Nick Russell

Six Out Of Eight

 Posted by at 12:23 am  Nick's Blog
May 152018

I wanted to give you an update on our erosion control project. In a blog a few days ago I said that we tried sinking the first two 5-foot lengths of PVC pipe into the ground and got them down a foot or so and ran into rock or something and couldn’t pound them in any deeper. It was over 90° and pretty miserable out there so we knocked off and decided to go back at it the next day.

When we started the next day, Miss Terry found a piece of rebar that somebody had abandoned a while back and she used that to probe the ground in a circle roughly the diameter of where we wanted to put the next pipe. That did an amazing job of making things easier for us!

It only took a couple of hours to sink the next four pipes a couple of feet into the ground when she had prepped each location with the rebar. It really made a difference! It also helped that it wasn’t nearly as hot on that second day. So now we have six PVC pipes in the ground and still need to put two more in.

I also want to get them all down to the same height before we fill them with concrete. The engineer friend of mine who has been advising us told me to get a 5 foot length of three-quarter inch PVC and to glue a garden hose fitting on one end, making a water drill out of it. Then he said to stick it all away down in the PVC we are installing until it’s touching the ground and turn the water on and let it run until it starts breaking the dirt up so we can get down deeper. This is the same method they use to sink pilings for piers, just on a smaller scale.

A couple of readers have asked why we didn’t use some kind of metal fence posts instead of the PVC. We considered that, but we are 800 yards from salt water and things like that don’t seem to last long in this environment unless they are galvanized. And, because it will be bordering the county’s ditch, they won’t let us use metal because they say it will eventually rust and pollute the water in the ditch as it flows into the canal and then the Indian River, which is part of the Intercoastal Waterway.

They have a lot of dumb rules here. For example, the fish cleaning station on our pier had a fresh water hose to rinse things off with. Some bean counter from an office someplace came along and said that wasn’t allowed because the fresh water would pollute the salt water of the Intercoastal. I guess nobody told them that rain is fresh water, and so is the water flowing from the storm ditches like the one next to us.

Some readers have asked me how I feel about the cold laser therapy that I’ve had done on my back recently. Overall, I’m very pleased with the results. I am feeling a lot better than I was before I started it, and I’m continuing with it three days a week. When you consider that just a few weeks ago I needed two canes to walk and was in agony, and now I’m out pounding those PVC pipes into the ground, I think it’s made a tremendous difference.

It started raining sometime Sunday night, and has been pretty much nonstop since then. The weatherman says we will get a few short breaks, but that’s pretty much what we can expect for the rest of the week. I’m thinking that all that rain has to have softened the ground up somewhat, and when we do get one of those lulls between the storms we plan to get those next two pipes pounded in so we can proceed to the next phase of the project once the weather clears up.

And in closing, here is another funny sign from our collection acquired traveling around the country as fulltime RVers.

Thought For The Day – Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. – Amy Poehler

A Great Unplanned Day

 Posted by at 12:38 am  Nick's Blog
May 142018

We were supposed to get a lot of rain yesterday and since we have been busy for several days in a row, Terry and I decided to just have a laid-back stay-at-home do-nothing day. That was the plan. But you know what they always say – if you want to hear God laugh, just make plans.

As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a very flaky area for Verizon cell phone service. Sometimes I will have four bars of 4G and two minutes later it will be down to one bar, or even no service at all, even though I haven’t moved. Sometimes Terry will have three or four bars of 4G on her phone, which is the exact same make and model as mine, and I will be sitting next to her and not have any service at all. Yesterday morning was typical of that; first my phone had turned itself off for some reason, even though the battery was fully charged, and once I turned it back on everything seemed okay for the first half hour or so. Then I got notice that I had text messages and voicemail, and they had come in quite a while earlier.

They were from our buddy Stu McNicol, a longtime friend from our RVing days, saying that he had come down from Tennessee to pick up some things that were in a storage shed on an RV lot that he and his wife Donna had recently sold. Stu said he and his friend Earl were headed back home, but wondered if we could meet someplace for lunch. Okay, scrap the plan for staying home and doing nothing, let’s go meet Stu and Earl!

They were in Leesburg and we were here in Edgewater, and it looked like a convenient place to meet would be Deland. I did a quick Yelp search and found a small family type restaurant called the Potato Patch, and texted the name and address to Stu. We were both about 25 miles away, and arrived within minutes of each other.

As always happens when Stu and I get together, there was a lot of good-natured banter and storytelling going on during our meal and afterward. Suddenly I realized that we were the only patrons still in the restaurant, and I asked the waitress what time they closed. She said at 2 PM, which was 45 minutes ago. Oops!

We got out of there so they could close up, then the four of us stood around the parking lot for another hour or so swapping lies. Here’s a picture of Terry, me, and Stu. He’s the skinny guy on the right. Since we last saw him, Stu has dropped something like 30 or 40 pounds. I’m the not skinny guy in the middle. I lost a lot of weight one time, but my fat missed me and hurried back.

And here’s a picture of Earl, myself, and Stu that Miss Terry took.

I call this picture American Gothic Reborn. Anytime Stu and I get together, it’s always good to have a shovel around because things tend to get deep. Terry has the leaf blower to move some of our hot air around so we don’t spontaneously combust.

Thanks for taking time out of your trip to visit with us, Stu and Earl. We really enjoyed it! Safe travels.

After we parted company, Terry and I stopped at Rivertown Antique Mall in downtown Deland to see what kind of goodies they might have. She found a very nice weaver’s pirn and also a big, thick, and very heavy antique cutting board at an unbelievable price.

On the way home we made a quick stop at Publix grocery store and got back to the house about 6 PM, a bit tired from our great unplanned day, but so glad we had the opportunity to get together with Stu and to meet Earl.

Congratulations Robert John, winner of our for an audiobook of A Shot In The Bark, the first book in my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park mystery series. We had 57 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – The cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. – Henry David Thoreau

Happy Mother’s Day

 Posted by at 12:53 am  Nick's Blog
May 132018

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Moms out there! I hope you have a wonderful day, surrounded by lots of love. If you have not called your Mom to tell her you love her yet today, go do it right now. She’s waiting to hear from you.

My own dear mother has been gone 26 years now, and I miss her every day. She was a sweet lady who was loved by everyone who ever met her. Life didn’t always treat her kindly. She outlived five of her eight children, but she overcame her heartbreak each time, picked up the pieces, and went on with her life.

She was a typical stay at home mother, like many women of her generation. She took pride in having a clean house and taking care of her family. She tried to learn to drive a car once, and her only time behind the wheel she put my dad’s DeSoto in a ditch. That was enough driving for her!

She was also as fierce as a mama bear defending her cubs. Long before I came along she had a hard birth bringing my brother Frank into the world and the doctor ordered her to stay in bed for several weeks. This was in 1931, and my dad was a young deputy sheriff. He had made some enemies among a group of local ne’er-do-wells who swore to get even. They knew where my parents lived and made it known they might show up some day when he was at work. Sure enough, they did, walking right into their bedroom. My mom was nursing the baby, but laid him beside her, pulled the .32 revolver my dad had left her from under er pillow, and fired a shot into the ceiling above their heads. As plaster rained down on them, she said the next shot would be in somebody’s head. I don’t think they heard her because they were too busy running over each other trying to get out of Dodge. In the weeks that followed, my dad sought out each of them and convinced them never to show their faces around the area again.

Mom never lost her sense of humor, no matter what happened. She passed that on to me, and it has helped me deal with plenty of setbacks in my own life. As the youngest of her children I was always her baby, even when I became a grown man with children of my own. I know I gave her fits sometimes, and though she was a short little round woman, she could hold her own.

I’ve been asked a couple of times to repost this story I told a few years back about my mom, and it’s the most hilarious memory of her I have, though it didn’t seem at that funny at the time.

When I was a young soldier, I was offered an opportunity to go to jump school and fell in love with the romantic idea of jumping out of airplanes for a living and wearing the coveted silver wings of an Airborne trooper. I called my dad to tell him that I had been accepted to jump school and his first words were “Why the hell would you want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Only bird shit and fools fall out of the sky.” His next words were “DO NOT tell your mother about this until you’re done! I have to live with the woman!”

So we kept it our secret until I made it through school, and then Dad brought Mom down to Fort Benning, Georgia for my graduation. She didn’t know what I was graduating from, just some Army training school. On graduation day we were to jump onto a drop zone where our families were waiting to see us. So bright and early on graduation morning my parents and a hundred other people were brought out in buses to the drop zone and ensconced on bleachers.

One officer after another made his little speech and then it was time for our dog and pony show. Far above, we got the word and began our jump. Meanwhile, on the ground, my mom had gotten frustrated waiting for her son to show up so she walked up to one of the men in uniform on the ground and said “My son is supposed to be graduating today. Do you know where he is?”

“Right up there, ma’am,” he told her and pointed to the paratroopers floating to the ground. That’s when all hell broke loose.

My chubby little mother pushed past the soldiers assigned to keep civilians off the drop zone and shook off their restraining arms as she stormed out into the middle of the graduates as they hit the ground and did their landing rolls, yelling “Nick, where are you? You get your butt down here right this minute! You know better than that! I didn’t raise you to break your legs doing something this stupid!” I swear I could hear her while I was still a hundred feet in the air!

And all the while, confused young paratroopers were getting to their feet and trying to collapse their chutes as she stormed up to them demanding to know where I was. Meanwhile, my dad (and much of the audience) was rolling around on the bleachers laughing their heads off.

Needless to say, when all the confusion died down, I had a lot of explaining to do! I’m not sure which put the fear of God into me more, facing my mom, or a hastily called meeting with our battalion commander. But she did calm down enough to pin on my wings, and I was the only graduate that day to get a standing ovation!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you, and I miss you.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of A Shot In The Bark, the first book in my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park 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 (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together. – Pearl S. Buck

May 122018

In yesterday’s blog I told you about my plan to sink some lengths of 4-inch diameter thick-walled PVC into the ground at the edge of a ditch that borders our property to help form a rough seawall to stop erosion and to give us something against which to put in some fill dirt to reclaim what we’ve lost already.

Even though it was really hot yesterday, in fact the hottest day of the year so far, I was eager to give it a try and see how hard it would be to sink the PVC. As it turned out, it’s going to take some work. Over the years rock and brick have been thrown in along the bank to stop the erosion, and it looks like that’s going to present a bit of an obstacle for us.

With Terry holding the PVC upright, I was able to pound the first 5 foot length into the ground about a foot and then I hit something solid and it wouldn’t go any deeper. I tried running water down through the PVC hoping that would loosen things up a little, but no luck.

Moving over a few feet, I started sinking a second piece and it went down easy for the first 14 or 16 inches, then the same thing happened. I hit something solid and that was it. It was about 90° and after a while Terry told me I had to stop because my face was getting pretty red. So we ran some more water into the PVC pipes, filling them both up to the brim, and called it a day. I’ll go back at it again today and see if that helped all. I need to get them down about 2 feet or a little more, so I’ve got a ways to go yet.

On another note, yesterday Terry and I both got the dreaded fake IRS scam phone calls within about a minute of each other. Both times our caller ID identified them as spam so we didn’t answer them. They left us messages and a number to call back if we didn’t want to go to jail. Maybe I should let them take me to jail. I bet if I spent a year or two busting rocks in a prison yard, by the time I got out sinking the rest of those PVC pipes would be a piece of cake!

I’m amazed at how many people actually do fall for stupid scams like this. I wonder if they ever read the newspaper or watch television, or log onto the Internet. You can’t go a day without some warning about these crooks. But they prey on the elderly and others who are gullible I guess, because people do indeed get victimized by them.

Are you a science-fiction fan? If you are, I’ve got good news for you. My friend Stephen Arseneault is currently offering an excellent deal on his Sodium sci fi series. Stephen is a great guy and an excellent author. The first eBook is free and the others are 99 cents each. This is a limited time offer, so take advantage of it while you can.

So far 45 people have entered our current Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of A Shot In The Bark, the first book in my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park 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 (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Sitting silently beside a friend who is hurting may be the best gift we can give.

May 112018

After reading yesterday’s blog about how quickly we filled up our house and garage after living in a motorhome for so many years, somebody e-mailed me to say that human beings are hoarders by nature and it’s ingrained into our DNA. Hey, I guess that’s as good an excuse as any.

We are about to take on another project here at the house. And this one is a bit intimidating. There is a county-owned flood control ditch that runs beside our property and feeds into a canal, which then feeds into the Indian River. Over time the bank on our side of the canal has eroded away. According to the man who mows our grass every week, and did for the previous owner as well, a piece of it about 20 feet long has lost about three feet in the last five years.

I had someone from Volusia County come out and check it out a year or so ago, and he didn’t seem to think it was a big issue. I guess if it’s not your place, it’s not a big deal. In the last year we’ve noticed that more of it has been lost and it’s getting close to our driveway. So the man from the county came out again this week and didn’t have much to suggest except that something needed to be done, but basically, it’s our problem to fix it.

In researching solutions, a while back I talked to a friend of mine who is an engineer and has built retaining walls and handled problems like this before. He said there are lots of ways to deal with it, and none of them are cheap. I, on the other hand, am cheap. My friend suggested that we try sinking some lengths of 4-inch diameter thick-walled PVC vertically into the ground at the edge of the ditch, fill them with dirt or cement for reinforcement, then lay railroad ties against the PVC tubes to form a rough seawall. Then we can haul in some fill to replace what has been washed away and raise it up to the proper level.

Stephen, my advisor, said to run water through a hose down into the PVC tube and it will help wash the ground away under it enough to make it easier to sink. This is basically the same technique they used to replace the pilings on our community pier after Hurricane Irma, only on a smaller scale. The other day I got a two foot long piece of the PVC and tried an experiment to see what it would do. Using just a piece of wood over the top of the PVC and pounding on it with a small handheld sledgehammer, I was able to sink it about 6 inches with no problem.

So yesterday we drove down to Lowe’s in Titusville, bought three 10-foot lengths of the PVC, had them cut in half, and then bought a post driver, which is basically a heavy-duty two-handed pounding device. We will give this a try and see what happens. I’ll let you know how it works out.

As we were driving into Titusville I noticed a bunch of cars parked along the water on US Highway 1 across from the Kennedy Space Center. It turned out SpaceX was going to be launching a Falcon 9 rocket, and lift-off was scheduled at 5:47 PM. That gave us an hour and a half or so to get our shopping done at Lowe’s and get back in time to see it.

We have seen a lot of rocket launches from our place here in Edgewater but have never been in Titusville to see one lift off from the Space Center. We arrived about twenty minutes before the scheduled launch and waited. And then we waited some more. And some more. Then it was announced that the launch had been scrubbed at the last minute because of some kind of technical issue. They re-set it for today, but I don’t think we’ll drive back down again, since they are saying there’s only about a 60% chance of it going up due to the weather. If it does happen, we will probably just watch it from here, like we always do.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of A Shot In The Bark, the first book in my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park 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 (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – A different you exists in the minds of everyone who knows you.

Making Room

 Posted by at 12:28 am  Nick's Blog
May 102018

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that two people who lived in a 320 square foot motorhome for so many years have been able to fill up this huge house and garage so quickly. Yet somehow, we’ve managed to do it.

When I first saw our 1100 square foot garage I thought it was big enough to park a fleet of cars in. Or boats. Or cars and boats. As it turns out, I was wrong. My 16 foot Key Largo center console boat took up some room, but not all that much. But when I replaced it with my 20 foot Bennington pontoon boat a lot of space went away. Not only is the pontoon longer, it’s also wider, and the tongue of its trailer is a lot longer. So much so that we could only park Terry’s Chrysler Pacifica in the garage with the boat, our two kayaks, and everything else inside. So my pickup has been sitting outside.

But the other day I got to thinking that there had to be a way to get a little more space. I started doing some research on Google and YouTube and sure enough, I found a solution.

The boat has been sitting on four wooden blocks inside the garage, with the scissor trailer cranked all the way down and sitting underneath it. I bought four Milwaukee furniture dollies, each 1000 pound capacity, and yesterday we cranked the scissor trailer up enough to lift the boat off the blocks, slid the dollies underneath the tubes front and back, and let the trailer back down.

Then it was a simple matter to slide the trailer out from under the boat and stash it in our carport. Then my buddy Jim Lewis and I were able to easily roll the boat wherever we wanted to in the garage.

So now it sits further back and closer to the side wall, and with the trailer gone, my pickup fits back inside easily. A bonus was that our two Old Town kayaks fit under the pontoon quite nicely, saving even more space.

Now we actually have a little more room in the garage. Stay tuned, I’m pretty sure we will fill it up before long.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of A Shot In The Bark, the first book in my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s excellent Dog Park 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 (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The word phonetically doesn’t even start with a F. Nonsense like this is why aliens fly right past us without stopping.

May 092018

There are a lot of interesting attractions and museums along the Oregon and Washington coasts, but in my opinion, the best of them all is the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.

The museum specializes in collecting and exhibiting maritime artifacts from the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. The Museum, which opened in 1962, has an amazing collection of more than 30,000 objects, 20,000 photographs, and a 10,000-volume research library, all telling the story of the brave men and women who have made their living on the treacherous shore of the Pacific Ocean and along the broad and wild Columbia River.

From the first Indians who fished these waters in primitive cedar canoes to the explorers, commercial fishermen, and deepwater sailors who literally cast their fates upon the waters, as well as the brave Coastguardsmen who put their lives on the line every day of the year to come to the rescue when things go bad, their experiences are all chronicled at the museum.

The museum’s six galleries, Great Hall, and the Lightship Columbia interpret the Pacific Northwest’s rich maritime history. Visitors of all ages can experience what it’s like to pilot a tugboat, participate in a Coast Guard rescue on the Columbia River Bar, and live in Astoria during the height of the salmon fishing industry. Huge windows along the north wall look out on the Columbia River, providing a dynamic backdrop for the museum’s exhibits.

The stretch of coastline from Tillamook Bay in Oregon, north to Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula, has been called the Graveyard of the Pacific due to the almost 2,000 vessels and hundreds of lives that have been lost to the rocks and towering waves that can smash even the largest ship to pieces in moments. But when the waters are calm and Lady Luck smiles on them, these same waters have yielded fortunes to those who are willing to work hard and risk everything in the hope of a big payoff.

Displays at the museum cover the history of the Columbia River, once a wild and treacherous waterway that has been tamed with a series of dams, and of the offshore waters of the Pacific. And separating the two is the notorious Columbia River Bar, where the strong current of the river meets the wild waves of the ocean head on.

Experienced mariners will tell you that there is no more dangerous or deadly piece of water in the world. Winter storms at the bar create giant waves, some over forty feet tall, than can toss even the largest modern cargo ships around like bathtub toys.

Skilled bar pilots are needed to safely guide ships across the bar, and these brave men put their lives on the line every day to make sure commercial vessels safely get across the bar and into the Columbia River, and back out to sea again when they leave port. Transported to waiting ships aboard specialized 73 foot long speedboats (below), the bar pilots then climb 20 to 30 feet, and sometimes as much as 50 feet up a rope ladder hanging from the side of the ship. Pilots try to grab the ladder while the pilot boat is on the crest of a wave, so that the boat falls away from the pilot on the ladder. This is the most dangerous part of their job, and one false move or freak wave can throw a pilot in the turbulent water below, or crush them between the ship and the pilot boat. The museum has a detailed exhibit on the vital job the bar pilots do.

The museum is an immense facility, housing several full size fishing boats, including open fishing boats like this (top), and a sailing gillnetter (bottom), once a common fishing vessel in this region, but now the only one of its kind left in the world.

Nearby is the Darle, a powered troller of the type that replaced the sailboats that came before.

Other boats on display inside the museum include small Coast Guard rescue craft and the CG44300, a Coast Guard lifesaving boat that served gallantly on the Pacific coast for 34 years. In her long and distinguished career the boat was rolled several times, and during one storm, 30 foot waves tumbled her end over end, but each time her design allowed the boat to right herself, and she survived.

During one mishap, in Yaquina Bay, a 10,000 ton freighter ran over the CG44300 while she was tied up at her dock. Everyone thought that was the end of the hardworking boat, but once the debris was cleared away, the CG44300 popped back to the surface, ready to go back to work, after minimal repairs!

Other displays at the museum include a beautiful collection of nautical artwork and model ships, scrimshaw, a whaling harpoon gun, and equipment used on the boats and ships that worked the Columbia. An 1841 U.S. Navy officer’s sword and scabbard on display was found buried on Clatsop Spit, and is believed to be from the shipwrecked USS Shark, which foundered on the Columbia River Bar in 1846. The oldest items in the museum’s collection are a wooden block and a chunk of beeswax from a 17th century Manila galleon that wrecked on Nehalem Spit.

The rarest item at the museum is a Northwest Company fur trade token, which was made in Birmingham, England by John Walker & Co. for fur traders. The tokens had a wide circulation in the trade network of Canada and the Columbia River Valley in Oregon. The copper and brass token is dated 1820, which is the last year they were made before the company was absorbed by the Hudson Bay Company.

Admission to the museum also includes a self-guided tour of the WLV-604 Lightship Columbia, a floating lighthouse that was stationed six miles off the mouth of the Columbia River for nearly 30 years, and is now berthed at the museum. Visitors are allowed to explore the lightship, from the crews’ quarters below decks to the bridge on top, including the officers’ quarters, mess deck, radio room, and galley. Designated a National Historic Landmark vessel, the Lightship Columbia was the last active-duty floating lighthouse on the West Coast when it was retired.

Serving as floating lighthouses, lightships were anchored over treacherous reefs, or marked narrow approaches to channels, rivers, or harbor entrances. Lightships not only provided a beacon where a traditional lighthouse could not stand, but they could also be stationed offshore, where a beam from a coastal lighthouse would not reach.

The first U.S. lightship provided aid to mariners entering Chesapeake Bay, and was stationed off Willoughby Spit, Virginia, in 1820. The last serving lightship, Nantucket WLV-613, was retired in 1983.

The Columbia was the first lightship on the West Coast and was stationed at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1892. Over the years a total of five lightships named Columbia were stationed at this location. The fifth Columbia is the one docked at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. She was built at Rice Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine, and commissioned on December 19, 1950. She arrived on station 5 statute miles from the mouth of the Columbia River, in April, 1951.

While in service the Columbia had a crew of seventeen, with ten men on duty at all times. The crew spent their off-duty time fishing, reading, playing cards, resting and eating. The Columbia tour is not recommended for individuals with mobility challenges, due to the lightship’s steep access ladders and elevated thresholds.

Even if you are a committed landlubber such as me, you will find the Columbia River Maritime Museum fascinating. We spent hours there during our visit, and could have stayed even longer if it wasn’t closing time.

The museum is located at 1792 Marine Drive, on Astoria’s waterfront, in the shadow of the Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

If the parking lot on the east side is not too busy, there is room for an RV to park, but if the museum is having a busy day, a larger RV might have difficulty. For more information on the museum, call (503) 325-2323 or visit their website at

Thought For The Day – I will never be over the hill. I’m too tired to climb it.

I Traded

 Posted by at 12:49 am  Nick's Blog
May 082018

Anybody who knows me or has been reading the things I scribble every day for very long knows that for years my own personal rain cloud followed me around. Wherever Nick was, you can bet there was going to be bad weather.

Seriously. Once we were holding one of our Gypsy Journal rallies in Yuma, Arizona, and that desert city got more than a year’s worth of rain on the day we were parking a couple of hundred RVs that came in for the event. I’ve gone places that had not seen a drop of rain in three or four months, and they got a downpour the day I arrived. If you were sitting under your RV’s awning on a beautiful summer day and storm clouds gathered and you started to hear thunder rumbling and see lightning flashing, there’s a pretty good chance I was parked in the site next to you. If it was a pretty spring day when I showed up someplace, get out your parka and your mittens, because there was a good chance you were about to get hit by a snowstorm.

But since we hung up the keys and bought a house here on the east coast of Florida, things seem to have changed. Apparently I have traded my storm cloud for an umbrella. We have been amazed at how many times the weather reports have told us to prepare for heavy rains and strong thunderstorms, and about the time it got to us the bad weather suddenly went north or south. Sometimes the storms even split and go on both sides of us, leaving us with a sprinkle at most. Of course, you know what that means. Apparently now I can bring drought anywhere I go.

We had a visitor when we went outside yesterday morning. This fellow was in the middle of the street and came into our driveway, where he headed for the flood control ditch next to our property. It’s a gopher tortoise, and they are found all over Florida. They get their name because they live in burrows underground. He (or she) was a good sized specimen, close to two feet long.

The other day I mentioned that we had installed some Arlo security cameras in the house and garage. Yesterday we put up the last two, one in the carport where a door leads to my office, and one by the front door. Here is Terry making the final aiming adjustments to the one on the carport.

They have a very wide field of view and we are both amazed at the quality of the video these things put out, even in the dark. With no lights on in the carport, just ambient light, I went outside about 9:30 p.m. and walked around under the camera near the door and Terry could easily tell who it was.

If you want a security camera for your RV, or to monitor your pets when you are away, these are something to consider. They are battery-powered, so you can even use them when boondocking. They do require WiFi however, as most of the modern security systems do.

I’m not sure what’s on the game plan for today. We may make a quick run down to Titusville to pick up a few things at Lowe’s and have dinner at Asian House Chinese restaurant, which we discovered a while back and were really pleased with. Or, we may just stay home and write and weave. We’ll see what the day holds in store for us

Thought For The Day – Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis

Q&A For May

 Posted by at 12:59 am  Nick's Blog
May 072018

I get a lot of questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, writing and self-publishing, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all of them individually, sometimes I also share some here.

Q. You guys were on the road fulltime for a very long time. What is the one piece of advice you would give a perspective fulltimer more than anything else?

A. Don’t wait! Terry and I were in our mid-40s when we hit the road, and a lot of people thought we were crazy to walk away from our own business and a good life to do something so risky. But we knew we wanted something more out of life than the daily grind. I have talked to literally thousands of fulltimers in my years giving seminars at RV rallies and the one common denominator among them is that they all say they wish they had started earlier, no matter what age they were when they started out. I also can’t tell you how many people I have talked to who were going to do it someday, but health issues, aging parents, or death put a halt to their plans. Someday never came for them.

Q. What’s the biggest and most welcome change you saw in technology from the time you started fulltiming until now?

A. Definitely better access to communications. When we started out not everybody had cell phones. And if you wanted to check your email you lugged your laptop computer down to the campground office, paid them a dollar or so to plug into a phone line, and then downloaded your email. Then you went back to your RV, read it, typed up any answers you needed to, and went back down to the office again to send them out. These days just about everybody has a phone in their pocket and we are in constant touch with the world via calls, text, and email.

Q. Why does the water color change so much in the pictures you take locally? Sometimes it’s a beautiful blue, other times it seems green or gray, even in pictures taken on the same day.

A. It always amazes me how different the water can be around here. A lot of it depends on cloud cover, water depth, and tides. We have sat down on the pier and watched the water go from a deep blue to the green or gray you talk about in a matter of minutes. We have been on our boat and looked in one direction and saw water a totally different color than the water on the other side.

Q. Which kind of motorhome do you think is best for a fulltimer, gas or diesel?

A. I don’t think the debate over gas or diesel will ever end. We started out with a gas powered Class A motorhome, switched to a diesel powered bus conversion, and then to a diesel pusher. My preference is for diesel, because I like the larger carrying capacity, increased towing capacity, the air ride suspension, and the air brakes a diesel motorhome offers. But I know many people with gas powered coaches that are quite happy in them. Like everything in life, there is no one-size-fits-all.

Q. I need to put new tires on my motorhome sometime this summer, and I seem to remember that you put some kind of foreign brand on your Winnebago instead of Goodyears or Michelins. What did you go with, and were you happy with them?

A. We put Toyo tires on the Winnebago and I found they were comparable to the Goodyears we had been using, if not better, and they cost a lot less money. I’ve also driven many vehicles with Michelins on them. I still think the Toyos are a better deal.

Q. Now that your buddy Greg White isn’t around to fix everything for you, it seems like you’re turning into quite the handyman, installing lights and putting up paneling and all kinds of things around the house. Did you suddenly learn all those skills or were you holding out all along because Greg would do the work for you?

A. Shhhh! Greg reads this blog, don’t throw me under the bus like that!

Q. Hurricane season starts the first of June in Florida. Are you guys going to get out of Dodge and go somewhere safe?

A. Somewhere like the Midwest, where they have tornadoes? Or California where they have wildfires, earthquakes, and mudslides? At least a hurricane gives me plenty of warning when it’s coming so I can prepare for it.

Q. Is it just me, or are there a lot of self-entitled jerk’s joining the RV lifestyle? In our last three campgrounds we had neighbors who let their dogs bark day and night and never picked up after them when they pooped. One of those neighbors had two kids who were playing with a ball and kicked it into our site several times. The last time it went under our awning, knocking my wife’s iced tea off the little table between our chairs, spilling it all over her. I told them to please go back to their own site to play and not come into ours again and the mother came out and read me the riot act.

A. We ran into the occasional jerk when we were on the road, but fortunately, most RVers we met were nice people. We did notice in our last couple of years that there seemed to be more ill mannered RVers who passed the same attitude on to their children and their pets. But even so, there were still a lot of good ones out there, too.

Q. Did you ever take your RV to Alaska? I’ve heard it’s beautiful and a trip that everyone should make at least once.

A. Going to Alaska was very high on our bucket list when we started fulltiming, but we never made it there. There were just so many things in the lower 48 to see and do that we never got around to it. We have considered the possibility of taking a cruise to Alaska one of these days. We’ll see what happens.

Q. Are you still going to be doing seminars at RV rallies now that you are no longer traveling?

A. I love doing seminars. It was always a lot of fun sharing information and meeting new people and talking to them. I don’t have any immediate plans to do any seminars at this time, but if the opportunity presented itself and it worked with our schedule, I wouldn’t mind doing so.

Congratulations Barbara Windham, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Mountain Angel by my friend Suzie O’Connell. We had 48 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Remember, every day is a gift. Unfortunately, some gifts suck.

May 062018

We didn’t get the heavy rain that the weather forecast said was coming yesterday, just a few scattered showers. But it was up around 90° and humid, so I was glad we took our boat ride on Friday.

I had some projects around the house to keep me busy. Some guys would call them honey do’s, but since Miss Terry is the honey that does most of the work around here, they weren’t really that. And besides, she helped me with them.

The first order of business was to replace the ballasts and the fluorescent tubes in the two light fixtures in the kitchen ceiling. A while back we bought some Utilitech LED tubes to replace the fluorescents because they use a lot less energy and don’t get hot like old-style florescent tubes do. The new tubes (on the left) are 4 foot long, just like the old ones (on the right), but quite a bit smaller in diameter.

But last week when I installed them, they wouldn’t work. As it turns out they need a different kind of ballast. So we picked up a couple of replacement ballasts at Lowe’s and it was a relatively simple chore to swap out the old ones for the new. Snip a few wires on the old ballasts, take them out of the fixtures, mount the new ballasts, and connect the wiring. Easy peasy.

Miss Terry likes the more balanced, brighter light of the LEDs, and I do, too.

Some of you may remember that after months of having it crash repeatedly on us, I gave up on our SimpliSafe home security system a while back. I have been looking for another solution, and was strongly considering the Wyze Cams, until I learned about the Arlo security cameras.

They cost quite a bit more than the Wyze system does, but I like the fact that they are wireless and battery-powered, whereas the Wyze cameras need to be plugged in. With the free Arlo app on our phones or computers, we can see what’s happening even when we are not at home. If somebody approaches the door we can talk to them through the camera no matter where we are, and there is free cloud storage for video for 30 days.

I ordered the six camera set, which included the cameras, a base station, camera mounts, siren, batteries, and chargers. According to people I’ve talked to who have the system, they go a long time between needing battery charges.

We installed three of the cameras inside the house yesterday covering entrance points, and one in the garage. I was pleased that even at night the image is excellent.

If the weather cooperates today, we will mount the remaining two cameras outside at our doors. I say if the weather cooperates, because again, the forecast is for heavy rain. But we all know that in reality, meteorologists can’t predict the weather, they can just tell you what happened yesterday.

Before I close, yesterday I got a message from a blog reader via the blog’s contact form, but all it had was the title Visit and nothing else. And then it was gone. I’m sorry, but I don’t know who sent it and I have no way to get back to you. Please email me at if you see this.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Mountain Angel by my friend Suzie O’Connell. 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 (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – People who can’t distinguish between etymology and entomology bug me in ways I cannot put into words.