January 1999    PRICE – 2 stamps    All rights reserved

C. Howard Replogle's


235 Rainbow Drive Suite # 13552 -- Livingston, Texas 77399-2035 Telephone Messages -- 888-757-7701 extension 50581

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my first ROAD STORY newsletter. I'm writing it for a mixed audience of old friends, family, new friends and who knows who else, so I'm sorry if it's a little off target or redundant for you personally. Many people have asked what I'm doing and why as well as where I've been, so I will attempt to answer those questions here.

I decided in December 1997 to quit my job of controller at Forman Lithograph, and sell my house in San Bruno, CA in order to travel. All of the various aspects of my life situation allowed me to make that decision: My feelings about my job and environment, my responsibilities to my family, my lack of social ties to the SF Bay Area, my age and place in life, a whole bunch of philosophical ideas, and financial considerations. I haven't traveled much before and this seemed like a good time to do it and a good way to do it. Besides, a regular "big budget" type retirement seemed way too far away in time and money. During the next eight months I continued to work, read about RV (recreational vehicle) lifestyles, made preliminary plans, joined RV related organizations, bought a 25 foot Airstream travel trailer and a heavy duty pickup truck, and sold or gave away most of my belongings including my beloved modified Miata. On August 17, 1998 my dog Pepper and I moved into my trailer and after finishing up at my job, left the Bay Area on September 11. I'm now what they call a FULL-TIMER in RV parlance. And Pepper is a road dawg.

I've been a member of the Escapees RV club (SKP for short) for almost a year now. It's a club especially for full- timers and is an important resource for my mail forwarding, voice mail, technical information, legal advice, campgrounds, and contact with others involved in this lifestyle. I've found my fellow Escapees to be wonderful, vital and enlightened people; mainly retired and always friendly and helpful. There's a whole culture of people living like this. To each other anyway, we seem perfectly normal.

I'm certainly feeding wanderlust. There's more to it than that, but I'm really not sure where I'm going. I'm unable to stereotype what it is I'm doing, and my plans and goals are (at this point anyway) intentionally undefined. I can say though that the part of me that read Thoreau and motivated me to live in a teepee when I was 25 is still functioning. I'm probably not retired, though I might be if it turns out that I really enjoy extreme frugality. I'm not exactly a tourist because I don't really enjoy touresty places or throwing away money on trinkets, although I saw Carlsbad Caverns recently and Zion National Park in September. I'm not presently engaging in any job or moneymaking activity. As my articulate son-in-law Blaine Sundwall put it; I've "interrupted my production/consumption cycle." I do have certain interests/pursuits such as playing harmonica, bicycling, my dog, going to music festivals, reading, and meeting kindred souls, but those aren't lifestyle type goals or plans. I think that after I travel and play around for awhile something else may emerge. Maybe not! In any event, I don't have any date set to return to a more "normal" way of life.

It's a very dynamic lifestyle, and there is always adventure right around the corner. I love what I'm doing, but adventure isn't always fun or pleasant. In fact it's the opposite of security and most people spend their lives avoiding it. If you ever feel that there isn't enough adventure in your life, just identify the things that make you feel secure, and give them up. Instant adventure! So, I've given some things up, but being on the leading edge of here and now seem to make up for it. Dynamic.

I've finally gotten past the white knuckles of piloting a 13,000 pound, 45 foot long rig, and learned a lot about this lifestyle from the fine points of map reading to the minutia of trailer plumbing. My rig is light by the way; many RV's exceed 30,000 pounds! I'm getting good at setting my rig up for travel and the traveling itself is really enjoyable. I love to be on the move. My average nights per location have been three (2.4, if I don't count the 28 days I spent in Crawford, GA in my mother's driveway). I've been surprised at how busy I've been with day-to-day activities such as setting up camp, breaking camp, route planning, driving, rig maintenance, refueling, grocery shopping, etc. It's quite a bit of work and can actually be sort of strenuous. I always thought retired people that said they didn't have time for something were insane; THEY WEREN'T EVEN WORKING! Now I understand. Sometimes I can hardly find time to practice my harmonica or take a nap! (Irony intended)

Pepper really loves it; he's with me almost constantly, everyday brings new sights and smells (road kill and livestock), and he meets other traveler's dogs. He rides shotgun and wags his tail if I point out cows, horses, or deer. He makes human and dog friends everywhere. A great companion.

My Dodge/Cummins 2500 pickup is working out great. Before I started towing I was averaging 18.9 MPG. Since I started towing, I've averaged 16.6 MPG. Therefore, adding my 5,500 pound trailer has only decreased my fuel usage by 2.3 MPG!! It's also interesting that I'm not driving much more per month than I was before I left. I'm just going in a straight line instead of back and forth!

I've joined a "membership" camping club called Thousand Trail & NACO (TTN for short). It's a deal that you pay a fat initiation fee and annual dues and get unlimited use of about 50 really nice member-only campgrounds in resort areas across the country. It's a great bargain for full-timers who camp a lot of nights per year. These and the SKP parks are also the nicest places to camp so when I want to stay put for a while, I do it in one of these. I'm getting hooked on a court game played in these camps called Pickle ball; kind of a cross between table tennis and badminton. And some of these retired geezers gleefully kick my butt!

The economics of life on the road are interesting. I'm spending less money than I thought I would. It's actually inconvenient to spend money on the road. My rig is way too big to just swing in to a restaurant for lunch, besides, it's nicer to stop in a vacant country church parking lot and make my own lunch and then take Pepper for a walk. I'm not in towns or cities much so all of the commercial attraction isn't there. I think a lot of working people participate in what I call "recreational shopping." I'm motivated to spend less so I can travel longer without working. Fashion is clearly not my thing. I have really limited space in my rig for "stuff." More stuff also weighs more and makes my rig harder to handle and uses more fuel. I have plenty of time to cook. Consuming less jibes with my conservative environmental ideals. It goes on and on. In retrospect, the "production/consumption cycle" seems like a vicious circle, a real "rat race."

I've found that the great majority of my fellow RVing travelers and Escapees are retired and married and much older than I am (I'm 51). Some of them view me with as much puzzlement as my real-estate-bound contemporaries, so I'm feeling a certain social deprivation that many of my fellow Escapee's don't share. In fact, it seems that most Escapees are very active socially. I joined an RV club for singles (WIN – Wandering Individuals Network) which removes the "married" difference, but adds the inconvenience of having to travel to a specific place and time for the association and leaves the "retired" and "older" differences well in tact. You have to be under 70 to join but not to stay in once you're in, so... I also just joined an SKP special interest group for baby-boomers. It of course will be 98% married but I'm looking forward to the association anyway. My social contacts have actually increased since I left because my fellow travelers are so friendly, but I haven't met a single full-timer (male or female) that is my age or less and traveling alone. Anyway, I really need to interact with my own generation. Some of the best times I've had traveling so far have been with George Hawkins in Helena, Arkansas, and with Dennis & Tammy Helmreich in Athens, Georgia, and with Susan & Kevin Christensen in Houston, Texas, and with Steve & Linda Christian at a campground in South Texas. And I'm looking forward to the visits I have planned with other friends and family.

I've started a list of places that I've stopped to spend a night or more. It's the last page(s) of this letter. It's just about where I stopped, and not the 8,000 plus miles of road I've covered in the process; which was mainly scenery and very enjoyable but will require some other type of database to document; maybe later. It shows where I've been with a few comments about my experience there. I'm continuing to avoid big cities and interstate highways. The more I avoid them, the less I like them. Especially freeways in big cities: The drivers there seem to be in an insane frenzy to me. Seriously, they seem literally insane. Mad. Especially Houston and El Paso. Although most of 1-10 through the Southwest desert isn't too bad. Blue highways, state parks and small towns appeal to me much more.

I do miss the Internet and e-mail. It was one of the hardest parts of "civilization" to give up. There are ways to 'do it on the road' but none of them has near the convenience of a fixed phone line, and convenience is the name of the game with e-mail. They're also expensive. So for now, I'll just wait for the technology to catch up to me. Those of you that I used to e-mail, please keep in touch by calling and writing; don't forget me!

I'm reading and enjoying plenty of traveling books:

Home is Where You Park It                                 Kay Peterson
Travels with Charley                                           John Steinbeck
Blue Highways                                                   William Least Heat Moon
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance         Robert Pirsig
Lila                                                                    Robert Pirsig
On the Road with Charles Kuralt                          Charles Kuralt

Thanks to Robby Jarvis' insightful recommendation, Pirsig is my current favorite author. Highly recommended, especially "Lila." I'm looking for a copy of "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac.

This is only the first of a series of newsletters. I'm sending it to some people who may not be interested, so if you like it and want to stay on my recipients list for future editions, please send me two 33-cent postage stamps to help cover mailing costs and to let me know that you want more. Plus I'd love to hear from you.

I actually have quite a lot to say about what I'm doing (I'm trying to keep this short) so maybe these newsletters will wind up as a book. Who knows!? I sure don't!

Happy Trails,

Howard Replogle