Nick Russell

May 212019

In his book It All Started With Columbus, satirist Richard Willard Armour wrote that our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, had been born in three states and also “in two cabins – the original, and the reconstructed.” When I read that I was reminded of a tour guide at some historic inn we visited once who said that so many places have claimed that George Washington slept there that the man would have started his travels two days after he was born and never made it back home. I guess if you’re famous enough, everybody wants to have a piece of you.

And so it is at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky. Here you can see the humble log cabin where Lincoln was born, except that it’s not really the cabin where he was born, it’s an authentic reproduction. Well, except that it’s not really an authentic reproduction.

Apparently the original log cabin that Lincoln was born in was dismantled sometime before 1865 and some of the logs from the cabin were used in construction of a nearby house. But nobody knows if that was really the cabin he was born in or if it was one built sometime later.

What is known is that in 1894, a New Yorker named A.W. Dennett purchased the farm the Lincoln family owned when the future president was born, and used logs from a house on the property to build a cabin similar in appearance to the cabin where Lincoln was born. Dennett claimed to have been told those logs were from the original cabin, but that seems to have been local folklore more than fact.

A bit of an entrepreneur, Dennett dismantled the cabin and took it on tour, reassembling it for display at cities wherever he could draw a paying crowd. Eventually Dennett sold the logs for his cabin, along with other logs that were claimed to be from the cabin where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was born (also untrue) to the Lincoln Farm Association, an organization created to preserving Lincoln’s birthplace. The group believed they had acquired only Lincoln logs, but when workers tried to reconstruct the cabin, they discovered otherwise.

The Lincoln Farm Association erected a beautiful Memorial Building, which was dedicated in 1911 by President William Howard Taft. Unable to rebuild the original cabin with the logs acquired from Dennett, the Association purchased a one-room cabin similar to the one he had displayed around the country. When this last cabin was rebuilt inside the Memorial Building, they realized that at 16×18 feet it was too big, so it was taken apart again and reconfigured to a smaller 12×17 feet.

At any rate, none of that has deterred people from around the world coming to what is now known as the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site to honor the man who became known as the Great Emancipator.

And though what you see is not the original cabin in which Lincoln was born, he was indeed born here on his father’s Sinking Spring Farm on February 12, 1809. For the first two years of his life, Lincoln lived at Sinking Spring Farm, then his family moved to another farm a few miles to the northeast along Knob Creek, near present-day U.S. Highway 31E. He lived there until the family moved again when he was seven years old.

The farm takes its name from the Sinking Spring, a water source also known as Rock Spring and Cave Spring. The Lincolns depended on the spring for their daily water supply, and travelers passing by stopped here to enjoy a taste of the cool water. The spring is a significant natural resource, part of a network of springs and subsurface streams in and near the park.

The Knob Creek site, Lincoln’s second home, features a 19th century log cabin and an early 20th century tavern and tourist site. Like the reproduction of the Birthplace cabin, the log cabin at Knob Creek is also not original to the site. Some say it may have belonged to neighbors of the Lincolns. It was moved to the approximate location of the Lincolns’ home on Knob Creek, but again, nothing is guaranteed to be historically accurate here except that the Lincoln family did once live on this land. One of Abraham Lincoln’s earliest memories was of almost drowning in Knob Creek and being saved by the neighbor’s son.
Lincoln lived here until the age of seven, when his family moved once again, this time to Indiana, to the site now commemorated as the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

And though you won’t see the original cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born, this is the nation’s first memorial to Lincoln, and was built with money raised by donations from citizen’s young and old to honor the man many consider to be our finest President ever.

The Visitor Center at the Birthplace Unit has historical exhibits, including the original Lincoln family Bible, tools, cookware, and furniture used by early day pioneers, and the fifteen minute film Abraham Lincoln: The Kentucky Years, which shows every thirty minutes on the hour and half hour. There is also a small store with books and souvenirs.

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site is located at 2995 Lincoln Farm Road in Hodgenville, Kentucky and is open daily except on January 1, November 24, and December 25. There is no charge to visit the Birthplace or the Knob Creek site. For more information, call (270) 358-3137 or visit the site’s website at

Thought For The Day – I just ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know.

Dismals Canyon

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
May 202019

When asked what is the one piece of advice I would give to new RVers, whether they be fulltimers, snowbirds, or weekend warriors, the answer is always the same. Slow down. Not just slow down, but sloooow dooooown!

New RVers all fall into the same trap – they want to see as much as they can as fast as they can. All that leads to is frayed nerves, empty wallets, and exhaustion. It usually takes a new fulltimer a year to 18 months to get that out of their system. As I always told people in my seminars at RV rallies and shows, no matter how fast you travel, you’re never going to live long enough to see it all because there’s just too much to see out there. So slow down and enjoy the ride, and take the time to explore the hidden treasures in every corner of this country that everybody rushes past trying to get to somewhere else.

A good example is northwest Alabama’s Dismals Canyon, an overlooked gem that is simply breathtaking. This 85 acre natural wonderland, with its dozens of sandstone grottos, two waterfalls, six natural bridges, and giant moss covered boulders strewn about by ancient earthquakes takes a little bit of effort to get to, but it’s well worth the time to explore it.

Native people known as Paleoamericans called the canyon home nearly 10,000 years ago, and the artifacts they left behind gives modern-day man a glimpse into the lives and culture of these Stone Age predecessors to the people who call Alabama home today.

Over time they were replaced by other tribes, notably the Chickasaw and Cherokee. But those newcomers’ time in the canyon would be relatively short, in terms of the overall history of mankind. In 1838, U.S. soldiers rounded up the Chickasaw and forced them from their ancestral lands, holding them in the canyon before herding them west like cattle on the Trail of Tears.

Later, settlers came to the region, building a water mill, cotton gin, and sawmill in the canyon. These newcomers hailed from Scotland and Ireland, and many believe the canyon is named after a rugged and beautiful place in Scotland called the Dismals.

Today Dismals Canyon is a privately owned and operated 85 acre nature conservatory, that has been declared a National Natural Landmark. Visitors can hike to the bottom of the beautiful canyon and follow a 1.5 mile long hiking trail along the canyon floor through huge boulders and past crashing waterfalls into a secret labyrinth of caverns and grottos filled with ferns and giant trees.

The canyon is home to many species of animals and native plants, including a stand of old-growth virgin timber including Hemlock, Tulip Poplar, Sweetgum, Bigleaf Magnolia, and Beech. Botanists have identified more than 350 different species of plants in the canyon.

My son Travis took the photographs for this blog, and any shutterbug will love this place. In some spots huge blocks of sandstone have broken away from the canyon’s walls and lie scattered about on the floor, forming natural bridges and narrow passageways.

Many of the landmarks in Dismals Canyon have interesting names like Rainbow Falls, Temple Cave, Witches Cavern, Pulpit Rock, and Weeping Bluff.

While there are some stairs and bridges to make accessing the canyon easier, one has to be in fair physical shape to see it all. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hardest most of it is around a 3, with a couple of 5s thrown in along the way. Once you hike down to the canyon floor, give yourself at least an hour and a half to two hours. The more time you can spend there, the more you will see and the more you will appreciate the grandeur of this place.

For a special treat, take a guided night tour and you will see tiny bioluminescent creatures the locals call Dismalites. These “glowworms” require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are related to the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.

Located at 901 Highway 8 in Phil Campbell, Alabama, Dismals Canyon is about 90 miles northwest of Birmingham and is open 7 days a week. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission for the self-guided day tour is $12 for adults, $11 for visitors age 60 and over, and $8.75 for those under age 12. Other rates apply for the guided night tour or a combo admission.

The canyon has two cozy red cedar cabins available for overnight guests. For more information on Dismals Canyon or to make a cabin reservation, call (205) 993-4559 or visit their website at

Congratulations Jackson Lloyd Sheesley, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. We had 34 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Nature can live without man, but man cannot live without nature!

Things That Go Boom

 Posted by at 1:08 am  Nick's Blog
May 192019

No, I haven’t been playing with dynamite or hand grenades, though I have in the past and somehow managed not to blow myself up. But I don’t do that anymore, deciding that I should quit while I was ahead. Or still had a head. No, yesterday Miss Terry and I went to the gun show at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. There was nothing I was really particularly interested in, we just needed a day out by ourselves. And who knows what one might find on a vendor’s table that you can’t live without?

As it turned out, there was nothing I couldn’t live without. I have owned, shot, played with, bought, and sold so many guns over the years that it takes something pretty special to get my attention. And whatever that might be, it wasn’t there.

Listening to some of the conversations of the people around us, I told Miss Terry that while I have been involved with guns since I was a little kid and I enjoy shooting them, there are a whole lot of gun people I don’t want anything to do with.

Back in the summer of 1974, when I got out of the Army, I purchased a new Colt.45 semiautomatic pistol. I remember the guy at the gun shop telling me it was a good thing I bought it then, because the gun grabbers were going to take all of our firearms away any day now. Back then, getting a concealed carry permit was just about impossible and lots of places like national parks didn’t allow you to possess a firearm when you visited. Since then I have owned several hundred guns, I can carry in a national park, and I currently have concealed weapons permits from two states that allow me to carry a handgun in over 30 states due to reciprocal agreements. And nobody’s come to take my guns away yet. I kind of feel like that guy way back in 1974 may have lied to me.

Or maybe not, because it seemed like about one out of three people at the gun show was talking about how the gun grabbers are going to be kicking in our doors any day now. Another one out of three was talking about what bad asses they are (note, if somebody has to tell you how tough he is, he really isn’t), and how they would blow anybody away that gave them a problem. Of course, none of them have ever heard a shot fired in anger, and if someone pointed a gun at them they would probably mess their pants. The testosterone was like a fog in the place.

When we were done at the gun show we stopped at a gun club’s shooting range. Having lived much of my life out West, I’m used to just going out in the boonies and shooting whenever I wanted to. Here in Florida you can’t do that. You have to join a gun club, and it can be very expensive. Some in this area are over $400 a year. Thanks, but no thanks. This range was also very expensive to join, and like so many gun places I’ve been to, they were not at all welcoming. They seem to assume that anybody showing up to ask a question is there to deny them their Constitutional rights. I’ve gotten warmer smiles from my ex-wives’ attorneys. Then again, I guess that makes sense, because those guys sure made a lot of money off of me over the years.

One place that is affordable and very welcoming is the Volusia County Trap and Skeet Club in New Smyrna Beach. We stopped there a while back and were impressed with the facilities and how friendly everybody was, and yesterday we decided to swing by again. I used to shoot trap years ago and I really enjoyed it, and I think it’s something Terry would enjoy, too. While she’s a pretty good shot with a handgun, she hasn’t spent much time with rifles and shotguns, and I wasn’t sure what might work for her. One of the volunteer range safety officers quickly broke out a Remington 1100 semiautomatic 20 gauge and handed her some shells and said to go try it. He wasn’t trying to sell it, just happy to help out a newbie get some ideas of what would work for her. Terry didn’t bust any birds, but she enjoyed shooting it and said there was no kick at all. A lot of serious trap shooters use a 12 gauge shotgun, but a 20 will do the job just fine for our needs. You know, she does have a birthday coming up…

And finally, if you don’t do anything else today, do yourself a favor and download a free copy of my pal Jason Deas three-book Benny James mystery series box set. Jason is a great guy and a good writer too. I think you will enjoy it. And please be sure to leave a review. They really help authors.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 can’t tell if I attract crazy people or if I make them crazy, but I’m definitely seeing a pattern here.


May 182019

Theirs was a love that could never be. A passion that had to be hidden from the cultural mores of the time. But even death could not deny them their devotion to each other. The proof lives on in a simple tombstone in Tampa’s Oaklawn Cemetery.

Virginia native William Ashley arrived in Tampa in 1837 and took a position as clerk at the Army trading post at Fort Brooke. He quickly immersed himself in the society of the growing settlement and was elected Clerk of the City in 1856, serving under Mayor John Jackson. Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa was named after him.

Ashley became one of Tampa’s most prominent citizens, participating in many of the town’s important civic and social affairs. He built a grand house, where he entertained all of the movers and shakers of the day.

By all accounts, Ashley, a bachelor, was quite a catch, and there is no doubt that the belles of Tampa society vied for his attention. But he politely avoided any commitments, to the distress of more than one lovely lady searching for a suitable husband.

You see, William Ashley was already in love.

Unfortunately it was a love that would never be allowed in the South during that period because William Ashley was white, and the woman who owned his heart was black. Not just black, but a slave

Little is known of Nancy Ashley’s early life. In U.S. Census slave inventories taken before and during the Civil War, Nancy is listed in Ashley’s household as a slave. Nancy was Ashley’s only slave, as far as Census records show, and like all slaves of her time, she took her master’s last name. However, their relation went much deeper than that of master and slave.

After Emancipation freed all slaves in America, Nancy remained in William Ashley’s house, but Census records list her occupation as “cook.” That in itself was not that uncommon. Not every slave owner was viewed as a demon, and many slaves chose to remain with the families they had served, rather than be cast loose into a society not yet ready to assimilate them.

During William and Nancy’s lives, in fact, into the middle of the 20th century, marriage between people of different races was illegal in many states, including Florida. And for a man in William Ashley’s position, it would have been both socially and financially disastrous. Surely some of William Ashley’s closest associates must have known of, or at least suspected their relationship, but it was never spoken of, and in the presence of others they carefully maintained the facade of servant and master.

Yet their love for each other was stronger than any obstacle the world they lived in could put in their path. William never married, and Nancy remained in his home all of their days.

After a long illness William Ashley died in 1871, at the age of 68. He bequeathed all of his worldly goods to his devoted companion, except for $99, which he left with his best friend, John Jackson, with instructions that after Nancy’s death, she be buried beside him, under a headstone with an inscription he had penned himself.

Nancy Ashley lived just a year longer than William, and many believe she died of a broken heart. Honoring his friend’s wishes, John Jackson, himself a prominent Tampa citizen had a tombstone erected with the epitaph “Here lies William Ashley and Nancy Ashley, Master and Servant. Faithful to each other in that relation in life, in death they are not separated. Stranger, consider and be wiser, in the grave all human distinction of race or caste mingle together in one common dust. To commemorate their fidelity to each other, this stone was erected by their Executor, John Jackson (1873).”

And there they remain today, together in death as they were in life, William and Nancy Ashley, two souls forever united.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 – Take risks. You are a lot better off being scared than being bored.

10 Travel Books I Like

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
May 172019

There is more to RVing than just driving down the highway from one campground to another. America has many delightful and fascinating treasures that people drive by every day, never even knowing they exist. To make sure you don’t miss anything, here are some favorite travel guides that I refer to often.

50 States, 5,000 Ideas – This excellent guide to the best travel experiences in every state includes national parks, beaches, Civil War battlefields, out-of-the-way museums, and more. Did you ever hear of the world’s longest yard sale? Swamp tours in Louisiana? Dinosaur trails in Colorado? You will find all of these and so much more, along with fascinating facts about each state, and a section on Canada, too!

Where Are They Buried? – Revised and completely updated for 2019, this book will take the morbidly curious to the graves, monuments, memorials, and tombstones of nearly 500 famous people, and a few antiheroes, too! Each entry includes a short biography full of little-known facts, a description of the death, and step-by-step directions to the grave, including not only the name of the cemetery, but the exact location of the gravesite and how to reach it.

The Complete Roadside Guide to Nebraska – Nebraska has always been one of those states that people drive through or fly over without stopping. That’s a shame because the Cornhusker State has thousands of unique attractions and historic sites, fascinating museums, and natural beauty. And this is the guide to all of them, covering over 12,000 miles of the “state where the West begins.”

1,000 Places to See Before You Die – This guide to beautiful beaches, wonderful museums, classic ballparks, natural wonders, and unforgettable festivals in the United states and Canada will have you itching to hit the road.

Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? – Take a tour of presidential gravesites with this guide to the final resting places of our nation’s presidents. With information about the men buried at the sites and their lives in and out of politics, this book belongs on every traveler’s bookshelf.

Highway History And Back Road Mystery – For a real taste of our history, our culture, and adventure, you have to travel the back roads, far away from toll booths and rest area service plazas. That is where you will discover the interesting locations and fascinating stories no tourist bureau will ever tell you about. Stories like that of West Virginia’s Zona Hester Shue, the Greenbrier Ghost, or the mystery of who is buried in Daniel Boone’s tomb, of an Old West outlaw who became famous only years after he fell to a posse’s guns; the dead man who led a wagon train over the Oregon Trail; of ghosts who still haunt an old prison, and ancient mysteries. These stories and more await you on lonely two lane roads in every corner of America.

Highway History And Back Road Mystery II – The second book in Nick Russell’s Highway History series brings you stories like that of Kate Shelley, a young Iowa girl who crawled across a narrow railroad bridge at the height of a terrible late night storm to warn a trainload of passengers of danger ahead; the tragic tale of Milton Lott, a pioneer boy who lost his life trying to save his mother from an Indian attack; Mothman, a mythical creature that terrorized the residents of a small West Virginia town. Or how about Jim the Wonder Dog, who many claimed was psychic? Or maybe a bridge haunted by the Civil War dead of Gettysburg? Learn about all of this and more in this guidebook.

Roadfood – Since 1977, Jane and Michael Stern have guided travelers to the best places to eat from coast to coast and border to border. The newest edition of Roadfood takes you on an extended tour of the most affordable and enjoyable dining options along America’s highways and back roads. You will never want to eat in a chain restaurant again!

The Lighthouse Handbook New England – Who doesn’t love lighthouses? They are historic, beautiful, and occasionally haunted. Fans of lighthouses will appreciate this travel friendly field guide’s beautiful photographs, directions and contact information for every existing lighthouse from Maine to Connecticut.

The Lighthouse Handbook: West Coast – Lighthouse buffs on the West Coast don’t have to feel left out. This excellent handbook includes color photographs, directions and contact information for over 150 lighthouses on the West Coast, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 recently bought a toilet brush. Long story short, I’m going back to Charmin.

The Best Medicine

 Posted by at 12:28 am  Nick's Blog
May 162019

Note: My friend Donna McNicol mentioned this incident in a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, and ever since people have been asking me for the whole story. So here is a repeat of my blog post about it from April, 2016.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. If that’s true, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to live forever.

I learned a long time ago that a sense of humor will get you through just about anything, and one of the best things you can possess is the ability to laugh at yourself. I figure why not, the rest of the world is laughing at me anyway, so I might as well join the party.

And you never know when an opportunity is going to arise to have a good belly laugh. Here’s an example. A while back we were having lunch at a Greek restaurant in Clermont, Florida with our good friends Stu and Donna McNicol. The waiter was taking our order, and after he had Donna’s and Miss Terry’s he turned to me and asked, “And for you, ma’am?” He quickly realized his mistake and apologized and I said, “It’s okay, I have man boobs.” The poor guy started laughing and the rest of us joined right in.

It took him a while, but he finally managed to compose himself, but I wasn’t letting him off the hook that easy. I asked him, “Do you want to touch them?” And it went downhill from there. WAY downhill! By the time it was done, even people at the nearby tables were laughing.

Yep, I plan to keep laughing and having fun every day of my life. How about you?

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name 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 just wanted you to know that somebody cares. Not me, but I’m pretty sure somebody somewhere does.

May 152019

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 really don’t have anything else to talk about today.


Readers are asking me when my next Big Lake book will be available. While I have learned never to set a definite date for a new release, because when I do something always goes wrong, I am shooting for some time in June. Yesterday was a good writing day, I knocked out about 7,500 words in Big Lake Ninja, which brings me close to the one third mark for a typical book in the series.


For those of you who read my buddy Greg White’s Our RV Adventures blog every day and are missing it while he and wife Jan are off touring Europe, Greg called me from Amsterdam the other day. He said internet service was very slow during the cruise, which is why he has not updated his blog as often as he had hoped to. They have finished the boat part of their vacation, and once they leave Amsterdam they will be taking a train to Paris for a few days, and then across the channel to England for the last leg of their trip. Greg said they are having a wonderful time, seeing a lot of amazing things, meeting some great people, and totally blowing their diets. As it should be when you are on vacation.


I get a lot of questions from people asking me about a campground, or a certain model of RV, or the best route to take some place. I always try to answer to the best of my ability. However, we have been off the road for over two years now and I haven’t kept up with every new model of RV or the latest campground ratings. So, I can tell you about the places we’ve been and how they were when we were there, but there is no guarantee something has not changed since then.


Another question I get asked a lot is about ways to save money on overnight camping costs. I’m a big fan of Passport America. We are life members and it saved us a fortune when we were fulltiming. Another excellent program is They list over 13,000 free overnight camping places from coast-to-coast. The annual membership is very affordable, and just like with Passport America, you will get your investment back the first night or two you are on the road.


If you are anywhere around Central Florida and have always wanted to watch a rocket launch, here’s a heads up. Space X is supposed to be sending up a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center tonight, with a target launch time of 10:30. It will be carrying something like 36 communication satellites into orbit to provide better internet service worldwide. Hopefully one of them will follow the route Greg and Jan’s river tour boat took.


And finally, it’s always important to celebrate your children’s accomplishments, whatever they may be. Just like these proud parents are doing.

Thought For The Day – Before we work on artificial intelligence, why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?


May 142019

Note: Readers tell me they enjoy our travel stories, so this is a repost of a blog from a visit to southern Virginia, where there are so many great places to choose from that you could be on the go every day for a month and still not get to them all.

Two of the best, the Virginia Living Museum and the Mariners’ Museum, both in Newport News. And we quickly realized that half a day each is not enough to do either place justice.

The fascinating Virginia Living Museum introduces visitors to more than 250 living species native to Virginia through exhibits, discovery centers and interactive hands-on exhibits. These include everything from endangered red wolves to loggerhead turtles, jellyfish, many species of birds, and more.

We spent a lot of time exploring the two floors of indoor exhibits, which include an underground gallery with animals that live below the earth’s surface, an aquarium where huge tanks contain everything from sharks to sturgeon, and an observatory. These jellyfish were hard to photograph, but Terry was patient and got the job done.

This big loggerhead, on the other hand, seemed to be a ham for the camera.

Originally from the Pacific Ocean, the venomous lionfish were introduced into Florida waters accidently in the 1990s and can now be found as far north as New York.

Outside, a ¾ mile elevated boardwalk leads visitors through woods and a wetlands area, showcasing animals native to Virginia in naturalized habitats.

Nearly extinct, the red wolf is being saved through captive breeding programs.

The 5,500 square-foot Coastal Plain Aviary is a dramatic walk-through aviary filled with coastal birds such as pelicans, herons, egrets, and ducks.

Less than two miles away, the Mariners’ Museum features over 60,000 square feet of gallery space displaying rare figureheads, handcrafted ship models, artifacts from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, an impressive collection of small boats, and more.

We started our tour with the Dinosaurs of the Deep exhibit, which features the skeletons of over 20 huge sea monsters that once lived in ancient seas. Those were some fierce creatures!

Then we spent a lot of time in the USS Monitor Center, which tells the story of the epic 1862 Civil War battle between America’s first ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Virginia, which was built on the hull of the former USS Merrimack, which in turn had been burned by her crew to prevent her from being captured by rebel forces. The two ships fought a two-day battle near here that came to be known as the Battle of Hampton Roads. While the fight was a draw and both ships survived, it marked the end of wooden warships.

While the Monitor went on to fight again, she was lost less than a year later in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The shipwreck was discovered in 1973 and a long recovery effort was launched. In 2002, the ship’s turret was raised from its watery grave and today is undergoing preservation at the Mariners’ Museum.

Many artifacts from the Monitor are on display at the museum, including this anchor, silverware, a propeller, and several of her guns.

This cannon, called a Dahlgren gun, came from the CSS Virginia. It was struck in the muzzle during the Battle of Hampton Roads, but the brave Confederate crew continued firing it at the enemy.

One gallery at the Mariners’ Museum had an exhibit on shipwreck survivors, with the stories of those who managed to escape sinking vessels only to face peril trying to survive while adrift waiting for rescue. This survival raft could mean the difference between life and death after a disaster at sea.

We were very impressed with the collection of ships’ figureheads on display. These carved wooden decorations were common on the prow of ships from the 16th to 19th centuries. Figureheads ranged from mythical figures to patriotic themes and each one was unique.

Housed in a separate building, the museum’s International Small Craft Center displays nearly 150 small boats from around the world, including everything from custom sailboats to crude handmade dugout canoes.

These are just two of the many fascinating places to visit that we discovered in Virginia, one of our favorite states.

Thought For The Day – I was chasing my dreams, but I tripped over reality and busted my head on the truth.

It Was A Very Good Day

 Posted by at 12:29 am  Nick's Blog
May 132019

When I offered to take Miss Terry out for dinner yesterday in honor of Mother’s Day, I already knew that she would tell me no. Terry doesn’t like a big fuss made over her, and her idea of a good day is to spend it at home with the people she loves.

And it was a very good day. Our son Travis sent Terry this beautiful driftwood clock that he made for her. It actually came a few days ago and I had stashed in the garage because he wanted me to give it to her on Mother’s Day morning. Travis had attached a hanger on the back to mount it on her office wall, but instead Terry put it on the hutch in our living room where everybody can see it when they visit.

A little while later this beautiful bouquet was delivered from our daughter Tiffany in Arizona. Terry is not their biological mother and she didn’t come into our lives until they were young adults, but as far as they are concerned she is Mom and they both love her with all their hearts. That makes my heart feel good.

Terry loves cooking, and when she wanted to make a batch of waffles for breakfast, who was I to argue with her? After all, it was Mother’s Day! And they were just as delicious as they look. I never really cared much for waffles, but then again all I ever knew were restaurant waffles and the frozen kind from the grocery store. There is no comparison at all to the ones Terry makes from scratch. I think the secret ingredient is love.

As for me, I spent some time doing some genealogical research for a friend of mine who is in her early 70s and never knew her father, who left when she was a month old. She didn’t have a lot of information on him, but I was able to find out a lot for her, not all of it pleasant. She had heard from other family members that he was not a good man, and the newspaper articles I was able to find reinforced that. It’s not exactly the kind of news you want to give somebody on Mother’s Day, but it was something she wanted to know.

When I was done with that, I wrote another 3,000 words or so in my new book, Big Lake Ninja. I also went over the manuscript for the printed copy of Sweet Tea And Jesus and made a couple of adjustments to that. One more thing to tweak, and then I think I will be ready to upload it to Amazon.

I’m not sure what the game plan is for today. Beverly has an appointment at the lab for a blood draw this morning and a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. Terry suggested I stay home and write while she takes her to them, and I may do just that.

Congratulations Bruce Pirtle, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 24 mystery novels out, as well as 10 or 12 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. We had 61 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I yelled “cow” to a woman riding past on her bike and she gave me the finger. Then she plowed her bike right into the cow. I tried.

Cajun Invasion

 Posted by at 12:56 am  Nick's Blog
May 122019

Several years ago when we were staying at the Hershey, Pennsylvania Thousand Trails preserve we were invaded by stinkbugs. If you are unfamiliar with these nasty little critters, consider yourself lucky. They seem to be able to find their way into every little nook and cranny of a home or RV, and once you get them it’s almost impossible to get rid of them. Having them in your home on wheels is bad enough but having them in your pants is even worse. I wrote about that in this blog post.

Just the other day I wrote about the love bugs that have been swarming all over the area for the last week or so. None of them have crawled inside my underwear, but I don’t like them any better than I do stink bugs.

And then yesterday we had another kind of invasion, a Cajun invasion. And if you are going to be invaded, that’s one of the best ones to have. Our friends Mark and Sue Didelot, fulltimers from Lake Charles, Louisiana, are visiting family here in Florida and came by for a visit. It’s been a long time since we had seen Mark and Sue and it was a real treat.

When it comes to computers and electronic things, Mark is right up there with my buddy Greg White. He can fix just about anything. And Sue, besides being beautiful, is a very talented artist whose work we have admired for years. Back in the days when I was publishing my Bad Nick Blog, Sue made me a hat to commemorate the achievement. Or maybe it was to tell the world who I was so they could avoid me. I’m not sure.

We spent some time catching up and talking about our mutual RVing friends, then we did what RVers always do when they get together, we went someplace to eat. Whenever we have company from out of town, one of our go to places is Goodrich Seafood, which is tucked away on a back road in nearby Oak Hill and is located right on the Indian River. We got there in the early afternoon, but the place was really busy.

After a short wait we got a table outside on the back deck, where we could watch all of the boats going up and down the river. The view was great, the food was wonderful, and the company was the best of all.
After we were done eating and visiting some more Mark and Sue followed us back to our place and we visited a while longer before it was time for them to head back to Sue’s brother’s place. Thanks for stopping by, Mark and Sue, it was a real treat!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 24 mystery novels out, as well as 10 or 12 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is 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 – Laughter is like a windshield wiper, it doesn’t stop the rain but it allows us to keep going.