Nick Russell

We Said We Wouldn’t

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 162017

After our crazy three day 2150 mile trip from our home in Florida to Arizona following my daughter’s heart attack, we said we wouldn’t push so hard on the trip back home. Yeah, Nick, how’s that working for you?

With Tiffany home and making an amazing recovery thanks to the defibulator she had implanted, as well as the hundreds of prayers that people all over the country sent up for her (and for which we are all eternally grateful), we got news that our daughter-in-law Geli is facing her own potentially serious health issues. So, once we knew Tiffany was okay we headed for Alabama to be with Travis and Geli.

After a quick stop in Tucson to check up on my cousin Beverly, we took Interstate 10 east into New Mexico, making good time. We passed Steins ghost town, and thought of our friend Larry Link, who owned it with his wife and was slowly bringing the old settlement back to life as a tourist attraction. Some low life SOB murdered Larry there a few years ago, a crime that remains unsolved.

Coming into Las Cruces, Terry took a picture of the dramatic mountains that tower over the city.

We hate driving through El Paso, so we usually take the 375 Loop around the east side of town. But this time, instead of taking the bypass all the way, we left it at US Highway 180 and followed it 88 miles east, passing the salt deposits near the base of the Guadalupe Mountains that caused a small war back in the late 1800s.

Turning south on State Route 54, it was another 55 miles to Van Horn, where we rejoined Interstate 10. This route is a little longer, but it’s all nice two lane roads though some beautiful desert scenery.

Along the way we ran into a short rain squall and Terry took this awesome photo of the clouds and mountains.

We had planned to do the 1500 mile trip from Tucson to Tuscaloosa in 500 mile increments, which is too much in an RV, but easily manageable in a van. That would have put us in Pecos the first night. But I forgot that Pecos is in the middle of the oil patch, with drilling rigs and equipment everywhere.

It seems that the local businesses are doing everything they can to make a fortune off the oil field workers before the boom goes bust. Every hotel we checked was $180 or up. I don’t like Pecos enough to spend that kind of money just to sleep overnight. If you’ve ever been to Pecos, I think you’ll agree.

So we pushed on another 165 miles to Odessa, where the prices were about half of what they were demanding in Pecos. All told, it was a 647 mile day, and we were worn out all over again. We reminded ourselves that we said we wouldn’t do that anymore. I think we need to write that on a Post It and stick it on the dashboard of the van. Really, we’re not going to. Uh huh.

Thought For The Day – I’m sorry, did I roll my eyes out loud?

A Guy’s RV

 Posted by at 1:57 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 142017

We have seen some oddball RVs in our time, everything from wacky school bus conversions that looked like 1960s hippy creations to RVs made out of old ambulances, and even a hearse once. Not to mention some very unique ones built on heavy duty truck chassis that looked like log cabins. I think if it has tires and an engine, somebody will turn it into an RV sooner or later.

When we were making our mad dash to Arizona to be with our daughter following her heart attack, we passed a strange looking RV somewhere on Interstate 10 in west Texas. It looked like some kind of recycled military vehicle, and I told Terry I would have liked to get a picture of it. But by then it was growing small in our rearview mirror.

So imagine my surprise the next morning when we walked out of the hotel in Fort Stockton where we had spent the night to find it parked out in front! This is a guy’s RV all the way and it was just dripping testosterone all over the pavement.

The owner was standing by it and I talked to him for a few minutes. He said it was made by a company in Oklahoma or Missouri, as I recall. He was very proud of the fact that it could ford rivers as deep as halfway up the driver’s door, and that it could go anywhere off the road. When I asked him how it rode and slept, he said not bad. (But keep in mind, he had spent the night in a hotel, for what it’s worth.) He said he was on his way to Colorado, but his wife and kids had taken alternative transportation. It looked kind of cool, but I can’t say as I blame them.

Later that day when we stopped for gas in New Mexico, I saw this sight. At first I thought somebody had missed the brake pedal and hit the accelerator, but then realized that it was a creative prop.

Speaking of different rides large and small, just like proud parents who can’t resist taking photos of their child’s first haircut, I took a couple of our new Chrysler Pacifica’s first car wash. And believe me, it needed it! When we left home the van had 132 miles on its odometer, and now it has 2870. It picked up a lot of road grime in the process.

A couple of readers have asked me how we liked making the trip in the van instead of our Winnebago diesel pusher, and how the van rode on the trip. It’s a different method of traveling, with both pros and cons. It was a lot faster. I keep the Winnebago at 62 miles per hour most of the time, but in west Texas where the speed limit is 80 MPH we covered a lot of territory fast in the van. And even with paying for motels, it was still cheaper when you consider that the motorhome gets 7-8 miles per gallon as opposed to the 31 that the van’s computer said we were getting for much of the trip. It’s easier to get off the highway anywhere to get fuel, and we don’t have to scope out ease of access and exit when we do. But there is something to be said for having your own potty with you.

The Pacifica rides nice, but I think the seats in our 2005 Ford Explorer are more comfortable. And one thing I don’t like is driving the van in the mountains. Going uphill is fine, it has lots of power. But going downhill is a bit of a challenge. The van’s nine speed automatic transmission only has settings for Drive and Low gear. The Explorer has Overdrive, Drive, Drive 2, and Low. In the Explorer we can manually shift it into Drive 2 on steep downgrades and the transmission does a good job of controlling our speed. Not so in the van, I found myself having to step on the brake frequently when going downhill to keep our speed under control. Otherwise it’s a great ride, and features like the automatic lane assist, built in GPS, and great sound system make for a fun trip.

Thought For The Day – Frankly, autocorrect, I’m getting a little tired of your shirt.

RV Park Humor

 Posted by at 1:51 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 132017

Although we ran into the occasional grouch working behind the counter at RV parks over the years, they have been the exception. Most have been nice people and they usually had a good sense of humor. Maybe that’s because most RVers are great people, so why be grumpy?

That good humor has been reflected in signs we’ve seen at RV parks over the years. This speed warning sign we saw at Hon-Dah RV Park the other day is a good example.

We’ve seen this at several RV parks. Don’t laugh, it really does happen!

I also remember a sign at an RV park swimming pool that said “Enjoy our ool. Notice that there is no P in our ool. Let’s keep it that way.”

Somebody wrote to say that they were shocked to read my blog the other day and learn that parts of Arizona are heavily forested, because like so many who have never visited, he thought it was all desert. He asked if I had any more photos of the White Mountains. Here is one of U.S. Highway 60 a little south of Show Low.

Show Low is the commercial center of the White Mountains, and our home before we became fulltime RVers. The town got its name when early settlers Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark decided that the place wasn’t big enough for the two of them. The held a card game to decide who would stay and who would move on. As the game drug on, Clark said to Cooley, “If you can show low, you win.” In response, Cooley drew the deuce of clubs and won the game. He named the settlement that grew up near his ranch Show Low in honor of that card game, and the main street is called the Deuce of Clubs. In my time running the weekly newspaper, more than one election tie was settled by the winner drawing the low card. Today, a statue in a small park on the Deuce of Clubs commemorates that famous card game.

Thought For The Day – Man is a peculiar creature. He spends a fortune making his home insect-proof and air conditioned, and then eats out in the yard.

Jul 122017

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident age 62 or over, time is running out to get a National Parks Senior Pass for just $10. On August 28 the price of the pass, officially named the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass will increase to $80.

A page on the National Park Service website about the price increase says this is the first time it has changed since 1994. The Park Service says the additional revenue will be used to enhance the visitor experience in parks. The lifetime pass is a great bargain, giving the holder and three passengers in a non-commercial vehicle free admission to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies: the National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers.

Our passes have saved us a lot of money on admission fees at National Parks and National Historic Sites, and in reduced camping fees at Corps of Engineers campgrounds. Get yours now, before the fee increase. Senior Passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site, including National Parks that charge an entrance or day-use fee. Proof of age and residency is required. Passes can also be purchased online or through the mail. An additional $10 processing fee will be added to the price. This link provides more information on how to obtain a pass online.

Are you looking for some great summer reading? My friend Carol Ann Newsome, author of the popular Dog Park mystery series, has a new blog post listing some excellent reads by several of my independent author friends from an online authors group I belong to. Whether your reading taste is for mystery, romance, science fiction, horror, or fantasy, there’s sure to be something for you in this collection. Many are free or priced at just $.99. Check out Carol Ann’s Summer Indie Reads blog post and treat yourself to a slew of excellent books.

Thought For The Day – A writer is a writer not because they write well and easily, because they have amazing talent, or because everything they do is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing they do shows any sign of promise, they keep on writing anyway.

The Other Arizona

 Posted by at 1:30 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 112017

Three blog readers have asked me how we are tolerating staying in Terry’s sister’s fifth wheel trailer in the middle of an Arizona summer, and wondering if it is even safe to do so, given the limited insulation and barely adequate air conditioners that most RVs have.

Down in the desert it would not be much fun at all. But we are in the other Arizona. A lot of people are not aware that the White Mountains in Arizona’s high country along the Mogollon Rim is a completely different world from the deserts that cover most of the state. While it can easily reach 120 degrees in the desert, here summertime temperatures usually run from 75 – 85 degrees in the daytime, and nights cool off very nicely.

The Rim country stretches east across the central part of the state and is home to the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest, many beautiful lakes, and even a couple of excellent ski areas. The highest point in the state is 12,633 foot high Humphreys Peak, located eleven miles north of Flagstaff. The fishing is excellent, and wildlife ranges from tassel-eared Albert squirrels and wild turkeys to antelope, deer, elk, black bear, bighorn sheep, Mexican gray wolves, and mountain lion.

This was home to us for many years before we became fulltime RVers. I owned the weekly newspaper and Miss Terry ran a commercial glass shop before I kidnapped her and stuffed her into a motorhome to hit the road.

This is the country that inspired my Big Lake mystery novels, and I mention many local places in the series. In fact, in the first book in the series, Big Lake, I have a scene set at Hon-Dah Casino, which is located right across the road from Hon-Dah RV Park, where we are staying. And the casino gets mentioned in at least one other book in the series, Big Lake Burning.

Here is a picture of Dani’s trailer, our home while we are here, and below it is the meadow directly behind her RV site.

And here are a couple of pictures from around the RV park. Is it any wonder that both Dani and Terry’s parents have annual sites here and never take their fifth wheels back down to the desert?

My daughter Tiffany is doing great and was released from the hospital yesterday. She was worn out and went right home and to bed, so we didn’t bother her. We want her to get all the rest she can. But today we’ll go check up on her and spend some time together if she is up to it.

Thought For The Day – We all have that one friend you have to say “Be nice” to before you introduce them to somebody new. Quite often, I’m that friend.

Jul 102017

The nurses at the hospital are calling my daughter Tiffany their miracle case because she is recovering so quickly. A week ago they did not know if she would survive. Yesterday she was up and walking around and they say she may get to go home soon!

When we got to the hospital yesterday Tiffany seemed like her old self again, alert, smiling and laughing. She may not think this is the most flattering picture ever taken of her, but to me it’s beautiful.

Terry and I went for a walk with her and bumped into the three nurses who were with her when she was first brought in, and when she coded the second time. They were amazed to see how much she has improved since the defibulator was put in. One of them said there was a point where they didn’t know if she would make it, and if she did, whether she would suffer any long term impairment.

She’s not completely out of the woods yet, and there are some concerns about long term kidney damage do to her lack of potassium, which her body seems to be rejecting, but she truly is a walking, talking miracle.

In other news, I wrote in yesterday’s blog that Terry’s sister Dani was up here on assignment for the medical air evac company she works for. When she got off duty yesterday morning she met us and their parents, Pete and Bess Weber, for breakfast. We all wished the third sister, Lisa, could have been there, too. Hopefully another time.

Thought For The Day – Today’s three-year-olds can turn on a laptop and select their favorite app. When I was three, I ate dirt.

She’s Doing Great!

 Posted by at 1:20 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 092017

I am happy to report that Tiffany is doing great. They moved her from the intensive care unit to a regular room yesterday and they have already had her up and walking down the hall. When we went to see her she was out of bed and sitting in a chair. Seeing how much progress she has made in such a short time really puts our hearts and minds at ease.

She is still a bit groggy from all of the meds, and she can’t remember the original heart attack itself or the second one she had while in the hospital. I told her that’s okay, some things don’t need to be remembered. And, of course, she already wants go home, but that’s not going to be for a while yet. She still has a lot of healing left to do.

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that Terry’s sister Dani is letting us stay in her fifth wheel here at Hon- Dah RV Park, a little over 12 miles from the hospital. Dani is a nurse practitioner and a flight nurse with Air Evac Services, Inc., which operates a fleet of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters from 18 bases throughout Arizona and New Mexico. It’s a high tech company, and one of the goodies they use to be able to get to patients in need anywhere, day or night,  are night vision goggles that take any available light, be it  the moon, stars, or whatever, and multiplies it thousands of times, turning darkness into daylight.

Dani can be anywhere in the region, but this weekend she happened to be stationed in Show Low. So when we left the hospital we drove a couple of blocks to the home/office where the flight crew stays when waiting for a call and had a nice visit with her. We are hoping to get together for breakfast this morning before she leaves to go back to Phoenix.

Back at the RV park, we stopped at Terry’s parent’s fifth wheel, where her mom treated us to some delicious strawberry shortcake. Then it was back to Dani’s trailer to catch up on emails before heading to bed to catch up on some much needed rest. We are both still pretty worn out.

Thought For The Day – It is impossible to live without failing at something…unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. – J. K. Rowling

The Tube Is Out!

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 082017

Yesterday morning they took Tiffany off the sedation and removed her breathing tube. She was still pretty loopy, but communicating with family members and medical staff when we visited her. The nurses said they will probably move her out of ICU and into a regular room today.

Terry’s parents live down in Mesa, Arizona but keep their fifth wheel on a seasonal site at Hon Dah RV Park, a few miles from Show Low. They spend their summers here to escape the desert heat. Terry’s sister Dani also has a fifth wheel on a site here, but is still working and can only come up occasionally. When she heard we would be in town dealing with Tiffany’s illness she very graciously offered to let us stay in it, which is saving us a ton of money on lodging. We really appreciate that.

After visiting Tiffany we came back to the RV park and took Terry’s parent to lunch at Darbi’s, a great local restaurant. The whole area is packed with summer visitors and weekenders and we had a short wait for a table, but not very long.

After lunch we went back to their place for a while, then back to the hospital for a brief visit. We have always maintained a relationship with Jim Robinson, Tiffany’s first husband and the father of her two girls. We had seen 14 year old Hailey at the hospital, but Destiny is only 10, and there is an age restriction for kids under 12. So Jim invited us to come over and spend some time with Destiny. She has always been a Grandpa’s girl and came flying out to give Terry and I both lots of hugs when she saw us. She has sure gotten big since our last visit!

And that’s about all there is for today. We are still physically and emotionally worn down, and can feel the effects of coming from sea level to 7000 feet elevation. It’s time for bed for this old guy.

Oh, before I close, somebody asked me about the weekly drawing and my thought for the day. Here is the thought for the day, but I’m afraid that in our rush to get here I forgot to upload my files with the different book covers, Amazon codes, and such to my old laptop. So I’m afraid the weekly drawing program is on hold until we get home and life gets back to normal. I apologize.

Thought For The Day – Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time. – Malcolm Muggeridge

It’s Been Rough

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 072017

Thank you to all of you for your e-mails, blog comments, Facebook posts, and especially for your prayers as we have dealt with my daughter’s medical condition. It’s been rough, but her medical team tells us the crisis is mostly behind us and the outlook is good. A MRI and an angiogram shows no evident neurological or heart damage.

Yesterday afternoon Tiffany had a defibulator surgically implanted, which the doctors said was absolutely necessary because without it she could go into cardiac arrest at any given time. Today they plan to take her off the sedation and remove her breathing tube. She will have a long, sometimes painful recovery, but she will recover, and that is all that matters.

As for Terry and I, we are exhausted. We left our home in Florida Monday morning, drove 800 miles the first day, 750 the next, and 650 the third, arriving here in Show Low, Arizona at 5 p.m. local time. That kind of schedule was rough when we were youngsters, but as old farts, it’s even worse. But it was worth it to have Tiffany open her eyes when we got to the hospital. She was heavily sedated, but could squeeze our hands when we asked her to, or blink her eyes in response to questions. I have to tell you that this old guy has shed some tears in the last few days, but none compared to when she could do that.

I’m going to wrap this up because I’m so tired I can’t focus on the screen. But I will try to get back in the swing of things as much as possible. Again, thank you all for being there for us, for your patience with the problems in getting the new issue out, and a very big thank you to Greg White for filling in for me to keep you all updated.