February 2004

C. Howard Replogle's


PMB 13552 – 235 Rainbow Drive – Livingston, Texas 77399

E-MAIL – howardreplogle@juno.com

Telephone Messages – 888-757-7701 extension 50581

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my eighth ROAD STORY newsletter. My last newsletter was nearly three (!) years ago (March 2001) so a few of you probably think I've disappeared... yet here I am! I'm sorry for being out of touch if you are one of those who haven't heard from me. I'm writing from Mexico again where I tend to spend my winters.

Where to start ...? I've been on the road now for 5 1/2 years; still doing a lot of the same things; an annual clockwise loop of the US and Mexico in my Airstream Trailer with my dog Pepper. I've now lived longer in my trailer than I've lived anywhere else as an adult. I've made 419 stops. My average length of stay has been about five days and my longest stays have been for just over three months, in Mexico. I stop for blues festivals, especially scenic areas, visits with family and friends, for parking that doesn't cost too much, and I try to go where the weather is good. I'm still playing harmonica and studying the blues. I got a new bicycle nearly a year ago and I'm staying in shape by riding as well as hiking and lifting weights. I'm eating healthier and I quit drinking altogether about a year and a half ago; as a way to improve myself rather than a solution to a problem. I'm wanting to stay longer at stops and travel less. It recently seems like a luxury to NOT travel; a reversal of my original wanderlust I've been in and out of an RVing singles organization twice and resolved (several times) to give up my search for a companion once and for all. Right now, I'm in a pretty comfortable "single and okay" mode but I've got a good flirtation going on here with a local Mexicana. Improvements on my trailer is still an occasional activity: I tore out the carpets and put in a Pergo floor (fake hardwood) a couple years ago. Last August I raised the whole trailer for better ground clearance by inserting some custom brackets between the axles and the frame. It's a great improvement for traveling in Mexico.

Two years ago I had a good time traveling (and staying) in Mexico with my friends Ed and Jolene Northup. We traveled down the Mainland West Coast for an extended stay at Bahia Tenacatita on the Jalisco coast where we met other friends of theirs (and now mine). It was primitive camping (no services) on a tiny and beautiful section of beach: perfect weather,  warm water for swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. It was very, very nice. The little spit of sand we camped on faced the bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the South and West so we watched the sun rise AND set over the water. After seven weeks there we made a circuitous route to San Miguel de Allende via Patzcuaro for the remainder of the winter. It was my third visit to SMA. I camped outside of town that year, so I walked several miles a few times a week for my Spanish lessons and the cultural stimulation of the colonial city.

Right now, I'm writing this at an out of the way beach resort called “El Cangrejo Moro" at Playa Las Glorias near Guasave, Sinaloa. Sinaloa is the second state down the Mainland West Coast and faces the Sea of Cortez. It's a quiet if unspectacular place with a friendly staff right on a pretty beach for walking and shell gathering. The road to Guasave is 30 miles of cornfields and shrimp farms but not too busy to bike on. I find the Mexican motorists more respectful of bicyclists than Norte Americanos. I practice my Spanish every day with my Mexicano friends on the staff here.

I'm liking Mexico more and more though my ideal would be a cross between Mexico and the US. I think of Mexico as "under-organized" and the US as "over-organized," but the great winter weather, the unpretentious, friendly people, tropical foods, interesting culture and contrast with the US offsets the various inconveniences of a third world environment. In some ways, I have more in common with my Mexicano amigos than my US compatriots. I'm squeezing a key lime onto my papaya as I write this and I can hear the surf crashing behind the blues streaming through my satellite radio from New York City.

Here's a Spanish tongue twister that my girlfriend taught me; say it fast and trill ALL of the R's:

RR con RR cigarro,

RR con RR barril,

Rapido corren los, carros,

Cargados de azucar del ferrocarril.       

The longer I live In my trailer the harder it is to answer the common travelers question, "Where are you from?" Sometimes I say where I'm from originally, or where I last had a fixed house. Usually I explain that I live in my trailer, which sometimes sinks in but is more often followed by a question like, "Then where do you stay when you're not traveling?" Just about any way I respond to that sounds flip. I could give my mailing address but it's just a forwarding service in a town that I haven't been in for years. Since I've been here in Guasave longer than I've been anywhere else; maybe I'm from Sinaloa? Maybe I'm not "from" somewhere. "What do you do?" stumps me too.

I've gone to five of the last six King Biscuit Blues Festivals in Helena, Arkansas in October. In 2002 I got the dates mixed up and arrived a week early. It was hot and the only camping was dry. But after a phone call to my friend David Berntson I hooked up with Jerry Pillow, one of the festival organizers who graciously invited me to camp in his yard before the festival. But the coolest part was that he is the guy that hires the talent and he put me to work in back stage security for the three-day festival. It turned out to be hard work but one of the most interesting things I've ever done. So I went back and did it again this year. In the two years (so far) I've met an incredible string of blues celebrities, contributed in a small way to this incredible event, and enjoyed getting to know Jerry and his family and many other blues fanatics. My early arrival mistake turned out to be great luck.

On my way to Arkansas this year I stopped by David and Liz Berntson's house in Tulsa. I have a hard disk recorder in my mobile studio now so I carried it to a couple of David's restaurant gig's and recorded his duo blues act (The inimitable "Duo Sonics"). David is a great harmonica player and we got enough good tracks to make a CD for them to sell at their gigs. My recorder has turned out to be even more useful than I'd hoped when I bought it. In addition to recording myself for practice, I've made CD's and "demo" disks for several of the musician friends that I've made along my way. I was even paid a little once.

I've found myself working without pay quite a few times In the last couple years and I find It a wonderful luxury. It's enjoyable just for the sake of the activity and almost completely without the pressures that I normally associate with working. I've agreed to do RV repairs for "whatever" people want to pay and once was tipped much more for a favor than I would have charged. I decided against the RV Caravan Mechanic gig that I pursued for a while with the Airstream Company; at least for now. I carried spare parts for three years only to have every caravan they scheduled me for, canceled. A few additional conflicts led me to decline to (maybe) work on one this winter. I did quite a lot of construction work last summer on Ed and Jolene's "home base" project in central Oregon. They're building a huge multi-use structure that's roughly equivalent (from a construction viewpoint) to a two story house. It will house their Airstream trailer and truck when they're not on the road, Ed's workshop, and Jolene's weaving/art studio. Anyway, I spent 40 days there mostly framing and roofing and had fun doing it.  Ed helped me raise my trailer while I was there too.

As fun as working for free can be, It's a bit contrary to my big picture. As I've explained in previous newsletters; my involvement in this lifestyle has more to do with economy than tourism. Simply doing without most of the trappings of modern life is obvious, easy and preferential to me. But since I don't really have "retirement" income, my level of frugality necessarily approaches extremism. So working without pay while forgoing "necessities" like a telephone, health care, or the Internet can feel a little insane.

Some of my frugality efforts have mixed results. For example, eating in restaurants is so much more expensive than preparing my own meals that I've eliminated eating out. And I've gone a step further and simplified my own cooking to a level of economy that might be unacceptable to many people. It's still fairly healthy, but a bit more monotonous and heavy on "beans and rice" than many would accept. So although eating this way suits my economy and dietary requirements, it has undesirable social consequences in that I almost always eat alone. When I find myself a part of a group that wants to eat out, I'm conflicted because I'd have to violate my budget In a way that is hard for the more affluent to understand. And this is demonstrative of the social isolation that I've had to accept with my election to

adopt a lifestyle that's contrary to the prevailing culture. I've never liked big cities or even big parties and I prefer quite a bit of solitude. Living an "RVing" lifestyle naturally delivers that. But I'm so different from other RVers by being younger, single, and "economically challenged" that I find myself a bit more alone than I prefer. Now, individuality and self-sufficiency are good things but sometimes I think I've taken it a little over the top. I don't eat out, don't smoke, don't drink, don't have a job, don't live in a house, and don't drive at night. I'm out of the loop.

The brightest spots in the last few years are definitely the people that have touched my life. Since I drive an annual loop, the stops that I look most forward to are the ones to see friends and family. Special thanks for their amistad and hospitality are due to those already mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter and to Jim and Kelly Rinehart, Al Gunderson, Al and Molly Carson, Ed and Lauren Carpenter/Sheehan, Tom Taylor, and my mom, Peggy Blanchard. On January 9, 2004 my daughter Elka and her husband blessed me with a second granddaughter; Lillian Katherine Sundwall. So I'm looking forward to my summer stop at their house this year. They've moved twice since my last newsletter, both times for Blaine's work. First from upstate New York to Klamath Falls, OR and then last summer to a suburb of Portland.

So where is my life going from here? Hmmmm, good question. I'm now on the waiting lists for lease lots at three different Escapee Co-ops; Sutherlin, OR, Lakewood, NM, and Benson, AZ. One of those will give me an inexpensive place for extended parking and storing some stuff. So I'm thinking that that might be good for me. I could make friends that are more accessible, take college classes, maybe even join a band. A larger question is if or when I will go back to work and live a more "normal" lifestyle. My social concerns are probably the strongest motivators. But the thought of a nine to five grind after these six years of freedom is extremely distasteful. In addition, I think I've burnt a major career bridge already by extending my leave so long. Not that Accounting was that great a fit for me. I'm a little old to start a new career, and menial work doesn't appeal to me... at least in large doses. And big cities? ...I don't think so. So for now anyway, I think I'll continue my annual loops through the US and Mexico (with infinite variations), and my frugal "straight and narrow." I'll probably make one or two extended stays (of several months) at whichever Escapee Co-op site I might lease and I may extend my visits to Old Mexico. Who knows, maybe my new Novia, Mexicana will steer me in a whole new direction.

Want some details of my route since my last newsletter? I'm enclosing a partial copy of my spreadsheet travel log in reverse chronological order. It's in MS Excel 97 so most spreadsheet software should open it

I hope I see you down the road. Warmest regards, and buen viajel Howard