Family Time

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 162020
 

Terry’s mom, Bess, turned 88 on February 2nd and her dad, Pete, turned 90 on the 11th. When you live that long you accumulate a lot of relatives, so family from as far away as England, New York, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida (us) came to Arizona to help them celebrate the occasion.

In the last few days there have been get-togethers at one of Terry’s niece’s condo in Phoenix, a birthday dinner in Chandler, and lots of visiting at their house in Mesa. Yesterday was the big family gathering at the clubhouse in their small, gated 55+ community. There were kids, grandkids, great grandkids, nephews, and their families, and a grand old time was had by all.

Here is a picture of Terry with her sons, Shawn, Cody, and Casey. If you didn’t notice, Cody and Casey are identical twins. Her daughter, Kelly, was unable to make it.

Everybody ate until we were all full as ticks, the little ones had a great time flying paper airplanes and playing together, and the adults visited, reminisced, and swapped lies. It was really touching when everyone took turns standing up to tell some of their best memories of Pete. A few choked up in the process, and some of us at our seats had to wipe a tear or two away.

Here are Bess and Pete with their great grandkids (Terry’s grandkids), Thomas, Peter, Jane, Althea, and the little guy in front is Brian.

After the gathering, Terry’s sons and their families went back to their hotel, her sisters and brother-in-law left to go home, and some of us went back to the house. We stayed a while longer but were pretty worn out and soon said our goodbyes.

Today is our last day here, and tomorrow we will go up to our old hometown of Show Low to spend some time with my daughter Tiffany and her family before we start the trip home. But along the way we will stop in Texas to see another old friend from our fulltime RVing days, and in Alabama to visit my son Travis and his wife Geli. You could say we are covering a lot of bases on this journey.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, 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 – Trying to please everybody is impossible – if you did that, you’d end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You’ve just got to make the decision about what you think is your best and do it.

Mexico Q&A

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 152020
 

Several blog readers have asked questions about our trip across the border to purchase medicines in Mexico, so I thought I would answer their questions here.

Q. The other day you talked about going to Mexico to buy medications. When you do that, do you drive across the border, and if so what kind of insurance is required? If you don’t drive, do you take a taxi or hire a driver, or what?
A. We have never driven our car or RV into Mexico. We always park on the American side and walk across the border. In every place we have done it, from Palomas to Los Algodones, to Nogales, there are free parking lots or lots that charge a small fee for parking. There are plenty of pharmacies, restaurants, dentists, optometrists, and anything else you could possibly want within a block or two of the port of entry in every town.

Q. You said the medicines you get in Mexico are the same thing you get in the United States, but I have heard of counterfeit stuff being sold there. How do you know you are not being sold something bogus?
A. I don’t believe that would happen at any of the pharmacies that U.S. citizens normally patronize. They know that word of mouth can make or break their reputations. We have shown meds we purchased south of the border to our doctors here and they all agree it is not a problem.

Q. Nick, I know you have a concealed carry permit. Do you carry a handgun when you go to Mexico?
A. Absolutely not! Taking a firearm into Mexico, or even a single round of ammunition, can get you into very serious legal trouble. I don’t even have one in my car when I get that close to the border. I leave it with a friend or in our hotel room on the U.S. side.

Q. As a follow-up to my first question, do you worry about your safety when you go across the border?
A. Those border towns know how much the gringo dollars contribute to their economy, and overall, I don’t feel any more threatened in them than I do in any big city north of the border. While crime is rampant in some parts of Mexico, we don’t wander down back streets away from the general tourist areas, just like we would not in New Orleans or Chicago. And we stay alert wherever we are. Situational awareness can keep you out of trouble and even save your life.

Q. What about the language barrier? Do you speak Spanish?
A. I know a few phrases in Spanish but it is not needed. Everyone we have ever dealt with at the businesses in the border towns speaks English.

Q. What kind of identification do you need to go to Mexico to get medicine, and is it a hassle getting into Mexico or back into the United States?
A. If you are walking across like we did, no documentation is required by Mexican authorities, they don’t even ask you any questions. Coming back, we presented our passports at the U.S. port of entry, they asked what we were bringing back with us, and told us to have a good day. We did have a Border Patrolman ask us to stop while he walked his K-9 around us, which has never happened before. I have been told that an enhanced drivers license can also be used for re-entry, but I would advise checking with the port of entry where you will be going, just to be safe. If you are driving, you will need more documentation, and may have your vehicle searched. Again, inquire locally before you go.

Q. My cousin said he heard about a guy who went to Mexico to get dental work done and they drugged him and stole his kidneys to resell on the back market. Do you think that really happened? Do you worry about anything like that?
A. My cousin told me he heard about a guy who married Bigfoot’s sister. I put as much stock in that as the stolen kidney story. I won’t worry about either one until a big hairy kid with a fresh incision on his back shows up at my door asking if he can mow my grass.

Q. Is a prescription needed to purchase medicine in Mexico or to bring it back across the border?
A. We have never been asked for a prescription to purchase anything or to bring it back with us. You do need to know the generic name and the dosage you require for accuracy.

Q. As an American, don’t you think it is kind of chintzy of you to buy medicines in a Third World country instead of here at home, where the money you spend goes to keep your fellow Americans employed?
A. Do you mean my fellow Americans like the rich CEOs of big pharmaceutical companies who hike up the prices of medicines people need to survive, just to feed their greed and keep their investors happy? Nope, it does not bother me one bit.

Q. How much of any one medicine can you bring back from Mexico and do you have to pay an import fee or anything?
A. I was told you can bring back a 90-day supply of any non-prohibited medicines. Which means that I could have a 90-day supply, and so could Miss Terry. But as I stated above, inquire locally if you are concerned.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, 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 smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Feb 142020
 

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

We all remember that little poem and many of us think we know the macabre story behind it. But do we?

On August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were hacked to death with an ax in their Fall River, Massachusetts home. Borden’s 32 year old daughter Lizzie was accused of the crime and tried for murder. Though she was acquitted after a sensational trial, Lizzie was considered a murderess for the rest of her life, and her legend lives on today. That’s the story we all know, but there is a lot more to it than that.

Though he was a wealthy man, with a net worth of almost $10 million in today’s money, Andrew Borden was one of the most unpopular men in town. He ran a bank and had extensive real estate holdings, but he was a miser who domineered his employees and family alike. There were many who resented Borden’s success and more than a few whom he had allegedly cheated in business dealings over the years.

Life inside the Borden household was unpleasant; he demanded absolute obedience from his wife and two adult daughters and meted out swift punishment if he didn’t get it. They often were forced to eat spoiled food because Borden would not allow it to be thrown away, and despite his wealth, Borden refused to spend a penny on even the most basic conveniences, including indoor plumbing. His relationship with his daughters, Lizzie and her older sister Emma, was strained by his marriage to his second wife, Abby Gray, after the death of their mother. Some historians and sociologists have since speculated that Andrew Borden may have had an ongoing incestuous relationship with one or both of his daughters.

Though there was reason to believe the murders may have been committed by somebody in the Borden household, in the days following the crime, there was a lot of speculation that Borden and his wife had been killed as revenge for his shady business dealings. And there were those who believed that the Borden’s maid, an Irish immigrant named Bridget Sullivan, may have been responsible. There were rumors that Bridgett and Lizzie may have been romantically involved and that she killed her employer to protect her lover from her abusive father.

Nevertheless, it was Lizzie who was charged, and Lizzie who was acquitted, and Lizzie who has borne the title murderer ever since that hot summer day so long ago. Not that it seemed to bother her all that much. Lizzie and her sister inherited their father’s estate and continued to live in Fall River. She purchased a home in a fashionable part of town and traveled frequently between New York and Boston attending theater performances. Shunned by her neighbors and estranged from her sister Emma, who disapproved of Lizzie’s relationship with actress Nance O’Neill, Lizzie made the headlines again in 1897 when she was accused of shoplifting.

Ironically, though they had not spoken to each other in years, Lizzie and Emma died within days of each other, in June, 1927. They are buried beside their parents in the family plot in Fall River’s Oak Grove Cemetery. It seems that even in death Lizzie could not escape her abusive father’s reach.

Today, the Borden family home at 230 2nd Street in Fall River is a bed and breakfast, and visitors can spend a few days in the same house where the gruesome crime took place so long ago. Visitors can also arrange a tour of the Borden home by calling (508) 675-7333. Listen carefully during your tour, you may hear old Andrew Borden whispering a clue about what happened that day he and Abby died there!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, 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 – Apparently there are two kinds of flu. The harmless one that women and children get, and the near death version that men get.

Feb 132020
 

Here is the last installment of our trip from Florida to Arizona.

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, we were looking forward to spending time with our friends Tom and Diane Owens while we were in Deming, New Mexico. However, I suspect that after two days, they were more than ready to see us hit the road again. The morning we left Ozona, Texas headed to Deming, my bad back went really bad and I was in a tremendous amount of pain. So they were subjected to me doing an awful lot of sniveling. Just because I’m a fat old man doesn’t mean I can’t whimper like a little girl when I am hurting.

Nevertheless, once we got settled in at the La Quinta next door to Dream Catcher RV Park, they took us to dinner at a very popular place called the Adobe Deli. We had heard about this steakhouse before on our many trips through Deming as RVers, but this was our first time dining there.

You have to want to get to this place because it’s a few miles from town down a very narrow road out in the middle of nowhere, but it was sure worth the trip. Housed in an old schoolhouse, it could pass for a museum or an antique store. This beautiful old stove and a huge collection of stuffed animals greets you at the door, and everywhere you look there are amazing old collectibles.

I would love to have this old cigar store Indian standing in my office to keep me company!

Anyone want a ride in a rickshaw?

Even the ceilings are amazing. Have you ever seen an old windmill used as a ceiling fan?

But really, it’s all about the food. They are famous for their steaks, and my ribeye was excellent and more than I could eat. But it was nothing compared to the rack of ribs Diane ordered. Grilled to perfection and served on a skewer, she gave me one, and if I wasn’t such a gentleman I would have crawled across the table and stolen the rest of them from her! Oh hell, let’s be honest, if my back wasn’t hurting so bad, I would have done it anyway. Yes, they were that good!

It is about a half hour drive from Deming to Palomas, Mexico, and the next day we drove down there to get some meds. Americans can cross the border and buy non-narcotic medicine in Mexico for pennies on the dollar compared to U.S. prices. For example, I use Voltaren Gel on my back. It is a topical pain reliever. In the U.S. my co-pay for a single tube is $90 and one tube lasts about a month. In Palomas I bought eight tubes in for $146. I have heard people say you have to beware of counterfeit meds in Mexico, but everything we have ever purchased there has been the same as what we get this side of the border.

Unfortunately, our sojourn south of the border was not without some pain. Actually, a lot of pain. On the way, we stopped to check out the Columbus Historical Museum, which has some excellent information about Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus in the early 1900s.

As it turned out, the museum is closed for remodeling. It was a very windy day, and as we were walking to the door, only to discover it was closed, a guy was using a circular saw and a big cloud of windblown sawdust hit me in the face and I got some in my right eye. Talk about agony! Terry could not get it out, the urgent care in Deming was closed and I was damn near crying from it. At least it took my mind off the terrible back pain I was dealing with. After hours of flushing it, two hydrocodone pills, a full bottle of Visine, and a good night’s sleep (my first in days), by morning it had worked itself out, though the eye was still tender and red for the next day or two.

After another great dinner with Tom and Diane at an Italian restaurant that evening, we said our goodbyes, ready to hit the road again the next day.

We left Deming on Saturday morning, traveling west on Interstate 10 toward Arizona. Along the way we passed the Old West ghost town of Steins, just three miles before the Arizona state line. We have some history with Steins, and in an upcoming blog post I will tell you about a modern-day murder mystery in the old ghost town.

About 35 miles into Arizona we left the interstate and took U.S. Highway 191 north to Safford, where we picked up U.S. 70 and drove west to Globe and U.S. 60. Another 90 minutes or so brought us to Phoenix, were we met up with Terry’s parents, sisters, and nieces at her niece Andrea’s beautiful high-rise condo with stunning views of the city, for an early celebration of her dad’s birthday.

Here is a picture of (left to right), Terry’s sister Dani, Terry, her mom Bess, her dad Pete, and sister Lisa. Bess turned 88 on February 2nd and her dad’s 90th birthday was February 11th. It has been wonderful to get together with everybody and we will be here for a few more days yet before we go up to our old hometown of Show Low, in the White Mountains, to visit with my daughter Tiffany and her family.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, 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 older you get, the uglier you’re willing to go out in public.

Feb 122020
 

Today I thought I would give you part two of an update on our trip from Florida to Arizona, with more to follow.

After two days in Hondo, Texas, we hit the road again, traveling thirty miles north on a two-lane state highway to the small town of Bandera, which bills itself as the Cowboy Capital of the World. Bandera is one of those places we always planned to visit during our years as fulltime RVers, but never seemed to get there. I’m glad we finally did.

We love browsing in antique stores and stopped at a great one on the south side of town, Western Trail Antiques. They had two floors of goodies, everything from Old West items to Indian jewelry, furniture, and more.

The manager, Charlie, is a fine gentleman and we really hit it off. He sold me several very cool old police badges for my collection, and I also found some excellent reference books for future writing projects.

I did pass on the three old coffins they had on display downstairs, however.

From Bandera, it was another 26 miles of two-lane road through historic Bandera Pass to Kerrville and Interstate 10. The pass dates back thousands of years as a travel route used by Native Americans, Spanish explorers, missionaries, cattle drives, and settlers. In the 1840s, Texas Rangers and Indians fought several skirmishes at and near the pass.

After a quick stop in Kerrville we got on Interstate 10 and took it west, planning to make it to Fort Stockton, where we would stop for the night. It had been a chilly, windy day, and the further we drove, the windier it got. Then graupel started hitting the windshield. For those of you unfamiliar with the term (I was until Miss Terry told me) graupel is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming small balls of rime. It is the German word for sleet. See, you learned something new today, didn’t you?

Between that and the fact that it was starting to get dark, and that vehicles heading in the opposite direction were covered in snow, we shook up the Jello and stopped about a hundred miles earlier than planned, at the Hampton Inn in Ozona. I’m glad we did because it got down to 19 degrees overnight, and we learned the next morning that a couple of hours after we stopped someone hit a patch of ice on the highway just a mile or so down the road, spun out and into the path of other traffic and was killed.

We waited until about 10 a.m. the next day to leave, taking advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast and giving the sun time to hopefully warm the road surface. Stopping for gas at Fort Stockton, I was going to clean our van’s windshield but this is what I found when I attempted to do so. The water in the station’s plastic squeegee holder had frozen solid!

The strong wind never let up all the way to El Paso, knocking our Chrysler Pacifica’s normal 25 – 26 miles per gallon down to 18. We sure appreciated the van’s heated seats and steering wheel, which I had a death grip on most of the way. Terry got a couple of pictures of the snow-covered mountains as we made our way west.

Traffic in El Paso is always heavy and this time around was no exception, but we managed to dodge the cars changing lanes at the last minute without signaling, to outrun the tailgaters, and to slow down enough to avoid rear-ending those ahead of us who came to sudden stops for no apparent reason.

We were glad to cross into New Mexico, and before we knew it, we were at the inspection station a few miles down the highway. We assured the nice Border Patrolman that we were not terrorists and didn’t have a van load of illegal aliens hiding under our luggage and he passed us on. From there it was a short drive to Deming, where we checked into the LaQuinta hotel next door to the Escapees RV Club’s Dreamcatcher RV Park for a two day stay.

By then I was glad to be off the highway, and we were even more thrilled to visit with our dear friends Tom and Diane Owens, who have a leased site at Dream Catcher. These are two very special people who mean the world to us, and we were really looking forward to spending some time with them.

I’ll tell you more about that, and about a quick but painful trip to Mexico, in the next installment.

Thought For The Day – They say with age comes wisdom. So I don’t have wrinkles, I have wise cracks.

Feb 112020
 

Today I thought I would give you part one of an update on our trip from Florida to Arizona, with more to follow.

We left our home in Edgewater on Saturday, February 1st and drove 570 miles west to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where we checked into the Hampton Inn just a block or two off the highway. We usually stay at Hampton Inns and have stayed at this property once before. As usual, we got a friendly greeting, and were pleased to see that the nice young man at the desk upgraded us to a two-room suite. And for less than $100! What a nice surprise after a long day on the road!

Once we took our luggage up to the room we set off in search of food, ending up at a place called Woody’s Roadside, which was highly recommended by Yelp reviewers. Being a Saturday night, it was crowded, but we only had to wait about ten minutes for a table. The food and service were excellent, and our only complaint was that the music was so loud we could not have a conversation. Why do restaurants think this is something diners want? It’s the reason we seldom eat at Texas Roadhouse anymore.

The next day was an easy 445 mile run across the rest of Mississippi and Louisiana and into Texas. There was a time when Interstate 10 in Louisiana was one of the roughest highways in the country, but not anymore. Most of it was smooth and in great shape, except for a few construction zones. Coming into Texas was another story. There the highway was rougher than a cob, with miles of narrow lanes through even more construction zones.

Somewhere just east of Houston we encountered this low rider with wicked looking spinners on his wheels. I guess he thinks it’s pretty cool. Good for him.

We arrived in Katy about 4:30, checked into the Hampton Inn, and once we had our luggage in our room, our friends Greg and Jan White met us, and we went to the nearby Saltgrass Steakhouse for dinner. The food was great, and as so often happens when we get together with those two, we talked until they were closing the place down at 9:30.

When we checked in at the hotel, we were surprised and please once again to be upgraded to a larger room with a Jacuzzi bathtub. After soaking in that for a while, Terry and I both said we need one of those at home!

Monday was a short driving day, only 200 miles or so to Hondo, about 40 miles west of San Antonio. We spent two days at the Best Western there, which was acceptable but nothing special. We were there to visit longtime RVing friends Mike and Elaine Loscher, and to get together with my fellow authors Billy Kring and George Wier, along with Billy’s wife Elizabeth and George’s wife Sally. I wrote about that in a blog post the other day titled Texas Sure Is Friendly. Billy and George are two of my favorite authors and I wanted to talk to them about maybe doing a collaboration on a box set of the first books in each of our mystery series. I will keep you updated if the project goes forward.

Hondo is a typical west Texas town with not much to see or do, just a few stores and restaurants, and an RV park. But there are some neat old buildings in its small downtown, just off the highway. A few miles west along U.S. Highway 90 is D’Hanis, another wide spot in the road. There we found the handsome old J.M. Koch Hotel, built in 1906 by Chinese railroad laborers. The building served as a hotel until 1920, when it became a feed store for a while before a new owner turned it into an upscale boarding house. I’m not sure if it is occupied at all now, though there was a TV dish on a pole in the side yard.

In my next update I will tell you about our trip from Hondo to Deming, New Mexico, a drive that was perilous at times and called for some real white knuckles on the steering wheel.

Thought For The Day – Last week I bought a toilet brush. Long story short, I’m going back to toilet paper.

10 RV Trip Tips

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 102020
 

Note: I have shared these tips before online and at the seminars I present at RV rallies, but it never hurts to have a reminder.

Spend enough time behind the wheel of a motorhome or dragging a fifth wheel or travel trailer around the country and you’ll eventually pick up a lot of knowledge and ideas that will make your trips smoother and more enjoyable. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned in over eighteen years of fulltime RVing.

1. A safe trip starts long before you ever turn the key. The night before we hit the road, we map out our trip for the next day and write it down in a notebook. Included is the route we will be traveling on, distances between cities or points of interest, and location of any stops we might plan on making, by mile marker number. Any other noteworthy items are also included, such as major climbs or downhill grades we will encounter. With the information all on one or two sheets of notebook paper, the co-pilot does not have to sort through a library of information every time the driver needs an update or directions. The evening planning session will also include looking for bypass routes around any major cities we will be entering. Usually, the loop routes will help us avoid the worst of the metropolitan traffic congestion, though they might add a few miles to our trip, and frequently the time savings make it worth the extra miles.

2. Knowing how the mile markers are laid out on interstate highways is a handy skill. With few exceptions, mile markers begin at the southern or western state line and progress to the opposite state line. Where two routes join together, a guidebook such as The Next EXIT will tell you which route the mile markers follow. Any good map or atlas will include mile markers for all exits and rest areas, which is very useful information when you need a pit stop and don’t want to pull over on the shoulder of the highway.

3. Even though most RVs are self-contained, rest areas are very important. We prefer to use our own facilities, but the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs can be very relaxing. Too many drivers, myself included, get road fixation and do not stop often enough. Try to stop every hundred miles or so, if for no other reason than to get out and walk around the rig to check the tires and the tow connections and get a breath of fresh air. It’s even more important to get up and move around as we age to help prevent blood clots.

4. We try to be off the road long before dark but sometimes plans don’t work out. As we grow older, the eyes aren’t what they used to be. A pair of safety or shooting glasses with yellow lenses makes it easier to see in fading light and can give you an extra hour or so of safe driving if you can’t stop.

5. Driver comfort can go a long way toward safety on a road trip. Having a light snack ready to ward off the afternoon munchies is helpful. My co-pilot also keeps a cool, damp washcloth handy for wiping my forehead and neck on long trips to help keep me refreshed and alert. Little things like keeping a small cooler up front with snacks and a washcloth in a zip lock bag with some ice can make the miles go by easier.

6. On the subject of driver comfort, for years I had severe hip and back pain any time I drove several hours in a day. Then a chiropractor friend told me to stop carrying my wallet in my back pocket when driving. That lump on one side can cause your hip to shift enough to create short term pain and long term problems. Now my wallet rides in a desk drawer when we’re in the motorhome or in the console of our SUV when driving around town.

7. Even with an RV GPS to guide us, a good road atlas comes in handy when we have to make a sudden detour due to an accident or bad weather up ahead. Every RV should have a good road atlas on board. There are many to choose from, but our favorite is the Rand McNally version we pick up at Walmart. It’s basically the same Rand McNally atlas you’ll find anywhere else for more money, but an added bonus is a complete listing of all Walmart and Sam’s Club locations coast to coast. We’ve spent many a night at Camp Wally World. We keep an atlas in our RV and a second in our dinghy for use on day trips. You can also find an excellent trucker’s road atlas at Amazon or at truck stops that has lots of information handy to anyone driving a big RV, including bridge and underpass heights on secondary roads.

8. Though the language of some of the truckers can get pretty rank, a CB radio is a valuable tool. We used ours in strange cities for directions, if needed, and to alert us to traffic backups from accidents or road construction. The truckers are pretty good at relaying information back behind them about which lanes to be in to get past the slowdown.

9. In heavy traffic, the driver has to concentrate on a dozen things at once. Having a co-pilot who watches the right side mirror for oncoming traffic and keeps an eye out for road signs ahead can be a tremendous help. RVs take up a lot of highway, and changing lanes can be dangerous, especially at the last minute. Knowing ahead of time which lane you need to be in will give you the time you need to get there safely.

10. Last, but certainly not least, the co-pilot should also know how to assume the pilot’s position if needed. I think in most RVs, one or the other is the primary driver, often the man. But I am amazed at how many women we have met who have absolutely no idea how to drive the rig. More than once we have seen situations where the driver of an RV has become ill or incapacitated, and the co-pilot had to find someone else to take them where they needed to be. While the co-pilot may not be the primary driver, spending some time behind the wheel is essential. Besides, the driver will come away with a better appreciation of your skills if you change jobs from time to time. Good training can turn a tentative co-pilot into a skilled RV driver. The RV Driving School has professional driving instructors around the country and at many RV rallies coast to coast.

Congratulations Marty Rash, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Wedding, the fifteenth book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 74 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I have days when my life is just one tent away from a circus.

Silver Screen Cowboy

 Posted by at 12:33 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 092020
 

It’s a long way from a sound stage in Hollywood to the rolling hills of Parke County, Indiana, so we were surprised when a geocaching outing in southern Indiana took us to the gravesite of an old-time cowboy movie star from the heyday of the silver screen.

Tex Terry appeared in over 50 B westerns and was also in the background of several other A western movies back in the days before television, when going to the Saturday matinee was an important part of every kid’s life. How many of us can remember when all we really needed in life was a nickel box of popcorn and an afternoon of watching our favorite stars tame the Wild West?

Tex was a master with the bullwhip and usually played the role of the villain as he and his gang of cutthroats tried to subvert the law, while always losing to the good guys in the white hats.

Born in Coxville, Indiana on August 22, 1902, Tex served in the U.S. Cavalry from 1919 to 1922 before going off to Hollywood to begin a movie career that spanned half a century. His expert use of a bullwhip made him a star in the days of such cowboy movie heroes as Roy Rogers, Hoot Gibson, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gene Autry.

His long list of movie credits included Covered Wagon Trails (1940), starring Jack Randall; Heroes of the Saddle (1940); Oregon Trail (1945); Man From Oklahoma (1945); El Paso Kid (1946); Alias Billy The Kid (1946); and Apache Rose (1947), starring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans; and a second western also titled Oregon Trail in 1949, which was his last movie role.

The advent of television killed off the last of the celluloid cowboys and ended what had been a thriving industry. Like many of his co-stars, Tex Terry tried to make the transition from the big screen to small, appearing in at least one episode of Have Gun, Will Travel, in which Richard Boone played the dapper Paladin, a well-educated professional gunslinger who generally used his brain before reaching for his six-gun.

The movies had made Tex Terry a wealthy man, and he was wise enough to know that at his age he wasn’t cut out for a new career in television. He and his wife, Hollywood agent Isabel Terry, retired to Indiana, where he died in Coxville on May 18, 1985.

Tex Terry is buried next to his wife in a small unnamed cemetery near the tiny community of Coxville, off of County Road 67, just south of the intersection of County Road 16. Coxville is about fifteen miles north of Terre Haute. The cemetery is a quarter mile or so south of Roseville covered bridge. Parke County, Indiana is famous for its many covered bridges.  The next time you’re in southern Indiana stop by and pay your respects to this old cowboy movie star.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Wedding, the fifteenth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, 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 always ask me if I’m seeing someone. You have to be more specific. Do you mean a therapist or hallucinations?

Feb 082020
 

Harland Sanders was a born entrepreneur, a hardworking hustler who knew how to turn adversity into good fortune. The old saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In Harland Sanders case, when life handed him lemons, he made chicken.

Born on September 9, 1890, near Henryville, Indiana, Sanders left school at age twelve and went to work to support his family. Sanders held a variety of jobs, including working as a farmhand, working for the railroad, as a secretary, insurance salesman, and ferryboat operator. He was also a soldier for a time, though the title Colonel that added to his fame was not due to military service, but rather an honorary title bestowed by the State of Kentucky. In 1930, Sanders moved to the small town of Corbin, Kentucky and moved his family into the back of a small gasoline service station.

In the days before the Federal highway system was built, Corbin was on a main route between Florida and the northern states. Every day a steady stream of cars rolled past Sanders’ service station, and he made a good living pumping gas, fixing flat tires, and tending to the needs of the traveling public.

Business was good at first, but the Great Depression hit the nation hard and traffic dwindled to only a few cars a day. With a family to feed and bills to pay, Sanders needed a way to supplement his business. He had always loved cooking, so he began selling meals to folks who stopped at his gas station. He moved his family’s dining room table into the gas station and could seat six customers at a time. In 1932, he purchased a small restaurant across the street from his service station and named it Sanders Café.

Sanders’ combination of hard work, good food, and showmanship proved successful, and soon his little restaurant became popular with travelers and the local people alike. While Harland Sanders would win fame for his fried chicken, it was his country ham that brought folks to his café for breakfast. Serving a large portion of Smithfield ham, along with biscuits, red-eye gravy, fresh eggs, and grits, Sanders touted his breakfast special as “$1.70 – not worth it, but mighty good.” To promote his morning specialty, he had a photograph of waitress Leota McBurney beside a table displaying the best breakfast he had to offer and used it in all of his advertising.

Sanders invested his profits in the business, building a motel next to the café. Believing travelers wanted two things; good food and a good, clean place to sleep, he had a brilliant idea. Sanders already knew his reputation for good cooking was well known, drawing customers to his restaurant. Now he needed to make those same people aware of the quality of his motor court rooms. What better way than to show them? So Sanders built a complete full-size motel room right inside his restaurant!

Furnished on the outside to exactly replicate his motor court next door, the outside of the room had shutters, a window box, a front door, and a blue shingle roof. The interior was finished and furnished just like the motel rooms, with Celotex walls, carpeted floor, tile bathroom, and a maple bedroom suite. Sanders even located his restaurant’s pay telephone in the closet of the motel room to expose more café customers to the quality of his lodging! Realizing that women would not allow their family to sleep in a room that they did not feel comfortable in, Sanders also located the entrance to the ladies’ restroom inside the replicated motel room.

Business boomed for quite a while, and it was during this time that Sanders developed his world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe. Life was good and Harland Sanders was a success. But the good times were not to last.

In 1956, plans were announced to build a new Federal highway that would bypass Corbin. Realizing that the loss of all that traffic would mean ruin for his business, Sanders, then 66 years old, sold the restaurant and began traveling across the country, selling seasonings and his fried chicken recipe to other restaurants. His success at this endeavor led to the world’s largest commercial food service system, and Kentucky Fried Chicken became known and loved throughout the world. By 1964, Sanders had sold 600 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, and sold the company for $2 million. He continued to serve as the spokesman for the restaurants, and by 1976 he was named the second most recognized celebrity in the world.

Colonel Harland Sanders died on December 16, 1980, and was given a formal state funeral in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. But his legacy lives on – by the year 2002 there were 5,231 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the world and more are being added all the time. It is estimated that every man, woman, and child in the United States consumes nine pieces of the Colonel’s chicken every year.

Today Sanders’ original café still stands in Corbin, Kentucky and still sells his delicious fried chicken. Here you can get a good meal and see the kitchen where the Colonel perfected his chicken recipe, and just like those travelers from long ago, you can inspect the motel room, just as it was when Harland Sanders ran the place!

Sanders’ kitchen, where he created his famous chicken recipe, has been carefully restored. Sanders had white floors, walls, and ceiling because he wanted to be able to tell at a glance if the kitchen was clean. He built openings in the wall so restaurant patrons could see that everything was clean and proper. It was in this kitchen that Sanders also came up with the idea of frying his chicken in a pressure cooker, reducing the cooking time from 30 minutes to nine, effectively inventing the concept of “fast food.” While the present KFC restaurant has a modern kitchen, visitors can still peer through the windows into the original restaurant kitchen and see things just as they were in Sanders’ day.

Though the motor court Sanders built next door is long gone, the restaurant still has one of Harland Sanders’ motel rooms on display, exactly as it was when weary travelers stopped in for a meal and looked over the accommodations before checking in. The motel room is complete with original furnishings. The 1940s vintage pay telephone still works, though only for local calls.

The restaurant displays a very nice collection of Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken memorabilia, including old menus, early-day fast food boxes, advertising signs, and a scale model of the original Sanders Motor Court and Sanders Cafe buildings. A visit to Sanders Café in Corbin, Kentucky is a step back in time, where you can learn about the man who invented fast food, have a nice meal, and take a break from the fast pace of the interstate highway a short distance away.

The original Sanders Café, home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is located off of Interstate 75 on US Highway 25E. Take Exit 29 a couple of miles east to the restaurant. The parking lot is not big enough to accommodate a large RV, but a Wal-Mart Supercenter located near the exit might be a good place to leave your RV and drive your tow vehicle to Sanders Café.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Big Lake Wedding, the fifteenth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, 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 – Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

Feb 072020
 

An outpost of westward expansion, Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming was crucial in the transformation of the American West. The fort served as a fur trading post, military garrison, and as a way station for fur trappers, Indian traders, missionaries, and Oregon Trail emigrants for over 50 years during one of the most important time periods in the history of the United States.Fort Laramie served everyone from mountain men to Pony Express riders, as well as being an important staging area for the United States Army during the Indian wars.

Founded as Fort William by fur trader William Sublette and his party of mountain men in 1834, the fort sits near the confluence of the Laramie and Platte Rivers. Two years later the American Fur Company bought the tiny stockade from Sublette, and it thrived as a major fur trading center for a few years. By 1841 a competing trading post, called Fort Platte, was built a mile away. The American Fur Company responded by replacing their original fort, which had fallen into disrepair over the years, with a larger adobe structure they named Fort John. However most people called the location Fort Laramie, after the nearby river, and the name stuck.

It should be noted that these outposts did not serve a military function during this period and were built and operated by private companies to take advantage of the rich fur trade. Mountain men, trappers, buffalo hunters, Indians, and prospectors all stopped at the forts to trade. By 1840 the forts were also doing a very good business supplying the hordes of emigrants seeking new horizons down the Oregon Trail. As the fur trade dwindled, commerce associated with the westward migration replaced it in importance.

Relations between the Whites and Indians were peaceful at first, but as more and more settlers came into the area, friction developed and wagon trains became targets of opportunity for marauding war parties. Answering the emigrants’ demands for protection, in 1849 the Army purchased Fort Laramie and turned it into a military outpost. A new fort was erected by the Army around a large parade ground. This new Fort Laramie included barracks, officers’ quarters, a bakery, stables, mess hall, guardhouse, and other buildings.

As in most military posts of that period, there were no walls surrounding the fort. The Army relied on the numbers of troopers garrisoned and their firepower to prevent attacks. Fort Laramie was only raided once, in the summer of 1864, when a band of about 30 Indians followed a cavalry patrol back to the fort, rode onto the parade ground and made off with the patrol’s horses.

The fort’s first garrison consisted of a company of infantry and two companies of mounted cavalry. Many of the soldiers were recent immigrants from Europe, most poor and illiterate. Conditions and discipline on the frontier could be harsh at times, and the post suffered a desertion rate of 33 percent during its busiest years. As happens with most soldiers from any war, more of the soldiers’ time was spent performing routine maintenance, training, and garrison duties than actually engaged with the enemy.

Perhaps the most infamous battle between Fort Laramie’s soldiers and the Indians occurred when a small patrol led by Lieutenant John L. Grattan entered a nearby Sioux village to arrest an Indian accused of stealing a cow from a passing wagon train. When the Indians refused to turn over the suspect, Grattan pressed the issue and a fight erupted, in which the entire patrol was killed. The incident, known as the Grattan Massacre, was a turning point in relations between the Indians and Whites, leading to further confrontations.

As troubles with the Indians increased and more and more settlers came west, Fort Laramie took on even greater importance as a refuge and source of protection. Troopers from the fort ranged throughout the area to escort wagon trains and to answer threats from the hostile Indians. During the Civil War, the Oregon Trail became the country’s major overland mail route, and Fort Laramie became a major station for the Pony Express until the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph was completed.

Later the post served as a stage station and an important stopping point for those headed to the gold fields of the Black Hills.
Life at Fort Laramie was relatively comfortable for some – the bakery supplied fresh bread daily, officers and their ladies dined on fine china and were entertained by musical recitals and plays, and laundresses kept the soldiers’ uniforms in good repair. (Laundresses drew a regular food ration and earned more money than a line trooper, making them quite a catch for the soldiers and NCOs looking for marriage.)

By the late 1880s, the Plains Indians had been conquered and the need for the fort decreased until it was abandoned in 1890, its buildings sold at public auction. By April, 1890, all of the fort’s 60 buildings had been sold and were used as private homes and businesses, or were stripped and allowed to deteriorate into oblivion.

The fort was back in the government’s hands by the end of the 1930s and restoration was begun, a project that lasted until 1964. Restorers depended on extensive research, old drawings, photographs, and records to make the restoration as accurate as possible. Close attention was paid to every detail, including using square-cut nails and oak dowels to ensure the finished work was as close to original as possible. Nearly a dozen buildings have been restored and are open to visitors, including the stockade (below), while the ruins of other structures remain visible.

Among the most successful, and most imposing, of the fort’s restored structures is “Old Bedlam,” used to house bachelor officers and as the fort’s headquarters for a time. The building is the oldest military building in Wyoming. Today visitors can walk through its rooms and see it just as it looked during the fort’s busiest period.

Other restored buildings include the cavalry barracks, a huge two story structure that includes sleeping quarters, dining room, and day rooms. After being sold to the private sector, the old barracks served as a private residence, store, saloon, and dance hall. Today visitors see it as it looked when it housed troopers who spent their time pursuing Indians and protecting wagon trains.

The commissary is used today to house the visitor center, which includes displays on the fort’s history, the Indian wars, and a gift shop stocking an excellent selection of books and souvenirs. Restored officers quarters give visitors the opportunity to see what life was like for the genteel class on the frontier. The trading post, once the centerpiece of the fur trade, has been restored and looks much as it did 150 years ago.

Now a National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, Fort Laramie is open to visitors every day of the year except for Christmas, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving Day, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From early June to Labor Day, hours are extended to accommodate visitors. Fort Laramie is located three miles south of the town of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, off U.S. Route 26.

There are no camping facilities at the fort, but RV parks and motels are available in the nearby towns of Fort Laramie, Lingle, Gurnsey, and Torrington. There is a small admission charge, and National Park Service passes are honored. Other nearby historical attractions you should check out while you’re in the area include the Oregon Trail Ruts and Register Cliffs.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Big Lake Wedding, the fifteenth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, 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 – Never make snow angels in a dog park.