Nick Russell

Mar 292015
 

There has been a lot of talk about the recent brawl at the Cottonwood, Arizona WalMart, where a family living in a vehicle attacked a store employee and then police officers who responded to the store’s calls for help. By the time it was over, a policeman had been shot, one of the suspects was dead and several other people, including officers, were injured.

Several internet threads are saying this is what happens when RVers turn a WalMart into a campground and that the practice should be banned nationwide for public safety. There are a couple of things wrong with this premise. First of all, we live in a dangerous world and violence can happen anywhere at any time. Second, these were not RVers, they were maggots existing on the fringe of society. They did not have an RV, from what I have been able to learn. According to this article on the AZ Central website, the seven members of the family involved were living in a Chevrolet Suburban and had been staying at the store for several days before the incident happened.

It’s getting hot here in the Valley of the Sun. Temperatures have been in the mid-90s for the last couple of days and the basement air conditioner in our Winnebago sure has been getting a workout. And it’s going to get worse before very much longer. People always say, “But it’s a dry heat.” Yeah, it’s hot inside an oven too, but I don’t think I’d find it comfortable.

I spent all day Friday writing and knocked out a little over 4,000 words in my current book. While I was busy with that, Miss Terry worked her way through a mountain of paperwork that seems to grow exponentially overnight. She finally finished the last of it just in time to make delicious pork tenderloin sandwiches for dinner. Yesterday we spent some time visiting with her parents, then stopped at the grocery on our way home. About 4:30 we met Greg and Jan White at Terry’s favorite Mexican restaurant in this area, Los Gringos Locos. The food was delicious, as always, and the company was fun, too. We only have a week left to spend with Greg and Jan before they take off in search of new adventures. We’ll be here until mid-April, then we’ll go up to our old hometown of Show Low in the White Mountains to spend some time with our daughter Tiffany and those two sweet little granddaughters of ours. We’re really looking forward to that!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Chesapeake 1880 by my friend Ken Rossignol, a tale of life in the Chesapeake Bay region as the industrial revolution changed the world forever. 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.

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Thought For The Day – Exercising would be much more rewarding if calories screamed while you burned them.

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Mar 282015
 

Who are these modern day gypsies who spend their lives on the road? What prompted them to leave their former homes and communities for a life on wheels? Each week we will introduce you to some of the fulltime RVers we meet in our travels and those who read this blog.

It’s a big transition to move from living in a large, beautifully restored Queen Ann Victorian home to a 40 foot diesel pusher, but Marcy and Steve Krauss have handled it very well. And after fourteen years of fulltiming across North America and RVing as far away as Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, they are still loving every minute of it.

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From Fort Lee, New Jersey, Marcy and Steve began RVing with a small second hand 21 foot Layton trailer, and progressed to a 35 foot Wilderness travel trailer and then a 36 foot Carriage 5th wheel before acquiring their present rig, a 40 foot Mandalay motorhome.

Marcy worked for the New York City Board of Education for 35 years as an elementary school music teacher, a United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader, and union litigator. Steve was an aircraft mechanic, owned his own home remodeling business, and had a wood shop for about 15 years.

They became fulltimers because they hated going home to their house after a camping trip, and the longer they stayed away the happier they were. When they were working they escaped from our daily routines whenever they could to head out to either the Poconos or the Jersey Shore to camp in all seasons. When retirement came on January 2nd, 2001, they wasted no time, putting Fort Lee in the rearview mirror a mere six days later, vowing never to willingly be in snow again. The first year after they retired they made it home for about one month, always finding an excuse not to go back. The next year they returned to New Jersey to pack up, get the house in prime order for sale. They said that when the house sold, they bought their 5th wheel and have never lived in a stick house since.

When asked what they like best about fulltiming, Marcy and Steve said, “No matter where we are, we’re always home. All of our stuff comes along with us. The outside scenery changes but the thrill and adventure of turning on that engine remains. There’s always the adventure of taking that next road.”

What do they most dislike about fulltiming? Having limited space. They have developed a fairly strict plan that throws out the unused to make room for the new.

Marcy and Steve went on their first RV tour to Mexico and the Baja in 2006, on one of the last piggy back trains to travel through the Copper Canyon. In 2008, they became investors in Fantasy RV Tours and since then have traveled the continent as Sales Ambassadors and Field Staff for the company.

While they used to move around a lot, for the last few winters they have been delivering travelogues at the Thousand Trails Orlando Resort and working at the Florida RV shows. During the summer they travel. Two years ago they scouted a route called Rivers West that follows the trail of Lewis and Clark and last year they were tailgunners on a Fantasy Tours caravan along the route. The trip has been such a huge success with their guests that they are going to run full again this year.

They said some of their most remarkable trips were visiting Churchill, Canada during the polar bear migration and an RV safari to South Africa. Other favorite places are almost too many to list – immersing themselves in the culture of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, meeting a lioness in Botswana, glimpsing the casket that was resting in a niche high up in the cliff during a Yangzee River cruise through the 3 Gorges in China.

Steve and Marcy are members of the FMCA, Escapees, Thor Diesel Club, and the Good Sam Club. Besides traveling and giving seminars at RV rallies, Marcy enjoys reading, while Steve keeps busy maintaining their coach in pristine condition. He is also a talented artist and enjoys carving wooden walking sticks.

Of course, not every day fulltiming is perfect, like when they discovered that they had oil in their coolant and were stranded in Lewiston, Idaho for more than a week while the warped engine block head was replaced.

But then there are those wonderful days like the one when they traveled 70 miles back to the Acoma Indian Pueblo to rescue a small dog that they had spotted a week earlier when they were there with a Balloon Fiesta group. She was starved and terrified but came right to them when they returned. Today she’s doubled her weight and is a healthy 9 month old happy puppy named Skye.

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When asked what advice they would give to a newbie, Steve and Marcy said to do what pleases you, don’t try to see it all at once, and always follow your own desires.

They shared these final thoughts on fulltime RVing: You are part of a community that remains in touch by telephone and e-mail. Even though you may not be within a hand touch, you always remain connected. Then when you meet face to face again, it’s really sweet.

Some fulltimers have goals; it may be visiting all major league baseball parks or the homes of our presidents. Steve and Macy’s goals are a bit simpler, they just want to keep traveling, to keep looking down at the grass, and to be seen and not viewed! That sounds like a pretty good way to live your life to me.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Chesapeake 1880 by my friend Ken Rossignol, a tale of life in the Chesapeake Bay region as the industrial revolution changed the world forever. 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.

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Thought For The Day – Instead of wasting time trying to lose weight, just buy clothes two sizes larger and you’ll impress everybody you know with a lot less effort.

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Terry Calls Girl

 Posted by at 1:04 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 272015
 

Most of you already know that Miss Terry can do darned near anything she sets her mind to, from driving the motorhome to building the cabinets in our old MCI bus conversion, so it was only natural for her to be the one to help Phil Botnick with installing our inverter the other day. But even Terry reserves the right to call “Girl” from time to time.

She proved that when Phil was preparing our battery compartment prior to installing our new Lifeline AGM batteries. It is exposed to road grime and I have not been very good about getting under there and cleaning it, so it needed a good wash down. That’s when Terry used the Girl option and stood back and watched him. I must really be in touch with my feminine side, because that’s what I did, too!

Phil’s pretty wife Ann is a tiny thing, but she sure didn’t call Girl when it was time to drag the big old heavy batteries to the back of the Explorer so I could return them for the core charge. By the time I had the first one in one of the cardboard boxes the new batteries came in and then loaded it into the SUV, Annie had dragged the other two across our concrete pad to me!

When we took the old batteries back to RV Renovators I spotted this beautiful classic Airstream 350LE motorhome. Somebody said it was a 1990 model but I’m not sure. Somebody obviously spent a lot of time polishing it to a mirror finish.

Airstream 350LE motorhome

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Chesapeake 1880 by my friend Ken Rossignol, a tale of life in the Chesapeake Bay region as the industrial revolution changed the world forever. 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.

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And if you like your mysteries with a bit of humor and a few good ol’ boys, check out Buck Fever by my friend Ben Rehder. It’s the first book in his popular Blanco County mystery series and if you like my Big Lake stories, I think you’ll like the Blanco County books, too. It’s free on both Amazon for Kindle and Barnes and Noble for Nook e-book readers.

Thought For The Day – The fact that there is a highway to Hell and only a stairway to Heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.

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Electrical Upgrades

 Posted by at 2:55 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 262015
 

Yesterday was a busy day doing some electrical upgrades in our motorhome. When we installed our Samsung residential refrigerator back in December I knew it would not work well with the existing modified sine wave inverter that came from the factory in our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage. The refrigerator requires a “cleaner” pure sine wave.

Since then we have left it off when traveling, which really hasn’t been much of a problem, but we wanted to get it powered up. The original plan was to install a Magnum Energy pure sine wave unit when we got to Arizona. That’s what we had in our old MCI bus conversion, and in my opinion nobody makes a better inverter. However, we ran into a problem; the Magnum is an inch longer than the inverter we have now, which meant that it would not fit where our inverter is and would have to be relocated. That involved a lot of labor time and the related cost, plus the loss of part of our pass-through bay.

The alternative, which was suggested by several tech types whose opinion I respect, was to install a smaller dedicated pure sine wave inverter just for the refrigerator, for a lot less money and labor. We very seldom dry camp any more (three nights in the last three years), so all the inverter would do is power the refrigerator going down the road. So yesterday I had Phil Botnick install an Aims Power 1200 watt pure sine wave inverter that mounts under our bed and will power only the refrigerator.

New inverter small

Phil does good work, and with Terry helping him and me staying out of the way, the job went pretty smoothly. And the way Phil wired things up for us, if we do decide to upgrade to the Magnum somewhere down the road, it will be pretty simple to put it under the bed and hook it up.

Ever since Camping World installed the Interstate batteries in our rig back in February of 2010 they have not impressed me. Anytime we were not plugged into shore power they drained down very quickly. Again, in our bus conversion we had Lifeline AGM batteries, which were excellent. So I bought three of them from RV Renovators in Mesa and had Phil install them once the inverter was done. Some people have said if we don’t dry camp the AGMs are overkill, and that may be true. But sometimes overkill is a good thing.

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As with everything he does, Phil did an excellent job on everything, and I think we’re in good shape from an electrical standpoint now. The next project will be to buy a couple of new steering tires and move the ones on the front now to the left rear, where one of the dual tires has a persistent leak and the other one got chopped up on the outside edge. Hopefully we’ll get that done before we leave the area, but it’s not a critical issue, the tires are five years old and have a lot of life left in them.

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to kick off a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Chesapeake 1880 by my friend Ken Rossignol, a tale of life in the Chesapeake Bay region as the industrial revolution changed the world forever. 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.

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Thought For The Day – I wish the buck stopped here. I could use a few.

Check Out Nick’s E-Books In Our E-Book Store

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Gypsy Journal FAQs

 Posted by at 12:57 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 252015
 

Five years ago I wrote a blog on frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Gypsy Journal. We get some questions over and over about how we produce the paper, and why we do things the way we do. So I thought I’d update it and give it another shot. Here are some of our most often asked questions, and an explanation of the whys and wherefores of how we do what we do.

Q. How do I know when my subscription is due to expire?

A. We send out a renewal notice with your paper two issues before it is due to expire, and again with the last issue before expiration. There is also a number on the top line of your address on the envelope the paper arrives in. That number is the issue your subscription expires with. The issue number is always in our masthead, at the bottom right of Page 2. For example, the next issue is #96, so if the number on the top line of your address block is 98, you have three more issues to go before you are due to renew. For subscribers to our digital issue, we send an e-mail alerting them when it is time to renew.

Q. What does the letter C, G or R after my expiration number mean?

A. The C is a code we use to tell us you have a courtesy subscription (usually given away as a door prize at a rally). G means you have a gift subscription. R means you are a customer that has renewed in the past. You may also see a series of letters after the expiration number. LOW means you first subscribed at Life on Wheels, OW means you came to us from the old Out West newspaper, and TLR means you were a subscriber to Two Lanes Roads before that publication shut down.

Q. Why don’t you have very much outside advertising in the Gypsy Journal?

A. I have sold millions of dollars worth of advertising in my newspaper career, and even though I’m pretty good at it, I hate sales. I’d much rather spend my time searching out new things to write about. Also, when you have advertisers, they sometimes want to dictate what a publication can say. I’m too stubborn for that. If I think a particular product is junk, I say so. Not many companies want to spend their advertising dollars with a publication that may tell the truth about their products. If we could find an experienced, energetic salesperson, we would probably let them try to build up our ad count a bit, but we’re not trying to make a fortune, just get by, and our business model has worked so far for us.

Q. Why isn’t your telephone number included on your masthead on Page 2 so I can call you if I want to?

A. We do not have an established office; we run our business from the road. We check our e-mail several times a day, and we usually receive snail mail every week. Those are the best ways to reach us. At one time we did publish our telephone number, and it became a problem. We got calls at midnight when we were on the East coast from people on the West coast who were looking for a campground for the night and wanted recommendations. When we were on the West coast, we got calls at 6 a.m. from people on the East coast wanting to tell us about a funny sign they had seen and should include in the paper. It just became too much of a problem.

Q. What happened to Bad Nick and will he ever be back?

A. I miss Bad Nick and having the chance to spout off and get people talking and (hopefully) thinking. But between traveling and researching stories for the Gypsy Journal and then writing them, and putting each new issue together, my daily RV blog, and writing my books, there just are not enough hours in the day. I’d like to revive Bad Nick someday if I could find a way to add an extra eight hours to every day.

Q. You seem to be going in a dozen different directions at once, between the paper, books, your blog, and speaking at RV events. Where do you find the time for everything?

A. Everything in life takes some sacrifice, and one has to set priorities. In my case, I have given up dieting and exercise to squeeze in the extra time I need. Seriously, I’m pretty much a Type A person and I thrive on all of this.

Q. We miss your Gypsy Journal rallies. Will there ever be another one?

A. We miss the fun and camaraderie of the rallies, too. But we don’t miss the months of hard work that went into each of them and the fact that we were losing money on each event. And we LOVE having a much more relaxed schedule! If and when we ever do a rally again, it will be a much more informal, less structured event.

Q. I have all of your Big Lake books. Are you going to bring out any more?

A. I am working on book #7 in the Big Lake series and have several more rattling around in my head, just waiting for their chance to get out. And there are several other writing projects I also want to do.

Q. What do you see in the future for yourselves? Any long term plans to hang up the keys and settle down someplace?

A. When I first posted a FAQs blog back in 2010, Terry and I were both in agreement that we’ll continue to do just what we are doing for as long as we possibly can. That hasn’t changed. We’re both in pretty good health, we’re having fun, and we’re happy. Why would we want to do anything else? We have slowed down from the crazy days when we were teaching at Life on Wheels and following the rally circuit, and we enjoy sitting in one place for a few weeks to spend time writing and weaving. We’ve even talked about buying a lot in an RV resort in Florida for the winters, but at this point that’s all it’s been; talk.

Q. What about the Gypsy Journal? Do you have any plans to stop publishing it and focusing on your books?

A. Again, we’re happy with our lives just as they are. As long as we can physically continue, and as long as our readers keep on wanting what we produce, we’ll be out here exploring America’s small towns and back roads, and writing about our travels.

Q. How long do you plan to continue with the printed edition, and will the digital edition eventually replace it entirely?

A. Five years ago I said I’m a dinosaur who loves the feel and smell of ink and newsprint and could never see abandoning the print issue altogether. At that time the majority of our subscribers preferred the print issue over the digital. That margin is shrinking every year. And with the ever increasing cost of printing and postage, we currently make 7¢ an issue on each mailed subscription. The next postal rate increase will probably wipe that out. And as we get older, the physical demands of loading a truckload of newspapers into the Explorer, carrying them inside, stuffing envelopes, and then carrying them all out again to take to the post office becomes more challenging. So I have to backpedal and say that maybe somewhere down the road things will change. But if they ever do, we’ll give you all plenty of notice.

Thought For The Day – When people say something is “better than sex” it’s obvious that they’re not having the right kind of sex.

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Mar 242015
 

We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see your travels.

Americus: Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and Discovery Center includes life-sized examples of some of the world’s worst living conditions and poverty housing, examples of the houses the organization builds for the impoverished worldwide, and displays on the volunteers who make it all happen

Andersonville: Andersonville National Historic Site preserves the largest Confederate prison during the Civil War. More than 13,000 Union captives perished at Andersonville from poor living conditions, untreated wounds, malnutrition, and disease.

Atlanta: The Atlanta home where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born is now a National Historic Site and open to tours.

Atlanta: If you’re thirsty, spend some time touring the World of Coca-Cola, a museum at the soft drink’s world headquarters, where you will see hundreds of exhibits on Coke, including old advertisements, antique bottles, and other memorabilia.

Atlanta: The Atlanta Cyclorama, the world’s largest oil painting, depicts the 1864 Civil War Battle of Atlanta.

Augusta: The U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum at Fort Gordon tells the story of the Army Signal Corps.

Cartersville: The 54 acre Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site contains six Native American earthen mounds dating back to between 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D. Artifacts on display show how the include shell beads, copper ear ornaments, stone effigies, and objects made of wood and seashells.

Clayton: Do you remember the Foxfire books, those down home guides to all sorts of forgotten folklore and crafts? The books, history, and culture of the rural people they celebrate are exhibited at the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center in Clayton.

Cleveland: How many of us stood in long lines at the toy store trying to purchase a Cabbage Patch doll for our little girls back when they were all the rage? You can tour the “hospital” where the cuddly dolls are born at the Babyland General Hospital here.

Columbus: At the National Civil War Naval Museum you can see the Confederate ironclad CSS Jackson, which was built at the Confederate Naval Shipyard at Columbus, and the gunboat CSS Chattahoochee, along with an extensive collection of period artifacts.

Columbus: The National Infantry Museum displays uniforms and weapons spanning five centuries of warfare.

Columbus: More than 3,000 metal lunch boxes from the 1950s onward are on display at the Lunch Box Museum. Stop in and see vintage lunch boxes representing childhood favorites such as Hopalong Cassidy, Davy Crockett, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, and Batman.

Dahlonega: Twenty years before the 1849 Gold Rush to California, thousands of gold seekers flocked into northern Georgia, beginning the nation’s first major gold rush. The Dahlonega Gold Museum, located in the old Lumpkin County Courthouse, offers visitors a look at the mining history of Georgia. Gold coins minted in Dahlonega and nuggets weighing more than 5 ounces are on display.

Dallas: Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site preserves the site of the 1864 Civil War battle between over 25,000 Union and Confederate soldiers that claimed 2,100 men. The Visitor’s Center has a museum displaying artifacts from the battle, a 15 minute video of the history of Pickett’s Mill, and an interactive touch-screen computer game that allows visitors to re-fight the Battle of Pickett’s Mill.

Darien: At re-created Fort King George, costumed re-enactors in British uniforms tell visitors about the days when this was the southernmost outpost of the British Empire in North America.

Dawsonville: You can visit the largest population of kangaroos this side of Australia at the Kangaroo Conservation Center here.

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Duluth: The Southeastern Railway Museum features 90 items of rolling stock including historic Pullman cars and classic steam locomotives on its 34-acre site.

Harlem: This tiny town is home to the nation’s only museum dedicated to the classic comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892, and every year the town holds its Oliver Hardy Festival. Displays at the Laurel and Hardy Museum include dolls, comic books, and movie props from the duo’s film career

Kennesaw: The locomotive General, stolen by Union soldiers in 1862 and taken on a wild 100-mile ride that was the subject of the movie The Great Locomotive Chase, is on display at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

Leslie: In the days before fiber optics and cell phones, most people shared party telephone lines, and real live operators placed their calls for them. Those low-tech days are recalled at the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum, with its displays of hand cranked wooden telephones and early switchboards.

Telephone switchboard

Marietta: The Gone With the Wind Museum features an impressive collection of artifacts related to the famous novel and film, including foreign film posters, premiere programs, costume pieces, contracts, advertisements, promotional items, and collectibles. Highlights of the collection include the original honeymoon gown worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the film, several of Margaret Mitchell’s personal volumes of the novel, and an educational display dedicated to the African American cast members.

Midway: Historic Seabrook Village is a unique African-American living history museum on the Georgia coast. Visitors can learn about the struggles and triumphs of the former slaves who made a new life here.

Plains: Former president Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home is open for tours and administered by the National Parks Service.

Pooler: The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum tells the story of the 8th Air Force, the greatest air armada the world had ever seen and honors the men and women who helped defeat Nazi Germany during World War II. Exhibits include historic aircraft, displays on the Battle of Britain, a prisoner of war gallery, and artifacts from the war years.

Roswell: Visitors can tour Bulloch Hall, the 1840s antebellum mansion that was the childhood home of Mittie Bulloch, mother of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Saint Mary’s: A wide variety of submarine artifacts, memorabilia, and information is on display at the Saint Mary’s Submarine Museum, covering the history of the “Silent Service” from the Civil War to modern times.

Savannah: Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Lowe was born in a house at 142 Bull Street. The home is open to tours and furnished with Lowe family items.

Savannah: The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum has displays on everything from sailing ships to World War II vessels.

Vienna: The early days of cotton farming are remembered with displays of antique farming equipment and exhibits on slave labor at the Georgia Cotton Museum.

Warm Springs: President Franklin D. Roosevelt died at his Little White House here in 1945. A self-guided tour includes the main house, guest house, and garage with the 32nd President’s 1938 Ford convertible, outfitted with hand controls to accommodate his paralysis.

Thought For The Day – Life is sexually transmitted.

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Family Time

 Posted by at 1:51 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 232015
 

Yesterday was a family day. Which means, of course, that it was a very good day. How could it not be? I was surrounded by beautiful women, had a great dinner, and there was cake for dessert!

We started the day fighting with the terribly slow Verizon internet signal, which seems to get worse every year when we’re in Apache Junction. It would be great if Verizon spent some of that money they blow on advertising telling us how good their service is to actually improve the service. Instead it seems to be deteriorating in many places where we travel.

About 11 Greg White came over to chat for a few minutes before he and Jan left to go to Countryside RV Resort, a Thousand Trails affiliate about four miles away, where they will be staying for the next two weeks for $4 a day. That’s a darned good deal.

We went to Terry’s parents house about 2 p.m. so she could help her mom get dinner ready. But the first order of business was to try the new power cord I ordered for her mom’s laptop computer from Amazon. The computer had stopped working and the local Staples wanted to charge her $300 just to troubleshoot it. I had Greg look at it the other day, and a quick test with his voltmeter showed that there was AC going into the power supply in the cord, but nothing coming out the other side.

Staples had told Bess that the problem wasn’t the cord, and also quoted her $120 to replace it, even though it wasn’t the problem. Go figure. I found a replacement cord and power supply for $18 on Amazon, ordered it Friday evening and it was delivered yesterday. I didn’t even know Amazon delivers on Sundays! And sure enough, I plugged it into the computer and wall outlet, turned on the laptop, and it worked just fine! Thanks for your help, Greg.

The dinner was to celebrate Terry’s sister Dani’s birthday, which is actually today, and soon after we arrived she showed up, followed by Lisa, the youngest of the three sisters. I was about to overdose on cute! We had a good time visiting, and I answered a couple of questions Dani had about her new fifth wheel trailer. Dinner was delicious and I think we all stuffed ourselves, and that was before we had the cake Terry made for dessert. I could hardly waddle away from the table when we were done.

We got home about 8 p.m., too late to get any writing done, except for the blog. But I plan to be back at my new book this morning. I’m also working on a new project that I’ll be telling you about soon.

Congratulations Din Milem, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Birdsongs by Jason Deas. We had 105 entries in the drawing. Stay tuned, because a new contest starts soon.

And if you’re a science fiction fan, my friend Saxon Andrew has a brand new series called Escape to Earth, and the first book, Running From Fate, is now available on Amazon. Saxon is a very popular writer with a lot of fans, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy his books too.

Thought For The Day – If at first you don’t succeed skydiving probably isn’t for you.

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Back At It

 Posted by at 2:38 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 222015
 

It sure feels good to be writing again. Anytime I’m away from it I realize how much I miss doing it. Except for my daily RV blog I have not had any time for writing the last few weeks, but I’m back at it and things are rolling right along. Friday I wrote 1,500 words in my new Big Lake book, and yesterday I got out another 4,371 words.

I did stop for a while to visit with Greg White, who came by to help me with a couple of computer issues. One was with my Asus laptop, which had been shutting down after a period of inactivity, even though it stays plugged into AC power. I thought I had all of the sleep/hibernate energy saving settings right, but Greg managed to figure something out and solved the problem.

The other problem was my Samsung Tab. While we were at Escapade I could not get it to update its location settings to allow me to process credit cards. It kept insisting that I was still in Bradenton, Florida, though I have used it a lot since we left there back in December. But after playing with it a while we both decided that the problem was probably the terrible internet at the Pima County Fairgrounds, with so many people trying to get online at the same time. Here it works just fine and I was able to run test credit card payments with both my PayPal and Square card readers.

While I was busy with all that, Miss Terry and her mom were shopping. Monday is Terry’s sister Dani’s birthday and we’re having a family dinner to celebrate this afternoon, and they needed to stock up on goodies. Back at home, Terry made a delicious chicken Parmesan dinner. We’ve been so busy that there wasn’t a lot of time to be at home, so we’ve been eating out a lot lately. She has missed cooking as much as I have writing, and it was great to have a quiet dinner together, just the two of us.

After dinner she made a gluten free pistachio cake with strawberry macaron topping for Dani’s birthday, using ground nuts as the flour. I’m sure it will be just as delicious as everything else she makes. And in only a few hours I get to find out!

Dani cake small

Today is your last chance to enter this week’s Free Drawing for an audiobook of my pal Jason Deas’ Birdsongs, the first book in his excellent Benny James mystery 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.

Birdsongsaudio copy

Thought For The Day – I miss being able to slam my phone down when I hang up on somebody. Violently pressing End Call just doesn’t have the same effect for me.

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RV Mysteries

 Posted by at 1:27 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 212015
 

After being on the go so much lately, it was nice to be able to sleep in a little bit yesterday morning. Once we were up and in gear, I spent a couple of hours playing catch up with e-mails that had been pushed to the back burner with everything else going on. Then I reviewed five more chapters of the audiobook of Big Lake Scandal. Narrator Bruce Miles always does a great job and brings my words to life in the audiobooks.

Once that was finished, I spent much of yesterday afternoon working on my new Big Lake book, and it was nice to get back into the story after being away from it the last couple of weeks. By the end of the day I had cranked out another 1,500 words.

A number of readers have suggested I do an RV-based mystery series, and I have had the idea for one rattling around in the back of my head for a couple of years now. But between the Gypsy Journal, blogging, and writing the Big Lake series, there are never enough hours in a day. Maybe someday I’ll get around to it.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share a few RV mysteries from other authors I have enjoyed reading. Hopefully you will too.

The Serpents Trail – I’m a big fan of Sue Henry’s Alaska-based mystery books, so when she created the Maxie and Stretch series about Maxie McNabb getting involved in mysteries as she roams the country in her Winnebago motorhome with her mini-dachshund Stretch I was immediately hooked.

Maxie

On the Road to Death’s Door – This first book in M.J. Williams’ On The Road mystery series starts with a body falling off the top of their newly inherited RV on Emily and Stan Remington’s first trip out!

On the road to deaths door

Going Nowhere Fast - The first book in Gar Anthony Haywood’s excellent Joe and Dottie Loudermilk mystery series features a pair of Airstream-owning retiree crime-solvers who are the parents to five grown children from Hell.

Going nowhere

Trouble at Happy Trails – Minnie Crockwell’s Will Travel for Trouble series of short cozy mysteries are fun, easy reading.

Crockwell 

Soul of the Forest – This is Book One of the Bird Treks mystery series, following the adventures of the Grahams, a fiftyish couple fulltiming in their Blue Bird motor coach and discovering adventure at every turn.

Soul

Murder in RV Paradise – Part of the Logan & Cafferty mystery series, Murder in RV Paradise, tells the story of a vacation at a Texas RV resort that turns deadly.

Murder in RV

The Leviticus Mission – The first book in L.D. Knorr’s RV Mysteries series tells the story of recently retired robbery/homicide detective Hank Moran and his wife Helen, who discover a series of murders on their first trip in their new motorhome.

Leviticus

You still have time to enter this week’s Free Drawing for an audiobook of my pal Jason Deas’ Birdsongs, the first book in his excellent Benny James mystery 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.

Birdsongsaudio copy

Thought For The Day – When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation. – Jorge Luis Borges

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Mar 202015
 

We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see your travels.

Alachua: Mill Creek Farm, known as the Retirement Home for Horses, operates on 245 rolling acres just off Interstate 75. Here, working horses deemed too old to remain in service, as well as injured and abused horses, find a sanctuary where they can live out their lives in comfort.

Boca Raton: At the Sports Immortals Museum you can see artifacts from the world’s greatest athletes and sports figures.

Bradenton: The De Soto National Memorial preserves the controversial story of the four year, four thousand mile odyssey of Hernando de Soto and his expedition and it’s significance in American history.

Bushnell: In December, 1835, Seminole Indians ambushed a column of U.S troops and massacred over 100. Today the site of the attack is Dade Battlefield State Historic Park, with exhibits and a self-guided tour of the battlefield.

Christmas: Fort Christmas Historical Park includes a re-creation of the Seminole Indian War fort, along with seven restored Cracker homes that show pioneer life from the 1870s through the 1930s.

Fort Christmas gate open

Clewiston: The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is one of the finest American Indian museums in the United States, featuring the nation’s largest display of the life and culture of Florida Seminoles through exhibits, rare artifacts and cultural displays. The museum includes an authentic Native American village with Seminole tribal members preparing traditional arts and crafts.

Fort Pierce: The Navy’s special operations branch, the SEALS, are honored at the National Navy SEAL Museum, located at 3300 N. Route A1A.

Fort Walton Beach: The Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base will thrill you with displays of vintage war birds and weapons dating back to World War II.

Hawthorne: The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park preserves the farm where the author of such Florida classics as The Yearling and Cross Creek lived and worked.

cracker house

Homosassa Springs: At the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park you can see endangered manatee, alligators, crocodiles, and other Florida native wildlife.

Jacksonville: Fort Caroline was first established by the French in 1562. Three nations held the fort over the years, and it was the site of massacres, cannibalism induced by starvation, and diseases that wiped out the garrisons stationed here. Today the old fort is administered by the National Park Service.

Key West: The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum displays gold, silver, and jewels the famed treasure hunter recovered from the wrecks of sunken Spanish treasure galleons.

Key West: President Harry S. Truman’s Little White House is open for tours, which includes the chance to see many Truman artifacts.

White Houce portico outside 2

Key West: The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum gives visitors the opportunity to tour the historic lighthouse, built in 1847, as well as the home where the light keeper and his family lived while stationed here.

Lake Helen: Since 1895, spiritualists have lived and worked at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, where visitors can attend séances, have their palms read, their fortunes told, and contact their departed loved ones.

Largo: Heritage Village is a 21-acre, open-air historical village and museum that is home to some of Pinellas County’s most historic buildings. There are 28 structures, some dating back to the mid-to late-19th century. The Village includes a school, church, railroad depot, and store, as well as a variety of historic homes. Heritage Village is also the site of the Daniel McMullen Home for the Fiber Arts. Weaving, quilting, and other crafts are demonstrated as part of its "hands-on" approach to history.

Maitland: The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is an environmental nature center that specializes in the rescue, medical care, rehabilitation, and release of sick, injured and orphaned raptors (birds of prey). Visitors can tour the facility and learn about their work and the birds they care for.

Marathon: At the Turtle Hospital you can see injured sea turtles being rehabilitated and learn about a variety of species of turtles.

Marathon: Visitors get to know dolphins up close and personal at the Dolphin Research Center.

High jump 8

Miami: At the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, visitors can take a 20 minute train ride and visit the Ferdinand Magellan, the private rail car of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan.

Ocala: For speed freaks, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a must see, with a large collection of race cars, including many record winners and displays on the sport of drag racing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ona: Artist Howard Solomon built his very own castle here, featuring a moat and 80 stained glass windows, all from recycled materials. The walls are covered with used newspaper printing plates, and visitors can chuckle their way through a tour of the 12,000 square foot castle while tour guide Solomon cracks corny jokes and tells tall tales.

Castle outside 5

Panama City Beach: You can see scuba equipment, diving bells, and other underwater equipment at the Man in the Sea Museum at 17315 Panama City Beach Parkway.

Hard hat diver

Pensacola: Fort Barrancas, on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, has been a fortress since 1763. Three nations have established strongholds here to take advantage of this strategic location on Pensacola Bay. Administered by the National Park Service, the old fort is open to tours.

Pensacola: The National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola Naval Air Station has hundreds of military aircraft on display, including a flight of four Blue Angels hanging from the museum’s atrium.

Sanibel: Sanibel Historical Village and Museum is a fascinating re-creation of Old Sanibel that includes pioneer Clarence Rutland’s original early 1900s island home; the Burnap Cottage, built in 1898; and Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, restored to its 1930s look.

Sanibel: You can see seashells from around the world at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum here. Sanibel Island has some of the best beaches to find shells in the world.

Sarasota: If you love the Big Top, be sure to visit the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota.

Sarasota: The Sarasota Classic Car Museum displays over 100 antique and classic automobiles spanning over a century of automotive manufacturing and history.

Saint Augustine: The nation’s oldest surviving fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, dates back to 1672 and is now a National Monument.

Saint Petersburg: The Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame honors the famous baseball player’s life and career.

Starke: Camp Blanding Museum is housed in a World War II barracks and tells the story of the men who trained here for duty overseas.

Tallahassee: The Tallahassee Antique Car Museum displays a collection of antique and rare automobiles dating back to 1901.

Tavernier: The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center provides emergency and recuperative care for injured birds. Visitors can tour the facility, see the birds, and watch the staff care for them and learn how people can help protect wildlife.

Titusville: The American Police Hall of Fame & Museum is the nation’s first national police museum and memorial dedicated to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Exhibits include police equipment, an electric chair, police pursuit vehicles, police motorcycles, and confiscated weapons.

Police Hall of Fame outside

White Springs: The Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center includes a museum dedicated to the works of the composer of such familiar tunes as Old Folks At Home (Suwannee River), Beautiful Dreamer, Camptown Races, Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair, My Old Kentucky Home, and Oh Susanna. The centerpiece of the Center is the Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon, a handsome 200 foot high campanile housing 97 tubular bells that play Foster tunes throughout the day.

Have you entered this week’s Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of my pal Jason Deas’ Birdsongs, the first book in his excellent Benny James mystery 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.

Birdsongsaudio copy

Thought For The Day – Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

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