March 2001

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 seventh ROAD STORY newsletter. I mailed my last newsletter en route to the Airstream Factory last July. This has been by far my longest gap in newsletters in 2 1/2 years, and I apologize to those of you who haven't heard from me. I'm writing this from central Mexico as I wait out a minor dust storm in my trailer (the wait is in my trailer, the dust is mostly outside).

Back in August, 2000, my nearly four weeks of training at the Airstream Factory in central Ohio was very interesting. I was permitted to observe and help in the Factory Service Center for the purpose of training as a company caravan mechanic. My "training" was completely informal and my first challenge was to make friends with the fourteen plus mechanics that worked there. They were a highly tenured lot, several with over forty years with the company, and Midwesterners to the bone. It understandably took much more than my simply showing up for them to interrupt their jobs to help an accountant from California with only a shade-tree mechanical background to learn what has been their life's work. But they did, and I made friends with most of them in addition to learning tons. I was able to watch many projects at once as I floated between workstations. And they even gave me some work to do. Thanks, Dick, Lawrence, Bob, Jim, Chuck, Larry, Jon, Dan, Kevin, Albert, Wayne, Don, and Charlie! Your help was greatly appreciated!

After Ohio, I made my annual trek to Elka and Blaine's place in upstate NY to see my granddaughter Elaina. As always a huge pleasure. They have since moved to Oregon so I plan to get a bonus visit with them this year as I travel up the West Coast in May. And I made some laid back stops before and after NY at Thousand Trails Parks in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Most of my time in these beautiful but out of the way "destination" type campgrounds is spent in seclusion practicing the harmonica, hiking, and sending e-mails to a few friends. I'm usually pretty lonely in these places and the soulful sound of my harmonica and my howling dog rounds out the mood nicely.

To further my RV mechanical schooling, I attended two weeks of intensive training at Camping Worlds RV Institute in Bowing Green, Kentucky. It was expensive but as far as I can tell, the leading specialty school in the country for RV technicians. I learned plenty from 8 hours a day in a classroom with instructor Ed Sweetman. And Ed proved adept at heckling a heckler. I hope to return in other years to complete more of the nine week course. Now, in addition to knowing all about Airstream trailers and braking systems, I'm officially educated in RV Electricity, LP Gas, and RV Water Heaters. Next year: Refrigerators! A tour of the Corvette Factory where all Corvettes have been built since 1981 was also interesting and impressive.

Strangely, after all my training and lugging a huge cache of tools around with me, I have yet to get around to doing work for pay! I do enjoy working on my own rig though and helping other people for free.

As I travel, I'm confirming again and again that my interest in people is much stronger than my interest in places. A friend counts for much more to me than the most beautiful of settings. Which explains my propensity to skip the natural attractions when I'm en route to visit a friend. I'm constantly envious of the endless couples I see involved in this lifestyle who have both the company and the scenery. I'm realizing also that the longer I stay put, the more likely I am to make a friend, especially if I'm in school or otherwise seeing the same people over and over. I seem to be developing an anti-travel bug. Or at least a motivation to stop long enough to get to know people. Especially where there are attractive single persons of the female persuasion and of an age circa to mine. A rare animal indeed in the RV Lifestyle World! Several friends cautioned me against this when I started out nearly three years ago. But ...

On my third annual visit to the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena Arkansas, I was reunited with my friend and fellow vagabond George Hawkins. George had just repeated his 1998 drive from Santa Cruz in his vintage 1981, 200,000 mile, Plymouth Duster and was a welcome companion for the festival and sundry delta adventures. One such excursion was an unbelievably difficult search for Sonny Boy Williamson's (aka Rice Miller aka Alec Miller) gravesite after a visit to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS. We finally found it near Tutwiler, Mississippi between a little burnt down church and a cotton field, just before dusk. I left an old harmonica for the master and George picked a cotton boll for my mojo bag. Check out Georges recently published book chronicling his solo bicycle trip from Anchorage, Alaska to the tip of South America.

My return to my dear mothers rent free backyard parking and southern kitchen was a delight as always. Crawford, Georgia was a childhood paradise to me and remains as my most homelike stop. In addition to mama's culinary wonders, I had the pleasure of dating a beautiful young grandmother of one in the area who will remain unnamed here to protect the innocent. I was unable to hold her attention though, and moved on in my quest for a more permanent companion. I coordinated my first visit to Savannah with my friends from Mexico last year, Tom and Judee Stalmack. Tom and Judee travel alternately in their Airstream Motorhome and their inland waterways equipped sailboat. Savannah was a boating stop for them and we shared several days taking in this historic and beautiful southern seaport.

This years holidays are hardly worth mentioning for me. Most noteworthy was a "dry camp" on Thanksgiving in Alabama with pouring rain, tornado warnings, and a dead coach battery. I don't remember what I ate, but I think it was a pan fried hamburger by candlelight in front of my catalytic heater. You can fill in the blanks as you wish! Pepper didn't mind in the least. I'd have to check my log to see where I was on Christmas.

Mexico has been another thing altogether. I love the country and San Miguel de Allende especialmente. I had originally planned to go to San Miguel for a month of Spanish classes in January and then return to Texas to mechanic on a Mexican caravan in February and part of March. But the caravan was canceled and after my January Group Classes ended I decided to stay for another month of instruction and then another three weeks of free time. San Miguel is in the center of Mexico, a days drive North of Mexico City. It's a 400 year old colonial city of 100,000, and a national monument. The architectural style is protected by law. Ancient streets and buildings are all natural and oxide colors, no traffic signals or stop signs, and no neon signs. Breathtaking churches, a beautiful Centro y Jardin (garden), and many colorful fiestas. It is 6,400 feet high, and the winter weather is very dry and usually ranges in temperature from 50 to 80. I've been slow to learn Spanish but I'm now falteringly conversant and I've become very comfortable living in Mexico. The laid back Latin culture and lack of North American structure suits me. I expect to spend many winters here in the future. Maybe next winter much further South in Oaxaca.

I've had terrible problems with internet and telephone communications here in Mexico. If you feel I've neglected you, please forgive me. I've been at the mercy of third world grade communication services which are quite different here than we're used to in the ultra modern US of A. Even internet access is a problem. Juno e-mail will hardly work at all so I've opened a hotmail account to use while I'm in Mexico. If you e-mail me, please continue to use Juno and I'll read it when I get back to the states.

My school here was Instituto Allende, a private art and language school that was originally a prominent family home. The ancient stone structure with beautiful patios and gardens made a perfect environment for serious study. I started out with a month of six hours per day of group instruction where I made friends with my classmates and finished with a month of three hours per day of private instruction. My maestros were all native speakers and career teachers. Two of them spoke no English and they were all as individually interesting as my fellow students. Pepper attended with me often and was hugely popular with the staff.

I've camped the whole time here in a bare bones RV park behind a motel at the South end of town, about a mile walk to the Institute and another half mile to the Jardin. When I leave next Tuesday I will have been parked in one spot for 75 days, nearly double my next longest stay in 2 1/2 years. I've only driven about 30 miles since I've been here. And I expect one close friendship that emerged from my classes will last for years. Entonces per ahora, yo estoy muy feliz.

My immediate plans are to spend April through June in California, Oregon and Washington. But the Port Townsend Country Blues Festival at the end of June is the only event in that time frame that has actually made it to my calendar. Please let me know if our paths might be coaxed into crossing, we'd love to see you.

Happy Trails,

Howard and Pepper