Marysville, Kansas
Black Squirrel City

Scurrius sniffed the warm evening air, his nose twitching in the breeze. The squirrels had spent the long Sun sitting in their cells again, but at least the Carnival Master had set them in the shade this time. 

Most of the Elders were already asleep for the long Moon. The Young Ones were rambunctious as they chittered away at each other.  Scurrius chuckled softly as he thought of the old saying, “Young Ones and boredom lead to…more Young Ones.” 

Scurrius had stopped dreaming of escape years ago. The Carnival Master did feed them well. Humans loved fat squirrels, so at least there was that. He paused to remember the good ol’ days when some Native Americans believed that the Black Squirrel was responsible for the eclipse of the Sun. “…believed we ate it!” Scurrius laughed to himself. 

Scurrius continued to listen to the Young Ones chatter softly, and decided to close his eyes for a minute. Just a minute. 

Twitch. Sniff. Girl. Human. Girl Child. 

Scurrius’s eyes popped open and he looked directly into the huge face of a young girl child. “Shh.” she whispered. Her warm breath smelled of sweet popcorn and peanuts. “I’m here to save you!” 

Scurrius looked over to the cell of the Young Ones. The door was open. Wide open. They all looked at him, their eyes wide and black. “Go!” he yelled. He saw the Elders farther down the row. “Go! Go! Go, now!” he screeched. 

The girl child was reaching through the open door of his cell. “I just want to help…” she laid her hand gently down on the floor. “Come on.” He stepped onto her hand slowly, and sucked in his belly full of nuts and fluff so he could squeeze out the cell door. She set him gently on the ground, looking mighty proud of herself. “Go! Be free!”

He knelt at her feet, bowing before her grace and kindness. He could hear her giggling as he hurried after his scurry. 

Humans can be slow, so it took longer than it should have, but the Black Squirrel became the gods they were destined to be. The human village erected statues in their honor. There is a yearly celebration of their very existence. Humans come from far away lands to feed and worship them. The scurry scurries freely across the lands of Marysville, Kansas…there is no place like home. 

They take their squirrels very seriously around here.

The Legend:

Local legend has it that in Marysville, Kansas in 1912 a child released black squirrels from their cages during a carnival show. The squirrels scattered and their population grew, as it does with squirrels. On August 28, 1972 Marysville adopted the black squirrel as their town mascot, with an accompanying ordinance for the safety of all black squirrels. Today, about 1/5 of the city’s squirrel population is black, with most of them residing in the city park

Oh! ‘ello! Please follow our Black Squirrel rules and regulations! 
The black squirrel has the right-of-way on all streets, alleys and railroad crossings in Marysville, KS.
If you harm a black squirrel you will be fined a minimum of $25.
It’s nuts!
If you could also avoid running me over, that would be greatly appreciated as well!

The City Park: 

Marysville City Park is beautifully shaded with their famous black squirrels maintaining ownership of all the shade trees. This large park includes free camping, a themed playground, a swimming pool with colorful slides, tennis courts and various historical buildings.

Camping spaces are available on a first come, first serve basis. 30 amp/50 amp and 110 is available.  Tent camping is welcome as well. The city does request that you limit your stay to five days. There is potable water, a dump station, and restroom facilities on site. Donation information is located at the restrooms.

Marysville City Park
Squirrel!
Free RV and tent camping at the city park!
Squirrel!

Black Squirrels on Parade:

34 five-foot fiberglass black squirrels are displayed all throughout Marysville. Each one designed and painted by local and regional artists. You can find squirrel maps at the Visitors Center or at area gas stations for a driving tour of the squirrel statues. 

What do you call a fight between squirrels? A squarrel.
I got kicked out of the park after arranging all the squirrels by height. They didn’t like me critter sizing.

Pony Express Museum:

Marysville features the Home Station No. 1 on the Pony Express route. The home station is a stone barn that was built in 1859, and is the oldest building in Marshall County, Kansas. The building now houses the Home Station Pony Express Museum. 

A Help Wanted advertisement allegedly read, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
Squirrel!

Abandoned Kansas:

Kansas is full of ghost towns and abandoned homesteads and farms. While staying in Marysville we explored the area to find the beauty of the forgotten.  

An old abandoned power plant along the Blue River near Marysville.
A deserted Herkimer Grain plant.
Squirrel!
Decaying homestead off of some old county road.
Historical choo-choos in nearby Waterville, Kansas
The Weaver Hotel in Waterville.
Squirrel!
Abandoned barn on an old homestead. 
While we explored a local man stopped by and told us that this place was last occupied in the early 1990’s. We were surprised by how fast the neglect had deteriorated this beautiful property. If these walls could talk…
Rusty and Frankie exploring with us…until they found the piles of deer shit to roll in. #rvingwithdogs

For More Information

 

Visit Marysville

Black Squirrels on Parade

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and Promoting Native Languages

10 Things You May Not Know About the Pony Express

City of Waterville

The Weaver Hotel

Squirrel!

The Man Who Rode Halley’s Comet

I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together”  ~Samuel Clemens, 1909

 

Hannibal, Missouri – Hometown of Samuel Clemens

Born in Florida, Missouri in 1835 just 2 weeks after Halley’s Comet closest approach, Samuel Clemens was the 6th of 7 children born of Jane and John Marshall Clemens. Only four children would survive past childhood, his older brother and older sister, Orion and Pamela, and his younger sibling Henry. Though born in Florida, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri (less than 30 miles away) when he was very young. It was growing up in Hannibal, the people, the place, the experiences, that would shape his most popular works: The adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 

A ‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read” 

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

Samuel Clemens, of course, was more well known by the moniker MARK TWAIN. Twain, a pen name based on a unit of measurement in riverboating, was one of many that he used. Prior to settling on Mark Twain, he signed sketches as “Josh” and was often known as the humorist Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”

A tour through Hannibal today will lead you to many Mark Twain landmarks as the city has fully embraced itself as the home of the man William Faulkner called “the father of American Literature.” There still stands his childhood home, and even the fence that would be the inspiration to the infamous whitewashing scene in Tom Sawyer. 

Tom Sawyer’s Fence
Grab a brush, and get to work!

Just across the street you’ll find the home of Laura Hawkins; the inspiration for Becky Thatcher. One of the tiny homes that Tom Blankenship, Twain’s best friend and the basis of the character Huck Finn, has been restored and can be visited as well. 

Becky Thatcher’s Home

 

In ‘Huckleberry Finn’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly how he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as any boy had.”

Huckleberry Finn’s House
The home of Tom Blankenship (Huck Finn)

The museum in Hannibal offers a wonderful exhibit where you can walk through his most famous works. Including A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, Roughing It, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. As well as a look at his time on the riverboats of the Mississippi; where he got the pen name we all know him by today. 

Mark Twain was the nom de plume of one Captain Isaiah Sellers, who used to write river news over it for the New Orleans Picayune. He died in 1863 and as he could no longer need that signature, I laid violent hands upon it without asking permission of the proprietor’s remains.”

The Origin of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was well traveled doing speaking lectures — that bordered upon what we know today as Stand-Up Comedy — around the world and everywhere within North America. Within the United States, he held residence at one time or another in Missouri, Nevada, California, Connecticut, and New York (where he and his wife are buried, side by side).

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

 

Travel is education.

It was due to his experiences growing up in a slave state in the pre-civil war era that shaped Mark Twain into the pro-emancipation, abolitionist that he was. Twain was also known to support the women’s suffrage movement and fought for worker’s rights. He also advocated for disability rights. Twain’s working partnerships and friends included people like Frederick Douglas, Helen Keller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Prudence Crandall, William Dean Howell, among others. To further his own point about travel and bigotry Mark Twain’s opinions on Indigenous people, of various lands, grew more as he ventured around the world and saw the trauma left behind by imperial colonizers.

There are many humorous things in this world; among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.”

All right, then, I’ll go to hell.

He was Presbyterian, but was critical of organized religion in general, especially late in life. So much so, that his most critical writings were not published until well after his death.

“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?” 

Besides being a writer, a miner (which he was no good at), a riverboat pilot, a speaker, and an activist, Twain was also an inventor. He shared a friendship with Nikola Tesla and was one of only a few people who ever spent extended time in Tesla’s lab. Twain would go on to patent a few inventions of his own including one in use today: The elastic hook closure for bras. A patent which he filed under “An Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments.” He had hope that it would do away with suspenders, which he hated. 

“…for the vest, pantaloons, or other garment upon which my strap is to be used.”

During the final year of his life he would write (dictate) his autobiography. The first edition was 736 pages long, but the notes were compiled by others and the order changed from which he recited it. It was not published in its intended, non-chronological form, until 2010 and became an unexpected hit, which put Samuel Clemens, a.k.a Mark Twain, in the very limited writer’s club of having a new bestselling book in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Mark Twain died in his home just one day after Halley’s Comet made its closest approach to the Earth in April of 1910. 

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” 

Mark Twain’s Desk

After his death Mark Twain went on to make appearances in television and film including Star Trek, Touched By An Angel, Holmes & Watson, and Helen Keller: The Miracle Continues**

“It is no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

 

He lived a legendary life. He grew, he learned, he observed the world and all its good and bad. He wrote much of it, and spoke on the rest. He was not a perfect man, but he lived an extraordinary life, riding a comet through history. 

Mark Twain reading to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

“I don’t like to commit myself about heaven and hell – you see, I have friends in both places.”

Mark Twin on the Enterprise

**Disclaimer: Samuel Clemens may not have been the actual person portraying Mark Twain on screen.

 

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

 

 

History from the Road
The Unsinkable Molly Brown

*”I am a daughter of adventure.”
– Margaret Brown, The Denver Post – August 1923*

Hannibal, Missouri. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com

Hannibal, a small town located along the Mississippi River, in Northeastern Missouri is known for a few things. Most notable is that it is the hometown of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, but we will get back to him in a later post. 

Hannibal, the town, not the cannibal, is also the focus of a true crime documentary on Investigation Discovery about the disappearance of a young woman named Christina Whitaker. The documentary does not paint Hannibal as a pleasing picture. The seedy underbelly of the town is infested with drug abuse, sexual abuse, and apparently some shifty acting police officers. 

But today, I want to talk about some other bad behavior. This kind of bad behavior is what the late John Lewis would call Good Trouble. 

*”As long as they’re talking about me, I don’t care what they say.”
– Margaret Brown to a reporter – circa 1920″*

In Hannibal on July 18, 1867, John and Johanna Tobin named their little bundle of good trouble Margaret Tobin. Margaret was well educated in her childhood, and promptly put to work to help support her family once she reached her teenage years. 

Hannibal, MO. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com
Margaret Brown childhood home. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com

Upon reaching adulthood, Margaret followed her older siblings to Leadville, Colorado where she landed a job working in a department store. In Leadville, she met and fell in love with James Joseph Brown. In 1886, Margaret and J.J. were married. Margaret unashamedly admitted that she had dreamed of marrying a rich man, but silly ol’ love got in the way and ruined her plans of riches. Margaret and J.J. went on to have two children, Larry and Helen. 

Margaret and J.J. Brown. Photo credit: mollybrown.org

In 1893 Margaret’s dreams of having a wealthy husband finally came true. J.J. Brown had struck it rich in the mines near Leadville. The couple proceeded to build a mansion, and a summer home in the Denver area. 

The Brown Mansion. Pennsylvania Avenue, Denver, Colorado

Now that her dress pockets were lined with money, Margaret was finally able to do what she always dreamed of; philanthropy work. Margaret chartered the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission was improving women’s lives with education, philanthropy, and the suffragist movement. During this time, with intention of upcoming travel, Margaret became well versed in the arts and languages of France, Russia, Germany, and Italy. 

Margaret led fundraisers for Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was completed in 1911. She worked with Colorado Judge Ben Lindsey to establish one of the United States’ first juvenile courts, which became the basis for the entire U.S. juvenile court system. 

In 1909, after 23 years of marriage, Margaret and J.J. quietly arranged a legal separation agreement. She would maintain occupation of the mansion and the summer home, while also receiving a monthly allowance, and J.J. would smile and hand it over. Margaret and J.J. would remain friends for the rest of their lives. 

In 1912 Margaret and her daughter, Helen, were traveling through France with the John Jacob Astor IV party – rich people doing rich people things. During this time Margaret got word that her eldest grandson had been stricken ill and she booked passage back to the states as soon as possible. Helen was supposed to travel with her, but decided to remain in France to continue her studies.  On the evening of April 10, 1912, Margaret was boarded as a first-class passenger on the RMS Titanic. Perhaps you have heard of it?

RMS Titanic. Photo Credit: history.com

The unsinkable Titanic sank early in the morning of April 15 after playing a losing game of chicken of the sea with an iceberg. Margaret was in her room reading when the collision took place, and was so engrossed in her novel that she wasn’t aware of any issues until a ship crewmember threw a life preserver through her cabin door and yelled at her to get to the lifeboats. 

Margaret spent the next hour assisting other passengers to lifeboats, until she was finally convinced to board one herself. Margaret was assigned to Lifeboat No. 6. Once aboard the lifeboat, Margaret would take it upon herself to help oar the boat away from the sinking behemoth. When it was safe to return, Margaret insisted Lifeboat No. 6 should return to the wreckage and find more people to rescue, as their boat wasn’t full. Quartermaster Robert Hichens denied her request insisting that drowning people would topple their lifeboat, and death would find them all. At one point, Margaret threatened the Quartermaster that she would throw him overboard either way. Whether or not No. 6 returned to help others is unclear, as history tells it both ways. 

After being rescued from the Atlantic by the RMS Carpathia, Margaret set to work organizing a survivor’s committee with other first-class survivors. Working with the committee, Margaret managed to raise over $10,000 for the first-, and second-class survivors before they reached New York. 

*”Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry.” – Margaret Brown to her attorney after the sinking of the Titanic.* 

After surviving the sinking of the Titanic, Margaret Brown went on to run for office in Colorado in 1914, which was before it was even legal for women to vote. She dropped out of the race before the election so that she could travel back to France and work for the Committee for Devastated France during World War I, which consisted of rebuilding areas behind the front line and helping the French and American wounded soldiers. Once she came back to America, she went on to continue working for the rights of workers and women, children’s education and literacy, and history preservation. 

Margaret spent her last few years in New York working as a stage actress. She passed away, much quieter than she lived, in her sleep on October 26, 1932. After her death, Margaret was given the nickname the Unsinkable Molly Brown. 

 


For More Information

https://www.visithannibal.com/attractions/museums/molly-brown-birthplace-museum/

https://mollybrown.org/

 

 

Prehistoric Decay – Michigan

 

Our journey has taken us into the past before. We have seen the graves of famous gunslingers. We have walked in the forests of the ancient Redwoods. We’ve slept just outside of buildings so old that they had collapsed under the weight of history.

So, where to now?

Hold on to your butts. 

“Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA, the building blocks of life. A DNA strands like me is a blueprint for building a living thing.” – Mr. DNA, Jurassic Park

So, where does one find ancient mosquitoes that have been trained in the old ways as bloodthirsty assassins and DNA traps?

Michigan…apparently.

No, really. Have you seen the amount of mosquitoes that Michigan has? It’s like a mini-vampire breeding ground. There could be all kinds of things being transmitted by their mutant mosquitoes…DNA, malaria, the ridiculous stupidity it takes to come up with plans to abduct and murder their governor.  Sorry Michiganders, but if the mitten fits…

I digress. 

Welcome to Jurassic P… er. Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park. Abandoned. 

Located about 25 miles from Ann Arbor, the Prehistoric Forest was first opened back in 1963, and was quite the attraction for its time. Life-sized fiberglass dinosaurs where just the tip of the tail for this amusement park. There were cavemen, waterfalls, an active man-made volcano, a Safari train, and fossil digging pits. 

Welcome Center – with a small Beware of Dog sign in the window.
Fiberglass trees in the middle of a prehistoric forest is just so weirdly…American.

As with so many old roadside attractions, Prehistoric Forest fell victim to the interstate that routed traffic away from memory making roadtrips and into the fast lane. Attendance dwindled in the ‘80’s, but Prehistoric Forest managed to limp along until 2002, when it closed it’s gates for good. 

“Uh uh uh! You didn’t say the magic word!” 

 

The park is private property, and there are plenty of signs letting you know that. Immediately upon our arrival, a police officer arrived to give us the stink eye and let us know that we can take pictures, but not to trespass. There is one large dinosaur visible from the parking lot, and a few fake trees and cacti scattered around. 

Prehistoric fake cactus.
Long neck. 
She is an old, tired one. It’s been hard work holding up that long neck since the dinosaur age.
Check out her camouflage. Clever girl. 

Taking a sneaky peak into the forest, you can find the king of dinosaurs, Mr. T-Rex. In a sick twist of fate, time has only made short-arm jokes more painful for him. 

If you’re hungry and you know it, clap…. 

Rumor is that the owner of the Prehistoric Forest still has big dreams of re-opening the amusement park. I think that ship has probably sailed, but perhaps…if they spared no expense. 

As it sits, the property is just going the way of the dinosaur. I do hope the prehistoric decay is left to be enjoyed by those that are eager to hear stories of the past whispering through the trees and flimsy fences. 

“Anybody hear that? It’s a, um… It’s an impact tremor, that’s what it is… I’m fairly alarmed here.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

 

Just a reminder for those that want to visit abandoned places…take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but…nothing!

 

 

 

THE SPRING ROAD AWAITS

Matilda (motorhome), the Mothership (car), and a jug of sun tea. Life is good, when it’s good.

We waited. We hid. We isolated ourselves. We wore masks and we social distanced (at least 10 miles from anyone every chance we got). Then we got our vaccines, and so did most of the family. So, how about a spring drive to see the ones on the east coast to start our summer? We could take a month, drive slow, enjoy the sights. Easy. Simple. No rush, no fuss, no hassle…

What was that saying about the best laid plans?

We started off in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed along side the river and watched the windsurfers, played games… and spent a small fortune saving the lives of both dogs. Rusty, and Frankie, being explorers like us, both managed to get into something that made them deathly ill. They each spent 2 days in the animal hospital on IV antibiotics and fluids, and were sent home with lots of fun drugs. 

*** We pause this blog to give a special shout out to everyone at The Columbia Veterinary Hospital for the amazing care and compassion they showed our fur-kids. There may have been tears of gratitude as we drove away with them.***

These windsurfers were amazing!
It looks like a ton of fun. And like I would probably break my body as I was drowning.
Some serious Jesus moves going on here.

After all that fun we thought, hey, the worst part is behind us, smooth sailing from here (Pro tip: Don’t ever assume it will be smooth sailing). Farewell Bend, the Oregon State park along the Oregon/Idaho state border was our next stop. This time, we simply took some pictures, played with our reinvigorated doggos and relaxed along the Snake River.

Farewell Bend, an Oregon State Park.
The Farewell Bend of the Snake River along the Oregon/Idaho border.

Next Stop: Milner Recreation Site in Idaho. Without discussion, we apparently decided to follow the Oregon Trail in reverse as we slowly tootled along the Snake River. Just a few feet away from where the greatest ol’ motorhome, Matilda, sat, were the very ruts carved by wagon after wagon during the westward expansion (and the sad land theft from indigenous peoples) of the United States. Being so close to hundreds of year old history that you can see and touch is quite a feeling. 

Wagon wheel ruts from along the Oregon Trail. Maybe the doggos had preemptively tried to die of dysentery. 
The Snake River in the Milner Recreation area near Burley, Idaho.
Frankie (Doodle Dandy), the Great Tree-bone hunter.
Rusty, making a sport out of watching Frankie work her ass off swimming for tree-bones.

Remember that pro-tip earlier? Well just enough time had passed that we felt like we were truly on the road again. Then we stopped somewhere and a squeal like the banshees of legends greeted our ears. Matilda began losing power and we were forced to pull off the road. We breathed in a sigh of relief at realizing it was just a thrown belt and we could get it fixed and back on the road ourselves (this part of the story doesn’t end here).

Our next mini-adventure found us under the bridge, like trolls. GPS said we should be somewhere else, but it was occupied. So we explored, and we found a hidden, off-grid gem. A gem that turned into an extra couple days stay because our dear Frankie had to return to the vet. The minor infection in her ears that we thought would clear up with the drugs from the previous trip had gotten worse, and was now a full-blown double ear infection. Fortunately they have vets in Utah. The Wasatch Hollow Animal Hospital took care of our little lady (Thank you so much!).

Think bridge trolls are cool? You should see him troll on the Internet.
Rusty meandering through his retirement age like a good boy.
She is always tracking down the tree-bones with ease.

Okay, is that enough headaches now? Should be good to go now, right? Right? We had plans for two stops, one in Wyoming, and one in Nebraska, before making the final jump to our family on the east coast. And yet, nothing went according to plan. 

Just before the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, Matilda broke down again. The banshees had returned and it sounded as if our very souls were in danger. It turned out that the previous belt failure was not due to an old belt, but rather a smog pump that had seized up. After 2 days on the side of the road as we tried to track down a part, we were able to make our way to the Dugway recreation site about 20 miles away. 

Memorial Weekend brought us a patriotic visitor, flying over the North Platte River in Wyoming.
A neighboring camper brought his half Bernese Mountain Dog, half really big bear to peacefully enjoy the river.
Where the antelope roam, indeed.

Think this part of the adventure is a simple buy a new part and replace the old one? Oh no, that would not make for a juicy story. Nope, we had to discover that the shop that had installed the previous pump had duct-taped the back of the pump together. Not only did they duct-tape the main air line to the pump, but they also skipped installing the check valve or even the right high pressure air lines. In all, we learned that we had previously paid an $800 bill for a shoddy installation of the wrong parts.

But wait, there’s more… 

We were forced to wait for 4 days to find out if we could even order the part, only to find out that it was available for 2 day delivery the whole time. At least we now had a nice quiet spot with a decent view. The only advantage to living our life when Murphy comes to visit. 

Dammit, Murphy.

Is there any good news to talk about for the last 2 months? Sure there is.

The wildlife that visited us was amazing. We spent the majority of the 2 months alongside a couple of rivers, and the seclusion was wonderful for both of us, our writing, and our dogs to run and play. 

Mourning Dove looking for it’s love.
American White Pelican
Beetley Buddy
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Bison
American Bison
Bald Eagle
Pronghorn Antelope. Dat booty, tho’

So now what? Well, we cross our fingers, leave offerings and say prayers under seventeen different religions and spiritualities, check the dogs’ temperatures, triple check every belt, fluid level, electrical connection, and then hold our breath as we turn the key and get moving on. The Traveling Writing desk will not be held back (at least not for long). 

The road awaits.

 

 

JUST HERE FOR THE DOGS
(A writer’s life update)
by M.D. Parker

Where the magic happens… now off to find a magician.

While there is plenty of travel-related stories and pictures coming soon, I thought I’d take the time to update people on the world of being a writer on the road, during a pandemic, who got in a fight with his muse, and who has been reevaluating the entire craft and his place in it.

First, let’s tackle the “big” project, THE GENESIS ECHO novel (cue ominous music):
I’ve been working on this saga for 4 years off and on. I’ve completed the book two times, and am currently trying to rewrite and massively overhaul the entire thing. I’m halfway through that. I’ve also managed a full novella, a short story, and now I’ve tried making my #BrickBuiltStories revolving around the same saga, which is of course part of my larger RorriM universe.

My other writings, political essays, and random flash fiction all have suffered and stumbled as badly as the main work in progress.

…and a spring just broke on the trampoline.

Sales of my anthologies and my novella are at or near zero for months.

I’m discouraged.
I’m burned out.
I’m exhausted from the dread of the real world, and desperately finding a way(s) I can make an actual difference for the better.

So, that’s where I’ve been at… it’s like a party… in a dumpster… that’s on fire. Yay! 

All good here. Nothing to see…

So, what does this mean going forward? Well, I’m about to disappoint 4 of you. THE GENESIS ECHO and the larger RorriM universe are going into hibernation. I’m going to lock them away in a mental closet. For how long? I have no idea. Maybe a month or two, maybe a year, maybe a decade. I need to recharge, wrap myself in the joyous parts of the craft and create. I just need to create. I wish to bring imaginary people into existence and share them with you. I know, it sounds like I have a god complex, but my name does mean “next to god” or “godlike” after all. 

I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.

I have projects in my mind, notes and ideas jotted down. I have a bookmarked list of more than 50 websites or articles to start research on various horror inducing topics or science fiction explorations. Sometimes those things intermingle. I know I just started my new Brick Built Stories series, but I am going to change it into something more akin to travel and fun. Maybe some shots of Lego Me exploring the place where the real world and the plastic brick world meet.

A lot is happening. I hope you’ll stick around as we continue to write on the road, with our furry companions.

What? What’s that you say?

Oh – you were just here for the dogs – Yeah, us too. 

Rusty enjoying a wee bit of snow before going back inside to lay in front of the heater.
“Found a stick on the ground and now I’m gonna use it. All this power that I found, gonna totally abuse it! Gonna hit so much stuff–do not get into my way cuz I found a stick and I’m using it today!” – Frankie

And don’t forget the food!

This is what my wife sticks around for too.

 

The Existential Dread of a Broken Heart

by M.D. Parker 

 

I call myself an author

Are we really the things we call ourselves, especially when the actions that make us those things are not being done? Am I becoming less than I was, or just more of something else? Am I worthy of any of the titles I have ever carried? Yes, this is the sound of dread setting in. These are among the numerous questions I’ve spent months toiling over. 

2020 was quite the —  well let’s use ‘interesting’ as a descriptor — year. Wildfires, murder hornets, UFOs, civil unrest around the world, the loss of a higher than average number of cultural icons, and of course a global pandemic. 

At first when the pandemic took off in the U.S.A., we lost focus on other items as we tried to figure out how full-time RVers navigated this confusing and ever-changing time. My writing suffered as I found myself stress-eating, driving to a new location, or just sitting and screaming at an orange tinted, bloviating narcissist, lying to everyone about the dangers as tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands died. My writing suffered. 

We really don’t miss hearing from him.

As the fall came I began picking my writing up again and finished the 27th draft of The Genesis Echo – part 1. My muse was hanging out with me and my imaginary friends were coming over for coffee in the morning. Then horror struck. The existential dread I’d been battling all year fully shut me down. My writing assistant, my dude, my four-legged best friend, died suddenly. 

Milo looking like an angsty music video, gazing out the window longingly.
Milo always willing to lend a lazy smile and tail wag.

Still reeling from Milo’s passing, we got a call. My father was in the hospital requiring emergency surgery after falling and breaking his hip and laying helpless for hours (his med-alert button failed). He was going to need us. We returned to Oregon and began caretaking the man who would suffer complications that would run him in and out of the hospital a few times over the next few months. 

My writing came to a complete and total halt.

As the first 3 months of 2021 would pass, we’d see difficult, but positive progress on my father and we were beginning to adjust to life without Milo. Our other amazing fur companion, Rusty, was there with us every step of the way.

The best heart healer ever.

At the end of March we hit the road again, but I had yet to really hit the keyboard. Just before we pulled away from our home town, we took a peak at the dogs that needed rescued from the shelter. 

Our eyes were drawn to a 12-year old boxer mix named Frankie. We told each other we had to go meet her. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another dog just yet, but the thought of this doggo sitting there without a home, knowing that adoption at her age was near impossible, didn’t sit well with our tiny sappy hearts. We scheduled a visit for the same day (COVID restrictions still in place for health and safety, the shelter was forced to work by appointment only, which also lowers the adoption rate).

Meet Frankie and her new tree-bone!

After meeting us and walking and playing with Rusty, Frankie took it upon herself to jump in our car. She wouldn’t leave. She stared at the both of us, and had responded to every other thing we did or say, except the order to exit the car. She had made her choice — who were we to argue? She remained in the car while I went inside and completed adoption paperwork. 

 

Frankie says, “I picked ya’ll. Deal with it.”

Now, less than a month later, and after a scary illness that hit both her and Rusty hard, and the fear of losing her already, I’ve come to realize how much she has already done for us. She has not replaced the hole in my heart from the loss of the best fur-companion I’ve ever known. Instead she has helped remind me of the lessons Milo tried to teach me. Her presence has allowed the love he put in my heart to expand; shrinking that hole down to a manageable size. Rusty was there to comfort us, to grieve with us, for he had lost his brother as well. Frankie has come to show us, Rusty included, that the best way to heal is to love even more. 

So, from the bottom of our damaged little hearts —  for myself, my wife, Rusty… and for Milo, I say thank you and welcome to the family Frankie. 

Thank you for choosing us. 

Pals.
Rusty and Frankie are ready to get down to the business of exploring the world.

Please visit PetFinder, or visit your local shelter to adopt a new loved one today. 

 

 

 

Fort Stevens – Hammond, Oregon

The fog was light. Summer had arrived on the calendar, but the spring-time temperatures held firm. Most of the soldiers of the 249th Coast Artillery Corp were bedded down for the night. Guard duty shifts were manned, and talk was light.  

To the southwest of the fort, just beyond the break point of the waves, a dark figure rose up from the depths. Unseen as it took aim, the Japanese I-25 submarine prepared its attack. The flash of a muzzle and the explosion of the enormous shells striped away the quiet of the night leaving craters in the beachhead. Soldiers scrambled and stumbled from their bunks as they raced to their stations. 

Plotters prepared firing orders as spotters watched the muzzle flashes from the submarine, but the order came to hold. Nine shots were fired towards them, all falling short and harmlessly away into the surrounding vegetation. With bated breath everyone waited, and although the submarine retreated and submerged once again, there would be no sleep for the remainder of the night.

M.D. Parker

Fort Stevens Battery Pratt

Fort Stevens in Hammond, near Astoria, Oregon original construction began in 1863, near the end of the Civil War. By 1904 the fort had expanded. Multiple cannon batteries were constructed with the intention of defending the mouth of the Columbia River. 

On June 21, 1942 Fort Stevens was attacked by an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. The submarine seemed to be shooting blind. They were still looking for a target, not firing at one yet. There was no return fire from Fort Stevens that night. Since the fort remained silent, the Japanese didn’t know where exactly to attack, so they ceased fire and submerged their submarine in retreat. 

And the award for hide-n-seek 1942 Summer Championship goes to Fort Stevens! 

Machine Gun Emplacement. Rumor has it that this machine gun was loosely based on some tech from a galaxy far, far away.

The majority of the buildings and structures in Fort Stevens are still intact. You are able to enter a lot of the structures, though some only on scheduled tours. There are plenty of volunteers for the guided tours, history lessons, and information. There is an onsite Military Museum with a small rose garden.

Central Power Plant
Zoom zoom
Boom boom
“Plot and plan like all good generals.”  – E.A. Bucchianeri,
Most of the corridors in the batteries are very dark with far away echoes…of something. Maybe you, maybe not.
Pitch black in this underground corridor. Maybe it is only because I have been here in person, but I can almost feel this picture. Too quiet, but for echoes of the unknown. Too dark, too cool, too dreadful. 
Inside the Battery Clark

The fort is now part of a 4,200 acre Oregon State Park that includes camping, wildlife viewing, more than five miles of hiking and biking trails, Frisbee golf and the ability to explore Fort Stevens remains and buildings. There is also access to the final battery built at Fort Stevens, Battery Russell. Within walking distance is a fresh water lake for swimming and fishing and kayaking. There is easy beach access nearby for walks, beach combing, stunning sunset views, and even a ship wreck. 

The Peter Iredale

The campground has around 500 campsites available with various amenities, including yurts, cabins, tents, and various RV hookup sites available. The sites are level with an abundance of trees for shade and wind block.  Each loop has it’s own bathroom and shower facilities. 

The Frisbee Golf course goes all the way around and through Fort Stevens.
There is a large herd of elk that roam the grounds at Fort Stevens

If you manage to see and do everything on your Fort Stevens bucket list, you can also go visit the Lewis and Clark National Park nearby. Nearby towns include Hammond, Warrenton, Seaside, and Astoria. 

There are wonderful local restaurants, including plenty of nearby breweries and wineries for the adults, and Seaside has a boardwalk with a few fun rides and games for the kids.  We recommend Ship Out Fish and Chips in Astoria for delicious local seafood. The fish is thick, flaky, and crispy and the clam chowder…*chef’s kiss*


Links

Fort Stevens

Astoria

Seaside

Ship Out Fish & Chips

Lewis and Clark National Park

 

 

 

 

 

Travel in the Time of Covid

It all started in February 2020.

“You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.”

 

A tried and true hidey-hole built during the last pandemic. Probably.

So we thought it would be a good idea to just find a hidey-hole and wait it out. However, after a “couple of days” it did not get “down close to zero.” In fact, our one month hide turned into three months. Shutdowns and regulations chased us between 3 RV parks in two states as all full-time RVers tried to find states and counties that could allow them, safely. 

After a couple months of panic we decided to get proactive. We can do this, we said. More importantly, we can do this safely. We can live a modified version of our life while not putting ourselves or anyone else at greater risk.

The emblem on the hood of Matilda, because she is always ready for whatever comes next. Flat tires, roof leak, zombies, assholes, pandemics, etc.

So this is what we came up with, how to be RVers and travel in a pandemic and the steps/tips we thought we’d share with you.

PlanningWe’re not so good at this. We have always preferred the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach to RVing. Under normal circumstances we’ve run into a couple of walls, but it has always been fun. In a pandemic, this is not an option. We plotted destinations more exact, and set time frames.

Planning is easy enough, the “where do we go?” is the harder part. We used two methods to determine where to go.
A. Virus tracking: this tool: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/ has been helpful for determining the risk level of a particular area anywhere in the country.
B. Two apps: iOverlander and Park Advisor. These apps have provided all the info we’ve needed in finding the exact spot in which the greatest old RV ever, Matilda, would be parked next.

 

Ol’ crusty Sebastian had it right all along…avoid people and never silence yourself for a dude.

Decide to go where the people aren’t. Listen, Ariel gives bad pandemic advice, I don’t care if she has a talking crab. Thanks to the 2 aforementioned apps, you can find a plethora of BLM, and US forest service land. Dry camping/off-grid in out-of-the-way spots is best. In virtual hunting for these spots we came across many cool things for us to do. Ghost towns, movie filming sites, hot springs, even an old prison featured on a couple of paranormal/ghost hunting shows.

Quarantine isn’t a bad word.

Plan extended stays. If you move a lot like we normally do, you’ve got some work to do here. From groceries at 2 weeks at time instead of one, to staying off grid (and finding where you’re going to dump tanks – Thanks Rving apps!) for longer than usual and having the supplies needed. [Confession: we we’re doing good at this until he started breaking things on the motorhome and we were forced to make town trips several days in a row to repair our house]

Let’s get flexible!

Be flexible! Of course this runs contrary to having everything planned out better, but this was indeed a part of the planning. As we learned more and more about the virus, as numbers and controls worked (and others didn’t) we had to be prepared to change with the ebb and flow of the tide. This is why preparing for longer stretches than usual without store runs and such is important. 

Keep things gassed up. Got a generator? Keep the backup gas can full. Keep the motorhome or towing rig gassed up. Great rule, try to make sure you always have a minimum of ½ a tank on board. A sudden change in shutdown requirements can change how you’re getting your supplies, delay, or extend your current stay

Help the locals. When it comes time to pick up those supplies do everything you can to spend a little money on those still-open small businesses. We try to make this apply even to getting gasoline at smaller regional or local stations. Remember, many small businesses have adopted some form of online ordering and/or curbside pickup. A little internet or a phone call ahead of time will give you all the information you need to keep them and yourself safe. 

Besides visiting wide open spaces and rare locales, we recommend finding new, or reinforcing old, indoor hobbies. His Lego obsession has grown, and her crafting has turned to some painting and sketch work (we’re not that great at our projects, but we’re having fun making them. This is a judge-free artistic zone). 

 

Walks. Hiking, and dog cuddles. Even the CDC recommends getting out and do some walking — avoiding crowds of course — or hiking. It is good for the body, just don’t forget to carry a mask/face covering in case you run into people unexpectedly. 

WEAR A DAMN MASK, wash your nasty hands, and respect each other’s distance. No matter how near or far you choose to travel, these three things, more than any other will keep you and those you come across safe. And remember, it goes over your mouth AND nose. 


For more information:

CDC

iOverlander

ParkAdvisor

 

 

Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma, Arizona

Welcome to the Hellhole

In the second half of the 1800’s people rushed west to claim land for themselves, to pan for gold, and to build their own prison cells. The latter wasn’t actually a plan, but it is what happened to the first of the criminals to be imprisoned in Yuma Territorial Prison. The first inmates were required to build their own cells. The prison officially opened in July of 1876. 

I think the backyard party lights really enhance the prison atmosphere.

Yuma Territorial was named Hellhole by the inmates that were incarcerated there. The average summer daytime temperature in Yuma was 110 degrees. Hellhole, indeed. Cells were open-air, with no air conditioning or heaters for the winter nights in the desert. 

 All the amenities.
Cozy 6 bedroom
The 2 bedroom model.

In it’s 33 years of operation the prison housed an assortment of criminals. 3,069 prisoners were in and out of the Hellhole population, including 29 women, and for a few years, even one child that was born at the prison by his incarcerated mother. 

Unlawful plural marriage.
A woman after his own heart… <3
“Became a media sensation…” she was very popular on Insta.
Prisoner Statistics

The prison was under constant construction during its years of operation, with most of the work being done by the inmates. I would think that building your own cage is an especially fudged up kind of prison. 

 

Prison air conditioning
Bunks built by prisoners in 1901. There were wooden bunks before, but they had to be removed due to bed bugs.

While the inmates claimed the conditions were hell, they also took advantage of various clubs, sports teams, and live music. The prison band was apparently quite good. 

Hellhole Country Club
Infirmary

Besides the dreadful heat of an Arizona summer, the Hellhole was also named with their solitary confinement in mind. The Dark Cell. The dark cell was used as solitary for prisoners misbehaving. The cell was a 10×10 dug out of the rock. Aptly named, the dark cell had no open windows, only a small vent in the ceiling that guards would drop the prisoners’ daily meal of bread and water through. At night, there was not a speck of light available to the inmate shackled in the solitary cell, wearing only his skivvies. Prisoners with an extended stay in the dark cell were often sent to the state run insane asylum in Phoenix upon their release from solitary. The dark cell is said to be haunted…and with the trauma of being left in pitch black with only the bats for company, I can see why it might be…although if I was a ghostly presence hanging out in prison in the after life, I would probably haunt the kitchen, not the dark cell. 

Hello darkness, my old friend. We’ve come to shit on you again….
The floor of the dark cell
Dark cell shackles

Due to overcrowding, Yuma Territorial Prison was shut down in 1909. The prisoners were sent to a larger prison in Florence, Arizona. After the closure of the prison, the local schools used the facility for a few years. By 1920 the empty prison was being used as shelter by the homeless, and during the depression it was transformed into temporary housing for unsheltered families. 

Yuma Territorial Prison is now a state historical park. You can attend scheduled tours by volunteers, or follow a self-guided tour through the prison campus. There are many artifacts and photographs of the years as a prison, as well as historical documents and history of individual inmates and guards. 

Ghostly apparition of a prison guard long lost to the years of Yuma Territorial Prison…or a volunteer tour guide.