October 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 fourth ROAD STORY newsletter. I mailed my last newsletter just after I arrived in my daughter Elka's driveway in Kinderhook, New York (near Albany). Pleasant weather and playing with my 18 month old granddaughter made my three week visit there easy to enjoy.  My son-in-law Blaine got me set up with free e-mail (howardreplogle@iuno.com) which I am continuing to appreciate wherever I can find a phone line, and Blaine's parents, John and Sue graciously had us for dinner parties several times.

I spent a weekend attending the first annual blues festival at Clermont, New York, a beautiful historic site on the Hudson downstream from Kinderhook where we were allowed to camp on site. It was great fun but HOT. One of the bands hosted an open mike on Friday night so I set up my big amp and jammed with The Soul Providers all evening. Since I played the first tune of the open mike ("Juke" of course), in a way I "opened" the festival.  Made new friends etc. It was interesting that another harp player that was much better than I wasn't liked as much by the band because he overplayed. The bizarre thing was that they didn't just like me better, they thought that I WAS better! John Mayall was disappointing but by the time he came on I was worn out anyway.

I followed my New York visit with a lazy two weeks in Hershey Pennsylvania where I started working on a new tune; William Clarke's, "Chasin' the 'Gator." I did take time though to visit the Hershey Factory. They use three million pounds of milk per day making their chocolate. A fascinating tour even if I was the only solo adult there.

Next I headed North West to the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. My mission was simply a wheel alignment for my trailer but I found much more. The factory tour was so interesting and informative that I repeated it the next day, but the best part was meeting veteran traveler Joe Farley and his wife Anita in the Factory Campground. Joe is an experienced Service Staff member of Airstream Company Caravans (traveling RV mechanic) as a second career.  We kind of hit it off when we met, and I told him about my interest In working on my trailer and possibly getting training in the RV service field. He and Anita invited me for dinner in their beautiful 34 foot Airstream, gave me the detailed inside scoop on what he does, introduced me to the Caravan Director and various Airstream service people, and generally helped me set a path to start working a little as I travel. More on this later.

Next I went to the fall Escapee "Escapade" in Goshen Indiana, where I found my old friend Bess Johns who I met originally last year in Florida and then continued with "path crossings" from Alabama to Bourbon Street to New Mexico before we lost track of each other. I struggled through yet another bluegrass jam session the first night of the Escapade and afterward while people were lining up to complement my "wonderful' playing the director of the  Ham­ A-Rama caught me in a weak and self confident moment and talked me into signing up. I didn't feel like "Chasin the Gator" was ready yet and I didn't want to do "Juke" again so I spent a huge amount of time practicing in my trailer and played "Chasin' the Gator" for the show.

During the tryouts, the directors husband actually interrupted my piece to tell me that "something is wrong,” it sounds all garbled" and "terrible." I think Chicago blues was very foreign to him. I also had trouble convincing a stage hand that putting a microphone in front of my amplifier would work. The next night, at rehearsal, the PA sounded pretty good and I played my song but I was nervous so my lips were sticking to my harp and I didn't play very well. I wrote a little introduction for the MC to read to the crowd explaining that the style I was playing in was supposed to sound more like a horn than a harmonica. A "Mississippi Saxophone."

So the night of the show, I lubed my lips with “Passion Fruit Edible Massage Oil” and it solved the dry mouth problem!  Which is a great solution in itself because dry mouth in performance has always been a problem for me.  But when I started playing it was REAL LOUD and I swear I could see the audience do a collective cringe (the room was as bright as the stage). I played a few bars more expecting the soundman to back off the house volume but he didn't, so I stopped playing. The average age of this crowd is 65 and I figured "too loud" to be somewhat of an emergency. I apologized to the audience, walked to my amp, backed the volume off from 2 to 1.5. Then I started playing again and there was no sound at alit The crowd laughed (all 1,800 of them) and I walked back to my amp and turned it to 1.75.  Then when I started the third time, the volume was again too loud and the tone had too much high end! I decided that I couldn't stop again and the soundman would just have to fix it himself or live with it So I played through the piece in a trebly sort of way and aside from some pretty raggedy rhythm and playing the second verse twice 1 played it okay. No clinkers or forgetting the song anyway. I walked off the stage to applause but feeling humiliated. The  rest of the show was bluegrass, country, religious, and silly skits. After the show, I didn't believe the first few compliments but they kept coming for two days from complete strangers so I guess they liked it.

Heading South I had another lazy week in Southern Indiana at a Thousand Trails campground and one terrible evening in Louisville getting hopelessly lost while trying to connect with a bicycling companion of about four years ago. I'm still trying to save money on "rent" so I spent the next night parked with the tucks at a Flying "J" Truck Stop on the Kentucky, Tennessee border. "Free" is great but boy are those 18 wheelers LOUD when they park right next to you and leave that diesel running for FIVE hours. I hung blankets on my windows and dragged out my decibel meter to be sure that I wasn't just being oversensitive. 85-90 decibels of diesel clatter inside my closed rig! At least he was downwind. Finally one parked next to me sometime around midnight and shut her down 'til 7:00 AM so I did get a decent nights rest.

I returned (from last year) to the Tom Sawyer Mississippi RV Park in West Memphis in time for "Bluestock." Coincidentally the Kentucky/Tennessee Escapees chapter were holding their annual rally at Tom Sawyer so I hung out with them. Bluestock was lots of semi-pro performers in the clubs on Beale Street but I actually enjoyed the company of the local Escapees more. I did get a chance to play harmonica for the founder of A. Schwab & Co. inside his store and drew a little crowd with big grins on their faces. "Tom Sawyer" is a very pretty park and Pepper enjoyed fetching sticks out of the Mississippi River.

The music and campers at the King Biscuit Blues Festival were great as usual but it rained pretty good on Friday and the campground was a muddy mess! I made the monumentally bad decision to camp on the West side for afternoon shade which also happened to be the lowest point in the campground. Virtually everyone had to be towed out of the mire, and a big group of tenters returned from the Friday night concert to find their tents and belongings sitting in a

foot deep lake. The edge of the lake was under my trailer. By Saturday morning, ALL walking in the campground was in ankle deep mud. The local red necks that showed up in their monster tricks to pull people out drove through the lake again and again to wash some of the mud off their tires which chewed the shit out of the road in front of my rig and showered my little enclave with goo. Actually the entire area was chewed up. Spontaneous cheers arose from the disoriented campers as cars and trucks and 4 wheelers alike careened fishtailing in a mad attempt to escape the oozing swamp and put the beer sodden epoch behind them forever. About half of the campers vacated on Saturday morning like rats off a sinking ship. Someone commented that it separated the hippie kids from the real blues fans. The monster-truck drivers were giddy with delight.

What are a rednecks last words? “ ... Hey y'all, watch this!"

I did get a chance to talk to Phil Wiggins backstage and he generously offered to send me a tape of him playing a song that I'm working on. I couldn't really invite him to come over to the campground for a drink or jam session since it was knee deep in piss mud and looked like some kind of battleground or concentration camp. I saw Jed & Steve (from Port Townsend) there too but only spoke to them briefly. Since they were hoteling it they were totally unaware of the human drama unfolding just over the levee.

I sat with some acquaintances from Tennessee at their campfire before the festival started and met their campground neighbors, an English couple of kindred adventurers traveling in a 70's vintage motorhome. He is a harp player and I wound up hanging with them a good portion of the festival. Sunday was a beautiful day (finally) as the last of the campers left (or fled) so Marty & Mandy and I drove our rigs over to the river (after being towed from the campground), and parked in a nice clean, warm asphalt parking lot. We washed our shoes in the Mississippi, barbecued pork ribs and catfish for supper as the sun set, and blew our harps into the wee hours before pulling out on Monday. The best night of the festival. I was again one of the first to arrive and last to leave.

So now I'm camped for my second annual visit to Georgia in my mother's back driveway. I'm spending time here feeding on southern cooking, working on my trailer, playing handyman for mama, catching up with my friends Dennis and Tammy Helmreich and jamming along with Dennis' bluegrass playing friends. I installed a "catalytic propane heater" yesterday to keep warm while crossing Texas this Winter.

I saved the good stuff for last: I made arrangements a couple days ago to participate in a two month tour of the East Coast of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula as a participant on an Airstream Caravan in January and February 2000. That trip will qualify me to travel in July as a "Service Trainee" on a caravan to Alaska. After that, I'll go back to Jackson Center, Ohio for training in their Factory Service Department And after that, I'll be eligible to travel with Airstream Company Caravans as a Service Staff member.

I'm "kinda" shopping for a canoe and roof rack for my truck and considering taking up fishing. So many roads... so little time.  After the Mexican trip, I hope to visit Quartzsite, AZ, and Slab City, CA before heading North to check in with my California friends and family before going back to Port Townsend for the Blues Festival in June. After Ohio in August, probably to New York again and then who knows.

The more annual things I keep finding that I want to repeat, the harder it's going to be to fit them all in. But so far, there's still some gaps to fill as long as five geographical sequence  keeps working so maybe I CAN do it all

Travel since my last newsletter 7/22/99 - 10/13/99.

This is the fourth 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.

Happy Trails,

Howard Replogle