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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #50- Bridges

Bridges can be physical structures that span and provide passage over rivers, bays, lakes, canyons, railroad tracks, roads or other barriers to travel, but can also connect two segments of music, support your cue in billiards, provide raised views from a platform on a boat or ship, or support your nose on your face.  A bridge can also connect people of differing viewpoints or cultures.  Here, though, I’m talking about the physical structure you can traverse on foot, by bike or in a car.

If you ever doubt how you might be taking bridges for granted, you’ll be reminded when one is out on your journey.  We have had to take up to five-hour detours because a bridge over a river was blocked by construction, not counting the times when the destination was simply not available by any detour at all.  Just think what driving would be like without the high-tech structures that bridges have become.  There was a time when the only possible passage over a river was via ferry or barge.  Gorges were impassible, and some railroad tracks were blocked for hours by train traffic.

A bridge can also be a friend of the amateur or professional photographer, providing scenes of technology, history, majesty and comparable size.  These views can be anything from quaint to awe-inspiring.  I love shooting rustic covered bridges in Ohio and New England, but also the enormous, towering bridges that span lakes, bays and canyons.  Memorable behemoths include the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Michigan’s “Big Mac” over the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Maine, the New River Gorge Bridge in Virginia and the curved Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland.  All around the country, you’ll find the picturesque, the awesome, the beautiful and the historic, if this is a photographic subject you enjoy.

I’ve probably snapped photos of over a hundred covered bridges and I never seem to tire of them.  There has been a concerted effort to preserve them in place, when possible, but some have been moved to protect them.  This has been aided by a new competition between states as to who has the most, the best and the most beautiful covered bridges in America. 

Pennsylvania seems to be the leader in quantity, with 219 still remaining in place.  Kentucky was known to have had as many as 700 covered bridges in its history, but only a dozen remain, and, similarly, over 400 were built in New Hampshire with only 54 surviving.  Ohio had an amazing 4,000 in its history, but that number has dwindled to just 42, 40 of which I have photographed.  The Clint Eastwood-Meryl Streep movie, The Bridges of Madison County, in 1995 also served to generate new interest in covered bridges.

As you would expect, the first bridges were made by nature, as fallen trees made a path across a river or stream. The first bridges made by humans were most likely made from logs, planks and stones with little or no support structure.  Interestingly the first cable-connecting spans were designed after watching monkeys swing on vines from tree to tree.  The first such bridges were constructed in China as early as 206 BC.  Expertise continued to improve in China and by 605 AD the oldest surviving stone bridge was built during the Sui Dynasty.  Of course, the greatest pre-modern bridge builders were the ancient Romans, the first to use a form of cement in their materials.  With the Industrial Revolution came steel, then designs of beam, cantilever, arch, suspension, cable-stayed and truss bridges.

The best thing for tourists is the sheer number of bridges of all sorts everywhere in the country, and in most of the world.  Whether you aspire to take the perfect bridge photograph or just enjoy visiting historical structures, there is much to like about bridges, and many to like.

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I’ll leave the discussion with a particularly appropriate quote from 20th-century architect Santiago Calatrava, who said, “What I do is the opposite of building walls. I build bridges. A bridge is something that connects instead of separating.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #49- GPS Navigation

It’s 1970 and you are driving across the country to visit family several states away.  Every couple of hours, you stop in at a filling station (which is what they used to call gas stations) and pull out a folded paper map and slowly unfold it on your lap.  When the map exceeds the space there, you get out and open it up on the hood of the car.  After several minutes of studying the map, you locate approximately where you are on the highway and decide the best route for the next couple of hours.  It takes three tries and 10 minutes to fold the map, probably not the way it came, and you climb back in your car and continue the drive, hoping that you remember the turns ahead.  A couple of hours later, you repeat the process, since the last thing you want is to be lost in a section of the country in which you’ve never been before. 

Once you get to your destination city, your stop in a filling station there includes getting a local street map.  Again, you unfold and study it on your hood, this time looking the street name up in the street list on the back and searching for the pertinent coordinates on the map that was listed.  When you can’t find it on the map, you ask the gas attendant for help and he cheerfully, or not so cheerfully, gives you directions to the address of your Aunt Martha’s house, but too fast to write them down.  After making three wrong turns, you miraculously find a street that had been mentioned by the attendant and you finally arrive.

That was life before GPS navigation.  I grew up working for my dad in his filling station and one of my jobs was to supply maps and directions to lost or frustrated motorists.  Compare that process to our present one, in which we pull up the navigation app or GPS device on the dashboard, enter the address, wait a minute, and the first direction is read to you by a lovely disembodied voice.  Yes, we have many reasons to be happy about GPS navigation.

The U.S. began the use of satellites in global positioning of submarines in the ‘60s, utilizing radio signals from six satellites orbiting the poles and the “Doppler effect” of shifting of signals to locate the nuclear-weapon-bearing subs in a matter of minutes.  In the ‘70s, the U.S. Department of Defense developed a more robust navigation system using 24, then 33, satellites (NAVSTAR). 

Today, free GPS is available continuously to the U.S. and other governments and military, contractors of the military, corporations and the public, with accuracy predicated on the level of service. 

Both geolocation and time information are utilized by cell phones, GPS devices and locater tags worldwide.  In 2000, public GPS receivers had about a 16-foot accuracy range, but, in 2018, a much more accurate location service was allowed, now within about 11 inches.    Besides navigation, there are other important uses of global positioning systems, such as locating or tracking your or your family while in the field, hiking, exploring, etc.  This can be especially important in an emergency, even in your vehicle.  Installing a tracking device in your car will allow you to track it if it is stolen.  There are even GPS tracking devices you can put on your pets’ collars.  Many businesses with fleets of trucks use GPS tracking to manage the trucks and their progress.

Another interesting fact about GPS navigation is that it proved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  According to phys.org, “As predicted by Einstein’s theory, clocks under the force of gravity run at a slower rate than clocks viewed from a distant region experiencing weaker gravity. This means that clocks on Earth observed from orbiting satellites run at a slower rate. To have the high precision needed for GPS, this effect needs to be taken into account or there will be small differences in time that would add up quickly, calculating inaccurate positions.”  Thank you, Mr. Einstein.  We continue to be in your debt.

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To complete this discussion, I’ll quote American comedian Judy Gold, who said, “I have decided now that my mother should be the GPS woman, don’t you think? That would be fantastic: ‘Make a left in 11 miles. Get over now – I want you to be prepared. Turn right on Elm Street, I want to see if Myrna Rosenblatt is still alive. Make your second left by the Dairy Queen. Don’t go in, they’re anti-Semitic.’



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #48- Fishing

My dad never had time to take me fishing, but I managed to find friends to fish with.  In fact, one of my best fishing buds was so into it that he opened a tackle shop and guide service.  The last time he and I fished together, we had driven up the California coast and hopped on a full-day party boat in Monterey.  We each caught so many we had to stop with a couple of hours to go because our arms were too sore to hold the deep-sea rods.  After processing, Jack (yes, we were a pair of Jacks) had 52 pounds of luscious filleted meat and I had 37 pounds, both the tops on the boat that day. 

I had a few significant fishing days with other friends, too.  Scott introduced me to barracuda fishing, or “backaruda,” as we used to purposely mispronounce it.  Barracuda feed in groups by swimming beneath large schools of anchovies and eating the small fish from the bottom, forcing the whole school up out of the water with nowhere else to go.  This causes a 20- or 30-yard-wide ocean “boil” as the anchovies continually try to escape from being eaten.  A fishing boat, having noticed the boil, would pull up close enough to cast across it with 12-inch-long jigs or lures.  We would cast and retrieve as fast as we could, reeling in catches of the 3-4-foot-long barracuda, unhooking them in the boat and casting back out.  Speed was of the essence, because the feeding frenzy could end as quickly as it erupted.

I have fished for both salt-water and fresh-water species, from shore or from a boat, guided or not, in a dozen or so states, including Alaska, Florida, California, Washington, Kansas and others.  I’m looking forward to getting a Texas license as soon as we settle in at our winter space.  [Note: Texas does not have annual or monthly non-resident fishing passes, so this didn’t happen. However, a temp fishing license is included in all state park pass fees.] One problem with fishing as we move around the country is that I have to purchase a non-resident license wherever I go.  Florida conveniently sells annual licenses to out-of-staters, but they seem to be the exception.  All-in-all, non-resident license cost keeps fishing from being a desirable activity everywhere we visit.

There are many things about angling that can make you happy, starting with the adage that a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of working.  Experiencing nature and wildlife is always something I appreciate, and the entire pace of the sport is calming.  It’s difficult to feel stressed when you are watching your pole for a bite.  Like many outdoor activities, sharing them with friends and family can help strengthen those relationships.  Like camping, you can improve your self-esteem by learning to master several outdoor skills at once.

Many a great fishing spot requires a long or strenuous hike (or it probably wouldn’t be so great), another physical activity to improve your health.  Then there’s the thrill of the catch and the taste of the freshly grilled feast.

Fishing is a lifetime skill and can be enjoyed at any age.  I’ve been fishing for over 50 years and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

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There is a great quote from President Herbert Hoover that would be appropriate to share here: “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #47- Books

For the younger generations, let me explain that a “book” is a bound set of paper pages with writing or printed text and/or illustrations or photos.  That’s a far cry from the first known attempts by people to transcribe symbols onto stone tablets, which began in about 3500 BC.  A millennium later, the first known papyrus scrolls with written words were created in Egypt, with reeds and bird feathers as the probable scribing tools.  A more formal writing system emerged in Europe starting in about 600 BC and the current standardized writing system slowly developed in the centuries that followed. 

Paper was invented in China at the turn of the 1st century AD and illustrations were added to the text starting about 400 AD.  The very first printed book appeared in China in 868 AD and movable type was invented 200 years later, also in China.  Movable type was first used in Europe to produce the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 and the very first book was published in America in 1639.  The rest, as they say, is history. Ebooks are simply electronic versions of the same instruments but require a device with which to read them.

Books (and ebooks) can be divided into types, or genres, and all of them can be classified as fiction or non-fiction.  Fiction, which consists of stories that are made-up or greatly embellished, includes many you have heard of, such as drama, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and others.  Non-fiction, or factual books, may be science, philosophy, humor, history, self-help, travel, true crime or other genres.  To further complicate matters, recent trends include combining two or more genres to make new categories.

Whether you love epic adventures or are looking for some help in the kitchen, books can add a whole new dimension of pleasure to your life.  They can provide mental stimulation, which can slow, or possibly even prevent, the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Losing yourself in a great story can reduce stress in your daily life.  You can expand your knowledge by reading, as well as expand your vocabulary, helping you become better at making conversation and becoming more articulate.  Both of these benefits can increase your self-esteem and improve your impact at work.  Reading can also increase your empathy and improve your conversation, besides giving you some great entertainment.

Most successful authors were avid readers long before they began writing in earnest.  As a teen, I loved science fiction and police dramas, so Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and I, Robot series, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and The Dosadi Experiment, and Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field and The New Centurions, were all among my favorites, and I re-read each of them several times.  As an adult, my attention turned more to sports fiction and non-fiction, as well as science and industry features.  I am extremely pleased to have written my own retired detective series and, who knows?, maybe a sci-fi series will be next.

The advantage of paper books over their electronic cousins should be obvious — no device or electricity is necessary, at least in the daytime, to enjoy them.  You can grab a thick Shakespeare play, a thin Harlequin romance paperback or one of the seemingly endless personal help guides, then head to the beach, the mountains, a back yard lounge chair or in front of a flickering campfire and lose yourself in ways that watching television or movies can’t match.  Reading forces you to imagine the scene, the setting, the characters, the voices, while letting you think about what the plot is doing, guessing what’s next or whodunit.  I never finished a book quickly — I kept re-reading pages or passages to get as full a comprehension as I could manage as I moved through it.  But, then again, that let me enjoy them even longer.

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I’ll end this subject with a quote from the famous scientist and naturalist, Jane Goodall, who wrote, “When I was 10 years old, I loved – I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan.



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It’s not always bad news…

Obviously, I wrote this before Nadyne succumbed to cancer and the COVID pandemic reared its ugly head.

Reason #46- Good Health

When you have your health, you have everything.  In my opinion, truer words were never spoken.  Quality of life is almost as important as life itself.  Fortunately for the Baby Boomer and subsequent generations, longer lifespans also include better medicine, better fitness, no smoking and less age-related maladies.  Once cancer is licked, the human lifespan will take another large step. 

When I was 10 and my grandparents were in their 60s, they looked like 85-year-olds today.  I have seen family photos of them, so I can assure you that it wasn’t just my view of them as a youngster.  They looked old.  Now in my 60s myself, I can appreciate how lucky I am.  When they say that 65 is the new 45, there is some truth to the statement. 

When you think of all the health risks someone born at the turn of the 20th century had to endure, you have to wonder how they survived to have a family at all.  Penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928.  The existence of vitamins was only suggested in 1906.  Insulin wasn’t used to treat diabetes until 1922, just before the first vaccines were developed for diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and tetanus.  The first flu vaccine wasn’t given until 1945.  Pacemakers were invented in 1952 and the polio vaccine was developed in 1955.  You can see that medicine has been a great boon to the human race over the decades.  Just think of life without all of these wonder drugs and miracle treatments.

Good health has been hampered by smoking more than any other human activity, and death from tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., still causing about one in five deaths each year, according to the CDC.  But death isn’t the only detrimental outcome from smoking.  My mom contracted emphysema from smoking all her life and was on oxygen for her last 10 years.  She spent the last half-dozen years in and out of hospitals.

But, let’s focus on the positive.  Each year, about 1.3 million smokers quit, and, since 1965, more than 40 percent of all adults who have ever smoked have quit.  Recent miracle cures and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other ailments abound, and science has provided stem cell treatments, DNA analysis, gene therapy, artificial organs and this past year proved the value of lightning speed vaccine development.  There are even more miracles on the horizon, like 3D printing of organs and other body parts, diagnoses by crowd-sourcing or via mobile intelligence, the use of bio-hackers, which will be ultra-sensors in your body or clothing, antibiotic “smart bombs” for directly destroying bugs in your system, and much more. 

It is a good time to be a human being, and the younger generations are even more fortunate.  Good health provides a happier life, with less stress and fear of contracting a serious disease and allowing you to better enjoy your hobbies and other favorite activities.  A healthy person gets to spend more and better quality time with their life partners and other loved ones, and will experience less pain in their lifetime.  Good health will save a lot of time and money than the alternative, with fewer medical procedures and doctor visits, and with preventive medicine being a lot less costly and stressful.  You’ll live longer, too, and will want to.

COVID-19 highlighted just how much we enjoy life when not faced with sickness or death in the family.  There is no doubt that our quality of life is directly affected by our health and the continuous improvements in medical care.

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To highlight just how long health has been known to be important to one’s life, here’s a quote from 18th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #45- Ghost Towns

One of the great adventures you can take, especially in the West and Midwest, is to search for ghost towns.  You might define a ghost town as one that was abandoned by its inhabitants, usually because of a business decline.   A nearby mine may have been worked out, a large dominant company may have closed its doors or an environmental or weather-related disaster may have chased residents away.  When we come across one, it is both sad and fascinating.

Goldfield, Nev., was one of the first ghost towns I’ve ever visited, though, to be fair, there are still a bit over 200 residents listed in its official population.  That is a far stretch from its heyday as the largest city in Nevada, when the population was around 20,000 in about 1904 to 1906.  During that time another bit of history was made there when Wyatt and Virgil Earp arrived.  Virgil was hired as a Goldfield deputy sheriff in January 1905, but in October he died of pneumonia after six months of illness.  Wyatt Earp left Goldfield shortly afterward.  By 1910, the population was down below 5,000 and by 1912 the largest mining company shut down operations.  A fire due to a moonshine explosion destroyed most of Goldfield’s wooden buildings in 1923, and the town continued to decline until it became what we see today.

To be able to read about that kind of detail about a town’s history is unusual, mostly available because of the tourist draw.  Most ghost towns have limited documentation, but sometimes that makes the find even more interesting, our imaginations placed in high gear to fill in the blanks.  Some, like Tombstone in Southern Arizona, Calico in Southern California and St. Elmo in Central Colorado, have renovated or reconstructed many of its buildings in order to draw tourists.  Others, such as Gila City and Fortuna, both outside of Yuma, Ariz., are barren or badly neglected.  More and more, however, are being renovated due to an apparent need of new attractions for tourists.

I remember seeing several rows of abandoned two-story houses and other buildings when we were on our way to check out the quaint town of Red Cliff, Colo.  We could see the remnants of a mining operation and assumed it was a closed company town.  A little research told us that it was indeed an abandoned mining town called Gilman that had operated from 1886 until the mine closed in 1984 by the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as its unprofitability.  Apparently, in mining large quantities of lead and zinc, the mine contaminated the groundwater with toxic chemicals.  You can’t get close to the buildings, but with a telephoto lens or binoculars you can see household items and furniture still sitting inside.

Another cultural phenomenon has created a new tourist boom — haunted towns that put the “ghost” in ghost towns.  One of the most popular is Bodie, Calif.  As with most mining towns in the 19th century, the business of sin took advantage of the gold being pulled from the mines.  All of that crime, greed and lust took its toll and, when the town was abandoned, stories remained of paranormal experiences, especially in the home of a man named Jim Cain.  An Asian servant took her own life there after being fired and ever since there have been numerous reports of the sound of music from a particular bedroom, the face of a woman eerily appearing at a second-story window, individuals feeling as if they are being held down, and others.  Bodie was also reportedly cursed as well.  I’m not into paranormal experiences, but if you are, ghost towns can be a gold mine, pun intended.

Like geocaching, locating and exploring ghost towns are extremely enjoyable activities, getting you outdoors and walking or hiking about the area.  There is much information about which ghost towns are in any particular region or state, often including directions and/or GPS coordinates.  When we have taken on such an outing, there is a real possibility of not finding some of the towns, since roads leading to them have often been abandoned or torn up, and that there may well be nothing to find.  But, that’s half the fun, right? 

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To complete this topic, I’ll end with a quote from American actor Hong Chau, who said, “I’m really into ghost towns. I’ve driven cross-country the past few summers, and I would stop at some ghost towns along the way. They’re like a microcosm of America as a whole.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #44- Mountains

Nadyne and I grew up near mountains, she in Tucson, Ariz., and me in the Los Angeles Basin in Southern California.  We shared a love of mountain views and their majesty.  But, like the song lyrics go, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”  We moved to Kansas, where the nearest mountains were almost 300 miles away.  In fact, we used to joke that from the 12th floor in the Wichita City Hall you could see all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Sorry, Flat-Earthers, the curvature of the earth kept this from being true.

We experienced an interesting phenomenon in Wichita that extended to many flat plains locations: claustrophobia.  How can being in a wide-open space cause such a feeling?  I finally figured out that it has to do with a finite horizon.  Walk or drive anywhere with mountains and the sight of the range gives you an internal sense of the size of the space you are in.  Take away the mountains and either you have a non-distinct view of the infinite horizon or the horizon becomes the building rooflines, treetops or the top edges of tall hedges.  That loss of a distinct space can be unnerving to those of us who grew up around mountains, and it didn’t seem to affect native Kansans at all.

Believe it or not, there are health benefits to visiting a mountain range.  There are several reports that spending almost any time in the mountains can trigger weight loss and high altitude is known to decrease your appetite and make you feel more full.  People who live in or spend considerable time at higher altitudes, which would include cities like Denver, Colo., and Santa Fe, N.M., are less likely to die from a heart attack and have lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  The fresh air you breathe in the mountains, free of toxic gasses and air pollution, gives your lungs a chance to breathe in a better mix of oxygen.  Pine scents also tend to decrease hostility, depression and stress.  Mountain trails also provide some of the best exercise available and the opportunity for bonding with friends, family and that special someone.

You can extend all the benefits I embraced with trees to the mountains as well, since more trees inhabit mountainous regions than all other geographical zones combined.  Speaking of geography, and therefore geology, there are three major ways mountains form, all as a byproduct of plate tectonics.  Volcanic activities occur when one tectonic plate is pushed beneath another, causing magma to be forced to the surface.  The “Ring of Fire” was created in this manner, as have the series of dormant volcanoes in the Cascades, site of Mount St. Helens.  During tectonic plate collisions, when two plates plow into each other, one plate is forced upwards, creating ranges such as the Appalachians, Himalayas and Mount Everest.  The least-known is rifting, when rocks on one side of a fault lift relative to the opposite side, such as with the Black Forest in Germany.  I don’t want to make this a geology course, but as we tour America, it is interesting to see how the different mountain ranges were created and how they have changed over geologic time.

The “purple mountains majesty,” though, is why we love to visit the mountains, with photos not exactly doing them justice, and with views sometimes so amazing as to render us awestruck in silence.

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I’ll complete this discussion with a quote from a famous 19th-century novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote, “Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #43- Television

Mine was the first generation that has been entirely entertained at home by television shows, albeit they were black-and-white when I was a kid.  Before that, perhaps unbelievably so, families would pull up chairs to the living room radio and listen to their favorite episodes of Ozzie and Harriet, Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Life of Riley, The Lone Ranger, or one of hundreds broadcast in the ‘40s and ‘50s.  Many of those were the first television series as well, since they already had an audience and sponsors.  Soon, though, the vision part of television added a new dimension to entertainment and shows began rolling out for that medium.

I wasn’t planning on making this a history lesson, but I thought I was reminisce for a moment.  I vividly remember kid shows growing up, like Rin Tin Tin, Roy Rogers, Flipper, the aforementioned Lone Ranger, Superman, Sky King, The Rifleman, Kukla Fran and Ollie, Sherri Lewis, and a myriad of cartoons (like Johnny Quest, Bugs Bunny, Huckleberry Hound and Mighty Mouse).  As I got older, on came Star Trek, Batman, I Dream of Jeanie, Lost in Space, Andy Griffith, Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes, Gilligan’s Island, I Spy and so many more.  There were many genres created for broadcast, with westerns, sci-fi, variety, police and medical dramas, horror, morning and daytime, news, game shows, sports and sitcoms, short for “situation comedies.”

On the road full-time, we have an even better appreciation for a good TV series.  Nighttime in the wilderness or in a remote campground has limited entertainment opportunities.  There are only so many times you want to sit around a campfire, and we’re often too removed from any nightlife for it to be an option.  With the advent of the mobile satellite dish and streaming services, we have just about all the TV we want.  We have a nightly ritual of streaming old series, like How I Met Your Mother, Frasier, and In Plain Sight, one episode per evening for two or three shows.  It took several months to complete all 13 seasons of Frasier, one show per night.

Besides its entertainment value, television can be educational and cultural, providing insights into people and places you have never experienced.  We still get our national and local news via the TV [this may be changing].  Being part of a fanbase can be fun and give you something to talk about to friends, family and new acquaintances.  There is no better way to be a sports fan than watching your favorite team on the tube, and, better yet, inviting all your friends and family over to share the experience.  TV shows can also help you feel less lonely, allowing you to involve yourself in the characters’ relationships.  Watching DIY, cooking and outdoors shows can inspire you to try new things or pick up a new hobby.

Watching TV is also an excellent bonding opportunity for you and your life partner or close friend.  It can be a significant shared experience or just a nice enjoyable time, either being beneficial to your relationship.  If you sit together while watching, you can have intimate moments and touch, and even with a scary scene, provide valuable physical and emotional support.

You have probably heard the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  Television comedies can improve your health and mental state in this way and studies have found that people feel more energetic after watching nature shows on TV.  It has been reported that watching TV can reduce stress and your cortisol levels, high levels of which can cause weight gain, higher bad cholesterol and depression

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Last, it is among the least expensive forms of entertainment, as long as you monitor all of your monthly subscribed service fees.  You can easily have more television than you can watch for less than $100 per month.

Whether you are a home body, an avid camper or a full-time RVer, television is a huge safety net against boredom and stagnation of your imagination, and can provide a wonderful source of happiness.  Just remember, when it stops being enjoyable, there is an on-off switch.

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The final word in the subject comes from American actor Melissa Rauch, who said, “TV was my life, growing up. I ran home from school to watch television, and even did my homework with the TV on – my mom had a rule that as long as my grades didn’t fall, I was allowed to. So it was my dream to work in television.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #42- Camping and Glamping

My parents never took me camping, not that Los Angeles has ever been a camper’s nirvana.  They did, though, support my joining the local Boy Scouts troop, the leaders of which took the members camping a few times a year.  We visited the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, the Mojave Desert and other areas around Southern California.  I vividly remember hiking to one of the peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains and shivering in the cold because I had failed to anticipate and pack for 30-degree temps at nearly 8,000 feet.

Even so, I loved camping and enjoyed it as often as I could over the years.  When my oldest daughter was less than a year old, we camped in the Yosemite National Forest, and she was no worse for wear from the experience.  I think all of my kids enjoyed the experiences we had after moving to Washington State.  Camping and fishing were two of our primary activities every summer.

The kids grew up and I moved to Western New York, and camping was less available, so for years it was a forgotten habit.  It wasn’t until my wife and I moved to Las Vegas and realized we both had the itch to travel and see America that my vagabond nature returned.  However, this time it would be glamping, not just camping.  “Glamping,” or “glamor camping,” is the term some people give to camping in RVs rather than tents.  As you get older, tent-camping becomes much less desirable.

Campouts are not just for families any more — we actually camp full-time.  One of the popular aspects of camping is the huge variety of types and styles available to the average person.  Even tents have improved to the point where they may not even be recognizable as such.  Canvas cabins are as spacious as wooden ones.  Hard-side pull-trailers and traditional tent trailers have been combined into “hybrid” camping trailers.  Fifth wheel trailers can range from small 20-foot rigs to huge 45-foot toy haulers and you can utilize from one to five or more slide-outs for even more space.  Several have side and/or rear raised decks.  

Then there are the myriad of types of motorhomes, from a regular van conversion, rated a class B, to a larger and more sophisticated class B+, to the traditional class C motorhome on a larger chassis and truck cab with the usual overhang for a bed or storage, to a bus style class A.  The lines between the styles and classes are being blurred more each season.  Glamping just doesn’t get any better, or more expensive.

No discussion about styles of camping would be complete without defining the types of camping.  It is estimated that there are over 15,000 RV resorts, parks and campgrounds in the U.S., and they range from rustic forest or state campgrounds without or with limited hookups, to more traditional parks with or without full hookups, to neighborhoods of park model or manufactured homes that allow RVs, full-service RV resorts with amenities that never end.  If you want to rough it, you can boondock or dry camp, which is basically picking a spot in a forest or meadow, on the plains or in the desert, and making camp without any services or amenities except what you brought for yourself.  Fortunately, most RVs are completely self-contained, sporting water and waste tanks and a generator or solar system for power, so a week or less is totally possible to enjoy in this manner.

Communing with nature is never better than when you experience it while camping.  Usually, the location you choose will provide plenty of fresh air, and often hiking or biking is readily available relatively close by.  So, the health benefits are all around you, including a reduction of stress and a happier mood.  That feeling of glee you get when you take your first breath of air in a campground isn’t all in your mind — it’s due to a release of serotonin from breathing in the extra oxygen produced by trees and in the forest.  When you are out in direct sunlight, you’re receiving an abundance of vitamin D, which allows your body to better absorb calcium and phosphorous.  Even mild activity usually equates to a good night’s sleep, and the natural surroundings may allow or even suggest some soothing meditation.

RVers and other campers are ordinarily a social bunch, so it is easy to make new and long-lasting friendships.  This is true whether you camp over a weekend, over a season or full-time.  Not only did we make lifelong friends while camping in Colorado, but developed a surprising number of friends and acquaintances we met after hitting the road a few short years ago.

There are many ways that camping or glamping can provide happiness in your life.  It did that for us in such abundance that it is now our daily way of life.

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I’ll close the subject with a quote from a British politician, Margaret Beckett, who experienced glamping:  “Some people think that going on a caravan holiday is a slightly more upscale version of camping. Let me assure you, it is much better than that. You know that you will have your creature comforts wherever you are. I never have to pack light, and I can put the kettle on in any location.



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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #41- Wine

It’s only fair, after touting the benefits of craft beer, that I include wine as a reason for happiness.  After all, I’ve been drinking wine for over 30 years and still enjoy stopping at wineries for tasting.

Wine has been produced for thousands of years. According to Wikipedia, the earliest evidence of wine is from ancient Georgia (6000 BC), Persia (5000 BC), and Italy (4000 BC).  New World wine has some connection to alcoholic beverages made by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but is mainly connected to the later Viking area of Vinland and Spanish traditions in New Spain.  We can thank Europeans for developing wine and the industry to what it is today, but it is produced in most countries in the world.

Like the world, the United States has also had a bit of a wine producing explosion, with states that don’t grow grapes well simply importing from those that do.  I was fortunate to live in the midst of the Washington State wine country when I first started to imbibe.  Back in the ‘80s there were almost 100 wineries in the Yakima Valley Wine Country, and let’s just say my home was Wine-Country-adjacent. I found most winery owners more than pleased to talk to visitors and many insisted on giving personal tours of their facilities.

Similar to most wine novices, I started drinking sweet wines, such as Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and blushes.  Over time, my taste changed and these began to taste as sweet as Kool-Aid.  I was ready to go dry.  Two years later, I was heavily into Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for whites and started delving into some red wines.  Soon I was drinking Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. I can no longer drink anything remotely sweet. And blends!  Those glorious red blends from Spain and Italy are wine nirvana.

What makes wine different from hard alcohol is the process and alcohol content.  Both use fermentation to convert sugar or starch to alcohol, but hard spirits like vodka, whiskey and rum add a distillery process.  Wine typically has a 9-16 percent alcohol content, while hard spirits are normally 28-60 percent, depending on the product.  Compare that to beer at 3-9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), and it is easy to see that beer and wine allow more beverage to be enjoyed before inebriation (if you can say “inebriation” aloud without stumbling over it, you probably aren’t experiencing it).

The medical and health benefits of drinking wine are numerous.  Studies have shown that compounds found in red wine tannins help promote cardiovascular health, and occupants of those regions of the world in which wine is part of the normal diet tend to live longer. Researchers in Spain found that adults who drank two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

Modest wine consumption, meaning one glass a day, may decrease the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  Wine’s antimicrobial effects on the skin also helps reduce bacteria on our teeth.  There are many studies suggesting that the risks of various cancers are reduced by consuming red wine.

Aside from wine’s health benefits, it also provides you with various social benefits.  It can boost one’s confidence and help overcome shyness.  Being drunk is an anti-social behavior, so I am discussing wine in moderation.  Similarly, drinking wine in social settings can help you connect with others and expose you to different people and places than you are used to.  Wine itself can be a conversation starter and many friendships have developed over the love of wine.

What candlelit dinner is complete without wine or a celebration without champaign?  Wine has been used in romance and ceremony for as long as wine has been produced.  Wine and nature go hand-in-hand, just as wine and travel enhance each other.

Another great thing about wine is its effect on the taste of food.  There is a reason there are suggested wine pairings for most of the meals you enjoy.  Red wine tends to cleanse the palate between bites of beef or pasta, while tones of white wines can enhance the flavor of poultry and pork dishes.  For every food offering, a perfect wine variety can be found to maximize the enjoyment of its consumption.

The advent of craft beer has crept into what was once wine’s sole environment, but it is not a total social replacement.  There are times I want beer, for example, in long nights of sports viewing or playing, since the alcohol content can dictate the duration of the entertainment.  But wine is still my go-to drink for feast and cheer.  I rarely drink hard alcohol, which usually makes for short nights, and sipping my wine is much more pleasurable than downing shots.

All told, wine is a luxury in which everyone can indulge, and with the wide range of flavors and sweetness, there is a wine for almost everybody and every occasion.

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To complete the discussion, I’ll include the shortest quote I’ve used thus far.  Nineteenth-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Wine is bottled poetry.”  I just can’t argue the point.



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