area Terry wanted to make another trip to The Weaver’s Loft, her favorite fiber store in the country, which is in Guilford, only 10 or so miles away from the Indian Lakes Thousand Trails Preserve. So yesterday afternoon we drove over and spent some time with Barb Gallagher, who owns the shop.

Barb’s shop is in a small building across from her house at the end of a country lane and she stocks an amazing selection of yarns, looms, spinning wheels, and accessories. Barb obviously loves her business and is dedicated to helping her customers get the most out of their efforts and she has given Terry many helpful tips and ideas.

We visited with Barb for a couple of hours, and then drove thirteen miles south to Lawrenceburg and the neighboring town of Aurora, on the bank of the Ohio River. Settled in the early 1800s, Aurora is a cool town with a lot of history to it. It was here in 1781 that American Colonel Archibald Lochry and a force of 107 men were ambushed by Indians under Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader allied with the British during the Revolutionary War. 37 of Lochry’s men were killed in the attack, and after they surrendered, the commander and many others were massacred by the Indians. Those who survived suffered torture and hardship before eventually being turned over to the British at Detroit.

Today things are a lot more mellow in Aurora, and even on a Saturday afternoon there wasn’t much going on downtown.

Auroa Main Street

We drove down by the river just in time to see this floatplane taxiing away from the dock and getting ready to take off. It is a 1946 Cessna 140 and is owned by a local company that takes passengers on flying tours along the river.

Float plane at dock 

Float plane taxi

A couple of blocks from the river we stumbled upon this beautiful mansion. Originally called Forest Hill, it was completed in 1855 and owned by Thomas Gaff, a wealthy steamboat owner who was influential in local politics and had many diverse business interests. Today the historic mansion is called Hillforest and has been declared a National Historic Landmark. The elegant fourteen room home is maintained by the Hillforest Historical Foundation and is open for tours.

Hillforest house

We took back roads through the countryside, passing farm country and a couple of one horse towns on the way back to the campground. A while after we got home Greg White came over with a plate of chocolate chip cookies Jan had made and his timing was perfect; I had just told Terry I wanted a snack. Thanks Jan, they were delicious.

Today is our last day at the Indian Lakes Thousand Trails and while I’ve enjoyed our stay here overall, I really wish management would do something about the pipeline workers staying here long term. Just like they did the last time we were here two years ago, last night they were partying and had music thumping so loud we could hear it inside our motorhome with the TV and air conditioning on. I guess since their company pays a lot of money for them to be here, the management has decided they are not required to follow the rules.

Today is your last chance to enter this week’s Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Highway History And Back Road Mystery. All you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link 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.

Highway History Cover

Thought For The Day – The most valuable antique is an old friend.

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