Nick Russell

Cajun Cooking!

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

I’ve been working hard to get the new issue of the Gypsy Journal finished, and when I knocked off about 9:30 last night I had about three pages left to go. I’ll finish it up today and print it out so Terry can give it a final proofreading, then I’ll make the corrections and get it sent out to our subscribers sometime tomorrow.



Then I can’t decide if I should start on the next book in the Big Lake mystery series, or the second book in my new John Lee Quarrels series. I’ve got plenty of ideas for new books in both of them, now all I need is the time to write them.

While I was doing that, Miss Terry was proofing the stories as I printed them out. She was also busy making a delicious dinner of red beans and rice with Louisiana Cajun Andouille sausage. To say it was absolutely delicious would be a big understatement. Among her many talents, this beautiful lady of mine really knows how to cook!



As if that wasn’t enough, later in the evening she whipped up a batch of delicious made from scratch peanut butter cookies and another of oatmeal raisin walnut cookies. Terry loves to bake, but out of respect for me asking her not to do it as much, because I have absolutely no willpower and eat anything like that in sight, she doesn’t get to do it as much as she would like. That’s why she likes it when we have friends nearby that she can bake for.

While I have been busy working on the new issue of the paper, I’m afraid I’ve let my email back up a little bit. I’ve answered the most pressing questions that people have asked me, but there are couple dozen that I’m just going to have to get to when I’m done with the new issue and have the link sent out to our subscribers. I appreciate your patience.

On the subject of emails, please, please do not forward stuff to me. Especially political stuff. I don’t open forwards from anybody, so all you are doing is wasting your time and filling up my inbox with junk that I have to delete. I have had to block several people from sending emails to me at all because they can’t seem to get that message. I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s kind of disrespectful to insist on sending something to someone repeatedly once they’ve asked you not to.

It’s RV show season, with the big Hershey (Pennsylvania) show coming up next month. To help you navigate your way through a big RV show, our friends John and Kathy Huggins from Living the RV Dream are offering their pamphlet How to Survive an RV Show…and Make it a Great Experience free on Amazon through Friday. Be sure to download a copy, it has lots of great tips to save you time and money at the show.

And while you’re at Amazon, my good friend Mona Mellissa Ingram has just released Forever and a Day, the 8th and last book in her very popular Forever romance series. Check it out, Mona is a prolific and excellent author.

Thought For The Day – If you want something badly enough, you’ll put your excuses aside and go after it.

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An Easy Day

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 292016
 

We were up early yesterday morning, getting ready for our 140 mile trip back to Elkhart, Indiana. Since Terry put away a lot of stuff inside the motorhome the night before, we had time to do everything else that needed done at a leisurely pace.



Fisherman’s Landing in Muskegon, Michigan only has RV sites with water and electric, and a dump station. So once Terry had her loom stashed away in the back of the motorhome and our computers secured, and I had the water and electric disconnected, it didn’t take long to be ready to roll. We pulled out of our site and I stopped at the dump station to empty our holding tanks.

While I was doing that, Terry hooked our Ford Explorer to the Blue Ox tow bar, then went into the office to get back the $20 deposit we had to leave for the electronic key card to access the campground. The automatic gate was open for the entire week we were there because they were waiting for the parts to come in to repair it, but we still had to pay the deposit and keep the card with us, just in case they did get the part and fixed it, I guess.



We left Fisherman’s Landing at 10 AM and headed south on US Highway 31. Southbound traffic can be heavy on Sunday afternoon, but that early in the day there wasn’t much to deal with and we rolled right along. There were a couple of construction zones where we had to merge into a single lane, and even then we didn’t have the usual idiots who stayed in the disappearing lane waiting until the last minute to try to force their way into traffic.

We had about half a tank of fuel on board, so we stopped at a Pilot truck stop a few miles north of the Indiana state line to fill up. We only had a little over 35 miles to go to our destination at that point, but we will be sitting still for at least a week or two, and I always like to have a full tank when I arrive. That way if power goes out, as sometimes happens in campgrounds, we can run our generator as long as we need to. It’s just one of those tricks that fulltime RVers learn from experience. Kind of like always having half a tank of water on board, for the same reason. More than once we’ve been in a campground when somebody ran over a water bib and they had to shut the water down to repair it. It’s all part of that Boy Scout training – Be Prepared.

We arrived back at Elkhart Campground a little before 1 PM and parked in the same site we had been in for several weeks before we left, right next to the dog run. We timed it pretty well, because not long afterward it began to rain.

Once we were parked and hooked up and had the motorhome back in some semblance of order, we relaxed for a little bit. Then our stomachs started growling, so we went to King Wa for an early dinner. Another storm system came through while we were in the restaurant, with a lot of thunder and lightning. But by the time we were done with our meals it has passed on.

When we finished eating we went to WalMart to stock up on some things and then came back home. Terry did some laundry and I made reservations for fifteen weeks at Thousand Trails campgrounds in Florida, starting October 30. We’ll rotate between the Orlando preserve and Three Flags in Wildwood, moving every two to three weeks. That’s going to cost us a total of $263.06. A pretty good deal if you ask me.

Of course, like all fulltimers, our plans are written in Jello and we may shake it up at any time. But it’s nice to have the reservations in place, Florida can get busy in the wintertime.

Before I close today, I want to wish our friend John Huggins from Living the RV Dream a happy birthday. I hope you have a great day, John. We’re looking forward to seeing you and Kathy when we get back to Florida.

John Kathy Huggins

Congratulations, Ann Finley, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. We had 63 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

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Back To Elkhart

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 282016
 

We have enjoyed our time visiting my cousin Berni and her husband Rocky and brother Gary here in Muskegon, Michigan, but they say all good things must come to an end. By the way, do you know who “they” are? Because whoever “they” are, they can be real party pooper sometimes.



Today we will return to Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana, where I will finish up the new issue of the Gypsy Journal and get it sent off to our subscribers. I’ve been working on it for a few hours every day while we’ve been here, and by the time I knocked off last night I had 28 pages done.

I’m really not sure how long we will be in Elkhart. We plan to stay there at least until after the Labor Day weekend, and maybe a little longer. We want to head back down south before too long and spend some more time in Florida looking for our winter base and possibly future retirement home. We thought we had a deal worked out on a place, but it seems to have gone sour. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make it happen or not but we are finding that it’s kind of hard to do some things long distance.



We should have a good traveling day, it’s only about 140 miles and the weather looks to be pretty good. Unlike yesterday morning, when we had a lot of rain here and the news said Elkhart got some pretty strong thunderstorms early in the day.

On another note, I got an email from a lady yesterday who said that she and her husband have been taking extended trips in their motorhome for the last four or five years, spending the winter in Florida. She said she has heard a lot of things about the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and wondered if it was someplace where we had spent much time, and also if I could recommend any other places in Texas that might be snowbird friendly.

I replied that while we know many RVers who go there every year and love it, and some who have made it their permanent home, we are not fans of the Rio Grande Valley, usually just called the Valley by RVers. It’s just not our thing. But I did tell her that we really enjoy the Texas Coastal Bend area, around Rockport, Port Aransas, and Aransas Pass. In fact, when we first started talking about getting a home base someplace, it was pretty high on our list of locations to consider.

They are small towns, very RV friendly, located right on the Gulf Coast, with all kinds of fishing and boating opportunities. And there are plenty of affordable RV parks to choose from. However, we like a little more greenery, and the landscape there is just a bit too dry for us. But for someone who hasn’t checked it out, I really recommend spending some time in the area. There’s a lot to like about it.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. 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.

Day After Never

Thought For The Day – Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.

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Ahoy And All That

 Posted by at 1:17 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 272016
 

Cousin Rocky is one of those guys who is interested in all kinds of things and always has a lot of irons in the fire. He was a private pilot, he’s a musician, he’s into astronomy, history, genealogy, and probably a lot of other stuff I don’t know about.



Rocky is also an accomplished sailor who has participated in the popular Mackinac Race several times, but now he has moved up to tall ships. He’s a volunteer at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, crewing on the tall ship Friends Good Will. In fact he recently sailed across Lake Michigan on the ship to participate in a tall ship event at Navy Pier in Chicago.

Rocky

So when he invited us to go on a sail with him yesterday afternoon, we were excited. I’ve been on a couple of tall ships before, including the USS Constitution, but they were all docked at the time. In fact, I had never been on the water in a sailboat of any kind.



The 101 foot long ship is a working replica of the original Friends Good Will, a merchant square-rigged topsail sloop that worked the Great Lakes before being captured by the British during the War of 1812. She was later recaptured by the United States Navy during the Battle of Lake Erie and served the American cause until she was burned by the British in December, 1813. Launched in August, 2004, today’s Friends Good Will is used to take passengers on cruises from the museum, and as a training vessel for volunteer sailors.

Ship

Ship broadside

Ship Stern

Our cruise began at 3:15 with the ship’s diesel engine taking us out past the lighthouse and into Lake Michigan. They had a full complement of crew and passengers on board, so Terry and I stood for the whole trip. And being a true landlubber, even though it was a calm day, I had to hold onto the rail most of the time to keep my balance.

Once we were out on the open water the engine was shut down and the sails were deployed. Passengers are welcome to pitch in and help haul the lines, and it was really amazing to see all of that canvas going up. One crewmember told me they have over 3,000 square feet of sail and two miles of rope.

Sails going up

It’s a long way up to the top by way of the rope ladder on the right side of this picture. And cousin Rocky has climbed up there. Cousin Rocky isn’t real bright.

Up at mast 2

I expected to see a big steering wheel, but there wasn’t. This is Mari Flynn, second in command during our cruise, using the tiller to steer the ship. It’s amazing how simple she makes it seem, moving it side to side in small increments to keep the ship on course.

Mari Flynn

After we sailed around for a while, Mari pulled the tiller all the way to the port side and I was amazed at how quickly the big ship came around to head back toward port.

This is the ship’s Captain, Megan Cairns, a beautiful and charming young woman who has been involved with sailing and tall ships since she was a teenager. We really enjoyed getting to know her and learning about how she started out as a Sea Scout when she was still in school and wound up being the captain of a tall ship.

Megan Carins

It was crowded on the deck, what with the crew, passengers, and all of the coiled lines and other paraphernalia needed for the tall ship. When we returned to port we waited until everybody else had left the ship so Terry could get a picture of the deck looking forward.

Deck

Thanks for inviting us Rocky, we really had a good time. We will have a feature story on the Michigan Maritime Museum in an upcoming issue of the Gypsy Journal.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. 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.

Day After Never

Thought For The Day – Lazy is such an ugly word. I prefer the term ‘selective participation.’

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Click Here For Back Issues Of The Gypsy Journal

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Kites And Mangos

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 262016
 

Like I have been doing, I spent much of yesterday working on the new issue of the Gypsy Journal, and by the time I knocked off a little after 4 PM I had ten pages done. But like they say, all work and no play makes Nick a dull boy. And the last thing I ever want to do is be dull!



So we picked up cousin Rocky and drove to the beach at Pere Marquette Park so we could introduce him to kite flying. It’s a hobby we really love, and knowing Rocky’s interest in aviation, sailing, and things like that, I thought it would be a good fit for him.

We have had pretty strong winds for the last three or four days, but yesterday afternoon it turned flaky. One minute the flag would be snapping on the flagpole at the beach, and a moment later the wind would die off and the flag would begin to sag. Far from ideal conditions, but we decided to give it a try anyway.



I started Rocky out with my dual line Prism Snapshot 1.9 speed foil. It took him a while to get the hang of it, and the wind didn’t help much. But after some practice he was able to get it in the air and keep it up there for a while.

Rocky Snapshot

I wish there would have been more wind so he could experience the pull this kite is capable of. Some of you may remember that this was the same kite that pulled me off my feet and drug me down the beach face first in Florence, Oregon last summer in 35 mile-per-hour winds.

Meanwhile, Miss Terry was trying to fly one of her quad-line Revolution kites, which are our true love. She started out with a mid-vent kite, but quickly switched to a full sail to try to take advantage of as much of the wind as there was.

Terry flying Rev

I packed the speed foil away and Terry turned the handles of her Revolution kite over to Rocky and gave him a quick lesson. It takes a while to get the feel of the lines, and unfortunately the wind was dying by the moment, so while he got it in the air a couple of times it didn’t stay up for very long. Hopefully we’ll get another chance while we’re here.

About the time we were putting the Revolution kites away Bernie and her brother Gary showed up and we headed out to a restaurant called Mangoes for dinner. I was tempted to try one of their Hangover burgers, which are topped with ham, bacon, an egg, and cheese. But I decided since we’re here in the Great Lakes I should try something local instead, and opted for the perch basket. It was okay, but I kind of wish I’d gone for the burger after all.

Mangos

Back at Rocky and Berni’s house, we played yet another game of Mexican Train. I had not won a game yet this visit, much to Berni’s delight, but this time around the domino gods were smiling on me. I got off to a slow start, but managed to pull it out and score a win with the last round. Yes, victory is indeed sweet!

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. 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.

Day After Never

Thought For The Day – The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.

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Click Here For Back Issues Of The Gypsy Journal

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Sea Lion Caves

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 252016
 

Note: This story appeared in the September-October, 2011 issue of the Gypsy Journal.



I love roadside attractions. I think my fascination with them started when I was a kid, rolling down Route 66 or old U.S. 30 in the back seat of my dad’s Hudson. I think we stopped at every teepee motel and tourist trap selling genuine Indian tomahawks that were made in China. I remember seeing a snake pit where live rattlers hissed, an alligator farm in Florida, and a dozen or more places with everything from bears to mountains lions in cages. Even today, it’s hard for me to drive past one of these places without stopping.

An interesting attraction on the Oregon coast is Sea Lion Caves, located eleven miles north of Florence, on U.S. Highway 101. At 125 feet high and covering two acres, it is America’s biggest sea cave.

Sea Lion Caves

The cave, and rugged rock formations at its entrance, are the only known mainland rookery of the Stellar sea lion. Here visitors can see not only Steller sea lions, but also California sea lions, an occasional orca or grey whale, and an amazing variety of sea birds.

Sea lion group 2

The caves were first discovered in 1880 by a local seaman, Captain William Cox, who entered in a small boat on a calm day. Cox returned to explore the caves many times and legend has it that on one occasion, he was marooned for almost a week by bad weather and high waves that kept him from getting back out. Cox later said that he shot a young sea lion and ate its flippers while he was stranded.

In 1887, Cox purchased the land from the state, and it remained in the family until 1926. In the early days there were no roads in the remote region and the family grazed sheep on the steep hillsides above the water.



An entrepreneur named R. E. Clanton acquired the property in 1927, partnering with J. G. Houghton, and J. E. Jacobson to develop the caves as a tourist attraction. A 1500 foot trail was built down the face of the cliffs to a 135 step wooden tower, which led down into the caves.

Sea Lion Caves opened for business in the summer of 1932, and though only gravel roads led to the attraction, an ever growing number of visitors came to descend down to sea level to view the sea lions. In 1961, an elevator was added, which made accessing the caves easier for visitors, and tourist traffic has grown ever since.

Today an elevator takes visitors down to the Whale Watching Deck, which offers a 20 mile view out to sea, making it a popular platform for whale watching. While orcas migrate past the caves every year, typically several grey whales stay in the area and can be seen any time of the year.

Winter and spring are the best times to see Steller sea lions and California sea lions inside the cave, when they seek shelter from rough water. They rear their young and lounge on rocks at a rookery just outside the cave’s entrance in the summer and fall.

Sea lion group 2

On our visit, we saw a large number of sea lions, as well as an impressive number of birds, which included pigeon guillemots, which are a migratory bird of the murre family.

These interesting birds spend the winter far out to sea, only coming to land to build nests of seaweed or grass on the ledges inside the caves, where they lay one or two eggs. The parents feed small fish to their young until they are able to fend for themselves.

But while the birds are interesting, here it’s all about the sea lions. Steller sea lions can be found from California to the Bering Sea. Mature females (cows) average from eight to nine feet in length, and weigh from six to seven hundred pounds. The bulls are much larger, averaging twelve feet in length and weigh around 1500 pounds, though some large bulls have been known to weigh well over a ton.

Snooty sea lion

Their pups average four feet long at birth, and weigh 40 to 50 pounds. At birth, they are slate gray in color, turning dark brown after about six months, and at age two they begin to acquire the lighter tan color of adults. Pups remain with their mothers for over a year, growing rapidly to about six feet long at the end of their first year.

Sea Lion scratching 2

In the spring, bulls gather a harem of 10 to 20 cows and keep them together until breeding is finished in early July. Younger, smaller bulls are driven away until they are older and large enough to fight the older males to win their own harems.

Sea lions feed on bottom fish such as skate, small sharks, squid, and various species of rock fish. The Steller sea lion has no fur, but rather short hair about one inch long on its body. Mature bulls have slightly longer hair, resembling a mane around their necks. Their average life span is about 20 years.

The cave also included two sea lions skeletons on display. One is of an old bull that Captain Cox discovered in 1880. The other skeleton is that of a young female that was found near Newport, Oregon with a fatal gunshot to the head. When alive, she was over seven feet long and weighed 327 pounds.

Sea lion skeleton 2

Even with access to the Whale Watching Deck, visitors with physical limitations might experience difficulties at Sea Lion Caves. Once on the deck, a series of steps lead from the elevator that takes you down into the caves. The elevator is not wheelchair accessible. There are about 400 yards of uphill and downhill walking at a grade that ranges from 10% to 20%. There are also 63 steps in the cave.

While there are small parking lots on both sides of Highway 101, larger RVs can find parking up a short hill on the inland side of the highway. There is also a large paved parking area just north of the caves, which offers some excellent views of sea lions longing on the rocks below. There is no charge for parking.

Sea Lion Caves is open daily from 8:30 a.m. The last tickets are sold at 7 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, seniors are $13, and children ages 3 to 12 are $8. Children under 2 are admitted free.

For more information about Sea Lion Caves, call (541) 547-3111, or e-mail them at info@sealioncaves.com.

It’s Thursday, which it means it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. 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.

Day After Never

Thought For The Day – In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

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Click Here For Back Issues Of The Gypsy Journal

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Working And Playing

 Posted by at 12:20 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 242016
 

That’s what we have been doing. I spent much of the day yesterday working on the new issue of the Gypsy Journal and Miss Terry was proofing things as I printed them out. There was a good stiff breeze blowing and I was really tempted to go down to the beach and do some kite flying, but there wasn’t time for it.



But we did get to play, too. When my cousin Berni got off work at 5 o’clock, we picked her up and went to a place called Brann’s Steakhouse for dinner. We ordered an appetizer and something to drink and chatted until her husband Rocky got there, and then the four of us ate together. Brann’s has about a dozen locations in Michigan. I don’t think the menu selection is quite as large as Texas Roadhouse, but everything we had was good.

After dinner we went back to Rocky and Berni’s apartment and played Mexican Train and had some of Miss Terry’s delicious chocolate cake. And of course there were a lot of laughs shared around the table.

The other day Rocky showed us something really interesting, an online service called Curiosity Stream that has all kinds of videos from hundreds of content creators. Rocky streams it to his television. I was really impressed with the variety of documentaries and how-to videos available, everything from history and aviation to cooking, science news, do-it-yourself projects, health, travelogues, and a lot more. For anyone with unlimited bandwidth who likes to learn, it’s really cool.



Back at home, I had about a dozen e-mails to answer, including one from someone complaining about how rude RVers and RV parks are toward animal lovers. He said they have five dogs and acknowledged that yes, they do bark a lot, but he thinks it’s terrible that the last six RV parks they have been in have asked them to leave early because of complaints about their animals. Fellow, I’m thinking that if six parks in a row want you to take your dogs and leave, the problem might be inside your RV.

Since releasing my new book Stillborn Armadillos Monday evening, sales have been very good. It climbed up to #2792 in all of Amazon yesterday afternoon. And as of last night it already had two five-star reviews! Thank you to everybody who purchased the book, told their friends about it, and shared a link to it on Facebook. I really appreciate it.

Somebody asked if this means I’m not going to be doing the Big Lake mystery series anymore. Don’t worry about that, there’s still a lot happening in Big Lake and as soon as I get the new issue of the paper out, I’ll be back to writing again. I will probably alternate between the books in the series, just to shake things up a little bit.

Thought For The Day – If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they’d eventually find me attractive.

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Moved To Muskegon

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 232016
 

When we arrived at Elkhart Campground in early June we were told that a big RV rally was scheduled for the third week of August and the entire place was sold out. That wasn’t a problem for us because whenever were in this part of the country we always come up to Muskegon, Michigan to spend time with my cousin Berni Frees and her husband Rocky.



So we left Elkhart on Sunday for the 140 mile trip, an easy run here to Fisherman’s Landing, a city-owned campground and marina where we have stayed many times before. We were able to get two days under Passport America, and the rest of the week was at their full rate of $35 a night. That got us a 50 amp site with water, and the campground has a dump station. That’s a bit more money than we usually spend on a campsite, but location is everything, and it’s only about a five minute drive from Rocky and Berni’s apartment.

Fishermans Landing RV park

The campground has both waterfront and interior sites, and it’s a popular place on weekends. The rest of the week it’s not very crowded.

Fishermans Landing view 2

We love spending time with them and always have a good time together. This trip has been no exception. Sunday they came over, along with Berni’s brother Gary, as soon as we were settled in, and we all went out to a Chinese buffet. We’ve eaten there in the past and it was okay, but not great. However, things seem to have gone downhill and we all agree that it was probably our last time to eat there. Back at their apartment we played Mexican Train and shared a lot of laughs before we got tired from getting up early two days in a row and called it a night.



Yesterday Miss Terry made a delicious chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, which we took over to their place. Rocky grilled some cheeseburgers, and everything was wonderful.

When we leave here we plan to go back to Elkhart until after the Labor Day holiday, then we’ll set out on our fall/winter travels.

Rocky had mentioned a movie they had seen called The Finest Hours, about a Coast Guard crew who went out to sea in a terrible storm to rescue the crew of a sinking oil tanker, and we said we would like to see it. So Rocky rented it again, and if you have not seen this film, which is based on a true story, do yourself a favor and get it. It’s an excellent movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Yesterday afternoon I released my newest mystery novel, Stillborn Armadillos. It’s the first in my new John Lee Quarrels mystery/thriller series, and it already has its first five-star review. It’s available now in the Amazon Kindle store and on iBooks, and it should be out on all other e-book venues soon.

Stillborn Armadillos cover

This is my fourth book this year and I hope to get out one or two more by the end of the year. I appreciate everybody who buys my books, tells their family and friends about them, and leaves reviews. You guys are great.

Thought For The Day – There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

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Hubbell Trading Post

 Posted by at 12:14 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 222016
 

Note: This is a reprint of a story that previously appeared in the Gypsy Journal.

During the second half of the 1880s, entrepreneurs set up trading posts on many Indian reservations to supply everything from food staples and tobacco to farming equipment. Many times the traders accepted animal furs, Indian artwork, and crafts in lieu of cash for payment.



One of the most famous of these trading posts was the one operated by John Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, Arizona. Unlike many traders who took advantage of their customers, Hubbell had a good relationship with the Navajo people and they shared a mutual respect. Hubbell became the foremost Navajo trader of his time, building a trading empire that included stage and freight lines as well as trading posts. Eventually Hubbell and his two sons owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties.

Outside

Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing, consistently demanding and promoting excellence in craftsmanship.

Established in 1878, Hubbell family members operated the Ganado trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1965. While the property is managed by the Park Service as a National Historic Site, the trading post store is still active and is operated by Western National Parks Association, a non-profit association that continues the trading business of the Hubbell family.



While the store still stocks a few basic grocery items and snacks, today the inventory is mostly Navajo rugs and tapestries, Indian jewelry, and crafts.

Counter

Besides the trading post itself and the Hubbell family home, the complex includes a National Park Service Visitor Center that has a small book store and a loom where Navajo women demonstrate their weaving skills. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the demonstration ended.

Loom

The Hubbell family home houses the family’s private collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts. The Park Service brochure says the home is available for guided tours, but it was closed during our visit.

We spent some time poking around in the trading post store, admiring the beautiful Navajo rugs and the silver and turquoise jewelry on display.

Blankets

Jewelry

The two ladies working in the store were very friendly and helpful. We didn’t purchase anything, because when you live in an RV, space is always a limitation. But there were a couple of weavings that Miss Terry sure wanted to take home with her.

Showcase

I had a good time just taking pictures of all of the neat stuff on display inside the trading post, as well as outside.

Wagon2_thumb[1]

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is located on U.S. Highway 264, a mile west of its junction with U.S. 191 in Ganado. It is 37 miles from Ganado to Interstate 40. Summer hours at Hubbell Trading Post are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, from April 30th to September 8th. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily from September 9th through April 29th.

There is a very short, sharp turn off the highway and it would be difficult for large RVs. When we arrived there was an eighteen wheeler in the parking lot dropping off supplies, and it did not go out the main entrance. But the woman in the Visitor Center just gave me a blank stare when I asked about RV access. I guess she was having a bad day, and my presence didn’t help it any.

Congratulations Deborah Besmen, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of the paranormal romance Midnight Moonrising by my friend Kristie Haigwood. We had 43 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – The greatest wealth is to live content with little – Plato

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Aug 212016
 

Miss Terry loves the fiber arts. Spinning, weaving, crocheting, and knitting. You name it and she does it. So she was really looking forward to the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan this weekend.



Allegan is about 90 miles from Elkhart Campground, and we got there about 11 a.m. We were only a few steps inside the first building when somebody said, “Hello, Miss Terry.” It was blog reader Lynn Russell (no relation), who was also there checking out all the goodies. And there were a LOT of goodies!

Terry was like a kid in a candy store with so much on display. There was every kind and texture of yarn you could possibly imagine, in every color of the rainbow.

Yarn display

Yarn display 3

Yarn display 2

There were some very nice baskets available in a variety of sizes.

Baskets 2

Baskets

There was also all kinds of equipment, from spinning wheels and looms to about a million different sizes of knitting and crochet needles.

Spinning wheel

This is called a triangle loom.

Triangle loom

This is a yarn swift and is used to wind yarn.

Yarn swift

And these are simple hand spindles for spinning yarn.

Spindles

Several people were spinning and demonstrating other fiber art skills.

Woman spinning

And where does all of that yarn come from? Critters! Sheep, alpaca, even rabbits. This man was demonstrating shearing sheep. It doesn’t hurt the animals and reminded me of my first haircut in Army basic training.

Shearing sheep

And this is how us new recruits all looked after we saw the barber!

Bald sheep

We have had rain on and off for several days and it was a gray cloudy day. All of a sudden the warning sirens went off and somebody came over the PA system saying that a tornado had been spotted in the area and told everybody to go to a set of bathrooms across from the exhibit hall we were in.



So here we are, crowded in with a couple hundred of our new best friends.

Bathroom group

We were in there quite a while, everybody’s phones going off with severe weather alerts. It was hot and stuffy but everyone seemed to be handling things well. Eventually an all clear was issued and people started to leave, then they turned around and came right back inside because the police had received a report of a second tornado spotted. The news said a couple of twisters touched down in the area and did some damage, but fortunately there were no reports of injuries.

This is my little buddy Caleb. He is eight years old and was there with his mom. He was pretty scared of the tornado, so much so that his teeth were chattering. So I got down on my knees and spent some time visiting with him to take his mind off of things. I told him to hang onto me if he wanted to, because fat guys don’t blow away no matter how bad the wind gets. I guess it helped, because he was smiling by the time the all clear was finally issued and we parted company.

Nick and Caleb

All in all, it was a fun day in spite of the tornado scare, and Terry was able to find some new toys and some beautiful yarn, which made the trip worthwhile.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of the paranormal romance Midnight Moonrising by my friend Kristie Haigwood. 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.

Midnight Moonrising

Thought For The Day – If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

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