April 1999

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 second ROAD STORY newsletter. WOW! I got a great response from my first newsletter. Many letters and phone calls and lots of STAMPS. Maybe too many stamps. I don't know about all the responsibility that goes along with those prepaid subscriptions; some of you sent 12 stamps! I did get a few comments to the effect; "I think it's tacky to expect your friends to pay you to correspond with them" and a part of me agrees with them. Though it did seem to get me a bunch of really nice letters, many expressing heartfelt identification with what I'm doing. And we're NOT talking about a lot of money here folks. Some people JUST sent stamps (no letter). THAT isn't what I had in mind, but I understand that some of us are VERY busy. I have to say though that the stamp idea was that of another sender of travel newsletters (you know who you are), not my own. Anyway, enough on that.

My travel style has changed a bit. I'm tending to stay in one place longer. At least for now. And I'm loving the Thousand Trails / NACO campgrounds. They are consistently beautiful, immaculate, and well appointed. The San Benito Preserve (they call their campgrounds "preserves" and their security employees "rangers") even has their own label of Habanero HOT salsa. Yes, yes! And to Pepper's delight, it's crawling with rabbits and birds. I'm practicing harmonica more and even think of my self as a self-directed music student. In fact, my main purpose in coming so far north as early as I did and for staying so far west as late as I intend is to attend harmonica-related events. Not that I harbor any fantasies about making money at it; many of my musical HEROES are unable to make a decent living playing. But I love the blues and there's nothing I want much more than to play better.

My extended roaming in Northern California has cost me dearly in bad weather and forgone exploration of the Arizona desert. I wanted to see Quartzsite this winter and I am quite tired of freezing here in sunny California.

The month that I camped in my brother Ric's driveway was a musical delight. Festivities included jam sessions with Ric and his professor friends from HSU and my nephew Collin, almost daily music reading and rhythm lessons from my niece Merissa and trio work on Little Walter's "Juke" with Ric & Collin. They're all better musicians than I, so I learned a lot. The weather on the other hand was one storm after another. I'm planning to perform Juke at the Participants Concert during the Port Townsend Country Blues Festival and Workshop in June. The audience will be a couple hundred fellow students and faculty so they will be sophisticated and sympathetic at once. I think I've practiced the thing a thousand times.

I've worked quite a bit on my rig recently (we call our tow vehicle/trailer combos "rigs" like the truckers), including recovery from some mishaps. At Ric's I backed into a fence and broke a bracket that supports my awning. So I ordered the part sent to my friend Jim's house in Sacramento. On the way to Jim's, a rock or some such missile smashed the top front window of my camper shell. So I ordered a yet more expensive part. But before that part came, some miserable wretch broke into my truck (ruining the door lock and handle in the process) and stole my computer printer, part of my stereo (he/she apparently couldn't pry all of it out of the dash) and several other less significant items including my road atlas, flares, and some gift blankets from Mexico. Yet MORE expensive parts to replace. I was not properly arming my alarm system and the thief recognized this before I did. The cost of my loss probably just exceeds my insurance deductible. I'm not filing a claim because I don't want to be cancelled nor have my rates raised. Isn't that weird to pay so much for insurance and then not use it. I insured with AAA for about twenty years and had one claim for $3,500 in '97 and they cancelled my policy. NOW I'm sounding like a retiree! THEN, I noticed that a tire on my trailer was worn out on one side and had to spend a whole day driving back and forth between Los Banos and Watsonville to get my fancy Airstream suspension aligned. Anyway, I've repaired/replaced everything important except the printer, and installed a solar battery charging system to boot. I'm not sure how I'm going to print this newsletter.

The solar system is great: As long as the sun shines and I'm in it, I can now magically replace the electricity I use for lights, pumps, fans, etc. with no electrical hookup. "Free energy" has such a delightful utopian feel to it. It also has the added benefit of not having to listen to the hum of my 12V converter when I AM hooked up to land power and the added convenience of a dedicated ammeter/voltmeter on my wail. Don't you wish you had an ammeter/voltmeter on your wall?!

Speaking of insurance; I haven't yet replaced my employer paid health insurance. It's so expensive and I never use it so it just drives me crazy to pay for it. Except dental insurance. I did use that. On the other hand, spending my life savings on some doctor's second home for a medical emergency is one adventure that I'd prefer to pass up. Anybody out there buying health insurance that they just love?

I really like working on my rig. Plenty of time to do it right. Nice to have the improvements. I trust myself more than I do "professionals." They're always in such a hurry. I've also enjoyed the handyman type stuff that I do for my friends and family when I park in their driveways. Hopefully it makes my presence a little more desirable too. I'm even thinking that I might get some formal training as a RV technician and try to make a little money on the road that way. Helping my brother-in-law Roger Pierce install carpet was another experience altogether. THAT is strenuous work. Carrying 90 lb. rolls of mat up flights of stairs at high altitude (Tahoe area) just about killed 'outashape' me. Roger knows the work well and did most of it, but I sure earned my hot tub on those two days. Then the very next day, Katherine made me slog for 5 or 6 miles on cross country skis to around 20,000 feet. Jeez.

Two cowboys are sitting in a bar when one asks the other, "Hey, have you heard of the new sex position called 'Rodeo'?" The other says "No, what is it?" "You mount your wife from behind, reach around and cup her breasts and say, 'Gee, these are almost as nice as your sister's,' then see if you can stay on for 8 seconds."

By 1990's American standards I'm living at a sub-poverty level, but I feel like I've won the lottery! I think that we tend to evaluate our success in life in relation to our immediate neighbors in both space and time. If you look at the rest of humanity on a worldwide scale, I live like a king. Compared to all humankind over the past say 100,000 years, I've got even the kings beat. And a few million years ... It's a matter of sample size. The quality of a conclusion using scientific method, as I understand it, generally increases as the sample size increases. So the longer, wider view seems "better" to me, and my abundance of leisure time and freedom to pursue my musical and recreational interests gives me that "won the lottery" feeling. On the other hand, I still have a tendency to want STUFF. I have my necessities, food, shelter, clothing, and consumables pretty much wired. It's the gadgets and toys that tempt me to violate my budget and overload my trailer. Overloading is a problem in a RV in both weight and space considerations. For me, it's also an environmental issue. Almost every dollar earned and spent is at a cost to our environment that is then compounded in its effect on the future environment. Of course this line of reasoning will make more sense to full time RVer's than to someone for instance that is living in New York City and earning and spending $200,000 a year on material things. We all tend to adjust our thinking to fit our behavior as well as adjust our behavior to fit our thinking. It's rationalization. Even criminals find a way to feel good about what they do. It keeps these big brains of ours busy. Please don't take offense if you disagree; it's just what I think. Besides, I was earning (and spending) like crazy a year ago.

I saw a woodpecker yesterday rattling away on a metal electrical hookup box. Crazy bird, I thought. Maybe there's bugs in the box. Then this morning I got up really early and took Pepper for a walk at dawn, when all the birds are out raising hell, don't you know? There were woodpeckers hammering on metal boxes all over the place! Off in the distance was a real LOUD one with a lower tone. So we walked that way and sure enough, Woody was banging away on a STREET LAMP. And I thought, "these birds aren't looking for food, they're staking territory like the chirpers, and they're hitting whatever makes the most noise. SO AGAIN! A bigger sample gives me a better conclusion!

So I'm sitting in my rig typing on my computer and an elderly couple stop in front in the rain and begin backing their Airstream Trailer at a wild angle for the campsite across the road. I jump out to help them and we wind up showing each other our trailers. Theirs is 22 years old and they bought it new from the same dealer in Los Banos that I did. I had stopped by the same rally that they had just attended and had talked to some of their friends. We keep finding other things in common despite our 35 years or so of age difference like their last name is Carl and my first name is Carl and so on. I'm about to say goodbye when she says something about the little rain gutters above Airstream windows and I comment that mine doesn't have those, that it has one long one across the top instead and that it's a good thing too because it acted as a little foothold for me to get up on the top to install my solar cell. A little raise of his eyebrow or something led me to comment that I'm an old rock climber. And he says, REALLY! So am I. Turns out he climbed in the 50's in Yosemite with all of the old pioneers that I've only read about on a lot of the same routes that I climbed decades later. So I stepped back into his rig and sat down and swapped wild stories for another hour. It was a really great personal experience with a complete stranger that we came this close to missing.

During the last week of April I'm attending my first Escapee national biannual "Escapade" Rally at the Chico, CA Fairgrounds. It's a week of dry camping (no hook-ups) with fellow Escapees (see Road Story Newsletter #1) to attend seminars on the RV lifestyle, view commercial offerings, be entertained by, dine with, and generally hobnob with about 4,000 Escapees. I'm looking forward to it. I also intend to look up the Delma Replogle family while I'm in

the area. I want to visit relatives in a context other than weddings and funerals. My aforementioned sister Katherine usually throws a birthday party for me on Memorial Day weekend at her house in Nevada but we're having difficulty corralling our usual guests this year (you know, rat race's and such) so we may have it sooner or not at all. So I still have sort of a vague plan to visit her sometime in May. Next I plan to head up the coast probably via Trinidad, CA toward the Port Townsend Country Blues Festival in late June. I hope to connect with my Aunt Sylvia Praeger and her family in Seattle on the way. Then, in July I plan to head across the top of the country with a long stop in Montana to catch up with some old bicycling companions that live near Glacier. Then onward to upstate New York to visit my daughter Elka and granddaughter Elaina probably in August or September. Then back down to Helena, Arkansas for the King Biscuit Blues Festival in early October, then back to mom's house in Georgia. After that, I don't know; maybe spend the winter in the desert instead of California.

Due to some recent fatal bear attacks in Montana the National Park Service is advising hikers to wear bells on their clothing to avoid surprising the beasts. They also advise carrying pepper spray in case of an attack and to learn to recognize the difference between black bear manure and grizzly bear manure. Black bear manure is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear manure has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

This is only the second 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 per issue to help cover production costs and to let me know that you want more. Plus I'd love to hear from you.

I have received stamps from you to cover the next        issues of Road Story Newsletter. Happy Trails,

Howard Replogle