Nick Russell

Mar 252020
 

Movies and television would have you believe that ghost towns from the Old West era remain perfectly intact, with tumbleweeds rolling down their empty streets and homes and shops full of furniture and other items as if the residents just all got up and went away one day, leaving everything behind and never looking back.

In truth, that is pretty much a myth. In my younger days, I spent many years exploring the back roads of Arizona and New Mexico and have been to many ghost towns in that region. Even back then, most were no more than a few adobe walls crumbling into dust. Wood, hardware, and anything useful had been carted away generations before I ever got there.

One exception was the railroad ghost town of Steins, New Mexico, located just off of Interstate 10 at Exit 3, almost to the Arizona state line. A stagecoach stop was established there in 1857, and the town itself was founded in 1880. Unlike many boom towns of that era, Steins’ economy was not based solely on gold or silver discoveries, though there were some finds in the nearby Peloncillo Mountains, but more so as a stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad. A quarry and rock crushing plant produced track ballast for the railroad and jobs for the citizens of Steins.

Life was never easy in Steins. There were no underground springs to tap into, so water had to be brought in by train. In the early days there was always the threat of Indian attack, the surrounding desert was harsh and unforgiving, rattlesnakes and other animals could be dangerous, and outlaws from both sides of the nearby Mexican border passed through the area. Still, the lonely little town hung on through good times and bad, it’s population fluctuating but never very large.

That all came to an end in 1944 when the railroad announced that it no longer needed the materials from the quarry, and therefore trains would no longer be stopping there, even to deliver water. Residents were offered free passage away from Steins, but with the restriction that they could only bring along what they could carry. Many left behind everything from household furnishing to wagons and tools, turning the abandoned town into a time capsule of days gone by. Later a fire destroyed many of the buildings.

The town went through a handful of owners until Larry and Linda Link purchased it in 1988 and began restoring it as a tourist attraction. Old West reenactments were held, and even ghost hunters stopped by looking for paranormal activity.

Way back when we first became fulltime RVers, we met Larry and Linda and instantly felt a kinship with them. Larry was an outspoken man with a great sense of humor, and before they bought Steins he had operated a rattlesnake farm and been a butcher. I think he was never happier than when he was showing visitors around Steins, telling tales of the old days, some of which might even have been true, and sharing interesting bits of history. But Larry was also not a man to hold his tongue when he saw something wrong, and he told me he had stepped on a few toes in nearby Lordsburg.

Over the years we stopped in to visit a few times as our travels took us around the country, and we were heartbroken to learn that Larry had been murdered. His body was found in Steins on June 7, 2011. The autopsy report said that he had been shot five times, had a three-inch laceration on his head, and various scrapes and bruises on his body. A handgun was found nearby but attempts to trace it back to its owner were unsuccessful. To date, Larry’s murder remains unsolved.

There have many theories and rumors about what happened that day at the old ghost town. Larry and Linda were no longer living full time on the property and some speculate that Larry stumbled on a burglary in progress. A semi-trailer stored on the property had been broken into and some items from it were strewn about. Investigators also found graffiti sprayed on the trailer. Others believe that the killer or killers were illegal aliens passing through the area, or possibly drug mules. Or that perhaps the killer was a transient who wandered in off the highway. And there are some that say that maybe the outspokenness Larry was known for might have led to his death. There had been stories of an ongoing feud with a former owner of the property and others in Lordsburg. Could that have been what led to the brutal murder?

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Larry’s daughter Pamela said she didn’t believe that her father was killed by an illegal alien since the ones who had come to Steins in the past only wanted water, food, or a ride away from the area. She also discredits rumors of a robbery, since her father’s wallet was found at the scene.

Nobody knows what happened except whoever was at Steins that terrible day, and though Larry’s murder is still an open case, it has grown cold as more recent crimes come to the forefront. I suspect whoever was behind the death of our friend will never be brought to justice.

There was some talk of Larry’s wife and granddaughter reopening Steins, but when we pulled off the interstate to check it out on our trip to Arizona in February of this year, there were a couple of RVs parked there that looked like they might be caretakers, and nobody else around. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that eventually Steins will go the way of other ghost towns and fade into memory.

Thought For The Day – I love my computer because all my friends live inside it!

The Boy Soldier

 Posted by at 1:43 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 242020
 

Some called him the boy soldier, and I guess that’s applicable since he was just a boy, like so many who have answered their country’s call to duty. And like so many of those who did before and after him, he grew up very quickly on the battlefield, his boyhood gone forever. But this boy, a Texas sharecropper’s son, came home as one of the most decorated American soldiers of all time.

Audie Murphy was born on June 20, 1925, the seventh of twelve children, and life was difficult from the very start. His father abandoned the large family, and the young boy was forced to quit school in the fifth grade to pick cotton for $1 a day to help feed his family. He was sixteen years old when his mother died and three of his siblings were placed in an orphanage. That still left many mouths to feed, and his excellent marksmanship and skill as a hunter was the only reason they had meat for their meals.

When America entered World War II, Audie Murphy tried to enlist in the military but was turned away because he was underweight and underage. With the help of his older sister, he managed to lie about his age and joined the Army just days after his 17th birthday. Though he was a headstrong young man, Murphy embraced military life and won the respect of his fellow soldiers and the officers over him.

His first exposure to combat was during the invasion of Sicily in 1943, followed by the Battle of Anzio and the liberation of Rome, after which his unit took part in the Allied invasion of France. Promoted to sergeant, Murphy’s gallantry and dedication to his fellow GIs was noticed by his superiors.

Wounded three times, each time he asked to rejoin his unit after being released from the hospital. Along the way he was collecting one decoration after another for heroism and was promoted to second lieutenant.

Though he had performed many acts of heroism ever since joining the fight to liberate Europe, Murphy is best known for his deeds on January, 26, 1945. With his company decimated in heavy combat in France’s Vosges Mountains, and with only nineteen men left under him, he ordered his men to take cover in a forest when the Germans attacked, knocking out an M10 tank destroyer and setting it on fire. Staying behind to protect his men, Murphy laid down a withering fire on the advancing enemy from on top of the burning M10. When his carbine ran out of ammunition, he used the M10’s .50 caliber machine gun to keep firing. Wounded again, he held his position for over an hour, killing or wounding over 50 German soldiers before they finally retreated. Then he jumped off the M10 and led his men in a counterattack. With the enemy routed, he refused to leave his men while his injuries were being tended.

Audie Murphy won our country’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his actions that day and came home a hero celebrated from coast to coast and border to border. Besides the Medal of Honor, he was awarded two Silver Stars for valor, two Bronze Stars for valor, three Purple Hearts for his wounds, and every other award the Army had at that time. Not to mention numerous foreign awards for his heroism, including the French Legion of Honor and French Croix de guerre.

After the war, the young hero went to Hollywood and appeared in a number of movies, mostly Westerns, and starred in the 1955 movie about his wartime experiences, To Hell and Back. He was also a familiar face on television, starring in the TV series Whispering Smith.

But war left emotional scars on Audie Murphy as well as physical scars. Suffering from what today is known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow, had frequent nightmares, and became addicted to sleeping pills. He repeatedly asked the government for help not only for himself, but for other combat veterans as well, but with little success.

Still wanting to contribute to his country, he joined the Texas Army National Guard and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. His requests to be sent to a combat unit were denied, and instead he was assigned to help train new recruits. He eventually retired as a major in 1969.

With his acting career over, he also had financial problems and was hounded by the IRS. Even then, Audie Murphy refused numerous offers to appear in advertisements for alcohol and cigarettes, believing that would be a bad example to set for younger people.

Audie Murphy, the boy faced hero who helped turn the tide of battle more than once in the face of overwhelming enemy attacks, was killed in an airplane crash on May 28,1971 near Catawba, Virginia. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and his grave is the second most visited, following only that of President John F. Kennedy.

Today the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas honors their hometown hero with displays on Murphy’s life before, during, and after World War II that include a ten foot bronze statue of him out front.

Exhibits inside include a display representing his many military medals and decorations, and of a soldier taking a brief and much needed rest during a break from the fighting. There are also weapons, military uniforms and equipment, movie costumes, paintings, photographs, and posters of or related to Audie Murphy.

The museum also celebrates the Texas cotton industry’s past, present, and future with a number of displays and educational materials.

Located at 600 I-30 in Greenville, Texas, forty minutes east of Dallas, the museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for major holidays. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, veterans and college students, $2 for kids ages 6-18 years old, and ages 5 and under are free. For more information, visit the museum’s website at http://www.cottonmuseum.com.

Thought For The Day – A balanced diet means a cupcake in each hand.

Mar 232020
 

“Grandpa what did you do during the big coronavirus isolation of 2020?” Well, kiddies, grandpa didn’t act a fool like some people, running around grabbing all the toilet paper and cleaning supplies he could find and hoarding them, or hanging out with crowds of people at the beaches and bars. No, grandpa was home writing. And he did another 6,000 words in his new book yesterday for a total of over 10,000 words for the weekend.

While we were in Arizona in February, my daughter Tiffany turned us on to the British TV show Call the Midwife, which is on Netflix and we have been binge watching it. It’s a series about midwives in the slums of London back in the 1950s and early 60s. Coincidentally, because one of the characters in the family saga I plan to write is a midwife, I bought the e-book Call the Midwife from Amazon a couple of months ago to get some background on their work, but had not read it yet. Terry liked the show and the e-book so much that I ordered the other two in the series for her in printed format and she is enjoying reading them. It’s an interesting show and not just a chick flick. I find it very interesting to see what life was like back then for people in a country still rebuilding after the devastation of World War II.

Our only trips out in the last week have been medical appointments. We are trying to limit our time away from home, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. We have four appointments scheduled for this coming week, and I’m not sure if we’re going to keep them or cancel, or whether the facilities we’re going to might beat us to the punch and cancel them for us.

The only time we went outside during the weekend was to check the mail and to talk briefly with our neighbors across the street, Jesse and his lady Jen, and Jen’s daughter, who is currently on furlough from her job at Disney. Jesse moved in a few months ago, and Jen got to town on Wednesday. It was nice to meet her, they’re both great people who I am sure will be good friends. And yes, we maintained the recommended safe distance apart. I’m not finding that very hard to do since most people shy away from me naturally.

I had someone tell me online yesterday, not for the first time, that we are being paranoid. No, we’re being cautious. We don’t think the sky is falling, but we’re both 67 years old, I have had two heart attacks, and Terry’s immune system is compromised from her cancer. We have plenty of food, we have toilet paper (we even have bidets), and we have most everything we need to get by. All restaurants are closed except for takeout, as are many of the stores, so where do we have to go? Most of the stores that are open have empty shelves, and if there is something still there that someone really does need, why should we buy it just because we can?

Folks seem to be divided on this whole Covid-19 thing. Some people I care a lot for and respect very much think it’s all a bunch of hype and there’s really nothing much to it. Others are taking every precaution they can. No matter what you think about it, there’s no question that it is a serious issue. My daughter-in-law Geli is Clinical Director at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, and my son tells me that they are so overwhelmed with patients and short of supplies that she is having to use the same mask over and over again, putting it in a sealed bag between patients.

And then you have the fools like the idiot in Tucson, Arizona who broke into a healthcare place and stole a bunch of Coronavirus test kits. I have no idea what he was thinking because unless you have a connection with a lab to process them, they are worthless. But I’m sure he’ll find somebody gullible enough to buy them from him.

No matter how long this keeps up, I would not be the least bit surprised if before too long we’re going to start seeing looting. Not for food or toilet paper, but for anything that can be stolen, just like we have every time we have a hurricane in this part of the country. Some take advantage of the fact that emergency services are tied up elsewhere and have a field day stealing TVs and stereos, small appliances, cell phones, and things like that from stores. A couple of hurricanes back, we actually had somebody drive a vehicle through the wall of a local gun shop and get away with a bunch of firearms and ammunition. The same gang hit other gun shops here in central Florida.

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. I wonder if they have toilet paper?

Congratulations Wayne Shunamon, winner of our drawing for an an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. We had 114 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – I run like the winded.

St. John’s Church

 Posted by at 12:59 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 222020
 

In Richmond, Virginia, a city completely immersed in history, we visited a church that traces its roots back to the founding of Henrico Parish in 1611, an outgrowth of the original church in the Jamestown settlement.

Richmond was established in 1733, and by 1741, St. John’s Church was completed and welcoming worshipers. Ever since then the church has played an important role both in Richmond and in the history of our nation.

The church had many names over the years; the New Church, Town Church, Upper Church, and Richmond Hill Church. The earliest known reference to “St. John’s” appeared in 1829.

Just as churches had traditionally served in England, St. John’s was not only a place of worship, but also a meeting house. It was here, speaking to the Second Virginia Convention in March, 1775, that American patriot Patrick Henry issued the bold challenge, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Over the years the church and the surrounding neighborhood have seen good times and bad, but for nearly 275 years it has been a hub of worship and community life in Richmond.

Many of Richmond’s elite, as well as generations of common people, have been laid to rest in the old churchyard, including jurist and statesman George Wythe, who was the first Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence. Also buried at the church is Revolutionary War officer Edward Carrington, who served as jury foreman during Aaron Burr’s trial for treason in 1807; Elizabeth Poe, the mother of author Edgar Allan Poe, and many other luminaries.

The church is open for guided tours, which begin at the Visitor Center, housed in an old brick schoolhouse located to the right and rear of the church. Street parking is available for automobiles, but the area streets are not suitable for a recreational vehicle. The next time you visit Richmond, make time to tour the historic old St. John’s Church and experience the history that still lingers in the air there. The church is located at 2401 E. Broad Street in Richmond. For tour information, call (804) 649-7938.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. 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 – Women are like cops. They can have all the evidence in the world, but they still want a confession.

Birdbrain

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 212020
 

Birds are cool animals in many ways, not the least being that they can fly. Their brain may not be any bigger than a pea, but they can do something mankind has wanted to do from its earliest days. Sure, you can buy a ticket and go somewhere in an airplane, but you’re not really flying, you’re just riding. But you can flap your arms until they fall off and not accomplish something a sparrow does with ease.

As far as birds that people keep as pets, they can be cool too, as long as they belong to someone else. Birds are like babies and dogs – I’d rather play with yours and give them back than to live with one.

This is Jonathan, who our friend Nancy Kissack who writes the daily Kissack Adventures blog, raised from an egg. Jonathan is really a girl, and we get along very well.

I’ve had a couple of strange relationships with birds, even owning a few and always regretting it. At one time I owned an Amazon parrot that learned to imitate the ringing of my telephone (this was before the days of cell phones) and always waited until the wee hours of the morning to demonstrate his newfound skill. I’d wake up and trudge into the living room to answer the phone, only to be greeted with a dial tone and the darned bird grinning at me. (I call him “the bird” even though I didn’t know its gender and because I can’t use any of the names I called it in this blog.)

But that wasn’t the only irritating thing this bird was limited to. Always looking for ways to entertain himself, the feathered fruitcake discovered that wallpaper is tasty and proceeded to strip the wall behind his cage. I finally had to set the cage on the floor to keep him out of reach of anything his powerful beak could destroy.

At the time I also own a pair of very large purebred German shepherd dogs. Laser, the male, was a magnificent animal, well over 100 pounds and trained for protection. The bird learned to imitate my whistle and delighted in sounding off, bringing both dogs to full alert. The female, Sugar, was a bit smaller than her mate and a lot smarter, just like as is true in most human relationships. She quickly wised up to that game and just ignored it.

Not gullible Laser. He was ready to go play or fight every time he heard that whistle. The bird loved to wait quietly until Laser was asleep, dreaming doggie dreams, to whistle sharply, jolting him awake and ready for duty. This went on for a few weeks, and I knew a showdown was coming. Tired of my feathered companion’s maladjusted personality, I was already looking for a new home for him when he pushed the dog too far.

One afternoon I was reading and listening to some mellow music when there was a sharp alert whistle and Laser jumped to his feet, only to discover once again he had been tricked by a puny bird that weighed less than his favorite rawhide chew bone.

Another dog would have ripped open the cage and devoured the noisy critter in seconds and been done with it, but my dogs had a character all their own. Laser got a nasty gleam in his wolf-like eyes and strolled across the room to the bird’s cage, where he casually lifted his hind leg and did something he had been trained since puppyhood to only do outside. Seconds later the drenched parrot was shaking its head, blinking its eyes and spitting (if a parrot can spit) as it squawked in rage. Point made, Laser returned to his sleeping spot and resumed his nap, this time unmolested. The bird never whistled again.

Every once in a while in our travels we ran across RVers who traveled with birds, and I get the urge to have one. But then I remembered the noise and mess they made and decideed that I really don’t want a bird unless it’s baked and served up on a platter of Miss Terry’s delicious Basmati rice.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. I am excited about this week’s prize, an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. 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 in big trouble if people find out I really don’t have Tourette’s.

RV Trash

 Posted by at 12:26 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 202020
 

Ken Harris of Liverpool, New York sent this to us quite some time ago and we got a chuckle out of it!
You know you’re RV trash when:
*They post signs at WalMart saying your RV is not welcome!
*You call the garbage cans at rest areas “dump stations.”
*You “found” most of your RV accessories “just lyin’ around” at different campgrounds.
*You consider your Flying J card to be a campground membership.
*Your vent fan would be used in the windows of most homes.
*When entering a new city, you have to move your home every 72 hours to avoid being rousted by the police.
* Your awning would normally be used to catch paint splatters.
*You consider campgrounds with grass to be “weird.”
* As a fulltimer, you buy a 20 foot travel trailer because you outgrew the old one.
* The vehicle you tow your travel trailer with is classified as “economy.”
*Your anti-sway system uses bungee cords.
*Your motorhome infests the campground with ants.
* You call two parallel lines drawn anywhere on pavement a “pull through site.”
* Your generator drowns out the sound of planes taking off.
*Your radio drowns out the sound of the generator.
*Your incessant shouting drowns out the radio.
*The RV parked next door is a cool place to tie your clothes line to.
* They pass an unsafe vehicle law in your honor.
*Truckers know about you, and pull off the road a minute before you pass.
*Your home would be condemned, if only they could catch 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.

In less than 24 hours we have had over 80 entries in our latest Free Drawing. I am excited about this week’s prize, an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. 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 – It’s nice to get married and finally know who the number one suspect in your murder case will be.

Mar 192020
 

I stole the title to today’s blog from my favorite singer of all time, Jimmy Buffett (who is followed closely by Billy Joel). If you haven’t heard the song, here is a YouTube link to it. I think it’s a message we all need right now.

My email and newsfeeds and Facebook are all blowing up with all kinds of stories, lies, and downright nonsense about the coronavirus. A lot of RVers are complaining because state parks are closing  their campgrounds and they won’t have a place to go camping. If you’re a weekend warrior, just relax. This will blow over and you’ll be able to go out and camp again. If you’re a fulltimer who lives in your RV, find a commercial campground and hunker down until things stabilize. This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just an inconvenience and we’re all in it together.

I talked to a couple of friends who work in grocery stores and they both have told me that it’s crazy; people fighting over toilet paper and hand sanitizer, cussing out the employees because shelves are empty, and generally making fools of themselves.

A lot of people keep saying we don’t have anything to worry about because more people die from the flu every year. Maybe so, but comments like that remind me of an uncle of mine, a World War II vet, who always said he was in a “real war” and that Vietnam was nothing like that. Maybe not, but they were firing real bullets, and if you got hit, it still hurt like hell.

We shouldn’t take coronavirus lightly, but at the same time, it’s not going to kill anybody to stay home and away from crowds, to miss a meal in a restaurant, or not to go to your favorite bar. Here’s an idea, stay home and read a book!

Speaking of books, yesterday was an 8,000 word day for me on my new John Lee Quarrels mystery. That brings me to just about the halfway point. A lot of my time today will be spent reading through and making the corrections to what I did yesterday.

And also speaking of books, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. I am excited about this week’s prize, an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When I say “the other day” I could be referring to anything from yesterday to 15 years ago.

March Q&A

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 172020
 

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. When can we expect the next book from you, Nick?
A. I try to never give a release date because every time I do, something comes up to throw me off schedule. I am currently working on my next John Lee Quarrels book, The Road To Wrinkle Ranch, and it is moving along very well. I try to release a minimum of four books a year, and this will be my second one in 2020.

Q. We are RV snowbirds currently in Yuma for the winter. We usually leave here at the end of April and make our way back up north to see the kids, staying mostly in state parks along the way with occasional nights at a Walmart or other RV friendly business. But with so many state parks shutting down right now, we are concerned. Do you know of any place in Arizona with moderate Spring weather where we might be able to hang out for a few weeks until things settle down? We don’t do heat well, so Yuma, Phoenix, or Tucson are out of the question.
A. I would recommend the Verde Valley. There are several nice RV parks in Camp Verde and Cottonwood, as well as BLM land where you can dry camp just outside the Verde Valley Thousand Trails campground. Another option might be Benson. It has some nice RV parks and is always somewhat cooler than Tucson, which is less than an hour away.

Q. A few days ago you said that you had an appointment coming to schedule your nerve ablations. With so many things being canceled or closed, will that interfere with the procedure?
A. I have a consult with the doctor who will be doing the ablations scheduled for next week on the 25th. As of now, that is still on and I hope there will not be any delays.

Q. I am a new reader who saw mention of your burglary a few years ago. Your blog post about it did not say if they caught the guy who did it. Do you know?
A. After I slammed the RV door on his hand several times to get the gun away from him, he ran away. But the police put out an alert to be on the lookout for anyone with unusual hand injuries and he was arrested a few days later when he turned up at a hospital 70 miles away with seven broken bones in his hand and wrist. He was already a parole violator who had pulled several violent home invasions and burglaries while he was on the run, as well as Federal charges. So many that they did not even charge him with our burglary. The cops said he was going away for so long that my grandkids would be senior citizens if and when he ever got out. Of course, given the way our legal system works, he is probably on the street by now.

Q. How come we have not seen any of Miss Terry’s beautiful weaving creations lately? Please don’t tell me she’s quit. She was my inspiration to buy a loom.
A. Between medical appointments, scheduling her implant and recovering from the procedure, and then our month-long trip to Arizona, she has not had the time for weaving. But she is very eager to get back to it. She has several projects planned once she does.

Q. Even though you and Miss Terry hung up the keys, I still come to you for guidance like I have ever since we sat in on all of your seminars at Life on Wheels. For the last six years we have been fulltiming in a Montana fifth wheel, which we love, but we think it’s time to make the switch to a Class A motorhome. I am leaning heavily toward a diesel pusher, while my wife likes the idea of spending less money to purchase and maintain a gas powered motorhome. I know you have had both, Nick. Which would be your choice?
A. The old number I used to hear was 10,000 miles a year as a break even point. If you travel over 10,000 miles a year, you are supposed to be better off in a diesel rig. I’m not sure if that still applies, but for my money, a diesel beats a gas RV hands down in terms of ride comfort, power, towing capacity, and cargo carrying capacity. That would be my choice.

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 – You know you’re getting old when “friends with benefits” means knowing someone who can drive at night.

Mar 162020
 

“Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.” My generation heard that warning over and over while we were growing up from a lovable bear character named Smokey. And we all knew the story of the little bear cub who was found orphaned in a forest, clinging to a burned tree. But did you know that’s a true story?

In early May, 1950, a careless smoker started a blaze that merged with another wildfire in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest and grew into an inferno that destroyed 17,000 acres of forest and grasslands, along with a number of private residences.

On May 9, firefighters rescued a bear cub that was burned and orphaned by the fire. His injuries were tended to and a game warden provided the cub with a temporary home. That little bear cub became the mascot and spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, and entire public service advertising campaigns were built around Smokey Bear.

He was taken to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., and over the years millions of fans visited their favorite bear. Largely due to Smokey’s story, New Mexico adopted the black bear as the official state animal in 1962.

After Smokey died at the zoo in 1976, his body was returned to the Capitan Mountains where he was born. Today, visitors to the Smokey Bear Historical Park in the small town of Capitan can see exhibits about the environment and learn about forest fire prevention. A small theater shows a short film maintaining healthy forests.

Then a short walk through the grounds will take them to a large stone with a metal tablet attached to it that marks Smokey Bear’s final resting place.

The next time you find yourself touring New Mexico, make it a point to stop in Capitan and visit Smokey Bear Historical Park. Located on the north side of Highway U.S. 380 in Capitan, the park is open daily from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children aged 7-12, and children 6 and under are free!

Congratulations Ali Workentin, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of my pal Donna McNicol’s Not a Whisper, the first book in her Klondike mystery series about a small Pennsylvania town with some big secrets. We had 97 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I hate it when a couple argues in public but I missed the beginning and don’t know whose side I’m on.