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Maine8

Mainly a writer’s summer, in Maine

UPDATE: 8/7/2020

Arriving in April amidst the countries Covid-19 panic, we did the prescribed 14-day quarantine before venturing forth to view what this most northeasterly state had to offer. For me, it was a gift allowing me many days of writing bliss. I took advantage of it and was able to make significant headway into completing the final third of The Redeemers Vow, the last installment of The Redemption Wall trilogy that began in 2016. Although I didn’t finish the writing, editing, and arrive at the euphoric moment of publishing a year-long endeavor until June, it was a good start towards a great conclusion.

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Although my travels across this great country had delivered me to most of the states, my feet had yet to cross into Maine. Unless you live in the northeast, Maine is a far stretch from just about every state, in my case, my dual abodes of Montana and Texas. Not only is the distance a factor, but considering we tow the 40′ fifth-wheel home on wheels to boot, and that the trip took us through states that had some of the worst highways I have ever encountered anywhere in the country. West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York were brutal in the early spring as road crews were just beginning to patch up the winter damage.

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I’m told, the roads never are great, just better by degrees as DOT workers slather asphalt into gaping wounds. It truly makes one long for Texas and Florida highways, which in my less-than-humble-opinion, have some of, if not the best roads in the U.S. But I know for a fact that the last seven-hundred miles of our journey to Maine finished off the tires on our rig. Last week I replaced the worn rubber with new 14-ply tires, so we are in good shape as we prepare to head west in a week or so.

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Unfortunately, the covid-summer of 2020 kept us from seeing a lot of the places we would have enjoyed. Maine didn’t really open-up until mid-way through July, and even now, we encounter businesses that display a sign announcing they won’t be back until 2021, not attempting to throw their doors open at all in this plagued year. Restaurants, cafes, and diners could only be sampled with a takeaway. Museums and art galleries only window shopped, and most historical sites, of which there are many here, we’re closed to entry.

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Eating out was not a problem as I prefer my own cooking anyway. Although few know my personal quirks, those who do know I fear the dirty, unwashed, fecal contaminated hands of food joint workers, almost as much as I dislike public pools and bathrooms. I’ve been gifted with a desire to prepare, season, and cook food for over forty years, and enjoy it immensely. Also, having lived on the ocean and in the mountains and owned ranchlands, I have gained experience in harvesting and preparing a diverse array of seafood, wild game, and farm animals. In Maine, that meant locating the fishermen who harvest their daily catch, and I’m in hog-heaven, so to speak., and it wasn’t a problem doing so.

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I’ve eaten my weight in fresh lobster here. Steamed lobster, lobster thermador, lobster salad, scrambled eggs and lobster, and lobster rolls. It was all excellent. But I also feasted on fresh steamer clams, scallops, mussels, cod, haddock, and the finest fresh-caught swordfish I’ve eaten in over thirty years. The fresh seafood will stand out to me as my best memories of Maine, other than having published my seventh novel here, of course.

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That said, what I envisioned when I thought of Maine prior to setting eyes on the state were its coastline and forests. We have all seen many pictures of the rocky shores and its numerous lighthouses and tree-shrouded lakes. And there are more lighthouses in this state than any other; I’m pretty sure. But, my opinion now, after traveling up the length of the coast and far enough inland to be in rock-throwing distance of Canada, is that after you have seen twenty miles of rocky coastline, and fifty miles of thickly forested hills and valleys, you have pretty much seen Maine, because it doesn’t change much.

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Don’t get me wrong. It’s all very beautiful. But there is not much diversity in the landscape. Not like the Oregon coastline with its dramatic changes around every turn in the mountains. Or, the scenic vistas of Montana, with its towering snow-clad peaks, vast lakes, and timbered valleys. Maine is pretty, and all should visit and experience it, but for me, after more than four months, I found it a bit repetitious and boring.

The Mainer’s, fisherman, storekeepers, and residents we encountered and came to know have all been gracious and friendly. If you visit Maine, you will find very friendly people.

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But I did find time to write—a lot.

Not only did I finish The Redeemers Vow, which at over five hundred pages is my longest novel to date, but I have made great progress in a novella about a campground in Maine and its quirky owners, odd seasonal campers, and outlandish staff. It started off as a short story but now may have become the featured piece in a yet-to-be-published work of short stories.

I’m also firmly ensconced in penning a dark thriller that has been in the works for over three years. It is about a small, forgotten town in Texas with its many secrets. Every citizen has a grim part to play in this ominous tale. Although it is many months from completion, I guarantee that after you read this story, you will sleep with the lights on at night.

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Enough teasing you with future reading; we leave the northeast and head west in but a few days. Stay tuned, because you never know what adventures are in store crossing the country. This year has delivered so many surprises already. Even my vivid imagination cannot configure what is ahead of us now.

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Social-Distancing- the new catchphrase

April 3, 2020

I dare say that very few of us that are alive today will ever forget 2020.

The world has turned into an evolving Stephen King manuscript, yet we are unable to read the last chapter.

view of a old classic car in the malecon of havana

To be honest, I’ve hesitated to write on this blog while we are on this virus treadmill. Like many of you, I feel sensory overload from being pummeled by news regarding the evolving crisis. Totally worn out from hearing the daily oration from every self-proclaimed cognoscente with their interpretation or vaticination of what the future holds for mankind, but it is difficult to talk about anything else.

I’ve now taken to turning off the news, other than a daily scan of the headlines on the internet, and am focusing, as most of you are, on making the most of this present climacteric. A short glance at history will assure us this planet has endured many of them and so my intent is on surviving by keeping my head down and staying out of contact with others until this pandemic finds a termination.

La Habana. Cuba

And it will. Of that, I am sure. That’s an easy prognostication.

I will acknowledge that I inadvertently found a good spot to shelter-in-place, living full time and traveling as I do in our RV, timing and opportunity led us to an empty campground just ten miles away from a small town with a Walmart that is amply stocked and has never been crowded the few times we have shopped. There is good WIFI here, and the weather is pleasant. Sometimes it’s small things, like having enough toilet paper or food in the pantry.

Tropical storm with huge waves in Havana

Of course, as I said before, the last chapter of this current situation has yet to be written, but as of this writing my concern is not with myself, so much as with my distant family, and those of you that can’t isolate as easily, and from all indications, social distancing is pretty damn significant.

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I’ll admit that this opportunity works quite well for me. I’m able to devote many hours a day to writing the manuscript to book #7, which will be titled, The Redeemers Vow, the third book in The Redemption Wall series that follows the intrepid Luke Canfield through twenty years of his adventurous life. It is an action-filled story that will keep the reader franticly turning pages to an ending no one will expect.

I’m having a great time writing the story, and you have the chance to assist me if you like. The pictures I’ve included in this post are of some of the places Luke visits while rescuing kidnap victims and dispensing justified treatment to human traffickers for these two decades. The story travels through Colombia, Nicaragua, Haiti, Panama, Cuba, the Caribbean, and South Florida, and one of these pictures may be chosen for the book cover, so if you care to comment on a particular photo or the blog, please do so. I’d appreciate hearing from you. You can offer a suggestion either here on my website or my Facebook page.

El Morro fortress in Havana during a tropical storm

Although this interlude has twisted all of our lives off the course we had set when the calendar rolled into the new year, Luke Canfield, ever the one to look to the positive would say, “Life’s an adventure, make of it what you will.”

Stay safe; don’t dwell on misfortune. Letting depression take control of your spirit might be worse than contracting the virus. Try to do something each day that makes you feel good, and with time on your hands, find a good book to read. Allowing your mind to be taken captive in a good story will help the time fly by, and soon the world will settle down, though most likely into a new normal.

Paramo landscape in Colombia near Nevado del Ruiz dotted with espeletia plants.

 

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Situational Awareness and Self-Defense in the Real World

 

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November 7, 2019

I used to speak on this subject quite often a few years ago as I taught advanced firearm and self-defense classes, but not so much now other than to reference situations in my novels. But events of the last couple of weeks got me to thinking that it was time to address the subject with readers of my blog and Facebook pages and groups. In truth, situational awareness needs to be discussed often among friends and especially within your families. Your safety and the safety of your family is a personal responsibly. No matter where you live if you are threatened or attacked, law enforcement will not get to you in time to save you or your loved ones from injury or death.

What spurred me to discuss this subject was the recent murders in Texas of the New Hampshire couple living and traveling in their RV, and the ambush massacre of women and children in Mexico that left nine Americans dead. Two separate incidents that should awaken everyone to how fleeting life can be in this dangerous world. The truth is ugly, and although I have lectured on this subject for most of my life, I have known many people that quite frankly didn’t wish to acknowledge my message, that no matter where you are, no matter where you live or work…there are no safe places.

After spending over twenty years rescuing kidnap victims from a lot of very bad places, I can honestly tell you that not one person I ever recovered thought they were in danger prior to being abducted. But without a doubt, the signs were there if only the victims had just practiced situational awareness.

For those of you that don’t know, situational awareness is being conscious of your immediate surroundings and the people that are in close proximity to you at all times. No matter how skilled you are at defending yourself, situational awareness is by far the greatest self-defense skill you can acquire. Being aware of threats and danger around you gives you the advantage over the bad guys who want unaware victims that are easy prey. Letting the criminals know you are alert just may be enough for them to let you move on while they look for another target. In any event, it gives you the opportunity to react faster to the threat.

When faced with a threatening situation, an individual will have one of three responses. Depending on the scenario and their level of training they will either FIGHT…FREEZE…. or FLEE. If that person is practicing good situational awareness, they should have time to decide whether it is appropriate to fight or flee. Freezing is NEVER A GOOD OPTION.

It doesn’t matter where you encounter the threat, in or outside of your home, in a parking lot, inside of a store or your place of work, situational awareness will give you time to develop your options.

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Almost everyone has some methods in place to assist in securing your home, and by home, I’m referring to wherever you live, be it a single-family house, apartment, condo, or like myself, in an RV. Doors and windows secured and locked, motion sensors, security lights, or other systems. None are 100% effective in stopping a home invasion, though they may buy you enough time to assess the threat and decide on a response, but when you leave home, how do you ensure your safety?

The first rule is simple. Don’t go into bad places. Trouble is very likely to find you there.

Recently we were in Tampa, Florida, for a day having some work done on our RV, the one we travel around the country in while I write my books. After dropping off the rig we decided to do some shopping and went in search of a Walmart. Not being familiar with the city we enlisted the aid of the Google lady. She directed us north, and within a short time, the buildings lining the streets became more rundown and decrepit. A couple of blocks later we were stopped at a traffic light, and beside us was a guy sitting inside of a covered bus stop with a needle in his arm, shooting up. That was enough for me to turn around and head away from that area. It was a bad news place.

Now understand that in my previous occupation as a kidnap resolution specialist, I was sent into some of the most dangerous places in the world. Medellin, and Bogota, Colombia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Guatemala City, Guatemala, San Salvador, El Salvador, and every barrio in and around Mexico City. I was never sent into the place’s that tourists frequent, but into dingy, nasty, slums. So, the north side of Tampa wasn’t nearly as bad as any of those places, but for the fact, that I was traveling with my partner, and there was no reason to put her life in danger being in a bad place. We left and found a nicer side of town with a Walmart.

This brings me to the recent events I mentioned earlier. The beach that the couple from NH were camping on near Corpus Christi, Texas, is a well-known hangout for drug dealers, and male and female prostitutes. The camping is free there, but it attracts a bad element and the predators that are looking for easy prey. This beach is just eleven miles from where we are heading in a couple of weeks to spend two months at Mustang Island State Park. The difference being that the free camping area is not regularly patrolled by security or law enforcement. It is a place where bad things happen, and trouble can find you fast.

Why were they there? Don’t know. Total speculation leads me to believe they were earnestly trying to get by on the cheap. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but as I said before, there are some places you just shouldn’t go into, and for that couple, the free beach was one of them. Maybe they chose the spot for another reason. Experience and my writer’s innate imagination brings to mind several different scenarios. It doesn’t matter. Dead is dead. Wrong place, poor timing.

As for the family that was massacred in Mexico, they chose to live in what is now the most dangerous country in the world. A totally lawless nation where the drug cartels control the government and every city and village. If you read my book, Call Sign Stiletto, I detail many of the threats that can be encountered in Mexico. The story itself is fictional, but the dangers I wrote about are real. I worked there in those same places and faced the same criminal elements. Even tourist spots like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Cabo San Lucas, and Acapulco regularly suffer atrocities dealt by the cartels. Yet this family chose to live there, so, unfortunately, they ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid the price. So, my best advice is if you find yourself in a bad place, trust your instincts and leave. Get out and go someplace else.

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Now, for the times, and they are many, when you find yourself out of your home, away from your vehicle, how does situational awareness assist you?

You must mentally work with two security zones. The primary zone is what is happening within twenty-one feet of you, and secondarily, what is beyond the twenty-one-foot area.

Why the twenty-one-foot zone? Because any threat inside of twenty-one feet can have their hands or a weapon on or in your body within one and a half seconds. Security professionals, the military, and law enforcement call it the twenty-one-foot rule, and we train extensively for it.

The rule states that a bad guy with a knife that is twenty-one feet away can get within arm’s reach of you in one and a half seconds…… Yes, that fast.

Now the question becomes, how do you defend yourself if a threat appears within that zone? I will tell you, because I trained special military units and law enforcement, that few people without a tremendous amount of extensive training can, under pressure in a threatening situation, draw and shoot a holstered handgun with deadly precision in one and a half seconds. To survive such an encounter, you need to be able to move and shoot, likely at multiple targets while not getting sliced and diced with a blade, or shot by the attacker. And very few civilians, honestly few military or law enforcement professionals train for just such a scenario. To make my point, if you have ever been to a gun range, you will find the shooters standing behind the lines, shooting at a static target, generally twenty or more feet away. In a real gunfight, the threat will be closer, ten feet or less. You will smell their sweat and bad breath, and they won’t be standing still.

Your best bet is to try and identify a threat or threats within that twenty-one-foot zone, and move away, put distance between you and the threat.

What do you look for?

Always look at their hands and eyes. The eyes will tell you where the bad guy’s attention is focused, and the hands will give away their intent to harm you. Every time!

If you identify a threat, look at them. Don’t betray your fears. Stare them down, so they know you are aware. As I said before, they may look for an easier target.

As you are scanning for threats in the primary zone, you need to also be aware of the secondary zone that you are moving into, looking for potential danger or escape routes should you need to flee from a threat.

Situational awareness is an acquired skill. While our distant ancestors living a nomadic life on the open plains acquired this self-preservation skill at an early age or died, we in this so-called modern era, sleeping with four strong walls around us have long forgotten what it was like to be under threat from predators, two and four-legged ones, day and night. So, if we are to take personal responsibility for our security it is important that we develop the skills and practice them daily. Not only that, but we must teach the skills to our children as well.

We can’t be with our children all hours of the day, so they need to be taught how to monitor their surroundings for threats and learn how to avoid them. I was often told by parents in my self-defense classes that they disliked having to explain to their children what a dangerous world they are living in, that they didn’t want to ruin their childhood or scare them. Reality dictates the opposite. There is no running and hiding from the fact that there are people that do bad things to good people every day. You either expect the worse and plan for it, or face the possibility of becoming a victim.

Many women don’t realize that they face danger nearly every day when they do the most mundane of things. Entering and leaving their vehicle.

Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Women, think about this; when you leave for work in the morning, hands full of a purse, keys, and whatever else your taking, do you survey the area around you, the street, side of the garage, under the car? These are places criminals would be, looking for an unaware woman to rob, or abduct.

When you go shopping; in the parking lot, before you exit the vehicle, do you look to see if there are any men or women lurking nearby or possibly sitting in a car near you? When you come out of the store, shopping bags in tow, children to put in car seats, are you aware of what is happening around you?

Over a million women and children are abducted every year in the U.S., and many disappear from parking lots. Read my latest novel, The Caldera Abduction, and you will get an idea of how easy it is for kidnappers to make someone disappear, forever.

So, I’m often asked, how does someone protect themselves in the event of an attack, home invasion, or robbery? What weapon should I use?

My answer is, use any weapon that is available and can be accessed quickly. A gun is good if you have trained with it, are familiar with it, know how to clear malfunctions quickly, and have it with you. It does you no good if you are attacked outside your home, while the weapon is by your bed. If you aren’t proficient with it, seek training. No one drives a car for the first time without being trained. A gun is no different. And just because you can hit a target on the range at thirty feet standing still, doesn’t mean you can hit a man running at you while under stress. Fighting with a firearm is a totally different ballgame, and it’s not like anything you see on television or in a movie. Unlike a military engagement that may take place with combatants hundreds of yards apart, most civilian self-defense confrontations happen within ten feet. The bad guy may actually have his hands on you while you are trying to shoot him. It is truly up close and personal.

If you don’t have a gun or don’t have it with you, use whatever is at hand. A pencil or ballpoint pen in the eye may not kill an attacker, but it will take their mind off you long enough for you to get away.

How about a knife? While you may have a kitchen full of knives, and a pocket knife is easy to carry, and in a pinch any weapon you can put your hands on is better than nothing, the truth about a knife fight that few edged weapons instructors will tell you, other than me, is that in a knife fight, EVERYONE GETS CUT….and its not a pretty sight. My call-sign in the private military organization I spent over two decades with was Stiletto. That might just clue you in that I know a fair bit about sharp blades. So, if the situation will allow it, run away from the attacker as fast as you can. Unfortunately, age, physical condition, and other factors may prohibit your ability to escape an attacker.

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Mace, pepper spray, or bear spray are all good non-lethal options, but they must be carried at all times, and like any other weapon, you need to practice regularly with them. The ability to use any weapon under stress requires developed muscle memory. You will have little or no time to think in an attack, so you must train so that you can react. Otherwise, you will freeze instead of fighting or fleeing.

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Martial arts like karate, judo, and jiu-jitsu are all effective forms of self-defense, but they require years of training along with extreme physical fitness. Many students will never stay the course long enough to become proficient enough to survive a street fight, but Krav Maga can be taught to anyone, no matter your physical strength or conditioning. If you are interested in learning a self-defense skill, look up a local Krav Maga class, and you will do no wrong. I was trained in Krav decades ago, and over the years working in an extremely dangerous business found it very useful.

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But the most important self-defense skill set is not a weapon. It is a developed mindset that no matter what bad situation you are confronted with, that you will never give up! If you think that to acquiesce to a rapist, robber, home invader, or kidnapper will save your life, you are wrong. Fight with whatever you have, run away if you can, but NEVER GIVE UP!

One last tip I will offer you, is to have everyone in your family program their cell phones to call 911 by just hitting the number 1. (Speed dial 1) Under extreme stress, many of the bodies normal functions shut down. You develop tunnel vision, and many of the cognitive functions of the brain are affected. Studies have shown that even the simple task of dialing three numbers, 9-1-1 can become impossible. By programming your phone to just one number, you can override most cerebral dysfunctions.

Take your personal security seriously. You have little control over when you will encounter a life-threatening situation. The bad guys dictate that. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst is not a bad way to stay alive.

Be aware and stay safe.

Click on the menu in the top right-hand corner or go here for information on my novels or links to my short stories.

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As if on cue, two weeks after the release of my latest novel, ‘The Caldera Abduction‘ , that deals with human trafficking in America, a new report issued today by the U.S. State Department, declares that “Human Trafficking in America is among the worst in the world”

The United States is again ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. According to a recently released report by the State Department, the top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking in 2018 were the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the Trafficking in Persons report, which is created annually by the State Department to document human trafficking in the year prior, and highlighted the growing focus that government agencies and nonprofit organizations have dedicated to stopping human trafficking. The Department of Justice provided more than $31 million for 45 victim service providers that offered services to trafficking survivors across the country. It was a demonstrable increase; the DOJ only provided $16 million to 18 organizations in 2017, according to the report.

At the heart of the human trafficking trade in America is simple economics: Supply and demand.

Over the last two months, Fox News has investigated human trafficking. We followed the enforcement efforts of FBI agents and police officers, documented the ways advocacy groups protect and serve survivors, and heard heart-wrenching stories of abuse, rape, and recovery from numerous victims.

If there’s one takeaway from our reporting, it’s that the industry is fueled by an unceasing demand. It’s here that officers focus their enforcement actions. And it’s where advocates focus their education efforts to end the illicit trade.

“We have a major issue here in the United States” Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), said in an interview with Fox News. “The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So we are driving the demand as a society.”

In 2018, the DOJ began 230 federal human trafficking prosecutions, a drop from 282 in 2017. Federal convictions rose from 499 in 2017 to 526 in 2018. More than 70 percent of the cases resulted in jail sentences of more than five years, according to the State Department report.

“We’re also driving the demand with our own people, with our own kids,” Rogers said. “So there are tremendous numbers of kids, a multitude of kids that are being sold as sex slaves today in America. These are American kids, American-born, 50 percent to 60 percent of them coming out of the foster care industry.”

This assertion is confirmed by the State Department’s report, which found that children in foster care, homeless youth, undocumented immigrant children and those with substance abuse problems were especially at risk to fall into the human trafficking trap.

Rogers says that because the demand is so great in the U.S., traffickers are filling that demand with an increased supply of forced sex workers.

“So the demand here in the United States is a global one,” he said. “We do have men traveling the globe to go to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. But, in fact, the demand is so great that the supply has needed to be filled here in the United States.”

“Because of the demand, then these traffickers are filling that demand with supply. And the demand is so great here in the United States that they’re filling the supply with our very own kids,” Rogers continued.

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, over 300,000 of America’s young population is considered at risk for sexual exploitation. It’s also estimated that 199,000 incidents occur within the U.S. each year.

Corporal Alan Wilkett, of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, operates their local Human Trafficking Task Force. He believes the best way to combat the trade is to quell the demand.

“Historically, we’ve allowed the sex buyer to hide behind a mask of anonymity and actually call them a ‘John,’” He said in an interview with Fox News. “We don’t even call them by their name, because we let them stay behind that mask. And the only way we’re going to attack the supply side is by going after the demand. And that means the sex buyer needs to be held culpable for the damage and trauma that he or she is causing.”

While Wilkett and other law enforcement officers focus on arrests and sting operations, leaders in the nonprofit realm take a more holistic approach to healing survivors. Brook Bello, the founder of anti-trafficking organization More Too Life in Florida, focuses on helping develop skills to lead a successful post-trafficking life.

“We work with victims that are 3 years old and up,” Bello said. “The average victim that we work with, that’s over 18, started being raped at three. Trafficking in America, if you are trafficked in the United States, 85 percent of victims that are trafficked here are from here.”

The State Department’s report similarly echoes the domestic nature of sex trafficking in the United States. Despite the growing focus and concern surrounding human trafficking, gaps exist that leave victims and survivors without the care and resources they need to build a life beyond the abuse.

“Advocates reported a significant lack of services available for men, boys, and LGBTI individuals and noted continued concern that some federal funding opportunities no longer highlight the need for services for LGBTI individuals,” the State Department said in its Trafficking in Persons report. “NGOs and survivor advocates continued to report insufficient access to emergency shelter, transitional housing, and long-term housing options for trafficking victims.”

Progress has been made on this front, but too often too many kids can’t fight their way out of the clutches of their traffickers. In cities across the nation, and along the highways that connect them, police and advocates continue their fight to eradicate human trafficking and heal those who survived.

Buy The Caldera Abduction here… The Caldera Abduction

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How Venezuela Shipwrecks Revealed Sex Trafficking Ring

The sinking of two boats sailing from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago has unveiled a criminal ring implicating high-level law enforcement officials in the trafficking of migrants and children for sexual exploitation.

The two boats had left Güiria, in Venezuela’s Sucre state, for Trinidad when they sank, leaving more than 50 people missing and 10 survivors, El Universal reported.

The first boat wrecked on April 23 with 38 people on board. Nine people were later arrested on human trafficking charges after one survivor, along with family members of the victims, spoke to authorities. Many of the passengers were headed to Trinidad and Tobago to work as prostitutes, but they had been deceived about the purpose of the trip, authorities said.

 

Two sources told InSight Crime that those arrested included two soldiers, allegedly from the Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana – GNB), and an official from Venezuela’s maritime authority (Instituto Nacional de los Espacios Acuáticos – INEA). Additional reports pointed to the involvement of officials from the country’s criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC) and the Trinidadian Coast Guard.

The second boat sank on May 16 with an estimated 29 passengers on board, with several children among the missing.

The first boat’s captain and one survivor, identified as a teacher, are currently being held. The second boat’s captain, reportedly the only survivor, has a previous conviction for human trafficking. His whereabouts are currently unknown after he fled from a hospital in the Caribbean island of Grenada. 

Five hotel owners in Venezuela’s eastern coastal city of Güiria were arrested after the victims stayed in their properties before boarding the boats. They have since been released.

Güiria residents have told the press that most passengers were charged between $250 and $500 to be taken to Trinidad and Tobago.

Several teenagers, who were reportedly deceived about the purpose of the trip, were taken for free before being turned over for $300 apiece to prostitution rings in the Caribbean country.

A source told InSight Crime that a gang in Venezuela kidnapped 15- and 16-year-old girls and then took them to Güiria, where they were made up and dressed in fresh clothing before being delivered to another group who took them to Trinidad and Tobago.

Venezuelans, desperate to find better living conditions, are searching for any way to flee the country, which has given rise to human and sex trafficking, as the recent shipwrecks revealed.

Such businesses seem to be booming in Venezuela, driven by criminal networks that are cashing in on the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis. The participation of corrupt officials in Venezuela and their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago shows ever-increasing levels of collusion between the state and criminal groups.

Teachers from poor schools and even neighbors are encouraged by traffickers to recruit girls whose families are in dire economic straits, luring them with promises of money and gifts, InSight Crime learned.

 

Authorities have arrested others suspected of human trafficking since the wrecks. Three suspects were arrested as they traveled to Güiria in the company of five young people, including three teenagers, without identity documents. Another two were arrested for crewing the boat that would have transported the victims to Trinidad and Tobago.

It is estimated that each ship sending sex trafficking victims to Trinidad and Tobago can earn between $3,000 and $12,000, according to Venezuelan authorities.

A source told InSight Crime that human trafficking has occurred along the Venezuelan coast for at least 15 years, indicating that these criminal networks are likely well entrenched, with longstanding connections to local authorities. The reach of the sex trafficking rings was also evident from the fact that victims were recruited at opposite ends of Venezuela, from Táchira to Delta Amacuro.

Official tolerance of criminal activity combined with a lack of maritime surveillance of illegal vessels have also allowed these networks to thrive. In the case of the first vessel, a search was only initiated three days after the boat sank and ceased as soon as the first group of survivors was found.

The second shipwreck fared no better. No bodies or remains of the boat have been found and no information about the cause of its sinking has been provided.

Worse, other criminal groups are attacking the boats at sea, allegedly kidnapping the victims and demanding ransom payments in dollars, according to InSight Crime sources in Sucre.

A final element is the involvement of a Trinidadian gang, whose leader is thought to be Vaughn Mieres, alias “Sandman.” A report seen by InSight Crime stated that one of the surviving young women from the first shipwreck heard the sound of a jet ski and other women screaming. It is believed some of the survivors were taken to Trinidad, where they are likely to have entered the sex trade.

The Caldera Abduction

Female Hostage tied by rope

My sixth novel, The Caldera Abduction is finished. I wrote THE END on it four days ago, a whopping 118, 299 words and it is now in editing review.
This story that tracks a worldwide human-trafficking organization is a riveting tale that will keep my voracious readers on the edge of their seats, through sleepless nights, rapidly turning pages to the explosive ending.
Stay tuned for its release.

I did not write this novel with the intention of scaring anyone. But I do hope my readers will endeavor to develop more situational awareness after reading this story. Situational awareness (SA) is nothing more than being attentive to your surroundings no matter where you are. I am a firm believer that there are no safe places, not your home or business, your children’s schools, or the grocery store you shop at every week. There are always opportunistic predators searching for places you feel comfortable, where they can take advantage of your letting down your guard.

Of course, women and children are the most vulnerable, from the standpoint of abduction by deviant sexual predators or for sale to human trafficking rings. Adult men’s concerns would be in getting robbed, or in foreign countries of being snatched for ransom.

There are many self-defense classes taught by qualified professionals that can teach you the basics to situational awareness, but that’s all it is, the basics. To develop true SA you must practice it every hour of the day, every day.

The first step is mentally acknowledging that you and your family are a target, or in the case of human-traffickers, a commodity. You have value whether it is a deviant rapist or someone that can profit from handing you over to organizations that in turn will profit from turning you or your children into prostitutes or sex slaves. You have value.

Once you acknowledge this fact, then it is necessary to develop the inherent skill set to continually monitor your surrounding day and night. It takes both work, and commitment, and I’ll be truthful, there will be many that will wish to believe that bad things always happen to someone else, and that’s exactly what the bad guys want you to believe. And once you buy into that concept, you are already a victim-in-waiting.

Of the many, many kidnap victims I rescued over the years in South and Central America, and the Caribbean, I never had one individual tell me they felt they were a target, or being targeted before they were snatched away from their loved ones. They all believed they were safe.

In contrast, I also can tell you that once I’d returned kidnap victims to their homes, or families, they never ever felt safe, anywhere again. And many, as I have written in this story, had trouble living with the horrible memories of the abuse they received or witnessed while in captivity.

Too many times I’ve had parents tell me they didn’t want to scare their children by explaining to them the reality of the evil world they live in. How much worse I would tell them, to have to live with the knowledge that you could have alerted them to the dangers, but didn’t, after they have been ripped from your lives by predators, possibly forever.

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Pacific coast bound

11/6/2018  Leaving the dry arid desert of eastern Oregon in the rearview mirror, we headed for the Cascades. Looking for a secluded campground we could boondock the night at, we drove thirty miles off the highway into a very small (just six sites) campground, Lava Flow Campground on Davis Lake.

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Davis Lake, just like all the lakes, rivers, and streams we’d seen since we got into Oregon was very low. Irrigating summer hay fields and dry weather had combined to draw the water levels down.

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The campground was empty when we pulled in and remained so all night. We’ve been lucky a few times camping late in the season to find a campground all to ourselves.

The next morning we moved on out to the coast and on a wet rainy day found an almost empty campground at William M. Tugman State Park just south of Winchester Bay.

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We were finally able to get an appointment to get our campers warranty issues looked at so while we waited for the scheduled date we stayed in Tugman for eight days.

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Winchester Bay brings back many childhood memories for me.

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My father owned several fishing boats when I was young and I spent quite a few summers along this coast

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and lots of that time was spent in Winchester Bay. I detail many of my youthful memories of my time here in my first novel, ‘The Redemption Wall’   available here…

amazon.com/…49919202/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0

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The little town of Winchester Bay and Salmon Harbor hasn’t changed much in fifty years. I can remember tearing up and down the docks in bare feet and blue jean cutoffs.

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Crabbing is a big deal in the bay here, and several piers and docks are set aside for crabbing.

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October 31st we hitched up and drove two hours across the Coastal Range to Coburg, Oregon, just west of Eugene for our appointment at Paul Everts RV.

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They took pictures and made notes to present to the warranty department at Grand Design to get approval for the work, and took care of a few minor items at the same time. Expecting it to be several weeks before anything will get actually fixed, we went back across the low mountains

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and took a campsite and (temporary) Camp Host position at the Winchester Bay RV Resort.

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Right on the bay and close to another set of crabbing docks I remember from childhood.

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In fact, surprisingly, not much has changed in this little town in the last fifty years.

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A few stores have come and gone, and a bait dock I remember is no longer there, but much is the same.

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The cannery is still operating, ready to buy the fisherman’s daily catch, so he’ll have money for fuel and bait

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and to haul his boat out on the ways to scrub and paint its hull. One thing is for sure, the fisherman’s life hasn’t changed at all.

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It’s nice to be back on the Oregon coast.

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A full-timer on the road in our RV

 

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10/19/2018…..We began our RV journey six months ago, leaving Texas pulling our 2018 Grand Design 351M heading for Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park. We had never had a complete PDI when we got the rig so everything is new, with few instructions. (Manufacture supplied Owner’s Manual is next to worthless!)

 

Our run north to The Park last April was a whirlwind, where we rushed more than necessary and didn’t get to enjoy our new home as much as we should have. After living in the Park at Madison Campground for six months, we left on Sunday afternoon, 14 October and drove south into Idaho, on the road again!

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We grabbed a free overnight spot in Idaho Falls thanks to a friendly manager at Sam’s Club, then up the next morning for a run across the State, with a short stop for a Starbucks at Twin Falls

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where we got to watch base jumpers going off the bridge and canyon rim,

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and on into Oregon, where we also stayed for free at the Oregon Visitors Center at Ontario.

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The next day we drove north to Huntington, Oregon and got a great campsite right on the Snake River in Farewell Bend State Park.

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The river is way down, as the fishing reports I’ve been getting from Oregon all describe. Got skunked fishing on the Snake as well,

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but a pretty site with lots of sun, a nice change after being cloistered underneath the lodgepole pines in Madison Campground for so long.

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After two nights we hitched up and headed west across a very dry eastern Oregon. Between Burns and Bend, Oregon we found a great little park on the Chickahominy Reservoir.

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The reservoir is low as well, so low that boats can’t launch into it, which may be why the campground is almost empty.

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There are only a few campers here, and plenty of space between everyone.

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Our plan is to stay here through the weekend, then head for Bend and a campground along the Deschutes River, somewhere.

Well, after six months living in the RV what have we learned? Space wise, its not much different than the boats I used to live on down in Florida, and the Caribbean, except there’s no water in the bilge. The two of us have adapted well to living in close surroundings, at least enough that neither of us has killed the other one, and neither are we seeking counseling for living in tight spaces.

I do wish we’d had more time to get to know our rig before we drove out of Texas, like a few short trips to test everything out, shake-down cruises. We are still learning more about the systems and their limitations aboard the camper, in fact, the other day I searched for hours to find the location of the power converter I knew was installed somewhere. Finally pulled down all the walls in the basement and found it, and everything else I knew was there but had never seen before.

Since leaving YNP we have had our first boondocking experiences and the camper seems quite well suited for that although I can see adding a couple of new batteries and solar panels for charging them in our near future. With hardly anything running our batteries seriously need charging when we leave the generator off overnight. We are both enjoying being in a remote campground with few campers in sight after being in one of the busiest campgrounds in Yellowstone for so long.

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Our plan is to move west towards the coast, fishing along the way, and hopefully getting in on the steelhead run on the Umpqua River, going slow, and taking our time.

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Six months in Yellowstone

 

 

Shrouded under a canopy of lodge-pole pines, our campsite sits nestled into the trees with a view of National Park Mountain rising behind the Madison River. Pine needles and the small seed cones these trees produce blanket the ground with grass covering only the areas where enough sunlight reaches the soil to nurture it. Ground squirrels and chipmunks scramble to gather what provender they can before the robins, sparrows and camp-robbing blue jays can grab it. Bison and elk are frequent visitors, often performing the grounds maintenance, quietly trimming the grass alongside our 39’ fifth-wheel camper, while in the dark of night, coyotes still wrapped in their heavy winter coats roam the campground with the occasional black bear in search of any food or garbage scraps the campers might have left out, and on several nights a pack of wolves circles the campground treating us to a wilderness concerto.

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We arrived in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) on the 14th of March (in three feet of snow) with the plan of spending the summer here. For the average camper, a limit of fourteen consecutive days is all that is allowed and most campsites in the Park are primitive, without hookups for sewer, water, and electric, and with few exceptions, no cell phone service or WIFI is available anywhere within the Park boundaries. In order to stay longer and have some services while I write my sixth novel, we chose to work/camp the summer in Madison Campground, employed part-time for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the company that owns the concession rights to this and several other National Parks. Our job as Guest Service Agents (GSA’s) is essentially to check in and out campers to the campground, sell firewood and ice, and answer all manner of questions proffered by the masses of visitors from every nation on this earth, and a few likely extraterrestrials, based on their out-of-worldly queries, that are here to experience the world-famous natural wonders and the drive-through-zoo that YNP offers. No where on earth that I’m aware of, can you motor through lush alpine valley’s literally smoking from mineral hot springs and geysers, surrounded by snow-covered forested mountains, and experience bumper-to-bumper traffic jams reminiscent of LA’s 405 at rush hour, as bison slowly wander down the center of the narrow two-lane Park road.

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Having experienced more than a few ‘bison jams’ since being here, I’ve come to believe that this is the wisent’s way of paying us back for nearly making their species extinct, and now that they are protected within the Park boundaries, they are bound and determined to cause millions of visitors to have catatonic fits waiting for the furry beasts to step off the road.

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Of course, clearing the roadway doesn’t have the effect you might think it would of letting the traffic flow, because eight of ten cars are filled with tourists that have to stop in the middle of the roadway to capture close-up photos or videos of the animals. This action is not limited just to bison, as elk, coyotes, moose, bears, and even a squirrel is enough to back up traffic for miles in both directions as anxious visitors attempt to capture an image of the wildlife to show to family and friends back home.

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Yellowstone is truly an outstanding place to visit, but it suffers from an affliction that is plaguing more than a few National Parks in North America, namely, just too many visitors! The roads and infrastructure that was designed and built for this park back in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and upgraded as timing and opportunity allowed are not enough to handle the current flow of more than four million visitors a year, in a season that basically runs from April to October.  The Yellowstone experience can be so dreadful that once experienced, one never wants to endure again. If you wish was to visit one of the geyser basins and see the amazing natural wonders like Grand Prismatic, the Middle Geyser Basin or Norris Geysers you need to arrive very early in the morning to obtain a parking spot without having to wait for someone to leave. The parking lots overflow onto the roadsides for over half a mile in both directions, tourists leaving their vehicles and scurrying down the road as if the million-year-old bubbling hot springs and geysers were about to dry up before they could put eyes on them. The boardwalks around and through the sensitive areas are packed elbow to elbow tight with the flood of bodies. The infrastructure just can’t handle the numbers of visitors in its present state.

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Since I started manning the window and welcoming guests into Madison Campground I have roughly tracked the nationality of campers into the Park and frankly, it has been quite a surprise! If you haven’t been in a U.S. National Park lately you too will be blown away by these findings. Approximately 45-50% of visitors to YNP are from China and Hong Kong or other Asian countries. 25% are from the E.U. or U.K. 10% are from Australia and Canada, which leaves somewhere between 15% and 20% of total visitors are from the U.S.

Recently I jokingly told a Chinese camper who could barely speak or understand English, who was gushing about how wonderful her visit was to Yellowstone, to “tell all of China to come to visit the Park,” and she told me, straight-faced…… “they’re already here” ……

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Driving through the Park each day you will pass dozens of tour buses operated by Asian companies, and outside the West entrance to the Park in the little town of West Yellowstone the Chinese restaurants out-number all of the American cuisine establishments 2-to-1. At any bison jam, you can be guaranteed to find Asian tourists outside of their vehicles trying to get a close-up or selfie of themselves with the wild animals. Regardless of the posted restriction stating clearly, DO NOT STOP OR PULL TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, they do…. and it backs up traffic on the narrow Park roads for miles! Despite the overwhelming number of Chinese, only recently has the Park service’s begun to put up signs in Chinese, but you will only find them in the garbage and recycling bins at Old Faithful Inn. The Asians routinely disobey safety rules governing decorum on the boardwalks leading to and surrounding the hotter-than-hell geysers and hot springs putting themselves and others at risk of being boiled alive.

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The U.S Park Service is the law in Yellowstone and other National Parks, yet from what I can tell observing these fine men and women who are paid little, yet work and live in remote areas is that I believe they are hamstrung in their attempt to enforce the laws in the Park. Early on in our stay here, I heard it said that the word coming down to the Park Rangers from on high was, “don’t ruin anyone’s visit to the Park.” In other words, don’t shoot the cash cow! I found this very hard to believe at first till I witnessed a Ranger standing by and doing nothing to prohibit people from stopping their vehicles in the middle of the road and from pulling off to the side of the narrow road, while blocking traffic just to see a small bear cub off on the side of the road. Traffic was barely moving for over five hours. We got through the tie-up in the morning while driving north to Beartooth Pass in Wyoming, then encountered it again on the return trip late that afternoon. The Rangers had even put up NO PARKING signs along the road, and this lone Ranger had allowed people to park right on top of the signs.

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While a handful of visitors were undoubtedly thrilled to see a wild bear cub, it was clear the hundreds more that were caught up in the bear jam weren’t pleased with all with the loss of hours wasted sitting in a traffic tie-up. There are lots of attractions in YNP and it’s hard to see them all in a few days no matter how well you plan your visit. Most will not see them all unless they return for another visit, but the frustration of dealing with the throngs of people at any attraction diminishes the fervor for returning, and for Americans whose vacation time may be limited to a week or two per year, the chances of a return visit in the near future, unless they live close in adjacent states is probably next to none. I’ve met many people who came here to YNP when they were young and were only able to return 15-18 years later for another visit.

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Xanterra, who has the concession rights to this park sits on a cash machine, though I question how much the U.S. Interior Department profits from the association. I was told by someone who would know that Xanterra’s contract pays between 6.5% and 8% or gross revenue back to the government. Maintenance on a National Park is a nightmare, since the summer season sees millions of visitors using the facilities and infrastructure, and at least in YNP and other National Parks in the northern climes, the winters are long and harsh and little can be done on improvements with eight feet of snow on the ground and roofs amid freezing conditions. That leaves repairs and improvements to be handled while the summer season is in full swing, with visitors encountering limited bathroom facilities while repairs are being done on a finite number of them. Improvements do take place, and new facilities are built. Lodges and general stores have been added in a number of campgrounds, while the Parks reservation system founders with a circa 1980’s DOS operating system. Truly the most antiquated and limited computer program handles reservations for all the hotels and campgrounds in YNP.

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I myself am fairly proficient on computers and programs, having built a number of them from scratch since the 90’s and designed and built more than twenty websites over the years, yet I struggled with comprehending the operating system that Xanterra has in place. Whoever built this reservation program that must take in hundreds of millions of dollars from future guests in this Park should be drawn and quartered! I could, using a modern WINDOWS program design a more efficient program in my sleep while hung by my ankles suspended over hot coals! Clearly, Xanterra has invested no money for decades into improving the system for the benefit of its paying customers. Their excuse, (in an age of satellite internet and wireless WIFI) is that the remote locations and mountains prohibit them from getting any signals into the Park. In fact, here at Madison Campground in order to get cell phone service or a limited internet signal a visitor must travel fourteen miles outside the Park to West Yellowstone (one way) while enduring ‘bison jams’ that could last for hours just to get a connection.

I’ve been informed that the Park Service won’t allow cell phone towers to be constructed on the mountain tops because their unsightly appearance would ruin the park experience yet I’ve seen many towers built in other areas that are disguised as trees and can barely be detected in the surrounding forest. Though many campers might enjoy a few days unconnected from civilization, many thousands of visitors daily to YNP are inconvenienced because they can’t call home or the office to stay in touch, thus cutting their visits short and ruining their vacation. Clearly, it is not a priority to Xanterra to provide such a service for American visitors while they glean multi-millions of Yen, Pounds, and Rupees from all the foreigners that make up the majority of paying guests to the Park.

YNP is truly an outstanding experience and one that every American should enjoy. I fear that the American experience is being placed second, to the experience afforded to foreigners that come into our country bearing backpacks full of dollars. How sad it will be for generations of Americans to lose the opportunity to view one of the greatest natural wonders on this planet because the overwhelming numbers of foreign visitors crowd out the Parks.

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What is the solution to the overcrowding of our National Parks? A tough question inasmuch as it is impossible to deny foreign visitors entry into our Parks, but a couple of problems might be solved if visitors without U.S. citizenship were charged differently from U.S. citizens. The U.S. Park Service is severely understaffed, badly in need of more Park Rangers who work and live in remote areas, are poorly paid for their work and can find better pay and living conditions almost anywhere. Frankly, it takes a certain type of individual to want to work in a National Park. What if non- U.S. citizens were charged three or four times the rate of U.S citizens for entry into our National wonders? I honestly doubt it would slow or even inhibit the flow of foreign visitors, but it would pump hundreds of millions of extra dollars into the coffers of the Interior Department, allowing them to increase the salaries of Park employees and offer better opportunities for new hires, possibly solving the understaffing issue.

Even if the rate change kept some non-citizens from visiting, or at least reduced their length of stay, it might drop the numbers to manageable levels. I write this on a day when traffic was slowed to a crawl for four hours coming into the West entrance to the park because a few bison chose to walk next to the road. No Park Rangers were on the scene to direct the flow of traffic, probably busy elsewhere, so thousands of visitors lost precious hours sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic without any fuel, food or bathroom facilities. Four hours to move fourteen miles is not the experience people expect coming to visit YNP. Some I talked with just wanted to leave the Park, afraid another day here would lead to the same wasted time when vacation days are limited, no one wants to squander a minute.

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One solution to the overcrowded parking at the natural attractions, the large crowds, and the number of vehicles on the roads might be to only allow access to attractions via Park tour buses. Force those that wish to see Canyon Falls, the geyser basins, or Grand Prismatic to board the tour buses at one of several locations at scheduled times which would solve the parking problem and limit the crowds at the attractions and reduce traffic on the narrow two-lane roads.

More Park Rangers are needed to clear the ‘animal jams’ and keep traffic flowing. They’ll need to be mounted on motorcycles to be able to get through the congestion which stops both directions. Many times, I’ve witnessed the Park Rangers stuck in traffic trying to get to a scene, but unable to move. Illegal parking along the roads needs to be strictly enforced with fines large enough to deter any from taking a chance at pulling off the road for the bison selfie. Truly the Park Service needs a traffic enforcement division so the regular Rangers can be freed up to handle more important duties in the Park.

For those of you that have never visited YNP, what can you expect? Truly unparalleled beauty and breathtaking scenery everywhere you travel, unlike anything you’ll find anywhere in the U.S. But expect huge crowds, long lines, and limited parking anywhere you go. If you plan on camping in any of the Park campgrounds make your reservations a year ahead, or take your very slim chances of finding a site for the length of time you wish to stay. If you book a room at one of the hotels, lodges, inns or cabins instead of camping, it will set you back hundreds of bucks a day, and the lodging is limited. Once again, make your plans and book your stay a year ahead if possible.

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For the sportsman planning on fly fishing the famous rivers inside Yellowstone National Park like the Firehole, Gibbon, Madison, Gallatin, and Yellowstone you’re going to find that during the peak of season anglers clad in the latest trendy fishing gear are going to outnumber the trout. I’ve not fished the Yellowstone River yet, though I do plan to before I leave, on the other rivers wherever there is easy access its hard to cast your line without hitting another bug slinger. I was advised early on by a knowledgeable local that one needs to be willing to hike a way’s to get away from the crowds and heavily pressured fish. I’ve found this to be true on the Gallatin where to date I’ve gotten into the only 18” and 20” rainbow and brown trout I’ve yet to catch inside the Park. When I told a local guide of my luck and where I fished he laughed and said they don’t even take clients into that area because of all the bears there! While I haven’t run into any bruins while fishing yet, nor even come across tracks or scat, it seems the easy fished areas are not worth messing with for serious anglers. Personally, I plan on exploring areas outside the Park in Montana for the rest of my time here and am even going so far as to establish residency in the State so I can spend more time exploring its rivers and lakes in the coming years.

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As far as Yellowstone National Park is concerned, I have no plans to return. At the end of six months here, I will have seen all I wish to see, but the crowds and traffic are more than I can stand. It’s not enjoyable to me any longer. I’m glad for the once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ve had, but I only hope for the sake of future Americans that better management and control of traffic and crowds can be attained. Four million visitors a year is more than the Park can handle effectively at this point, but the numbers of visitors continue to grow every year. Changes need to be made quickly or our own citizens will seek to avoid the Park, and only the foreigners will be left to enjoy one of the most outstanding natural wonders on this planet.

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A Summer in Yellowstone

 

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend a summer in one of, if not the greatest natural wonders in the northern hemisphere?

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….and here we are, in three feet of snow, so deep we had to dig our way into our camping site. April in the mountains of Wyoming can be interesting, to say the least. But let me back up a little and tell you how this all came about.

Two years ago, my partner and I took a tent camping trip north from Texas up to Colorado, then west to Oregon, visited the Mohawk Valley where I was born, but had not seen in fifty years, the same place I wrote about in vivid description in my first book, The Redemption Wall, then camped up the Oregon coast into Washington, before moving north into British Columbia, Canada.

It was September and the nights were beginning to get chilly, plus the Pacific Northwest can get wet, and though it doesn’t bother me that much, she hates to be in a tent when it’s raining, so on occasion we would rent a small cabin in the campgrounds instead of setting up the tent in the rain and or snow we were occasionally encountering. In several parks, we noted other campers who traveled in nice RV’s and joked between ourselves about how nice it would be to sit or sleep in one while the weather was inclement. We headed east into Alberta, then south across the border into Montana to visit a friend before driving into Yellowstone where she had several friends working in the park.

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She had spent four summers herself working in Yellowstone, loved the place and just in passing talked about us doing it together sometime. I had been in the park a couple times myself years before, but just briefly as I was traveling west or east at the time, so my visits were short.

Nothing much more was said as we headed for home in central Texas to prepare for a trip to New Zealand, her home country, but just prior to leaving I, on a whim went online and filled out an application for employment in the park. I applied for lots of positions but figured if anything I’d be looking at a job wrangling horses or leading trail rides, or running tour boats on Yellowstone Lake, jobs I was very qualified for.

We flew to NZ and spent five weeks on the two islands, but when we returned home, found a response from Yellowstone inviting us to work as camp hosts if we could get there in three weeks! The only hitch was we needed to come with an RV since we would be living in a campground. Somehow, though not remembering, I had inadvertently applied for a position we were not prepared for, inasmuch as we didn’t own an RV.

We actually kicked around the idea of quickly buying one and running up there for the summer, but as soon as we started looking at the marketplace realized there was just too many makes, models, and floor plans to pick from, so we spent the next year touring dealerships, eliminating floorplans and manufacturers we’d heard horror stories about, until we narrowed the field down to a floorplan we liked, and a manufacturer we thought was top of the field in construction and customer satisfaction.

Meanwhile my books were doing well, were well received by my readers, as I had churned out five novels in two years and had many more stories stirring in my noggin, so having a place to write where I could concentrate and not be interrupted became a big issue, which was why we chose a ‘Toy Hauler’ floorplan so I could utilize the garage area for my writing room. The other big issue was a decent kitchen, as we both like to cook and prefer not to eat out very often.

As we shopped models, we also dealt with the issue of what to haul it with. I had long since sold all my haul trucks I used moving my cattle and horse trailers at the ranch, and since I had sold my ranch all that I needed was my Jeep Cherokee, which wasn’t going to be any use towing the fifth wheel model we were strongly leaning towards. Again, after doing a lot of research we determined the best choice for us, since we would be hauling 15,000 to 17,000 pounds and spending a lot of time in the western mountains was a Ram 1-ton diesel model with the Aisin 6-speed transmission , which we eventually purchased, a 2016 Longhorn dually with less than 15,000 miles, months before ordering and putting up a deposit in November 2017, on the RV of our choice from a supposedly reputable RV dealership in Ohio.

In retrospect, our decision not to buy the Grand Design 351 Momentum TH from the Texas Dealer we had also been shopping came down to a measly four grand! Even though we would have to travel to Kentucky to pick the rig up, we thought it would be a good chance to ‘shake down’ the camper before our trip out west, and yes, at this point let me add, we had accepted a position as Guest Service Agents in Madison Campground in Yellowstone Park for the 2018 summer, checking campers into the campground.

We cheaped out on a major purchase and would come to regret it way too late! The dealership we bought from, Colrain RV in Ohio, had several locations, including the one in Lexington, KY where we would eventually go to get our new home, and at first the salesperson Matt McDermott seemed to have our best interest at heart, but communication was slow coming from him, and as we expected the unit ready for us in late January, by December we hadn’t heard from him, so we began to call and email, and to our dismay were told it would be the middle of February before it would be available for pickup. I highly suspect our order wasn’t placed immediately, setting the date back, but I couldn’t confirm that, so it is just supposition on my part at this juncture.

Anyway, we did what we could to get ready for our much-anticipated RV and our plan of going ‘full-time Rv living’ in it for a few years by getting the house ready to lease and storing what possessions we intended to hold onto, but not take with us, in storage. Truly one acquires far too much crap in a lifetime, and we were no exception, though I had sold most of my ‘no longer needed’ things when I sold my ranch. Meanwhile, we watched YouTube videos of experienced RV’ers, read blogs, and joined Facebook groups to pick up experience from those that had ‘done it’ already. Now, living in cramped quarters wasn’t going to be a new experience for me since I had spent years skippering yachts and sportfishing boats through the Caribbean in my younger years, but for my best camping buddy, it would be a new thing, so she spent every spare moment compiling lists from her YouTube learning center of must-have items for the camper-we-didn’t-have-yet, and ordering said items from Amazon.

We purchased water hoses, and sewer lines, and clear connections for the sewer lines so we could get ‘eyes on’ the flowing waste as it exited our holding tanks, and more water connections, for any situation, levelers to keep the sewer hoses at the optimum angle for desirable flow, 50-amp, and 30-amp plugs, with surge protectors that light up like a Christmas tree. I sorted through my vast assortment of tools to determine what I would need in an emergency, then resorted several times as I quickly realized if I didn’t we would require another trailer just to haul all the tools!

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The middle of February arrived and still, we hadn’t heard from Matt McDermott from Colrain RV about a pickup date, so I called and was told it would be another month before it was completed. We had special ordered the camper to get some options we really wanted, a complete paint job to protect the rig and hopefully help hold its value longer, slide toppers because we’d read they help keep moisture from getting through the slide seals, and double-glazed windows which were so important we had walked away from manufacturers that didn’t offer the option. Try living in a Texas summer or a Canadian autumn and you’ll want as much energy efficiency as you can get! It was perhaps the most important item we wanted, and the reason we chose Grand Design for our RV.

Finally, we were informed our camper would be ready for pickup in Kentucky on March 15. Now bear in mind we had ordered in February because we were to be in Yellowstone no later than April 11. We had intended to make a leisurely trip north as we got accustomed to the new rig. We are both over sixty years old and the thought of a mad dash across country towing a new 17,000-pound fifth wheel was like a nightmare. But what can you do but make the best of a bad situation we thought, so we left Texas and drove over 1000 miles from Lampasas, Texas to Lexington, Kentucky, excited as young children anticipating a Christmas morning.

We got into Lexington the evening before we were to pick up our new home, and spent a sleepless night waiting for daylight, though our walk-thru inspection wasn’t scheduled till 9:00 a.m. we were at the dealership early but told we could not view the unit until we had completed the paperwork, which meant, since we were not financing the purchase, they wanted our cash money up front. So we did as they asked, paid in full over $70,000 in cash, and then we were allowed to go walk through and inspect our RV.

We began the walk through, by noting the paint job we’d paid almost ten grand for was applied. We checked systems inside and were going over the exterior when my partner noted the slide toppers were not installed. The dealership hadn’t taken the time to check if the unit we ordered from them was built to specifications, but it was about to get even worse when we, not Colrain RV discovered that the double-glazed windows hadn’t been installed!

The one feature we had particularly chosen Grand Design for, since other manufacturers didn’t offer them, had not been installed per our order? We were devastated, to say the least!

Back in the dealerships office, the manager, who had really not had anything to do with our order tried to find out what had gone wrong. We spent all day there as blame was handed around, when in fact it was the lack of, or non-existence of quality control at the Grand Design factory that allowed our unit to be built without our options. At one point I got on the phone with Lance Lees, the Grand Design dealers representative, who takes, and submits the special orders from their dealers, and he spent half an hour trying to convince me to take the unit as is! He even had the audacity to tell me single-pane windows were better then double-pane because they didn’t add three hundred pounds to the unit weight! This bozo obviously never spent a summer in Texas. Then he told me a flat out lie…… that the dbl. glazed widows were not the same size as the single glazed windows, so if we “insisted on the insulated windows they would have to build a new camper, but that it would be ready till late April at the earliest!”

Nothing was resolved, but we were reassured that Grand Design management, all the way to the top was working on our problem and by morning they would have a resolution to our situation, so we ended up spending the night in the motel again, and spent a sleepless night weighing our options. We even entertained the idea of just accepting the rig as is, just to try and make our schedule to be in Yellowstone by the 11th of April. How bad is that, that you spend $80,000 for a luxury fifth wheel camper and have to ACCEPT a unit that the manufacturer didn’t build as ordered! It just shows to me how little Grand Design cares about its customers when they turn out product like that. It makes me wonder what surprises are in store behind the walls and in places you can’t see without taking the unit apart?

Literally sick to our stomachs from the stress, we went back to the dealership and spent all morning hearing nothing, then around noon they told us that in fact the double-glazed windows were the same size as the single-pane frames, as opposed to what the clown, Lance Lees had tried to sell to me, and the only way to fix the problem was to haul the camper back to the factory, remove and replace the windows, install the slide toppers, then Colrain RV would hire a driver to bring the camper down to us in Texas. Time was of the essence, so we insisted we had to have the camper in Texas no later than March 30th, leaving us precious few days to load the rig with what we would need for the next couple of years, then run for Yellowstone.

We left Lexington and retraced our route back to Texas, second guessing ourselves all the way. At this point we had little to no trust that our bought and paid for camper would actually make it to us on time. We had zero confidence in Grand Design, and even less confidence in Colrain RV since they hadn’t even checked the camper over to make sure everything was as it should be before having us drive over a thousand miles to pick it up. Without a doubt, they only wanted our money, with little or no care for customer satisfaction. A horrible way to treat their buyers!

The next week passed slowly with no word from either Colrain RV or Grand Design, in fact, neither of them had even so much as voiced a word of apology for inconveniencing us! Finally, on Monday I called Matt McDermott at Colrain RV and was told the camper would ship out March 30th and reach us on April 1st. I told him they were once again inconveniencing us and leaving us no time but to make a mad dash from Texas with our brand-new camper. I told Matt to contact me the minute it left the factory.

Friday, March 30th, (Good Friday) shows up and we hear nothing. I emailed and called and finally on Saturday I hear from Matt McDermott and he tells me that the Grand Design factory shut down for Easter and our home wasn’t ready yet but would ship on Monday, April 2nd and be to us on April 4th. I told him we now were in danger of being late for our scheduled arrival in Yellowstone, and he, Matt McDermott of Colrain RV told me that it was only twenty -two hour run from Texas to Wyoming and we could just run straight through. Not taking into account that we are both in our 60’s, and this would be our first chance to tow the new rig, plus needing the time to load it for full-time living for at least two years!

I expressed my displeasure at his response and told him how ridiculous his response to our situation was, and he told me…. rather he threatened me, that if I continued to complain about the turn of events, that he would just park our bought and paid for, $80,000 fifth wheel camper on his lot in Ohio, and we would have to drive up there to collect it. Can you believe the audacity of that? Inconveniencing us in every way, and then threaten me!  What kind of business treats their customers like that? And this guy is a SALESMANAGER for Colrain RV! Certainly not one I will ever do business with again, that is for sure!

The weekend dragged slowly by, as we checked and rechecked all the items we planned on taking, not knowing yet if they would all fit in our RV. When I was quite young, my grandparents took me out and showed me where the Oregon Trail crossed their ranch in Eastern Wyoming and told me of finding discarded furniture and wagon parts left behind, tossed out along the trail, deemed no longer necessary by the pioneers that packed for a new life out west, but soon realized what was truly important was having a lighter, more maneuverable Conestoga covered wagon. We were feeling a little like pioneer’s ourselves at this point, wondering what possessions would be culled, found no longer important, and tossed out (figuratively) along the trail.

Monday, the 2nd of April, just nine days, till we were to report into Gardiner, Montana at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) for initial training on park procedures, found us waiting to hear if our Grand Design 351 Momentum had finally left the factory on its way to Texas. By noon we had no word, so I called Matt McDermott, whose customer communication skills had proven woefully lacking throughout this whole ordeal. When I finally reached him, he had no word but told me he would call the driver Colrain RV had hired to pull our fifth wheel south. An hour later he called back, and his first words “don’t shoot the messenger” was all I needed to know that ‘Murphy’s Law’ was running things as yet. He informed me the driver had left the factory, but twenty miles out had experienced a breakdown, something to do with the trailer suspension, and the rig was being, once again, returned to the factory for repairs!

How does one gauge the level of disappointment when time after time again you are let down by the manufacturer, and the dealer who should have your back? We were so close to throwing in the towel and canceling the order. If we had financed the purchase I think we might have right then, but we had no trust in Colrain RV, and figured they would penalize us since they had all our money. Still, no apology coming to us from either Colrain RV or Grand Design. Nobody stepped up and said, “Hey, we messed up and we are very sorry to inconvenience you over and over again.”

Wednesday, April 4th at 10:13 a.m. I get a text message from the Colrain RV hired driver, Paul, telling me he had left the factory with our camper. Friday evening, April 6th just as darkness enveloped us Paul pulled into the parking lot we had agreed to meet at along the highway in Lampasas and we did a walk around inspection of our RV. Finding no damage from the trip, Paul unhitched and assisted me in getting hooked up to our new B&W Companion fifth wheel hitch. In the darkness, he gave us the first explanation we had heard of what had happened after he left the factory on April 2nd. A pin on the right-side suspension spring had sheared, causing the axle to move backwards to the point that the right rear tire was rubbing on the foot of the right rear jack leg. Fortunately, he was going slow due to icy roads and noticed the tire smoking and was able to get off the road and stop. He called the factory, and to their credit, they rushed out a service truck and crew to jack up the rig and replace the pin. Then Paul towed the camper back to the factory where the tire, wheel, and jack foot were replaced.

What caused the pin to shear is anyone’s guess, but at that point, our brand-new camper was getting quite a few miles under it going from the Grand Design factory in Illinois, to Colrain RV in Ohio, then onto Colrain RV in Lexington, Kentucky and back to the factory in Illinois. All before being towed down to us in Texas. Not knowing who was towing it, or with how much care it was being towed, its hard to place blame. Maybe it was just a manufacturer or factory defect part? That’s a scary thought!

In full darkness, we towed our new home for the first time, certainly not what I would have preferred, but the hand that was dealt. I’d towed gooseneck stock and horse trailers for half a lifetime, but this was my first hitch-up to a fifth wheel rig. We took it to a friends ranch just outside of town, and in the morning began hauling loads of our possessions, equipment, food, and assorted gear out and trying to find a spot for everything. Our intent had originally been to take the time to put everything in its place, but there was no time, so we basically stacked it inside in orderly chaos, figuring we’d find a place for everything at each stop along the way.

RV7

As my camping buddy worked inside, I tried to get a handle on all the systems, running the generator, three A/C’s, furnace, water heaters and assessing the storage tanks. I wanted to know what worked, and what didn’t before taking off on the 1500+ mile run up to Gardiner, Montana. Finally, at noon on April 9th, two days before we were to be in Gardiner, we pulled out, feeling like we just had to get some miles under us, to get the trip started. Beginning a long trip physically, and mentally exhausted from the ordeal with Colrain RV and Grand Design was not my idea of a good time, but once again, sometimes you have no choice but to play the hand you’re dealt.

Taking our time, moving no faster than 65 MPH, with my eyes spending as much time looking in the mirrors expecting a tire or suspension failure, as out the front windshield on the road, we made it into Abilene and found a KOA campground with a pull-thru right off the highway. I don’t remember eating dinner or falling asleep that night, but I woke up the next morning a little more refreshed. Anyone who has driven through Texas knows it takes some time, and the next afternoon we made it to Dalhart in the Texas panhandle and located a nice park, The Corral RV Park, in town. We were now starting to get a handle on locating fuel stops that would allow a 13’6” camper clearance to pull through, a necessary skill set when towing a large fifth wheel RV.

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Early the next morning in a freshening breeze from an approaching cold front, we left Dalhart for the run across the corner of New Mexico, heading for Colorado. My mind was on the pull up and over Raton Pass into Trinidad. Not the highest, or most difficult pass in Colorado, but the first mountain pass pulling a heavy RV with our Ram 3500. I’d traversed Raton Pass a number of times, but never pulling a load. I needn’t have worried as the big Cummins diesel with the 6-speed Aisin tranny pulled over the top as if there was nothing behind. The engine never went over 2200 RPM the whole way up and going down with the aid of the engine braking system was a dream.

Making a good time, we estimated we’d hit Denver at about 2:00 p.m. just ahead of its notorious rush hour. We even had time to do some shopping as “my girl” decided she needed one more run through a Sam’s Club. Navigating off the highway and into the crowded parking lot was a little more than I wanted after a long haul over mountain passes and heavy city traffic, but you ‘all know the saying, “when the lady ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” so I did the deed and she was happy.

Back on the highway we drove north of the mile-high city twenty miles to Longmont and stayed the night at St. Vrain State Park. Checking the weather that night we watched the gathering storm from the west, and snow, ice and wind advisories on our route north. In the morning we checked to see if we could stay one more night, but the park was booked for the weekend. With no other choice’s available, we took off in a strong wind for Cheyenne, Wyoming. The winds slowed us down and ate up fuel, but early afternoon found us in an RV park, just opening for the season, setting up just ahead of a snow storm. We were informed that Highway 25 North was expected to close, and the forecast for the next day dismal, so we booked the site for two nights, to sit out the storm, catch our breath, and for me, a chance to revisit a city that held many memories from my youth. The storm roared in that night, and there was 4-5 inches on the ground the next morning when we drove out in the Ram headed for downtown Cheyenne.

Cheyenne Station1

Fifty-three years ago, I got off a train here in Cheyenne, the first of several summers I would spend at my great grandparent’s ranch north of here at Lusk. I was sent here from my parent’s ranch in Oregon, more to get me away from my father than anything, but to my delight it brought me close to my aging grandparents and especially close to my grandfather, a renowned horse breeder and trainer, who taught me so much that I would use throughout my life, as a rancher and horse trainer.

Cheyenne Station3

Whenever I would get off the train at the Cheyenne Station I would be met by either my great uncle, or one of the ranch hands, then promptly ushered across the street to the Albany, a landmark eatery that catered to travelers off the trains as well as a gathering spot for ranchers and cowboys.

Albany1

My grandmother insisted I be fed a good beefsteak and fried potatoes before the drive north to the ranch. In those days the Albany was opened 24 hours a day, and didn’t even have locks on the doors, since none were needed.

Albany3

I would tank up on food, then after loading into the ranch truck to head north, would promptly fall asleep until arriving and being welcomed by my grandparents and the two Sioux Indian women, Mary and Mary, that ran the household, cooking vast meals for the cowboys and any visitor that showed up hungry any hour of the day or night.

Albany2

I write about my memories of Cheyenne and the Albany in my first novel, The Redemption Wall, available on Amazon. It was a surreal experience to once again see the Cheyenne Station, now a museum, and eat a fantastic lunch at the Albany, fifty plus years later. It is still owned by the same family that opened it in 1943. I reminisced with one of the owners, sons of the man who ran it when I was there in my youth.

Cheyenne Station4

Some things in life never change, and I was thrilled to see these places of my past just as I remembered them in my mind’s eye!

Cheyenne Station7

The following morning the front was pretty much east of us, though the winds were blowing a steady 35 MPH with gusts over 50, but the highway had opened at least as far as Casper, so we hooked up and fought the winds the short jaunt up to Casper. Up early the next morning, we pulled out for the last leg, a five hundred mile run north out of Wyoming, then east to Gardiner, Montana. A grueling day of driving, but glad to have made it, a few days late, but in one piece. I would never suggest to anyone buying a new RV to attempt to make their first trip, a fast 1500 mile run through the Rocky Mountains, through a late winter storm, but we managed it.

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We spent four days parked in Gardiner getting briefed in Mammoth, Wyoming ten miles away, then hitched up and ran south around the park, since many of the roads were either not open yet, or under repair, with a shopping stop in Bozeman, Montana we pulled into what we anticipate is our campground for the next six months, just fourteen miles inside Yellowstone National Park at Madison Campground.

I sit here looking out of my toy hauler garage/writing room windows at almost two feet of slowly melting snow, with a forecast of more for the next three days, but I know summer will finally force winter to cast off its icy bonds, and the storyline for my sixth book, the fourth sequel in The Forgotten Man series is coming together well enough to start writing it down. I hope to have it ready to publish before the end of the year.

One drawback, and it’s a big one for me is the lack of internet service at Madison Campground, and throughout most of YNP. To get connected we have to drive fourteen miles to West Yellowstone, just outside the park, so we can check emails and post to my blog, website, and social media outlets, and do research for my book. How I’m going to handle this for six months is questionable, but the beauty of the park and all its wildlife, plus the chance to throw my hand tied flies at trout all summer in the rivers and lakes, may just outweigh being connected to the outside world. Hell, I may just grow to like it!

One last word (I hope) on Colrain RV and Grand Design. We are still having some issues with Grand Design. You see when they installed the double-glazed windows at the factory, they neglected to install the knobs on the inside so the windows can be opened, and their non-existent Quality Control Department failed to notice, so we now have the windows we wanted, but can’t open them. When informed they promised to send the knobs to us, but weeks later we still don’t have them. Also, Rob Groover, marketing manager for Grand Design told us over three weeks ago that they would refund us, through Colrain RV, the amount we spent, over $1200 For the Slide Toppers as a peace offering for our troubles, and also send us a check for the extra expenses encountered, meals, lodging and such on our failed trip to Kentucky, but this many weeks later we don’t have those promised funds in hand. My emails to Matt McDermott at Colrain RV about the refund from Grand Design are not being answered, so it makes me wonder if this is the last blog I’m going to have to write before we get what was promised to us.

It seems, from my experience with Colrain RV and Grand Design, that both are long on promises, but come up well short on delivery! Take note RV buyers, beware the RV salesman! HE LIES! And don’t believe all that is written in the RV manufacturers brochures. They want your money, and will promise you the world, but as with my Grand Design experience, I’ve found that their sales pitch of having the best warranty service in the industry, simply means they don’t put an effort into building it right in the beginning and expect the customer to experience problems that will inconvenience them and possibly even delay planned trips or vacations.

If instead, the manufacturer would make a solid effort to build the campers right from the beginning and have a very able and qualified QUALITY CONTROL DEPARTMENT that inspects and verifies the work has been completed properly, the customer satisfaction surveys would be high, and buyers would return for more of the great service.

Is that really too much to ask for?

___________________________________________________________________________________________

central american people1

Our troubled neighbors to the south

 

When Americans think of our neighbors to the south most think only of Mexico, which presently hold the inauspicious title of the most dangerous country in the world, when in fact it really needs to include all of Central America, if not many of the very troubled South American countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador.

central american people2

In my latest novel, Call Sign Stiletto, available here on Amazon….

https://www.amazon.com/Call-Sign-Stiletto-Forgotten-Man/dp/1977025056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522255271&sr=8-1&keywords=call+sign+stiletto+marcus+miller

…I take the reader from El Salvador, through Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, from its southern border to Texas following immigrants and violent MS-13 gang members as they move through the hovels of migrant camps and flophouses, on trains and buses and burro. Ravaged along the route by thieves, smugglers, human traffickers and banditos, the perilous journey northward is the most dangerous any will ever take, and many don’t survive it.

historical streets in the city of La Paz, Bolivia

BOLIVIA, LA PAZ, 7 JUNE 2015 – One of the historical streets of the center in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. The streets of downtown La Paz are steep and full of shops

The rampant corruption, fueled in no small part by the drug cartels that has indelibly woven its way into these governments make them very dangerous bedfellows to have living south of us, yet there is no indication of any positive moves from any of these countries to show things improving in the future. Another reason our own border security is so important for present and future generations of Americans.

The immigrants coming north are forced, either willingly, or unwillingly to smuggle drugs, weapons, explosive materials, chemicals to manufacture illicit pharmaceuticals. But many of them also carry or are carriers of diseases that we as Americans no longer immunize ourselves for, because they were wiped out a generation or more ago in this country.

small alley in the center of La Paz

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – APRIL 28, 2015: People walk a small alley in the center of La Paz, Bolivia.

The last twenty years our national security has been focused hard on the Middle East, and prior to that on Southeast Asia and the Soviet Union. Now our enemy is closer, yes, right on our southern border, or with easy access to it. I spent many years working in these countries to our south at a time when stopping the spread of communism was our main focus. Today the evil comes in other forms, no less dangerous, and sometimes harder to see.

The bloodthirsty violence we hear about on a daily basis emanating from the failed narco-state of Mexico can be extrapolated by adding the many failed or failing countries to its south. At no time in modern history is it more important to have a steady eye looking at the dangers encroaching from ‘south-of-the-border.

http://thehill.com/opinion/international/380482-latin-american-democracy-is-crumbling-under-corruption

 

 

Evil man hold shiny knife, killer in action

Evil terrorist man with shiny knife, a killer person with sharp knife about to commit an act of violence or terrorism, homicide, murder scenery, double Exposure

Gun control at schools-My Assessment

As everyone jumped to assign blame for the bloody carnage following in the wake of the latest school shooting, I watched and listened as the story unfolded, because it takes days or weeks for a clear story to take shape, as it seems it certainly has now. The rush to place blame begins in the minutes that follow with most people and pundits choosing their personal or political line, instead of looking at the reality of the situation, and further, the reality of our times.
In my former line of work, before I became the sedate rancher, part time firearms instructor, and now currently a traveler and writer of action adventure novels, my job was to go into the worst places on earth, crowded, rat infested favelas, the back alleys, fetid jungles and dank ports of third world countries, in search of kidnap victims, individuals or whole families, torn from their beds, or snatched off the streets, kidnaped for ransom in what was, and still is, one of the oldest and most lucrative enterprises, to extort money from those that have it. An easy payday most of the time, because families will reach deep to bring home their loved ones, and a good sideline for other criminal activity, because if the families decide not to pay, women and young children can always be sold into slavery for a nice profit, so either way it’s a profitable venture…as long as you can get away with it.
And that’s where people like myself, ghost hunters that stay out of the limelight and operate in the shadows come in, because our job is the make sure the kidnappers fail, and that the hostages are returned to families and friends with as many of their original body parts as possible, though there is little we can do for their minds, because in the interim of their abduction, they have been scared beyond any conception, raped and abused, threatened and violated in ways you would rather not know about.
So I come to you a person of reality, not favoring a political viewpoint, a person that knows firsthand that there are evil people, both men and women, young and old in the world, who will rob you, molest you, snatch you off the street, or parking lot where you never suspect them, kidnap and rape your children, enter the assumed security of your personal dwelling in the dark of night, or go into your church or school, sacred places we assume them to be, and change your life forever!
I say change your life forever, assuming you survive your encounter with evil, because you may not, but if you do, your idea of personal security, of being safe behind a locked door, or within a crowded school, church or shopping mall will never be the same!
I’m here to tell you the reality, that you are never safe from evil, EVER! Evil can, and will roam at will wherever it wants, and there is little you can do. Unless you are mentally ready to protect yourself, and those around you from the threat and that is your ONLY CHANCE!
You can call law enforcement, but you’re behind the curve at that point already, trust me, anyone with about fifteen minutes of training can learn how the enter a locked door in 3 seconds! Or just wait for law enforcement to arrive and see how that works for you, in which case you’re assuming those that arrive have the level of training to enter the building and come to your aid, and that worked out well for the faculty and children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School didn’t it? Serious questions need to be asked of the Broward County Sheriff and the officer who was on duty, as well as those that arrived and waited outside because that is not how active shooter scenarios have been addressed since Columbine. If you’ve been trained properly, you don’t wait for any backup, you advance and engage the shooter, and save as many lives as you can! Law enforcement failed in their job to protect and serve that day, without a doubt!
Anyone in law enforcement should know this, so what happened with the LE response needs answers, those I’ll leave for others to address, for now I want to talk about what if’s, as in what if a teacher or coach, or faculty member had a weapon, had been trained to use it to engage active shooters, and had personally developed the conditioned mindset to advance into a fire zone… and let’s go a little farther here, and what if, there were signs posted and it was commonly known that some of the teachers and staff were armed, trained and ready to fight for their wards, what would have been the outcome of the Broward County shooting?
Think about this now. This shooter did not want to commit suicide by cop, he went in knowing the building, targets former classmates, possibly those he didn’t like or had had problems with in the past, in a finite number of classrooms, then dropped his weapon and exited the building, and snuck away.
Would he have even gone there if he thought someone might fight back? Maybe, maybe not, assuming doesn’t bring those lives back, but it does give you cause to say the current security situation at the school, as he knew it, was not enough to deter his actions, so something needs to change.
Cold hard facts people, you either have to have a security screen around the school and limit ingress and egress from the campus to guarantee NO ONE gets a weapon inside, or have armed, trained, and mentally confident personnel ready to address the threat once inside, because evil abounds, and it’s not going away, and all the wishing and hoping that we lived in a perfect world, or that a panacea existed that would make all the evil people into really nice guys, is a fantasy, its not happening, not now, not ever, and trying to remove guns from the majority of the population, who are law abiding citizens will not change this. Anything can be used as a weapon, and if you’ve read my books, you’ll know that a sharp pen, pencil or icepick can kill quite effectively.
Learning from past examples might be a start, and you only need to look back to May of 1974 and the Ma´alot massacre in Israel to see how school security changed forever in that country. I won’t go into detail, look it up yourself if you want to be informed, but know this, that the State of Israel decided on that day that there would be no more children killed in their schools, and they did something about it, and it worked!
The first step they took was to acknowledge that evil exists and that it isn’t going away. That’s a big step because I haven’t heard any politician say anything like that? Facing the facts of reality is the first move to action.
Okay, evil is walking the streets, we know its there, now we stop the threat, and eliminate it!
In Israel, you can’t enter a school campus unless you go through a security check, so ingress is limited right there, with armed guards, and if anyone fought past that guard they would be met with a few select teachers, faculty and parents…. yes, parents that volunteer part of their time to protect their own children!
This is not a matter of handing a firearm out to just anyone, these are people that have volunteered to perform this duty, who have been through extensive training to react to different situations, people who when they heard the big bad Broward County Sheriffs Department cowered in fear from engaging one young, untrained boy with a rifle, most likely wonder what kind of individual if any, is responsible for training LE officers in tactical response. A sad day for law enforcement, and a stain on that department forever!
So, there you go, the first step, and it’s a biggy, is to acknowledge the presence of evil, and then address how to stop it. Not all teachers, not all faculty, and possibly not all parents wish to volunteer to assist law enforcement and school districts in securing our schools, that’s okay. It only takes a few, and once it is known there is armed, trained staff, a lot of the threats will go find other soft targets to hit, and there are plenty of them! Soft targets abound in America!
One last thought before you close your eyes tonight. Just to let you know, you aren’t safe in your home…. Locked doors and windows won’t stop evil, and law enforcement will show up only to view the bloody aftermath.
Evil can enter and do whatever it wishes, unless you’re aware, and prepared to defend your life, and those you love!
Sleep well, my friends!

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 When I’m writing…

 

A couple of days ago I was asked how many hours a day I spend writing when I’m working on a manuscript. I’ve heard that some writers try for a fixed number of words per day, and I read an article somewhere that compared writers like Anne Rice who averages 3000 words a day, to Ernest Hemingway who did well just getting 500 words down on paper each day. I don’t set a word count, and my daily count varies greatly from start to finish of a 90,000 to 130,000-word first draft.

As I’m beginning a novel, I’ve already spent countless hours working on the storyline in my head as I go about the daily grind, but also throughout the night I will wake and work on it while the house is quiet, trying to fit the initial chapters in place and set up the narrative. As I get it going I’m still doing lots of research, on places and events that I want to weave into the story, and that doesn’t change much as I proceed so I may just get a 1000 words down during an eight to ten hour day.

Once I roll past say 50,000 to 60,000 words, I’ve got the ending pretty much figured out, though it is always subject to change, and usually does as I add characters and dialog, in fact the story begins to take on a life of its own, with me just along for the ride, as new characters appear, sometimes most unexpectedly, that drive the story in a new direction, and at this juncture I’m laying down 3,000 to 4,000 words a day, with a few 5,000 word days mixed in. As I get close to what I planned as the ending, the story directs itself and decides where and when it ends, but at this point, I’m in the zone and time matters not. I could write all day and night if I was allowed, but I pull myself away, in body anyway, to feed and water and maintain a relationship, though my mind never leaves the story until I can finally push out the final chapter like a whale birthing a calf, and with one last thrust write…….

The End

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