Chapel Of Ease

 Posted by at 12:33 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 242021
 

On a two-lane road on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina, we came across the ruins of a historic church that looked like it could be the setting for one of Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre stories. A bit of research revealed that the old church has an interesting history.

The St. Helena Parish Chapel of Ease was built about 1740 to serve as a secondary place of worship for the plantation owners who lived too far away from the parish church in Beaufort to attend services there.

The church was made of a material called tabby, a form of concrete made from lime, sand, and oyster shells, which were found in abundance on the island. When it solidifies, tabby is very strong and will last for centuries. Locals called it the White Church because the combination of oyster shells and lime made it appear to glow in the right light.

Spanish explorer Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón was the first European to explore St. Helena Island, around 1520. Port Royal became the trade center of the area, and at one time was the capital of the entire Spanish colony of Florida. Over the years the 64 square mile island was ruled by Spain, France, and England as the different empires struggled for control of the New World. The island was the perfect setting to grow rice, indigo, cotton, and spices, and soon plantations were built. The workforce of these plantations was slaves brought from Africa, as well as local Indians and indentured servants from Europe. This mix of cultures, isolated from the mainland, produced what became the Gullah culture.

As the island’s population grew, the little chapel was designated a parish church. Life on Saint Helena Island changed dramatically when the Civil War began. The Battle of Port Royal in November, 1861 brought the area under Union control and most of the plantation owners fled.

The newly freed slaves did not have the education or skills needed to survive in their new situation and one of the first orders of business was to establish schools to help them progress. For a time the White Church was used as a place of worship by Union troops, as well as a school for the former slaves. Later the nearby Penn School was established and the heads of households were given grants of land, which allowed the freedmen to flourish with their new independence.

In 1886, a forest fire burned the old church and it was abandoned and never repaired. Today the walls still stand, a tribute to the old tabby construction and the craftsmen who built it. Wandering the grounds is a somewhat eerie experience. The live oak trees with their heavy curtains of Spanish moss that shelter the grounds seem to give it a gloomy feeling even on a bright sunny day.

In the small cemetery next to the church the remains of the Egyptian Revival-style mausoleum of Edgar and Eliza Fripp still stands. Fripp, who owned the Seaside Plantation, was a wealthy member of the community and active in the Saint Helena Agricultural Society and the Southern Rights Association of Saint Helena Parish. Built in 1852, Fripp wanted the grand mausoleum to be a testament to his social standing and financial status.

When Union soldiers occupied the island they heard rumors that when Fripp died in 1860 he had a large sum of gold and jewels interred in the mausoleum with him, apparently believing that you can take it with you. The mausoleum was broken into, but no secret treasure was discovered.

It’s no surprise that a place like this will have at least one ghost story associated with it. One such tale says that after the door of the Fripp mausoleum was torn off by treasure seekers, the Union commander of the area ordered the entrance to be sealed with bricks. The story goes on to say that once a skilled mason finished the job, somebody returned the next day to find the vault open again and the bricks neatly stacked inside the church. Even today the opening is still only half sealed by bricks.

There have also been many reports of people hearing whispered prayers and singing coming from the inside of the old chapel, but when anyone is brave enough to investigate further and look inside, the ruins are empty. Yet another ghost story about the old chapel claims that the figure of a woman shrouded in white has been seen walking among the tombstones with a baby in her arms. Are any of them true? Who can say? As one story I read about the old church says, with such a mixed heritage and bloodline over five centuries of history, it’s surprising that the ghosts don’t outnumber the living in the thick air of the South Carolina sea islands.

The ruins of the old church can be found on State Route S 7-45, just southeast of its junction with State Route 7-37, on the road to the equally gloomy ruins of Fort Fremont a couple of miles away. There is room to park a passenger size vehicle at the ruins, but  a large RV would find it difficult.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Ghost of Halloween Past, Book 5 in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast that is haunted by the ghost of a former owner.  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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – War does not determine who is right, only who is left.

Weekend Potpourri

 Posted by at 12:44 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 232021
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

***

Even though we have been off the road for five years now, I still hear from a lot of RVers and wannabe RVers asking questions about the lifestyle, types of RVs, and such. And occasionally, I hear from someone interested in a particular RV they have found for sale who wants my opinion on it. I always tell them that it’s impossible to evaluate a recreational vehicle long distance, and occasionally someone asks me to go look at one for them. These RVs have been anywhere from 50 to 500 or more miles away, and they can’t seem to understand why that would be an imposition. Just this week, someone asked if it was possible for me to drive to a dealer’s lot near Tallahassee, Florida to check out a motorhome he saw advertised online. From my house to the RV’s location is 285 miles. I’m not sure I would go that far to look at an RV for a friend, let alone someone who I’ve never spoken to who just contacts me out of the blue. Sorry, I just don’t have that much time on my hands.

***

I also heard from someone last week who needs their fifth wheel transported from Elkhart, Indiana to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area, asking me if I knew anybody with a truck and 5th wheel receiver who would be willing to haul it down for them. He said he would pay all expenses down and half the expenses going home because he figured it wouldn’t take as much fuel on the return trip since it wouldn’t be pulling the trailer. Sure, I know a dozen people who will jump right on that.

***

After reading about the tragedy on a movie set in New Mexico, in which actor Alec Baldwin killed one member of the crew and wondered another with a prop gun that apparently was loaded with a live round of ammunition, someone remarked to me that it reminded them of my book Big Lake Shootout, released in August of this year, and asked if I was now predicting future events in my books. This is actually the second time something like that has happened. The original Big Lake book is the story of an armored car robbery after they picked up cash from the Hon-Dah Casino in Arizona’s White Mountains. About a year after I released that book, someone did try to rob the armored car when it made its pick-up at the Hon-Dah Casino. The robber sprayed the guard with pepper spray and tried to take a money bag, but unlike in my book, she pulled her weapon and killed him. Keep buying my books, folks. One of these days I might post some winning lottery numbers. You never know. 😊

***

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs and things we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. It turns out there really is a rock bottom.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. Just in time for Halloween, this week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost of Halloween Past, Book 5 in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast that is haunted by the ghost of a former owner.  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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – To this day, the guy who bullied me at school still takes my lunch money. But he makes really good sandwiches at Subway.

Catching Up

 Posted by at 12:55 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 222021
 

There has been a lot going on this week, so I thought I would bring you up to date on what’s been happening in our little corner of the world.

The first thing, and it was disappointing news, is that Volusia County will not allow us to build the carport that we wanted to on the front of our place. According to the survey we had done, we have 35% of our lot covered with structure, which is the limit they will allow. I was told I could apply for a variance, which would cost a lot of money, and it would take a lot of time before I would get a hearing, and they still would not grant it. Well, darn it anyway. ☹

I have been working on my new Big Lake book, and I’m close to 25% of the way through it. I need to get my butt in gear because I had hoped to have more progress made by now. I guess I’ve just spent too much time goofing off.

I’m one of those people who absolutely hates being late for anything. If I have an appointment, I always try to arrive earlier than scheduled. That way, if I run into traffic or some other problem on the way, I still have a little buffer to hopefully get there. But I really screwed up on Wednesday.

I had an appointment at the VA medical clinic in Daytona Beach and was supposed to be there at 12:30 to check in and see the nurse in time for my 1 o’clock appointment with the doctor. We got up early to give us plenty of time, but then somehow Terry and I had a simultaneous brain fart and both thought we didn’t need to leave the house until 12:30. And that’s what we did.

Something just didn’t seem right to me and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then it hit me. We should have already been there! I called the clinic and apologized and told them what I had done and asked if I needed to reschedule. The man on the phone told me that I should go ahead and come in, and the doctor would fit me in one way or another.

It was about 1:15 when we arrived, and a nurse immediately took me in and checked all my vitals, then gave me a pneumonia shot and took me back to see the doctor. As it turns out, the person who was scheduled for an appointment after me had arrived much earlier, so they just switched our positions.

As happens so often with the VA, the doctor I have seen for the last couple of years is no longer there and I had a new one. But she was very thorough, and Terry and I both really liked her. All my lab results from the week earlier were in and she was surprised that a fat old guy like me had such good numbers. My cholesterol, A1C, liver enzymes, and all that stuff are well within the normal range.

One thing that did surprise me was that while listening to me breathe with her stethoscope, she detected a heart murmur. Back when I was about 12 or 13 years old, a doctor diagnosed me with a heart murmur and they ran a bunch of tests and told me that I would never be able to join the Army because of it. That really disappointed me, and when it came time to enlist I tried anyway, even though I thought they would reject me when I told them about the diagnosis. But three different Army doctors checked me out and said they could not detect it, and pretty soon I was raising my right hand and taking my oath.

I have had umpteen physicals since then and nobody has ever mentioned a heart murmur. I have had two mild heart attacks in the past, one in 1986 and another around 2010, but even then, nobody said anything about a heart murmur. Now I have a referral to a cardiologist, whom I will be seeing soon.

You know what, it’s amazing. A couple of weeks ago they did an MRI of my head and found out I have a brain, and now it turns out I have a heart, too. Who knew?

I did have a chuckle while I was at the VA when a person ahead of me was trying to check-in for an appointment that was scheduled for the previous Friday. The young woman behind the desk said, “Mr. Johnson (or whatever his name was), your appointment was for last week, and you never called to cancel or reschedule. I’m sorry, but we don’t have any openings, and the next time we can get you it will be in December.” He immediately corrected her and said, “It’s Colonel Johnson, not Mister. I’m sure you can get me in before that. After all, I’m here.” Yeah, he had that kind of attitude. The young lady apologized again and said that there was nothing she could do. There just were no openings for whatever it was he needed. That’s when he told her, “There’s always something you can do. When I was a Colonel, people learned to accommodate my schedule.” I loved it and almost laughed out loud  when the young lady said, “Yes, Mr. Johnson, but you’re not a Colonel anymore.”

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.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. Just in time for Halloween, this week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost of Halloween Past, Book 5 in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast that is haunted by the ghost of a former owner.  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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Some people just suck the nice right out of you.

The Hitchhiker

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 212021
 

In yesterday’s blog, titled Walter, I told you about picking up an elderly gentleman I found walking along a highway on a snowy winter night back during my Army days. I said then that I used to pick up hitchhikers all the time, especially those in the military, and several of you left very nice comments for me about that. After reading today’s blog, you may want to take some of those back, because I’m going to tell you about picking up another hitchhiker and how it didn’t turn out quite as planned.

This was on another one of my quick weekend trips from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, back to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Actually, it was a three-day weekend, Memorial Day, as I recall. I worked all day, got off duty, changed into civies and jumped in my car, and headed home. I had just gotten onto Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania and was heading west when I saw a young African American sailor with his thumb out. I pulled over and asked him where he was going and he said Cleveland. I told him he was in luck because I was going to Toledo and would be passing right through Cleveland.

He was a nice guy, and as we traveled through the night he told me that his ship had pulled into New York for a short stay after being on a European cruise for the last eight months and that he had not been home in over a year. He also told me that his wife had given birth to their first child, a little girl, less than two months after he left. He said the Chief Petty Officer he worked for was hard to get along with and had only given him the three-day weekend, but come hell or high water, he was going to go home to see that baby! He knew he wouldn’t have much time with her but was looking forward to each precious moment.

We talked about what it was like being a soldier and a sailor and our plans for the future, just the normal things military men talk about. We were about 50 miles from the Ohio state line when I noticed that he kept yawning and I asked if he was tired. He apologized and told me that he had worked a 12-hour shift before leaving the ship, which was part of the deal with his CPO to get the time off. I told him to climb in the back seat and take a nap, and he said he didn’t want to do that because after I was kind enough to give him a ride, the least he could do was keep me company. I told him to get some sleep now because that would be more time he could be awake with his family when he got home.

So he did, and I continued driving along, listening to the radio on a route I had taken so many times I could almost do it in my sleep. Eventually, I came to Cleveland and wondered why that stuck in my head, and then remembered that I was only 120 miles from home. And I kept right on driving, forgetting all about my sleeping passenger!

I got to my parents’ house and, of course, they had waited up for me even though I told them not to, and Mom insisted on fixing me something to eat. We talked for a while and then I started getting tired and we decided we should all go to bed. I stood up and started for the door to go out to my car to get my AWOL bag, a canvas bag that I kept my shaving gear and toiletries in, but Dad told me he would go get it for me. He was back in just a couple of minutes and asked me who the sailor was sleeping in the back seat of my car. Oops!

I went downstairs and woke the poor kid up and he asked if we were in Cleveland already. It broke my heart to tell him that I had passed through Cleveland three hours earlier, and he still wasn’t home. By then I was almost dead on my feet, but there was no way I was not going to take him home. My dad insisted that he would do the driving, and that’s what we did. We took him right to his family’s front door, me apologizing most of the way. But he was a good sport about it and kept telling me that he had probably still made better time than if he had wound up with several shorter rides or been stuck out on the highway all night. However much time he had left with his wife and little girl, I hope he made the most of it.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. And just in time for Halloween, this week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost of Halloween Past, Book 5 in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast that is haunted by the ghost of a former owner.  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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If I make one more bad decision, I believe I’ll own the whole set.

Walter

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 202021
 

In a blog post titled Speeding last week I wrote that when I was stationed at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York during my Army days, my parents lived in Toledo, Ohio, and at least once a month during our slow time when we were not training cadets, I would jump in my car on Friday afternoon, drive 575 miles to Toledo, hang out all weekend, then drive back Sunday night, arriving in time to go on duty Monday morning. That brought back a couple of memories, and I thought I would share one with you today.

When I was a teenager and young adult, back in the 1960s and 70s, hitchhiking was commonplace and nobody gave it much thought. If you wanted to get across town or across the country, all you had to do was stick out your thumb, and sooner or later somebody would come along and give you a ride. I actually hitchhiked from West Point to Toledo and back a couple of times myself before I bought a car. And I always gave hitchhikers a ride, especially those in uniform.

One snowy winter night I was heading east across Pennsylvania, back to the base, when my headlights picked up the shape of somebody walking along the shoulder of Interstate 80. He wasn’t hitchhiking, but as I passed I slowed down because it was a long ways from anywhere and it was cold out there. I asked the elderly African American gentleman if he wanted a ride, and he said he didn’t want to trouble me, but he sure would appreciate it if I didn’t mind. I told him to get in, and he introduced himself as Walter. I asked him where he was going, and he said to New York City, which was at least 300 miles away.

Walter was shivering, so I turned the heat up high and asked him why he was out on the highway in such bad weather. He told me that his son had put him in a nursing home in Cleveland, and he hated it there and they didn’t treat him right, so he ran away. He told me he was going to his daughter’s house in New York because he knew that she would take care of him. I asked why he didn’t go to his son’s house, and he said his daughter-in-law didn’t much care for him, and he didn’t like her much either.

This was before the days of cell phones and I probably should have found someplace to stop and call the authorities, but I felt sorry for Walter as he told me about how his wife and he had been married for over 60 years before she died, and how lonely he was in that nursing home where nobody ever came to visit him. I told him New York City was a big place and asked if he knew where his daughter lived there, and he pulled out an envelope with her address on it. Then he offered to share an apple with me, the only thing he had to eat.

Normally I would get off the interstate at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and take US Highway 209 north through the Delaware Water Gap and into New York, which put me a short distance from West Point. It was longer to go all the way to New York City and then another 50 miles or so to West Point, but I sure couldn’t leave Walter out there on that highway all by himself. And he made it plain he’d rather die than go back to that nursing home, so we went to the Big Apple.

By the time we got to New York I had become quite fond of the old gentleman as he told me stories about growing up in Mississippi during the bad days as he called them, and how as a young man he and his new bride had come north, where he got a job working at a factory in Cleveland. Walter said he had tried to join the Army during World War II, but by then he was in his 40s and had a family so they turned him down. He had lost a son in Korea, and another baby had died when it was tiny, but he had a son and daughter who were doing good for themselves, even if the son had stuck him in that darned old nursing home and never came by to visit.

It was the wee hours of the morning when we found his daughter’s home, and Walter was sleeping in the passenger seat of my Mustang. I rang the bell, not sure how those folks would react to a strange young white man knocking on their door while the rest of the world was asleep. But when I told them who I was and who I had with me, they were overjoyed. Apparently, Walter had been missing for two days and they were frantic. We got him inside and then I had to leave because if I didn’t, I was going to be late for formation that morning. But they took my name and address, and his daughter promised me that Walter would not be going back to any nursing home.

A few weeks later, I was in the barracks doing some paperwork when one of my men came in and said, “Sarge, there’s somebody here to see you,” and it was Walter, along with his daughter and son-in-law and three grandchildren. They thanked me for taking care of him and insisted on taking me to dinner. We had a nice visit, and a couple of times after that, I would go down to New York City and stop and pay my respects to Walter and his family. A year or so later I got a letter from his daughter telling me that Walter had passed away in his sleep, surrounded by family instead of strangers in some darned nursing home. Rest in peace, my friend.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about another encounter with a hitchhiker that didn’t turn out as planned.

Thought For The Day – Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle. ― Benjamin Franklin

Oct 192021
 

Yesterday was a researching and writing day for me. I got a couple of e-mails back from the Toledo History Museum and the Toledo Police Museum with some links and information about some things I needed for my next Tinder Street book. This means I can probably start working on it once I finish my current work in progress without having to take a trip up there. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend following up on what they sent me, but what I did see of it seems very helpful.

After that, I started writing, and by the end of the day, I had managed to knock out a little over 6,000 words in my new Big Lake book. Then I had to stop for a while to do some more research on the chain of command in the US Forest Service. Being a government agency, they do love bureaucracy and have a lot of it.

After dinner, Terry and I watched the evening news, and then we watched the last three episodes of the new and final season of Shameless on Netflix. We have been binge-watching it for the last few days since learning that it was available. There were eleven seasons of the show about a dysfunctional family living on Chicago’s south side, and it is both funny and raunchy. I told Terry that I think part of what I liked about the show is that some of the characters remind me of the people I knew when I lived in the Old South End in Toledo when I was going to high school. Of course, the TV show’s characters were greatly exaggerated for the most part, but I swear some of the things they did on that program and some of the things they said took me back to the old neighborhood.

We finished off the last two pieces of the delicious New York cheesecake that Terry made me for my birthday while we were watching TV. It was as delicious as the very first bite after she made it. And no, we didn’t binge-eat it all by ourselves, some was shared with others. Not because I wanted to share, but because terry said I had to.

After months of very hot, very humid weather, it was absolutely beautiful here on Florida’s Central Coast yesterday. The high was somewhere around 78o, with low humidity and a nice breeze blowing all day long. The next couple of days are also going to be nice before it starts creeping up into the high 80s again mid-week. But it is a precursor to the better days ahead.

After reading yesterday’s blog repost from five years ago announcing that we had bought our home here, three different readers asked me if we have any regrets from getting off the road or about the place where we chose to be. As far as hanging up the keys, we have no regrets at all. As I said in that blog, we always told each other that when it stopped being fun, we would do something different, and we did. As for regrets about where we chose to live, I will admit that the politics here in Florida are not to our liking. County and local authorities seem to make up their own rules about a lot of things as they go along. And we wish the weather was a little more moderate during the summers. But every place has its own drawbacks as well as its own positive things, and on balance, this was a good choice for us back then, and it still is.

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. When we saw this in Titusville the other day, I told Terry I definitely needed a picture for the blog. So if you need a quickie (funnel cake) you know where to go!

Thought For The Day – You know you’re getting old when you try to catch your second wind, but break it instead.

I Have Found Me A Home

 Posted by at 12:28 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 182021
 

Note: This is a blog from five years ago today when we announced a major change in our lifestyle. At that time we thought we would continue to travel in our motorhome part of the year, but as it turned out that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, among them problems with the RV after being in storage for over a year, and discovering that we enjoyed traveling in Terry’s Pacifica as much as we did RVing, and it was easier for us to get off on the little-traveled backroads the RV was just too big to explore in.

The title of this blog is also the title of my favorite Jimmy Buffett song, which he wrote after his first visit to Key West, Florida. If you have never listened to it before, check it out at this YouTube link. Miss Terry and I can relate to that song today.



As most of you know, for the last year or two we have been looking for a place to serve as our winter base and someday retirement home. We had certain criteria that we were not willing to compromise on. One was that if we found a place, it had to be no more than 30 minutes from the beach. Both of us find a lot of peace whenever we are on a beach. And it had to be a beach big enough that we could fly our Revolution kites. We also wanted to be in a fairly small town, but with access to a city with good medical services if we should ever need them.

We weren’t in a big hurry, we knew we wanted to be somewhere here in Florida, and we both felt like we would know it when we saw it.

But to be honest, my medical issues last year put a real scare into me. Not for myself, I know I’m not going to live forever, none of us are. But I really wanted Miss Terry to have a place if something were to ever happen to me.

So when we were in Florida last winter we spent a lot of time looking on both coasts.



We looked all over the state, and zeroed in on the area between New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine, on the Atlantic coast. It’s about 60 miles to Orlando, but the pace is a lot slower over here. And there are some great beaches, including miles of unspoiled beach on the Canaveral National Seashore, one of our favorite places. This is where we found our home.

beach-view-saturday

When we were here last May we found a manufactured home community called Terra Mar Village, which is in Edgewater, about 10 miles south of New Smyrna Beach. It is located on the Intercoastal Waterway and about a mile or two as the crow flies, directly across the water, is the Canaveral National Seashore. Terra Mar has two swimming pools, a clubhouse, a 300 foot fishing dock, and a private boat launch. We have stood on the dock and watched manatee and dolphins playing in the water. There is also a fenced in RV/boat storage area.

terra-mar-sign

dock

One of the places we looked at here was about 1600 square feet, which was larger than we wanted, and our first impression was that it was too much home for our needs. It started life as a manufactured home, and then additions were put on both sides, as well as an 1100 square foot attached garage. The garage alone is nearly four times as large as our Winnebago motorhome!

house-10-10-2

tree-and-garage

We looked at it, went back and looked a second time, and then a third time, and yesterday afternoon we closed on it. So after 17 and a half years of fulltime RVing, we are now homeowners once again. We’re both very excited by it.

The house has a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, another room that is somewhere around 300 square feet that will be Miss Terry’s loom room, a room that will be an office for me, a laundry room, and a small utility room. We keep joking that we will probably get lost and have to yell “Marco” and “Polo” to find each other.

Are we done with RVing and hanging up the keys? No way! As it is, we have been spending anywhere from four to five months every year in Florida, packing up the motorhome and moving from one Thousand Trails park to another every two or three weeks. Now we can stay put and spread out. I can get a lot of writing done, Terry can weave to her heart’s content, not to mention fishing and kite flying. And then we will take off again for new RV adventures.

While we have loved fulltiming, have had some wonderful adventures, and met and made friends with many fantastic people, we are tired. While we enjoy being at Point A and Point B and Point C, we don’t enjoy the travel very much between those places anymore. Mainly because then we had to move on to Point D, and Point E, and you get the picture. It just wasn’t that much fun anymore. And we both always said when fulltiming stopped being fun, we would do something different. Now we will travel a few months a year, return to our home for a while, and then take off and do it again when hitch-itch sets in. Frankly, we are looking forward to it.

Congratulations Kimmy McLemore, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heartstrings. We had 30 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do.

Sunday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 172021
 

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 soon to be fulltimers and plan to use a mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs, Florida, as our “address” for registering our RV and tow car. But someone in a campground told us using Arizona or Florida was a bad idea because police profile cars and RVs from both states because so many drugs are smuggled from them, and we can expect to get stopped and searched a lot. Is there any truth to this?

A. Nonsense. There are many thousands of RVs registered in both states and millions of cars. At different times while we were fulltiming, we ourselves were registered in both Florida and Arizona. We were never stopped or profiled, and I have never heard of it happening to anyone.

Q. Not fair showing us the cheesecake Terry made for you while it was still in the springform pan. Can I see it naked and know how it tasted?

A. You win, here it is, ready to be served. One bite of it with the crushed strawberry sauce Terry made to drizzle over it and some homemade whipped cream had me convinced I had died and gone to heaven. Yes, it was that good.

Q. I know you have links on your blog to Amazon for your books, and sometimes you have a link to a product you bought from Amazon. I assume you make a commission from any sales from those links. What if I just buy something from Amazon? Can you get any commission from that? I like to help out when I can since I am buying from them anyway.

A. Yes, we are an Amazon Affiliate, and if you click the Shop Amazon link in the upper right sidebar of this blog, we do make a small commission on anything you purchase. But only if you go to Amazon from our link.

Q. We want to spend a couple of months in Florida, preferably near the beach, this winter. But every RV park we have contacted is already full. I thought with Covid slowing things down, it wouldn’t be a problem. Is this normal? Any suggestions?

A. Yes, it is normal. Many RVers who winter in Florida make reservations a year or more in advance. Things may have been slower last winter due to Covid, but more and more people are vaccinated and on the move. And with the border opening to Canadians, we will see more snowbirds from there coming south this winter. You might try one of the many RV parks inland, but I suspect that if the current trend continues, you had better do it soon.

Q. Somebody told us about a thing where you could put your RV on a barge and travel down the Mississippi River, but I can’t find out anything about it. Have you ever heard of that, Nick?

A. Years ago, there were RV caravans that made the trips you are referring to, but I have not heard of any in the last fifteen years or so. I believe they were halted due to insurance issues. You might contact the Escapees RV Club or Adventure Caravans to see if they know of any RV barge cruises still being offered.

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. Personally, I think this is an infringement on my rights. If I choose to breathe underwater, what right does anyone have to tell me I can’t?

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heartstrings. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – they said it was safe to go to the grocery store in a mask and gloves. They lied. Everybody else had clothes on.

A Mellow Birthday

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 162021
 

Thank you to everybody who sent me e-mails, text messages, and left comments on Facebook wishing me a happy birthday. There were way too many for me to possibly answer individually, but please know that I read each one and cherish them, and I cherish all of you. Now, if someone could just tell me how the hell I made it to 69 when I was just 19 last week and where all the other years went in the meantime, I would appreciate it.

It was a very mellow, laid-back birthday, which is just the way I like it. After snuggling in bed with Terry for a while after we woke up, we had a light breakfast of strawberry smoothies and English muffins. Our friend Jennifer stopped in to visit for a little bit, and both of my kids called from out of state and I talked to them. Later I made some changes to the last couple of chapters of my new book after Miss Terry finished editing and proofreading them and sent them off to Roberta to proofread.

Terry asked if I wanted to go someplace for dinner, but with Biketoberfest gong on and 125,000 bikers in the area, I figured most places would be even busier than on a normal Friday night, so we stayed home and had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on Terry’s homemade rye bread. Then we watched a few episodes of the new season of Shameless on Netflix. And that was it for the day. Like I said, laid back and mellow.

We all know that Terry loves cooking and baking, and she had asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted. I decided to go non-traditional and told her that I would love the cheesecake she had been talking about making for a month now. So that’s what she did! It still had to cool down and chill last night, so that will be a treat for today. And you can bet I’m looking forward to it!

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. We really need to get the supply chain moving. Things are getting desperate again.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heartstrings. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I changed the voice on my GPS to a man’s. Now it just says, “It’s around here somewhere. Keep driving.”

Mystery Solved

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 152021
 

In yesterday’s blog, I told you that we had an unexpected deposit from Social Security into our checking account for a rather large sum of money and that we had no idea why because it wasn’t the time of the month we usually get our direct deposits.

So yesterday morning I called the Social Security office in nearby Port Orange, Florida, setting off a multi-hour frustrating ordeal on the telephone. The first time I was on hold for 25 minutes listening to a recording telling me over and over again how they were looking forward to serving me before someone finally answered and said, “Please hold” and promptly disconnected the call. I called back again, and this time it only took 20 minutes for someone to answer. When I explained why I was calling, she said, “Oh, you definitely need to get that cleared up or you will be getting penalties and interest on the overpayment.”

My first thought was that they goofed and sent me an overpayment and I’ve got to pay penalties and interest on it? I asked how I got the problem resolved and she said to hold on and she would transfer me to somebody, and then she disconnected the call!

Not one to give up easily, especially when someone was talking about charging me penalties and interest, I called back a third time and got a recording saying that the Port Orange office was unable to take telephone calls or in-person visits and to call the nationwide toll free Social Security helpline.

So I did that and spent another two hours and 51 minutes listening to yet another recording telling me how important I was to them and how they were looking forward to serving me before a real person answered the phone. But I guess it was worth all the frustration because it was good news.

The deposit was an adjustment because they never increased my monthly payment to reflect the money I have been making and paying into the system for 2019 and 2020. I had been asking my accountant why I was still paying more money into the system but never getting an increase. As it turns out, besides the adjustment made this week, my monthly Social Security deposit will increase by $124. Mystery solved and a happy ending for all. Well, at least for me.

I also told you in yesterday’s blog that I had formatted and uploaded the print edition of Ka-Bar Karma, and I had an e-mail waiting for me yesterday morning saying that it is now available on Amazon.

Add to all that the fact that our friends Jesse and Jennifer from across the street took us to dinner at Goodrich Seafood yesterday, and all in all, it was a very good day. I’d take days like that five or six times a week if I could.

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.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heartstrings. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – We all know mirrors don’t lie. I’m just grateful that they don’t laugh.

Oct 142021
 

We woke up to a surprise yesterday morning, an unexpected deposit from Social Security into our checking account for a rather large sum of money. I usually get my Social Security direct deposited on the third Wednesday of the month, and Terry’s comes in on the fourth. Yesterday was only the second Wednesday of the month, and the deposit was for more than both of us receive combined.

I logged onto the Social Security website and didn’t see any record of a transaction for the direct deposit and was not able to figure out why we received it. It’s nice to think that maybe Uncle Sam just decided that we were really good people and deserved a sudden windfall like that, but I don’t think so. I’ll make some calls today and see if I can figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime, we have no plans to go out and splurge on anything because I’m pretty sure they’re going to want it back sooner or later. In cases like this, possession is not 9/10ths of the law.

Sometimes uploading a book to Amazon, either in e-book or print format, is quick and easy, and other times you have to jump through a never-ending series of hoops. That’s how it was trying to get the print version of Ka-Bar Karma uploaded. Everything would go along fine, and it would tell me that the manuscript and the cover were uploaded, and I just had to wait for a preview to be generated. But then everything would come to a screeching halt, and the little timer on the screen would just sit and spin and spin and spin, and nothing would ever happen. If I canceled the preview, it would show I needed to upload the manuscript and cover again, even though it said I had already done so. After about the fourth or fifth attempt, I gave up and walked away from it for an hour or two, and when I came back, I repeated the process once more and it finally loaded and gave me the preview. Hopefully the printed version of the book will be available sometime today.

Meanwhile, today I will be back working on my next book, Big Lake Ranger, and Terry has a couple of chapters I wrote the other day to proof. Hey, it keeps us busy and out of the bingo halls.

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. Yes, I would definitely take that personally.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Driving Lesson by my friend Ben Rehder. While Ben writes some excellent, mysteries, including the wildly popular Blanco County series, this tale of a boy and his grandfather on an unplanned road trip across the country is a coming of age story that will tug at your heartstrings. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – They say it’s better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable. How about a compromise like moderately rich and a bit moody?

Speeding

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 132021
 

We know it’s wrong, but we’ve all done it at one time or another. Most of us probably do it fairly often to some extent. Pushed that gas pedal a little too hard and broken the speed limit. Maybe out on the open highway in the middle of nowhere, and hopefully not in a school zone. I know I’ve been guilty of exceeding the speed limit more than once in my life, but never in a school zone or hopefully anywhere else where there are people around I might endanger. So when somebody sent me this picture the other day, I had to laugh. I bet there’s not a cop in the country who hasn’t heard that excuse at least once.

I have known three different cops who have told me about getting that excuse from drivers. All three of them gave the people they pulled over the benefit of the doubt and let them go with a warning to drive carefully to wherever they needed to go to do what they needed to do. However, one officer I knew followed at a distance in his unmarked car and saw the driver honk at a friend and pull up next to them in a parking lot and sit there and talk for about ten minutes. He waited until she pulled back on the road and pushed it over the speed limit again before pulling her over a second time. He gave her a speeding ticket, another one for not wearing her seat belt, and then he noticed her window tint was too dark, and she got a ticket for that, too! Would you call that a poop oops?

Back in my Army days, I was stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York for a couple of years. At the time, my parents lived in Toledo, Ohio, where I had a girlfriend, and at least once a month during our slow time when we were not training cadets, I would jump in my car on Friday afternoon, drive 575 miles to Toledo, hang out and party all weekend, then drive back Sunday night, arriving in time to go on duty Monday morning. Oh, to be young, dumb, and full of energy like that now!

It was almost exactly 300 miles from where I got on Interstate 80 in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania west to the Ohio state line, and I got to the point where I could drive it in my sleep. I don’t doubt that after some of those long, wild weekends, I was more asleep than awake driving back to the base. That’s where the dumb part of being young comes in.

I would always hang my dress uniform in the rear driver’s side window of my car, knowing that in those days, many police officers would give a GI a break if they were speeding. As I recall, the speed limit may have been 80 mph back then, and yes, more times than not, I was going faster than that. Once, I topped a hill and saw a highway patrolman waiting at the bottom with his radar gun, and he turned his overhead lights on before I even got to him. I pulled onto the shoulder of the road behind his cruiser, and he walked back and asked for my license and registration and went back to his car to run my information. Walking back to my driver’s window, he asked how long I had been back stateside, and I told him a few months. He handed me my information and said, “You made it home in one piece, so don’t get killed on my highway, okay, Sarge? Slow it down.”

I thanked him for the verbal warning and went on my way, keeping right at the speed limit for the next four or five miles. There was a gas station and McDonald’s there that I always stopped at to fill my tank and my stomach, which I did that time, and then I got back on the road, trying to make up for lost time. And I’ll be darned if that same trooper hadn’t moved up the road while I was stuffing my face! I didn’t get out of a ticket that time, although he did only write me for five over the speed limit, which was much less than I was doing.

You would think that with age comes wisdom, but maybe not. During my newspaper days in the Pacific Northwest, I bought myself a classic 1967 Corvette Stingray from a dealer in fine cars in the Seattle area. Driving home to Grays Harbor, you just know I was going to open that Vette up and see what it would do. And almost in a repeat performance of my Pennsylvania episode fifteen years earlier, as I topped a hill on Interstate 5, there was a Washington state patrolman, and he lit me up.

It was like a deja vu experience, except instead of my uniform hanging on the rear window, the sale sheet and paper temporary tag were taped in the back window of the Corvette. The officer took my information and radiod in to run it, then walked around the car and asked me how long I had it. I told him about one hour. “Do you have it out of your system yet?” “Yes, sir, I think I do,” I replied. “You think you do?” “No, sir, I definitely have it out of my system,” I assured him. He smiled and shook his head and said, “Drive safely, sir,” then added, “I’ve got a Corvette, too.”

At least I learned something from my experience as a young soldier, because I kept to the speed limit the rest of the way home that time.

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. It would seem like the competition for employees is getting tense these days.

Thought For The Day – Boys will be boys. And so will middle-aged men, all too often.

Oct 122021
 

Yesterday was a writing day for me, after being away from it for several days. I started the day answering e-mails, then checking some details online for my newest Big Lake book, then I wrote about 6,000 words. That puts me at about 14,000 words since I started it on September 30th. That’s slow progress for me due to medical appointments keeping me busy, and admittedly, a certain amount of goofing off and being lazy. I’m surprised Miss Terry doesn’t get fed up and kick me to the curb.

Instead, she finished editing and proofreading the first four chapters of the new book, and after I made her corrections, I sent them off to Roberta to proofread. As if that wasn’t enough, Terry was also busy with some bookkeeping and other tasks here at the house, and then she made delicious homemade pizzas for us for dinner. I’d show you a picture of them, but they tasted so good that I was too busy eating to remember to take any.

I also got the print-formatted manuscript of Ka-Bar Karma back over the weekend, and yesterday Elizabeth Mackey sent me the print cover. So after I go to the post office to mail out some items and run a couple of errands today, I will try to get that uploaded to Amazon and ready to go for my readers who prefer a printed book over an e-book.

In other news, we are still exploring all the different options the many apps on our new Sony Bravia TV give us. Sunday night, we watched It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, and we were both very impressed with Tom Hanks’ playing the role of children’s favorite, Mr. Rogers. I guess this seems only fitting because the two men were sixth cousins

The iconic kids show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 to 2001, and everything I have ever read about Fred Rogers said he was one of the most genuine and loving human beings ever. Unlike most children’s television, the program dealt with real-world things like death, disability, sibling rivalry, problems at school, and even divorce. All things that greatly impact kids’ lives but that adults never seem to want to discuss with them.

Among other things, the movie put to rest an urban legend that has been floating around for as long as I can remember, that Fred Rogers had been a Navy SEAL and a sniper in the military. There is no truth to that, and in fact, I could not find any reference to him ever serving in the military. He was, however, an ordained minister. Fred Rogers and his wife Joanne married in 1952, had two children, and remained devoted to each other until his death from stomach cancer in 2003. The hero to generations of children of all ages was laid to rest in Unity Cemetery in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

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 – We look for someone to grow old together with, but the secret is to find someone to stay a child with!

Tale Of The Truck

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 112021
 

As I’ve shared here before, back in June I ordered a new 2022 Ram Laramie pickup. At the time, I was promised a delivery date from late July to sometime in mid-August. Of course the chip shortage and shortages of other materials put that way behind schedule, which is no fault of the dealership, and I understand that. About three weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Ram’s customer service department saying congratulations, my new truck would be arriving soon. But as of Friday morning they had still not started production.

When I ordered it, I was told that a couple of options from the 2021 model year that I wanted were not available on the 2022 models. But Friday, I found out they were supposedly available. I checked online, and according to Ram’s online customer service advisor, I could have the dealer modify the order since they had not started production yet. She said it would not change the delivery schedule, though they have no idea when that will actually be.

So I went to the dealer and asked to add those items to the order. First they said it was impossible, and then after I told them what Ram customer service had told me, they finally acknowledged that it was probably doable but was too much trouble. No problem, I just canceled the order and got my deposit back.

This may seem dumb to some people after waiting so long, but I’m at the point in my life where I can afford what I want, and I will get what I want, even if I have to wait longer for it. If they can’t or won’t accommodate me, there are lots of other dealerships that will be happy to take my money.

I talked to the dealership’s owner and sales manager again yesterday, who now want to save the deal, of course. There does seem to be some confusion between what Ram’s online customer service department is telling customers and what dealerships are getting from the manufacturer. He told me they are having a conference call with a district supervisor today, so we will see what comes out of it. But either way, when a business just says no to a customer because that is the easiest thing for them, they have lost all credibility with me and will have to work hard to earn it back.

I told Terry that we spent more on the new TV than we had expected to, but now we’re not buying a new truck right away, so we’re money ahead, right? Hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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. When my pal Jesse Bolton told me about this place in Peabody, Massachusetts, he said it’s a name you won’t forget. I think he’s right.

Congratulations Mary Baughman, 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 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 41 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Playing Catch Up

 Posted by at 1:20 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 102021
 

The last few days have been very hectic, and I’ve been trying to play catch up and not succeeding all that well. But I’ll try to bring you up to date.

We went out to dinner with friends Thursday evening at a place called Riptide’s here in Edgewater. It’s always been very popular, but to us, it seemed like the quality of the food had deteriorated since our first visit, and we stopped going a couple of years ago. But our friends had never been there and wanted to try it, so we thought we would give it another shot. Big mistake! Our server was excellent, but the food was just not good, and I don’t think anyone finished their meal. By the time we left, three of the four of us were not feeling all that great, and we were up all night with stomach distress.

Then we had to be up early Friday morning to be in Port Orange for an appointment with a new neurologist about my head pain. We were dressed and ready to leave by about 8 a.m. when the doorbell rang. It was someone from the surveying company who had told us it would be several weeks before they could do the survey we needed before we could apply for our building permit. He said ours was a pretty simple job, and he was in the area, so he wondered if he could go ahead and do it then. Sure, help yourself! We appreciate it.

The appointment with the new doctor went very well, and while he was not yet able to tell me what is causing my issues, he did rule out some things that were concerning us quite a bit. So that’s a good thing anyhow. Once the results of the MRI I had done on my brain last week are in, we will hopefully know more. But apparently it’s not anything terribly serious, just painful. I’ve lived with so much pain for so long that I’m no stranger to it.

When we were done with the neurologist, we had to go to the Daytona Beach VA Medical Center for lab work for an upcoming appointment I have there. Though I use a civilian doctor for my primary care, using Medicare, I still have to see a VA doctor twice a year to stay enrolled in the system, just in case of some kind of catastrophic incident or disease. I was in and out of there in about half an hour.

On Thursday evening, our 55-inch Samsung TV suddenly had sound but no picture. A couple of hours of online troubleshooting helped me figure out that the backlight was gone. As we all know, we live in a throwaway society, and nobody fixes things these days. It seemed like finding anybody to repair it would be about impossible and probably cost more than the TV was worth.

What a week. First Facebook was down for a day, and now no TV. I felt like I was living like I did as a kid. I didn’t like it then, either. I was going to say that’s why I grew up, but who am I kidding? So after having lunch, once I was done at the VA, it was time to go TV shopping.

There are so many choices and options in TVs these days that it will leave your head spinning. We do like watching TV in the evening, and we went in looking for something about like what we had. But instead, we walked out with a 65-inch Sony Bravia OLED 4K smart TV with the most amazing picture and sound quality I’ve ever seen on a television. It’s probably overkill, but you only live once, right? And it was on sale, so even better yet!

Back in Edgewater, we stopped at Gary’s Meat Market for a few things, then we went home and unloaded the TV from the van. Then it was back out the door to Publix for grocery shopping and to get our flu shots. It had been sprinkling and then rained real hard for a few minutes and tapered off while we were in the parking lot, so we decided to go ahead and get inside the store. We got about two feet from the van when the sky opened up and dumped on us. We were soaked by the time we got inside the store. We had about a fifteen-minute wait to get our flu shots, which were no problem at all, and then bought groceries. The rain had tapered off a little bit but started up again as we were loading everything into the van, keeping us soaked even longer. At least when we got home, we could pull directly into the garage and unload everything.

With all the groceries put away and us dried off, it was time to start setting up the TV. Or at least I thought it was. As it turned out, the two of us couldn’t get it out of the carton, attach the legs, and get it onto the stand where we keep it without help. Fortunately, my buddy Jesse Bolton from across the street is always quick to lend a hand. Even though it was after 8 p.m., he came over and spent over an hour helping us get it unpackaged and in place.

I spent an hour or so trying to get familiar with the new TV, then we relaxed a little bit, but were so worn out that we called it an early evening and went to bed as soon as I posted a repeat blog from our days as fulltime RVers.

Yesterday I was busy answering tons of emails that have been neglected, then started downloading some of the many apps for the TV. We only watch a few network shows and local news, but we like a lot of documentaries, things on the History Channel, and true crime shows. With some of the apps we now have, we have so many options for documentaries and movies and things that we may never leave the house again!

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 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 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. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Science doesn’t care what you believe.

Fog, Weed, And Rain

 Posted by at 12:21 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 092021
 

Note: Yesterday was a very long, very busy day and I am just too worn out to write, so here is a blog from our RV  travels down Interstate 5 from Oregon to California in 2015.

It was a long day on the road for us, 262 miles, from Sutherlin, Oregon to Redding, California. We’ve done more miles in a day many times, but this trip was mountain driving most of the way and that’s always more like work for me.

It was a foggy morning and as these pictures show, clouds and fog were hanging low over the mountains for much of our trip through southern Oregon on Interstate 5.

Foggy Oregon small

Foggy Oregon 2 small

Occasionally when we broke into the clear the scenery was great.

Autumn bridge small

Pastoral valley small

It probably would have been spectacular a couple of weeks ago, but a lot of the leaves have already turned on the hillsides and were now mostly brown.

Oregon scenery 2 small

Oregon scenery small

I’m not sure there was a straight, level mile of highway on our whole trip yesterday. It was all either uphill, downhill, or curvy, and usually two out of three.

Curvy I5 small

Eventually we crossed the California state line but the only thing that really changed was that the speed limit for vehicles towing anything dropped to 55 mph. Otherwise it was the same curves, the same climbs, and the same descents.

Mount Shasta was hiding her top in a thick shroud of clouds.

Mount Shasta small

We stopped in Weed for a little while, a town that always gets a chuckle when we travel through here.

Weed sign

Who knew that Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory likes Weed too?

Weed Sheldon

It started raining about the time we got back on the highway, just to add to the fun. We crossed a long bridge over Shasta Lake, and were amazed at how far down the water level is from previous trips through this area.

Shasta Lake small

There are two or three Passport America campgrounds in Redding, and we had planned to stop at one of them for the night. But it turned out one was several miles off the highway, which isn’t worth it for a quick overnight stay, and when miss Terry called the other two to see if they had any openings all she got was voicemail at both places. She left our number and told them we were looking for a site for the night, but neither of them called us back.

But as we were going through Redding we spotted a sign for the Win River Casino, and when Terry called them they told her that they have lots of room for RVs to dry camp free in their truck parking area, or 13 pull-through 30/50 amp full hookup RV sites for $26.40 a night, including tax. Not the cheapest camping around, but not bad either.

We had a scare when we got off the interstate and were driving to the casino when some fool on a three wheel bicycle crossed from the side of the road across the bicycle lane and almost into the side of our motorhome. All the while he was looking back over his shoulder in the other direction and I don’t think he even had a clue how close he came to getting wiped out.

When we arrived at the casino a friendly shuttle driver named Andy met us, directed us into a site, and then drove us over to the casino to pay for it. By that time we were pretty hungry, so we went to one of the restaurants in the casino and got a bite to eat. We also got their free players cards, which got us a discount on dinner as well as $10 each in free slot play. I won $18.50, which helped offset the cost of our campsite. How cool is that?

Be sure to enter our latest 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 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. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Life is sexually transmitted.

Some Quick Q&A

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 082021
 

It’s late and I have to be up early, so all you’re going to get today are some quick questions and answers that have come in recently. Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll be able to have a longer blog for you.

Q. My wife wants an ebook reader for her birthday in November. Since you are my favorite author, what do you recommend, Nick? She doesn’t care about going online and Facebook and such. We have a computer for internet access.

A. Terry and I both have Kindle Paperwhites and we have been very happy with them.
They have an ad for other books that pops up when you first turn the device on but that is all, and it’s not intrusive.

Q. I asked you back in May about the RF nerve ablation you had done to your back. My back pain continues to get worse and I am to the point where I have to do something. Any updates on your experience, Nick? Would you do it again?

A. As I told you back in May, I had my ablation done in mid-June of last year, and things are still good. I have occasional pain for other injuries and aging, but not the debilitating type I suffered with for so long. When and if the nerve regenerates and the pain returns, I won’t hesitate to have the procedure done again.

Q. Now that you have both had your COVID booster shots, and I seem to recall that you also got shingles vaccines, what about the flu shots? You can’t be too careful at our age.

A. Actually, Terry and I plan to get our flu shots today while we are out running errands and grocery shopping.

Q. We are fed up with Verizon and the price going up all the time. Didn’t you switch to something else a while back? Are you happy with it?

A. After many years with Verizon we switched to Consumer Cellular. We have unlimited calls, text, and data at a fraction of the price we were paying and the service has been excellent.

Q. Ten years ago when my wife was facing a serious health issue, Miss Terry gave her a little silver pocket angel that she still carries and cherishes to this day. She is fully recovered now and always remembers how much that meant to her. She wants to get some of the same angels to pass on to others. Can you tell me where Terry got them?

A. I am so happy to hear she is well now. Here is the link to where Terry currently buys the angels, which she still passes out to those facing a challenge.

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.

Be sure to enter our latest 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 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. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you have to choose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you will always be right.

 

Oct 072021
 

As I said in yesterday’s blog, before we can proceed with our carport project, we have to have a survey done of our property. Here in Volusia County, Florida, in an area zoned residential like ours, you can only have 35% of your property covered with structure.

Looking at aerial views of our lot, it seems like we are probably over that already. When I talked to the people from Stevens Construction, they worried that I might be opening a can of worms because if we are already over the allowed percentage, it would mean that something built on our property did not have the proper permits or it would not have been allowed. This caused me some concern, but when I went to the county’s website and pulled up our lot description yesterday, I saw that everything that had been done before we purchased it had the proper permits. So at least that’s not going to be a problem. The only issue is that darn percentage we have to work with, if any.

As for finding a surveyor, they are apparently as scarce as teeth in West Virginia. You do know that the toothbrush was invented in West Virginia, right? Otherwise, it would have been called the teeth brush. I talked to four different local surveyors yesterday, and all of them were booked up until at least mid-December, and most of them into the new year. However, I did speak to one who does quite a bit of work with our contractor, and they said that since ours is going to be a pretty simple survey, they will do their best to get out here sometime in the next three to five weeks if they have somebody in the area who has the time after they finish another job.

After hearing from readers around the country, I’m beginning to think I’m in the wrong business. Readers from here in Florida, as well as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Montana, and Oregon, all wrote to tell me that they are facing the same delays in getting property surveys done. I guess the current building boom is giving them more work than they have time to do. I knew that home prices were sky high, but I didn’t realize there was actually a building boom going on. Did you? An article from last year that I read yesterday said that we could expect surveying job opportunities to increase by more than twenty percent in the next ten years.

At any rate, that’s what’s going on here. Someday we may get a survey done (or maybe not), and then someday we may actually get a building permit issued (or maybe not), and someday we may actually get our carport put up (or maybe not). As Gilda Radner’s hilarious character Roseann Rosannadanna used to say in her old Saturday Night Live skits, “It’s always something.”

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.

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 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. 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I keep getting run over by the same bike every day. It’s a vicious cycle.

Glad That’s Over

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 062021
 

I had an MRI of my brain yesterday at the AdventHealth hospital in New Smyrna Beach, part of the search to figure out what’s causing my head pain. I do have to say that I’m glad that’s over. I’m a bit claustrophobic, and while I’ve had MRIs on my lower back, and going in that tube is never fun, at least the upper part of me was out. And when another facility used an open MRI machine, Miss Terry sat beside me and held my hand. Yes, I’m that big of a wimp and yes, she is that wonderful of a wife.

But for the brain MRI it was the upper half of my body going in the enclosed tube. And it didn’t help that they had to immobilize my head with a support so I wouldn’t move and then put a mask over my face. When they called to schedule things, they said that visitors were not allowed in the hospital and Terry would have to wait out in the car, so I told her there was no reason for her to come. The two nice ladies doing the procedure were very supportive and gave me an alarm I could squeeze if I really couldn’t handle it and needed out. I asked if that happens very often and they said more than I might think.

It was about a 30 – 45 minute procedure, with a lot of noise from the machine. Sometimes it sounded like a jackhammer going off and other times a loud series of beeps. They did put earpads on me to help reduce some of the noise, which were also playing some nice mellow music. Not that I could hear a whole lot of it because of the machine.

At any rate, that’s done and now we’ll just have to wait for some results. I asked if they actually did find a brain in there, but instead of reassuring me, one of the technicians just said I would have to talk to my doctor about that. Hmmm… what does she know that I don’t know?

I reported a few days ago that we had had a local contractor come by to give us an estimate for building a carport on the concrete apron in front of our house. At the time, I was a little concerned because I’ve been told we have too much structure for the lot size already, and they said they would have to check that out. They called yesterday afternoon with the estimate, which was very good, but they are running into some snags with the county as far as the lot size and building permit. For some reason we never got a site survey when we bought this place, which the county requires, so they gave me the names of some surveyors to call. The first one I contacted said they couldn’t do anything for six to eight weeks because they are that busy. I left messages with two others, and hopefully, they will call back and we can find out what we can and can’t do and get moving on this project if at all possible.

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 – If a plant is sad, do other plants photosympathize?

A Spectacular Drive

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 052021
 

Note: It’s that time of year and it won’t be long before people are posting pictures of the Fall colors wherever they are. I thought I’d get a head start with a repost of a 2011 blog from our travels as fulltime RVers.

We left Walnut Meadow campground in Berea, Kentucky a little after 9 yesterday morning, and enjoyed a spectacular 220-mile drive down Interstate 75 to Knoxville, Tennessee, where we picked up Interstate 40 and drove into the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. Except for the brief time we were in the Knoxville metro area, I don’t think there was a mile of the trip that wasn’t breathtaking.

The hillsides were alive with color, and around every curve, one or both of us was saying “Oh my!” or “Wow, look over here!”

I75 fall colors

I40 fall colors 4

We made this same trip last year and were just as amazed at the beauty. If you haven’t seen the Smokey Mountains in the fall, when all of the trees are ablaze, you haven’t lived yet.

I40 fall colors

I40 fall colors 2

The only bad thing about the trip is being the driver, because the route through the mountains is very winding, and you have to pay attention or you can get into trouble in a hurry. But it’s hard with so many distractions.

Curve fall colors 

There were a couple of tunnels, some 45 mile per hour curves, and in a few places, rocks had fallen down onto the side of the road.

I40 tunnel 2

I40 fall colors 3

Eventually, we made our way to Pride RV Resort, which is only a mile or so from the interstate, near Maggie Valley. With 130 full hookup RV sites, this is a nice Resort Parks International (RPI) affiliate, and we got a pull-through site facing a beautiful fast flowing river. Even though they had an inch of snow here the night before, and it got down to 24 degrees for us overnight, the park still has a lot of RVs here. We were pleased to find that we had a good shot toward the sky for our rooftop TV dish and fast 3G signal on our Verizon air card. Because it was going to be so cold overnight, I just added some more freshwater to our tank and plugged into the 50 amp power.   

Pride RV resort 3  

Once we were parked, we drove another few miles into Maggie Valley and toured the Wheels Through Time Museum, which has a huge collection of antique and vintage motorcycles, all American made, as well as several neat old cars, and all sorts of other memorabilia. And every car and motorcycle in the place runs!

1969 Chopper

Blue Harley

This is a gearhead’s nirvana, and whether you’re into hill climbing, dirt track racing, or street riding, they have some of the earliest motorcycles that helped create the sport.  

Racing display

At one time, there were more motorcycle manufacturing companies in America than there were automobile companies, and the museum has many examples of the early day bikes, such as this Apache from the early 1900s (top) or this old Indian (bottom). Did you notice that both motorcycles have pedals, just like a bicycle? That’s how you started them, by getting on and pedaling!

Apache motorcycle

Antique Indian 2

They are raffling off this beautiful old 1936 Harley Davidson Knucklehead, and I told Miss Terry I should buy a ticket because I’d look great on a classic bike like that.

Raffle Harley

She suggested that this ride might be more my style!

Kiddie motorcycle ride

There were several nice police and Army motorcycles, and a lot of other interesting things made by motorcycle companies; everything from garden tillers to outboard motors.

1938 Police bike

Police trike

Army Harley display

Army Harley with trailer

Terry isn’t into motorcycles at all, but she found a lot of things to enjoy on our visit to the museum.

Back at the campground, we stopped to visit with Lenny and Janis Thomas, who we first met years ago when we were teaching at Life on Wheels, and last saw at our Ohio rally a few weeks ago. They are hanging out here until they go back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and then they are headed for Florida.

We’ll beat them there, because today we’re headed down into South Carolina, and maybe into Georgia. I need to be someplace warm!

Thought For The Day – When creating wives, God promised man that good and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the world. Then He made the world round!