Andersonville, A lesson In History……

We have finally tamed the inertia that propels one while on the road seeing the America that most simply drive by. The incredible inflationary cycle that we are living through, replete with fuel costs that were unimaginable just a year ago, have added extra meaning to the enthusiasm we felt on our swing through the fabled towns of the old south last month. Soon such trips will be cost prohibitive. Along the way, we stopped for a day at America’s preservation of man’s inhumanity to man, the Prisoner of War Museum and site of the infamous Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Andersonville, Ga. The visit left an indelible impression on my mind.

Once a living hell, now a serene field. The creek in the photo was both the latrine and drinking water source.
Tazzy at the reconstructed main gate to the prison. His innocence contrasts sharply with the hell behind those gates.

As a reminder, this place was chosen by the Confederate Army as the location to stockade Union prisoners during the Civil War. It was in existence for about 14 months before the advancing Union Army forced the living prisoners to be relocated to prisons in South Carolina and other locations. It was a scene from the gates of hell and you could, if you cleared your mind and concentrated, feel the despair, misery and death that still lingers in the Georgia breeze that blows through this piece of ground. From February 1864 through the end of 1865 some 30,000 Union prisoners were held here with more than 13,000 dying from various diseases and at each other’s hand. The prison, then known as Camp Sumpter, was located on 16 acres with a creek running through the middle of it that served as the source of drinking water and as a latrine for the prisoners. There were no barracks and the men existed under makeshift shanties to provide shelter. As in many growing communities, crime was rampant and gangs soon formed. One gang, the “Raiders” would roam about stealing and beating inmates, much as gangs do today. Another group soon formed, the “Regulators” who demanded relief from the criminal gangs. The prison Commandant authorized a trial with prisoners serving as judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors and the ringleaders of the Raiders were tried, sentenced to death and hung on the prison grounds by their fellow prisoners. They are buried separately in the prison cemetery, denied fellowship with the souls of those they terrorized.

A single post marks the spot where the “Raiders” were hung by fellow prisoners
The graves of the “Raiders” forever denied fellowship with the soldiers they served with.

There was soon to be another hanging. The prison commandant, one Cpt. Henry Wirz, was one of a few military officers hung after the Civil War. Historians today question the propriety of hanging the Captain, as he made every effort to secure rations and better living conditions for his prisoners, all futile as prisoners of war are accorded little consideration throughout history. He is thought to be a scapegoat for the political entities who needed to assuage the sensitivities of those who were familiar with the horror in this camp. When read the charges against him at his hanging, the Major responsible for carrying out the execution told Wirz he was only following orders, to which Wirz replied, “I know about orders, Major, I am being hung for obeying them”.

Cpt. Henry Wirz on the gallows. His death was believed, by most historians, to be a political gesture.

After the war and as a result of meticulous records kept by a prisoner/clerk named Dorence Atwater, the names of the inmates who died were used to identify and place the exhumed remains in proper graves, literally shoulder to shoulder, in what is now a National Cemetery adjacent to the prison site. Clara Barton, “The Angel of the Battlefield” was the driving and organizing force behind this task. It is a beautiful place, as all National Cemeteries are, with statuary from every state whose soldiers are buried here.

Prisoners (soldiers) buried shoulder to shoulder after the war.

I’ll close this piece by reminding readers that it takes tremendous resolve and strength to survive being a prisoner of war, no matter which war the circumstance occurs in. The museum on this site takes the visitor through all of America’s wars and the treatment prisoners received. Often, a bullet to the head was far more merciful than captivity in a POW camp, and survival is a testament to those who were held, to their mental strength, resourcefulness and relationship with their God. America was conceived and shaped by blood, honor and triumph over the greatest adversities imaginable. We have earned the right to be a great Democracy, and we should never remove reminders such as this one, of our bloody and violent past.

Andersonville left a mark on my psyche. God bless the souls of those that perished.

Have a great week.

SR

Continuing Education RV Style…..

We are back in Missouri just in time for a winter storm with all kinds of guarantees relative to ice, sleet and snow. A tactical error? Yes, if weather alone drives your RV interest, no if your motivations lean more to seeing and experiencing the country with little concern for time. Our very first extended trip, nearly two months, has further increased our knowledge base about the RV phenomenon. As my old Sergeant used to say, “bought’n learning is the best learning”. Here is my take.

First, the obvious. It will be expensive to travel about in or pulling a RV today. Fuel costs are through the overhead with food costs close behind. Be ready for routine 40 buck meals for two, if you are careful, and much higher if you seek a “dining experience”. Restaurant costs, on the road, are shocking, period. Weather permitting, the little Webber grills are your best friend when you settle in for a stay while on the road. Diesel costs average close to $4.00 with the better prices at stations you cannot get your RV in. Be ready to trade the inconvenience of shorter fueling intervals for the convenience of locations you can easily get in and out of.

We comprised a list of things that folks need to be aware of. In no particular order, these are the things that range from merely vexing to full on infuriating. Water spigots at ground level make hose attachment an adventure. WiFi is an absolute bait and switch proposition at most parks, not enough band width. Parking sites that are simply not level, some a lot, are aggravating. RVing is highly weather dependent. Cancellation fees have become obnoxious and site guarantees are expensive. You forfeit your pre-paid fees these days with some parks allowing a credit for a return trip, and all your hard work selecting a site within a park is for naught as most parks reserve the right to move you to another site at their discretion unless you pay a “lock in” fee on top of the site rental. Be ready, site fees clearly mirror the inflationary cycle we are in. It is wise to avoid older parks that allow “full timers”, as many of these units become cluttered and unkempt. Larger parks will fill your propane tanks for you with a healthy up charge for the convenience, but be careful here, as many of the employees handling this duty are not trained and will overfill your tank. While we do not desire a Nazi experience (we have stayed in such parks and it is not fun) many parks do not enforce their own rules. Dogs run loose, elaborate dog pens are constructed at various sites, dogs are left out to raise hell and a picnic table is a luxury item requiring extra fees. You will soon learn to despise folks who cannot bend at the waist and pick up after their dogs. Laundry facilities range from very nice credit card machines to a couple of nasty and expensive older machines that are in short supply. Off site laundry facilities can be hard to find and the clean, modern ones are very rare.

Roads. Soon we will be traveling on wagon trails. The road systems in and around most metropolitan areas are horrendous, especially when pulling a big trailer. If your preferences run much above 60-65 MPH when towing, after a season or two you will need duct-tape by the case. Try to avoid metro areas where the population is much above 20,000 as their roads will be highly suspect. We keep a very specific road diary and will likely never again travel some of the roads we have seen. No state has the market cornered on overall road quality and every state has some great roads…….big cities are the most devastating. It is amazing that folks will oppose a fuel tax for road maintenance yet gladly pay the costs associating with the destruction of their vehicles on roads with holes in them you can fish out of.

The RV industry has been on a boom cycle for the past two years and there are more of them out there than ever before. Make your reservations early and put your deposits at risk if you cancel. There are a number of really great parks out there, but many are accepting reservations for 2023! Missouri’s best parks are pretty well blacked out on all weekends this year and many are already fully booked, period. It will not take many experiences stopping in a substandard locations to make you wish you had planned ahead. Size matters when fueling and in parks when setting up. God bless the folks who left plenty of maneuvering room in their parks for longer rigs and fuel stops with expansive space to get to a pump. (A shout out to Buc-ee’s, the ultimate RV stops while on the road….soon coming to Springfield.) My totally unscientific analysis of the length issue can be summed up by suggesting that for every foot of RV length you add over 30’, you trade a year of your life as a result of maneuvering the unit! Our trailer is 38’ long……..you do the math.

Saddled up and ready to hit the road!

Would we do it again? Absolutely. You meet neat people, see incredible things and sharpen your ability to focus when on the road. It is heaven for Tazzy who has become very comfortable in his “Dog House”. The idea of having your mobile condo with you can be enchanting…..but only if you are trained and experienced. My final thought is simple. Do not take this pastime for granted…..learn from those who have been there, and be extra careful. It can be a mine field to the uninitiated.

Have a great week!

SR

Why Biden Doesn’t Get It On Crime….,..

We are asking a lot when we trust Joe Biden to find the answers to our surging violent crime problem in America. He is a one song virtuoso, chanting gun control and gun violence in his daily missive to the people. Joe, there are 400 million guns in civilian hands in America, more guns than people, the vast majority of which are in the hands of lawful gun owners and not the folks leading the unprecedented rise in homicide and other violent crime. There were 4,000 more people murdered in 2020 than in 2019, and these murders were not committed by members of the NRA and other lawful, peaceful Americans. Crime is a by-product of people. Look to what drives the trends, not the tools used in the trend.

Violent crime in the last three years is up by 30%. Guns? No, according to Amy Swearer, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who is a critical thinker on the business of crime. She attributes the incredible increase in violent crime to the pandemic and resultant lockdowns as much as anything. She is right, of course, it is people under pressure that break, not the cold steel in a gun. We have elected a slate of woke bureaucrats, particularly in our big cities, who in the name of doing something have veered off the tracks and are exacerbating the problem by taking a counter intuitive approach to this issue. They are softening rather than hardening our response to criminality. You do not change the behavior of a chicken eating dog by feeding him more chicken. You also do not mitigate the incredible increase in violent crime by turning criminals back to the streets with little or no accountability. We have a problem, there is no doubt, but guns in lawful hands are not the problem.

A police officer and his client!

Folks who champion the defund the police movement are clueless puffs of wasted air. When you cut police funding, programs such as gang violence, intervention and other community services are the first to go. In my hometown, a conservative but evolving community, the police are committed to a call for some type of service well in excess of 90% of their time on duty. They are significantly under staffed and forced to ignore issues related to community education and outreach. There simply is not time for the prevention side of the crime issue as opposed to the investigation side of a crime that has already occurred. The agenda of the far left, who are championing the ignorance of reduced police presence and holding legal gun owners responsible for existing crime, is mystifying.

What are we to do about the sharpest increase in violent crime in this nation’s history? I wish that I knew. I can suggest to Biden and his collection of dopplegangers that his current strategy is not only worthless but counter productive. Any emergency services responder knows the first order of business is to stabilize the scene and prevent further harm. Knee jerking does exactly the opposite, and the left is showing championship form in the science of knee jerking. I can say with absolute certainty that taking a gun away from a law abiding citizen who is committed to self preservation in the face of a monumental crime wave is not part of the solution. Leave that alone Biden, as that ship has sailed..

Two days ago, I was looking around Savannah for a manual car wash to clean up Cirrus the Ram. Instead I found a street wise couple of enterprising black guys on a corner with a broken down van, a trailer, a power washer and generator. I hired them to wash Cirrus. They noticed my thin blue line wrist band and, naturally, a conversation ensued. The boss was a tough guy, a product of the streets and system. He told me the money was good on pretty days, the work was hard and the overhead steep with the supply of chemicals and materials in this business. He was proud of his “honest” money and that a change was necessary lest he suffer the consequences of a questionable alternative to working. He get’s it. When what you are doing isn’t working, change it up and start in a new direction. Logical. If only Biden could grasp this basic reasoning.

What we are doing in America to change the trajectory of crime isn’t working, hasn’t worked in the past and will solve nothing in the future. Guns are an easy target for some politicians and their clans. Give it a rest guys and recognize we are dealing with unprecedented pressures brought about by the gross mishandling of pandemic generated social issues. It is obvious that Joe Biden does not get it. The guys on the corner, washing cars do…….

Have a great weekend!

SR

How Sewer Hoses Define People…….

Police officers are required to quickly assess the character and intent of folks they come in contact with. Sometimes you bet your life on the quick judgement you have made, and sometimes you are wrong. We are always looking for “tells”, subtle indications of the character, education and intent of the folks we deal with. Like a bolt from the blue, I have discovered a foolproof way to form an opinion of folks you have just met. Give them a RV of any description and watch them attach the sewer line. You’ll know pretty quickly who you are dealing with. Here is my insight.

The biggest issue with the installation of hoses is sanitation. When folks lurch into a RV site, bail out and light a fire in the grill, then grab the sewer hose from the carrier, still leaking from the last stop, hook it up and sit back with a cool beverage and burger flipper in hand…..all without gloves or any effort to wash their hands, do not join them for lunch. These folks have ancestors who started the typhoid epidemics of old. Nitrile gloves are sold at a number of retailers for pennies a pair. Careful sanitation engineers use gloves and carry around a spray bottle of stuff that will kill anything from the meanest virus to the Red Army. It is also worth noting that gloving up, handling the sanitation chores and then handling your fresh water lines with the same gloves on doesn’t work either. Here comes the typhoid again…..

Next up are folks who have no concept of the laws of physics. It (and that includes poo) will not run uphill. These are the folks who will attach the hose to the unit, then to the drop in the ground with no concern whatsoever about what the hose is doing in between. They expect the contents of the hose to miraculously find it’s way between the two points with any and all manner of high points in their layout. They end up “running” the hose, picking it up and draining the contents into the drop. There are any number of inexpensive devices out there that insure a steady drop between your unit and the ground drop. Watch these folks carefully, especially with vehicles on grades, as they just don’t get it.

These folks just do not understand physics. I call this the “Anaconda Approach”. When they break down, it will be interesting!

Infrastructure. As mentioned above, there exists all manor of little slinky looking devices, adjustable trays, even slides to place your hose in to insure that gravity does it’s job. You are dealing with an inveterate tinkerer when he hauls out 100 pounds of wooden blocks and pieces of PVC to route his hose to the drop. He wants folks to know he is practical and clever. I see tight. He will also have the sorriest hoses, that have seen years of service with electrical tape wrapped around the holes and tears. As a side note, he is usually careless with the gloves. These hoses carry not only waste, but some of the harshest chemicals outside of the Redstone Arsenal, where biological warfare stuff is stored. These chemicals are dropped into holding tanks by folks who are sanitation savvy to stop odors and protect the environment. 😂 Another enemy of hoses is heat and cold, with honorable mention to UV rays, all considerations that hasten hose breakdown. If you are next to one of these guys, don’t look for them to buy lunch. If they skimp on sanitation and rely on homemade sewer systems……they are not generous, nor do you want to touch stuff they have touched!

As a final note, always be generous with your time and knowledge with new campers who just don’t know. They are easy to spot. In Texas, two Army nurses pulled into the spot next to ours. They were twins and absolutely cute as they could be. They were also new to the pastime and were struggling with electrical and sewer connections. Bless their little hearts. I took the time from my busy schedule to help them get connected, even “loaning” them an adaptor from 50 to 30 amp service so they would be able to run their air conditioner. Their sewer connection was anything but serviceable and I explained how to route their line so that it would work properly. I viewed the experience as an old Captain helping two young Captains enjoy their new lifestyle. What could go wrong? Sharon was not as inclined to help them to the same extent…believing that experience would be a better teacher for them.

Another of life’s lessons……..

Have a great weekend!

SR

Recreational Vehicles and Your Wallet…….

In a continuing effort to keep my readers in the loop attendant to the fun and excitement of hitting the road in a RV, and totally out of character with the Biden rule of shading, lying and deceiving folks about expenditures, I am taking a few minutes to update folks about money and the RV. Depending on your approach, it can be great sport for the frugal or lavish spender. As a disclaimer, we are not the “boon-docker” type who is content to beach the trailer in a Cabela’s parking lot, fire up the generator and commune with shoppers who view you with just a smidgen of disdain. We like amenities, utility hookups and plenty of water, and WiFi.

Some folks just don’t get it. These people from Tennessee lurched in, hooked up the electricity and spent two nights standing on their heads to sleep.

I could stop at this point by simply pointing out that current inflationary trends are alive and well in the pursuit of the nomadic lifestyle this pastime offers. RVs of any description are mini-homes on wheels and stuff bends, breaks and needs attention as you travel about. On most trips, we are compelled to stop at a hardware store for a screw, nut and bolt or propane to keep from freezing to death in the winter confines of Northern Florida, which apparently did not get the memo suggesting kind treatment for snowbirds from the midwest. Unless you are the folks who stuff their unit full of everything you need, thus overloading your condo on wheels, you are gonna pay inflated prices for everything from park rental to propane while you travel. In St. Augustine, the variance in cost for a 30# propane fill up is 10.00 or 35%. A 30# tank should cost about 25.00. You will also note that everywhere you go, convenience comes at a price. Imprudent shoppers are the perfect foil for merchants who seek to maximize pricing to the unsuspecting.

Prices are up dramatically from 6 years ago when we started traveling with a trailer. We could routinely find spots for under 50.00 a night, with most being in the 30.00 range. Today you can expect to pay from 60.00 to 100.00 for those same lots. Equity companies are snapping up RV parks, making improvements and demanding a handsome return on their investment. Unless you are fortunate enough to score state parks or other government owned spots, you are going to spend near hotel level money on a spot to throw out the levelers. There has been a tremendous boon in RV sales the past two years, and reservations are required well ahead of planned trips. Not so 5 years ago, when vacancies were numerous. Our favorite park in Missouri, Echo Bluff, requires reservations well ahead of trips, with next year’s bookings being made as we speak. Plan carefully.

Food. Eating out is expensive. An occasional meal is easily absorbed, but if you hit a local eatery every day, or twice a day, hang on. It is absolutely routine for two folks to lay 40-50 Washingtons on the table for a nice lunch. The dinner hour will require another 20 or so, 50 if you want a glass of wine. It is crazy, with most joints unable to staff adequately, and house specialties priced at the high end of any reasonable scale. Grocery stores are running out of food with many shelves bare and the same pricing issues you see at home.

Fuel. I don’t need to comment here. Fuel costs are roughly double what we are used to and when you range far and wide, hang on. We have gone from energy independence to a healthy dependence on foreign oil. Our big diesel requires a steady diet……….

Okay, so am I complaining? No, just pointing out the obvious. In exchange for the lack of economy in this lifestyle, we get our own bed where Tazzy is welcome. We meet new people and see a country that is breath taking, with time to soak in the local culture. Our unit is big enough to keep extra clothes on hand, cook meals both inside and out and have most of the stuff you need with you. Planning keeps your mind occupied and vehicle maintenance and operation keeps you busy. We have not missed a playoff game and have yet to be cold or hot in our condo on wheels. We love day trip exploring and this lifestyle opens up any number of possibilities.

We love this pastime. I would suggest it to anyone with nominal mechanical and/or culinary aptitude. It allows you to get into a community, see what’s off main street and enjoy the local restaurant scene (carefully). Shopping is Sharon’s particular area of expertise and the ability to really work a retail environment brings a smile to her face. We continue to meet very interesting people, (the gentleman in the lot next to us was a river rat in Vietnam, the same guys that Kerry lied about, he was able to set the record straight!) I just think it fair to note this lifestyle has a price tag…….and a fiscal conservative (tight) may not like it. Caveat Emptor……always!

Have a great weekend!

SR

The Reaper Sometimes Moves Quietly

As he has thousands of times the grim reaper has struck again, this time stealing into town quietly and leaving with another human being to add to his collection of Covid victims. We must remember that every victim is a friend or family member of someone, however; the transactions between the reaper and victim are sometimes barely noticed. Such was the case this week when Mike Mulholland, a friend, associate and confident died quietly at Mercy Hospital. What about this retired Highway Patrolman the kids in Odessa years ago referred to as “Mike with a moustache”? Let’s have a look.

The officer you wanted behind you…….

Mike was from the Moberly, Missouri area where he earned a Business degree from Northeast Missouri State College. He was whip smart and graduated near the top of his class, a feat he would repeat at the Highway Patrol Academy a few years later. He was an excellent athlete, not the thin kind that you see mostly see today, rather a fireplug of a guy who would fool you with cat like reflex and determination. As would be his custom through the years he let his skill do the talking, with not a hint of self promotion in his repertoire. Mike walked the walk.

Mike, bottom right, a team player with a mile wide smile……

I came to know him in January of 1972 after graduating in the Patrol class following him. As luck would have it, we both were assigned to Odessa in Lafayette county where we became the responsibility, back to back, of a crusty Dutchman as our training officer. Lafayette County was an ideal place to be a trooper, where officers from every department worked together and our exposure to policing was comprehensive. Mike and I loved to work together, a practice soon discontinued by our Sergeant, as we somehow found ourselves into mischief every time we suited up on the same shift. Mike was marked for early advancement on the Patrol and soon was transferred to Jackson County where he stayed busy in and around the Kansas City area in a supervisory role. Mike rose to the rank of Lieutenant as quietly as he entered the department in the early 70’s. There are many stories about our time together, but they can be summed up with high praise for Mike. Mike Mulholland had your back, period. Secondly, he sought no praise or exposure to bright lights or fame. He went about his job carefully, reflectively, and with a work ethic that few could emulate. Mike was a bulldozer in a diplomat’s hat. He was one of the finest to ever wear the uniform, worn with pride and always representing the Patrol in a positive light. Paul Michael Mulholland, the devout Catholic from north Missouri, was an absolutely reliable officer of the law with excellent judgement and the ability to relate to virtually every living being on earth. He was, in short, one hell of a Highway Patrolman.

A parade…….Mike loved celebrations!

Mike left this world quietly. Covid is like that, they say. His beloved wife Judy is gravely ill with Covid and is on a ventilator at the same Springfield hospital where Mike was introduced to the Master. Judy’s future is very uncertain, but while they could they travelled extensively, enjoyed fine wine and laughed often on their backyard patio where’re Mike held forth on one of his several outdoor grills and stoves. We were privileged to enjoy his deck artistry with a smoker, laughing and remembering things probably best left un-remembered. His unexpected early departure from this world has left a vacancy for another American that loves his country as much as his family, will always complete a job and would never leave a fellow officer or friend hanging. He left this world as he lived life………under the radar but always there.

Mike was as solid as the granite that will mark his eternal resting place. Few are remembered as well……..

We’ll miss you Mike…….thank you

Traffic Cops Cry Too…….

We all can see it. We are driving like hell is in the seat next to us and we are paying a price for it. I made a good living regulating the flow of traffic on our roads and highways and it pains me greatly to see what is happening out there today when folks take the wheel. Let’s end the old year, a tumultuous one at best, with a reminder that sloppiness behind the wheel exacts a measurable toll. To be more precise, it is killing around 100 people a day in the most progressive country on the face of the earth. What is happening?

In 1899, the first year statistics were reliability recorded, America lost a total of 26 people on our rough roads behind the wheels of unsophisticated iron, propelled by low horsepower engines. Contrast that with 1970, where we suffered through the deaths of 52,627 presumably good people. Engineering kicked in, enforcement tightened, and road money flowed like an Artesian well. Fatality rates continued to climb steadily. Despite more cars on the road, cheap gasoline and a wanderlust that is second nature to Americans, the fatality rates then began to drop annually from 1980 until 2020 when they started to rise again. In 2021, the first half of the year saw a 38% increase in deaths over the first 6 months of 2020, with 20,160 folks finding a porcelain slab table in a funeral home. Again, what in the hell has happened?

First, Covid. The movement of 5,000 pounds of steel on a hard surface DEMANDS regulation and education. When there is little likelihood that your outrageous driving behavior will result in a meeting with a traffic cop, you tend to push the envelope. A perfect storm exists when officers have little time to work traffic because of other duties and a dearth of said officers exists. Sticking your head in the widow of a violator’s car who might be a Covid carrier is not popular these days, never mind hauling the bad guys in the front seat of your cruiser while he coughs and gasps his way to jail. Next up, speed. Speed is still the primary driver of mechanized death, a simple matter of mass in motion, or physics. You do not have to be a mathematician to understand that a car at 1 MPH into a steel post will not be as devastating as that same car at 80 into the same post. I was in the business for 27 years and have never seen the flow of traffic as fast as it is today. Period. I also cannot remember the lack of common courtesy rising to the level seen today, added to the distractions provided by cell phones, food and total inattention, the second big contributor to accidents. You want to drop the fatality rate by 50%? Just drop one of the electronic devices into every car that records your driving behavior, forward an annual report to your insurer and base rates on your driving habits. I can guarantee results when you tamper with an errant driver’s wallet.

A section of door glass with an original decal taken from our Capital doors many, many years ago.

A final observation. The political climate in our country has given rise to an unprecedented level of anti-authoritarian behavior. As an example, the government is NOT telling me when or if I am going to take a vaccine. (I did take it) We don’t like the notion of anyone tampering with our “freedoms” what ever they may be. Traffic enforcement, effectively done, makes arrangements for the violator to discuss his preferences in regard to “big brother” with a judge, not at car side. Traffic enforcement is definitive in nature and has a tendency to temper foolish behavior and attitudes. Without it, we are simply narcissistic folks wandering about with little fear our behavior, when it strays, will be met with the contrary opinion of an officer.

Too many times, I have fished through the pockets of a dead person looking for some form of identification, with the vast majority of the circumstances revolving around a monumental mistake made behind the wheel. Children lying on a porcelain table will bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened officer. I drive today flabbergasted with the casual behavior of our unregulated generation of drivers. It is high time we re-emphasis the regulation of traffic. When will the price for ignoring this important consideration be too high? Hopefully soon…….

If you are not part of the solution, then you well my be a part of the problem. Resolve to be better behind the wheel this year. At some point you will be glad you did. I can guarantee it.

Happy New Year!

SR

Ringing The Bell

Last Friday, a wet, cold day, I fulfilled a long standing item on my bucket list by taking a turn ringing the Salvation Army Bell in front of Bass Pro Headquarters in Springfield, Mo. Notwithstanding the Army’s foray into the woke arena, they have always been a favorite charity of ours and the deal to help them out was cut some time before they entered the political field. I gained immeasurable insight into marketing, human relations and the mood of the people in SW Missouri.

A rewarding experience!

Truly successful salesmen, like Lee Iacocca, rely on a proven sales technique to transfer their product to you in exchange for your money to them. I have read his book and many of the things he espouses seemed appropriate in gaining a financial contribution in this endeavor. Here we go.

I felt that eye contact with each patron was critical. Several folks simply avoid your eyes and head for the door furtherest from your location. My subliminal message was that I am wringing the bell just for you. I also noted a hearty “Merry Christmas” was also effective, as I was now in a conversation with the customer. Next up, the compliment. I tried to compliment the customer, or his/her gloves, Christmas hat, warm boots, anything positive which established an open dialogue. A comment about their kids was very effective in gaining their trust and commitment. The fact that an occasional person would avoid these overtures, seemed to create additional incentive for the following customer to increase their contribution. My technique was twice removed from the guys who stand silently with a look of utter boredom wringing the bell with contempt. I also made it fun!

I made an attempt to typecast folks based on their appearances. To this end, I made several observations. Folks who were, based solely on appearance, somewhat disadvantaged as opposed to those who were dropped at the curb courtesy of a new Escalade, were the most prolific contributors. It was the middle American folks who carefully doled out a contribution to each of their children to drop into the kettle. Children loved this experience, and when thanked with a smile, seemed to encourage the adults behind them to dig a little deeper into their wallet or purse. As I have already mentioned, kids were a key element in my success. Kneeling down and acknowledging the children was very effective, which explains the politician’s kissing of babies. Without question, ladies were more likely to contribute as were solo men. Men need to step up their game here, likely because they are less inclined to respond to flattery. There are many more things about ladies to compliment than men………..just gotta be careful!

I also moved our kettle closer to the mainstream of pedestrian traffic. This placed me in a position to greet the avoiders who were seeking the far doors, which in turn alerted the other avoiders they were going to be engaged and resulted in a uptick in their contributive effort, thus avoiding the appearances of Scrooge. I did note that really competent avoiders were adept at strategies such as opening an umbrella in my direction, thus spoiling my ability to engage them on some level. These are the same folks who can pass the plate in church with a flourish, creating an illusion of offering when they did not.

Tazzy warmed hearts!

So, was I successful? I think so, but was not privilege to the final tally. People displayed a lot of Christmas spirit and were very upbeat. My efforts were enhanced by Tazzy, wearing an apron that read “I Ate Santa’s Cookies”, sitting by the kettle, and a smiling Sharon on the Bear Bench behind my duty post, throwing out a final Merry Christmas to the folks we met. A confession is in order. I am absolutely confident that whatever money we raised broke along two lines. I may have accounted for 30% of the take, Tazzy earned the rest. Bring a cute dog to your next fund raising effort. They are money in the bank. Too bad Lee Iacocca never thought of this…..thank you Tazzy, and to the Salvation Army for the opportunity to make a difference.

Have a great weekend, and a very Merry Christmas!

SR

The Retail Experience is Vanishing…..

Need a coffin? No problem, all you need is a laptop and credit card. Want to avoid the haggling when buying a car, keep the laptop handy and check your credit limit. Food? Ditto. With rare exception the acquisition of just about anything imaginable can be accomplished within a day or so, delivered to your doorstep by an automated process that is as impersonal as it is efficient. Forgive the nostalgia, but I miss shopping.

I walked into an Ace hardware in Navarre Beach, Fl., a week or so ago and was transported back in time to McIntyre’s farm store in Marion SC, where we shopped for garden seed and a few baby chicks to insure a Sunday post church dinner within a few short weeks. I can still smell the poultry, leather mule tack, hickory shovel handles and petroleum products like grease and oil. The smell was accompanied by the sound of a huge, belt driven fan that tempered the humid Carolina air by keeping it moving. The Florida store smelled similar, the merchandise was where you expected it to be, and bins constituted the inventory system. The employees were tenured and knew instantly if they had what you needed and where it was. Hardware stores are disappearing faster than folks at a Biden rally and will soon be gone. Unlike Biden, they will be remembered fondly. Find one and buy something……….it is an experience that will be a distant memory soon enough.

A hardware store, back in the day.

Guns and ammo. I can remember popping into a country store in Texas County, Missouri for shotgun shells some 50 years ago. Those days your selection came in green boxes (Remington) or yellow and red boxes for Winchester. You would find 4, 6 or 7 1/2 shot in low or high brass with a cardboard hull and wad. Rifled slugs were sold individually out of a box of 25. Gun stores back then carried a few foreign made firearms but the majority were either Remingtons or Winchesters. Rifle ammo was available in 30-30, 30.06 or .22. There were as many half-pints of chill remover (whiskey) for night hunters sold as boxes of ammo. Condoms, for the big boy night hunters, were stocked behind the gun counters, presumably to keep your mother from ciphering things she should not be interested in, should she be shopping nearby. Most importantly, gun stores saw more stories told than any institution in America outside a barber shop or creek tavern. Who you gonna’ talk to now, the UPS guy running a five second 40 and tossing your new hairdryer in the rose bushes? He doesn’t have the time…..believe me.

Gun stores that sold guns, dispensed advice and smelled of cigars. The golden age of firearms.

I never thought I would miss shopping. I tend to be focused, with the ability to walk into a retail establishment and walk directly to what I am interested in, making the purchase and walking out. That is a good practice today, because you aren’t likely to be helped by a clerk until you run the guy down from appliances to help you with your purchase in shoes. Think I am overstating the issue? I googled Amazon and found caskets, embalming fluid and a “how to book”. There are hundreds of kinds of condoms and live chickens available. Automobiles are next up with at least two brands now on sale by Amazon. Conversely, you can walk into a box store and buy a spinning rod from a guy who doesn’t know a broom handle from a pool cue. Jeans are no longer made in America and your expensive tennis shoes hail from a factory near the lab in Wuhan. You don’t need it if Amazon doesn’t ship it and a return involves driving by a retail store, tossing the item in the door and leaving with a credit on your card. They’ll even throw in a coupon for merchandise from the location accepting returns.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll head over to Ace Hardware and cruise the aisles. They look like a store, smell like a store, with the guy wearing the red apron an expert on, well, all kinds of things. God bless the local retail experience. Now that I think about it, I began grade school wearing mail order clothes from Sears and I’ll be put away in jeans and a shirt from Bangladesh, China or Pakistan. Shopping locally used to be the backbone of our economy which has now become a so called global economy. It may be too late, as kids today think everything in existence comes on a brown truck courtesy of a track star with a good arm.

Sad, really.

Have a good weekend!

SR

Unsolicited Advice For RV Folks…….

We have been in the RV world for about 7 years now, and the culture is undergoing a continued metamorphosis, as all things tend to do. We are currently in Navarre Beach, Florida, in a beautiful setting, surrounded by snowbirds. A number of my readers are RV oriented and may be a little behind the curve as a result of Covid, so indulge me as I offer a peek into the changes and expectations today.

Food. One of the terrific advantages of traveling in a RV is the ability to cook in your mobile condo. We have been stunned at the inflationary impact on dining out. We love dives and diners, but even the seediest stop for normal stuff will easily run 30 bucks for two. We have strayed into a number of eateries and dropped half a Benjamin on lunch. Unless you are grabbing a Happy Meal and water with lemon, food out is going to be expensive. Two meals out, even when you are careful, will easily burn through a Benjamin. Coffees are going to bump you an easy 6 bucks a couple and it adds up. Pack the grill, set it up, and cook under your awning. In a hurry yesterday, we stopped at a Seattle based coffee place and a short macchiato was 6 bucks……..I didn’t price a cup of their normal swill……..

Park rentals. When we started, your rental for a night was comfortably within the 30 to 50 buck range. We insist on water, sewer and electricity and avoid setting up in mud or on sand. Today, you can anticipate 50 as a minimum, and we are currently over our normal pay grade here at 100 a night. Inflation is alive and well in this industry. Parks are expensive propositions to operate, and the costs must be passed on. Obviously, state parks are a better option, but RV’s are being built and put on the streets at an astronomical rate and they all have to be somewhere, every night. State Parks require planning well in advance. Book ahead and do your homework here. There are options available, depending on what level of utility connectivity you are comfortable with.

Santa Rosa Sound, from behind our RV, a gift from the Master

Fuel costs. Do I need to even comment here? With a big diesel, I average around 11 MPG. My neighbor who just pulled in with his new coach gasser, averaged 5 MPG. You can do the math.

If you are just getting started in this pastime, please listen carefully to the next piece of advice. Choose your dealer as carefully as you choose your primary care physician. The RV industry is plagued by a very poor support network after the sale. When you are 800 miles from home or your place of purchase, you are on your own. Mobile techs become your salvation. This industry is not like the auto industry where a Chevy dealer in any town USA stands ready to help when your vehicle throws craps. I am not turning this piece into a shill for my dealer, but when we had a problem, miles from home and the manufacturer would not even answer the phone, he stepped in and is negotiating a payback to us with the manufacturer (We relied on a mobile tech). There are various networks you can join that help mitigate these nightmares……but the dealer is the key. If a dealer cannot guarantee his advocacy, find another one.

For the love of all that is sacred, please take the time to go to a big parking lot with your new RV and a half dozen cones and practice maneuvering the unit, whether a motor coach, 5th wheel or pull behind. I watched a very nice man in a 38 foot 5th wheel, his first RV, try to back it into a tight spot in this luxury park. It was painful. His frustration was overwhelming, his wife in tears and a couple of folks who obviously knew even less than him offering advice. There is NO substitute for experience when towing or driving a RV, and your failure to practice will be all too evident at a fuel stop or park. In Texas, I white knuckled our 38 foot trailer into a tight spot after dark, and needed a shot of Jack after bringing the beast to a stop. Practice and experience will add years to your life!

Finally, develop a relationship with someone experienced in this pastime that you trust before buying, hitching up and taking off to parts unknown. The RV pastime is not rocket science, but there are many considerations relative to your goals, tow vehicles, and operation of these little homes on wheels that require knowledge and are best considered from a position of experience. It is fun and the people you meet are mostly great folks. Your mentor should be able to help you from the selection process through your first experiences on the road. Like piloting an airplane, handling a RV and touring the country is a pastime that never stops delivering surprises, and you will learn every day you are out. Our RV delivers views like the one here and the ability to have your pup, cat or alligator with you all the time. It is a hoot……but a thinking person’s hoot.

Have a great weekend!

SR