Fog, Weed, And Rain

 Posted by at 12:26 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 282020
 

We were out running errands much of yesterday and I ran out of time, so here is my blog post from five years ago today. Hard to imagine that weather when it is 90 degrees here on the central Florida coast.

Yesterday was a long day on the road for us, 262 miles, from Sutherlin, Oregon to Redding, California. We’ve done more miles in a day many times, but this trip was mountain driving most of the way and that’s always more like work for me.

It was a foggy morning and as these pictures show, clouds and fog were hanging low over the mountains for much of our trip through southern Oregon on Interstate 5.

Foggy Oregon small

Foggy Oregon 2 small

Occasionally when we broke into the clear the scenery was great.

Autumn bridge small

Pastoral valley small

It probably would have been spectacular a couple of weeks ago, but a lot of the leaves have already turned on the hillsides and were now mostly brown.

Oregon scenery 2 small

Oregon scenery small

I’m not sure there was a straight, level mile of highway on our whole trip yesterday. It was all either uphill, downhill, or curvy, and usually two out of three.

Curvy I5 small

Eventually we crossed the California state line but the only thing that really changed was that the speed limit for vehicles towing anything dropped to 55 mph. Otherwise, it was the same curves, the same climbs, and the same descents.

Mount Shasta was hiding her top in a thick shroud of clouds.

Mount Shasta small

We stopped in Weed for a little while, a town that always gets a chuckle when we travel through here.

Weed sign

Who knew that Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory likes Weed too?

Weed Sheldon

It started raining about the time we got back on the highway, just to add to the fun. We crossed a long bridge over Shasta Lake and were amazed at how far down the water level is from previous trips through this area.

Shasta Lake small

There are two or three Passport America campgrounds in Redding, and we had planned to stop at one of them for the night. But it turned out one was several miles off the highway, which isn’t worth it for a quick overnight stay, and when Miss Terry called the other two to see if they had any openings, all she got was voicemail at both places. She left our number and told them we were looking for a site for the night, but neither of them called us back.

But as we were going through Redding we spotted a sign for the Win River Casino, and when Terry called them they told her that they have lots of room for RVs to dry camp free in their truck parking area, or 13 pull-through 30/50 amp full hookup RV sites for $26.40 a night, including tax. Not the cheapest camping around, but not bad either.

We had a scare when we got off the interstate and were driving to the casino when some fool on a three-wheel bicycle crossed from the side of the road across the bicycle lane and almost into the side of our motorhome. All the while he was looking back over his shoulder in the other direction and I don’t think he even had a clue how close he came to getting wiped out.

When we arrived at the casino a friendly shuttle driver named Andy met us, directed us into a site, and then drove us over to the casino to pay for it. By that time we were pretty hungry, so we went to one of the restaurants in the casino and got a bite to eat. We also got their free players cards, which got us a discount on dinner as well as $10 each in free slot play. I won $18.50, which helped offset the cost of our campsite. How cool is that?

Thought For The Day – Life is sexually transmitted.

Mixed Reactions

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 272020
 

When I asked in yesterday’s blog if I should continue to post stories from our previous travels when I don’t have something else to write about, the reaction was mixed. Some readers said that they didn’t really care about the travel stories because they had hung up the keys or else they had already been there and done that. But the majority seem to enjoy them and said that even if they have read the stories before or been to those places, they still like seeing them again.

So I guess I will slip one in every now and then when I don’t have anything else to talk about. Or when I’m busy and don’t have time to write a full blog and decide to recycle an old one. Yes, I really am that lazy.

In my last marathon writing session of over 6,300 words, the story went off on a tangent, which sometimes happens. Usually, I can weave wherever it’s going on back into the current story, but not always. Sometimes I go too far off into the ether and lose my way back. That was the case this time around, and before I realized it, I had two chapters that really didn’t fit in the book.

However, I felt like they were pretty good, and they would work well in a future Big Lake project, so yesterday I cut them out and saved them for another time. Then I wrote two more chapters to fill in the gap. I didn’t add any more to the word count in the process, so I’m right back where I started.

Speaking of books, my friend Patrick O’Donnell is a retired cop with over twenty years of experience under his belt with one of the largest police departments in the country. Patrick has been bitten by the writing bug, and last year he released Cops and Writers: From The Academy To The Street. It is an excellent reference for crime writers that explains the steps necessary to become a police officer, the training involved, and what it is like for new recruits when they graduate and begin working under a Field Training Officer.

Now Patrick, who started the excellent Cops and Writers Facebook group, has the second book in the series out, Cops And Writers: Crime Scenes And Investigations. As the title suggests, this book focuses on how police handle crime scenes, from misdemeanor assaults to major felonies, along with insights into the working lives of police officers, information on the weapons and equipment cops use, and personal accounts of some of the things Patrick encountered during his time protecting and serving his community. You can bet my copy of Patrick’s new book is on its way to me, and every mystery or crime writer should get one. But you don’t have to be an author to appreciate these books. They are an excellent way for civilians to get an idea of what the men and women of law enforcement experience every day.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – The fact that my entire body cracks like a glowstick whenever I move and yet refuses to actually glow is very disappointing to me.

Potpourri

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 262020
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

***

You always have to keep your eye out for the scammers of the world because they are everywhere in this day and age. A friend of a friend is looking for a small travel trailer, and she has asked me about a couple of different ones he found online. Yesterday she sent me a link to an online ad for a 2008 Airstream Bambi, priced at $1,800 and for sale in Minneapolis, Minnesota, not far from her home. I knew immediately that it had to be some kind of scam because low Blue Book on a 2008 Airstream Bambi is $18,500. Then there was the fact that the RV is supposed to be in Minnesota, but the picture of the trailer was obviously taken in Arizona, with saguaro cacti in the background. And then the name of the seller, imythical, made it obvious that only a fool would waste time with this clown. People like this are like cockroaches. They come out of the woodwork in droves, and if you smash one, a hundred more show up for the funeral.

***

I get a lot of questions about where to buy RV insurance, who sells the best RV satellite systems, leveling jacks, awnings, etc., about the pros and cons of different models of RVs, campground recommendations, and such. Unfortunately, we have been out of the RV lifestyle four years now and a lot has changed in that time. Most of the vendors we knew have retired and hung up the keys themselves, and I have not looked at any of the newer crop of RVs in a long time. So I’m afraid I am of little help with things like that.

***

This brings to mind a question I have for you blog readers. Since we are not traveling anymore, not even making short trips in the van due to COVID, I occasionally run stories about places we have visited in the past. The response seems to be lukewarm to these types of posts. Do you enjoy them? Should I continue posting them? What say ye?

***

A few days ago somebody sent me a message asking how I liked the gaming chair I bought last year and if it was helping my back. Somehow I deleted the message before I could reply, so I hope they see this. Actually, it’s not a gaming chair, it’s a Lifeform office chair that I ordered from Relax the Back in Orlando. At first, I balked at the price because it was incredibly expensive, but it has been one of the best investments I ever made and has really helped relieve my back pain.

With every other office chair I have ever used, after a couple of hours my back would start to hurt, and when I stood up, I would feel sharp jabs of pain in my lower back. With the new chair, the discomfort from sitting is gone, and when I stand up after three hours or so of steady writing, there is no pain at all. When I am working on a book (and it seems I am always working on a book), it’s quite common for me to be at my desk ten or more hours a day, seven days a week, and this chair makes it possible to do so.

***

Along the same lines, people have asked how my RF nerve ablations have been doing and if they helped. Yes, no question about that. While I still have considerable lower back pain and always will because there’s so much damage back there, it is not the excruciating pain that incapacitated me and was getting to the point where I really didn’t want to face another day of it. They tell me that the effects of RF can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. It’s been about four months now, and if and when I have to repeat the procedure, I will happily do so.

***

A young lady who considers herself an author contacted me the other day, asking if I would read her book before she publishes it. I told her that I get so many requests that I have no time to review books, but if she had any specific questions to get back to me. She wanted me to clarify some things in the opening scene that friends who had read the manuscript had called her attention to. In the scene, the main character pulls a 19 shot semi-automatic 12 gauge handgun from her shoulder holster and is firing at the bad guys with her right hand as she rides her 750 horsepower Yamaha motorcycle through a crowd of them who are blocking the road.

When I told her that A: The throttle on a motorcycle is in the right handgrip, so she could not drive the bike anywhere if that hand was busy firing a gun, and B: there are no 19 shot semi-automatic 12 gauge handguns, and if there were a person, would probably break their wrist trying to shoot it, and C: I’ve never heard of a 750 horsepower motorcycle of any kind, but if there was and it had wings, it would fly. Her response was to say that it was her book, and she would write it any damn way she wanted. Well, okay then. I wish you luck and success!

***

Congratulations Arley C. Running, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last copy of this book that I have with the original cover. We had 73 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Being old sucks, but getting old was fun.

The Rest Of The Story

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 252020
 

In yesterday’s blog, I told you about the tree removal and about us cleaning things up afterward, and about our trip to the nursery to order some citrus trees. But there was more to our day than that. And now, in the words of the late, great Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story.

On the way home from the nursery, we stopped at the local meat market and stocked up some on some goodies, including salmon fillets, shrimp, bay scallops, and alligator tail. If you live by the ocean, you should eat seafood, right?

Actually, I don’t much care for most kinds of fish, although the salmon that Terry made the other day was delicious, and I’m sure this will be, too. But I love clams, shrimp, scallops, and other types of shellfish. Except for oysters. I have eaten them fried, but I just don’t like the texture. And raw? Forget it! I don’t know who the first person was that looked inside an oyster shell and said, “I think I’ll eat that snot,” but no, thanks. Not for me!

Anyway, back to Friday. After we finished working in the yard, we came inside and took showers and cooled down a little bit. Then Terry made a delicious dinner of bay scallop scampi and fettuccine. I won’t even tell you how good it was because you’d probably get jealous and punch me in the nose the next time you see me.

Our local Amazon delivery driver was busy on Friday, too, delivering two copies each of the print editions of Tinder Street and the second book in the series, The Good Years.

Moving on to yesterday, Terry spent most of it doing paperwork, and I had another good writing day at 6,300 words. I am nearing the halfway point in Big Lake Hoarder, which I started on September 28th. I guess today will be more of the same.

Somebody asked what we used to cut the roots out after the tree was gone. They were not all that big, and most were pretty shallow, so we pulled them out by hand as far as we could, and then I lopped them off with a machete.

I think Terry was a little worried about me playing with a knife that big, but I do have quite a bit of experience with a machete. They were standard issue during my time in the Army, and most of us used them more than we did our rifles. I’ve cut down a lot of bamboo and jungle in my time.

That reminded me of a funny story that I shared with Terry. As some of you know, I spent part of my Army time as a firearms instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point. Apparently, quite a few soldiers in Vietnam had been injured using machetes so some paper pusher somewhere decided that there should be a machete safety class. Myself and a fellow NCO were told to come up with one to present to the cadets, who would then teach their own soldiers about safe machete use after they graduated.

My buddy asked our commanding officer what exactly we were supposed to teach in a class like that, and the captain said, “I don’t know, tell them not to cut their toes off.”

So a few days later, we had cadets sitting on the bleachers for the class. We walked out, my buddy took a machete out of its sheath, held it up, and said, “This is a machete. It’s very sharp. Don’t cut your toes off. Class dismissed.” Hey, we did what we were told. Mission accomplished!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last copy of this book I have with the original cover. 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 – I just released my own fragrance. Nobody in the car seemed to like it.

Oct 242020
 

We woke up yesterday morning to the sound of a Bobcat in our yard. No, not the wild critter. It was a bobcat used for doing heavy-duty work. The tree removal company that was supposed to be here on Thursday showed up on Friday instead, and by the time I got dressed and walked outside he already had our tree down. So we went from this (top) to this (bottom).

The fellow operating the bobcat said he was surprised at how easy it was because he didn’t expect the tree to go that quickly. He was actually using the teeth on the Bobcat to dig up the roots of the Palmettos that had grown all around it, and as he was getting them out he barely bumped the tree and it started to lean over. So he gave it a little push and it was gone!

Then all that was left was to load everything on the trailer and take it away.

With that ugly, mostly dead tree gone, we want to plant some citrus trees. So we went to Lindley’s Nursery and Garden Center yesterday afternoon and purchased a lemon tree, a tangelo tree, and a key lime tree. I wasn’t sure how much work was involved in replanting them, but when the nursery said that for less than $60 they would come out, dig the holes, plant all three trees, and fertilize them, I jumped on it. I’d rather have them do the work and get it right than for me to mess it up. Well, to be honest, I’d rather have them do the work so I don’t have to do it.

Back at home, we spent a couple of hours clearing up the area where the tree had been taken out, cutting out roots and such. The nursery said we need to let that area rest for at least two weeks before we try to plant something there, and said to water it quite a bit in the next few days to help the dirt pack down and remove any air pockets. I’ll have to bring in some more topsoil, too.

With that out of the way, we cleaned up some of the scraggly bushes growing in the little flower garden at the front of our house. It looks much nicer now, and Terry wants to plant some herbs there.

I was tuckered out by then, but Terry is like the Energizer Bunny and she never stops going. She trimmed off a bunch of dead leaves on our banana trees and they look a lot better now, too.

She also picked some of the small bananas off the trees. This is the first time we have harvested any of them because they always seem to go bad before we do. Several people have said that they won’t ripen on the tree and to pick them and let them ripen inside. Okay, we’ll see what happens.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last copy of this book I have with the original cover. 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 – This virus has done what no woman has been able to do; cancel all sports, shut down all bars, and keep men at home!

Stood Up

 Posted by at 12:14 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 232020
 

I wasn’t completely surprised when the company who was supposed to be here yesterday afternoon to remove the big tree in our yard never showed up or called. In fact, given the way most service companies operate in this area of Florida, I would have actually been more surprised if they did.

It seems like no matter who you call and or what promises they make you, at least 75% of the time you get stood up. That’s what happened to us yesterday. Maybe they will show up today, maybe they won’t. Maybe they will call, maybe they won’t. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Terry made delicious blueberry pancakes for brunch yesterday that left us feeling comfortably full all day. So much so that I didn’t even feel like a snack during the afternoon. I spent most of the day making corrections to my new Big Lake book, researching a couple of items on the law in Arizona, and pretty much acting like a responsible adult. Trust me, that’s not always easy for me to pull off.

Neither of us was very hungry at the end of the day, so we just had cold sandwiches, and then spent the evening watching the presidential debate. It was a little more civil than the first time around, but that’s not saying much.

Speaking of the election, we got confirmation yesterday that our votes have been received and counted. I don’t know about you, but I will be so glad to get all of this election nonsense over. Every year, American politics seem to get more hostile. I miss the good old days when we were all Americans, and being a Democrat or a Republican or anything else came after that.

Today we both have to get blood draws for upcoming doctors’ appointments, and due to scheduling at the lab, they are over two hours apart. Fortunately, it’s only three or four miles from home, so we can run down there to get Terry’s blood draw done and come home, and I can go back later for mine. But I’ll tag along while she’s getting hers done and ask if they have a cancellation. If so, I can go ahead and get it out of the way at the same time. You never know if you don’t ask.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last copy of this book I have with the original cover. 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 – My wife wanted to decorate our front porch with pumpkins but I didn’t so we compromised and decorated the porch with pumpkins.

Oct 222020
 

As I’ve mentioned several times, we planted a bunch of perennial peanut plants along the side of our driveway, where we put in a retaining wall to stop erosion from the drainage canal. The folks at Lindley’s Nursery and Garden Center in New Smyrna Beach told us that they are hardy plants that require very little care once they get established, and to water them daily for the first few weeks.

Everything has been going fine, and I did water them daily except for a few days ago when we had two days of heavy rain in a row. Then, when I went out yesterday morning, I was surprised to see this.

My first thought was that something was eating the plants, and I called my son Travis in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, because he’s quite the gardener. I sent him several pictures of the plants, and Travis said it was possible something was eating them, but he thought it might be something else entirely. He just wasn’t sure what, but suggested a ph imbalance in the soil.

I took off several leaves and a bunch of pictures and drove to Lindley’s to show the folks there and ask for their advice. After looking at them, three different people suggested that they think I have been overwatering. They suggested I not water for a couple of days, and then if we don’t have any rain, to water every other day, but not nearly for as long as I’ve been doing. They also said they were pretty sure that the plants would rebound since they are very strong. I told Travis what they had said, and he told me it’s entirely possible and said that when he was new to growing things, he once lost his entire garden by overwatering. I didn’t know you could give plants too much water, which shows how much I know about things, right?

Speaking of things that grow, we have this big ugly tree on the corner of our property. It’s about half-dead, and it’s surrounded by these palms that we can’t get rid of. You can cut them down and dig them up, but they come right back. Lindley’s gave me the name of a couple of people who handle tree removal, and I called one and within an hour, the manager called back and said he’d come out and look at what we had going on. He came and gave us an estimate and is supposed to be here this afternoon to take the tree out and pull the stump, grinding and hauling everything away so we can get everything ready to plant some citrus trees.

With all the horticulture stuff out of the way, I decided I should probably do something to earn my keep around here. So I cranked out another 5,000 words in my new Big Lake book during the afternoon. It’s over 31,000 words now and moving right along.

For dinner, Miss. Terry marinated two salmon fillets and then pan-seared them to serve along with baked potatoes.

She also quick sautéed some vegetables for herself. She didn’t have to worry about me taking them because I don’t do veggies. I’m strictly a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. This is the last copy of this book I have with the original cover. 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 was so bored that I called Jake from State Farm just to talk to someone. He asked me what I was wearing.

Civic Duty Done

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 212020
 

Yesterday we did our civic duty, driving to the library in New Smyrna Beach to drop off our mail-in ballots at the secure voter box. Even though there was quite a long line of people outside waiting to get in and vote, dropping the ballots off as we did was quick and easy.

We pulled up to the curbside box, and before Terry got out of the car the precinct worker assigned to the box came to the window and took them from her, told us to watch as she dropped them into the box, and we were done. The whole thing took less than a minute.

Well, that part took less than a minute. Unfortunately, to get out of there took a bit longer. The elderly man who pulled in ahead of us had to get out and take some books to the library’s outside drop off, and it took him a while to figure out where he was going, and then once he got to the book drop, how to use it. Then he slowly, very slowly, made his way back to his car. I told Terry I was glad we were not going to be following him for the next 40 miles on a one-lane road.

From there we stopped at the Edgewater Gun Shop and I ran in quickly to see if they had anything I couldn’t live without, and they didn’t. Then it was on to the post office to mail off a package.
Back at home, I worked on my new Big Lake book for a while, went out and turned the water on to the soaker hoses for our plants, came back in and wrote the blog, answered half a dozen emails, and went back to work on the new book. I lead such an exciting life.

When I was in high school, back in Toledo, Ohio, there was a gentleman who drove through the neighborhood every few days with a panel truck with the sides cut out, selling fresh produce. He was a local institution, and if times were hard he would tell a customer to take what they needed and pay him the next time around. I don’t think he got burned very often, because that was always his policy.

At an RV park we visited in Mission, Texas, they had a produce truck that came around on a regular basis and always pretty much sold out. So when I saw some folks coming to our park yesterday afternoon with a pickup truck pulling a produce wagon, I went inside to tell Terry to come and check it out. She found some goodies at an excellent price and will be looking forward to when they come by the next time. The woman told me that they hope to visit at least two days a week, so Terry is looking forward to that.


Besides produce and things like that, Terry loves fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, basil, and things like that. I guess planting our new perennial peanuts plants got her green thumb itching because she ordered a bunch of supplies from Amazon and is going to try growing her own here at home. I’m not really into veggies, but if she can figure out some way to grow up a pepperoni pizza or Italian sub sandwiches, I’m in!

Thought For The Day – Every time I fold laundry I contemplate becoming a nudist. Then I remember what I look like naked and keep folding.

Another Rainy Day

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 202020
 

Yesterday was another rainy day for us here on the Central Florida coast. And just like the day before, we had periods of hard rain and at other times it was no more than a light sprinkle, but it seemed to come down for most of the day. I was perfectly happy with that because that means I did not have to water our plants. Mother Nature was doing it for me.

I didn’t accomplish a lot yesterday except for making some revisions to my new Big Lake book and also spending an hour or so writing down all the details of the book idea that came to me in my dream the other night. When that happens, I find that if I type up some notes about the different scenes, when I’m ready to write the book it all seems to come back to me.

When I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I had dreamed the plot of a new book, a reader sent me a message that said she didn’t believe that really happened. Believe what you want, my friend, but it happens to me quite often. In fact, I dreamed the entire plot for my original Big Lake mystery over a series of nights, then wrote the whole book over a three day weekend. Of course, I then sat on it for fourteen years because I did not have any faith in my ability to write fiction, until I finally gave in to Terry’s nagging and put it up on Amazon as an e-book in May of 2011. In December of that year the book made the New York Times bestseller list and launched a new career for me.

We filled out our mail in ballots yesterday, and today we will drop them off in a drop box at the library in New Smyrna Beach. From everything I’ve heard, the lines can be very long to get in and vote, but dropping off ballots is pretty much a drive-in procedure. You pull in, get out of your car, put the ballot envelopes in a secure box curbside and you are done. Whoever you support in this election, now more than ever, I think it’s very important to vote.

I also spent some time yesterday afternoon talking to one of the companies I am considering switching over to from Go Daddy that was very highly recommended by several author friends of mine. I called earlier in the day and spoke to a young lady who said she would have an account representative get back with me, but she did tell me that it was a typical busy Monday and it would be later in the day. And sure enough, a young man named Danny called me about 3 PM and we talked for quite a bit about my needs.

Basically, I told him that I don’t have time to mess with anything except writing the blog and posting it. I pay Go Daddy a lot of money every month to take care of all the details, of maintaining, updating, and backing things up, and they dropped the ball. I let Danny know that if his company couldn’t do the job, he needed to tell me now.

He assured me they can do everything I need, but did say that because the blog is so big, with over fourteen years of posts, that it would take a while to get everything migrated over. He also said that in the process there was a possibility I might be down for a few days while it was all happening. Well, it couldn’t be worse than what we have already dealt with, can it?

One problem is that before anything happens, I need to find the cPanel ID and password for my Go Daddy accounts. For some reason, I can’t find them, and they are different than my regular login and passwords. I sent a message to Go Daddy asking how to reset them and hopefully, they will get back to me fairly soon. But I’m not holding my breath.

Monday morning I got messages from several readers that they could not access the blog once again. They were getting the same connection error message. I tried to log on and got the error message the first time, but after that I was able to get in fine.

I also heard from several blog subscribers who are having the same problem. If you subscribe to the daily blog and have the link sent to you, you may need to resubscribe. I think some of that information was lost in the crash last week.

Thought For The Day – I am so tired of people running around with a mouth full of Scripture and a heart full of hate.

Two Days In A Row?

 Posted by at 12:38 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 192020
 

Is it possible that I will actually be able to post blogs two days in a row without Go Daddy crashing again? Wow, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

It does seem like they have finally fixed the problem, although I still don’t know what caused it to go down in the first place. I’ve gotten several different emails from different people at Go Daddy, telling me how they fixed it. And every email describes a different problem. I asked them which one was actually the issue that caused the crash, and I got another round of emails back, all from completely different people and all with a different excuse. Go Daddy always brags about their great customer support, but I have yet to see it.

It doesn’t matter because today I will be talking to a couple of different hosting companies about moving everything away from Go Daddy. They have dropped the ball one too many times.

I spent most of yesterday making corrections to the chapters I wrote the day before in my new Big Lake book. My production is a lot better using my Sony digital recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking software than my two-finger typing efforts, but don’t let the TV commercials fool you. While Dragon is a decent tool, it is not nearly as foolproof as they want you to believe. Maybe they use the same advertising agency that Go Daddy does, I don’t know.

I’ve said before that storms usually approach us and then they split, going north and south, while we stay mostly dry. That wasn’t the case yesterday. After a successful rocket launch from Cape Canaveral somewhere around 5:30 Sunday morning that we slept right through, storms began rolling in off of the Atlantic, and we had rain off and on most of the day.

Sometimes it was no more than a sprinkle, other times it was a downpour, and in between, there was a nice steady rain that soaked the ground. I didn’t even have to go outside to water our new plants. I’m glad about that because even though we are surrounded by water here in Florida, it is not cheap. Our bills can be horrendous. It’s just part of the price of living in paradise, I guess.

During a break in the rain yesterday afternoon, Terry spotted the two sandhill cranes that live here in the park. We see them all the time, but yesterday they apparently had company. Terry went outside and took their picture. Can you believe they’re not wearing masks or social distancing? Come on birds, get with the program. Do you want to become an endangered species like us?

A lot of readers have asked if I will be continuing the Big Lake series or the John Lee Quarrels series since my last two books were about Tinder Street. Oh, yes, definitely! I have more books floating around inside my head waiting to get out than I have years left to write them all. While I was sleeping Saturday night, a new Big Lake book came to me. I woke up with the complete plot all laid out and ready to go. Wait your turn, new book, no line cutting.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – My mind is exceptionally quiet. I’m suspicious that I’m about to do something that I don’t want myself to know about.

Lost And Found

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 182020
 

Note: This was supposed to be Friday’s blog, before the big crash.

Several years ago when my birthday was approaching, I mentioned that I was going to be turning 55 in a few days. Miss Terry corrected me and told me I was actually going to be 56. What? Really? I lost a whole year? That really upset me because that was going to be the year I learned to play the saxophone and lost a hundred pounds, and I blew it. But what can I say? You can’t turn back the hands of time, right?

However the universe has a system of checks and balances, and a few days ago I said that on my birthday (Thursday), I would be 69 years old. Again, Terry, obviously the mathematician in our family, corrected me and told me I was going to be 68. So I got back the year I lost before. And really, that’s only fair, isn’t it? I should get credit for 2020 anyway since I never got to use it.

And by the way, thank you to everybody who sent me birthday wishes in texts, e-mails, and on Facebook. They were much appreciated.

It was a quiet day at home for us, like most of our days have been for the last few months. We had some of Terry’s oatmeal flax bread for breakfast, and I spent most of the day answering e-mails and goofing off.

My daughter Tiffany called from Arizona to wish me a happy birthday, as did my son Travis and his wife Geli from Alabama. We are all lamenting the fact that last year they all came here to see us and we had hoped to make it a yearly habit, but COVID changed all of that. Hopefully, we can do it again next year.

Maybe I was being lazy, but Terry never slows down. She made me a delicious chocolate birthday cake, and later we had seasoned rock shrimp, slow-baked to perfection, along with cheese grits for dinner. Yes, of course, it was all delicious.

Today it’s back to work, working on my next Big Lake book. I’m aiming for 5,000 words, but we will have to see what happens.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. If I ever need lipo, I’ll call this place. I just don’t trust those guys doing lipo at the flea market.

Thought For The Day – Remember, when you bury a body, cover it with endangered species plants so it will be illegal for anybody to dig it up. Follow me for more important tips.

Oct 172020
 

By now most of you know that the blog crashed sometime Thursday, and I have spent more hours than I care to remember on the phone with Go Daddy’s technical support since then. First I had to work my way through the layers of lower-level geeks who assured me the problem was my local internet connection, even though blog readers across the country could not connect.

Eventually I got high enough up the food chain to talk to three different “experts” who had three different reasons why it has crashed and promised to fix it immediately and have me back online in minutes. Of course they did not, so each time I had to start at level A and work my way up again. The last estimate I received was that after doing a complete backup, which I pay Go Daddy extra to do on a regular basis but has not been done in months, they would have me back online by Monday. Maybe. This has happened several times before with Go Daddy, and in the past I have been offline for anywhere from one day to several days.

Finally, yesterday afternoon my friend Barbara House, who produces and donates the excellent RV camping journals I give away in our weekly drawing, offered to log onto the dashboard and see if she could figure out what was going on. And in a matter of minutes she had the blog accessible again. I did lose Thursday’s blog and all of the entries in this week’s free drawing, but at least I can post again, for now anyway. While Barbara was doing that, I got an email from Go Daddy saying whatever she was doing was conflicting with their efforts. So she left it at that and this may or may not post, and if it does it may or may not crash again.

I was ready to say the hell with it and just cancel the blog completely, but I’ve done it daily since 2006 and have many loyal readers. Somebody suggested reducing the blog schedule to maybe three days a week, but if I can’t get online or get it to stay up, how many I do is not the problem. What I AM going to do is leave Go Daddy, after over ten years. I will be talking to a new hosting company on Monday to get the ball rolling. Between now and then, I don’t know if I will be able to post again or not, since it has crashed twice while I was writing this. I appreciate everybody’s patience.

As for this week’s drawing, I will scrap it and start over again when we are up and running on a reliable basis.

Historic Deerfield

 Posted by at 12:17 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 142020
 

Visitors to Historic Deerfield can step back into the early days of Colonial settlement and learn about life in a typical small New England village in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts in the 18th century.

From the Native Americans who lived on this land for 8,000 years to the first English settlers, the farmers, merchants, and townsfolk of Deerfield have seen both tragedy and prosperity over the centuries. This is evident in the memorial to the 56 men, women, and children who were massacred here in a 1704 raid during the French and Indian War, as well as in the stately homes that line the streets, and the elite Deerfield Academy college preparatory school.

Historic Deerfield is a living history museum where visitors can tour eleven homes along an original mile-long street that have been preserved as museums to a unique time and place in our history.

Long before the first Europeans came to the New World, a small but prosperous Indian tribe called the Pocumtucks lived here, farming, fishing, and hunting. But like so many Native peoples, the Pocumtucks suffered greatly by diseases brought by early English explorers. In 1665, those who survived the diseases fell victim to attacks by the warlike Mohawks and abandoned what was left of their village.

The first English settlement in Deerfield was established in 1669, and though the land was rich in resources, the constant threat of Indian attack made life dangerous. The settlement was abandoned in 1675 during King Phillip’s War. The town was resettled in 1682 and suffered more raids.

A stockade was erected around the central part of the town to provide some protection from Indian attack, but during the winter of 1704, the stockade did little to hamper a devastating raid. The snow was drifted so high on February 29 that Indians and their French allies simply walked across it and stepped over the walls. In the bloody rampage that followed, 50 settlers were killed and 112 marched off into captivity in Canada.

Among them was the Reverend John Williams, who watched as the Indians cruelly killed two of his children, ages six years and six months. During the long march north, any captive who could not keep up the pace was quickly executed. In a book about his experiences, Williams later recalled how his wife, still recovering from a difficult childbirth, was slain with a tomahawk blow to the head when she was not able to make her way across a swiftly flowing river.

Many of the surviving captives were later ransomed and returned to Deerfield, though some chose to stay with the Indians who had adopted them. This included Williams’ daughter, who married an Indian and lived the rest of her life with her Indian family.

Over time hostilities ceased, though a militia unit from Deerfield later marched to Lexington during the early days of the Revolutionary War and fought at Bunker Hill. Deerfield became a prosperous community of farmers, craftsmen, and traders. Today visitors can enjoy a peaceful visit as they tour the historic homes, a classic New England inn, and the Memorial Hall Museum.

The first stop for visitors to Historic Deerfield is the Visitor Center, located in the Hall Tavern, which was originally built in 1760, in Charlemont, Massachusetts, about 20 miles west of Deerfield. Here visitors can purchase tickets, watch an orientation film, and learn about the special activities going on that day. At different times of the year visitors may see open hearth cooking demonstrations and take part in classes offered at the Tavern.

The Cooks’ Garden, located behind Hall Tavern, provides fresh ingredients for the museum’s cooking demonstrations and classes. The garden contains an assortment of useful plants commonly found in New England during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Next door is the Asa Stebbins house, which was built in 1799. It was the first brick house in Deerfield, and the interior features furnishings dating from 1790 to 1830. Stebbins was one of Deerfield’s wealthiest and most highly respected citizens and he spared no expense in building his home. The house boasts scenic wallpaper panels by Joseph Dufour depicting the voyages of Captain Cook, and a freehand wall painting believed to have been executed by itinerant artist Jared Jessup, in 1812.

From there, the next stop is the Allen house. Built in 1734, the Allen house served as the residence of Historic Deerfield’s founders, Henry and Helen Flynt. They purchased numerous houses along the street between 1942 and 1962. The interiors of this house have been left as they were when the Flynts lived here with their outstanding collections of American antiques.

The next house, which was built in 1814, displays the Henry Needham Flynt Silver and Metalware Collection, which contains more than 4,000 pieces of American and English silver in a variety of forms. The communion silver of the First Church of Deerfield, the First Churches of Northampton, and the First Church of Sunderland, Massachusetts, are included in the display. The building has a silversmith’s workshop with many traditional tools, and a room devoted to pewter and other metalwares made and used in early America.

Behind this house is the History Workshop, offering hands-on activities that include spinning, weaving, and other pioneer skills. During our visit, a volunteer was demonstrating how flax was broken down into fibers used to make linen.

The center of village life was the Barnard Tavern, built in 1795. Here townspeople and travelers exchanged news and opinions, conducted business, read mail and newspapers, and posted broadsides. Meals were prepared in the kitchen, drinks served in the bar room, and dances, plays, court sessions, meetings, and auctions were held in the upstairs assembly room.

Built in 1747, the Wells-Thorn house presents period rooms depicting the lifestyle of Deerfield residents in a progression from the early days of 1725 all the way up to the 1850s. It is furnished to illustrate the development of the agricultural economy, domestic life, and refinement in the Connecticut Valley. The earliest rooms of the Wells-Thorn house show life in Deerfield during the frontier period. As consumer goods became more plentiful, craftsmen expanded their skills and gentility, and modernity replaced security as a concern. Later period rooms in the house reflect the increased availability of consumer goods and the growing prosperity and sophistication of Deerfield’s residents.

An historic trades demonstration area called the Apprentice’s Workshop at Dwight House provides daily visitors with a hands-on experience to show how woven wool textiles, architectural woodworking, and English factory-made ceramics were produced in the late 18th and early 19th century.

The Deerfield Inn is a classic, full-service original country inn built in 1884 that continues to welcome travelers from around the world. While retaining its early-day charm, the Inn offers guests modern amenities and conveniences.

Historic Deerfield is home to one of the best public collections of art and antiques in America. Begun and formed in large part by founders Henry and Helen Flynt during a lifetime of collecting, the collection has been refined with hundreds of additions by professional staff since the mid-1970s. Much of the collection is on display in Deerfield’s historic houses, as well as in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life.

Among the many diverse items in the vast collection are Connecticut River Valley furniture, thousands of ceramics, pottery, textiles, needlework samplers, hundreds of original oil paintings, maps and prints, silver and metalware, hundreds of pieces of English and American glass, one of the finest collections of engraved powder horns dating back to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, folk art, and the Frank Boyden Carriage Collection.

The Old Burying Ground at the end of Albany Road is open to the public during daylight hours and offers a wealth of information about the early settlers of the area. Here are buried many of the first settlers, as well as the victims of the Deerfield Massacre.

The Museum Gift Shop and Bookstore carries a variety of American craft items, jewelry, and reproductions as well as souvenirs and a fine selection of books about life in Colonial New England.

Historic Deerfield is located 30 miles north of Springfield, Massachusetts via Interstate 91 and U.S. Highway 5, and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from April through December. General Admission through November is $15 for adults, and ages 6 -17 and free.

Visitors with mobility challenges should start their visit at the Visitor Center at Hall Tavern, where wheelchairs are available. Visitors in wheelchairs are able to gain access to the first floors of several museum houses, the Cooks’ Garden, the Memorial Libraries, the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, the Deerfield Community Center, the Deerfield Inn, and the Museum Store. Restrooms with handicapped facilities are located behind the Hall Tavern Visitor Center, at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, at the Deerfield Inn, and behind the Williams House.

Visitors may request that assisted listening devices be issued and used during guided tours. Assisted listening devices are available at the Hall Tavern Visitor Center. For more information about Historic Deerfield, call (413) 775-7214 or visit their website at www.historic-deerfield.org.

Thought For The Day – Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.

More Of The Same

 Posted by at 12:51 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 132020
 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m really looking forward to the election being over so we can get back to all those fun television ads for ambulance-chasing attorneys. It has to be better than all of the “vote for me the other guy’s a crook/vote for me the other guy’s incompetent” commercials we see ad nauseum. Hell, I’d settle for an ad for a new medicine that will curtail the buildup of ear wax, but whose side effects may make my eyes bleed, my toes turn purple, and give me visions of my ex-wives!

The garden soaker hose that I ordered came yesterday and I went outside and took the two hoses with sprinklers out of the area we replanted and laid the soaker hose out and turned it on. It works well, but since the area is 8’x40′ the 75 foot long hose does not cover everything the way we have things planted without moving it around. So I ordered a second one, which will be here on Thursday. That way we can be sure to get good even coverage all through the area without any problems.

Terry spent most of yesterday proofing the first seven chapters of my new book, Big Lake Hoarder, and while she was doing that I was writing another chapter. Then I started making the corrections she suggested in the previous chapters.

Aside from that, there is really not much else going on. It’s hot and humid and not fun to be outside for any length of time, and I think we both have some cabin fever. But since Biketoberfest starts on Thursday and runs through the weekend, bringing thousands of bikers to Volusia County, followed by TruckToberfest, a truck event the very next weekend. We don’t really want to go out and get mixed up with a bunch of strangers, most of whom probably will not be wearing a mask. We will make a quick run to the butcher shop sometime today before the crowds start arriving, but that’s about it.

It’s good that we get along so well and we enjoy each other’s company. I have heard from people who say they just need a break from each other after being cooped up together for so long. That’s never been the case for us, even for the 18+ years we lived in 320 square foot (give or take) motorhomes. We never felt like we were getting on each other’s nerves or needed some space. In fact, over the years some people even suggested that we were codependent because we go everywhere together. Call it what you want, but for us, being married to your best friend is a wonderful thing.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Can everyone please just follow the instructions about wearing masks and not hanging out together in large crowds so we can knock out this coronavirus and be done? I feel like a kindergartner who keeps losing more recess time because one or two kids can’t follow directions!

Oct 122020
 

For a guy who makes his living with a computer, I am absolutely techno challenged. I know how to turn it on and off, how to write, and how to do some basic photo manipulation, but that’s about it.

Saturday night after I had the blog ready to post, I decided to pull up the latest Big Lake manuscript I am working on (I use Word in Microsoft Office 365) and proofread the chapter I had written earlier in the day. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow my fat fingers must have hit the wrong key, or more likely two keys at once, and the next thing I knew there was a wide bar open on the right side of the screen to make comments on the manuscript. At the same time, the toolbar at the top of the screen disappeared.

I clicked on different things, trying to undo whatever I had done, and nothing would happen. So I saved the manuscript, then reopened it and was right back where I had left off, with the same problems. I stopped long enough to post a blog, which was already formatted and ready to go on Go Daddy, then went back to the book manuscript and had the same problem; no toolbar, that wide comment bar on the right-hand side, and while I could click anywhere in the manuscript, the cursor would not appear. Terry and I fought with it for an hour or so, and by then it was 1:30 AM and I didn’t want to mess with it anymore that night.

Yesterday morning I had the same issue. I could open a blank Word document and have the toolbar and everything normal, but when I went to anything I had written previously, I was back to the same issues. I tried Googling things, looking for a solution, and while there were several, none of them worked.
I decided it was time to go to the experts. In desperation, I sent a message to Judy Rinehimer ,one of my proofreaders and one of the most technically savvy people I know, and asked if she could help me. She said sure, to give her a call, and between the two of us we managed to figure out what went wrong.

Apparently, I did hit two keys at once or did something that brought up the comment bar, which made the document area very small, and in doing so, I also turned off the toolbar. Neither of us could figure out exactly how I did that, but after half an hour or so did get it all fixed and everything was back to normal. Thanks, Judy, I owe you yet again.

After brunch, I went back to the computer, pulled up the current manuscript, proofread that last chapter and printed it out with the others that I have done so far for Terry to proofread. I was going to write some more, but my mind just wasn’t in it for some reason. That happens sometimes. I figure that since I usually write seven days a week, I’m entitled to goof off a bit. So I answered some email, did an online jigsaw puzzle, goofed around on Facebook for a bit, and then got ready to write today’s blog.

About 3 PM I went out and turned on the sprinklers to water one end of our newly planted area and let it run for an hour or so. About 4 PM, when I was going to go out and move the sprinklers, we start hearing thunder rumbling and the weather map looked like we had some heavy cells that would hit us. But I know that doesn’t always happen, and we don’t get rain. I went outside and moved the sprinklers, and just as I did the rain started coming down lightly. I left the water off and went back inside, thinking maybe Mother Nature would do the rest of my job for me. About five minutes later we got a heavy downpour that lasted all of a minute, if that. Then the storm had moved out to sea and we had blue sky overhead. I went out and turned the water back on again.

The other day blog reader Richard Rousseau suggested that instead of using sprinklers, I get a soaker hose and just hook it up and stretch it out among the plants and let it do the job for me, rather than moving the sprinklers around. Being naturally lazy and always looking for a way to get out of any manual labor that I can, I quickly went to Amazon and ordered a soaker hose. It’s supposed to be here today.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Congratulations John G Burton, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of PIRATE TRIALS: The Three Pirates, book four in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Famous Murderous Pirate series. We had 26 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.

Oct 112020
 

When a wildfire erupts in the rugged backcountry of the American West, getting firefighters on the scene as quickly as possible can make the difference between a minor problem and a major catastrophe. The men and women of the U.S. Forest Service Smokejumpers are specially trained to parachute into the fire zone, carrying everything they need to battle the blaze on their backs.

Smokejumping was first proposed in 1934 as a means to quickly provide the initial attack on forest fires. By parachuting in, self-sufficient firefighters could arrive fresh and ready for the strenuous work of fighting fires in rugged terrain. The smokejumper program began in 1939 as an experiment in the Pacific Northwest, and the first fire jump was made in 1940 on Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest.

Today, smokejumpers are a national resource. Typical jump-country includes most of the western United States from Alaska to New Mexico and from California to Wyoming. Jumpers travel all over the country to provide highly-trained, experienced firefighters and leadership for quick initial attack on wildland fires in remote areas.

Tools, food, and water are dropped by parachute to the firefighters after they land near the blaze, making them self-sufficient for the first 48 hours. The smokejumpers’ work season usually runs from June 1 through October.

Smokejumpers work from Forest Service bases located in McCall and Grangeville, Idaho; Redding, California; West Yellowstone and Missoula, Montana; Winthrop, Washington; and Redmond, Oregon. There are also two Bureau of Land Management smokejumper bases – one in Boise, Idaho and the other in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Visitors to the Smokejumper Visitor Center in Missoula, Montana have the opportunity to learn about the dangerous job the smokejumpers do, how they are trained, and the history of the smokejumper program. Visitors can tour a small museum with displays on wildfires and the smokejumpers, go inside a replica of a 1930s lookout tower, then take a guided tour of the smokejumper facility, including the parachute rigging room and out to the flight line to climb aboard an airplane specially outfitted to carry the smokejumpers and their gear to the fire scene. Tours are free and are available five times a day.

Smokejumper duties can be hazardous and physically demanding. They must have at least two years experience in wildland firefighting, and be skilled in using the tools of the trade. Smokejumpers must be in excellent physical condition and possess a high degree of emotional stability and mental alertness. There are also height, weight, and health requirements.

During the spring training period for new smokejumpers, and annual refresher training for experienced smokejumpers, they practice the basics of their craft such as aircraft exiting procedures, parachute maneuvering and emergency procedures, parachute landing rolls, timber let-down procedures, parachute and cargo retrieval, and tree climbing. Some training sites even have “virtual reality” parachute jump simulators to provide on-the-ground practice, with an experienced smokejumper at the computer.

During their initial training period, trainees cut fire lines for fourteen hours a day, and shoulder 110 pound packs on strenuous three mile hikes. After a week of this intense workout, they enter parachute ground school, which consists of half days of simulated jumping, followed by afternoon studies. It takes a minimum of seven practice jumps before a jumper can parachute into a real fire. Though their work on the ground is hazardous, the actual parachuting is rather routine, and safeguards built into the program provide for maximum safety. Between 1939 and 1991, with more than 350,000 jumps completed, only three jumps resulted in fatalities.

The single most devastating loss to the Forest Service firefighting program occurred at the Mann Gulch Fire on August 5, 1949, when twelve smokejumpers and a Forest Service fireguard were killed on the ground when the fire overtook their position. Visitors to the Smokejumper Visitor Center will see exhibits on the Mann Gulch fire and the National Smokejumper Memorial, which honors the victims of Mann Gulch.

After training is complete, and during periods of fire inactivity, smokejumpers are assigned to various natural resource projects away from the base. These may include brush piling, prescribed burning, and other forest management projects, construction and maintenance of facilities, or trail maintenance. Jumpers are also used as tree climbers in New York and Chicago as well as other areas of the country for a variety of reasons from insect detection to seed cone picking.

While on duty at their jump base, daily work may include packing cargo boxes for fires, checking and packing parachutes, maintenance and manufacturing of equipment, and other miscellaneous jobs.

To meet the physical demands of their job, all smokejumpers are required to work out up to 1½ hours a day, depending on the time available during the season. The Missoula Smokejumper base facilities include a weight room, aerobic workout room, and a two mile running course.

When a fire is spotted, there is no time to waste. When a call comes from the dispatch office, smokejumpers immediately begin to suit up as the spotter, a smokejumper supervisor who will serve as jumpmaster on the flight, plots the fire’s location on the map. The jumpers board the aircraft, which has been preloaded with firefighting cargo, and within ten minutes after receiving the call, the aircraft taxis to the runway for take-off.

A typical jumper fire can vary in size and is usually located in mountainous terrain far from roads or easy access. Depending on the number and size of fires, two to sixteen smokejumpers suit up quickly, load the airplane and fly to the fire. A “spotter” selects a safe jump zone, judges the wind, and the jumpers exit the aircraft two at a time.

After jumpers parachute to the ground and cargo boxes are dropped with tools, food, and equipment, the jumpers then bring the fire under control and perform mop-up operations. Smokejumpers remain on the fire until it is declared out or the host unit makes the decision to release them. During this time the jumpers are self-sufficient and can be resupplied by air from the jumper unit.

Once mop-up is completed or the jumpers are released, all the jump gear and equipment, weighing roughly 100 pounds, is either slung out via helicopter, packed out on mules, or carried out by the jumpers to the nearest road.

The Ford Trimotor was the first official Forest Service jumpship, and was used from the early 1940s to the 1960s. It could carry up to six jumpers, and flew very slowly, allowing for safe jump exits and a good view of the terrain below. Today jump aircraft commonly used in smokejumper operations include turbine engine DC-3s and Twin Otters. For safety, there is always a spotter on board communicating essential information about the wind, fire activity, and terrain to the pilot and the jumpers.

The Missoula Smokejumper Base, located at the Aerial Fire Depot at Missoula International Airport, is the largest active smokejumper base in the nation. Currently 85 smokejumpers, consisting of men and women from many walks of life, work at the base. Ranging in age from early 20s to 50s, these are all dedicated and professional individuals who are highly-trained and experienced firefighters.

The Smokejumper Visitor Center is located at 5765 West Broadway in Missoula and is open daily in the summer from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the winter, please call (406) 329-4934 two days before your visit for an appointment and reservations.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of PIRATE TRIALS: The Three Pirates, book four in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Famous Murderous Pirate 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 – Rock bottom will teach you lessons that mountain tops never will.

Watering And Writing

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 102020
 

That’s pretty much what I’ve been up to the last few days, watering the new plants we put in and writing my next Big Lake book.

As I said in a blog the other day, our yard guy didn’t realize the perennial peanut plants we put in were supposed to be there. He thought they were weeds already popping through the pine straw we put down and chopped some of them up with his weed eater. When I told him what he had done, he felt terrible about it. But it’s no big deal, mistakes happen. As I always told my employees in the newspaper business and the guys in my squad in the Army, it’s okay if you make mistakes. Just try not to make the same one again tomorrow. Surprise me with something different once in a while.

After finding the plants all chopped up like they were, I called Lindley’s Garden Center in New Smyrna Beach, where we purchased them, and talked to one of the people there, asking for advice. She said the plants are very hardy, and as long as the roots were not damaged she was pretty sure they will come all the way back. She said to keep watering them and give them some time, and she thought we might be surprised at the results. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I wrote the other day about using two hoses with simple sprinkler heads on them, and it’s made the watering much easier. I put one near the west end of the newly planted 8×40’ area and one a little more towards the center and let them run for an hour. Then I move them down so one is at the east end and the other is between there and the center, and run for another hour, and it seems to work out very well. The lady at the garden center said that as long as I could stick my finger through the pine straw and into the dirt to my second knuckle and pull out damp earth, we’re okay. I can actually get my finger all the way into the ground and come out with damp earth, so I guess we’re doing something right.

I’m almost 14,000 words into my new Big Lake book, and it’s rolling right along. This series and my John Lee Quarrels series usually go a lot faster than the Tinder Street historical family saga books because there is not as much research to do. I will definitely have this one out before Christmas, and hopefully I’ll be deep into another John Lee book by the first of the year. And then it’s back to Tinder Street again.

While I was doing all of that, Terry got some paperwork out of the way, then made a breakthrough in some weaving research she’s been doing. She joined an online weaving guild and downloaded several weaving videos a while back and said they have shown her a lot of new techniques. She’s very excited about trying them out, but that didn’t stop her from also making amazing shrimp chimichangas for dinner. I said they were amazing, but that was really an understatement. They were sinfully delicious.

We always spend a couple of hours watching television together after dinner. With nothing new airing due to COVID, we discovered Secrets of the Zoo, and since we are animal lovers, we decided to give it a try. We were quickly hooked, and there are a lot of old episodes available, as well as some new ones coming out. We are enjoying them immensely.

Today is the more of the same, writing and watering. I know, I live a pretty boring life, don’t I? But at least I eat well!

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of PIRATE TRIALS: The Three Pirates, book four in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Famous Murderous Pirate 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 – After all these months stuck at home, the dog is looking at me like, “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”

Oct 092020
 

Or even dark of night could keep us from finding funny and oddball mailboxes as we traveled the country in our motorhome, and we’ve collected pictures of some interesting ones along the way. I posted a blog with some of our favorites a couple of years ago that was well received, and ever since, readers have been sending us pictures of mailboxes they spot in their travels. Here are some favorites.

Fish seem to be popular for custom mailboxes and we have seen a lot of them all over the country.

Brown bass

Randy Izzaro sent us this shark mailbox he saw in Florida a while back.

Shark

Who says church has to be serious all the time?

Church

This mailbox stands in front of a trash hauling company.

Dump truck

As popular as e-mail is these days, snail mail still has its devotees.

Computer mailbox

Mac mailbox

I bet a retired firefighter lives here.

Firetruck

When we had a sticks and bricks house I had a nice collection of classic cars. This would have been the perfect mailbox back then.

Gas Pump

Or maybe this one we spotted near East Berlin, Pennsylvania.

V8 Mailbox

I wonder which one postmen fear worse, mean dogs or monster mailboxes on their routes?

Monster

This is the second Evinrude outboard motor that we have seen repurposed as a mailbox.

Motorboat

What better than a shoe house mailbox for the famous Shoe House near York, Pennsylvania?

Shoehouse mailbox

Jerry Johnson sent me this tractor mailbox he spotted along a rural road in the heartland.

Tractor mailbox

If the grass gets too tall to cut, just turn the lawnmower into a mailbox.

Tractor mailbox 2

Hang ten, dude!

Surfboards

We found this mailbox at the Escapees Evergreen Coho RV park in Chimacum, Washington.

SKP Chimicum

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of PIRATE TRIALS: The Three Pirates, book four in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Famous Murderous Pirate 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 – 2019: Stay away from negative people. 2020: Stay away from positive people.

 

Oct 082020
 

We have a small blocked in flower garden area attached to the front of our house that has been home to a few flowers and some scraggly bushes. Terry has wanted to get out there and do some work on it once things cool down and decided she wanted some kind of a garden cart to sit on to make it more comfortable to do so. She looked at several online and wound up purchasing this one from Amazon.

It arrived the other day, and yesterday we decided to put it together. The first step was laying out all the parts on the worktable in our garage.

Then, with my help, Terry began assembling the cart. It only took about an hour, which is probably 30 minutes longer than it would have taken if I wasn’t helping her. Yeah, I’m pretty useless, but I am great eye candy.

When we had it all together, we found out that the front wheels were too tight, so it didn’t steer very well. We had to loosen up a couple of the nuts, then things worked much better.

It doesn’t have much of a handle, but I suggested to Terry that maybe we could figure out some way to hook it to the back of our Explorer, and I could take her for a ride around the neighborhood. She wasn’t too keen on that idea. Nor was she impressed with my suggestion of turning it into one of those fighting robots. Sometimes l don’t think she finds me nearly as creative as I do.

But that’s all right. At least my daughter Tiffany is impressed by me. She called me in a tizzy yesterday afternoon because when she took her kids to the library in Show Low, Arizona to drop off some books and pick up new ones, they came running out to tell her that “Grandpa’s book is in the library.” Tiffany had to go inside to see for herself, and she sent me a picture.

When I put it on Facebook, someone else commented that the library in Pinetop-Lakeside, 10 miles up the road, also has all my books. I guess that makes sense since the Big Lake series is set there in the White Mountains, our home for many years.

I mentioned that last weekend we planted a bunch of perennial peanut plants where we installed our retaining wall and put in new fill dirt and topsoil. We’ve been dutifully watering them every day, just like the nursery suggested, so when I went out to water them yesterday afternoon and saw a bunch of them tattered and in pieces, I didn’t know what the heck was going on.

At first we thought some animal was eating them, then we realized that the gentleman who mows the grass had run his weed eater along the edge of the driveway and into a bunch of them. I guess he didn’t realize what they were. I’m hoping we can save them. At almost six bucks a plant, I really don’t want to have to buy a bunch more if I can avoid it.

I decided that rather than stand out there and water the plants for hours at a time in the heat, I would get a small sprinkler to attach to the hose and just let it do the job for me, moving it as needed. Then, since the area where we have them planted is 8 x 40′, I got the idea that I should buy two sprinkler heads. I knew we had a Y hose connector and that we could run two hoses off of it, so I went ahead and bought two sprinklers. We still have quite a few hoses left over from our RVing days, so I would not need any extra hose.

Back at home, we looked and looked and could not find the darned Y connector, even though we had both seen it recently. Well heck, what’s up with that? We were sure it was in one of the little plastic storage cabinets that sit on the workbench in our garage, but we opened all the drawers and couldn’t find it. Okay, maybe it was in the junk drawer in the kitchen. We all have a junk drawer in the kitchen, right? Nope, it wasn’t there either.

About the time I decided that we would just have to get another one the next time we went out, Terry looked in one of the storage cabinet drawers on the workbench one more time, and there it was. We were sure we had looked there before, so don’t ask me how we missed it, but we did.

So, running a hose from the faucet in front of the house over to the place where we planted the new plants, and putting the Y there and using two hoses, we were able to put both sprayers out and covered the area easily. We’ll keep that up for another week or two, assuming the plants survive their weed eater attack.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of PIRATE TRIALS: The Three Pirates, book four in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Famous Murderous Pirate 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 – Do not call the police on suspicious people in your neighborhood! Those are your neighbors without makeup and hair extensions!

Oct 072020
 

Note: This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s blog about our first trip to Savannah, in 2011.

Yesterday we did a whirlwind tour of Savannah, and though it would take weeks to really do justice to this charming and beautiful city, we saw enough to know that coming back here and spending some time is very high on our Must Do list.

But I would advise anybody planning to tour Savannah to first spend a few weeks working out at a gymnasium, with lots of stretching and flexing exercises, because one could easily dislocate their neck turning it in so many directions at once, to be sure they don’t miss yet another handsome row house, tree-lined park, statue, or historic home.

We started our day at the city’s Visitors Center, not to be confused with two other nearby “visitor centers” which are actually run by tour companies. The Visitors Center is located on the site of a Revolutionary War battlefield, where in 1779, patriots tried in vain to dislodge the heavily entrenched British Redcoats and their Hessian mercenaries and Cherokee Indian allies. 

Savannah is a great walking city, and a very nice gentleman at the Visitors Center gave us a free walking tour map and a lot of advice on places to see. Then we set off down streets shaded by overhanging live oaks, stopping to admire the frequent “squares,” which are islands of greenery, most of which had statues or monuments dedicated to famous patriots and city founders.

Live oaks

Johnson Square

Oglethorpe statue

There are historic homes and buildings on every block. Juliette Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in America, was born in this house on Halloween in 1860. I wonder if her ghost came back this Halloween and was looking down on us?  

Juliette Low birthplace 

At the gold-domed City Hall, we took an outside elevator down to the waterfront, with its cobblestone streets and collection of shops and restaurants occupying buildings that once held cotton warehouses, ship’s supply stores, and unfortunately, slave auctions.

Courthouse

Waterfront

Waterfront 2

We loved this part of the city and could have spent hours here. As it was, we did spend a good part of our day on the waterfront! I love these old buildings!

Balconies

In yesterday’s blog, I had a picture of a giant globe that used to be a gas tank. But it’s not the only oversized globe in Savannah. This 20-foot globe, on the waterfront, is called A World Apart, and symbolizes the world divided by World War II, and honors the 527 Chatham County residents who died in the war.

A World Divided

Eventually we walked back into the Historic District, where we stopped at Colonial Park Cemetery, which is so old that the last burial was held here back in the early 1850s! During the Civil War, Union troops occupying Savannah used many of the headstones for target practice.

Colonial Park Cemetery 2

Colonial Park Cemetery

We had to pull ourselves away from the old town area to drive a few miles east to Bonaventure Cemetery, which was featured in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the movie based on the book. What a place to, be late in the day on Halloween!

Bonavanture Cemewtery

Bonavanture Cemewtery 2

The cemetery has some beautiful statues and monuments.

Bonavanture monument

This one is called Little Gracie, and honors Gracie Watson, who died at age six in 1899. A year later, sculptor John Walz carved this life-size, delicately detailed statue of Gracie from a photograph of the child.

Gracie monument

From Bonaventure, we drove another twelve miles to Tybee Island, arriving just in time to take a photo of the Tybee Lighthouse before it closed for the day.

Tybee Lighthouse

We only spent a short time on Tybee Island, and we have to go back on a future trip. But our first impression was that it doesn’t have any of the charm of Savannah. But then again, that is a hard act to follow!

With our whirlwind tour behind us, today we plan to continue on to Titusville, Florida. But we know we’ll be returning to Savannah. We only scratched the surface on this trip.

Thought For The Day – Don’t marry the person you want to live with, marry the person you cannot live without.