Nick Russell

Dec 142019
 

I woke up Friday morning to more messages from readers that they were getting the same damn Adobe Flash and Google Play popups when they tried to access the blog. I expected it, but had foolishly hoped the dweebs at Go Daddy would have actually done something for a change.

Once again I called Go Daddy, I actually have them on speed dial at this point, and had to work my way through a couple of their lower echelon people to finally got hooked up with their security service. After going over the same old ground yet again, they said they realized there was some kind of malware causing the popups. Gee, really?

And for $196 they sold me a package that was guaranteed to fix the problem once and for all and prevent it from ever happening again. Kind of like the $140 I spent for the same thing back in July. I asked them to explain the difference, but they didn’t have an answer for me.

So, out of desperation I bit the bullet and gave them the money. They promised me by the end of the day there would be no more pop-ups showing. Yeah, we know how that works, don’t we? Nothing changed.

I had not been feeling well anyhow, and the stress of dealing with this was really kicking my butt. My head has been pounding for days now, my guts are one massive knot and I just could not deal with it for a moment longer. I told Miss Terry I needed to step away from the whole mess for a while. And that’s just what I did.

I turned off my computer, parked myself in my recliner, and watched TV and vegged out for most of the day, hoping to get to feeling better. Sometime later in the evening I finally began to feel a little more normal, or whatever passes for normal in my case. And, this morning we still have the popups. Oh yes, I recognize that old familiar churning beginning in my stomach already today!

I’ll keep pushing it folks. I know it’s frustrating for you, and believe me, it’s even more frustrating for me. In the meantime, I appreciate your patience. All I can say is that if you get the popup, please keep trying. But I would not blame you if you just give up, either.

In other news we got the phone call yesterday afternoon that Terry has to check in at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville this coming Monday, the 16th, at noon for the surgery for her permanent Medtronic’s implant. Since it will be at least a 3 to 4 hour long procedure, by the time it is over it will be late in the day and we won’t be able to get home before dark. My night vision is not very good and Terry usually drives after dark, so we will have to spend the night there and come home Tuesday.

She’s really looking forward to getting this behind her and seeing some permanent results. Me, I just want her to be better.

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 – The only thing more shocking than finding water on planet Mars would be finding me at Planet Fitness.

Dec 132019
 

Well, if you tried to log onto the blog yesterday and got the same darned Adobe flash pop-up or another from Google Play Protect if you were on a smart phone or tablet, you know that all of the hours I spent on the phone with Go Daddy’s tech support on Wednesday accomplished absolutely nothing.

So, I was back on the phone with them again yesterday morning, speaking to a new problem solver who couldn’t solve my problems either. He wanted to start at square one and go through all the steps again that I had been through the day before. I kept telling him we had done all that, but he ignored me and went on reading from his cue card. I finally had to get loud, and maybe I used a couple of words my mother wouldn’t have approved of, but at least it got him to shut up long enough to listen to me. Then I told them I was not going to spend another day on the telephone repeating the things that had already been done that had been unsuccessful. I asked to be transferred to David, the tech I had worked with the previous day, who was actually trying to help and not just reciting everything from rote. He said David was on another call and would get back to me. That never happened. Guess what I’ll be doing this morning? It’s Friday the 13th, how bad could it get?

I have to be honest, there are times I just want to chuck the whole blog thing and walk away from it. I love sharing our lives with you, I love answering questions from readers and hopefully helping them, and I appreciate the fact that so many of you support what I’m doing here, buy my books, and tell your friends about them. On the other hand, I hate dealing with techno-nerds who have no clue what they’re doing and end up wasting my time and accomplishing nothing.

After getting off the phone with Go Daddy, I needed to just step away from the problem for a while. So I did, and cranked out about 3,500 words in my new Big Lake book. Now those folks in that little Arizona mountain town are the kind of people I can relate to. Oh, sure, they’re kind of quirky, and I suspect a couple are downright insane, and yeah, they murder somebody once in a while. But I still like them. Hey, I just had an idea! Maybe I’ll bring a techno-nerd to Big Lake and let somebody there bump him off. Maybe that would make me feel better. What do you think?

And finally, since the stress of dealing with all of this website nonsense has made me a real Debbie Downer lately, 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.

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 DON’T UNDERSTAND IT! WHY WOULD SOMEBODY BREAK INTO A DAMN HOUSE JUST TO STEAL A REMOTE CONTR… Never mind, I found it.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 122019
 

I spent another three hours on the phone with Go Daddy yesterday, the first hour just trying to get to someone who actually cared about helping me. But I think it was worth the wait because eventually I was connected to a young man named David Pozos. I explained all of the problems I had been having and David spent two hours with me going over every detail of the website. He identified several issues that may be contributing to the different problems, and hopefully we resolved some (or better yet) all of them.

One of the biggest problems is the Adobe Flash popup. A careful search of all of the elements of the blog showed the only thing asking for Flash was the Google AdSense ad on the sidebar, so he suggested removing it. At one time Google ads were a significant income source for us, but over time they have dribbled down to nothing so I had no problem zapping that ad. David said it could take up to 24 hours for all caches to be cleared at different internet service providers, so did that solve the problem? Maybe yes, maybe no. We will have to wait and see.

I still have quite a few things to tweak based upon my notes from David, but I am waiting to talk to Greg White first, before I jump in, unsupervised, and make a mess of everything.

My plan was to spend the day writing, but that was pretty much shot. I did some research and made some notes for the new book, answered a lot of emails, and then had to run my friend Jim Lewis down to our local mechanic to pick up his car, which was in for service. Back home, I surfed the internet for a while, and then it was time for supper and an evening of TV watching with my best girl. We have been binge watching the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, and I think we only have one of two more episodes to go.

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 – Remember, the only thing standing between you and your dreams is your appearance, lack of talent, and general personality.

Let’s Try This Again

 Posted by at 12:51 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 112019
 

As many of you know, we have been fighting with blog issues for weeks now. Sometimes it takes me four, or five, or six more times to get the blog to post, if at all. And when it does post, sometimes readers can’t get to it. Occasionally if they are using something like Microsoft Edge or Safari and they switch to Google Chrome or some other browser they can get to the blog. Other times they can’t. Sometimes if they clear their cache, they can get to it. Other times they can’t.

When people tried to access the blog the last couple of days, they got a pop-up saying they needed to download Adobe Flash. I got that message, Terry got that message, Greg White got that message, and over a hundred other blog readers got it. And those are just the ones who told me about it. A couple of people clicked the link (NEVER click a pop-up link!) and their antivirus software kicked in and told them it was a dangerous site. I called Go Daddy and I reported it to Go Daddy online, and after telling me it must be something I was doing wrong (as were all of those other people, I assume) I badgered them until they finally said they would look into it. So here we go. Let’s try again. Please do me a favor and leave a blog comment or send me an email or Facebook message and let me know if you have any problems with today’s blog.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s play catch up. After Terry’s temporary implant on the 2nd she felt immediate relief from the constant pain she has been in and we were elated. Unfortunately, after a couple of days she had a setback and things went back to how they had been. We were dejected. Then they turned around a bit and now she has good days and bad days. But since they did the trial implant, her good days seem to be increasing. We went back to Mayo Monday for her one week evaluation, and based upon what they saw there they gave the go ahead for the permanent implant, which will be next Monday, the 16th.

They tell us it will be about a three-hour procedure, give or take, and she will be sedated for it. They also said that over time the implant will continue to decrease her symptoms and improve her quality of life. We are so looking forward to that.

As for me, my back is still hurting quite a bit. I received a series of four injections in my SI joints at the hospital in DeLand yesterday afternoon, and I’m hoping they will do me some good. The first time I had them they worked for several months, and while I wasn’t completely out of pain, it was quite minimized. The headaches and neck pain are about the same and we will be addressing that next week This getting old crap is not all fun and games.

But enough with the dreary pain report, let’s talk about something fun, like the Civil War. After my blog about the signing of the peace treaty that ended that terrible conflict at Appomattox Court House in Virginia a few days ago, my friend Jim O’Briant, CEO and Administrator at www.OvernightRVParking.com sent me an interesting link from History.com about Wilmer McLean, in whose house the surrender was signed. McLean had previously lived outside Manassas, Virginia, along a creek known as Bull Run. It became the site of the first major battle of the Civil War. After a second battle took place on his property, McLean packed up his family and moved inland to a nice, quiet place, where they would be safe from the war ever bothering them again. And of course, the place he chose was Appomattox Court House. After the war was over, he would tell people that the war began in his front yard and ended in his parlor. You can read all about it at this link.

We have a few days to kill before we go back to Mayo, and I hope to spend it writing. My new Big Lake book, which I had planned to bring out this month, is way behind schedule. What’s that old saying, Man plans and God laughs? I’m sure my planning skills have given him more than a few chuckles over the years.

Thought For The Day – Fine. I’ll rush you to the hospital, but then we’re doing what I want.

Dec 092019
 

Just a few miles west of the Kennedy Space Center, where America’s rockets lift off to the new frontiers of outer space, you will find a wonderful historical park that celebrates a time in history when Florida was the frontier. It was a time when hostile Indians and the very land itself challenged the survival of the pioneers who lived here.

Fort Christmas Historical Park, in Christmas, Florida, will take you back in time and show you what life was like for the early Florida “crackers” and the soldiers who protected them from the Seminole Indians who resisted the settlers’ encroachment onto their lands.

As more and more settlers moved into Florida, there was a growing demand that the Seminoles be relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi River. The Indians resisted, and in 1835 the conflict that became known as the Second Seminole War began.

Major General Thomas Jessup, commander of the military in Florida, ordered a road built south toward the heart of the Seminole country and the establishment of over 200 small forts along that road, to supply the army as it advanced against the enemy.

On December 25, 1837, a force of 2,000 soldiers and Alabama Volunteers arrived in the area to construct an 80 foot square fort, which was aptly named Fort Christmas. The fort included two twenty foot square blockhouses, and didn’t offer much in the way of creature comforts.

During that time period the United States Army was using Springfield and Harpers Ferry flintlock muskets. These firearms, as well as the Army cannons, used black powder, which presented a danger of explosions. The fort included a below ground powder magazine, designed to lessen the danger in the event of an explosion.

It took a lot of supplies to keep an army going, and the storeroom at Fort Christmas was filled with rations such as salt pork, dried beef, corn, beans, rice, and coffee, along with staples such as salt, brown sugar, molasses, and vinegar. In addition to foodstuffs, the storerooms held shovels, axes, hatchets, and other tools, as well as uniforms, weapons, and medical supplies.

General Jessup led his forces south from Fort Christmas in early January, 1838, searching for the elusive Seminole. But Fort Christmas was short-lived. By the end of the month, General Jessup had realized that it was quicker and easier to resupply by water, and boats began carrying troops and equipment south on the Saint Lucie River. Fort Christmas was abandoned by March, 1838. The local settlers quickly scavenged the fort, carrying away timbers and lumber to build their houses.

In 1976-1977, the fort and stockade were reconstructed by the Orange County Parks Department as a bicentennial project. The original fort was located on a small creek a mile north of Fort Christmas Historical Park. The reconstructed fort includes blockhouses, a storeroom, exhibits on pioneer and military life, and a video on the Seminole Wars. During our visit to the fort, there was a living history encampment, with people dressed in authentic period clothing, and a demonstration of soldiers firing their muskets.

In addition to Fort Christmas, the park is home to seven restored homes and outbuildings that preserve the cracker architecture of the region and give insights into life on the Florida frontier. The houses are furnished with furniture, utensils, and tools, just as they would have been in period from 1870 to 1930.

It was a hard life. With no supermarkets and discount stores available to them, people had to improvise to feed and clothe themselves and to get the essentials they needed. Displays at the park reflect homesteading, raising cattle, citrus farming, hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Cattle were an important food and revenue source for the settlers, and they flourished on the grassy prairie lands along the Saint Johns River. The first cattle in Florida were introduced by Spanish settlers, and later Brahmins and other blooded stock helped to improve the herds.

The early settlers practiced open range cattle ranching, allowing their branded cattle to roam without fences. Dogs were used to track and herd cattle on the open range, and the Florida cowboys would crack rawhide whips over the cattles’ heads to get them moving. This was the origin of the term “cracker,” which eventually was applied to all rural southern farmers and ranchers.

Florida provided most of the beef for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and following the war, cattle were herded to railheads, where they were shipped as far away as Chicago and Saint Louis. Cuba was also a major market for Florida cattle. Many of the items on display at the historical park focus on the early cattle industry.

The homes on display at the park range from small one and two room structures where the residents did most of their cooking outdoors or in a separate cook shed, to larger homes with several bedrooms and inside kitchens. Many settlers preferred the separate kitchen sheds because it helped keep their houses cooler, and there was less danger of fires.

Because there were no electricity or refrigerators, meat was preserved by either packing it in salt or smoking it. Every homestead included a smokehouse, where meat could be kept for several months without spoiling.

One example of a cracker home is the small one room house that John and Polly Yates built in the 1890s. They converted an old shed into living quarters and did their cooking outside. After John Yates died in 1923, his sons built a kitchen onto the rear of the house. The Yates lived a simple life off the land, raising a few head of cattle, hunting deer, turkey, and wild hogs, and growing a garden.

Other wild game in the area included squirrels, rabbits, raccoon, possum, and alligators. The rivers and streams provided fish and shellfish. No part of an animal was wasted. What couldn’t be eaten by the family was fed to the dogs, of which each homestead had several. The game animals were skinned, and their pelts used to make clothing, tanned for leather, or sold to fur buyers for cash.

There are three Simmons houses at the park, numbered, appropriately, 1, 2, and 3. The first was a crude cabin and the second is a larger one room house that George Washington Simmons and his wife Ann added on to over the years. They raised eight children here and made their living the same way as their neighbors, farming, raising livestock, and hunting.

Two of the Simons’ children, George and Martha, never married, and they remained on the family homestead, caring for their parents in their final years. About 1915, George and Martha built Simmons 3 house, which has a center living room, bedrooms on either side, and a separate kitchen.

In addition to the houses and stockade at Fort Christmas Historical Park, visitors can also tour the 1906 Union School, which was originally a one room structure that was enlarged in the 1920s. In isolated communities such as this, the school was also the center of social activities. Community meetings, dances, and special programs were held at the school, and usually attended by everybody in the area.

Originally, schoolchildren brought their lunches from home in small baskets or buckets and ate them outside. The school’s lunchroom, which was built next to the main building in the early 1930s, provided shelter from the rain and cold, and included a kitchen where hot meals were prepared.

The park also has a gift shop, where items for sale include pioneer and Native American toys, jewelry, crafts, books, and candy. All proceeds benefit Fort Christmas Historical Park.

The park also has a small playground, restrooms, and picnic tables. There is enough to see and do that you could easily make a day long outing to the park. We enjoyed it so much that we went back a second day!

Fort Christmas Historical Park is located a few miles west of Titusville, Florida, in Christmas, Florida. From State Route 50, turn north on County Road 420 (Fort Christmas Road) for less than a mile. The fort is on the left (west) side of the road. The parking lot could accommodate a medium sized RV at best, but there are plenty of RV parks in the area where you could leave your rig and drive your tow car or dinghy.

During the summer the park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the winter. The fort itself and the other buildings are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and are closed Mondays and on major holidays. For more information, call (407) 568-4149.

Congratulations Barbara Westerfield, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by Ben Rehder. We had  64 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – An apology without change is just manipulation.

Dec 082019
 

Before I do anything else today, I want to wish my dear friend Jim Lewis happy birthday. I’m not going to tell you how old Jim is, but let’s just say that what we all studied as history in high school was current events for Jim.

And now, on to Christmas shopping. Miss Terry is a difficult woman to shop for because she doesn’t want very much in the way of material things. Whenever I ask her what she wants for Christmas, her birthday, our anniversary, or whatever, she always says she has everything she wants.

Once in a while, she’ll let me buy her a bottle of perfume, and I’ve managed to get her a few pairs of earrings over the years, but that’s about it. I guess I should be grateful, she’s not only gentle on the eyes, she’s gentle on the pocketbook, too!

I, on the other hand, am easy to shop for. I want everything! I’m like a chimpanzee in a department store. If it lights up, makes noise, goes fast, or tastes good, I want two of each. Why do you think my friend Brenda Speidel calls me Gadget Boy?

I love wandering through the tool section at Lowes and Home Depot, even though I know it’s kind of like going to one of those stripper bars. Most of what I’m seeing I have no idea what to do with, and I’d probably just end up hurting myself if I tried.

Of course, living in a motorhome for so long did put some restrictions on my wants and desires. I really missed my hot tub from our life before fulltiming, but I never could figure out where to put one in a Winnebago. And now that we are off the road, there is no place to put one here, either. Believe me, I have tried to find a way.

But that’s okay, because there really is very little I want, and nothing I need that I don’t have. Most of the things I have wanted in the past, I’ve owned at one time or another, including boats, a couple of Corvettes, some classic cars, and enough guns to arm a small nation. As it turns out, they’re all just things.

I’ve reached the point in life that my wants are not so much things, but rather experiences. We saw a lot of this old country in our many years on the road as fulltime RVers, and had some adventures that most people only dream about. But there’s so much left to see and do, and a lot we wouldn’t mind going back to see again, that if I could ask Santa to bring me one thing for Christmas, it would be more time.

Time to explore the quaint villages of New England. Time to search for seashells on the beaches of Florida or look for whales off the Oregon coast. Time to get to know the people in small towns in the Midwest. Time to visit all of those fascinating historical sites and oddball museums scattered all over this great land of ours. Time to sit with a dear friend and shoot the breeze, or to not say a word and just enjoy each others’ company. Santa, can you figure out a way to stick an extra 50 or 75 years in that bag of yours?

How about you? What do you want for Christmas? A new RV? A flat screen TV? A GPS unit? Or maybe a new laptop computer? Or are you like me? Does your wish list include time for more experiences rather than things? Tell me about some of them.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heart strings. 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 – Side effects of Cialis may include dragging two bathtubs outside to sit in to watch the sunset with your confused but supportive partner.

Dec 072019
 

The Civil War had dragged on for four long, bloody years, laying the countryside to waste and taking a terrible toll on both soldiers and civilians. By the early days of 1865, it was apparent to Confederate General Robert E. Lee that the end was near. On February 8, 1865 he sent a message to the Confederate Secretary of War saying, “You must not be surprised if calamity befalls us.

Defeated at Richmond and Petersburg, in April, 1865, Lee retreated with his bedraggled Army of Northern Virginia under constant pressure from Union troops led by General Ulysses S. Grant. Lee had hoped to hook up with General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, coming from North Carolina, and that together they could establish a defensive line near the Roanoke River. But everywhere they turned they met even more Federal soldiers blocking their route and cutting their supply lines.

Exhausted and starving, discipline began to break down as Lee’s men simply sat down alongside the road, unable to take another step. Others went off on their own searching for food. Even their horses and mules, unable to go any further, collapsed under their loads.

Desperate, Lee ordered his men to continue on toward the small village of Appomattox Court House, where he hoped to obtain supplies. On April 8, they stopped a mile away from the village, realizing that the Union troops had once again circled around them and blocked their path. Confederate scouts reported back with the grim news that even more enemy soldiers were on the way.

After a sleepless night, while he discussed their options with his senior officers, the next morning General Lee sent a letter to General Grant requesting a meeting to discuss his army’s surrender.

The two generals and their aides met at the home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox Court House and hammered out the details of the surrender. Grant, following the wishes of President Abraham Lincoln, focused on reunification rather than punishment for the Confederate officers and enlisted men. He and Lee agreed that the Confederate soldiers would be allowed to return to their homes, taking their horses and personal equipment with them, and each man was given a pass allowing him to pass through Union lines along the way. The two men signed the surrender documents and shook hands. Outside, Union troops stood at attention while their former enemies stacked their rifles and began the trek home.

Today the village where the Civil War ended has been preserved as Appomattox Court House National Historic Site.

Visitors can explore several original buildings where they stood during that historic day, as well as a re-creation of the McLean house, where the surrender papers were signed. The original house burned down after the war ended but has been carefully replicated.

The Visitor Center includes exhibits on the Civil War and the surrender, and a movie explaining what led to the final meeting at Appomattox. The visitor center also has a small shop where books on the Civil War and National Park Service souvenirs are available.

After watching the video, we wandered around the small village for a while, poking our heads into the buildings and looking at the items on display. Many are furnished with period items to give visitors an idea of what life was like during that time.

This is the Clover Hill Tavern, the oldest original structure in the village of Appomattox Court House. Opening for business in 1819, it was built by brothers Alexander and Lilburne Patteson and was a stagecoach stop for the line between Cumberland County and Lynchburg.

The Plunkett-Meeks Store was built in 1852 and was operated by Albert Meeks, who was also the village’s postmaster and druggist. The store was a community gathering center where locals would come to collect their mail, socialize, and talk about the events of the day. Lafayette Meeks, the son of the storekeeper, is buried behind the store. He died of typhoid fever at the age of 19 while serving in the Confederate army. Examples of the kind of supplies a village store would carry in those days are on display inside the building.

It was a cold, dreary November morning when we visited Appomattox Court House, no doubt reminiscent of how the Confederate troops must have felt when the cause they had sacrificed for for so long was finally over and they had to accept defeat. For us, there was a strong sense of history about the place. Just to walk in the footsteps of those men and their leaders made us feel a connection to them that one can’t get from reading a book or watching a movie.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Site is located just outside the town of Appomattox, Virginia. The site includes more than a dozen buildings, a museum, theater, and bookstore. Plan on giving yourself at least two hours when you visit, but if you are really into history it could take longer than that. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.

For visitors with handicaps, be aware that you might encounter problems with accessibility. Due to the historic nature of the village, surfaces are gravel, dirt, or grass and most buildings are not accessible to wheelchairs. There is a 100-yard uphill walk from the parking area to the village itself. For more information, call (434) 352-8987 or visit the parks website at https://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heart strings. 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’m just here to establish an alibi.

Friday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 062019
 

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.

Q. I know that at one time you had a bus conversion, and I read something about the Motorhome from Hell at some point. Was that the same rig? If not, how many RVs did you and Terry go through during your fulltiming years?
A. In 1999 we started out in a 1998 Pace Arrow Vision, a 36-foot gas powered Class A. It was a total lemon and we called it the Motorhome from Hell because it had so many issues. After 18 months, it was literally falling apart around us. When we got rid of that, we purchased a 40-foot 1976 MCI bus that had been used in charter service for Gray Line Tours. We gutted the interior and made it into a motorhome while we lived and traveled in it. After over eight years, the old Detroit diesel motor was getting very tired and we knew we had to either put a lot of money into rebuilding it and the transmission, or else find another rig. That’s when we bought our 40-foot 2002 Winnebago Ultimate Advantage diesel pusher, which served us well until we hung up the keys.

Q. I recently came across your blog when a longtime friend who has been a reader since forever recommended it. I have spent 3 days binge reading it and you and Miss Terry now feel like family. I have seen a couple of references to a collection of back issues to the Gypsy Journal RV newspaper you used to publish. Are those still available, and if so, how can I purchase a set?
A. We have 15 years of back issues, 90 editions total, in PDF form available on a USB drive. Each issue is 36 pages, so that’s over 3,000 pages of RV information, travel stories, tips and more. Regular cost is $75, but between now and Christmas I am cutting the price in half, to just $37.50, postage included. To order, log onto www.paypal.com and make payment to editor@gypsyjournal.net

Q. I have been trying to log onto your blog for the last two days and no luck. Did something change?
A. Several readers, including Terry, are having this issue and I really don’t know what is causing it. Nothing has changed on our end that I know of, and as always, when I contact Go Daddy’s customer service it’s a lesson in frustration. All I ever hear is that they will look into it. I would much rather they fix it instead of looking into it, which never seems to have any results. Once the holidays are over, I am seriously looking at changing web hosts.

Q. Do you think the Bad Nick blog will ever come back? I really miss it and your unabashed way of looking at life.
A. I had a lot of fun with Bad Nick, and I miss it, too. But the reality is that the few ads I have in the blogs don’t make nearly as much money as if I spent that same time working on a book. And let’s face it, writing is how we earn our living. It only makes sense to apply our efforts where we get the most return for the time and effort invested. Besides, as fractured as this country is right now, I might get shot for some of the things I would say, since there is no middle ground anymore, and anybody who disagrees with you is the enemy. Oops, did Bad Nick slip in there for a moment?

Q. I remember that you had a beautiful cruiser style motorcycle for a while, but you haven’t mentioned it in a long time. What was it, and do you still have the bike?
A. It was a 2002 Yamaha V-Star 1100cc, and of all the motorcycles I have owned in my life, which is a lot, it was my favorite. However, in the past I always had motorcycles in the 650cc to 750cc range, and I had not ridden a motorcycle in 10 years when I got the V-Star. My riding skills had deteriorated a lot in that time, and between that and the fact that it seemed like every person coming down the highway was busy texting and not paying attention to where they were going, it just wasn’t fun anymore. So I sold it. And while I still look longingly at motorcycles now and then, my days on two wheels are over.

Q. You have talked a lot about Miss Terry’s medical issues lately, but we haven’t heard anything about how your back is doing, Nick. Is that because it has improved, or because you have been focusing on Terry and not mentioning it?
A. I wish I could say my back has improved, but that’s not going to happen without some serious intervention, and we haven’t figured out what that will be yet. Every neurosurgeon I have seen has told me I’m not a candidate for surgery. I have an appointment on Tuesday with my pain doctor to get another set of injections in my back, and then we will talk about what other options may be available.

Q. At one time you said that when you and Terry got to the point where you had to hang up the keys you would probably buy a lot in an RV park someplace and live in your motorhome. Instead, you bought a big house. We are grappling with that issue ourselves since my deteriorating eyesight makes it impossible for us to continue fulltiming. Do you regret that decision, or do you enjoy having more room to live in these days?
A. No question about it, Terry and I both much prefer the house over an RV to live out the rest of our days. When we bought this place, it seemed huge and we said we would never fill it up. Guess what? Nature abhors a vacuum and quickly fills it.

Q. In all of the thousands of miles that you and Miss Terry covered fulltiming, what is the one RV trip you would recommend everyone to take? I think I know the answer, but since we will finally get on the road this spring, we are looking at a destination for our inaugural trip.
A. No question about it, US Highway 101 along the Oregon and Washington coasts. I have been in every state in the union, and several foreign countries, and to me nothing compares or even comes close to the scenic beauty of that highway.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heart strings. 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’m only two people away from being in a love triangle.

Fort Worden State Park

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 052019
 

We’ve visited Port Townsend, Washington many times and always enjoy browsing the shops along Water Street and the beautiful views of the mountains and boats on the waterfront, but for some reason we had never stopped to check out Fort Worden State Park. I’m glad we finally did because this historic fort, perched on a point of land jutting out into Admiralty Inlet, is a real gem!

Established in the late 1890s to protect Puget Sound from invasion and attack by enemy ships, the fort was an active military base until 1953. Construction began in 1897 and continued in one form or another until the fort was closed.

Admiralty Inlet was considered so important to the defense of Puget Sound that Fort Worden was just one of three Coast Artillery installations, along with Fort Casey and Fort Flagler, that created a triangle of fire that no enemy warship could survive. Fort Worden was strategically located on a bluff on the Quimper Peninsula, at the extreme northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, anchoring the northwest side of the triangle. The Fort was named after Rear Admiral John L. Worden, who commanded the ironclad USS Monitor during the Civil War.

The three forts were armed with huge guns capable of reaching targets miles away. Fort Worden alone had 41 artillery pieces that included four 12-inch guns, five 10-inch guns, eight 6-inch guns, two 5-inch guns, four 3-inch guns, and sixteen 12-inch mortars.

Fort Worden was the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command of Puget Sound and was garrisoned with four Coast Artillery companies. It was also the home of the 6th Artillery Band.

During World War I, the complement at Fort Worden swelled as soldiers arrived for training prior to being sent to fight in Europe. To keep up with the growing demand, construction of new barracks and administration buildings continued throughout the war. All but five of the fort’s artillery pieces were shipped overseas.

After World War I ended, activities at the fort were cut back as new technology such as aircraft and balloons took a more active role in our defensive strategy, diminishing the role of coastal artillery. In the 1920s, a hangar was built at Fort Worden to accommodate the huge patrol balloons coming into use.

Fort Worden remained the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command during World War II and it was home to both Army and Navy personnel. Army troops operated radar sites and coordinated Canadian and U.S. defense activities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Sailors were charged with identifying all ships entering and leaving Puget Sound and monitoring underwater sonar equipment. Recognizing the need to change with advancement in technology, most of the fort’s gun emplacements were modified for anti-aircraft guns, replacing the outdated coastal artillery pieces.

Fort Worden and her two sister forts never fired a hostile shot at an enemy target, but there is no question that their very presence played an important role in the region’s defense.

After World War II ended Fort Worden was used for training a variety of military personnel until it was closed in 1953, when Harbor Defense Command was deactivated. In 1957, the property was purchased by the State of Washington and was used as a diagnostic and treatment center for troubled youths. Fort Worden became a state park in 1973.

Today visitors can tour the old fort, whose barracks and buildings have been preserved. If you get a sense of déjà vu, it may be because the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere, Debra Winger and Lou Gossett, was filmed here.

The park is home to the Coast Artillery Museum, which tells the story of the Coast Artillery, with emphasis on the harbor defenses of Puget Sound from the late 1800s to the end of World War II. The museum is open daily from noon to 4 p.m.

The former Commanding Officer’s Quarters, which was built in 1904, was home to 33 families during the fort’s active duty. The building has been restored and furnished to reflect the Victorian period from 1890 to 1910 to give visitors an idea of what life was like for an officer and his family. Tours of the house can be arranged by calling (360) 344-4400.

Many historic buildings remain at the old fort, including Alexander’s Castle. John B. Alexander, who served as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend from 1882 to 1886, built the brick structure as a home for himself and his intended bride, but when he traveled to Scotland for the wedding, he discovered she had already married another man. Brokenhearted, he returned to Port Townsend alone and lived in his “castle” for a short time. In 1897 he sold the building and surrounding ten acres to the federal government when construction of Fort Worden began. Alexander’s Castle is the oldest building on Fort Worden, and while the fort was active it was used as living quarters, an observation post, and tailor shop.

In addition to the historic buildings, the park also includes beaches, hiking trails, a kayak rental, and historic Point Wilson Light. Entering service in 1879, the original lighthouse was replaced with the current structure in 1914. The tallest lighthouse on Puget Sound, it was automated in 1976 and is no longer open to the public. A small military cemetery is located at the south side of the state park.

Fort Worden has two campgrounds, with 80 campsites that may be reserved up to one year in advance. Both campgrounds have restrooms with showers. Beach Campground has 50 full hookup RV sites tucked between the bluffs and the beaches of Point Wilson. The sites are level, roomy, and have an amazing view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Upper Campground has 30 sites with water and electricity, and a dump station. Though it is heavily forested, sites are long enough to accommodate most RVs. Upper Campground provides easy access to miles of hiking trails. The campsites are popular year-round and reservations are highly recommended. For reservations, call (360) 344-4431.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent, mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heart strings. 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 – Make today so awesome that yesterday gets jealous.