Nick Russell

One Out Of Three

 Posted by at 1:55 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 312020
 

Living about 35 miles from Cape Canaveral we see a lot of rocket launches from right here at home. So many that sometimes we forget to go out and look until we hear them lift off. When we do, it’s always a bit of a thrill.

There were supposed to be three rocket launches this past weekend. One was scrubbed due to failure to launch, and the other two were scrubbed due to poor weather. Finally, a little after seven last night, a Falcon 9 with an Argentinian satellite went up. I believe it was the one that was supposed to launch on Friday.

It was a strange launch because I couldn’t see anything when I went outside. I thought it was due to cloud cover, but as it turns out it was because the rocket was programmed to go south along the coast instead of north in our direction. It also explains why I couldn’t hear the sound of the rocket lifting off or the reentry as much as I normally do.

At any rate, I guess one out of three isn’t bad. The news last night said they hope to get the other two rockets off soon but they did not have a date yet.

Aside from that, it was just another day of writing for me, and I knocked out another 5,000 words. I’ll say one thing for self-isolation, it really does help my productivity level!

In addition to everything else she does to keep our home on an even keel and me out of trouble, Terry has also been busy planning some new weaving projects that she’s excited about. She showed me the patterns she designed on her computer and I was impressed. But then again, everything about her impresses me.

I am still trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate your help. My goal is 500 followers, and thanks to so many of you who are always happy to help, I am at 422 now. Please consider going to my author’s page and following me there. It’s quick and easy and there is no cost. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. The link is https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

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

Congratulations Marquita Graves, winner of our drawing for a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. We had 62 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Somewhere out there, there is a tree tirelessly producing oxygen so you can breathe. I think you owe it an apology.

P2106 Code

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 302020
 

No, it’s not a secret code, just one that doesn’t really say much. A couple of readers have asked me what I found out about the problem we had with our 2005 Ford Explorer that I wrote about in Friday’s blog post Well, That’s Not Good.

As I wrote in that post, Thursday afternoon we were sitting at a traffic light, and just as it turned green, the Explorer lost power for two or three seconds, and the Engine Safe Mode message appeared on the dashboard and then was gone. It continued to run okay, so I took it to Leon’s Automotive in Edgewater, where we get all of our work done, and even though it was closing time, Rebecca plugged a code reader in and got a P2106 code. The vehicle was running fine and she said she’d do some research and get back with me Friday to see what the code means.

When I talked to her the next day, she said the P2106 trouble code is one of several codes that indicates that the Powertrain Control Module has detected a malfunction and is limiting the operation of the Throttle Actuator Control System. In layman’s terms, there was a boo-boo somewhere.

I told her that I had not driven it since I left the shop, and she said the problem is that the code only gives a general idea of which system to look into, but not any specific part. Since the Explorer is running fine and the message has not returned, they would basically have to just start replacing parts. And since they can’t duplicate the problem, it could run into a lot of money for parts and labor, possibly $2,000 or more, and there’s really no way to know if they accomplished anything.

Given the age and value of the Explorer, Rebecca said that while they would be happy to do the work if I wanted them to, they didn’t advise it. That’s what I appreciate about this small family-owned business. They don’t take advantage of customers. Sure, they could make a bunch of money in a hurry, but they would rather have me as a customer who comes back again when I have a problem because I trust them.

Rebecca said since the problem was there and gone so quickly, it may have been a temporary glitch that won’t return. She suggested I drive the Explorer for a while and see if it happens again. So yesterday I drove it two or three miles, and there was no lack of power or any other problems. It may have just been a little hiccup in the computer system. We’ll continue to drive it and see what happens, but we probably won’t take it very far from home for a while, just in case.

After I drove the Explorer around for a while, I opened the hood of my Ford F-150 pickup and turned the battery disconnect switch to the On position and took it for a ride. I have not driven it in two or three weeks, and installing the battery disconnect switch has definitely solved the problem of the battery going dead when I’m not using it. It only takes a moment to engage or disengage it when I’m using the truck and parking it, so it’s no hassle.

I drove down by our boat ramp and fishing dock, and there were five trucks with boat trailers parked there and a lot of people out on the water. I sat there for a few minutes and saw a couple of pontoon boats and a center console going by. It’s just a little hot for our blood yet, but I’m sure looking forward to getting out there myself.

Back at home, I cranked out a couple more chapters in my new Tinder Street book, a total of 5,750 words by the time Terry called me for dinner. My original plan was to do one book for each decade, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and so on, although the first book started in 1916 and ended in 1920. However, that book was around 103,000 words, and I’m just over 80,000 words in the new book now, and I’m only up to 1925! So I’ve got to decide if I want to make this book much bigger than the first one or break the decade up into two books. That really doesn’t fit the plan I started out with, so I have to give it some thought.

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.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day –Never ask woman eating ice cream straight from the carton how she’s doing. Just don’t.

Katy Trail State Park

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 292020
 

On one of our trips through Missouri, we discovered one of the most unusual state parks we ever visited, a narrow 225-mile long corridor that stretches across the state from east to west. Along the way, Missouri offers people of all ages and interests unique recreational opportunities. If you are a hiker, bicyclist, history buff, or nature lover, you’ll love Katy Trail State Park.

The park is built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (better known as the Katy). When the railroad ceased operations in 1986, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources acquired the right-of-way through the National Trails System Act. In 1991, the Union Pacific Railroad donated an additional 33 miles of rail corridor from Sedalia to east of Clinton, and additional purchases and donations have been added.

The trail winds through some of the most scenic areas of the state. Much of the trail closely follows the route of the Missouri River, so hikers and bicyclists often find themselves with the river on one side and towering bluffs on the other. The route travels through many types of landscapes, from dense forests to wetlands, deep valleys, prairies, pastureland, and gently rolling farm fields. Flowering dogwood and redbud adorn the trail in the spring, and in the fall it is colored with the deep reds and oranges of sugar maple, sumac, and bittersweet trees.

Wildlife is abundant along the trail. Bird lovers will see everything from nuthatches to hawks, chickadees, and even bald eagles in the winter. Because it is located along the Missouri River Flyway, migrating birds and waterfowl, such as great blue heron, sandpipers, and Canada geese are sighted frequently.

History buffs will find plenty to see and do along the Katy Trail as it wanders through the mostly forgotten small towns that once were busy stops along the railroad corridor. The route will take you through the area known as Missouri’s Rhineland, with its rich German heritage, and through towns that were caught in the horror of the Civil War.

The section of trail between St. Charles and Boonville has been designated as an official segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and the entire trail is part of the American Discovery Trail.

Information kiosks located at stops along the trail provide information about the history, and plant and animal life along that section of the route. While some energetic adventurers set out to travel the complete route of the Katy Trail, most people take it a little bit at a time, exploring one segment for a while and then returning at another time to experience another portion of the park. Hikers and bicyclists share the trail with horseback riders in some areas, but except for near the towns, most of the trail is little traveled and not crowded.

For most of its route, the Katy Trail is fairly level and not very strenuous, making it popular with families with small children. Trailheads spaced along the route provide parking areas and other amenities. Many communities also offer services to trail users.
Traveling the Katy Trail from east to west, the route begins in St. Charles, one of the most historic towns along the route. Originally a French settlement dating back to the mid-1700s, St. Charles was the state’s first capital. The original Capitol is now part of the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site.

The trail follows the Missouri River westward here, through the scenic limestone bluffs of the Weldon Spring Wildlife Area. The Klondike Quarry area east of Augusta is known for its white quartz sandstone, which was used in manufacturing glass.

Marthasville, established around 1800 near the site of an early 1763 French trading post, is a good stop along the trail. Daniel Boone, famous for his pioneering adventures in Kentucky, spent the last years of his life in this area, and his gravesite, a mile east of Marthasville, is only a short distance from the trail.

As the trail winds its way west, the sandstone and limestone bluffs are spectacular, towering as much as 250 feet over the trail. Be sure to stop in Hermann, known for its German heritage and vineyards, and the Deutschheim State Historic Site.

Further along the trail, Jefferson City is the capital of Missouri, and tours are available of the impressive Capitol building, perched high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Jefferson City is also the location of Jefferson Landing State Historic Site.

As the trail approaches Rocheport, you will see more spectacular bluffs and Native American pictographs (rock drawings) that were mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark as they traveled up the Missouri River. A rare surviving pictograph can be seen above Lewis and Clark Cave on the trail.

Rocheport has many houses that date from before the Civil War. The only tunnel on the MKT line was built at Rocheport around 1893, and trail users today can pass through the 243-foot long stone-arched tunnel.

Boonville was one of the few towns that successfully made the transition from being a major river port to a booming railroad town. Reminders of this golden era can still be seen in Boonville, including the MKT depot, which has been restored and serves as the headquarters for the Boonville Chamber of Commerce.

Between Boonville and Sedalia, the landscape changes as the trail passes through rolling hills, deep woods, and river bottoms. This is where the route begins to be more challenging, and bikers can expect to have to pedal more strenuously here.

Much of the route from Sedalia to Clinton is through land once dominated by prairie. Although most of the land has been converted to farmland, prairie plants such as big bluestem or compass plant can still be seen along the trail.

The Katy Trail State Park ends in Clinton, the seat of government for Henry County. But a trip along the Katy Trail is only the beginning because it introduces visitors to so much of the best of central Missouri that most will find themselves returning again to explore even more that the region has to offer.

For more information about Katy Trail State Park, call the Missouri Department of Natural Resources toll-free at 800-334-6946.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


Thought For The Day – I’m on two diets. I wasn’t getting enough food on one.

Aug 282020
 

I’ve been dealing with some cabin fever after all these months of staying home self-isolating. We leave the house to go to medical appointments or the grocery store when necessary, and that’s been about it. Yesterday Terry had a dental appointment, so we thought we would kill two birds with one stone and go to the grocery store from there.

Since only patients can go into the office, I sat outside in our 2005 Ford Explorer with the engine running and the air conditioning on cold and read my Kindle while she was inside. I’m not sure how long her appointment was, probably 45 minutes or so, and I kept a close watch on the temperature gauge to make sure the Explorer was not heating up, but it always stayed well below the halfway mark. When Terry came out, we decided that before we went to Publix, we would drive over to the beach and see what was happening there. Sometimes just a few minutes on the beach is all I need to get my head right.

Soon after we left the dentist’s office, I stopped at a traffic light, and when it turned green, I stepped on the accelerator, and there was a noticeable lag in power, and a warning message came on the dashboard that said Engine Safe Mode. But just as quickly the message was gone and it was back to full power. The entire episode only lasted a matter of seconds. We drove a little over a mile across the South Causeway to the beach, only to find that it was closed for vehicles, probably due to high tide. So we started back home, and then a little icon came on the dashboard that looks like a wrench.

I had Terry Google Engine Safe Mode, and it said it could be anything from an O2 sensor to a timing chain or transmission problem, and to take the vehicle to a garage as soon as possible. Well, that’s not good. Terry called Leon’s Automotive in Edgewater, where we get all of our work done, and even though they were about to close, they said if we could get there, they would plug in a fault code checker to see if it gave off any codes.

We got there about two minutes before closing, and Rebecca came out and plugged the code reader into the port under the dash. She said if the SUV was running okay, to just go ahead and go home, and she would call me in the morning after she researched the code. Okay, no problem, off we went.

We decided to skip Publix and just went home, and the Explorer had plenty of power. The only noticeable thing we could see was that when we stopped at traffic lights, the air conditioning would not blow as cold as it had been. It wasn’t warm by any means, just not as cold. And as soon as we started moving again, it was once more ice cold. It was a couple of miles home, and we got there with no problem. Once home, I turned off the engine and then restarted it, and the little wrench icon was gone. I went out an hour or so later and started it a second time, and again the wrench icon was gone. So I will wait for Rebecca to call and tell me what the code reader thinks is going on.

Terry and I were talking about it on the way home, and depending on what the problem is, we’re not sure what we’ll do. The Explorer has been a very good vehicle for us for over ten years, and even though it’s got a lot of miles on it, and has been towed almost that many, we like it. However, it feels like it’s starting to nickel and dime us, and we don’t like that. Depending on what needs to be done and what the cost is, we have to decide how much more money we want to put into it. It’s paid for, and it’s a comfortable vehicle to drive. In fact, even though we have three other vehicles, it’s the one we usually drive around town.

Some people say it’s a lot better to spend a few hundred dollars in repairs as opposed to making payments on a new or newer car. Buying something to replace it is not going to happen. So, depending on what is wrong and the cost of repairs, we may be down to three vehicles instead of four. We’ll know more soon, hopefully.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The way things are these days, it’s beginning to feel like the future is a thing of the past.

Aug 272020
 

His name was Dave, and the first time I met him I thought he was an old geezer. What hair he had left was white and he walked with a noticeable limp, aided by a cane. But there was nothing old about Dave. Not at all!

His daughter was visiting from California and called my office because she thought the world should know about Dave. I asked her why, and she said, “Because my daddy says every time they start a war, someone shoots him.”

Well, that was enough to get my attention, so I made an appointment to come and visit Dave the next day. As it turned out, Dave was only 68 years old, and now that I’m that age, it doesn’t seem all that old to me. Dave invited me into his little apartment in the senior residential home, and Trisha told me I probably wasn’t going to believe her father’s story so she went to fetch some scrapbooks from the bedroom while we talked.

“So, I hear people keep shooting you,” I said. “What’s that all about?”

Dave laughed and said, “Yep, it’s true. Whenever somebody starts a war, the first thing they do is shoot me. I don’t think anybody likes me.”

Tricia returned with three or four scrapbooks that had a lot of family pictures and several newspaper clippings about her father, including one story about him being on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, put them on the coffee table, and then sat down on the couch next to him as he began telling his story.

Dave grew up dirt poor on a sharecropper farm in the Mississippi Delta. Some of his earliest memories were of his mother taking him out to the cotton fields and him sitting on the ground while she picked cotton. Dave didn’t know how old he was at the time, but he spent many days sitting in the cotton patch as a child. He said at one point, he thought he might have been four or five years old but really couldn’t remember, he saw something moving into the cotton plants, and always a curious child, he reached out to grab it. It turned out to be a snake, and it bit him on his hand. Fortunately, it wasn’t venomous, but it seemed to set the pace for Dave’s life.

Later, he thought he was probably nine years old at the time, he was riding in the back of the family’s old truck on the way to town when a hog ran in front of the vehicle. His father swerved to avoid it, and Dave fell out onto the road, breaking his leg. He said his parents got all the way to town before they realized he wasn’t with them and had to come back and find him.

Dave said he hated everything about farm life. He hated the cotton patches, he hated the stinky outhouse, he hated the little shanty his folks lived in that was hot in the summer and wet every time it rained, from the many holes in the roof. He got a little bit of schooling but stopped going in the sixth grade. It wasn’t that he didn’t like school, but one day a prissy girl sitting next to him raised her hand and told the teacher he smelled and asked if she could sit somewhere else. Everyone in the classroom laughed at him, and Dave got up and left and never went back.

When World War II broke out, Dave went down to the recruiting office and tried to join up, but they laughed at him because he was only 14. So he waited until his birthday and then went to another recruiting office in another town, told them he was 17, and they said he would need his parent’s permission. He said the sergeant gave him some kind of form to fill out and he went next door to a soda fountain, borrowed a pen, filled it out and signed his father’s name to it. Dave said when he went back the next morning, he was pretty sure the recruiter recognized the fact that it was a forgery, but apparently he had a quota to fill, and the next thing Dave knew, he was in the Army.

After training at Camp Polk, Louisiana, they put his company on a train to California and then shipped them to the South Pacific. He said he went ashore someplace in the Solomon Islands a few days after the initial bombardment and invasion, and things were still pretty hot there. Dave was assigned to an infantry company, and their job was to check out enemy pillboxes built into the side of a cliff. “I was young and could climb like a monkey,” Dave told me, “so the next thing I knew, they had me crawling up the side of the cliff, clearing out those pillboxes. I’d get close to the entrance, throw a hand grenade in, and once it went off, I would poke my head in and look around with a flashlight.” Dave said he did this for five days, and suddenly as he was climbing up the side of yet another cliff, he felt a terrible pain in his left leg and was next thing he knew he was falling. The sniper’s bullet went in one side of his calf and out the other, and he was taken back to a field hospital.

It didn’t take long for the folks there to figure out that he was just a kid, and before he knew it, he was on a hospital ship headed back stateside. When he got to a base in California, a colonel chewed him out for lying about his age, then told him that as soon as he was 18 to come back because they needed soldiers like him. Then they put him on a train back to Mississippi.

He bided his time impatiently, and the day he turned 18, Dave was at the Army recruiter’s, signing up again. Based on his prior experience, Dave only had to undergo a couple of weeks of training before he found himself on another ship headed to the South Pacific. By then, it was 1945, and less than two months later the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, and the war ended.

Like so many soldiers, Dave mustered out but then didn’t know what to do with himself. He had no interest in going back to the farm so he worked in a factory in California for a while, then went to Arizona to pick melons somewhere around Yuma, but that was too much like picking cotton, so he gave that up, and within a year he reenlisted.

Dave said the Army was the perfect place for him, “I got three hots and a cot, free clothes, and they even paid me. I couldn’t complain about that!” Dave made a career of the Army, and when the Korean War rolled around, he was a sergeant in an infantry platoon in an area several miles behind the main lines and he thought he had a really cushy deal. But a few months later, he was checking the positions of the night guards, making sure everyone was awake and alert when a small group of North Korean troops probed their lines. That’s when Dave got shot the second time. He held up his left arm to show me where the bullet had gone in and broken one of the bones. He spent some time in a field hospital and had a lot of trouble regaining full strength in that arm, so the Army sent him back to the States for rehabilitation, and then he was a drill sergeant for the rest of war.

Dave said he bounced around from different posts, mainly teaching new recruits how to be soldiers for the next 15 years or so. He was married and nearing 20 years in uniform, and beginning to think about retirement when things were starting to heat up in Vietnam. Dave figured maybe he’d have one last adventure, so he volunteered to serve there. He said his commanding officer didn’t want him to go and told him at age 38 he should leave the fighting to the younger guys, but Dave thought that maybe his experience could help keep somebody alive.

David didn’t recall exactly how long he had been in Vietnam before he got wounded for the last time, but it might have been a month or two. He said they were on patrol when a machine-gun opened up on them from a hidden position, and he was hit twice in the legs. One bullet shattered his left knee, and the other took out a fist-sized chunk of flesh in his right thigh. He said he remembered the medic working on him looking up at one of the other men and shaking his head, thinking their sergeant was a goner because he had lost so much blood. But somehow Dave managed to survive and was shipped home. His wounds were so severe that he was not able to go back on active duty, but he had his 20 years in by then and retired.

That was 30 years before I met him, and David spent much of that time living in the Phoenix area and running an automotive parts store before selling out and moving to the White Mountains. He had been widowed and had three children, one of whom was a career Air Force man.

The years and his wounds had been hard on Dave, and somewhere along the line, he developed emphysema, so an oxygen bottle was his constant companion. I looked in his scrapbooks and confirmed everything Dave had told me was true. Every time they started a war, someone shot him!

I enjoyed visiting with Dave, and I stopped by several times after that just to shoot the bull and listen to his stories.
Sometime in 1997, I got a call from Dave’s daughter, telling me that he had passed away. They buried him in Phoenix, next to his wife, and I went down to say my final goodbyes to my old friend, then I came home and wrote Dave’s obituary, including his line about every time they started a war someone shot him.

Time went by, and Dave crossed my mind once in a while and I felt honored to have known him. About 18 months after he died, I got a letter from Trisha. She opened it by asking me if I remembered Dave saying nobody liked him, because every time he went to war, they shot him. She said apparently he wasn’t very popular when he was dead either.

She had come to Arizona to visit her sister, who lived in Prescott, and they decided to drive down to Phoenix to visit their parents’ graves. It was the first time either of them had been there since Dave was laid to rest. When they got to the gravesite, they didn’t understand why their father’s headstone wasn’t there next to their mother’s, and they went to the cemetery office to complain. The manager insisted that the headstone was there, he had signed the papers when the headstone came in and put in the order for it to be mounted over the grave. The daughters insisted that it wasn’t there, so all three went back to the gravesite. As the sisters got out of their car and started walking to their mother’s grave, the cemetery manager asked where they were going. They said to the graves, and he said, “Your father is not over there, he’s over here,” pointing at least a dozen gravesites down. They insisted they had been to their father’s funeral and he was buried next to their mother.

Well, guess what? Whoever erected the gravestone put it in the wrong place. Some people would have been outraged by that, but Trisha and her sister, knowing their father’s history, thought it was hilarious. She said the cemetery manager probably thought they were crazy because they were laughing so hard they could barely stand up. When he asked what was going on, she just shook her head and said, “It doesn’t surprise us. Nobody likes Dave!”

The headstone was moved to its proper place, and as far as I know, wherever Dave is, he’s getting along with folks these days.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a four-book set of audiobooks from my pal Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Being old doesn’t seem so old now that I’m old.

August Q&A

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 262020
 

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. We are new fulltimers and want to replace the two recliners in our new motorhome with a custom desk similar to the one you had built in your Winnebago, but my wife worries what if the bank comes to inspect the RV it might cause a problem with our loan. We have had the motorhome four months now, so would this be a problem?
A. I’m not sure I understand the question. If you have had the motorhome four months, the loan must already be secured. So why would the bank come and inspect it? Did they ever come and inspect the house you had after giving you a mortgage? Or a car after you had it several months?

Q. I’m curious why you decided to retire to Florida instead of back in your old hometown of Show Low, Arizona, when you stopped fulltiming?
A. Let’s clear up one misconception first. We retired from the RV life, but we are not retired. I still work at least 50 hours a week writing, and Terry is busy proofing my books and blogs. As to why we didn’t settle down in Show Low after we stopped RVing, we both love the ocean and wanted to live on the coast. The challenge was deciding between Florida and the Pacific Northwest coast around Long Beach, Washington. We chose Florida because the cold, damp winters in Washington and Oregon are hard on our arthritic bones and joints. But a large piece of both of our hearts are up there, and sometimes we ask ourselves if we made the right choice.

Q. I got too close to a campground utility hookup and tore up a bay door on our 2011 motorhome. The manufacturer says they no longer stock parts for it. Do you have any suggestions on where to find a replacement?
A. Try Colaw RV Salvage in Carthage, Missouri. Their website is https://colawrvsalvage.com/

Q. Nick, how did you go about finding an agent and publisher for your books? I have been sending query letters out for two years now and get a lot of replies saying they like my manuscript, but it’s not right for them at this time.
A. All 41 of my books are self-published. After my first novel made the New York Times bestseller list, I was approached two or three times by publishers and as many times by agents. After looking at their terms, I laughed at them. Among other things, they wanted me to put out two books a year. Really? Two books. I am working on my 4th book for this year now and will release one more after that. They offered me $7,500 as an advance for that book and the next two in the series, yet unwritten, and eventually got up to $22K. That first book, Big Lake, made $28K in commissions in the first year, and I still own all the rights to it. I have a great cover artist that charges less than $150 for a cover. Great editors and a book formatter that I can easily afford, and I make a six-figure income. What could a traditional publisher possibly do for me?

Q. How does Miss Terry like her new Breville oven compared to the older model she used for years?
A. Terry loved her old Breville and used it nearly every day. And she loves her new Breville SmartOven even more. She has used it every day since she got it and said with the interior light and the air fryer option it does everything the earlier model did and more.

Q. I am so sick of politics, sick of COVID, and sick of sitting home with nothing to do. Will things ever get better?
A. Politics are a way of life, especially dirty politics, it seems. I think things will get better, but not until people stop believing whatever their favorite politician or Facebook expert tells them, and all unite to beat this pandemic. If you and I wear a mask and practice social distancing while others do not, and congregate in large groups as we see on the news all the time, it’s like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.

Thought For The Day – Don’t irritate old people. The older we get, the less “Life in prison” is a deterrent.

Aug 252020
 

Back in the 1930s when times were hard, gangsters like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson became folk heroes to many people who had seen their savings lost during the bank failures of the Great Depression. But not every would-be bank robber made the big time. One who failed miserably was Jack Gracey.

Gracey was a 28-year-old ne’er-do-well who had done time in the Michigan State Prison in Jackson, where he decided to make a name for himself and strike it rich at the same time after he got out. He learned that the Dow Chemical Company’s $50,000 payroll was held in the Chemical State Savings Bank in Midland, Michigan. That was to be his big score.

Recruiting his former cellmate, 37-year-old immigrant Anthony Chebatoris, who had recently been paroled after serving sixteen years of a twenty-year sentence, the two staked out the bank before putting their plan into motion on September 29, 1937.
Entering the bank just before noon, with a rifle whose barrel and stock had been cut down to be concealed under his coat, Gracey accosted bank president Clarence Macomber.

While Macomber had always told his employees not to resist any robber, to just give them the money and let them go, when Gracey stuck his rifle in his ribs, the bank president took exception to that. He grabbed the rifle barrel and shoved the intruder toward the door.

Surprised by the resistance, Gracey didn’t respond. However, his accomplice did. Pulling a .32 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver from his pocket, Chebatoris shot the bank’s president, wounding him in the side. Rushing forward to help his boss, head teller Paul Bywater was shot in his stomach by Chebatoris and collapsed.

That was enough for the bandits, who fled without any loot. They might have made a clean getaway except for the quick actions of dentist Frank Hardy, whose office was on the second floor of a building next door to the bank. Hearing the shooting, he left his patient and went to the window to see what was happening.

Dr. Hardy was an experienced hunter and a veteran of the Great War. Seeing the armed bandits running away from the bank, Dr. Hardy picked up his Remington deer rifle and shot Chebatoris in the shoulder.

The robbers fled down the street and jumped onto the running board of a Ford truck. Pointing a gun at the driver, they ordered him to get them out of there if he wanted to live. A second later, the dentist fired again and hit Jack Gracey in the forehead, killing him instantly.

With his partner dead and their plan thwarted, Chebatoris looked around in a panic, trying to find the deadly marksman. Seeing deliveryman Henry Porter and mistaking his uniform for that of a police officer, he opened fire, hitting the hapless civilian.
Hoping to make his getaway, Chebatoris jumped into a car parked at the curb, but before he could get it started, angry bystanders pulled him through the window and gave him a good beating before Midland County Sheriff Ira Smith took custody of the wounded man.
Two weeks after he was shot, deliveryman Henry Porter succumbed to his wound, turning what had started out as a bank robbery into a murder case. Under a new federal law, a criminal who caused the death of an innocent victim during a bank heist was subject to capital punishment.

At his trial, Chebatoris’ defense attorney argued that his client was innocent of murder, claiming that it was possible that the fatal bullet that struck Porter may have been fired by Dr. Hardy. But evidence and eyewitness testimony disproved that theory, and a jury found Chebatoris guilty and sentenced him to death.

Michigan law did not allow for capital punishment, and Governor Frank Murphy appealed the case all the way to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asking him to overrule the federal penalty and commute Chebatoris’ sentence to life in prison. Neither the president nor the United States Attorney General were swayed, and on July 8, 1938, the same Midland County Sheriff Iris Smith, who had arrested Anthony Chebatoris on the day of the bank robbery. pulled the lever on the trapdoor of the gallows and Chebatoris went down in history as the first person to be executed under the federal bank robbery law, and the only criminal in Michigan ever to be legally hanged.

Time is running out to take advantage of my free offer for a box set of the first three e-books in my Big Lake series small town mystery series. You can’t beat FREE, right? This is a limited time offer and ends on Wednesday, so get yours while you can, and tell your friends about it too! You can order it at this link https://amzn.to/3aRdQ1N

Thought For The Day – Do you ever get up in the morning, look in the mirror and think, “That can’t be right.”

A Race And A Freebie

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 242020
 

I have never been into team sports, but I do occasionally enjoy watching a boxing match, and while I don’t care about NASCAR, I always try to watch at least part of the annual Indianapolis 500. Not so much for the racing itself, but the traditions that go along with it. Who can forget the marvelous voice of Jim Nabors singing Back Home In Indiana?

While the race is normally held in late May, this year it was delayed because of the pandemic and was finally run yesterday without the usual bleachers full of spectators. I watched for the first hour or so and decided my time would be better spent working, so I went down to my office and knocked out another chapter in my new book.

Speaking of the pandemic, I learned last night that my cousin Norman Saxton in Ohio has been hospitalized with COVID-19. This makes six people I know who have been diagnosed, including another cousin, Bob Saxton, who lost his struggle with the disease. I am so damn sick of this. So much suffering, so much loss for so many people. And yet there are fools who still say it’s all a hoax or that it’s just blown out of proportion. I swear I will block the next jerk who tells me that, and then get a voodoo doll with their name on it and stick pins in places where they really don’t want pins stuck.

If you are bored sitting at home, have I got a deal for you! To keep everybody in reading material while social distancing, I am giving away a box set of the first three e-books in the Big Lake series. You can’t beat FREE, right? This is a limited time offer and ends on Wednesday, so get yours while you can, and tell your friends about it too! You can order it at this link https://amzn.to/3aRdQ1N

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

Congratulations Albert Casaus, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other 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. We had 52 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – As I watch this generation try to rewrite our history, one thing I’m sure of….it will be misspelled and have no punctuation.

Aug 222020
 

Yesterday started out very nice. While Terry was making French toast for breakfast, I checked my email, deleted the junk and forewards, and answered the ones that needed to be taken care of. Then we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. With that out of the way, I wrote another chapter the next book my Tinder Street series and printed it out for Terry to proof.

About that time, the mail lady arrived with our two new Samsung Galaxy S10+ smartphones that we ordered from Consumer Cellular. That’s when the frustration began, and it only got worse.

I’ve set up several smartphones in my time, and it’s usually not a big deal. My friend Dave Violette had told me to be sure to use Samsung’s Smart Switch to easily transfer files and apps from our old phones to the new ones. That seemed simple enough. However, you know what they say. If they make something that’s idiot-proof, the world will provide a bigger idiot. That idiot would be me.

The first step was to activate the new phones. What I should have done was to activate one phone and transfer all of the files from the old phone to the new one and be done with it, and then repeat the process. Oh no, why would I do something like that?
Instead, I activated both phones at once, and then I set up the Google account on the one I thought had my phone number. As it turned out, it was the phone with Terry’s number. So we deleted it and put her information in, and I put my Google account into my phone. But then, for some reason, both phones identified as being mine, but my contact list had transferred to Terry’s phone, and I didn’t have one at all. And if she called my number from her phone, it said it was me calling me. If I called her from my phone, it said it was me calling me.

Along with the other things that came with the phones, Consumer Cellular sent a flyer explaining the smartphone set up and an invitation to call their 800 number if we ran into any problems. So I called the number and was on hold for a long time, pressing this button for this, another button for that, and then I got a message that due to heavy demand, they were backlogged, and to leave a time when I would like them to call me back. I chose something 15 or 20 minutes further down the road and got a message that said they would not be able to call me back until sometime on the 22nd after 6 PM Pacific time. Boy, that was a lot of help!

Then I called my daughter Tiffany, back in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona, and she tried very hard to talk me through it. That didn’t work either. So when her husband Kenny got home from work a couple of hours later, he called and tried to help. Following Kenny’s directions, we got Terry’s Google account straightened out, and mine deleted from her phone.

Later, I was finally able to use a USB cable between my old phone and my new one and used the Smart Switch app to transfer my data, apps, and my contact lists to my new phone, and was able to set up our email accounts on both phones.

But something is wrong with Terry’s old phone, and every time I connect the USB cable between the phones and start to transfer her stuff over, her old phone goes dead. We charge the battery and start over, and it immediately dies again. The phone has been getting worse all the time and won’t hold a charge, which is why we wanted new phones in the first place.

By then, it was 11:45 PM, and I was done for the night. I told Terry I could not do another thing, except write the blog. I’ll tackle it again this morning and see what happens. I might have to find a phone shop that can do the transfer for me. Or else a ten year old kid. That might be the better option, really.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Yesterday I had my patience tested. I’m negative.

Old Betsy Comes Home

 Posted by at 12:42 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 212020
 

The historic town of Fremont, Ohio, located 35 miles southeast of Toledo, has many interesting things to see, from beautiful old homes and quaint shops to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, a complex of several buildings related to the life and presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States. Built in 1916, it was the first presidential library.

Another interesting, though often overlooked attraction in Fremont is the Birchard Public Library, located on a hill in town.

These days it’s a peaceful setting, but things were not all that peaceful on that hill back in August of 1813, when a combined force of 1,400 British soldiers and their Indian allies attacked Fort Stephenson, an outpost of the War of 1812, which was located on that same hill.

Major George Croghan, the fort’s commanding officer, had only 160 men under his command, and though greatly outnumbered, they could not have had a better leader than Major Croghan. Just 21 years old, he was the nephew of Revolutionary War hero General George Rogers Clark and had his uncle’s courage to face any enemy. Enlisting as a private, he had so distinguished himself at the Battle of Tippecanoe and the siege of Fort Meigs that he was promoted first to captain and then to major.

The attack began on August 1st with a barrage of cannon fire from the British. Major Croghan had just one big gun at his disposal, an old 18th-century French naval cannon his men had nicknamed “Old Betsy.” Over 500 British cannonballs struck the fort, but Major Croghan and his patriots held steady. Then the British and Indians rushed the stockade, planning to overwhelm it. This was just what Major Croghan had hoped for. He opened a porthole in the stockade wall and Old Betsy, loaded with grapeshot, let loose. The results were devastating as the enemy were mowed down. That was enough for the British. They withdrew and Fort Stephenson was saved.

But the story does not end there. When the war ended, Old Betsy was shipped to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and stored in a government armory there. Who knows what its fate might have been? More than likely, the old cannon would have been sold for scrap. But in 1851, Brice Bartlett, the mayor of Fremont at the time, thought it would be good to bring the historic cannon back to town. He sent a war veteran who was familiar with the cannon to the arsenal, and after examining several similar cannons stored there, he recognized Old Betsy by a chip in its muzzle. Arrangements were made to ship the cannon back to Fremont.

However, things didn’t work out as Mayor Bartlett had hoped. When Old Betsy arrived at Sandusky, 25 miles away on Lake Erie, the folks there decided they should keep it instead. After all, who wouldn’t want such a famous cannon? This raised quite a ruckus in Fremont, and there was much debate about the future of the cannon. So much so that the good folks of Sandusky buried it to keep it safe from those rowdy Fremont people.

Mayor Bartlett was not one to take an insult like that lying down. He hired a private detective to go to Sandusky and ferret out the location of the buried cannon. And once he did, a group from Fremont went to Sandusky and dug it up and brought it back where it belongs, and where it still sits in front of the library.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I thought I was in a bad mood, but after 50 years or so I began to realize I’m just a jerk.

Aug 202020
 

I have written before about an area in northern Arizona called East of Snowflake that attracts all kinds of weird people. If you’re a burned-out hippie, a survivalist, a conspiracy theorist, or any other flavor of eccentric, you can buy land east of the small town of Snowflake for very little money and live happily ever after. Or paranoid ever after, or whatever floats your boat.

For the first couple of years I ran my newspaper in the White Mountains, I did it out of an office we had built onto our house. One day I was out running some errands, and my secretary paged me. This was in the days before cell phones, so I found a telephone booth (remember those?) and called the office. Melissa told me to come home because someone was there who was making her feel uncomfortable. I asked if she needed the police and she said no, just get back as soon as I could.

When I pulled in the large driveway, there was a pickup truck painted in a camouflage pattern waiting for me. As I got out of my car, a man wearing all camouflage, including face paint, emerged from the truck and asked me if I was Nick Russell. Being the smartass that I am, my first response was to ask, “If you park that truck in the forest, how do you ever find it again?”

He didn’t have an answer for that, but he had something he needed to tell me about. He said he was there to protect me because there were 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the small airport in the neighboring town of Show Low. I asked him just what those tanks and Russian troops were doing there, and he said they were getting ready to take over.

“Okay fine, so why do I need protection?” I asked him. His reply was, “Because you’re a journalist, man! Everybody knows they always kill the journalists first! Don’t you know that?”

I told him I wasn’t aware of that and thanked him for informing me. He had some kind of pistol strapped to his hip, and I could see that there was an AK-47 sitting on the front seat of his pickup truck. I knew this guy came from East of Snowflake before he ever told me. I thanked him again for his time and told him that I appreciated him coming by. Then he said, “You don’t believe me, do you?”

I allowed as how I didn’t really see why there would be 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the airport, so he pulled out a folded piece of yellow notepad paper and said, “Here, look at this. It’s proof!”

The only thing I saw was a square, drawn with a pencil, taking up most of the page. Knowing I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help myself and asked what the heck that meant. He told me that it was the floor plan of a building they were putting up at the airport that was big enough to hold 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks. He added that he had asked the people on the construction crew what the structure was for, and they told him to go away. He asked, “What does that tell you?” I didn’t want to tell him what it told me, so I just said I’d look into it.

His quick reply was, “No, you have to stay at home until the threat has passed. If you go out there, They’ll get you.” Then he told me not to worry because he was my bodyguard, and it was his job to protect me until the all-clear was sounded.

I assured him that I really didn’t need protection, but he was pretty adamant about it, and I don’t make it a practice to argue with people with AK-47s and handguns. My street was the last road in a little subdivision, and it was only one long block and then turned to go up to the main road at each end. For the next two or three days that guy was parked at the end of the street in his camouflaged truck, and every time I went by, he waved at me and followed me to the post office or wherever I was going and then came home and took his position at the end of the street.

At that time, Terry Ringey was the chief of police in Pinetop-Lakeside, and a friend of mine. I mentioned my bodyguard to Terry, and he asked if I wanted him to have an officer come by and talk to the guy. Technically it was not illegal to park where he was, but if I was concerned, Terry would have someone visit with him. I told Terry no, I didn’t want him to do that. In fact, I didn’t even want the UPS man to come down the street. Anybody with a uniform might be fair game for that wackadoodle.

Apparently, the threat passed within a short time, and the all-clear sounded, or maybe he just got bored or ran out of MREs and went home, but by the fourth day he was gone, and things were back to normal. Or maybe he was still there and just blended in with the trees. Either way, every time I drove by the airport for the next week or so, I looked to see if there were any Russian troops or tanks, and there wasn’t one to be seen. I have a feeling he might have been mistaken.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly.

Aug 192020
 

I’m tired of telling you in every blog that I spent the day writing, and I’m pretty sure you are tired of reading it, so today I thought it would repost a blog from June of 2011 about one of our favorite small town gems.

We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch, you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small-town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.

After a quiet morning at home, we crossed the bridge into Oregon, and spent yesterday afternoon exploring Astoria. This charming and friendly little community at the mouth of the Columbia River was the first permanent American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.

Astoria started life as a fur trading outpost in 1811, and has a long and colorful history. The Lewis and Clark Expedition discovered the region when they came through here in 1805, and in 1811, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Trading Company established an outpost at the site of present-day Astoria. Since then, Astoria has thrived as a fishing community and an important deep-sea shipping port. Over the years it has seen good times and bad times, but the good people of Astoria have worked together to build a town to be proud of.

We drove to the top of Coxcomb Hill, where the beautiful 125 foot tall Astoria Column dominates the skyline and offers incredible views to those who are willing to climb the 164 steps to the viewing platform at the top. Greg White and Miss Terry grabbed their cameras and made the trek to the top, while Jan White and I stayed down below, ready to catch them if they fell.

Astoria Column

Built in 1926, the Column is decorated with fourteen 25 foot long scenes depicting the history of the Pacific Northwest. The art form is known as sgraffito, which combines carving and painting into the tower’s concrete surface.

Column artwork close

The 360 degree view from the top is unforgettable, and includes the Columbia River, the deeply forested mountains, Astoria, and the bridge to Washington. 

Columbia River view

Astoria from above

Astoria from above 3

When we left the Column, we drove up and down some of Astoria’s steep streets in the residential areas, admiring the beautiful old Victorian homes and small cottages that had us rubbernecking in every block.

Astoria house

Astoria house 2

Astoria house 4

If Astoria looks familiar to you, it may be because is has been the backdrop for many movies, including The Goonies, The Ring Two, Come See The Paradise, Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Point Break, Free Willy, Short Circuit, and The Road, to name just a few. The house where characters Mikey and Brand lived in The Goonies is a private residence, located at 368 38th Street, and the folks who live there are used to fans of the movie walking by to take a photograph.

Goonies House

Astoria has a busy waterfront, with commercial fishing boats, huge ocean going freighters, and pleasure craft plying the waters. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, located on the waterfront, tells the story of the region’s nautical history, and we’ll be going back to Astoria to tour the museum while we’re here.

Ship in Columbia River

We drove a few miles east on U.S. Highway 30, to the Twilight Creek Eagle Sanctuary, which is a popular breeding ground for bald eagles, and where as many as 50 of the birds are known to congregate. Unfortunately, the day had turned gray and windy, with a pronounced chill, and we only saw one eagle, flying too high to get a good picture of.

About 5 p.m. we drove back to Long Beach for a nice birthday dinner for Miss Terry at a Mexican restaurant called El Compadre. The food was good, and we’ll go back before we leave the area.

Thought For The Day – Today I discovered that there is no popcorn in popcorn shrimp. I was also disapponted in the pot roast.

Aug 182020
 

Neither one of us was particularly hungry when we got up yesterday, so Miss Terry had some leftover blueberries and blackberries, and the extra pie crust dough left over from the peach galette that she mixed with some jam and made these delicious fried pies for brunch. The crust was light and flaky, and they were delicious. What a way to start our day!

I have said over and over again that storms usually pass us by, splitting and going on both sides of us, but giving us very little rainfall. I guess Mother Nature decided to make a liar out of me because the last couple of days we have gotten some pretty strong storms, with lots of thunder and lightning and some heavy downpours.

During yesterday’s storm, I heard something tap on the window of my office door, which is right next to my desk. A moment later, I heard it again. Curious, I opened the blinds that are built into the window, and I was staring at two tree frogs perched on the glass at eye level. I’m not sure who was more startled, me or those little critters, but all three of us jumped away at the same time!

At the risk of being nauseatingly repetitive, I spent the day like I have been doing just about every day lately, writing a couple more chapters in my new Tinder Street book. But not before I had to call my friend Judy Rinehimer in Cool, California. No, that’s not the temperature, that’s the name of the town she lives in. When I opened the manuscript in Microsoft Word, there was a wide column on the right side that wasn’t there before.

You would think that someone who makes his living writing would know his way around computers and Microsoft Word better than I do, but you’d be wrong. I did all the things I knew, checking layout, margins, and columns, and nothing had changed. After wasting an hour or two, I gave up and called Judy. It took her about 30 seconds to tell me to click on the Review option on the toolbar, and when I did, I saw an icon for a Comment column that was highlighted. I clicked it, and everything was back to normal. Thanks again, Judy.

I stayed at it for most of the day, only taking a break long enough to drive down to Walgreens to pick up a prescription for Terry that the doctor’s office was supposed to call in when we left there after Terry’s appointment on Friday afternoon. We stopped on our way back home from the appointment, and Walgreens had not received the prescription order. Terry and I both said then that the doctor’s office probably forgot to call it in, but we would give them the benefit of the doubt. Walgreens is very good about sending a text when a prescription is ready, so when she still had not received a text yesterday, Terry called the doctor’s office. The same young lady who said she would call it in on Friday said she would phone it in right then. What happened to calling it in on Friday when we left the office? It was raining hard at that point, so I waited for the rain to let up before I ran that errand.

After dinner and an evening watching TV, that’s all that happened yesterday. I know it sounds pretty boring, but that’s life in a pandemic.

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate your help. My goal is 500 followers, and thanks to so many of you who are always happy to help, I am at 413 now. Please consider going to my author’s page and following me there. It’s quick and easy and there is no cost. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. The link is https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

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 – To those who are complaining about isolating and social distancing, just remember that your parents and grandparents were called to war; you are being called to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. You can do this.

Tired Of This Nonsense

 Posted by at 12:46 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 172020
 

Back in late 2016, Terry and I both bought Moto Z Play smartphones. At the time, Terry was reluctant to give up her old flip phone and didn’t think she needed or wanted a smartphone. But it didn’t take her long to realize the benefits of the newer technology. As for me, I had already had several smartphones, so it was not a big deal.

At first, we were very pleased with the Moto Zs. They had outstanding battery life, good reception even in our sketchy signal area, and they took excellent photos. But over time the batteries in both of our phones seemed to be getting weaker and weaker. To the point where Terry would have hers plugged in while we were watching the 11 o’clock news, and it would be at 100% when she unplugged it as the news was going off. By the next morning, the battery would down to 13% or so, and the phone usually shut itself off not long after that. Mine was not quite as bad, but it wasn’t much better, either. Both phones need to be charged twice a day. Mine also had a cracked screen, nothing terrible, and the Gorilla Glass held it together, but we decided we were tired of that nonsense, and it was time to upgrade.

I have always had good luck with Samsung phones, and we started looking at the new Galaxy S20 Note, but quickly decided we didn’t really need all that it offered. And we definitely did not need the $1299 price tag per phone either! A little more research led us to the Galaxy S10+, and I asked for some opinions on Facebook. Most of the feedback I got from people who have them was very positive. Then my daughter called to tell me that her husband Kenny has one, while she has the slightly smaller S10E, and they are both very happy with them. Tiffany said the biggest drawback for her with Kenny’s S10+ is that its a little too big for her hands, so she can’t hold it and text with her thumb at the same time. That’s not an issue for us, since we hardly text all, and when we do, we use two hands. Even then, I usually hit the wrong keys at least half the time with my fat little sausage-like fingers.

I was going to order two of them from Amazon, but since we use Consumer Cellular, I decided to check their website to see if they had any deals on them, and I’m glad I did. As it turned out, they had the same phone for $200 each less than Amazon and were offering a special with $50 down and 24 months no interest payments. I had planned to buy them outright, but what the heck? If I can use somebody else’s money for a couple of years with no interest, I’ll do it. So I ordered them Sunday night, and they are supposed to be here within 2 to 3 business days. Of course, then I will have  all the fun of transferring everything over from the old phones to the new, but I’ll figure it out.

Besides talking about and researching phones yesterday, I got another 3,500 words done in on my new Tinder Street book, as well as proofing everything I had written the day before. That was enough work for one day, so after dinner, we relaxed in our recliners watching television. Due to the pandemic, there’s nothing new on broadcast TV, but I like true crime shows, and sometimes they give me ideas for one of my books, so I have several them recorded.

But Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa was playing on the NatGeo channel when I turned the TV on. Since we had never watched it, I decided to check it out. It was actually pretty interesting. I had never seen rhinos mating before, and I’m not sure I need to see it again. After that, we watched Lone Star Law, a favorite of ours that follows the work of Texas Game Wardens. Then a true crime show and the local news. After that, it was about time to call it a night. We lead such exciting lives.

I often share funny signs that we see in our travels or that our readers share with us, but today I thought I would show you a meme that I saw on Facebook yesterday. I don’t know about you, but it seems pretty accurate to me.

Congratulations Lois Thurston, winner of our drawing for an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. We had 54 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – All good things must come to an end. Which is why Covid-19 seems to be going on forever.

Not Burger King

 Posted by at 12:24 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 162020
 

I’m more of a McDonald’s kind of guy, though I have ventured into Burger King more than once in my life. And yesterday, we got a Whopper without even leaving the house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind you eat, it was a whopper of a thunderstorm.

It was late in the afternoon, and I was busy working on my next Tinder Street book when I started hearing thunder rumbling off of the distance. No surprise there, it’s a daily event this time of year in Florida. I looked at the weather app on my phone and saw the front moving in, but as I’ve said several times before, they usually pass us right on by. Not this time.

The thunder got louder, lightning was flashing all around, and the rain started coming down so hard that when I looked out my office door, the house right across the street was difficult to see. While all of this was going on, the electric kept flickering on and off. It made me glad I have uninterruptable power supply (UPS) battery backups with surge protectors connected to both of our televisions, and to my computer. I was able to continue working without any problems.

For our televisions, we have AmazonBasics Standby UPS 400VA 255W Surge Protectors. They have six outlets, and our TVs and cable boxes are plugged into them.

I need more than that for my office, so I have a Tripp Lite 1500VA 900W UPS Battery Back Up there. My computer, screen, laser printer, and internet router are all plugged into it. Even when the power goes out, it keeps everything working for 30 minutes or more, long enough to give me time to save what I am doing and close everything down.

I also back up religiously while I am working. Microsoft Word is set up to back up every five minutes, and I also back files up to Dropbox online, as well as to a Seagate 2TB external hard drive.

Manuscripts I am currently working on are also backed up to a USB flash drive at the end of every session. Someone told me a while back that this is probably overkill, and they may be right. But before I started taking these precautions I lost hours and in two cases days, of work. I don’t plan to do that again. A little bit of effort and a few dollars spent can prevent losing a lot of valuable data.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – I snooped in my girlfriend’s underwear drawer and found a French maid outfit, a nurse’s uniform, and a policewoman’s uniform. I broke up with her, because if a woman can’t hold a job she’s not right for me.

The Man From Peru

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 152020
 

On a side street in the friendly little town of Peru, Indiana, we came across the handsome two-story home where one of America’s most beloved and prolific composers was born.

Cole Albert Porter was born June 9, 1891, the only child of Samuel Fenwick Porter, a druggist, and Kate Cole Porter. His maternal grandfather was the wealthy and powerful James Omar Cole, who made his fortune speculating in coal and timber, and was known as “the richest man in Indiana.”

Porter’s strong-willed mother, who grew up with wealth and privilege, loved music and insisted her son start music lessons at a young age, playing for two hours a day while he was growing up. By the time he was six, he could play both the piano and violin.

It was important to Kate Porter that her son excel at everything, and she had the resources to ensure that it happened. When he was fourteen, she falsified his school records to state that he was a year younger and thus exceptionally bright for his age, as compared to his peers. She also financed student orchestras with the understanding that her son would be guaranteed star billing for his violin solos and even used her father’s influence to make sure that the local media gave the young musician glowing reviews.

Samuel Porter was a quiet and shy man, no match for his wife or her father, who dominated the family. James Cole expected his grandson to become an attorney and sent him to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts in 1905. The young man was popular and did well in his studies, being named class valedictorian. After he left Worcester Academy, he entered Yale University in 1909.

After graduating from Yale, Porter enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. But he had a plan for his life, and it did not include returning to small town Indiana for a career in business or the law. He dropped out of law school and began studying music instead. While his mother encouraged the switch, it was kept secret from his grandfather, who was not only paying for his education but had also subsidized his parents’ comfortable lifestyle throughout their marriage.

Porter’s gift for music not only made him popular with his fellow students, it also brought him early success; he wrote some 300 songs while at Yale, including the football fight songs Bulldog and Bingo Eli Yale that are still played at the college today.

After graduation from Harvard, Porter moved to Paris, where he quickly became involved in the elite social scene, throwing and attending parties that were described as extravagant and scandalous. While there, he did not have to hide his homosexuality. It was also in Paris that he met and married Linda Lee Thomas, an American divorcée eight years his senior. They had been close friends and confidantes, and the marriage was one of convenience, giving them both a cloak of respectability.

Porter was busily writing compositions all along, with a modicum of success, while living an extravagant lifestyle financed by an inheritance from his grandfather, who died in 1923. He finally found success in 1928, at the age of 36, when his musical Paris became a Broadway hit.

Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Cole Porter produced a string of hit songs for Broadway musicals, including You’d Be So Easy to Love, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, In the Still of the Night, Don’t Fence Me In, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Night And Day, I Get A Kick Out Of You, and Too Darn Hot, to name just a few.

Cole Porter seldom returned to Peru, and when he did, it was only for brief visits. His later years were filled with pain and depression. In 1937 he had been seriously injured in a horseback riding accident when his mount rolled on him, crushing his legs. His doctors said that his right leg would have to be amputated and that he might lose the left one as well, but he refused to have the procedure. He was hospitalized for seven months and lived in constant pain for the rest of his life.

His mother, with whom he had been close all of his life, died in 1952, and his wife followed two years later. In 1958 he developed complications in his right leg due to the earlier injury, and after a series of operations did not help, he reluctantly allowed the limb to be amputated. He never wrote another song after the amputation, and the rest of his life was spent in seclusion, allowing only a few intimate friends to visit. Cole Porter died on October 15, 1964, at the age of 73. He is buried with his parents in Peru’s Mount Hope Cemetery.

Today the house where the composer was born is an inn, with a small museum and gift shop. His 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood is on display at the Miami County Museum in Peru. And though Cole Porter has been gone for over fifty years, the music he gave us lives on as a legacy to the man from Peru.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


Thought For The Day – What doesn’t kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a sick sense of humor.

Aug 142020
 

Terry and I have been going to Coastal Integrative Healthcare in Edgewater for years now, and the chiropractors who treated us have always been good. And the best of the best has been Dr. Meloney Thomas. She is an expert at what she does because she takes the time to get to know her patients and goes out of her way to help. The first time I walked in the place, I was using two canes and could hardly stand up, and within two or three visits, Doctor Thomas had me walking around much better.

After my recent nerve ablations, the severe pain I had for years is gone but there are a lot of other problems with my back, and I think the earlier pain masked them because after the ablation procedures, they became an issue. They are not as debilitating as what I was dealing with before the ablations, but still painful. And Miss Terry has been having some problems, too.

Now, I hate to say this, because they are nice people, but after Dr. Thomas left the Edgewater office and was sent to Palm Coast to run the office there, it just has not felt as good when I walked out of there. I’m not saying that the people working there are not competent or friendly, because they are. But they don’t have the years of experience with my body that Dr. Thomas does. She can watch me walk in the door and know what I need. So yesterday we decided to drive up to Palm Coast and have her work on us.

This time of year here in Florida, there are daily thunderstorms as weather fronts come in off the Atlantic Ocean collide with storms from the Gulf Coast. As I’ve said many times, here at our house we get a lot of thunder and lightning, but not much rain at all. But we sure ran into some rain yesterday on the way up to Palm Coast! It started sprinkling just as we got onto Interstate 95, and by the time we got to Daytona Beach, it was raining. A few miles north of Daytona Beach, it was like the sky opened up and it was coming down in buckets. Our windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with it, and I got in the right-hand lane and followed an 18 wheeler who was driving along at 35 or 40 miles an hour with his emergency flashers on. Most of the traffic was moving about the same speed, although there are always some fools that cut in and out of traffic and try to drive at 70 miles an hour, no matter what the weather conditions are. They are probably the same people who don’t wear a mask, either. Rules? What rules?

It was still coming down hard when we got to the office, so we made a mad dash inside. Dr. Thomas greeted us and took us back immediately and spent a lot of time with both of us. And when she was done, we both walked out of there feeling much better. It’s about 48 miles from our house to her office, but on the interstate, it doesn’t take all that long. Well, it doesn’t it’s not raining!

The rain had let up by the time we headed home, just a shower here and there. Since we were out anyhow, we decided to stop at Publix and stock up on groceries, and after spending a small fortune there, we are good to go for another two or three weeks, hopefully. I did notice that this time around, most of the people in the store were wearing masks. There were a few customers who weren’t, but they were a definite minority.

It started raining as we were coming home from the grocery store, and rained long enough to get us good and wet as we carried all the groceries inside. And then, of course, it stopped. Go figure.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Dogs prepare you for life with a baby. Cats prepare you for life with a teenager.

Aug 132020
 

Back during my newspaper days on the Pacific Northwest coast, my headquarters was in Aberdeen, Washington, in Grays Harbor, which is located at the bottom of the Olympic Peninsula. Aberdeen is an old seaport and lumber mill town, and Gray’s Harbor is the largest natural deep water port north of San Francisco, and there is a lot of history there.

A young man named Billy would come by once a week, wanting to wash the windows in our office. Billy only charged a dollar or two, and he was a very nice man and a hard worker. He was developmentally disabled, but that never slowed him down a bit. Every Wednesday, right on schedule, Billy was there with his bucket, sponge, and his rags, ready to go to work. One week Billy came just as I was going out the door, and I handed him five dollars to do the windows. He said it was only two dollars, and I told him to keep it. This offended Billy. He handed the money back to me and said, “I don’t take charity, and I don’t want no more than what I earned.”

The women who worked in the office took a shine to Billy because he was always such a gentle soul, and when someone asked where he lived, they discovered he was sleeping in an abandoned house without any utilities because the abandoned car he had been living in had been towed away. That just was not acceptable, so they decided that they had to remedy that situation. At one time the building that housed the newspaper office had been a saloon and brothel, back during the wild and crazy seaport days (that’s an entirely different story I will tell you about someday), and there were eight small rooms on the second floor that had been the cribs for the working girls. They sat empty except for being used for storage, and the girls decided to clean one of them for Billy. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was warm and dry, and there was a bathroom down the hall.

As I said before, Billy had pride and wouldn’t take something for nothing, so he insisted he had to work to earn his keep. That was fine with me, and I told him that he could wash my car and pickup and the delivery van. He was meticulous about it and kept all three vehicles looking better than they did the day they came off the showroom floor. Billy also took it upon himself to clean the office every day and did a great job.

However, this was somewhat problematic because Billy may have had a good heart, but he was totally lacking in personal hygiene. So the girls had to explain to him that he had to take a bath and they gave him a bottle of cologne. The next morning he came downstairs looking clean and polished, but he reeked of cologne. Laurel, the office manager, asked him how much he had put on, and he told her the whole bottle. Okay, Billy, time for another bath!

My wife at the time was pregnant, and she usually went to the printers, about 30 miles away, to get every issue printed. Loading bundles of newspapers into the van was becoming difficult for her, so I asked Billy to go with her and do the loading. He was happy to have more responsibility.

Over time, Billy began doing more and more things around the office, and I decided we should put him on the payroll, which was fine with him as long as he was earning the money and it wasn’t a handout.

When the first payday came around, I handed Billy his check, and he asked what it was. I told him it was his pay for the week, and he asked, “Don’t I get any money?” Laurel explained to Billy that he needed to take the check and cash it, which he didn’t understand. So one of the girls in the production department took him to the bank, where Billy opened a checking account. That turned out to be a very bad thing. That hundred dollars was the most money Billy had ever had, and he thought the was rich.

Just as Billy didn’t understand that his paycheck was the same as money, when they told him that the checks were just like money and he could go to the store and buy things, that’s what Billy did.

You have to understand, this was in 1981 in a small town where everybody knew everybody. There was no such thing as bank cards, and no one ever asked for identification when you purchased something with a check. In fact, most banks had counter checks that you could just pick up and fill out when you needed cash. By the middle of the next week, our office phone started ringing off the hook. One store after another was calling to say that Billy had bounced checks. A lot of checks!

I went upstairs to his little room and knocked on the door, and when Billy opened it I thought I had walked into a Circuit City or Best Buy. He had two television sets, a VCR, a boombox, and two bicycles. He also had four or five pairs of new shoes, almost as many cowboy boots,  and a bunch of new clothes. The room had been small to start with, but now it was full! I asked Billy where he got everything, and he said he bought it. Knowing the answer even before I asked him where he got all the money, I wasn’t surprised when he said he didn’t need money, he had checks.

My office manager, my wife, and I spent the rest of that day and most of the next hauling things back to stores, explaining the situation, apologizing on Billy’s behalf, and then closing his checking account. After that, Billy got paid in cash. It just seemed to work out better that way.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.

I’m Glad I Called

 Posted by at 12:52 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 122020
 

I don’t know when you will see this blog, since when I logged on at 11:30 last night to get it ready to post, I got a message saying that WordPress was doing some kind of critical update and to try back later. I waited until just before midnight and got the same message. If it takes too long, I will just wait and post it in the morning. Don’t you just love technology?

Speaking of technology, Terry had an appointment scheduled for yesterday afternoon with Island Doctors in New Smyrna Beach to go over some ultrasound results they had ordered for her. Usually, when either one of us has an appointment with them, we get a confirmation call the day before, but yesterday morning Terry mentioned that she had not received a call. At first, we thought maybe they had just forgotten to get in touch with us, but I decided to give them a call myself, just in case. And I’m glad I did.

Even though the written appointment card they gave us said that the appointment was on the 11th, yesterday, and we put that time and date into the calendars on both of our phones while we were standing at the counter there, according to their computer it wasn’t until Friday, the 14th. Just to be sure, we double-checked the appointment card and our phones, and everything said the 11th. But their computer said the 14th, and who are we to argue with a computer? At least we don’t have jobs that we had to take a day off from to go to an appointment that wasn’t going to happen.

Just because we don’t have “jobs” doesn’t mean we don’t do a lot of work. As I said in yesterday’s blog, I had narrated a chapter in the second book in my Tinder Street series while sitting in the Explorer with the air conditioner blowing full blast on Monday while waiting for Terry, who was at an eye appointment. But when I got home and downloaded it from my digital recorder, it was garbled. I suspect that was because of the noise of the air-conditioning fan. At any rate, I managed to get it all straightened out yesterday, and then I did another 6,200 words. I’m past the halfway point in the book now.

While I was busy with that, Terry was doing some paperwork, researching patterns for her next weaving project, making a nice dinner, and for dessert, a Peach galette, which is a single crust pie made without a pie pan. Topped off with a big scoop of Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream, it was delicious! We first got hooked on Tillamook ice cream when we were spending our summers on the Pacific Northwest coast and were delighted to discover that they carry it at our local Publix grocery store.

While we were doing all of that, we had a strong afternoon thunderstorm come through the area, and there was so much thunder booming and lightning flashing that for a while there it felt like I was in some kind of artillery barrage. But, as happens here more often than not, we got a good hard rain that lasted 15 minutes or so, and then it stopped, even though the thunder and lightning continued for quite a while. Areas just north and south of us got a lot more rain, but the umbrella that hovers above our little subdivision kept most of it away.

How many of you enter our free weekly drawings? And more importantly, how many of you who win an audiobook actually redeem the code for it? Because it looks like a lot of them don’t get redeemed at all. In fact, looking back, out of 16 audiobooks that were awarded as prizes recently, only seven of them were redeemed. Why enter a contest if you don’t want the prize? That’s unfair to other people who might want it, and a waste of my time to solicit prizes from other authors and conduct the drawings. Please, do me a favor, if you have won an audiobook, go redeem the code. It only takes a couple of minutes. The codes are only good for a certain amount of time, and then they are no longer valid.

I know we’ve all heard a lot about COVID-19 and the challenges of reopening schools, and the decisions some parents have to make as to whether to send their kids back to the classroom or do distance learning. Personally, I don’t think any kid should be in a classroom right now. If they’re canceling major sporting events and national political conventions, why should we send our kids to classrooms? My daughter Tiffany, who lives in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona, has made the decision to keep her kids home until things clear out, which I fully support. Even more so when she called me yesterday to tell me that the school district is requiring parents to sign a waiver for each student who goes back to class, saying if they get sick or ill for any reason, the school district is not liable. Aren’t they just admitting they expect problems?

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate your help. My goal is 500 followers, and I am at 365 now. Please consider going to my author’s page and following me there. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. The link is https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

Thought For The Day – Love happens when one realizes the the “us” is more valuable than the “me.”