Jul 062020
 

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.

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Are you as glad Independence Day is over as I am? Not that I’m not patriotic, but it seemed like every fool in Volusia County had a truckload of fireworks and was setting them off from early in the morning until late at night. The neighbors across the street had a big party, a bunch of drunks not wearing masks, and ignoring social distancing. They were setting off Roman candles and skyrockets and I thought I was in a war zone. The debris was raining down on our roof, which fortunately is metal. I had a conversation with him yesterday morning, and hopefully, nothing like that will happen again. We’ll have to wait and see.

***

With nothing but reruns on TV, we have been binge-watching Shameless on Netflix. It’s raunchy, the language is offensive, it’s absolutely not politically correct. There is nudity, sex, and parts of it are absolutely appalling. William H. Macey is one of the main characters and he plays a man you love to hate. And we’re hooked and can’t stop watching it. In high school, I had a girlfriend who came from a family so much like this one that I thank God I left home for the Army the day after I graduated. Talk about dodging a bullet! Well, at least that bullet. Overall, my track record in the dodging department is not all that great.

***

Several people have asked me about the woman I wrote about in my blog post a Poorly Planned Scam a few days ago, who ran into a crook when searching online for an RV for sale. They all said they hoped she didn’t fall for the scam. No, she’s much smarter than that and realized quickly that the supposed “dealer” was trying to get her personal info and any kind of deposit he could from her. But she said it was kind of fun stringing him along just to see how stupid he thought she was. I’ve been known to do that with telemarketers sometimes when I‘m bored and have nothing else to do. I have kept them going for fifteen minutes or more, asking questions and pretending to be interested before I hang up on them and block their number. I figure if I’m wasting their time, they’re not wasting someone else’s.

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This afternoon we have to go to Port Orange for a medical appointment for Terry, and if Lowes isn’t too crazy we may stop there to look for a replacement window blind for one of the windows in our living room. The link assembly for the arm that opens and closes it broke and the fitting it goes into can’t be repaired. I know because Terry told me so, and if she can’t fix it, nobody can.

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File this under “How Did I Not Know This Before?” My friend Bobbi Holmes, author of the excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a seaside bed and breakfast with a permanent ghostly guest, said that when she is working at her desk and needs to know how to spell a word, she simply asks Alexa and the Echo Dot sitting on her desk spells just about any word she needs. She also asks lots of other questions. I tried it with the Alexa I keep on my desk, and it works great. In fact, just yesterday while I was writing, I needed to confirm when World War I ended, and Alexa told me it was on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Thanks, Alexa!

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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.

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Congratulations John Berquist, winner of our drawing an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times Kindle bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. We had 53 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Someday when scientists discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find out it isn’t them.

Jul 052020
 

We discovered a very important piece of American Naval history berthed on the waterfront in Muskegon, Michigan. Now a floating museum, LST 393 was an LST-1-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II.

The Landing Ship Tank (LST) was an ocean going ship capable of shore to shore delivery of tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, and troops. Using LSTs, American forces could bring troops and heavy equipment through enemy fire right to a beachhead, enabling the full might of America’s military power to join a battle immediately, rather than waiting for the landing zone to be secured.

The LST program was developed in response to a need for armored infantry divisions in invasions by sea. After England’s disastrous failure at Dunkirk, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill urged the United States to design a ship that was large enough to cross an ocean, but capable of quickly unloading armored vehicles and troops on an unimproved beach. The resulting ship design proved to be among the most successful in the history of the United States Navy.

The flat-bottomed LSTs were designed with a special ballast system similar to that used in submarines, which allowed them to ride lower in the water for seaworthiness when in the open ocean. When it came time to land their cargo, the ballast tanks could be pumped out to raise the ships so they could operate in shallow water. The design called for a ship 328 feet long and 50 feet wide.

LSTs were so versatile that building them was a high priority, and over 1,000 were launched by the end of the war. The demand was so high that they were built both in Navy shipyards and by private companies, in places like Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. They were used in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France, the liberation of the Philippines, and the capture of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

LST 393 was built in just over three months by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Construction on the ship began in July, 1942, and she was launched on November, 11, 1942. Lieutenant John H. Halifax was given command of the new vessel.

As soon as the ship’s required sea trials were completed, she was put into action. The LST carried over 9,000 troops into battle, as well as 3,248 vehicles ranging from tanks to Jeeps. During the D-Day invasion, she made thirty round trips, carrying vital troops and supplies to the beaches at Normandy. By war’s end, LST 393 had proven herself repeatedly in combat. She made 75 voyages to three continents, logging over 51,800 nautical miles, carried over 5,000 enemy prisoners away, and earned three battle stars for her contributions to the invasions of Normandy and Salerno, and the occupation of Sicily.

Though their crews called them Large Slow Targets, the LSTs proved so sturdy that over 1,000 of the 1,051 built survived the war. Only 26 were actually lost to enemy actions. Many LSTs went on to see service during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Following the war, the Navy scrapped many of its LSTs, while others were sold to private companies and put into commercial service.

LST 393 sailed back to the United States and was decommissioned on March 14, 1947. Two weeks later she was sold to the Sand Products Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, and renamed the M/V 16. At one time U.S. Highway 16 ran from Detroit to Muskegon, Michigan, and then continued on the other side of Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The ship was named in honor of this highway and became a merchant ferry, carrying new cars from the factories of Detroit across Lake Michigan for delivery to automobiles dealers further west.

In May, 2002, the ship was acquired by the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum and work began to restore the historic old warship. She is one of only two World War II LSTs still know to exist. She is moored in Muskegon and managed by the 393 Preservation Association. After the Normandy invasion, LST 393 was painted in a camouflage pattern for service in the Pacific theater, and she proudly wears those colors today.

Today visitors can tour the old warship and walk the top deck, where men crouched nervously as they waited to go into combat, and the living quarters where sailors lived while assigned to the ship.

The inside cargo deck of the LST has displays about the war years with an emphasis on Muskegon military veterans. Exhibits include communication equipment, pilots’ flight helmets, medical equipment, and a target kite with an airplane silhouette printed on it that was used for gunnery practice.

A series of rather steep ladders and steel stairways lead to the upper decks where narrow passageways take you through the enlisted and officer’s sleeping quarters, the dining halls, and kitchens. While the lower deck is handicapped accessible, a tour of the complete ship requires covering six decks, and the ability to do a lot of climbing and walking.

The pilothouse towers over the top deck, and here visitors can see the controls that were used to maneuver the LST across the ocean and into shallow water to deliver her cargo of men and equipment to the battlefield.

LST 393 is located at the Mart Dock, on the Muskegon Lake waterfront, just off Shoreline Drive in the heart of downtown Muskegon. The ship is open daily from May through September, and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and children under age 4 are admitted free. Visitors can pick up a map for a self-guided tour, or arrange for a guided tour from one of the many knowledgeable volunteers. Plan at least 45 minutes to an hour to tour the ship, and longer if you are like me and want to stop and read every sign and see everything in every exhibit. For more information about LST 393, or to arrange a group guided tour, call (231) 730-1477 or visit the ship’s website at www.lst393.org.

Today is your last chance to enter our  Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – My wife and I had words this morning, but I never got to use mine.

Jul 042020
 

Before I do anything else, let me wish our country a happy birthday. It seems like a bleak time in America right now, and it is, with all the political division, the racial strife, and a pandemic that is dividing us in so many ways. But there is something about this country that people need to remember. We are resilient. We will come back from this. Maybe not today or tomorrow or next month, but we will. I only hope that when we do, we come back smarter than we have been acting lately.

You can sure tell it is summer here in Florida. Every day is in the 90s, with humidity that melts you anytime you step out the door. Which means that, except for going out to the mailbox once a day, we don’t leave the house unless we absolutely have to. The summer storms are coming in every day, and a couple of days ago, we got a doozy of one, with rain and thunder and lightning. But since then, it’s been the norm for where we live, the storms come toward us and then separate going north and south and leaving us in a little slot that doesn’t get much.

I’ve been taking advantage of the extra time the weather and the pandemic have imposed on us to do a lot of writing on my new family historical saga. I nailed down another 5,200 words yesterday, which put me at a bit over 93,000 words total. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel on this one. I don’t know exactly how long it will be until I’m finished, but the end is in sight.

Speaking of books, how do you make an author’s day? In my book Big Lake Quarterback, I included my 17-year-old granddaughter Hailey Robinson, and her younger sister Destiny as characters. Yesterday, Hailey, who is reading the book, called me laughing out loud and telling me how funny it is and how much she loves it. She said the teenagers in the book are just like the kids she knows, and she feels like she’s right there with them. For a girl who really isn’t into books, I was thrilled when she said she loves it. That’s high praise and made this old man’s heart smile.

While I am writing, among everything else she does, Miss Terry is making sure we don’t go hungry. A while back, I wrote that I bought her a new Breville smart oven with an air fryer. Yesterday she tried the air fryer part of it for the first time, making chicken drummies. They were delicious.

She also made herself some fried green tomatoes. People seem to love them, but I am a carnivore and try to avoid vegetables at all costs.

Today being the 4th of July, there are fireworks going off all around us, and I’m sure will be some idiots firing guns in the air, too. That always terrifies me because what goes up must come down. Many years ago, I had a friend who was left a quadriplegic because of a pistol that was fired in the air, and when the bullet came down, it hit him in the head. I’ve written before about how when I was a teenager we lived in an upstairs duplex, and my parents were standing on the front porch on New Year’s Eve when our drunken downstairs neighbor came out on his porch and cranked a round off from his pistol, not really realizing that there was a porch with people directly above him. The bullet missed my mother but drove a long splinter deep into her leg. I had seen my Dad angry a few times in my life, but I’d never seen him so enraged that he wanted to kill somebody. I really think he would have killed that man if other people had not intervened. As it was, the fool went to the hospital, and then to jail So have fun, but be careful, and please, keep your damn gun inside the house where it belongs. That’s where mine will be.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. 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 – Everyone wants freedom, and many are willing to sacrifice someone else’s life for it.

Jul 032020
 

For as long as I can remember the media has been accused of being dishonest, corrupt, and no more than a purveyor of lies. Especially when they report a story that offends a reader’s political or religious leanings. But the reality is that most small town newspapers have always strived to serve their communities by reporting local news fairly and truthfully. But I will admit that at least once, I fudged a bit. But only as an act of kindness. Let me tell you about it.

In this story, the names have been changed to protect the guilty, even though I am sure most of them are long gone by now. And Miss Terry says I have to be careful to clean it up a bit, so I don’t offend any sensitive readers. Okay, I’ll do my best. But please remember that my best is none too good, so don’t try to bring out the worst in me.

When I ran my weekly newspaper in the White Mountains of Arizona, I would go to the different police departments every week and get the reports on their latest activity. One day when I went to the Show Low Police Department, among the reports of DUI arrests and traffic accidents, and people busted for shoplifting and such, the watch commander, who was a friend of mine, said, “Okay Nick, this one is going to challenge your journalistic abilities.”

We had a mobile home retirement community in town where a lot of people from the Phoenix area came to spend their summers to escape the desert heat. One of the residents of this community was a gentleman in his 80s, who I will simply call George. George had been engaged to a woman in her late 70s who also had mobile homes down in Phoenix and in Show Low, and the engagement had lasted for several years.

However, George, being a typical man with a typical man’s ego, kept putting the wedding off because age had caught up with him and he was impotent. That all changed when a certain little blue pill hit the market. George bought himself some and he was raring to go. And raring to get married, too, as a matter of fact.

Thrilled that the long delayed nuptials were finally going to happen, George’s betrothed, who we will call Jane, went down to Phoenix with a friend of hers to select her bridal trousseau.

While she was gone, George got to wondering if those little blue pills actually worked, so he called his neighbor, Sally, a 65 year old retired nurse who was the local hottie. Bear with me, folks, I’m trying to get this cleaned up as I tell it! He told Sally he had taken a pill and wondered if it worked. And being a good neighbor, Sally came over to give him a helping hand, if you will.

According to Sally’s statement in the police report, they began making out on the couch. When George became aroused, they retired to the bedroom, where they proceeded to do what people do in the bedroom. I burst out laughing when the watch commander read the part where Sally said, “He mounted me, gave a mighty thrust, and expired.” That’s right, George died in the act. Hey, there are worse ways to go! I like to think that when he got to the pearly gates, Saint Peter gave him a high five and said, “Good for you, George!”

The watch commander asked if I could please figure out some way to report the story without being indelicate. Me, indelicate? Are you kidding? Delicate is my middle name.

In the newspaper article about his death, I wrote that George had been experiencing some discomfort and called a neighbor over to assist him and that soon after she got there, he passed away. Well, it was kind of true.

Back in my office, I had to share the story with Melissa, who was the office manager and also one of my best friends. Melissa had come to work for me when she was a college intern and never left.

After the newspaper came out, Jane came to our office to purchase several copies of that edition to send to George’s family and to have as a remembrance. She was a delightful little old lady and obviously suffering from her loss. She told Melissa, “I wanted to marry that man for over ten years, but he wouldn’t do it because he didn’t feel he was a whole man. Like that mattered at our age. Then those pills came out, and he thought it was okay to finally get married. I guess we’ll never know if they worked or not.”

Melissa told me afterward that she had to pee at the time, and she was standing behind the counter with her legs crossed, trying not to laugh or wet herself while she attempted to comfort the grieving woman. When Jane left, Melissa made a mad dash through the newsroom to the ladies restroom, and when she came out she poked her head in my office door and said, “You don’t pay me enough for this crap!”

Be sure to enter out latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. 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 popular once, but then my therapist took all of my imaginary friends away.

A Poorly Planned Scam

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 022020
 

We all know there is a scammer born every minute, and sometimes two or three, I think. And while some of them are quite clever, others are so poorly planned that it’s almost pathetic. The other day a friend contacted me asking how far we are from Port Orange, Florida, which is a suburb of Daytona Beach. I told her we were maybe 15 miles away and she asked if I was familiar with a certain automobile and RV dealership. I replied that I wasn’t, and when I tried to find them online, they were not listed.

Apparently she found an RV listed for sale online somewhere, supposedly at a dealership in Port Orange. She called to ask about it and said alarm bells immediately started going off because the man she spoke to, who had a very strong accent, wanted her to send them money before he would tell her much about it since he had several deals pending on the unit.

By then she knew it was some kind of scam, and when she said no, that wasn’t going to happen, a “manager” came on the line and offered to bring it to her anywhere in the country to look at, for a $500 totally refundable deposit. She lives in Colorado and asked, “you’re going to bring an RV all the way to Colorado, and if I don’t like it, you’ll give me back my money?” He replied yes, they would do that. All they needed was $500 earnest money and her personal info to run a credit check. Or, she could send them $500 to hold it and fly into Daytona Beach International Airport, where they would pick her up and take her to see the RV. When she wouldn’t buy into that, he offered to pay her round-trip plane fare, but he did need that $500 and her personal info. She laughed at him and then he told her to forget the $500, just give him her info to run a credit check.

She said that it was obviously a scam, but wondered if I knew anything about the dealership. She also sent me a picture of the motorhome in question. I had to laugh because in the background of the picture there was a high mountain. When I pointed it out to her she laughed and said she never even noticed that.

Just for giggles, she called the “dealership” back and asked them about that mountain, saying she didn’t know that there were mountains in Florida. The man replied, “Yes, that’s Mount Daytona, 5,670 feet, and again wanted her personal info. She hung up and blocked his phone number. But you know what, folks? There is probably some fool somewhere who will fall for that scam.

This may seem hard to believe, but things like this happen all the time. When Terry and I were shopping for a diesel pusher to replace our MCI bus conversion, we had a similar experience. We were in Kingman, Arizona, and saw a Newmar diesel pusher advertised in Las Vegas, a hundred miles away. I contacted the seller and he said it had belonged to his uncle, who had recently passed away, and he was selling it for his aunt. He wanted me to send him a couple of hundred bucks by Western Union to hold it, and I said no, we’d be there the next day to see it.

We drove up to Vegas and to the address he gave me, where a woman who said she was his wife wanted me to give her money and said she would call him and he would tell us where to meet him. I said no, and he asked us to meet him at a shopping mall. We got there and there was no RV, but he called and said a friend would stop by and get a deposit from us and we could follow him to look at it. Nope, not going to happen. But since we were in Vegas anyway and wanted to kill some time before the evening buffets opened, I let him call us two or three more times. Finally, he had a guy who could hardly speak English bring the RV to a store parking lot to look at. When we got there, he wanted $200 to let us inside, but we ignored him and went inside. It was a total wreck and there was an auto auction windshield sign laying on the dashboard identifying it as a salvage vehicle. Scammers all the way.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. 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 – When you’re testing to see how deep the water is, never use both feet.

A Quick Stick

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 012020
 

Yesterday we left the house to go to Daytona Beach for the first time in at least three months, if not longer. I had to go to the lab at the VA Medical Center to get some blood work before an upcoming telephone conference with my doctor. It was a nice day and I decided to take the Mustang. The more I drive that sporty little car, the more I like it.

Terry knew she couldn’t come in when we got to the VA, so I parked in the shade and left the engine and air conditioning (and the seat coolers) running, telling her I hoped it wouldn’t take too long. And it didn’t.

I had to stop at a check-in station outside, where they took my temperature, asked if I had any COVID-19 symptoms or been around anyone who did, or if I had been out of the country in the last 30 days. When I answered no to all of that, they sent me to another station just outside the door, where I was asked the same questions once more.

Then, when I got inside the building, someone else took my temperature, saying they did it again because it was around a hundred degrees outside, and they wanted to take it out of the direct sunlight. I asked why they didn’t just do that to everybody coming in and not bother doing it outside, and the young lady said if someone’s temperature was over 100 degrees, they would be turned away at the first station. I guess that makes sense. And of course, masks were mandatory

Clearing those hurdles, I went into the area where the lab is, pushed the little button to get my number to wait, and took two steps toward a chair, and they called me in. A quick stick, three or four vials of blood and a urine test later, and they sent me on my way. It took longer to get inside the building than it did to get the lab work done and get back out to the car.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because by the time we got back from the VA, after stopping at the post office on the way to mail out our taxes, it was pretty late in the day. I had a ton of e-mail to answer, along with some Facebook questions to deal with, and that was about the only thing I accomplished.

Among the e-mails was one from Elizabeth Mackey, my book cover artist. Here is the cover for the first book in the Tinder Street series. What do you think of it? I like it a lot.

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 – I hate when people accuse me of lollygagging when I’m quite clearly dilly-dallying.

Feeling Much Better

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 302020
 

Thank you, everybody, who sent emails, texts, and Facebook messages expressing their concern after reading yesterday’s blog about me feeling so bad. Several people, including my daughter-in-law, who is a clinical director at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, were afraid I might be coming down with COVID-19. And I admit it crossed my mind, too. But we have been very careful about wearing masks and only leaving home to go anywhere if it was absolutely necessary.

As it turned out, it was what I suspected, just some kind of passing bug. I went to sleep Sunday night and slept for over 10 hours before waking up yesterday morning. When I finally did, I felt like a different person. All the aches and pains were gone, along with the nausea and everything else. So whatever it was, it kicked my butt left in a hurry, and that’s just fine with me.

Even though I got a late start after sleeping so much, I spent yesterday as I have most of the last month, working on my new book. I know, I’m in a rut. I only got about 2,500 more words added, but I also went back and polished some things in previous chapters. While I was doing that, Miss Terry was proofreading some of the chapters I had already printed out for her. When I finished writing for the day, I made the corrections she suggested.

It looks like there is going to be some more weaving in Terry’s future. She had a big box of yarn delivered the other day for some projects she’s been planning for quite some time now. I think if I would quit handing her all these chapters to proof, she might have time to actually get to work on it. I know, I’m selfish and demanding that way. She should have listened to her mother before getting involved with me. Or my first wife. Or my second wife. Or my secretary. Or… you get the idea.

I probably won’t get much writing done today if any. I have to go to the VA Medical Center in Daytona Beach for some lab work for an upcoming telephone conference with my doctor. I wish there was some way to just do the labs over the phone, too. It would sure make life easier. But I don’t know how they would get a needle all the way from there to here to draw the blood. And there’s no way I can fill that little bottle they want me to pee in at this distance. I’m lucky I can hit the toilet, and it’s much bigger and a lot closer.

I can’t remember the last time my Mustang was out of the garage, so if it looks like the rain will hold off until late afternoon like the weatherman says it will, I think we will take it. It going to be in the mid-90s with a heat index well over 100 degrees, and the cooled seats will feel good.

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 – Fear not death for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal. – Benjamin Franklin

Jun 292020
 

Yesterday was a productive day for me, in spite of feeling like I had been run over by a truck. I had trouble sleeping and only managed about three hours total the night before. I finally got up and left Terry sleeping and sat at my desk, making changes she had indicated in the chapters I had printed out for her in my new book.

With that done, I went and sat in my recliner for a while, hoping I might be able to sleep there, but it seemed like I was feeling worse by the minute. Then intense nausea hit me. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say I spent a lot of time on my knees worshiping the porcelain throne.

So much so that I woke Terry up, even though I was trying to be quiet. There are some things you just can’t do quietly. She made me some tea, which helped a bit, and though I was not the least bit hungry, I did eat an English muffin just to have something in my stomach.

I’m not sure what the problem was. It felt like every joint in my body ached, and somebody was having a bullfight inside my skull. The queasy feeling lasted all day and all evening in varying degrees. Terry took my temperature, and it was normal.

Several people asked if I thought I might be coming down with COVID-19, but I think it was just a case of the crud. We’ll see how today goes. I have to go to the VA medical center in Daytona Beach for some lab work today or tomorrow, and if I still feel this way then, I’ll ask for a swab test.

In spite of that, I still managed to knock out another 4,200 words in my new family saga book. I am at 84K words now and still loving it as much as I did after I wrote the first chapter.

And I’m afraid that’s all I have for you today. It’s past midnight, and I need to get some rest.

Congratulations Sue Pace, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. We had 33 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – If my grandfather were alive today, he’d be trapped in a box underground. Horrible to think about, really.

Arrows Across America

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 282020
 

Imagine that you’re exploring America on a two lane road out in the middle of nowhere when your dog lets you know he needs a potty break. There’s not much traffic and you spot a wide pullout where you can safely park, so you get off the road and let your four-legged buddy out to do his business while you stretch your legs. Fido is off in the bushes when you hear him barking and you wander over to see if he’s spotted a jackrabbit, but instead, you find a giant concrete arrow, some seventy feet long. That could sure get your imagination off and running!

What have you found? Evidence of a race of giants that once roamed the land? Proof that extraterrestrials do exist and have visited Earth? No, the explanation is rather simple, but it’s still a fascinating story. You have stumbled upon a reminder of the Transcontinental Air Mail Route.

Long before the internet, before cell phones and texts and instant messaging, people actually wrote letters on pieces of paper, stuck them in a mailbox, and sent them on their way. Depending on where you mailed it from and where it was headed, that letter might make its way to the recipient in a day, or a week, or even longer. The country was still young and we had not yet conquered vast distances at the speed of light.

If your letter was addressed to a friend in the same city or a nearby community, it wasn’t too complicated. But what if that friend was all the way across the country? Depending on when in history you lived, the mail might be carried on a stagecoach, or a train, or even the hard riding Pony Express. But the times, they were a-changing.

On August 20, 1920, 60 years after the Pony Express shut down, the United States inaugurated its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route. And just as the Pony Express riders had been fearless young men who braved the harsh landscape, bandits, and marauding Indians, the first mail pilots were bold men who took to the air in open cockpit airplanes and little in the way of navigational equipment.

In those days, the few aviation charts that existed were often unreliable, and pilots found their way across the country by following a compass and landmarks on the ground. Flying in inclement weather or at night was difficult, if not impossible.

To help speed mail delivery, the Postal Service created a series of beacons that extended from New York to San Francisco. This would become the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system.

Every ten miles or so there was a 50 foot steel tower with an illuminated rotating beacon and a giant concrete arrow painted yellow pointing the way. The arrows could be seen from high in the air, some say as high as ten miles, though I don’t know if those early airplanes were capable of flying at that altitude. Think of it as the proverbial Yellow Brick Road, but with no Wizard of Oz at the end.

The system worked well for about twenty years, then advances in technology replaced it with more modern aircraft that navigated with radio beacons and radar. The steel towers were torn down and their material used for other purposes in World War II, and the old system was all but forgotten.

But even today, many of the old concrete arrows still exist and can be found in fields across the country, a reminder of a different place and time, and a breed of pilots who literally flew by the seat of their pants to get the mail there on time.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If you are sitting in public and a stranger sits down next to you, stare straight ahead and say, “It’s done and the mess is cleaned up. Did you bring the money?”

Jun 272020
 

Note: since we can’t travel right now but I miss the open road, here is a repost of a blog from the summer of 2014.

When you’re rolling down the highway headed to your next RV adventure, did you ever wonder for a moment about the interesting places you may be passing by that you will never know existed?

We love getting off the interstates to find those hidden gems on the back roads and in the small towns of America just waiting to be discovered. Stories of tragedy and triumph, history and mystery that are greater than any fiction author could ever dream up. I wrote about many of them in my two books, Highway History And Back Road Mystery and Highway History And Back Road Mystery II, but I barely scratched the surface of what there is out there just waiting for you or me to take a detour off the highway to discover.

Highway History Cover

Highway History II cover

We found just such a story in the charming small town of Lebanon, Ohio, where the handsome Golden Lamb Inn has been serving the traveling public since 1803, the oldest inn still in operation as a hotel in Ohio. Over the years the historic inn has hosted ten U.S. presidents: John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, both Benjamin and William Henry Harrison, Grant, McKinley, Hayes, Garfield, Taft, and Harding. Other notables who have stayed at the inn include: Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and James Whitcomb Riley, to name just a few.

Golden Lamb hotel

Few pioneers could read or write, so many business owners gave their enterprises names that could be easily identified by a drawing on the sign, such as the Red Dog, Dancing Mule, or Golden Lamb.

The original inn was a two story building located where the lobby of today’s brick building, erected in 1815, is currently located. As the business grew, a third story was added in 1844. When it was announced that the railroad was going to be passing through town in 1878, a fourth story was added to accommodate the workers who would be laying the tracks.

It’s not surprising that a building that old would have a ghost story or two attached to it, and the Golden Lamb is no exception. Among the specters supposedly seen are the ghosts of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles R. Sherman, the father of Civil War General William T. Sherman, who died while visiting the inn; and a little girl named Eliza, who was the daughter of statesman Henry Clay. She became ill while her family was passing through the area and they took a room at the inn, where she died soon after. Those are just two of many stories of hauntings at the Golden Lamb. 

The Golden Inn has three special museum viewing rooms on its fourth floor that are set aside to remember the past. Sarah’s room, on the fourth floor, is a re-creation of a little girl’s bedroom. It was named in honor of Sarah Stubbs, the niece of inn manager Isaac Stubbs Jr. Sarah lived her life in the inn and some say her ghost was among those that have never left.

The Shaker Good Room is a re-creation of a typical Shaker keeping room and pantry reminiscent of Union Village, a Shaker settlement just four miles from Lebanon. Pegboards along the wall of the Shaker Retiring Room show the practical use of space in a Shaker home and the simpler lifestyle of those who followed the Shaker religion.

The next time you’re in south central Ohio, get off Interstate 71 and spend some time in Lebanon, where interesting stores and shops, and the historic Golden Lamb Inn, await you.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. 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.