Nick Russell

Remittance Man

 Posted by at 12:11 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 072016
 

I’ve had several job titles in my life. Soldier, cop, entrepreneur, journalist, newspaper publisher, author, public speaker, and a couple I choose to forget. But I think that at 63 years of age, I have finally found my calling. I’m going to become a remittance man.



For those of you not familiar with the term, a remittance man was an emigrant supported by money from home. Sometimes he was sent to a new area to help develop family business interests or to find his own way in life. This might be a younger son who did not stand to inherit under 19th century European traditions.

But more often than not, the remittance man was the black sheep of the family who was paid to stay away. I guess it was cheaper to pay money to keep him at a distance than to have him back at home embarrassing the family and creating drama.

There are some in my family who would say that I was the black sheep, and maybe not without good cause. However, there may be a problem – since I’m the only surviving member of my direct family, if I want to be a successful remittance man I have to look farther afield for my funding. But as it turns out, I shouldn’t have to look very far.

When we were in Arizona a few weeks ago it was cold and miserable, and snow was more than halfway down the Catalina mountains outside of Tucson. People all over the Grand Canyon State were taking up a collection to send me to Florida. Well, now that we’re here in the Sunshine State, guess what? It has turned cold and wet and miserable. Very cold and wet and miserable. And I’ve heard from more than one source that funds are being solicited to send me somewhere else.



Yes indeed, if I play this right I may never have to work again. I will just spend the rest of my days wandering around the country, carefully avoiding those places who pay me to stay away. In fact, I might even arrange a bidding war to see who’s willing to pony up the most money to keep me at a distance. What do you think?

Friday night we attended a jam session here at the Escapees Sumter Oaks campground. There sure were a lot of talented people there, both musicians and singers. I didn’t get this woman’s name, but she was a real hit with the crowd, and when she sang Blue Bayou it was amazing. Move over Linda Ronstadt, you’ve got some serious competition!

Blue Bayou

Our buddy Al Hesselbart also stepped up to the microphone a couple of times, and it was an experience we won’t soon forget. Al, the retired historian for the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana has been wintering here in Bushnell for several years now and has become deeply involved with the jam sessions that happen at RV parks all over the area. He said he’s found a whole new community of friends who like to perform at the different events around here. Way to go, Al!

Al singing small

Yesterday we drove about 35 miles south to Zephyrhills to have lunch with our dear friends John and Kathy Huggins of Living the RV Dream. We have not seen them since last year, shortly before Kathy was stricken with a life-threatening illness. But a lot of prayers, an excellent medical team, and the love of her family, not to mention Kathy’s strong will to survive, pulled her through and she looks great. As often happens with RVers, after lunch we sat and talked for another two or three hours before it was time to go our separate ways. We look forward to seeing them again while we’re here in the area.

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for today. The Super Bowl is on, but we have absolutely no interest in professional sports. After a lot of rain yesterday it’s supposed to be clear today but cloudy and windy, with temperatures in the mid-50s. We may just make it a stay-at-home day, or we may go and do some exploring. We’ll see how the day shapes up.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest 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 this evening.

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Thought For The Day Your life is made up of two dates and a dash, Make the most of the dash.

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We are Floridians!

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 062016
 

For some time now we have been planning to change our legal domicile from South Dakota to Florida. There were several reasons for this, including the fact that if and when we ever hang up the keys, it will be here in Florida. Other factors in our decision-making were that it’s difficult for fulltime RVers to get health insurance in South Dakota, and that we spend a lot of time here in the Sunshine State. It’s on our normal travel route, whereas we have to go out of our way to go to South Dakota.



The process was quick and relatively easy. Our first step was to register with the Escapees Mail Service and specify that we wanted to use their Sumter Oaks campground in Bushnell as our “official address.” To do that, we had to fill out a couple of forms, have one notarized, and send them, along with copies of our drivers licenses and passports, to the Escapees in Livingston, Texas. When it comes to running mail forwarding services for RVers, these folks wrote the book and they make it very convenient, walking you through the process.

On Wednesday we went to the Tax Assessor’s office here in Bushnell, where a very friendly clerk went over all the documents we would need to satisfy the requirements of proving our Florida residency. These were our drivers licenses from South Dakota, our passports, and our Social Security cards to prove identification, along with two items with our new Florida address on them. In our case, those were the letter from Escapees stating our address at Sumter Oaks and our insurance policy showing proof of Florida insurance. 

Once we had that done and our address from Escapees established, the next step was to call Chris Yust from C&C insurance and have her issue a Florida insurance policy for our motorhome and Ford Explorer. Then we were good to go.

We also needed to have the VIN numbers on both vehicles verified. With the Explorer that was no problem, we drove it to the Assessor’s office and somebody came outside to check it. Rather than drive the RV there, they gave us a form and said to call the Sheriff’s Office and request that a deputy come to the campground and check the VIN. When I called, a deputy arrived in less than a half hour, even though it was raining hard, verified the VIN, and signed the necessary form. There was no charge for that service.

Yesterday we went back to the Tax Assessor’s office again, waited about 15 minutes to be called to the counter, and presented everything to another very nice clerk. It took him about an hour to issue us our new Florida drivers licenses, which only required an eye test, to register us to vote, and to register the motorhome. Then he asked for the paperwork on the Explorer and we ran into a glitch. Somehow we had left the lien release from when we paid it off at home. So we had to make a quick trip back to the campground, grab it, and go back. Then it took him another 15 minutes or so to issue the title to the Explorer and combination fresh/saltwater fishing licenses for both of us.

Our new drivers licenses are good for eight years, and the registrations on the two vehicles expire in October of 2017.



The total cost for everything was about $1100, most of which was the transfer fees on the two vehicles. It also included a motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license, and instead of going with the regular plates we opted to pay another $25 per year each for Save the Manatees license plates. This money goes to the Save the Manatees Trust Fund, which funds manatee-related research and conservation management activities. The plates are consecutively numbers, which should make remembering them easier.

Florida plates small

We love these gentle giants of the water and one of the greatest experiences of our RVing life was paddling our Sea Eagle kayaks with them at Crystal River a few years back. We are pleased to help contribute in some small way to their survival. Another $65 of the total fee was for our fishing licenses. Once we turn 65 those licenses will be free and good for life.

We knew that Florida auto and RV insurance was going to cost us more than in South Dakota, and it turned out to be $33 a month more. But that includes disability insurance for loss of income (since we are still working Rvers) if injured in an auto accident. And when it’s time to renew, our vehicle plates will be a lot cheaper than South Dakota so it’s pretty much a break even situation in the long run.

Overall it was a quick and easy process, and we were very pleased with the courtesy and professionalism of the people at the Sumter County Tax Assessor’s office. They are nice folks down there.

With all of that done, our next steps will be to get health insurance for Terry. Since I’m covered by the VA, I’ll be switching to a VA hospital here in Florida. And I still have to apply for my Florida concealed weapons permit. That involves filling out some paperwork, getting a passport style photo taken, getting my fingerprints taken, and paying the appropriate fees. Since I’m an honorably discharged veteran, I can submit my DD 214 in lieu of taking a firearms safety course.

So hello Florida, it’s nice to be your two newest residents!

Be sure to enter our latest 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 Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

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Enjoy It While You Can

 Posted by at 12:14 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 052016
 

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. I’m going to die. And so are you. And your best friend, and your spouse, and sadly, even your kids. It’s going to happen sooner or later. We can’t avoid it. But we can make the most of whatever time we have left here on earth.



In the last two days I’ve received half a dozen or more e-mails and blog comments from people worried about the Zika virus and a couple of young thugs who the media have dubbed a modern day Bonnie and Clyde who are supposedly heading for Florida after a crime spree in Alabama and Georgia.

No, I don’t pay attention to nonsense like that. Wasn’t Ebola going to kill us all last year? So far I’m still looking at the grass from the top side, not the bottom.

As for the criminal couple, I’ve dealt with some serious bad guys in my time, so a pair of young punks like that don’t concern me. And trust me, I’ve got more of anything they might have with them if they come knocking on my door, and I have enough training and real world experience to know how to use it. And mine’s bigger, too!

One couple wrote to say that due to Zika they are leaving Florida to go somewhere safe? What’s safe? They have much more chance of dying in a traffic accident on their way to whatever safe haven they choose than of being infected by Zika.

I spent over 30 years in the newspaper business running small town newspapers in the Pacific Northwest and in Arizona. In that time I saw hundreds of doomsday news releases come across my desk, and 99.9% of them are over-reported and over dramatized.



Back in the early 1980s they were predicting that most of western Oregon and Washington was going to fall into the Pacific Ocean as soon as the “big one” hit. I owned a string of small town newspapers along the coast back then and had friends trying to selling their homes for whatever they could get out of them and quitting jobs and moving inland to where it was safe.

Guess what? The “big one” never hit and eventually life returned to normal. We never heard about it again until last summer when we were on the Oregon coast. Now suddenly it’s a huge issue again.

Yes, it MAY happen. Yes, Zika may kill me. Or maybe a drunk driver or some kid texting instead of paying attention to the road. Or I may die in my sleep on my 100th birthday. Or tonight. I’m too busy enjoying life to give any of it a lot of thought.

According to the prognosticators, all any of us can do is sit on the floor, pull our knees up over our heads and kiss our butts goodbye! In the meantime, just relax and enjoy life. You’ll live longer.

Be sure to enter our latest 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.

Chesapeake1880_thumb.jpg

Thought For The Day Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.

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We Are Home!

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 042016
 

Well, actually we’re at the place that will soon be our new legal “home” at the Escapees Sumter Oaks RV park in Bushnell, Florida. But we have stayed here so many times over the years, and so many members of our Escapees extended family are here that it almost feels like coming home.



When we left the Elks lodge in Perry yesterday morning about 10 o’clock there was a heavy cloud cover and a stiff breeze blowing. For the first 20 miles or so it kind of bounced us around as we motored south on US Highway 19, but then the wind eased up a bit and the ride became much smoother.

According to the National Speed Trap Exchange website, both Perry and the small town of Chiefland, 65 miles south, are known to be, shall we say “overaggressive” in terms of how many traffic tickets they write on a monthly basis. And sure enough, going through both towns I saw several police cars right where the website said to expect them. I was careful to keep my speed two or three miles below the posted limit at all times.

At Chiefland we turned southeast on US Highway 27 Alternate and followed it for 48 miles to Ocala, where we picked up Interstate 75 and took it south another 58 miles through an endless construction zone. There was a lot of traffic and the road wasn’t very smooth for much of the distance.

We arrived at the Escapees campground about 1:15 PM and as we got out of the motorhome to unhook the Explorer from the tow bar our friend Wallace Lewis stopped to say hello and welcome us on his way out to run some errands. The office was closed for lunch, but by the time we got the tow bar unhooked and the cable stowed away they were back, and Wanda, Wallace’s wife, greeted us with hugs.

The campground is packed and I’m glad I called ahead to reserve a site. We ended up in a pull through 30 amp full hookup site and it was a little iffy getting my rooftop satellite TV dish to lock onto a signal due to a couple of trees right next to us, and I had to move back a foot or two to get a shot between them. But eventually the dish found the satellites and we were good to go.

About then blog readers Robert and Ann John came over to introduce themselves and we chatted for a few minutes. They are new to the fulltime lifestyle and we hope to get some time to visit with them while we’re here. Several other Escapees stopped by to say hello, but I’m afraid my memory isn’t as good as it should be, so I can’t give you everybody’s names.



One downside here, which we’ve experienced before at this campground and others in Florida is that there are a lot of ants. Some are just the pesky little critters that crawl around and get into everything, but there are also fire ants, and if you’ve never experienced them, make it a point not to. Those nasty little buggers like to bite, and if one of them ever latches onto you you’ll know why they call them fire ants.

By the time we had everything hooked up we were starving, so I called our buddy Al Hesselbart and asked him if he wanted to meet us at the Beef O’Bradys in Bushnell for dinner. Al was just wrapping up a jam session in nearby Webster and he said he would meet us there.

On our way out of the campground we saw Phil and Cynthia Devonshire sitting under their awning and stopped long enough for Phil to come over and chew the fat with us for a minute or two. I’m sure we’ll see more of them while we’re here

Al was waiting for us by the time we got to the restaurant and it was good to see our old friend again. And any time I’m talking about Al the emphasis is on old. Before he retired he was the historian of the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana and Al is the industry’s recognized expert when it comes to antique RVs. I think that’s because he’s been around so long that he was there when they were brand-new and just coming off the assembly line. We had a nice dinner and enjoyed catching up on what’s been going on since we last saw him a year ago.

After a quick stop at WalMart we came home and had a quiet evening relaxing after two days of being on the road. I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for today. We should have some mail waiting for us in Bushnell, and I want to stop at the county tax assessor’s office and ask a couple of questions in preparation for switching our legal domicile to here in Florida. And Miss Terry’s been talking about wanting to make some bread. But first we plan to sleep in. We have to make up for getting up early two days in a row.

It’s Thursday, and 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.

Chesapeake1880.jpg

Thought For The Day How can I trust you when you run away every time I untie you?

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A Good Day On the Road

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 032016
 

Thunderstorms were predicted for Baldwin County, Alabama yesterday afternoon, and we wanted to be on the road and well ahead of them before they arrived. So we left the Escapees Rainbow Plantation co-op a few minutes after 9 AM, headed for Florida. And it was a good day on the road.



We had just under three quarters of a tank of fuel onboard, so I didn’t stop at the Pilot truck stop just before we got onto Interstate 10, where diesel was a $1.85 per gallon. As it turned out, I probably should have.

We had a few sprinkles along the way, just enough to have to use the windshield wipers on the low intermittent setting, and they didn’t last. It wasn’t long before we crossed into Florida, where this couple was taking turns posing for photographs of the welcome sign as we drove past.

Florida Welcome sign small

Pensacola is home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, which in turn is home to the Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team. Some of the underpasses on Interstate 10 in the Pensacola area have small formations of airplanes on them, honoring the Blue Angels and Naval Aviation.

I10 Pensacola small

It was pretty foggy for part of our trip whenever we crossed wide bays or rivers.

Foggy bridge small

And of course, there was plenty of road construction. In several places the roadway was down to one lane for a few miles at a time, but they left us plenty of room to get through with no problems.

Road construction small

Road construction 2 small

We stopped at the Flying J at mile marker 192 near Tallahassee, and I was reminded of an experience my buddy Greg White had at a Flying J in Texas a few days ago. We pulled up to the RV fuel island and the pump was so darned slow that it took us 45 minutes to put in 66 gallons of diesel. And, even with our Flying J discount card, it was still $2.04 a gallon. 19 cents a gallon more than we could have bought it for back in Alabama. Of course, compared to what we’ve paid in the past, it was still a heck of a deal.



About 30 miles down the road we got off of the interstate and onto US Highway 19 and took it southeast another 35 miles to the small town of Perry, Florida. Most of the route was excellent divided four lane highway.

US 19 Florida small

The Elks lodge here has 14 back to back RV sites on level grass with 30/50 amp electric and water. There is also a dump station at the lodge. All this for only $15 per night. We have saved a ton of money over the years with our memberships in the Elks, Moose, and VFW, camping at lodges and posts from coast to coast and border to border.

We were the only RV there, which was good because the first two electric pedestals we tried to plug into didn’t work. One was completely dead, and the 50 amp outlet on the next one was dead, though the 30 amp worked. No problem, we moved over a bit and the third time was the charm with good 50 amp power, along with a clear shot of the sky for our rooftop satellite TV dish, and a good 4G Verizon signal.

Winnie at Perry Florida Elks small

Since we are going to be bouncing around Florida for the next four or five months, I logged onto Dish Chat and had them switch our local channels to the Orlando feed, which we’ve used as far south as the middle Keys.

We had covered 305 miles in six hours, including the time we spent at the Flying J, and once we were parked and hooked up it was time to find something to eat. I asked one of the fellows in the lodge and he pointed us toward Goodman’s BBQ a mile or so away. We always like sampling the local food. Sometimes it’s really good and sometimes it’s really bad. But more often than not we come out ahead.

Goodman’s was okay and if we were here again and hungry for barbecue we’d go back. But Terry and I agreed it wasn’t good enough to get included in our Favorite Restaurants book. I ordered a two meat combo with sliced pork and beef, along with fries, garlic toast, and fried corn on the cob. The portions were very generous, and while the food was okay, it was a bit dry and just not good enough to get excited about.

Goodmans BBQ

Terry had small bowl of Brunswick stew along with a baked sweet potato and fried green tomatoes. Again, she said it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, either. The good news is that all of that, plus as much iced tea as we could drink, all came to $19.95.

Brunswick stew

And, they have a big lot next to the restaurant that will accommodate large RVs. We know this because there was a Class A towing a car behind it parked there, and the people from the RV were inside having dinner.

We’ll have a short drive today, about 165 miles, to the Escapees Sumter Oaks campground near Bushnell, Florida. We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of friends who are in that area, Miss Terry wants to go to the big flea market in Webster and we will be setting up our Florida residency. So it’s going to be a busy time.

Thought For The Day Did you know that a candle flame smells just like burned nose hair?

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Feb 022016
 

That’s right, you people in the Sunshine State. Roll the awnings up, batten down the hatches, and put another log on the fire. We’re headed to Florida today!



We hope to get an early start (early for us being about 9 AM) and hopefully we will be able to outrun the storm that’s supposed to hit here in Baldwin County in the early afternoon. It’s a little over 450 miles to the Escapees Sumter Oaks RV Park near Bushnell, where we have reservations starting on Wednesday. I’m not sure how far will make it today, but I’d like to get at least 300 miles behind us. Right now the weatherman is predicting thunderstorms there Wednesday afternoon, and I’d like to be in and parked before they get there.

Terry was still hurting pretty bad yesterday, so we went back to the chiropractor down in Foley and he gave her another adjustment that seemed to help quite a bit. Hopefully she’ll start feeling better before too long. But I suspect we may need to find a chiropractor for her somewhere around Bushnell while we are there.

When we were done at the chiropractor’s we stopped at a nearby bank to see if we could get some paperwork notarized that we needed to send to the Escapees Mail Service to establish our mailing address in Bushnell so we can switch our legal domicile to Florida. But though they had a notary public on duty, they only provide that service to their customers, even though we were willing to pay for it. There was also a notary at the UPS Store in Foley, but when I called she had left for the day.

As it turned out, the Foley Chamber of Commerce also has a notary, and she was happy to take care of it for us as well as making copies of our drivers licenses, passports, and Escapees lifetime membership card that we needed to include in the package to the mail service. When it was all done, I asked how much we owed her and she said nothing, it was a public service. Don’t you just love small town southern hospitality?



From there we drove up to the Super WalMart in Robertsdale to pick some things up we needed. The store is new since our last visit to the area and we liked it better than the old store down in Foley. It seemed to have a better selection of everything and we found several things that we couldn’t find last week at the Foley store.

After dinner I spent some time emailing back and forth with a soon to be fulltimer who has been RV shopping in the Phoenix area. He wrote me concerned because he found a four-year-old used diesel pusher that he and his wife think is the right rig for them. But a red flag went up when he asked about taking the rig to an independent inspector, which is something I recommend to anybody buying a used RV. He said he is paying for the inspection, and the dealer will allow him to have their lot guy take it to the independent inspector.

But they are demanding a $500 non-refundable fee that will not be included in the cost of the RV. So if the inspector finds a major problem that kills the deal, he’s out $500 to the dealer. The dealer is saying, “If your inspector finds a problem and you choose not to buy the RV, we have to keep your $500 for the half day or whatever it is off the lot. And if you do decide to purchase the motorhome, that $500 does not apply to the purchase price.” They assure him that’s normal in the business any time an RV leaves the lot prior to purchase.

I told him to run, not walk, away from that place. There are a lot of dealers selling RVs, go find a different rig from a reputable dealer who has nothing to hide.

Thought For The Day The best way to get something done is to begin.

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Sunday Means Ice Cream

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 012016
 

Miss Terry hasn’t been feeling very well so we didn’t do much of anything away from the motorhome over the weekend. She got a lot of laundry done and some other chores around the house, while I spent a lot of time researching and writing for my newest Big Lake mystery novel.



We did go for a walk around Rainbow Plantation Saturday afternoon and stopped to admire this house for sale. If we were ready to settle down and wanted to in southern Alabama near Gulf Shores, this place could be ideal. It has a big all steel pull through RV garage on the left, a car garage central, and 1450 square feet of living space. The original living space is L shaped center left, and on the right is an added second two-room suite with bedroom and bath that would be a great writing studio. There is a screened in porch all the way across the back. It’s on a half acre and the huge back yard has three separate insulated buildings, one a workshop, one an artist’s studio, and a smaller utility shed. It’s in immaculate shape and they are asking $215K, which seems like a heck of a deal.

Indigo house

At every Escapees RV park in the country, they have an ice cream social on Sunday afternoons, and they are always well attended. Yesterday’s event was no exception. The ice cream social was scheduled to begin at 6 PM, but when we got there a little after 5:30 a large crowd had already assembled. We saw a lot of familiar faces, got a lot of hugs, and everybody made us feel welcome.

Ice cream crowd

Ice cream crowd 2

The guys who dish out the treats were ready and raring to go.

Ice cream servers

This is Ray Blevins, the infamous Purple Man, who has been a fixture at Escapees events for as long as I can remember. We first met Ray at an Escapees chapter rally in Maine many years ago, where he was being tried by the rally’s kangaroo court for impersonating a grape. I didn’t know the man back then, but one look at the madness in his eyes and I knew I had found a kindred soul. So I came to his defense and told the jury that I had gone over to his RV that morning while he was having breakfast and he was sitting there in his robe and I saw his Grape Nuts. That was all they needed to hear; the charges were dismissed, and Ray and I have been buddies ever since. Of course, time has taken a toll on both of us and Ray isn’t a kid anymore. I think his mental state is all the way up to about age 12 or 13 these days.

Ray Blevins

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda today. It depends on how Terry is feeling. We may make another visit to the chiropractor that she saw on Friday. There’s been quite a bit of improvement, but she’s still got a ways to go before she feels back to normal.



Congratulations Bob Baskerville, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of John and Kathy Huggins newly updated and expanded So, You Want to be an RVer?: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle. We had 306 entries this time around, which I think is a new record. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day If you are not happy where you are, move. You’re not a tree.

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Jan 312016
 

Note: This story first appeared in the May-June, 2012 issue of the Gypsy Journal.

Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. has a long and interesting history. Most of us know it as the place where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14th, 1865, as the president and his wife attended a performance of Our American Cousin. What many do not know is the strange number of tragedies associated with the building and the Lincoln assassination. So many that a great number of people believe that the place is cursed.



Consider this: Abraham Lincoln was carried across the street from Ford’s Theatre to the home of a tailor named William Petersen, where he succumbed to his wound. A few years after the assassination, Petersen was found on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution, dead from an overdose of laudanum, a mixture of alcohol and opium. Just four months later, his wife followed him to the grave.

ford theater

Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancé, Clara Harris, were guests of the Lincolns’ that night, and Rathbone was stabbed by Booth when they struggled after the president had been shot. Severely wounded, Rathbone survived and eventually married Clara, who happened to be his stepsister (Rathbone’s widowed mother had married Harris’s widowed father.) Appointed U.S. Consul in Hanover, Germany, a few days before Christmas, 1883, Rathbone murdered Clara, then tried to kill their three children and himself. He spent the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Following a prolonged manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was cornered in a barn in northern Virginia. When he refused to surrender, the barn was set on fire, and a soldier named Thomas “Boston” Corbett shot him as he tried to escape. Booth died a few hours later. Corbett became a religious fanatic, castrating himself to prevent temptation from prostitutes. In the 1880s, Corbett served as assistant doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives until he was dismissed for pulling a revolver and threatening to shoot someone who did not bow their head during the opening prayer. He was declared insane and sent to an asylum, which he promptly escaped from. It is rumored that he died in a fire that destroyed much of the town of Hinkley, Minnesota, his last known residence.

Mary Todd Lincoln, who not only saw her husband murdered, but also outlived all but one of her children, attempted suicide and eventually lost her mind and was committed to a psychiatric hospital.



After Lincoln was killed, the building was purchased by the United States government and housed offices for various government entities. A report says that a woman whose last name was either Smith or Smithers worked as a secretary in the building and became very depressed soon after she started her job. One morning she woke up, served her husband and their four children breakfast, then shot them as they ate, before turning the shotgun on herself.

On June 9, 1893, the building was used as the clerk’s office for the War Department when the front of the building suddenly collapsed, killing 22 people inside and seriously injuring 68 more. After the building was repaired it was used as a warehouse for many years before it reopened as a museum and theater. But there are still those who believe ghosts haunt the historic structure and recount the fates of many acquainted with Ford’s Theatre and the Lincoln assassination.

Over the years there have been reports of strange happenings and ghostly apparitions in the theater. Some have claimed to glimpse Abraham Lincoln in the booth where he was shot, or to have spotted a grief stricken Mary Todd Lincoln. Are these sightings real, or simply the result of over active imaginations? Who knows? But if the spirits of those who have gone on before us can linger in this world, I think a place that has seen as much tragedy as Ford’s Theatre would be a fitting place for them to hang out.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of John and Kathy Huggins newly updated and expanded So, You Want to be an RVer?: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle. This is the guide to RVing that every wannabe, newbie, and veteran RVer should have on their bookshelf. 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.

Tent camping couple romantic sitting by bonfire night countryside

Thought For The Day Non-alcohol beer is for people who don’t want to get drunk, but do like to pee.

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Crunch Crunch

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 302016
 

For the last few days Terry has had a very stiff neck and a nagging headache. By Thursday evening it was so bad it was making her sick to her stomach and she said her whole body ached. So I asked the folks in the office here at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation if they knew of a good chiropractor in the area, and Millie Small recommended Doctor Hightower, down in Foley. She said that many of the folks here at the campground use him.



We went in to see him yesterday, and after taking x-rays he gave Terry an adjustment. The doctor is an old-fashioned bone cruncher who wants to help his patients in one visit if at all possible. Not like many of the chiropractors we’ve talked to across the country who only want patients who will be able to follow a “treatment plan” that requires you to come in a dozen times or more before they do you any good. I’ve got a couple of good friends who are chiropractors who say that’s more about marketing than treating a patient.

When we were done at the chiropractor’s we ran a couple of errands, and then decided to have lunch down in Gulf Shores. We love seafood and this is a great place to find it. It seems like there’s a seafood restaurant on every corner, ranging from small dive type places to expensive venues.

A very successful self-made businessman once told me that you don’t have to know everything in the world, you just need to know who to call when you have a question about something, and then trust the experts. So I called my buddy Greg White. Greg is not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, he also appreciates good food, and he grew up in Gulf Shores. I know if anybody could steer me right, it would be Greg.

He recommended DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen, which was just a block or so from the beach. We got there about 12:30 and there was a pretty good-sized crowd. When I went in to get my name on the list for a table the owner or manager, I’m not sure which, was on the phone with somebody who wanted to play 20 Questions. I could only hear her side of the conversation, but it went something like “Yes, we have seven lunch specials. Yes, we have seafood. Yes, we have shrimp. Yes, like I said we have seven lunch specials today. Yes, we have things besides seafood. Yes, you can get your seafood broiled or blackened if you don’t like it fried. Yes, we have oysters.”

Really? You call a place with seafood in the name and want to know if they serve seafood? You’re a real special kind of stupid, aren’t you? I had to give her credit. By then I’d have wanted to reach through the phone and strangle the person. Instead, when she finally got rid of him and hung up, I asked her if they had any lunch specials and if they served seafood. That got a laugh out of her.



It took us about 10 minutes to get seated, and Terry and I both ordered blackened grouper, hers with okra and fried green tomatoes and mine with French fries and corn fritters. One bite of our food was all it took to know that Greg had been right once again. (Yes Greg, you’re always right.) Our lunch was absolutely delicious, and DeSoto’s definitely gets added to our Favorite Restaurants guidebook.

Terry lunch

Nick lunch

After a couple more stops, we got back to the campground just in time to pick up a package that was waiting for us in the office and then to go over to the activity center for social hour. We saw several folks we knew, including Norm and Linda Payne, who we have known for many, many years and always enjoy crossing paths with. They have a home here at Rainbow Plantation and we had a nice chat with them, sharing some laughs about our adventures on the road.

The chiropractic adjustment helped Terry quite a bit, though she’s still not feeling completely back to normal yet. Several people have asked us to get together for dinner while we’re here, but we’ll have to play it by ear and see how she feels. A couple of people have said they might stop over during the day and visit. That’s always one of the great things about visiting an Escapees park, we are all part of a big extended family and you’re never a stranger at any of them you go to.

So far over 250 people have entered our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of John and Kathy Huggins newly updated and expanded So, You Want to be an RVer?: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle. This is the guide to RVing that every wannabe, newbie, and veteran RVer should have on their bookshelf. 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.

Tent camping couple romantic sitting by bonfire night countryside

Thought For The Day If there’s a wrong place and a wrong time, you can bet I’ll be there.

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Jan 292016
 

We drove across the bay to spend yesterday playing tourist in Mobile, and if you’re ever in this part of Alabama, you really need to make some time to explore this historic city which was first settled by the French in 1702. But Mobile has also been under British and Spanish rule before Alabama became part of the United States and then saw the Confederate flag fly over it during the Civil War.



Our first stop was at the small but very interesting Mobile Medical Museum, which displays an interesting, if somewhat gruesome at times, collection of early day medical instruments ranging from bloodletting tools to amputation saws and forceps used in child delivery.

Medical Museum sign small

Among the displays was an iron lung. As a kid during the polio outbreaks of the 1950s I had a cousin who was afflicted by the horrible disease. I can still remember the terror so many adults had, even though us kids could not understand it.

Iron Lung small

But until I saw this picture of a polio ward at a hospital in California it never really hit home just how devastating it all was. Many people spent their entire lives in these machines, and Raven Christopher, the museum’s Executive Director, said there are a few people still alive who have been in one for as much as 60 years. I just cannot imagine that.

Iron Lung ward small

Raven spent a lot of time with us telling us about the early days of medicine in this part of Alabama. She was very nice young woman and we really enjoyed visiting with her.



When we left the museum we stopped at Battleship Memorial Park, home to the USS Alabama, which was launched in 1942 and saw heavy action in World War II.

Battleship Memorial Park entrance small

USS Alabama best small

The park is also home to the USS Drum, a World War II submarine that made twelve combat patrols in the Pacific, taking a heavy toll on Japanese shipping. There are also more than two dozen military aircraft on display at the park. We will have feature stories on the Mobile Medical Museum and Battleship Memorial Park in a future issue of the Gypsy Journal.

On the way home we stopped at Felix’s Fish Camp, an excellent seafood restaurant where we dined on our anniversary years ago on our first trip through this area. I had the blackened redfish, which was excellent, while Terry ordered sautéed white fish with grits cakes. She said it was some of the best fish she has ever eaten anywhere.

Felix sign

Felix Fish Camp small

Our last stop of the day was at Maeher State Park, located right on Mobile Bay. The park includes a 300 foot fishing pier, boat ramp, and 61 full hookup RV sites. Our friend Jack Allen recommended it to me last week when we were in Tuscaloosa, and the next time we come through this area we may give it a try. It’s a nice looking place.

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for today. We may do some more exploring, we may just take it easy and do nothing. Sometimes doing nothing can be a lot of fun.

So far over 200 people have entered our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of John and Kathy Huggins newly updated and expanded So, You Want to be an RVer?: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle. This is the guide to RVing that every wannabe, newbie, and veteran RVer should have on their bookshelf. 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.

Tent camping couple romantic sitting by bonfire night countryside

Thought For The Day In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put “DOCTOR.”

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