Oct 222019
 

Among the things my daughter Tiffany wanted to do while she was here, besides eating lots of seafood, was to see a cruise ship and a lighthouse. No problem, kid, got you covered.

One day we drove down to Port Canaveral, where you can always see a cruise ship or two. Some of them are massive, but on this day the only one in port was smaller than others we have seen. But that was okay with Tiffany, she said it looked big to her.

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that both my son and daughter inherited my appreciation for classic cars. Something else they seem to have inherited is an interest in browsing antique shops. When we left Port Canaveral we went to Cocoa to visit Stone Street Apothecary and Antique Marketplace. We have found some nice things in the past and this time was no different. I found a couple of antique taxi driver badges and Terry found a couple of goodies she liked, too.

While we were in the area, I spotted something else I knew Terry would be interested in; a shop called From Olives & Grapes that sells all kinds of specialty vinegars and oils and balsamic vingears that a cook like Terry is sure to fall in love with. And sure enough, she did! They have all kinds of concoctions of naturally flavored oils and customers are encouraged to sample as many as they like. Terry liked some so much that she brought four bottles of them home.

At another antique shop, I tried to talk the kids into buying this vintage gas pump for my garage. They didn’t seem to feel I really needed it. Rotten kids!

You can never have too much seafood, so on the way home we stopped at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. This is a very popular restaurant and we had to pose for another picture before going in.

Tiffany really like the lobster she ordered.

With the cruise ship out of the way, another day we took Tiffany to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse near Daytona Beach. This historic beauty is a popular attraction and we always try to take visitors to see it.

We hit a couple of other popular sites around town, including the famous Daytona Beach sign. Tiffany was surprised to find out that stock car racing began on the beach in Daytona. Or at least that’s what the folks at NASCAR say.

And since her husband Kenny is a big NASCAR fan, it seemed only right to go to the Daytona International Speedway for another photo op.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and at the ungodly time of 5:30 a.m. on Friday, the 11th, we went back to the airport so Tiffany could fly home to her family in Arizona. We had time for a few last hugs and kisses and one more selfie together. Then, all too soon, we had to say goodbye and she got ready to board her airplane.

We really enjoyed having the kids here, and we all decided we need to do this every year. It was a wonderful visit and we’re looking forward to many more in the future. Thank you Travis, Geli, and Tiffany. You really made this old Dad’s heart happy.

Thought For The Day – You know that tingly feeling you get when you first meet someone and are really attracted to them? That’s common sense leaving your body.

Kids And Cars

 Posted by at 1:01 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 212019
 

Something both of my kids seem to have inherited from me is my love of cars. Especially old cars. That may be because during their formative years there was almost always a classic car or two around the house. One of the nice perks of being in the small-town newspaper business is that you get first dibs on any ad that comes through the door. Over the years this allowed me to purchase a lot of guns and a lot of very nice old cars at bargain prices.

So when we stumbled on a car show on Canal Street in downtown New Smyrna Beach I didn’t have to ask if anybody else wanted to go check it out. It took more effort just to make them stay inside the Explorer until I got parked. Then we set off to admire all the nice rides.

Tiffany likes fast cars. Especially fast old cars. She found some she really liked at the car. This was one of her favorites.

Travis prefers the big old boats from the 50s, 60s, and even the early 70s. He did a bit of drooling over this old Lincoln Continental.

And being kind of macabre guy, he absolutely fell in love with this customized old hearse.

When the owner saw Geli admiring his rat rod, he invited her to sit in it for a picture. Pretty girls get all the breaks. Nobody asked me if I wanted to sit in their cars!

Another fun car place is Hankster’s Hot Rods in Daytona Beach, which is a combination car museum and collectible car showroom housed in an old roller-skating rink. When I told Tiffany about it before she came to visit, she said she had to see it. And the minute we walked in she fell in love with this guy. I’m not sure if it’s a step up or a step down from the one she saw at Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza on her first night here.

There were a lot of neat old cars to choose from, and there were several that Tiffany said she wanted to drive home to Arizona. There was a time when it might have been worth buying one just to get rid of her, but she’s grown up since then and I kind of like having her around.

Any time I am at Hankster’s I have to lust after the old Mustangs on display. I keep telling Miss Terry we need a bigger garage. She tells me I also need a much bigger bank account to pay for all of the toys I would want to put in that bigger garage.

Here is a unique car, a 1969 Amphicar. These were very cool, because they were amphibians. That’s right you could put the top down, drive it right into the water, and do some fishing from your car. How cool is that?

My birthday was Tuesday, and unfortunately, Travis and Geli had to go home to Alabama on Monday because of work scheduling. But the three kids got me a really cool shirt in honor of the occasion and their visit.

A couple people have mentioned that Travis and Tiffany look a lot like Miss Terry. That has to be a coincidence because my first wife is their biological mother, but neither of them have a relationship with her. To the kids, Terry is and always has been Mom and they love her as much as she loves them. Here are Tiffany and Geli letting her know just how much she means to them. That makes my heart smile.

Congratulations Bruce Besmen, winner of our 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. We had 56 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Behind every angry woman stands a man who has absolutely no idea what he did wrong.

Seafood And See Nude

 Posted by at 1:22 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 202019
 

I think all travelers, whether they do it by RV, automobile, or airplane, have a bucket list for the destinations they visit. At least I know we did during our 18 years as fulltime RVers, and so do my kids when they come to visit us.

One thing on everybody’s bucket list was to get my pontoon boat out on the water, which I wrote about in yesterday’s blog. Travis and Geli had seen dolphins when they were here before, but no manatee, and seeing both was on Tiffany’s bucket list. Again, as I wrote in yesterday’s blog, they saw plenty of them.

Seeing an alligator was also on the list for everybody, so we drove down to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, our go to place to take visitors who want to see gators. We have driven the back roads of the Refuge many times and never failed to see an alligator, until this trip. Recent rains had raised the water level in all of the ponds and canals, and the places where we normally see alligators were all underwater. Between that and the fact that it was in the mid-80s, when they usually stay underwater as much they can to keep cool, we got skunked. Not one darn gator.

We didn’t even see the birds we normally do. There were some, but the numbers were way down. That was disappointing. But we did see a few, including this egret fleeing from a larger heron who took exception to it trespassing on his or her turf. Seeing two big birds like that taking off at the same time and engaging in an aerial battle was amazing.

Eventually the egret fled the scene, not to be spotted again by us.

In addition to the bird pictures, Travis also got this great picture of a dragonfly. It amazes me how he can see things that the rest of us look right past and never spot.

The wildlife refuge abuts the John F. Kennedy Space Center, but if you want access it you have to go further south of Titusville.

When I mentioned there is even a nude beach at the Wildlife Refuge, Travis, Tiffany, and Geli insisted on going to check it out. What, you don’t take your adult children to nude beaches? What kind of parent are you?

There are 13 parking areas along Playalinda Beach in the Refuge, with boardwalks leading across the dunes to lovely beaches where families come to enjoy the sun, surf, and sand. The northernmost beach access, Parking Area 13, is clothing optional. I’m not sure if that’s official or not, but it’s known to be a place where you are going to see naked people.

It was a Sunday and the parking lots were all full, so Terry and I dropped them off to get an eyeful while we drove back down the dead-end road, and then made a U-turn to go back. Apparently they saw everything they needed to see from the boardwalk, because by the time we reached a U-turn three parking areas down they were calling to ask where we were and saying they were ready to be picked up.

Something else on Tiffany’s bucket list was to try a lot of different kinds of seafood. No problem kiddo, we live on the coast and there’s no shortage of seafood around here! One of the places we took her was Aunt Catfish’s on the River, in Port Orange. The place is always busy so we had to wait a while to be seated. No problem, we walked out on their dock and enjoyed the water.

They have one of those machines where you can buy dry fish food for a quarter, and when Tiffany dropped some of it into the water the fish went into a feeding frenzy. They seem to be well fed and well trained, because as soon as she ran out of food they disappeared again. Fickle fish.

It was starting to get dark by the time they paged us to come in, and Tiffany got this great view from the dock of the moon shining on the water.

We got a table at a window overlooking the water, which was very nice. Tiffany is from a small town in the mountains of Arizona with few choices in restaurants, and none of them are what I would call great, so she didn’t know much about seafood or what to order. We started off with some calamari. She wasn’t too sure about it, but she’s a trooper and she’ll try anything.

Judging by the look on her face at the first bite, I think she was impressed.

Today we have to run down to Relax the Back in Orlando to pick up my new office chair, but I will be back with new things to share with you about the kids’ visit in tomorrow’s blog.

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 this evening.

Thought For The Day – My sense of humor earns me a lot of awkward glances.

Oct 192019
 

I appreciate everybody indulging me for the last week while I re-posted old blogs so I could spend time with my kids while they were here visiting from out of state. Now they’re gone and I’m back, and I’ve got a lot to share with you. In fact, it will take me a few days just to get caught up with everything we did while they were here.

My daughter Tiffany flew in from her home in Show Low, Arizona, which was our hometown before we became fulltime RVers, back in 1999. She arrived at the Daytona Beach airport at 7 PM on Friday, the 11th. There were a bunch of hugs and some tears shed by all three of us. This was Tiffany’s first time to fly and she was very nervous but a nice lady who was going to be on the same flight took her under her wing at the Phoenix airport and promised that when they got to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Tiffany had a layover and changed planes, she would make sure she got to the right gate. And sure enough, she did! By the time Tiffany arrived in Daytona Beach all the nervousness was gone and she told us she loves flying!

She hadn’t eaten all day so the first order of business was to stop and get food. We went to Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza in Port Orange, where Tiffany immediately found Mr. Right. Or at least Mr. Right Now. What can I say? She’s my kid.

My son Travis and his wife Geli were driving down from their home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and didn’t arrive until sometime around midnight. Geli is a nurse and had to work the night before so by the time they arrived we were all worn out. But we still sat up and talked for an hour or two before none of us could keep our eyes open any longer.

This was Tiffany’s first visit to Florida and Travis and Geli’s second, and there was a lot we wanted to show them while they were here as well as just catching up on family time. This was the first time in over 25 years that all three of us were in the same place at the same time and it was very special.

Something everybody wanted to do was get my pontoon boat into the water, so we did! Regular readers will probably be aware that it has been 18 months since I last used it, due to my ongoing medical issues. I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t start, even though I had put Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, but it fired right up and ran great. We got it into the water with no difficulty, and off we went for about three hours of fun.

My boat is a 20-foot Bennington fishing model and this was the first time we had five adults in it. There was plenty of room for everybody and the 90 horsepower Yamaha four-stroke outboard motor moved it right along.

It was a hot, sunny day, but with the breeze off the water and having the boat’s canopy up, it was comfortable. Here I am with a whole bunch of pretty ladies. From left to right, that’s Tiffany, Geli, and Miss Terry.

Even though they don’t get to spend a lot of time together, Travis and Tiffany have a close bond and it was wonderful to see them enjoying each other’s company.

Everybody took a turn at driving the boat, and though it was the first time to do anything like that for Tiffany, she took to it like a pro. I think the smile on her face tells you how much she enjoyed it.

We weren’t the only ones having fun on the water that day. We saw several manatees, and dolphins seemed to be everywhere. It’s not uncommon to see two, and even three dolphins at a time around here, but this time we saw one pod of five of them, and they seemed to be putting on a show for us. We stopped the boat for a while just to watch them rolling and playing in the water.

As I’ve said before, Travis is an excellent photographer and he took a lot of great pictures that you’ll be seeing in upcoming blog posts, including this one of one of the manatee, too.

When you use a boat in saltwater, you need to flush the engine with freshwater when you get home, and then hose down both the boat and trailer before putting them away. After I flushed the engine, Tiffany insisted on rinsing the boat and trailer down. I raised my kids to pitch in when help is needed and neither one of them ever hesitates to do so.

That’s about it for today’s blog, but I’ll be back tomorrow with more adventures to share with you from the kids’ visit.

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 – If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Oct 182019
 

When I was a kid, long before the days of Playstations and Xboxes, we had simple toys that required us to get down on our hands and knees to play with and actually use our imaginations! Sometimes I think the world would be better off if we unplugged all of the electronic time wasters that youngsters are occupied with these days and made them do the same thing.

Dyersville, Iowa’s National Farm Toy Museum takes you back to those days and gives visitors the opportunity to see some of the finest collection of farm toys, pedal tractors, dioramas, and unique exhibits on agriculture’s amazing history that you will find anywhere.


And while the museum’s displays, which include thousands of miniature replicas, focus on farm machinery from yesterday to modern times, you don’t have to be a farmer or have an agricultural background to appreciate them. After all, who doesn’t love tractors?

Kids of all ages will enjoy the museum, which has 30,000 farm toys on display. Everything from miniature trucks and plows to pedal cars, along with dioramas that not only entertain, but also educate visitors on the history of farming and the modern-day agriculture industry. The people who work at the museum truly love what they do and are always happy to answer questions about the toys or farming in general.

Founded in 1986, the museum is the brainchild of Dave Bell and Claire Scheibe, the founders of the Ertl Company, which has been manufacturing farm replica toys since 1945. The first floor of the museum has a ten-minute film about toy production in Dyersville. Three different farm toy companies are located in Dyersville, giving the city the title of the Farm Toy Capital of the World.

The first floor also includes a play area, dioramas of farm homesteads, and small exhibits that detail how toys are produced. The museum’s second floor has farm and truck toys, and a collection of cowboy and Native American dolls. The museum also has a gift shop where visitors can purchase toys and souvenirs.

Every year the museum hosts the National Farm Show, which includes a tractor parade, garage sales, displays of antique tractors and farm machinery, and a farm toy show. Other smaller events and toy shows are held throughout the year.

The National Farm Toy Museum is located at 1110 16th Avenue Ct SE in Dyersville and is open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for ages 6-17, and children 5 and under are free. The museum’s parking lot can accommodate large RVs. For more information call (563) 875-2727, or visit their website at www.nationalfarmtoymuseum.com.

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 – Based on the amount of laundry we do every week, I’m going to assume that there are people who live here that I haven’t met yet.

Celebrity Scam

 Posted by at 12:14 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 172019
 

Note: This is a repost of a story from the “Nick Happens” files that I thought might start your day with a smile.

Okay, before I write another word, I have to warn you: Do not try this at home (or anywhere else, for that matter)! Unless, of course, you think you can get away with it. If you can’t pull it off, I don’t want to hear the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe or any other shysters you may have on retainer.

We were staying at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and since it had been a while since we had dined in a nice restaurant, Miss Terry informed me the kitchen was closed for the night. It was time to take my pretty lady out to dinner. We decided where we wanted to go (a restaurant that will not be named, to protect them and because we may want to return again someday), and I called to get directions from the campground.

The manager started out giving the directions, realized he was getting both me and himself confused, and transferred me to a nice lady named Susan, who gave very good directions to the restaurant. I asked if I could make a reservation and was told that they do not take reservations, it was first come, first served. The wait would be about 45 minutes. No problem. Susan then told me to check in with her when we arrived so she would know we got there in one piece and asked for my name.

Well, if you know me, it may not surprise you to know that I can be a smart aleck on occasion. Sometimes you just have to be silly because you can. I told Susan my name then said “Yes, Susan, I’m that Nick Russell. But please. I don’t want a big scene when we arrive. No reporters, no camera crews, no paparazzi. I get enough of that on Jay Leno and all the other TV talk shows. Tonight, I don’t want to be the world-famous celebrity. I’m really not up to giving interviews and signing autographs. I just want to be a guy enjoying a quiet dinner with his wife.” Susan assured me that we would not be disturbed.

I chuckled as I hung up the phone and we hopped in the pickup and headed out to the restaurant. Sure enough, Susan’s directions were great and we found the place without a problem. There was a big crowd standing around waiting for tables, and I told Miss Terry we should check in and let Susan know we had arrived.

When I introduced myself, Susan immediately led us past all the people in line to a waiting table and assured me that no reporters, photographers, or autograph hounds would show up to interrupt our meal. As soon as we were seated our waitress was at my elbow and told us that the manager had ordered her to give us special treatment, and our appetizers and drinks were on the house. Right behind her came the manager himself, who shook my hand and thanked us for coming to his restaurant, and again assured us that no one had been allowed to leak the news of our arrival. The service was excellent, with our waitress hovering nearby to attend to our every need, the food was superb, and all through our meal we noticed the staff whispering among themselves and pointing to our table, or whispering to their customers about the celebrity in their midst.

Now, I have to think that sooner or later somebody had to say, “Wait a minute, who the hell is Nick Russell anyway?” But it didn’t happen while we were in the restaurant. After leaving our waitress a healthy tip we left, but not before the manager, Susan, and our waitress again gushed over us and thanked us for coming. As well as this worked out, I think next week I may be Nick Russell, the world-famous movie producer. Does anybody know where I can get a good deal on a casting couch?

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 – I accidentally got ketchup in my eye. Now I have Heinzsight.

Just A Quickie

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 162019
 

I’m afraid all you’re going to get out of me is a quickie blog today, because we are busy having fun. My son Travis and his wife Geli drove down from Alabama last Friday the 11th and stayed with us until Monday the 14th when they had to leave to go back to work. My daughter Tiffany also flew in on the 11th and will be here with us until the 18th, when she flies back to Arizona.

This is the first time I have had both of my kids with me in the same place at the same time, in over 25 years, and it made this old man’s heart smile.

Here are two photos of the three of us together. The top was taken in October of 1991 and the bottom was the other day here at our house. Those kids went and grew up on me!

Before I close, I want to thank everybody who called, sent e-mails, and wished me happy birthday on Facebook. You all made me feel very special.

I will try to post more tomorrow if time allows, but as much as I love all of you, right now it’s family time and I hope you will forgive me if it’s not much.

Thought For The Day – I’ve always thought I would discover my inner-self through some meditation and eastern philosophies, not because of that stupid single-ply toilet paper from Walmart!

Oct 152019
 

Tucked away on a narrow two-lane road in Sandwich, Massachusetts we discovered the wonderful Heritage Museum and Gardens, a combination art museum, old car museum, museum of New England history, and delightfully landscaped gardens. This place was a real hidden gem!

Founded in 1969, the 100+ acre museum complex is southern New England’s largest public garden, and I’m glad we arrived early in the day because there was so much to see and do.

After getting our tickets at the Main building, our first stop was this beautiful round barn, modeled after the stone dairy barn at the Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

We didn’t find any cows inside waiting to be milked, but rather a beautiful collection of world class antique cars dating back to the earliest days of automotive engineering. There was everything from a Stanley Steamer, to a beautiful yellow Duesenberg, a couple of Woody wagons, and more.

This 1937 Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster was originally owned by movie star Gary Cooper and is one of only eight of this model ever produced. The original cost was $14,000, and it sported a powerful 265 horsepower Straight 8 motor. The car could accelerate to 90 mph in second gear, and hit 120 in high gear.

Another beautiful automobile in the collection was this sleek 1937 Cord Phaeton, whose design influenced car makers for years to come.

I’m an old car guy (as opposed to an OLD car guy), though I guess I fit in that category, too, since I turn 67 today, so I really enjoyed seeing these beautiful antique automobiles.

We left the automotive display and walked further down the path where we came upon this beautiful windmill, which was built in 1800 and help to supply Union troops with ground corn during the Civil War.

The museum complex covers many acres of manicured and exquisitely groomed gardens, with paved pathways, as well as nature trails for those who feel a bit more adventurous. All along the way, beautiful flower gardens and plants line the pathways. We found ourselves constantly stopping to take photos of the many beautiful blossoms on display.

The gardens are delightful any time of year. During the Spring, showy Dexter Rhododendrons and flowering trees put on a beautiful display, while summer bursts into color with brilliant annuals and daylilies. Autumn highlights blazing foliage and fall-blooming plants, and winter showcases beautiful heathers, bright berries and evergreens.

Hidden Hollow, a family-friendly area, is a place for exploration of the natural world and learning about caring for the environment, and is always full of children and families having a wonderful time. Children can climb stepping stumps, walk log beams, build forts, experiment with water, and create nature inspired art and music.

As we explored the grounds, we came across a number of whimsical garden gates that caught our attention, all created by local artists.

The highlight of the day for us was a special exhibit called Norman Rockwell, Beyond The Easel, which explained all the painstaking work the famous artist put into creating his beautiful paintings and Saturday Evening Post covers.

Besides a number of original Rockwell paintings, there were sketches and photographs of the models and props that he used to create the finished product. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in that exhibit, but no camera could pay just tribute to Rockwell’s work anyway.

Another huge building, the American Art and Carousel Gallery, houses a beautiful old working carousel and we stopped to watch kids and their parents riding the horses and other animals that have delighted children for over 100 years.

The building held a folk art collection that included a collection of cigar store Indians and other advertising figures.

There were also interesting collections of old weathervanes, Scrimshaw, original oil paintings, and signs used to advertise businesses, including these giant scissors for a tailor shop, and this fellow that hung in front of a book and antique shop.

Besides the regular exhibits, the museum and gardens hold special events all year long, ranging from concerts to landscaping workshops, programs for schoolchildren, classic car shows, and holiday celebrations.

All of that exploring can sure work up an appetite, and the Magnolia Café on the museum grounds serves lunch, light snacks, wine, and ice cream. Visitors can also picnic on the museum grounds.

If you have not visited the Heritage Gardens and Museum yet, be sure to include them on your next trip to New England. You won’t be disappointed.

Located at 67 Grove Street in Sandwich, the museum complex is open daily from mid-April through late October, with special events held year around. Admission to the Heritage Gardens and Museum is $20 for adults, $10 for ages 3 to 17, and free for children ages 2 and under.

The Heritage Gardens and Museum is part of the Blue Star Museums program. This partnership between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment of Arts, and museums across the country is dedicated to enriching the lives of military families through the arts by offering free admission to cultural institutions from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. All active duty military are eligible and may bring up to five immediate family members with them to Heritage.

While buses bring visitors coming to the museum complex, I wouldn’t drive my motorhome down the narrow road to get there. Park your RV at one of the area campgrounds and drive your dinghy or tow vehicle when you visit. For more information on Heritage Gardens and Museum, call (508) 888-3300 or visit their website.

Thought For The Day – Is the “S” or “C” silent in scent?

Oct 142019
 

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m not really a Hank Williams fan. Though I love country music, his “twangy” style just never caught my fancy. But who can not appreciate the contributions he made to the American music scene? Over 50 years after his untimely death, Hank Williams has an ever growing legion of fans, his music still plays on radio stations and jukeboxes around the world, and his legacy lives on. The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama celebrates the life of this music pioneer who shaped much of what we hear today.

Born south of Montgomery in Butler County on September 17, 1923, Hiram “Hank” Williams learned to play the guitar and sing on the streets of Georgiana. His career began at the age of fourteen when he won a talent show at the Empire Theater in Montgomery Alabama in 1937 with his original tune WPA Blues. The rest is music history.

Williams made his way to Nashville, and in 1949 he stopped the show at the Grand Ole Opry when he performed Lovesick Blues. Williams was both an accomplished singer and a prolific songwriter. His short career was like a comet streaking across the sky over the country’s roadhouses and honky tonks with compositions like Your Cheatin’ Heart, Jambalaya, Ramblin’ Man, Beyond the Sunset, and Kaw-Liga. And like all comets, he burned out way too soon.

Williams died in the back of his baby blue 1952 Cadillac convertible on January 1, 1953. He left behind a grieving family and fans, a son who would make his own indelible mark on the music business, and memories of a lonely, haunted man who learned early on that he expressed his pain best with a guitar in his hands, while standing on a stage.

Located in downtown Montgomery, where Hank Williams lived from 1937 to 1953, the Hank Williams Museum displays the most complete collection of the singer’s memorabilia to be found anywhere.

Exhibits include costumes Williams wore on stage, musical instruments, albums, photographs, portraits, a magnificent old Wurlitzer jukebox, and the Cadillac in which he made his final journey. Other items on display include the singer’s cowboy boots, ties, hats, his saddle, piano, Hank’s 1947 Gibson Guitar, the microphone and stand Hank used at his last performance, his blue suede shoes, suitcase, shaving kit, his favorite revolver, a fiddle, a 1939 Sidney Lanier High School yearbook, signed programs and books, sheet music, songbooks, and Hank Jr.’s first cowboy boots and Boy Scout hats. Williams’ platinum records and awards are also on display. His music plays from hidden speakers as you tour the museum’s galleries.

A bust of the singer greets visitors to the museum’s lobby, along with a handsome portrait, and a statue of the wooden Indian Kowaliga.

Legend has it that Kowaliga was a Creek Indian who once lived on Lake Martin. He fell in love with a beautiful Indian maiden and asked her to marry him. Alas, her father had already promised her to another and she rejected Kowaliga’s proposal and left, never to be seen again. Heartbroken, Kowaliga swore to strand on the edge of the lake and wait faithfully for her return. He stood on that lakeshore so long that his feet finally took root and he turned to wood. In August, 1952, Hank Williams visited Lake Martin and was so taken by Kowaliga’s sad tale that he immortalized him in his song Kaw-Liga.

While the artifacts exhibited tell a lot about Hank’s career, I found that the personal memories from his band members, wife Audrey, and fellow musicians really helped me understand the man behind the songs.

In a series of notes, Audrey recalls her first meeting with Hank and their whirlwind courtship. They had their first date the night after they met, he proposed to her on their second date the next night, and they were married a year later. Audrey recalled “Pretty soon he said ‘I love you’ so much I got to believing him.”

Any new relationship takes work, and the rigors of show business and Hank’s mercurial personality took their toll on the marriage. The couple separated several times in the early days of their marriage, but Audrey recalled “I always went back because I knew the heart of Hank Williams was great. He was often misunderstood because his emotions, his thinking, and his feelings were so much deeper than the average person’s. But his love was even deeper. It can never be written on paper. Words won’t express him or his life.” Audrey’s notes recall that some of Hank’s best “suffering” songs were written during the times they were separated.

When Hank Williams bought eight year old Cecil Jackson a coke at a small gas station located across the street from where he lived, he created a fan for life. From then on, Cecil listened to Hank on radio station WSFA in Montgomery. When Cecil was eleven, Hank came to the Lightwood Community in Elmore Country for a show. The youngster changed a tire for Hank that night, and the singer later dedicated a song to the Lightwood flat fixers. In 1952, one week before Hank Williams’s death, Cecil rotated and balanced the tires on Hank’s 1952 baby blue Cadillac. Cecil Jackson realized a long-held dream when he opened the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery on February 8, 1999. Today he serves as president of the Hank Williams Memorial Foundation Montgomery. Jackson’s daughter, Beth Birtley, is the museum manager. Influenced by her father’s love for the music legend, she spent most of her life listening to country music, especially Hank Williams.

Hank Williams’ professional debut was in Montgomery, and his final public performance was here also. “He attended a musicians’ union meeting,” Beth Birtley explains. “This was on December 28, 1952, at the Elite (pronounced E-light) Cafe, which was on Montgomery Street.” A few days later he was dead, but his music will live on forever. Oakwood Cemetery, the final resting place of Hank and Audrey Williams, is only five minutes from the Museum.

For his fans, a visit to the Hank Williams Museum is a trip into the past, a past that continues today; the life and times of Hank Williams. For younger generations, the museum offers the opportunity to get to know the man revered by generations of music lovers. Visit the place where the man who left his mark on the musical world and you just may discover that he has left his mark on you as well.

The Hank William Museum is located at 118 Commerce Street in Montgomery, just one mile from Exit 172, off Interstate 65. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is limited parking at the museum and no room for large RVs. Park your rig at a local RV park and drive your dinghy or tow vehicle. For more information on the Hank Williams Museum, call (334) 262-3600 or visit their website at www.thehankwilliamsmuseum.net.

Congratulations Jenny Johnson, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper, book three in Phyllis Entis’ Damien Dickens mystery series. We had 40 entries this time around. stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – I used to be a people person, but people ruined that for me.

Oct 132019
 

Living and traveling in an RV fulltime, or just going about your daily routine, you just never know how many interesting places you’ll discover, and how many more you drive right on past without even knowing they are there. It’s amazing what you can find with just a couple of quick Internet searches.

A good example is Manasota Memorial Park, a cemetery on 53rd Avenue (State Route 70) in Bradenton, Florida. We have spent some time in RV parks in Bradenton and had driven past the cemetery many times but we had no idea how many famous and semi-famous people are interred there. But when I was looking up something else on Google, I came across a notation that wire walker Karl Wallenda is buried there.

The patriarch of the Flying Wallendas, a family of aerialists famous for performing high above amazed audiences, often without a safety net, the Wallendas set the standard by which other high wire acts are judged. Already famous throughout Europe, the Wallendas brought their act to the United States in 1928, drawing large crowds wherever they performed.

As comfortable on a thin cable stretched high in the air as the rest of us are on the ground, Karl Wallenda was known for his amazing death-defying stunts throughout his life. At an age when most men are enjoying retirement and doing nothing more strenuous than playing a round of golf, at age 65 Wallenda did his high-wire walk, known as a skywalk, across the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia, thrilling audiences when he did two headstands as he covered the quarter-mile distance across the gorge.

Four years later, in 1974, Wallenda set a skywalk distance record of 1,800 feet. That record stood until 2008, when his grandson, Rick Wallenda, broke it with a 2,000-foot skywalk.

It should be no surprise that a family who routinely performs such dangerous stunts would not be strangers to tragedy. Over the years many Wallenda family members have been seriously injured or killed during their acts. Fate finally caught up with Karl Wallenda on March 22, 1978, when at age 73, he attempted a wire walk 121 feet above the ground between the twin towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As he fell to his death, the accident was caught on live TV.

Wallenda and several of his family members are all buried together in the same plot at Manasota Memorial Park.

And they are not the only notables buried there. Others include Major League baseball players Johnny Cooney, Walter “Butch” Henline, Bill McKechnie, and Hall of Famer Paul Glee Waner. The cemetery is also the final resting place of circus owner Charles Ringling, U.S. Senator Lathrop Brown, and William Remsburg Grove, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Philippine Insurrection in 1899.

How many cemeteries have you driven past that hold the graves of famous people? You might be surprised what you could find on the Find A Grave website. How many historic sites, homes of famous people, interesting museums, and oddball attractions do you pass by every day, never knowing they are there waiting to be discovered?

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper, book three in Phyllis Entis’ Damien Dickens 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 – My mouth is a lot like a magician’s hat. You never know what’s going to come out of it.