July 2000


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

E-MAIL – howardreplogle@juno.com

Telephone Messages -- 888-757-7701 extension 50581


Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my sixth ROAD STORY newsletter. I mailed my last newsletter from McAllen Texas just after my Airstream Caravan through Mexico. I've had a little trouble getting started on this letter. I've settled into this lifestyle and repeated many of the stops I made this time last year. It's not particularly interesting to read that I went here and had a nice bike ride, or saw some pretty views there or went for a hike somewhere else. I've outlined my basic philosophical reasons for living like this in previous newsletters and I've described most of the improvements I've made to my trailer. The itinerary on the last page shows specifically where I've been, how long I stayed, and some impressions of each stop since my last newsletter. So maybe a little more philosophy...

I've always been annoyed with people who try to convince me that their way of thinking or living is somehow better than mine... especially if it has to do with religious ideas. Those that do that are said to have a "missionary complex." They're typically excited about the benefits they've received from a personal change they've made and they want everyone they meet to do as they have and thereby receive the same wonderful benefits. You know the type.

Now, my fairly unusual lifestyle is certainly not for everyone. In fact, most people would NOT like to live like I do.

You know who you are, so I won't describe the things you wouldn't like about living in an RV. But when I tell some people I meet what I'm doing, they are immediately envious and say something like, "Really? ...that would be great! Or, "Wow, I wish I could do that." Or, "What are you, rich?"  Actually, I'm far from rich.

When I was visiting my friends Al and Molly Carson in Oysterville, Washington last month, they showed me a video of a PBS show from last January called "Affluenza." It described the growing number of our population that are working very hard at "succeeding" by contemporary standards in high pressure careers, consuming huge quantities of goods and services, and finding the process unsatisfying. It described how businesses "create" and manipulate consumer markets with commercial messages. It documented the damage Western Culture "super-consumers" are doing to the planet and our simplistic and flawed measurement of Gross National Product. It contrasted Americans with other less materialistic cultures. It even mentioned a brief emergence of a "counter culture" back in the sixties that advocated a return to a less complicated way of life and showed a picture of some hippies. I was delighted. The program delivered a concisely articulated and documented version of things I've been thinking and saying for the last 35 years.

"Affluenza" also outlined grass root strategies for a "cure." None of which specified living in a travel trailer! But they did suggest producing less and consuming much less of just about everything at an individual level, and learning to focus on more fulfilling aspects of our lives than producing and acquiring "stuff." They suggested saving more of what you earn and retiring early.

When I left my accounting career two years ago I hoped to find myself among others who had drastically simplified their lifestyles for a higher quality though less affluent way of living. I have found a few and I identify with them strongly. But most RVers, though often "retired" and therefore not presently in the production / consumption loop have little motivation in common with me. The retired ones are mostly affluent or wealthy people engaged in a luxurious form of tourism, or they are working people who enjoy the outdoors and are "consuming" an RV just as they would a ski boat or a hunting rifle. I consider my trailer a frugal principal residence, but if I was spending only a week or two in it each year on vacation, I would consider it extravagant.

I might have enough investment income to support a very minimal retirement as long as I spend significant principal, and live in a trailer. But the reason I felt okay about quitting my job was because I had enough saved up to take the pressure off of survival as I explored alternatives. I've resisted saying "I'm retired" because I don't have the means that is implied. I haven't worked though and I'm pursuing training as an RV mechanic to supplement my investment income in order to support my minimalist lifestyle. It won't make me much money but it sure won't be 9 to 5.  I think it'll be much more fun. If it's not, I'll do something else!

So if you're one of those people that says, "I wish I could do that!" Think again. Maybe you could do “that.”  If not right now, then soon. Some of my friends saying "it must be nice..." probably have a larger net worth than I do. You don't have to view your resources in the context of contemporary expectations.

Enough philosophy. Here's a story about playing harmonica in the Escapees Spring rally talent show.

Once again I spent the majority of my energy on the Ham-a-rama at the Escapade in Lancaster, CA. I participated in a jam session on the first night (Sunday) which was typically blue grass and country but there were two guys with horns, so my harmonica was pretty much drowned out. I was planning to do Walter Horton's "La Cucaracha" for the big show. It's a fairly new song for me, although I've been working on it for 3 or 4 months after figuring it out myself. It's in first position and has lots of tongue blocking which is also a new skill for me. The tryouts were held in a big steel building on a rainy evening with no heat (Monday), and by the time it was my turn to play I had been waiting for 2 1/2 hours, my harp was cold, and I was shivering. An important reed stuck and I did a lousy job. Made mistakes, got lost, dry mouth, bad rhythm, everything.

So the directors didn't like it. I didn't expect to make the cut but they included me on the strength of my prior Escapade performances but said I had to play something else. So the next night at the first rehearsal (Tuesday), I played “Tone Down." A slow and lowdown piece that I learned at Port Townsend last year from Phil Wiggins. I did it pretty well. When I finished, I looked at the director and she glared at me. From the stage, I said, 'What? You didn't like that one either?" She said she wanted something faster and more upbeat. So I said, 'Well, I can always play Juke again" (I played Juke last Spring in Chico) but with a cupped mic and a guitar amp. She had me play it and everyone there tapped their feet and clapped, so it was decided that I should play Juke. I haven't been practicing with a cupped mic so I decided to just blow it into a vocal mic on a stand. They scheduled me #20 out of 21 acts. After the hula dancer and before the "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" vocalist. I went back to my rig and practiced my butt off. Drove Pepper nuts.

The second rehearsal was on the main stage on Wednesday afternoon and was pretty much just a sound check. But the equipment they had was totally inadequate. The only mixer was a little Radio Shack with 4 RCA inputs, a volume slider for each and a single output. No monitor mix. The soundman, competent but frustrated, was fighting with the MC, and the sound was fluctuating from awful to nonexistent. I offered to loan them some gear including my mixer and mics and wound up spending a lot of time running back and forth to my trailer in a golf cart fetching cables and adapters to cobble together a PA system.

So the night of the show (Wednesday) there was a crowd of about 2,200 in a wide steel building. I ducked out to warm-up in a bathroom a few minutes before my turn and somehow managed to keep my pulse down to about 100. The MC introduced me, I walked up to the mic with a big smile, and absolutely nailed the piece. No mistakes, good tone, good rhythm, lots of applause, handshakes and high fives from other participants as I walked back stage. It was my first performance that I felt that I did my best. Not a great performance, but the best I can do. Very nice experience. Many compliments the next day (Thursday) from people I've never met. My friend Betty Prange said that before I played there had been a steady trickle of people leaving but nobody left while I played. Unknown to the directors, my mixer probably saved the day. Thought I'd share my little moment of glory with you.

More news. I bought a really cool gizmo for my truck called a Hide-N-Side. They cut the sides off of my truck bed and built in cupboards and new sides that open up like wings to get at the cupboards. The outside looks the same. All I lost inside was the useless space around the wheel wells and I gained a whole lot of outside accessible storage space for tools and such. For someone living in a trailer, there's nothing better than more space. As my friend Tomas Fadoir who originally told me about it said, "...it's the nuts!" For details and pictures, check out http://www.hidenside.com.

I've got to mention that my very best experiences on the road are when I "camp" with friends. Whether it's in their driveway, in the street in front of their house, or next to them in a campground. During the last four months those best-of-times have been with; Ed & Jolene Northup, Al & Molly Carson, Jim & Kelly Rinehart, Ric & Debra Replogle, Betty Prange, Jim Houston, Jack & Sylvia Praeger, Rod & Ingrid Larson, and Roger & Roben Blakey. Thanks guys, it was excellent.

I'm heading to Jackson Center, Ohio in a couple days to begin training as a caravan mechanic. Then to New York to visit my daughter and granddaughter Elka and Elaina. Then south to the blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. After that my annual visit to mamas house in Georgia. I'm also still planning to return to Mexico in November for a 4 week Spanish Immersion class. And I'm still looking for another RV to travel with...

Happy Trails,

Howard Replogle