Fire!

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 182019
 

As most of you know, Terry and I are night owls. We seldom get to bed before 1:30 or 2 AM, then we usually lay there and cuddle for a few minutes, maybe half an hour, before we kiss each other goodnight and go to sleep.

That was our routine Tuesday night. It was about 2:30 when we started falling asleep. We heard a noise, kind of a whooshing or thumping sound, but thought it was a car door or something like that. Then, about 3:30 Terry got up to use the bathroom and woke me up and said there were police cars and lights flashing everywhere, even police cars on our big concrete parking apron out front.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just police cars. There were also fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. I have no idea how we did not hear the sirens.

This is the reason for all of the activity. A mobile home on the next corner from us exploded and caught fire. My neighbor Mike Smith took this photo of the inferno and shared it with me so I could put it in the blog. Thanks, Mike, I appreciate it!

The fire started in the bedroom and they speculate that the lone occupant had been smoking and left a cigarette burning, and there was an oxygen tank there Fortunately, the elderly man who lived there, a Korean War veteran, got out with no injuries, but everything he owned was destroyed.

During our life on the road as fulltime RVers, an RV fire was one of the things that we worried most about. And we actually had two small fires in our MCI bus conversion. Fortunately, we had taken Mac McCoy’s fire safety class a couple of times at RV rallies, and both times Miss Terry extinguished the fires before any real damage was done.

The next morning I walked down to the corner and took a picture of what was left. Not much. Not much at all. It’s a sad thing to see, and even sadder when it’s an older gentleman who served his country and shouldn’t have to deal like things like this at this point in his life.

In other news, this morning I have an appointment with the doctor who is supposed to do my biopsy. I’m hoping we can get it scheduled pretty soon. It feels like there is a giant C clamp on my head, attached to both temples, and that every few hours someone tightens it another half turn. The Prednisone and all the other drugs they have me on keep the worst of the pain away, but it’s still not comfortable, and still not fun.

After all that doom and gloom, here is 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 probability of meeting someone you know increases a hundredfold when you’re with someone you’re not supposed to be seen with.

Mister Goodwrench

 Posted by at 12:40 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 172019
 

Are you sitting down? If not, I suggest you do so before you read on. And I don’t really recommend drinking anything hot or cold while you read the blog today, either. These announcements are made for your own safety.

Back in November, 2017, Terry and I bought a pair of Old Town Predator kayaks from a great family business in Titusville called Kayaks by Bo. We have really enjoyed them, and as soon as the weather cools down a bit we will be back on the water.

At the same time, our friend Jim bought an Old Town Predator PDL, which is similar to our kayaks, with the addition that besides being able to paddle it, you can also peddle it just like you would a bicycle. That makes them great for fishing, because you can slip up on the fish with less noise and water disturbance, and your hands are free. And, with the pedals you can go forward or backward, or pretty much stay stationary if there isn’t much current.

The pedal-powered Predator PDL is very stable, has a super comfortable seat, but it’s a big kayak, at 13.2 feet long, 36 inches wide, and weighing 117 pounds. And that can be a drawback. So, soon after he bought it, Jim picked up a used boat trailer that needed some refurbishing, so we cleaned it up and put new bunks on it, which I wrote about in a blog post titled Without Adult Supervision.

Jim used the kayak a few times and decided it wasn’t something he was really into, so it had been sitting on a trailer in his carport covered with tarps ever since. A few weeks ago, he mentioned he was going to sell the kayak and the trailer he had purchased for it, and he offered it to me at a price that was too good to pass up. I brought it home and put it in my carport, where it sat until just before Hurricane Dorian, when I moved it into the garage.

The one thing we didn’t do when Jim and I were working on the trailer was to replace the old trailer jack. It was showing a lot of wear and tear from a lifetime of being put into Florida’s salt water, the wheel had a flat spot, and the plastic handle on the crank was broken and hurt your hand when raising or lowering the jack.

I ordered a new Pro Series jack from Amazon, and last week I decided to swap them out. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought because the nuts and bolts holding the old jack in place were severely rusted. I sprayed them with WD-40 and let them sit overnight, and that didn’t do any good, so then I went to Strike Hold, the miracle in a can that will do just about anything you ever need done. Well, except loosen really rusted nuts and bolts.

No matter what I did, they just would not move. And it didn’t help that the flanges on the mounts made it just about impossible to get a wrench onto them. I tried using a deep well socket, but the length of the bolts was such that I couldn’t get near the nuts. That’s when I launched into Mr. Goodwrench mode.

Any of you who know me know that I’m not allowed to play with tools, but back before Miss Terry knew how inept I really am, on our first Christmas together she bought me a Dremel tool. I’m pretty sure she’s regretted that decision, and more than once I think she’s probably been tempted to take it away from me, but because it’s a gift and because it’s fairly low powered, I guess she figured I couldn’t do that much harm with it.

Using the Dremel, it didn’t take me long to cut off all of the bolts just where they extended past the nuts, and then I could get a deep well socket over the nuts. With Terry holding a wrench on the other side, and more liberal spraying with Strike Hold, I had hoped to accomplish something. But they still wouldn’t budge.

So I went to Plan B (always have a Plan B) and got out my cheater, a heavy length of pipe that I was able to put over the handle of the ratchet to give me more leverage. It still wasn’t easy, but eventually we did get things moving and got the old jack taken off.
It’s times like this when having a thick foam ErgoKneel HandyMat really saves the old knees. When we were fulltime RVers I always used one when hooking up my sewer hose, airing up the motorhome’s tires, or anything like that.

Installing the new jack was a lot easier than getting the old one off, though Terry got a couple of pinched fingers in the process. But we got it done with a minimum bloodshed.

I’m really looking forward to saying goodbye to the hot weather so we can get our boats out on the water again. I have missed it.

Thought For The Day – Never marry a woman who was captain of the debate team.

Sep 162019
 

Well, I said I was going to do it and I did. I sat down at my computer yesterday and started working my way toward the end of my new book, Dead Romeos, and except for a few breaks to get up and move around a little bit, and go to the bathroom, I kept right at it until dinnertime, typing the last paragraph just as Miss Terry was telling me that it was on the table.

This is the seventh book in the John Lee Quarrels series, and my third book so far this year. I started working on it two months ago, on July 15th and yesterday was September 15, so exactly two months. It came in at 84,500 words. Today I will give it a final read through to look for any glaring errors, and then print it out so Terry can begin the proofing and editing process. When she is done my next two proofreaders will get it. I plan to have it out by the end of the month. I’m excited!

I was surprised that at the very end, one of the characters in the story wound up dead. I didn’t see that coming and I really didn’t mean to kill him! Bad Nick! Very bad.

While Miss Terry is proofing the new book, I have a ton of emails I have been pushing to the back burner to deal with, along with a couple of podcast interviews I’ve been invited to do. And who knows? I might even take an hour or two just to goof off. I’ve been known to do that from time to time.

Something else I have to do today is contact the specialist to follow up on the biopsy to determine the extent of my Giant Cell Arteritis. Somebody called midday Friday to ask when I would be available and I told them anytime they needed me. The woman said she would get back to me shortly. Then, at 4 PM, the specialist’s office called me to see if the surgeon had me scheduled yet. I told her about the earlier call, but that nobody had gotten back to me. She said she was going to call them right then because this was not something we could wait to get done. I thought I might get a call back shortly, but nothing came in. Hurry up and wait, I’ve been doing it since my very first day in the Army and it’s a pattern that seems to follow me all through civilian life, too.

Congratulations Beckie Dobbins, winner of our drawing our 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 81 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – It doesn’t matter how low the dollar might go, I will always bend down and pick it up.

Almost There

 Posted by at 12:20 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 152019
 

I never trust anything the weatherman tells me because long experience has shown that they can point to their colorful maps and forecast anything they want and make all kinds of predictions, but in reality all they can really do is tell you what happened yesterday. For example, for the last few days they have been telling us that Tropical Storm (and maybe soon to be Hurricane) Humberto was going to bring a lot of wind and rain to the Central Florida coast starting on Friday and lasting through the weekend.

That was fine with me because I didn’t have any plans except to stay home and write anyhow. As it turned out, on Friday and Saturday both we saw a few brief, hard showers that lasted maybe five or ten minutes and some light breezes, but that was it. Last night the weatherman downgraded the storm’s possibility to some scattered rain and being a bit breezy, which is what we have been getting. Given their track record, maybe we should batten down the hatches and prepare for a real gully washer!

As for the hurricane itself, if it eventually does become one, all predictions are that it will turn north and stay way out to sea. I hope so. We are about halfway through hurricane season, but I’m tired of it already.

No matter what happens today, I’m going to spend it working on Dead Romeos, my new John Lee Quarrels mystery, just like I did on Friday and yesterday. I’ve got a lot accomplished, 6,365 words on Friday and another 5,135 words yesterday. I am so close to the end that I can see it, and if I don’t finish it up today, I will for sure on Monday. Since I started the book on July 15 and today is September 15, that would be a good time to wrap it up, don’t you think?

In other news, I have had half a dozen complaints about the disclaimer I put at the bottom of this week’s contest that due to the high cost of shipping printed books out of the country, when our free drawings are for a printed book it can only go to US addresses. Somebody responded to that by saying that is discriminatory to Canadians and people in other countries. Someone else said that I obviously didn’t like people from Canada, while a couple people told me they were disappointed in me for being selfish. And then there is the guy from Alberta who told me to do something to myself that I don’t believe I can physically pull off at my size and that I’m pretty sure is against something in the Bible.

To clarify, first off, I have no problems with Canadians. Well, there was that one incident with the grumpy French-Canadian guy, but we’ll talk about that another time. We’re not trying to discriminate against Canadians or anybody else. As for being selfish, you do get that these are free contests, right? We are giving something away and your only investment to enter is typing your name. When it comes to that last suggestion, if I could have done that, I would not have married my first wife!

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.
Note: Due to the high cost of shipping books to Canada and other countries, printed books can only be sent to US addresses.

Thought For The Day – I wish my life had background music so I could figure out what the hell is going on.

I Kept My Head Down

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 142019
 

“Keep your head down or you’ll get it blown off!” I can’t tell you how many times I heard drill sergeants and platoon leaders scream that at young soldiers when I was in Basic and Advanced Infantry Training. It’s a lesson that served me well and that I never forgot. It kind of goes along with one my high school drivers training instructor told me, “Very few people get killed by being too careful.”

That being said, since yesterday was both Friday the 13th and a full moon, I made sure to keep my head down all day long. Like my old teacher said, you can’t be too careful.

So how did I spend my day? The first part of it I was busy making changes from my last writing session in my new John Lee Quarrels book, Dead Romeos. And when I got that done, I started writing some more, knocking out another 6,365 words by the end of the day. If nothing unexpected happens, I should be able to wrap up this book up by the end of the weekend, or by Monday at the latest.

Miss Terry had a rough night and didn’t feel good for much of the day, so even though she wanted to get some weaving done, she just wasn’t up to it. She’s never one to sit around and feel sorry for herself, though. So instead she did a couple of loads of laundry, piddled with a few other chores she wanted to get out of the way, and then fixed us a light dinner of chicken quesadillas.

After that it was a relaxing evening watching TV, and since it was Friday night, it was one of our favorite shows, BattleBots. And yesterday being Friday the 13th, a day known for being unlucky, there was no question that some competitors were going to take a beating, and they did! I think it was our friend Jim Lewis who turned us on to this show about robot fighting a couple of seasons ago, and though we didn’t think we would, we quickly got hooked. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? 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. Note: Due to the high cost of shipping books to Canada and other countries, printed books can only be sent to US addresses.

Thought For The Day – In love, in life, and in your career, know when something is over and it’s time to move on.

A Wonderful Gift

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 132019
 

Thank you to everybody who made blog comments or sent me emails about finally breaking down and ordering my new office chair. I am really looking forward to it coming in so I can start enjoying the benefits.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, when I saw the specialist on Wednesday, she immediately suspected my head and neck pain and problems with blurred vision and dizziness might be Giant Cell Arteritis. Also known as Temperal Arteritis, it is an inflammation of the lining of the arteries, most often in the head in the temples. She immediately sent me to a lab to get a SED rate blood test done, which would be an indicator that inflammation is indeed the problem. At the same time, she put me on Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory drug that is supposed to help. Her office called first thing yesterday morning to tell me that my sed rate numbers were high and they were trying to schedule me for a biopsy ASAP to determine its location. They also told me to double up on the Prednisone until after the biopsy. Later in the day, I got a phone call asking when I would be available and I said anytime. Hopefully they’ll get it scheduled and we can move forward.

Terry and I got a wonderful unexpected gift yesterday. As I have mentioned before, my son Travis is an excellent photographer with an eye for detail. When we visited him and his wife Geli in June he was always taking pictures. We never noticed him taking one of Terry and I holding hands at a restaurant until this came in yesterday’s mail. We have never, ever received a gift that we love and cherish more. My grainy picture of it here does not do it justice. The picture is hanging in our bedroom right across from the bed so it’s the last thing we see at night and the first thing we see in the morning. Thank you, Travis. We love it, and we love you!

After a hectic morning spent running errands and touching bases with doctors’ offices, during the afternoon I tackled a project at home, with Miss Terry’s help, that I will tell you about in a day or so when I have more time. Suffice it to say that Mr. Goodwrench doesn’t have anything on me.

When that was done, Terry made big bowls of shrimp and grits, flavored with bacon for dinner, and like everything she cooks, it was beyond delicious. There is absolutely nothing that girl can’t do!

I had two or three people email me yesterday evening after the national news said that there is another big storm system heading our way. Yes, there is a tropical storm that we will probably get some wind and rain from over the weekend, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. And since we don’t have anyplace we have to be or anything we have to do, it will be a good weekend for writing and weaving. We’ve been so busy the last few days that we are looking forward to it.

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. Note: Due to the high cost of shipping books to Canada and other countries, printed books can only be sent to US addresses.

Thought For The Day – I finally made my weight goal of 125! God bless the metric system!

More Than A Vega!

 Posted by at 12:53 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 122019
 

Yesterday I went a little bit crazy and bought myself a new office chair that cost more than my first new car. It is a Lifeform executive office chair from a place called Relax the Back in Orlando. My pain doctor first told me about them, and my chiropractor was very enthusiastic about them. You don’t buy them off the showroom floor, they custom make each one to the user’s specs. It is fully adjustable for height tilt, seat base forward and back adjustment, and a bunch of other stuff. Cost out the door was $2800. As I recall, my first new car was a 1972 Chevy Vega, and with tax and title it was about $2600. And the new chair is a lot more comfortable than that old Vega!

I liked the fact that Cory, the owner of the store, was not the least bit pushy. In fact, after the deal was done, he took it upon himself to deduct $100 off the total price, threw in this very cool footrest for under my desk, and a Penguin pistol grip style mouse.

When Terry asked about purchasing a mouse for herself, he told her to take one as a gift, even though we told him we were happy to pay for it! And as if that wasn’t enough, he also told me to have my doctor or chiropractor write a letter saying they had advised me to get a chair like that and he could waive the sales tax, saving us over $200. He did ask that I give him an autographed copy of the first book in my Big Lake series, since his entire family are big readers. No problem Cory, we can make that happen!

The chairs are made in Canada and it will take a week or so to make it, maybe as much as two, and then depending on how fast Customs is working, another two weeks to get here. I am looking forward to it!

In other news, I had an appointment with a specialist yesterday morning about my constant headaches, the stabbing pain in my right temple, dizziness, blurred vision, and severe neck pain. She believes I may have Giant Cell Arteritis,  also known as Temperal Arteritis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the arteries, most often in the head in the temples. Untreated, it can lead to blindness. A couple of retired doctors who read my blog had written yesterday to tell me the same thing.

She immediately sent me to get a blood test and put me on Prednisone. In fact, she insisted I get the blood test and the prescription before we went to Orlando to make the deal on the chair. Hopefully she will have the results of the tests soon, and if that’s what it is, we’ll go from there.

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. Note: Due to the high cost of shipping books to Canada and other countries, printed books can only be sent to US addresses.

Thought For The Day – There was never a bad peace or a good war.

Making It Harder

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 112019
 

In a blog post a couple of days ago titled Building Stuff, I showed the cable and lock I had put together to secure our Honda generators when we have to use them outside during a power outage. At the time, I had the loops on each end of the cable secured with clamps and nuts, because our local hardware store did not have any of the proper size cable ferrules in stock.

For those of you who don’t know what a cable ferrule is, it is a connector used to secure two pieces of cable together, or in my case, to make a loop in a cable and secure it. Here is a picture of one.

After reading the blog post, a number of people commented that anybody with a wrench could come along and loosen the nuts on the clamps I was using and walk away with the generators. I knew that was true, and I didn’t intend to keep things that way. But with Hurricane Dorian looming when I bought everything, I needed anything that would work temporarily.

The gentleman at the store told me that they would have the ferrules in early this week. And sure enough, when I went by yesterday, they had them.

So Terry and I took the cable clamps apart, ran the ends of the cable through a ferrule, looped them and went back out the other side, then I used a handheld sledgehammer to flatten them out. Strong tugging showed that nobody was going to be able to pull those cables back out again.

As I said in the original blog post, when we need to use the generators outside, I will run the cable through their handles and through one of the wheel spokes of my F-150 pickup and lock them down. As I also said in that blog post, somebody could still come along with a cable cutter and make away with generators. If someone wants something bad enough, they’ll find a way to steal it. But at least this will slow them down and make it harder for them to do so.

During a prolonged power outage I will shut the generators down and bring them inside at night. If you keep the doors closed, a modern refrigerator will preserve the food inside for many hours, even if it’s not running. We had residential refrigerators in our MCI bus conversion and in our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage motorhome, and in both rigs we routinely drove as much as eight hours in a day with the refrigerators turned off before we installed pure sine wave inverters. So that’s not really going to be a big issue.

In other news, this morning I finally have an appointment with a pair of specialists to see if they can figure out the reason for the sharp pains I have been getting in my right temple, the almost nonstop headache, and blurred vision and dizzying episode I had several weeks ago. Hopefully they can get to the bottom of all of it.

And then, even though I said I didn’t want to go anywhere near the big city again anytime soon, if we get done with the doctors in time, we’re going to run down to Relax The Back in Orlando again. They are a company which specializes in furniture for people with back problems. My doctor recommended I check them out for an office chair that would hopefully ease some of my ongoing back pain. When we stopped in there on Saturday I was very impressed with the Lifeform Ultimate Executive Chair. I have owned more office chairs and executive chairs than I could count during my years in the newspaper business and as a writer living on the road, and now in my home office, and it was absolutely the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in.

And while the chair I tried out there was amazingly comfortable, you don’t buy these off the floor. They are a special order item and each chair is custom built for the individual who will be using it, taking into consideration their height, weight, and what they will be doing with it.

However, spending upwards of $2,000 or even more for an office chair seemed like quite an extravagance to me. Miss Terry and some other friends told me to go for it and reminded me that I had no problem spending money on a Mustang I seldom drive, or buying expensive hearing aids and other things for other people who need them. Actually, I agonized over the Mustang purchase, even though I wanted it badly. As for doing things for other people, that is something I really enjoy. But come on, somewhere around $2,500 total for an office chair? To me that’s quite extravagant.

Since then it was pointed out to me by my wife and other people that it’s a business expense that I can write off, which helped in the decision-making process. And when one of my relatives asked me how much my powered La-Z-Boy recliner cost and I said somewhere around $1700, he asked how many hours a day I spent in the recliner. I told him usually about three, sometimes four hours in evening while watching TV. He then asked how many hours a day I spend working at my desk and I said anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. That’s when he replied, “Gee, you’re supposed to be the smart one in the family. Do the math, dummy!”

Okay, I guess that makes sense. We will make a run back down to Orlando and see what we can work out

Thought For The Day – Never confuse motion with action. – Benjamin Franklin

Wait Five Minutes

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 102019
 

We have all heard the old saying “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” Apparently the people at Amazon’s customer service department live by that same rule. Or at least the ones I’ve been dealing with lately do.

In early August I ordered three Master Lock 265D Door Security Bars to secure the doors in our house when we are away. Yes, I know, you probably think I’m paranoid since I have security cameras, an alarm system, and a house sitter for when we go out of town. Then again, you probably haven’t returned home late at night and come face-to-face with an armed burglar. We have.

At any rate, the three security bars were delivered on August 8, and it was the next day before I opened the box and decided to see how they fit. Two were fine, but the third one was missing the rubber foot from the bottom. I called Amazon’s customer service and got someone in a call center on the other side of the world who could hardly speak English, or least any kind of English I could understand. After explaining my problem to him three times and trying to understand his response, he turned me over to someone else who said no problem, he would send out a replacement and email me a return package slip for the bad bar, and to drop it off at the nearest UPS store or have UPS come to pick it up.

And sure enough, within a day or two UPS delivered the replacement bar and picked up the old one. That was simple, right? Come on kiddies, if it was that simple I wouldn’t have anything to blog about today, would I? I opened the box and discovered that there was not one, but three replacement bars. Okay, I’ll call Amazon again. And again, I got someone I could not understand on the phone. This time I asked to be transferred to somebody in the United States, and after a few minutes someone came on the line and listened patiently while I explained that I had received three new bars instead of just the one I needed as a replacement. Which meant I now had five bars when I only ordered and paid for three. She said no problem, just keep the other two with their compliments.

About a week later I got an email from Amazon telling me that I had until September 3 to return the two bars from the original order. Time to call Amazon again! This time, as soon as someone in India or wherever they are answered the phone, I told them to transfer me to someone in the US. When I got someone on the phone who spoke English, he said that he would e-mail me a return product authorization and a UPS shipping label. Within a few minutes I got the return product authorization, along with a note that said UPS would be by with a shipping label the next day.

That never happened, so after waiting an extra day or two I was back on the phone with them again, and again jumped through the hoops to get somebody in the US, who apologized for the confusion and told me to just keep the other two arms, donate them to charity, or throw them away, whatever I wanted. I asked if he was sure about that, and he told me he was.

Guess what? A few days, maybe a week later, I got another message from Amazon reminding me that I had to return two security bars by September 5. Why did the return date change? I have no idea. And an hour later I got another email saying to return them by September 9.

By then we had Hurricane Dorian breathing down our necks and we didn’t know if we would be evacuating or staying home, or if the big wind was going to blow us off to Oz or Never Never Land. I called Amazon again, and when I got someone in the US and said I was very upset and I did not plan to ever buy anything from them again if they were so disorganized that they couldn’t arrange a simple product return and replacement. This time, the woman I spoke to apologized profusely to me, told me to keep the other bars, said she would issue a refund for the full purchase, and sent me an email confirming that I didn’t have to send anything back and we were even. The next day I got an email saying that the refund had been processed. And so far, I haven’t gotten any more nastygrams from Amazon wanting anything back. But I keep checking my email, just in case.

While this was a hassle, I must say that overall, Amazon’s customer service has always been very good. And besides having any kind of product you could ever want to purchase, you can get some great freebies on there from time to time, too. For example, right now my friend Jason Dees is giving away free copies of undone, the first book in his Burt Bigsley mystery series. This deal is good through Friday, so grab your copy while you can. By the time you get written done reading it, I think you will be a Jason Dees fan, just like I am.

Thought For The Day – All dogs are therapy dogs. The majority of them are just freelancing.

Monday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:50 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 092019
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally. This time around we are going to do something a bit different, focusing just on questions I have received about safety and security while on the road.

Q. We are about to become fulltimers and my husband is concerned about crime and our security. We are not gun people and have no interest in them, but my brother-in-law suggested we get a pump shotgun. He said even if we don’t load it, the noise of pumping it will make anybody on the outside of our door turn around and run. He said if they don’t, all hubby has to do is open the door and point it at them and they will leave in a hurry. What are your thoughts, Nick?
A. I have heard that sad story about the sound of someone racking the action of a shotgun frightening a bad guy off for longer than I can remember. I actually tried an experiment once, having Terry stand outside our RV in an RV park while I worked the action of my 12 gauge shotgun. Between the noise of vehicles going by and life going on around her, she could not hear a sound. We repeated this two other times in other settings, once at night with nobody around, and at no time could she hear what I was doing inside. As for opening the door and pointing an unloaded gun at somebody, I would suggest your husband oil that gun well, because when someone takes it away from him and sticks it up his rear end it’s going to hurt! Unless you are committed to getting proper training in firearm safety and use, as well as having the mindset that you will use deadly force if necessary, don’t even consider getting a gun.

Q. I’ve been told that in lieu of a firearm, wasp spray makes an excellent weapon if someone tries to break into our RV. Have you heard of this?
A. Yes, I have, and I think it’s ridiculous. At close range, if you can hit somebody right in the eyes, it might get their attention. Then again it might make them so mad that they beat you to death. I have known more than one police officer who used pepper spray while trying to subdue a subject and it had no effect on them whatsoever. I have also known officers who had the wind blow it right back in their own face. How are you going to feel when that happens to you while you’re dealing with a criminal?

Q. We can’t figure out a way to put a safe in our fifth wheel, and while we do have a fire proof lockbox for important papers, I have some jewelry and we usually keep some cash around. Any ideas on the best way to hide it, Nick?
A. There are a number of excellent storage devices disguised as everyday items  that might work for you. These are usually referred to as can safes, but I’ve also seen them disguised as hairbrushes, books, and even tampons.

Q. My husband loves his guns and he had two wooden signs made that he proudly displays in the windshield of our motorhome. One says “Protected by Smith & Wesson” and the other says, “I don’t call 911, I shoot first and ask questions later.” These make me feel uncomfortable, and more than one person has commented on it in RV parks. My husband says it gives people fair notice that he’s not going to become a victim. I feel like it’s juvenile at best and may be inviting trouble. What are your feelings about signs like this?
A. So basically your husband is announcing to the world that he has a gun in your RV. If I am a prowler looking for someplace to break into and I see that sign and your car is not there, guess what I’m going to do? As for the other sign, heaven forbid you actually do have a situation where he uses the gun for self-defense. He just did most of the work for a prosecutor who may want to press charges, because he’s already publicly stated that he will use lethal force instead of calling the police. And even if he does not face legal charges, that sign opens the door for all kinds of civil lawsuits from the person he shoots or their family members if he do not survive.

Q. Sitting around the campfire the other night, someone said that a can of hairspray and a Bic lighter are all you need to handle anybody who breaks into your RV. He demonstrated that it could act just like a flamethrower. It looked pretty gruesome, but do you think it’s a viable means of self-defense?
A. Let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s assume that someone breaks in your RV while you’re in it (which almost never happens). First of all, you have to have the presence of mind to get your can of hairspray and your lighter out. Then you have to be able to push down the adrenaline rushing through your body to be able to get the flame going and then spray it at the intruder. If you can accomplish all of that, one of two things are probably going to happen – you’re going to set fire to someone inside your motorhome, which means now you have a huge Roman candle inside of a confined space with you, and/or the can may blow up in your hand and you’re the Roman candle.

Q. At an RV rally last month we purchased a nice redwood sign with our names and our hometown on it to put in the window of the motorhome when we are parked. Someone told me that might not be a good idea, saying it might be an invitation to robbers. Any idea what he was talking about?
A. Let’s pretend I’m a ne’er-do-well looking for somebody to rip off. It’s late in the evening and you’re watching television when I knock on your door and call out, “Hey, Bill, open up. It’s your old buddy Jim from Paducah.” (Insert your name and hometown). You don’t remember who Jim is, but he must know you, so you open the door. Oops!

Q. My husband is ex-Army (he was in for three years back in the early 1980s), though he was never in combat. We were dry camped near Borrego Springs in California this last winter when some sketchy looking guys pulled up in a pickup truck and parked near us. They sat there for a long time, making me nervous, so my husband went outside and confronted them. They said they were waiting for a friend of theirs to meet them so they can take him to their camp, and sure enough while he was out there the friend pulled up and they left. I was furious with him, telling him he could have gotten himself killed, but he said his Army training was all he needed to handle guys like that. Was I right to be angry at his foolishness?
A. I spent some time as a firearms instructor in the military, and also helped train people in unarmed combat. Basically, I was the dummy that got thrown and punched around. Trust me, the standard eight hours of hand-to-hand combat we gave our trainees was just enough to give them the confidence to go to town and get their butts kicked while they tried to show off their new skills. I’m sure the guys in that truck could have done the same to your husband with no problem. That’s assuming they didn’t shoot him, to save themselves the exertion. He would have been much safer staying inside with a cell phone and calling the police. NEVER go outside to confront a stranger who is acting suspiciously!

Q. I saw your blog post about your Honda generators and the way you secure them. We have just been using a bicycle lock cable for our generator, which is pretty thin. Do you think that’s enough?
A. If I thought that was enough, I would be using a bicycle lock, too. As I said in the blog, nothing is going to keep a thief from making off with something if he wants it bad enough. But it takes more work to cut a thick steel cable than it does a bicycle lock cable.

Q. When you and Miss Terry were fulltiming, did you ever carry much cash? We use credit cards for just about everything, but we have run into a couple of occasions when cash was required. If you did carry cash, may I ask how much, and were you worried about it being stolen?
A. There are times when only money talks. We tried to keep between $500 and $1,000 in cash on hand, with me carrying some of it and Terry carrying some of it. We never had a problem, but we were always glad to have it to fall back on if necessary.

Congratulations Marlys Shride, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake, my first novel and the book that made me a New York Times bestselling author. We had 126 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I’d take a nerf bullet for you.