July 1999

C. Howard Replogle's


PMB 13552 -- 235 Rainbow Drive Suite -- Livingston, Texas 77399-2035

Telephone Messages -- 888-757-7701 extension 50581

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my third ROAD STORY newsletter. Last time I wrote I was complaining about the cold in California. I'm starting this one in North Eastern Ohio and it's hot and humid, but there are fireflies here! I haven't seen those since I was a kid in Georgia.

Pepper is completely spoiled. Sometimes it seems like my whole mission is to drive this little dog around the country on a canine vacation cruise. See the geese Pepper? Look, look, horses. A dead cat! Life is good. How about a walk before breakfast? No you can't go into the grocery store with me, they won't allow it. There's a big lawn with nobody around, lets play ball! No eating! You can sniff around here if you like, but it's not okay to eat anything! I can't complain though, I'd be pretty lonely without him. I think I've gone a whole week without talking to anyone else when I'm traveling hard and sleeping where-ever. Add my nearly complete lack of television watching, newspaper reading and radio listening and you've pretty much got the kind of individual most people would consider on the, ah­hem, lunatic fringe of proper society. Speaking of lonely, solitude is definitely the dark side of this lifestyle for me. I never realized how important the socializing with my fellow employees at work was. I was lonely for a romantic partner before I left so that is nothing new except my prospects and exposure are a bit more bleak. "Divorced, lonely, wandering, harmonica player on limited budget seeks sexy, childless, financially independent, blues guitar playing woman, for trailer travel, simple living, and mischief." Where would a guy run an ad like that, the Good Sam journal? And what kind of respondents would I get!??

My mailing address has changed due to a change in US Postal Regulations. All customers of mail forwarding services are now required to use a PMB (Personal Mail Box) designation on a separate line in their address for their mail to be delivered. The new regulation is designed to reduce mail fraud. Since I live in my travel trailer and must use a mail forwarding service to receive mail, my address has now changed. It is:

C. Howard Replogle

PMB 13552

235 Rainbow Drive

Livingston, TX 77399-2035

Please note that six months ago my zip code and street number also changed, so you may need to update those as well. If your database cannot handle four lines, it may work to combine the PMB and street address lines, but according to the Postal Service, the fourth line is required. I apologize on behalf of the Postal Service for any inconvenience this causes.

This is serious business for my Escapees mail forwarding service which is the biggest mail forwarding service in the world. The post office has threatened non-delivery for non-compliance and the Escapees administration has organized everything from a special seminar at the Chico Escapade to congressman letter-writing campaigns to marches of RV's on the capital in Washington. Me? I just bought a new return address stamp. No problemo.

The Chico Escapade was a real trip. I met and received a hug from Escapee #1 there (I'm #50581) Kay Peterson the author of Home is Where You Park It. In fact, she's the one that told me that the mail service is the biggest in the world. Taking care of the mail for full-time RVers. I tell you this RV thing is going to be big. When the rest of the baby boomers retire on limited budgets and an itch for adventure travel, it's going to be huge. You want to get rich? Find a way to cater to that crowd and start doing it. Buy an RV park! (Nice people don't call them trailer parks.)

Anyway, the Escapade was a six day semi-annual gathering of Escapees at the fairgrounds in Chico, CA. Lots of seminars on RV living, an irresistible commercial section, entertainment, special interest group meetings, social gatherings, etc. etc.. Two thousand rigs, 3,300 people, sunny, dry; I loved it. I signed up for the talent show tryouts right away (they called it a ham-a-rama), to warm up for playing "Juke" for the Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop. I bought an exhaust brake installation for my Cummins diesel. Without getting too technical; it allows compression braking which isn't normally available on diesel engines. Since then, I've descended high mountain passes safely, comfortably and with cool brakes. I went to a scheduled "jam" session one evening that started out with the usual country and pop stuff. But I sat down next to a guy with a resonator guitar that wanted specifically to play the blues! So we ditched the session and went back to his rig to jam. Turns out he's another Port Townsend attendee and we have since become good friends. His name is Al Carson and his adorable wife is Molly. So we both pass the ham-a-rama tryouts and the big night comes. It's in the biggest building on the fairgrounds and packed. I'm the third act of about 25. So I get up on the stage and look out at 1,900 faces and throw up –just kidding – really, I blew "Juke" through my little guitar amp and they clapped and clapped. It was really thrilling. I was scared to death until I was off the stage and then I wanted to do it again.

One evening during the Escapade I went to dinner at my cousin Heidi's house in Paradise near Chico with her husband Michael and my aunt Delma. We had drinks and a very nice meal and afterward Michael showed me his mint pink '69 Cadillac convertible. While in the garage, conversation turned to his potato cannon. For you non- juvenile delinquents out there, a potato canon is a device made from about $10 worth of plastic pipe, engine starter fluid and other sundry components that will launch an ordinary spud a great physical distance with a pleasing boom. Well I've heard a bit about them from my brothers kids and their friends and Michael offered a demonstration. I was delighted so when we exited to the yard for the firing, he handed the 3 foot long loaded and primed apparatus to me for the honors. "Where should I shoot it?" I asked. "Just shoot it straight up." Michael replied. So I obediently pointed it upwards and clapped the electric igniter on the breech. There was a satisfying boom and a nice blue flame and then silence. After 6 or 7 seconds I said, "Aren't you afraid it ... (will hit us?)" but in mid-sentence it hit me on the shoulder and exploded, so I said "Ouch!!" instead. It didn't hurt much but I was glad that it didn't hit me in the head. So I've shot myself with a potato cannon. Bizarre distinction no?

So after Chico we go to camp in another friend's driveway from Port Townsend, Brian Begley. We have a very nice jam session dinner party with all kinds of interesting musical people including Dave Brown also from P.T. and jam a little each night with just us. His wife Barbara is gone for most of the time on business but cooks deliciously for us when she's there and complains not at all about the racket while we jam our blues. Camping in the Los Altos Hills was new. This is prime Silicon Valley folks; land of 30 year old millionaires. Very upscale neighborhood of the young and brilliant and Porches and Beamers and espresso and sushi and Pepper and I are living in a driveway. We go for our morning walks as usual, sniffing and nodding congenially to the wealthy gentians, and no police come! We are living on less than they pay their gardeners in their neighborhood and no one is the wiser! "Oh yes, do come for tea and scones, were at 546 University, in the driveway."

After Brian's we camped at the Escapee (SKP) park at Coursegold for a few days before heading to Nevada. I love the "boondocks" (no hookups) areas at SKP parks because they are free the first night and $2.50 per night after that. With solar power and empty tanks that's all you really need for a comfortable stay in a very nice and friendly environment. Plus you usually meet some interesting adventurous sorts to boot as we did here. We happened to arrive just as their annual "Stagecoach Days" social event began. So for $12 or so I got a badge that entitled me to 6 or 7 meals (bring your own plate) and social gatherings with entertainment. Now this is a retirement community, so the people there are mostly old and the entertainment a bit hokey, but the food was good and the people interesting and friendly. I had one dinner with an English couple who have been everywhere and another with a very nice man with mild Parkinsons who had been a California Highway Patrol for 27 years and his wife. I bought he and I an ice cream afterwards.

In my last newsletter I mentioned an elderly couple (the Carls) that had an Airstream trailer that I connected with in San Benito California; he was old rockclimber. Well, when I set up camp on the west side of Donner Pass among burms of snow and only about 5 other rigs, there was their Airstream right next to mine. So I gave them a copy of my newsletter #2 since they were mentioned in it and invited them to share a dinner of the red beans and rice I was cooking. We ate in their rig and had a nice time. They are some of the first people I've met and then stumbled across again.

Centrum's Port Townsend Country Blues Festival and Workshop was again a feast for the ears and psyche. My friends Al & Molly Carson were there early as was I so we started it together. The workshop was similar to last year but better for me because I'm a little better which made it more on target for me personally. I went to all of Phil Wiggins' classes instead of trying to be everywhere at once so the continuity was better. My friends Brian and Dave and Jed rented an officers house which turned into ground zero for some excellent jamming. After the participants concert where I played Juke acoustically, I was headed home when Brian encouraged me to at least drop by the after-party and jam. I reluctantly agreed "for an hour" because it was late and I was tired and Pepper was crated in my rig. When I walked in, Phil Wiggins and Grant Dermody, two of the three harp playing faculty at the festival were sitting at the dinning room table with their harp cases open. I sat down next to them, and opened an adult beverage, as they critiqued my Juke performance. Among my friends there was Jeff Repp, a very excellent guitarist and singer that I had jammed with before, Del Rey, one of the festival performer/instructors and one of the best in the world at what she does, and many other "participant" guitarists. Phil and Grant and I were the only harp players there. The acoustic blues jam that ensued was an exercise in good taste as everyone dropped in and out so it was never overdone. Needless to say, getting the nod from Phil Wiggins (in my opinion one of best living country blues harp players in the world) to take a solo was about as good as it gets. There was no way I could leave even if Pepper had been crated all evening. We jammed 'till 3:30. Brian asked me during it, "Do I invite you to good parties or what?" A peak experience for sure and an incredible honor to play with musicians of that caliber. Pepper didn't mind at all. Thanks Brian. And thanks Centrum. On another night I jammed briefly with Orville Johnson and John Jackson; another honor. We took beach walks that were very nice, ate semi-okay institution grub, learned a bunch of new licks from Phil, and otherwise had a suburb time.

On the negative side: I contracted with Centrum to provide airport transportation for some of their performers in exchange for a tuition discount that turned into a job from hell. It's too much to tell here and it wasn't really anybody's fault so suffice it to say that among various inconveniences that lasted all day, I waited, holding a Centrum sign for about five hours at the SeaTac airport for a fiddle player that never showed and got "home" at midnight after getting lost. But if that's the Karmic cost of my experience at Port Townsend, I'll gratefully pay it again. A call from Warren Argo, Centrum's director, thanking me for my effort also made a big difference.

I've become a little less timid about boondocking. That is, parking for the night alone in various public places. At Eagle Lake, CA I parked for two nights on a highway turnout that was on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. It was a very pretty spot with out much traffic and we took a nice hike in the steep hills above the lake. I wasn't too comfortable leaving my rig unattended though. In Montana I took shelter from 50 mph cross winds for the night in a rest stop at the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation on US Rt. 2. There were no "No Overnight Parking" signs and no one said anything so I guess it was okay. I'm tempted to park by those signs because I think they are just there for the authority's to point at in case of trouble, but I'm afraid that some zealous and bored law enforcement official will wake me up and shoo me out in the middle of the night because he's "doing his job." In upper Michigan I drove two miles of washboard dirt in first gear after a "State Forrest Campground" sign on US Rt. 2 only to find a primitive deserted campground too tight for RV's and a $6/night fee. So I turned around and parked on a turnout next to a junction of several tiny overgrown and rutted dirt roads. Figured I'd probably be alone there. Wrong. Cars flew by all night at 45 miles per hour, many disappearing down the tiny dirt roads. North country hillbillies I guess. Except for the dust and noise nobody bothered us though. Crossing North Dakota and tired, I didn't see much else so I resorted to stopping at a truck stop. Noisy but ordinarily free. It had an "RV Camping" sign and hookups though so I went inside and asked the cashier if I had to pay just to park with the trucks. She said "yes, but if you go down that road past the school and turn right, there's a place down there you can park for free." So I went down there and sure enough there's a nice little gravel and weeds lot between the school and a city park complete with an RV Dump and a couple of junky old (apparently) unoccupied trailers. Probably the quietist part of town. Even talked to a couple of kids about our dogs. Nice spot. Thanks Berthold, North Dakota.

Glacier National Park in Montana was sure a sight to behold. A huge complex of connected glacial valleys with rocky spires, waterfalls and the most amazing road through it all I've ever seen. This is one of those places that you have to see in person, photos won't even come close. The road, built in 1932, makes two huge switchbacks across an expansive rocky face that would intimidate any rock climber. I am still astounded that it was even there. The effort and probable loss of life to build it must have been enormous. On the humorous side, the park brochure explains that truck and travel trailer combinations are allowed in the park but only up to a maximum combined length of 21 feet! Now that's a rig I'd like to see! One of those little circus cars full of clowns with a tiny tear-drop trailer comes immediately to mind: Driving up Logan Pass in a rainstorm, at night, backfiring. Excellent!

I've never seen the great lakes before (except from the air) so my route is winding right through them. Michigan is a world of it's own. I took the long way across the top part which I previously thought was part of Wisconsin or Canada or something and then down the East coast and then up and around the "thumb." My route was so long it was like crossing Texas, but the terrain is more like Florida than Oregon. A huge peninsula and pretty flat. The lakes are beautiful. They look like the Caribbean but without the ocean smell because they're fresh. Little resort towns on all of the coasts. I think that everyone works in Detroit and the rest of the state is a big playground. The heaviest trucks have continuous wheels underneath so they look like centipedes; the result of unique-to-Michigan weight per axle limitations. One of the drivers told me that you can't take those trucks out of the state. The view from the Mackanac (pronounced Mackinaw) bridge between Lakes Michigan and Huron was awesome; reminded me of Puget Sound.

Well, I've now arrived at my daughters house in upstate New York. When I leave I'll meander down through the inland part of the East to Memphis & Helena for Blues festivals. Then to Georgia in middle October to Mom's house and then across the South to winter in the South-West.